While most people seem to look forward to summer to travel, we tend to be the exact opposite. I love to stick around New England to soak in the rare months of sunshine and warmth, hydrangeas, deep blue seas, fried clams, local beers, and long evenings.
Instead our travels tend to take place in winter; by keeping to this schedule we get to enjoy crowd-free holidays that cost much less than they would in summer. And Europe is simply magical in the winter. In the past 5 years, I have traveled from the West coast of Ireland on multiple family visits, to London, Brussels, and Amsterdam for work, to Amsterdam for New Years, to Vienna, Munich, Lake Lucerne and Zurich, to Monaco and Nice, to Prague, and to Barcelona. Inspired by Rick Steves’ European Christmas, on public television this morning, I thought I would share with you just why winter is my favorite time to visit Europe.
Many European countries really do it up for Christmas and New Years. In places like Vienna, decorations transform already gorgeous cityscapes into enchanting holiday villages. Outdoor markets and the prevalence of gluwein (yes, drinking wine while shopping!) and street food like sausages, chestnuts, and pretzels, make wandering around in the cold more pleasant.
In colder parts of Europe like Vienna and Prague, a quiet blanket of snow only adds to the architectural and natural beauty, making everything seem just a little bit slower, the perfect pace for your vacation.
In the winter, all of the sights are still there! Museums and other attractions might have limited hours, but in general, places are open for business with a pleasant difference from summer, no crowds. When planning a trip, you will. of course want to double check that places are open. I do know, for example, that some Champagne houses in Reims do not have winter tours.
Weather in Western Europe can be downright gorgeous! If you are from a place like Boston where our winters tend to be quite brutal, going to places like Ireland and England can be a pleasant surprise. The below photo is me running on the beach in Galway, Ireland last JANUARY! Temperatures there can be in the 50’s or, as we have experience several times, even the low 60’s in February. It is nice to step off the plane and shed the New England layers!
And again, in the winter, the natural beauty of places just shines, and you don’t have busloads of tourists elbowing you out of the way to enjoy it. Winter in Europe is a great time to blend in, to talk to people, and to get more of a handle on what everyday life is like which is my absolute favorite part of travel.
And if you really can’t stand the cold, you can always head to the warmth. Barcelona in late November had us eating lunch on the beach, watching surfers and children swimming.
With warmer temperatures year round allowing fresh, mostly local, produce to be abundant and a welcome shift from root vegetables
We are currently planning out our winter travels; who knows where they will bring us?!
What are your favorite parts of traveling?