Fun fact for all you wanderlusters out there who cannot get time off over the next few months: it is actually possible to visit Europe in winter.
In fact it’s actually a pretty great time to see it: in ‘off season’ it’s cheaper, there’s far fewer tourists clambering to get into the Louvre, and there’s a whole slew of winter-specific activities you can undertake that you deffo can’t when the sun is shining and you’re distracted by the pretty colour of an Aperol Spritz.
Don’t believe me? Well, let me curate a selection of so-gorge-it-hurts winter activities for you to get around.
Pretty much every city has a Christmas market and an ice rink.
As soon as it hits November in continental Europe, the front yard of every fancy-as palace, public square or large-ish park, becomes home to a Christmas market or makeshift ice rink.
At one of these Christmas markets you can drink mulled wine or Baileys hot chocolate, buy heaps cute ornaments and, please, let’s not forget the cheese. Really, you should just go for the cheese.
Experience Edinburgh’s massive New Years festival Hogmanay.
The New Years festival kicks off on 30 Dec with a massive torchlight procession through the city down to Holyrood, where you can walk with thousands of others down Edinburgh‘s historic streets with a flamin’ torch in hand.
Then on NYE itself get the best view of Edinburgh Castle from the Street Party, or try your hand at a traditional cèilidh dance.
Bathe in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon hot springs.
While you may baulk at the thought of getting down to your ‘kini in negative temps, it’s definitely worth doing if you head on up to Iceland to visit one of the bonafide 25 wonders of the world: the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon.
The lagoon’s actually self-cleansing, renewing itself every 40 hours, and contains nine million litres of water at a temperature between 37 and 40 degrees. Fun fact: the water is not actually blue – it’s milky white! – the sky just makes it look that way.
Trip through the lanes of Venice over Carnevale.
There are plenty of reasons to make Venice a stop on your wintry European vacation. One of them is the legendary legendary Carnival of Venice in mid-February.
This is a costume party to end all costume parties, with a number of immaculate masquerade balls on the cards for those of you in costume. Or you could just go for a few wines in Saint Mark’s Square and soak up the Carnival atmosphere. Let’s not forget about the pasta either.
Hit the slopes in the Austrian Alps.
Stay in an authentic gasthof and show off skiing and snowboarding skills (or learn them) . A winter trip to Europe is simply not complete if you don’t give yourself the opportunity to fall catastrophically from a ski lift or plummet face first into a pile of snow (but get insurance, would ya?). Want something a bit different? You could go full Cool Runnings and go bobsledding or try tobogganing.
Keen? Well the easiest and most cost-effective way to do a Euro winter is to head on a Contiki trip, where you and a pack of new like-minded friends are guided through the Continent’s most lush settings.
Atm you can save up to $364 on a winter vacay thanks to Flight Centre and Contiki HERE for an experience you can’t find anywhere else, tailored to whatever kind of traveller you are: whether you’re a Discoverer, an In-Depth Explorer, ready for a luxe Winter & Ski trip, or keen for a Short Trip and Festivals.
They brag – and quite rightly – that on one of their wintry trips you’ll be staying in centrally located accomm, have a professional trip manager and driver who know the difference between cultural experiences ‘n tourist traps, loads of free time for solo wandering, and brekkie included. Top off your one-of-a-kind journey with visits to authentic regional eateries: think a cheese maker in Amsterdam or the Bavarian pretzels in Munich.
Brb, calling mum to see if she’ll chip in with me as a birthday present.