Love Winter? Here are the best European destinations to visit

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Last week, we posted an article about the 5 best places to go if you hate winter. The response was mixed.

Though we got a pat on the back from the winter sun chasers, our article left a large chunk of our reader base disenfranchised, i.e: those that actually love the crisp fresh cold of winter.

If that’s you, we’re sorry and we’re making amends.

Winter is a beautiful season and deserves its due. But just like everything else, some places in the world do it better. So, if you’d like to travel this winter season, here are the best places to go.

 

Switzerland – Andermatt

One point on which winter lovers and haters can all agree is on, is that snow helps sweeten what many consider to be a rather raw deal.

It makes Christmas more magical, it provides a semi-believable excuse for coming late to work, and most of all… it’s incredibly fun to slide on.

Yes, skiers and snowboarders have it good in winter. And if you ask them where they would like to hit the slopes, though you’ll get different answers, you’ll find that the Swiss Alps, are hallowed ground. 

Chedii Andermatt

The Chedi Andermatt

Switzerland’s skiing culture is second to none and their passion for the sport means they’ve got every aspect of it down pat. Including the lesser known parts such as what you should drink after a session (Bull Shot anyone?) to generous helpings of Raclette and Rösti to keep you fueled for those excellent Après-Ski parties they know how to throw.

And of course, there are the luxury ski resorts.

Delivering flawless luxury service and facilities is something else the Swiss can claim mastery of, and if you’re looking for top of the line hotel experience in the Alps, you’re more than spoilt for choice. 

The Chedi Andermatt

The Chedi Andermatt

But, if you’re after that special gem, you’ll find it in the Urserne valley, at the Chedi Andermatt, one of the region’s latest – and best – hotels.

 

Tallinn- Estonia

Tallin city

Estonia’s capital is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe and if you want to see it at its best, winter is the time to go.

And when we say well preserved we mean it.

Walking through Tallin’s Old Town feels likes you’re in a history book or fairy tale. Only a fellow tourist with a selfie stick can break the illusion. Travel in winter however, and you could have the pleasure of having Tallinn (pretty much) to yourself.

Though Tallinn looks best when covered in snow, Winter is outside the peak season period making it the perfect time to discover this popular touristic destination at your own pace. If you want to be at the heart of this UNESCO heritage site during this period, this little hotel, smack in the middle of Old Town, was made with you in mind.

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Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance… Tallinn’s period buildings surprise you at every corner. But even if the town looks like it’s from the past, the atmosphere, and the people, have their eyes set in the future.

Youthful and vibrant, Tallin’s tag as the “Silicon valley of the Baltic” is well deserved.

Tallin in Winter

Estonia has one of Europe’s highest number of startups per head and companies such as Skype and Voog hail from the proud little country. So, there’s also a hip side to Tallinn which you can discover in the Telliskivi neighborhood where you’ll find pop-up stores, concerts, flea markets and a glimpse of where the city is heading.

 

Vienna – Austria

Vienna is one of the most beautiful cities you can visit and even in the plummeting temperatures of winter, it loses none of its charms. In fact, some will say that Winter, is Vienna at its best.

Clear skies and a fresh carpet of snow will have you out and about despite the cold and if the temperature gets too much to handle, just pop into a café for a steaming plate of goulash, a mug of mulled wine, or a slice of Sachertorte to warm up the blood. 

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But what makes Vienna a must go destination in the winter season are the Christmas markets and balls.

To find a Christmas market, just follow your nose (the scent of sausages and mulled wine are a dead giveaway) or spot the mandatory Christmas trees. They’re practically omnipresent, which is a good thing as they’re among the best you’ll find in Europe.

As for the ball season, it starts in November and lasts well into January. A landmark event in the Viennese calendar, the 300 balls are organized by various organizations and are much more democratic and open to outsiders than you think. 

Vienna 2

From the Doctor’s Ball to the Bon Bon Ball, you’ve got quite a few options. All you need to do, is own a tux or gown, get a ticket, and know how to move in time to Swan Lake.

 

Prague

Prague in winter season is a stage actress after the show. When the cameras and lights are off, and when there’s no one left to perform for, is when her true beauty shines through. And that’s when we’ve fallen in love with her.

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Czechoslovakia’s capital is one of Europe’s busiest tourist destinations. Which means that in the summer, the streets are packed with tour groups, stag parties (oh why?!) and locals trying to get on with their lives while bedlam unfolds.

But all of that changes in winter.

For a glimpse of what Prague is really about, Autumn and winter, are the best times to visit but to fully appreciate certain aspects of the city, you’ll need those sub-zero temperatures to settle in. 

Prague in Winter

For one there’s the food. Vegetarians might be left a tad disappointed, but meat lovers will want to dive fork-first into Prague’s food scene.

Designed around soups and sauces, many Czech dishes (and most Central European ones for that matter) are hearty, warm and comforting and if you’re looking for an excuse to indulge… what better reason than the cold?

At the turn of the 21st century, the Czech government decided to swap the Mala Strana’s (Old Town’s) bland electric street lighting with gas lamps to recreate the atmosphere of the ancient city. Spooky or romantic, that’s your choice to make, but this little touch brings something unique to your night strolls in the medieval quarter. 

Mandarin Oriental Prague Rooftop

Mandarin Oriental Prague rooftop terrace.

If you want to experience the beauty of Prague during winter, the Mandarin Oriental hotel is your best option. Located in the heart of the Mala Strana and within walking distance of Prague castle, this ancient monastery blends history and modernity for a unique sense of place. Look down the glass floor of its Gothic era spa, and you’ll see the ruins of the monastery’s former chapel right below you.

 

Ireland

Last but certainly not least. Visiting Ireland in winter isn’t for everyone and its appeal isn’t as obvious as the other inclusions on this list.

But if you’re sensitive to its charms, what you’ll love, is how dramatic the landscape becomes in winter.

Cloaked in mist, light rain – and possibly a tinge of magic – Ireland’s landscape is a well of inspiration that has served the likes Oscar Wilde, Martin McDonagh, and Yeats well. If you do decide to go, rent a car and just drive around soaking it all in.

When it’s time to call it a day, one of the best places to return to, is the Ashford Castle.

Ashford castle in Winter

The Ashford Castle

Located just opposite Lough Corrib and not far from the iconic Connemara, the ghostly environment around the castle has a unique quality and is a pleasure to explore. If you’re feeling cold, push through the discomfort. Because back home, are warm fireplaces, whisky, and an excellent restaurant to thaw the cold away.

 

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