9 Big Reasons to Plan Your Perfect European Winter Trip Now!
If you hate crowds and want more bang for your buck, here are some reasons to start planning a European winter trip.
Many of us associate European travel with the summer. While the lure of longer days, sunny and hot weather, outdoor cafes, and inviting beaches is hard to resist, this is also the time of year when tourists from all over the globe swarm the Old Continent, drive up the cost of flights, train tickets, and hotels, and overrun historic and cultural sites.
- Cheaper Airfare and Hotels
The lower demand for winter flights to Europe means not only a chance of an undersold plane but also lower fares and higher chances of a seat upgrade. In addition, while the best hotels at many destinations tend to sell out early over the summer months, in the winter you can generally get more options at better prices.
- Fewer Crowds
The time of year you travel could mean the difference between standing in line for hours and having an incredible museum, palace, or historical monument virtually to yourself. While European cities like Berlin, Rome, and Prague are popular year-round, traveling during the winter can help you avoid the worst of the summer crowds. So, if elbowing your way through an overcrowded museum or castle or Photoshopping other people from your shots are not your thing, consider traveling to Europe in winter.
- Experience Destinations in a Different Light
Living in Florida, I have developed an appreciation for the winter magic and the completely different perspective many European destinations offer outside of the busy tourist season. In winter, without the crowded squares, omnipresent selfie sticks, souvenir peddlers, and street performers, Europe shows its true self and the cold and snow add even more authenticity and local charm to northern capitals like Stockholm, St. Petersburg, or Tallinn.
- Get to Know the Locals Better
Finding out how the local people really live is much easier during the offseason. In the summer, they are either busy serving you or away on vacation, so at many tourist sites, hotels, and restaurants, you will be most likely surrounded by other visitors (including many Americans). In winter, when the crowds retreat and the locals’ guard comes down, they will be more likely to engage in conversation and tell you about their traditional lifestyle and culture. So, if your idea of experiencing a destination involves getting to know those who live there, a perfect European winter trip is a smarter choice.
- Ballet, Opera & Theater Season
Many top-notch theaters and performance venues like Milan’s La Scala, Vienna’s Staatsoper, and St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater close doors for a month or more in the summer. Even the Lipizzaner horses at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna leave for a summer break out in the countryside! On the other hand, the offseason is peak season for high culture and theaters and concert halls tend to put on more and better-quality performances during the winter months.
- Enjoy the Cozy Indoors
Worried about the limited daylight hours or not being able to sit at a sidewalk cafe and people-watch? The café culture thrives in European cities, no matter the season. In winter, you will find cozy places with fireplaces, heaters, pillows and blankets, and ready to tempt you with a sinful Irish coffee, hot chocolate, freshly-baked croissants, or a slice of Sacher torte. A smart thing to do would be to plan your walking tour during the daylight hours and leave the exploration of heated indoor cultural venues like museums, palaces, and cathedrals for after dark.
- Christmas Markets and Holiday Lights Displays
What better way to feel the winter spirit than to browse handcrafted holiday ornaments while sipping warm spiced wine and munching on sausage or gingerbread at a Christmas market. and The most traditional markets are located in Germany (Munich, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Dresden) and Austria (Vienna, Salzburg), but the ones in cities like Prague and Rome are also gaining popularity. In addition to markets, many cities are at their most festive and charming in December, with garlands of lights and holiday displays decorating squares, lamp posts, and shop windows. Last December, I took my wife and kids to St. Petersburg and then to Germany to visit some of the Christmas markets, and we all had a blast!
- Sample Traditional European Winter Food
European restaurants big and small change their menus according to the season which in the winter often means heavier and heartier slow-cooked dishes – countless variations of creamy soups, thick stews, braised or roasted meats, dumplings, stuffed peppers or cabbage rolls, and pierogi with sweet or savory fillings.
- Great Season for Taking Photos
Did you know that during the winter time the angle of the sun on the horizon is smaller, creating numerous different effects? Textures would look more three-dimensional and alive and shadows would become longer and deeper. Moreover, you would be able to take shots of European cityscapes, iconic attractions, and monuments without having to contend with hordes of other people trying to do the same…
Are you as crowd-phobic, culture-centric, and food-obsessed as I am? If so, are you planning on taking advantage of these surprising benefits when planning your next European winter trip?