Winter in Europe: Alternatives to the Holiday Beach Vacation

Looking for a unique itinerary this holiday season? Head to Europe! Of course, beachcombing or cruising the Caribbean are popular choices for wintertime travel, but we think that winter may be the perfect time to visit Europe instead: it is less busy, rates are lower, and cultural activities abound. Here are our top five reasons to visit Europe during the winter:

#1 Christmas Markets

Bavaria is known for its elaborate Christmas markets, serving local food and drink, artisan crafts and gifts, and activities for kids. Parents can sip on cider or mulled wine while children enjoy hot chocolate. Christmas markets are especially great for couples and newlyweds to enjoy the romantic atmosphere of the lights and decorations. From Nuremburg to Munich to Salzburg, and every small town in between, Christmas markets can be found beginning at the end of November. Outside of Bavaria, traditional holiday markets still draw visitors, with notable mentions in Brussels, Bruges, and Prague.

#2 Theater Performances

The autumn and winter seasons in Europe boast the most acclaimed theater, opera, symphony and ballet performances. A cultural visit to Europe is not complete without enjoyment of a local production.

For both opera novices and aficionados, visit the grandiose Palais Garnier in Paris, the Teatro all Scala in Milan, or turn to Austria, boasting both the Vienna State Opera and the Volksoper. For ballet, the Royal Ballet in London is world renowned, along with the Prague State Opera Ballet and the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam. For theater lovers, a visit to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater should be on the bucket list, while the ever-popular “Wicked” continues to charm audiences at London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre, and “Lion King” or “Matilda” prove to be great family choices.

#3 Winter Recreation

Looking for skiing? Snowshoeing? Hiking? Ice-skating? Look no further than Switzerland, with dozens of idyllic resort villages perfect for families, couples, or solo adventures. It is never too late to learn a new talent and experience the winter wonderland of the Swiss Alps. Pair any ski trip with a chocolate tasting or Gruyeres factory tour. And, don’t miss the view from the Jungfrau Observatory – arguably Europe’s most famous mountain.

Take winter to the next level and visit the Jungfraujoch Ice Palace filled with ice sculptures, vaulted rooms and ice-furniture.

#4 Museum Exhibitions

  • Check out London’s Victoria & Albert Museum (free entrance!) to see the “Fabric of India” textile exhibit running from October 3, 2015 to January 10, 2015.

  • Visit Stockholm’s Modern Museet, which will boast Olafur Eliasson’s light-based installations and designs.

  • Vienna’s Belvedere Museum explores feminist modernism in its exhibit on “The Women of Klimt, Schiele, and Kokoschka.”

  • Visit the Grand Palais in Paris for “Picasso.mania” or “Hokusai (1960-1849)”, the later of which details one of the most famous Japanese artists of all time.

  • See an exhibit on Andy Warhol-esque “German Pop” art at the Schirn Kunstahlle in Frankfurt.

#5 Castles

Castles are a highlight of European history on a year-round basis, but they are especially quaint and awe-inspiring during the winter months. Some of the most iconic countryside castles include Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle or nearby Castle Hohenschwangau, both nestled in the mountains with many nearby winter activities, or France’s Chateau de Pierrefonds, an imposing medieval castle. For something closer to the comforts of a city, explore the Prague Castle when it is covered in fresh snow.

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