7 fun things to do in Europe during Winter

I tell everyone I know that Europe is gorgeous in Winter. If you forget about the cold, a Winter wonderland is always picture perfect.

Now with Winter Wonderland comes also coziness, a nice atmosphere, romance. The Dutch have the perfect word for it: Gezellig (khe-ze-li-kh). The Danish word “hygge” is very close in meaning. Norwegian also has the word “koselig“. The Swedish use a term whose concept is very close: “mysig“, a pleasant and warm atmosphere of togetherness in a pleasant setting.

Put all these words together and you’ve got a well described Europe in Winter, a continent you should visit not only during summer but also in the cold months of December, January and February for these 7 reasons:

 1- The Christmas Markets

Erwin and I have been to four Christmas markets together: Paris, Vienna, Dusseldorf and Brugge. We are still planning to go to two more this year when my mom and brother come for Christmas: Maastricht (The Netherlands) and Aachen (Germany)

The good news is that Aachen was actually voted 7th best Christmas market according to European best destination, so I definitely can’t wait to see that. As for number one it wasn’t any German Christmas Market **surprise surprise** Interesting enough travelers voted Zagreb/ Croatia as the best one (maybe next year Erwin? )

Here is a list of the best Christmas Markets according to Best European Destinations. I guess you can’t go wrong with any.

If you want even more inspirational destinations for Jolly season, check out here the best European Christmas trees.

2- New Year celebrations

Unknown Photographer

Personally I am not a big fan of New Year’s Eve celebrations. I don’t know why I have never been ***please don’t hate me: my claustrophobia and my fear of fireworks are to blame**** but I know many of you are. Besides the Christmas Markets, European cities are famous for their big New Year’s Eve celebrations. You can choose the usual suspects city trips like London, Amsterdam, Paris or/and  you can be inspired but few other cities here.

3- The Aurora Borealis

Now what I am a big fan off are those Aurora Borealis. These are the real fireworks that speak to my heart and soul.

“Named after the Roman goddess of dawn, the Aurora occurs when highly-charged electrons from the solar wind collide with different atmospheric elements in the area around the North Pole.

They work in an 11-year cycle, and we’re currently in a phase of high activity after 2014’s ‘solar maximum’. Normally, the Northern Lights will stay active for two to three years either side of this period of high activity, meaning that this year could be your last opportunity to see them” Skyscanner

It seems this year is the last one in 11 year cycle where we will be able to see the Aurora this frequently. There is one good and one bad news in this statement. I will start with the later: the cycle is ending for the Aurora Borealis **talk about a real New Year resolution*** The good news however is we will still be able to see them, just the frequency of it will be less.

As we enter 2017, we’re well into the downswing of the cycle. This means fewer nights filled with the aurora borealis, an effect that will likely last until around 2025 or even 2026. You can see still the lights even in 2020, but it would much less frequent”. Derek Low

I can nam a few of those famous Aurora Borealis European destinations: Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden.  You can still catch those in Ireland and Scotland too ****surprise surprise***

Here  is a Huffington Post article citing the 10 Places where you see the Northern lights. It includes 7 European countries. (I could say 8 but Greenland which is considered a part of Denmark is situated in North America)

4- The Festivals

The cold weather doesn’t stand in the way of great festivals in Europe. To name a few:

  • Amsterdam/The Netherlands: During the dark winter months, Amsterdam comes to life with a spectacular open-air exhibition called Amsterdam Light Festival. The 53-day event gathers the best national and international light artists to showcase their work throughout the city center and along its picturesque canals.
  • Up Helly Aa, Lerwick/ Scotland: For all of us Vikings fans, this festival is a dream come true. Up Helly Aa takes place on the last Tuesday in January every year, in Lerwick, the main port of Scotland’s Shetland Islands. The outstanding event celebrates the region’s Viking heritage with traditional music and a dramatic torch-lit procession.
  • Vinterjazz/ Denmark: Is a nationwide festival which takes place each February and offers three weeks packed with events and concerts by Danish and international musicians. Vinterjazz 2018 is set to take place on February 2-25.
  • Snow Bike Festival/Gstaad, Switzerland:From January 18-21, 2018, the Snow Bike Festival promises to delight visitors and fat biking enthusiasts with an exciting mix of rides, races, and parties.

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@Regranned from @the_travel_hub – ALPINE ACTION ❄️ 🚴 The Swiss Alps are famous for a lot of things…….but follow the link in our bio to read about why you need to be looking to make travel plans for Gstaad in 2018 – to attend the Snow Bike Festival. It runs from 18-21st January and is a unique adventure in some of the most incredible landscape on the planet! @ryanscott.33 has written a brilliant reviews that will have you planning for your trip to the next @snowbikefestival. Check it out. #gstaad #switzerland #visitgstaad #visitswitzerland #snowbike #snowbikefestival #adventure #adventuretravel _______________________________________________ Gstaad – Switzerland 🇨🇭 ________________________________________________ 📷 courtesy of @ryanscott.33 ℹ️ courtesy of @andrewmarty_ . 📌 Tag @the_travel_hub or #thetravelhub to have photos featured

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  • The Ice Music Festival in the Norwegian ski resort of Geilo:  even the instruments – harps, xylophones, guitars and trombones – are made of ice, bringing an original atmosphere and sound. (Happening Feb 2nd & 3rd 2018).

5-The Carnivals

Maybe just maybe the most infamous carnivals happen outside Europe making everyone dreaming of Rio or/and Orlando (Mardi Gras) Yet you will be surprised to know how many big carnivals Europe hosts. To name a few:

  • Venice/ItalyVenice Carnival 2018 will be held between January 27 – February 18.
  • Cologne Carnival/Germany is undoubtedly the biggest, wildest, and craziest celebration in Germany. It usually kicks off on the 11th of November at 11:11, but it is temporarily suspended during the Advent and Christmas season. Then starts off again till the start of the fasting period. Can you imagine 4 months of daily Halloween costumes?!?!
  • Nice/France: From February 17th to March 3rd 2018, the glamorous capital of the Côte d’Azur becomes the backdrop for a series of theater performances, colorful stalls, firework displays, and parades of elaborately decorated floats and giant papier 

  • Carnaval de Santa Cruz de Tenerife/ Spain: the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is about as close as you can get to the one in Rio de Janeiro in this part of the world.

 6-The Winter Sports

Winter Sports and Europe go well together. Everyone knows about the famous Alps and the big amount of snow dropping every year in these areas making a ski heaven for  Winter sports fan.

Best European destinations has selected the best European ski resorts for 2018. Here is the list you will need to you book your next Winter Holidays.

7- Sunny escapades

While I was blessed most of my life with very mild winters (Lebanon has the most perfect weather I find), I can’t say the same about winters in the Netherlands. As I mentioned above, Winter sports and Europe go well together for a reason: it is pretty damn cold.  However did you know you can actually head to warmer destinations in Europe? By warm, I don’t mean humid Summer weather but rather gentle Spring weather.

We travelled last year twice to Lanzarote: once in December and another in March.  I can’t wait to repeat it this Winter. Believe me, it was so nice to be walking around in a long-sleeved shirt instead of a winter coat.

With temperatures between 12 and 21˚C, less than five hours flying time and direct flights from the The Netherlands/ UK/France/Germany, here are the best Sunny Winter European destinations:

  • Sicily/Italy:Winter in Sicily means you’ll have the whole Island for yourself: fewer crowds, bright blue skies, and almond trees in full bloom.

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In questa alba meravigliosa del giorno di Santa Lucia, a Siracusa è sbarcato un Babbo Natale speciale! Nel suo abito riccamente adornato in stile siciliano, opera sartoriale di un giovane artista (nonché autore della foto), ammira il sorgere di un nuovo giorno in riva al mare, tenendo in mano una Triskele! Cosa avrai in serbo per il popolo siracusano?? . 📌  Siracusa _____________________________ 📷Foto di @peppeorto _____________________________ Visitate la sua galleria _____________________________ 🆗Hashtag validi: #siciliamondosr #siciliamondo _____________________________ Segui: @siciliamondo.siracusa e @siciliamondo _____________________________ 🔎Foto scelta da @rossroja _____________________________ 👤Fondatore @santo.dr _____________________________ 💯Segui la pagina ed utilizza il nostro hashtag per far parte della nostra galleria💯 _____________________________ #italy #italia #sicilia #sicily #siracusa #babbonatale #costume #triskele #sartoria #moda #bestpic #tradizioni #amazing #sicilianstyle #picoftheday #bestpic #alba #sunrise #mare #sea #landscape #simbolisiciliani #santaclaus #christmas #fatherchristmas

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  • Malta:Winter in Malta sees very little rainfall and temperatures which rarely drop below 15C.
  • Crete/Greece: Crete sees sunshine year round, and although the locals will find the winter average of 15C to be cold and chilly, those from further north will take pleasure in that kind of sunshine.
  • Madeira/Portugal:The sun is shining about 6 hours a day, but at temperatures of 18 – 20°C,  the weather is perfect for golf, walking, and sightseeing.
  • Andalusia/Spain: Andalusia is the warmest part of mainland Spain: winter temperatures tend to be the highest in Malaga, on the Mediterranean, with a low in winter of 7-10 C and a high of 17-20 C. The sun shines almost every day.
  • Cyprus:Floating in the Mediterranean with temperatures at around 20C, Cyprus is a Brits favorite for a winter escape. This little island nation gets as many hours of sunlight in winter as London does in May. (The closest weather to my Lebanon)
  • Canary Islands: It’s summer all the time in the Canaries which means that they have the best weather in Europe in winter. Temperature have an average of 12 to 21. Canary Islands are one of Europe’s best winter sun destinations and a favorite for the Northmen.