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In the summer, travelers flock to Europe to tour the sites while basking in the warm sunshine. Sounds perfect, right? Well, it is perfect until you step off the plane and realize that everyone else has the same idea. Along with the picture-perfect weather, come throngs of camera-toting tourists. To escape the crowds, consider visiting Europe in the winter. Yes, the weather may be chilly (or, even downright cold), but you’ll also be able to tour some of the world’s most beloved museums and sites unhindered by chatty tourists. And with the right clothes, you will see the weather is not all that bad. Take a look at our Winter Packing List for more tips here!
I know this well after spending several months traveling in Europe this year, including two different trips to one of my favorite places in the world, Florence, Italy—once last November and again in June. In November, I leisurely wandered Florence’s streets touring iconic museums and sites, shopping in local boutiques, and sipping espressos at the counter with Italian locals. I barely even noticed other tourists. Fast forward to June, and Florence was overrun with them. Instead of leisurely wandering the streets, I focused on not running into the tour groups moving in every direction. Yes, Florence’s sites were still the same, but the crowds took away from the splendor of it all. From this, I learned an important lesson—chilly weather or not, winter is a great time to visit Europe!
In addition to escaping the crowds, check out five other reasons to visit Europe this winter:
European cities dazzle during winter holiday months with cheerful street decorations and fun holiday shows and musicals.
Cities such as Vienna, Berlin, and Paris are home to unique Christmas markets too, where piping hot cider and/or wine are served along with sweet and salty local treats. The markets host scores of shops as well that sell everything from low-priced tree ornaments to expensive, high-quality clothing—perfect holiday gifts to bring home to family and friends.
See cities in a new light
Practically, everyone who has visited Paris has a picture of the Eiffel Tower backed by an azure colored sky. But, what about the Eiffel Tower covered in powdery snow? Now, that’s a rare photo and a beautiful one indeed!
Visit Europe in the winter, and you’ll surely see cities in a new light. Soft tumbling snowflakes and festive decorations create unique, highly rewarding visual experiences; expect magical photos.
Easier and less expensive
With tourist numbers low, airlines, hotels, and other travel companies tend to lower their prices in the winter. Of course, bargain prices make it easier to plan a last minute trip. Check your favorite sites regularly for deals, and jump on a bargain.
Act like a local
If interacting with locals is something you strive to do on vacation, you’ll adore Europe any time of year. Across the continent, people are generally very friendly and easy to engage.
But, if you REALLY want to fit in with locals, visit Europe in the winter months. Why? The restaurants, cafes, and bars are primarily full of locals, not tourists. Instead of listening to several languages being spoken at surrounding tables (or even worse, only English), you’ll hear one language—the local one. It’s easier to pick up a few local words, learn about social norms, and even chitchat with your local neighbor who isn’t distracted by other tourists.
In fact, visiting Europe in the winter is like being let in on a little secret. You have the opportunity to see local life the way it really is—not tourists swapping sightseeing stories, but locals chatting over an espresso, families laughing over late-night tapas, and friends gathering for aperitivo (Italian happy hour). It’s a highly rewarding, even educational experience. And, of course it’s fun too.
World Class Skiing
Europe has some of the best ski areas in the world, and compared to other parts of the world, it can be a lot cheaper. Take a look at these guides on some of the best ski areas in Europe:
If there is no way that you’re traveling to a cold weather destination for your much needed vacation, Southern Europe can be a great option. Don’t expect hot weather, but you won’t be chilled to the bone either.
If you’re still not convinced, plan a trip to Europe during the warm weather months.Winter, spring, summer, fall—every season has its own allure.
Written by Katherine Sazdanoff for EuropeUpClose.com
Tuesday 12th of November 2013
Great ideas - winter is absolutely a smart time to visit Europe!
Saturday 26th of October 2013
Is it possible to enjoy a cycling trip in Alsace, France, in the 1st week of December, or is it too cold? If yes, do you have any suggestions for prices and locations where to hire the bikes and perhaps return them elsewhere and also for nice places to stop on the way and sleep at inexpensive accommodations?
Saturday 26th of October 2013
Hi Naomi, It gets cold and snowy in December, so I do not recommend a bike trip in Alsace. You might want to look into the South of France for a winter bike trip.
Wednesday 16th of October 2013
I live in Italy and I think the summer months are the worst to come! As you said, the tourists overrunneth and the weather really kind of sucks. It's so hot!
Tuesday 15th of October 2013
I think winter travel is great. All you need is a nice jacket and a scarf or two, and then you've got a billion reasons to sneak into a coffee shop and have a hot drink. Managing the cold is easy. Managing heat is trickier.
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