Wintertime in Europe

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.

The Prater, Vienna Vienna Christmas

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.

Prague

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. Smile 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.

Amsterdam

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!

Galway, Ireland

Roundstone

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.

Galway, Ireland

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.

Barcelona

With warmer temperatures year round allowing fresh, mostly local, produce to be abundant and a welcome shift from root vegetables Winking smile

image

We are currently planning out our winter travels; who knows where they will bring us?!

What are your favorite parts of traveling?

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Tags: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Galway, gluwein, holidays, Lucerne, Travel, Vienna, winter

  1. Jean at The Delightful Repast’s avatar

    Meghan, have you ever noticed this phenomenon? Never heard of gluwein, ever. Then this morning, before most people are even up, I’ve seen the word twice (first in a tweet from Norway)! It sounds like a beverage I would only enjoy in the proper context–winter in Europe. Now if I could just lay my hands on a business class ticket …

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  2. Daisy’s avatar

    this post is awesome. What an interesting perspective on European travel! Adam and I are very different in the sense that we want warmth when we go on vacation! i want to get tan and relax on the beach, in between sightseeing of course. but we don’t want peak summer heat or high season prices so we stick to September and October where weather is still warm but tourists are less prevalent! (though not as much as in winter.) I would totally love to spend Christmas or New Years in any of the amazing countries you talk about. you guys are so lucky!!

    PS super cute pictures of you. :)

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  3. Daisy’s avatar

    PPS I love Rick Steves.

    Reply

  4. Clarice’s avatar

    I love Rick Steves’ Christmas special; I’ve already watched twice this year. I didn’t realize Ireland could be so warm in the winter. Thanks for a great post.

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  5. Simply Life’s avatar

    Oooh this makes me want to travel!

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  6. Leeanne’s avatar

    when we planned our honeymoon, we’d heard that the Greek Islands are much quieter after Labor Day. and it was so true. we were there from Sept. 28 to Oct. 9. The weather was spectacular (mid-to-high 80s and sunny every day) and only once did we have to wait (10 minutes) to be seated at a restaurant. The hotels and restaurants were definitely gearing up for winter, though – our hotel was closing by the end of October for the season and some restaurants closed down as early as Oct. 1.

    Reply

  7. Kelly’s avatar

    Oh man, I have a traveling obsession, I really do.
    I would love to travel more in the winter but it’s not when I really have the time off sadly, but someday maybe I’ll be able to fit in a trip over Christmas break, it just depends what day of the week Christmas falls on- the Saturday Christmas doesn’t help me out much :)

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  8. Kim’s avatar

    Oh I love those pictures. All the beautiful snow and tree-lined snowy walkways. Absolutely stunning.

    I love to travel but unfortunately we lack the financial resources to go anywhere beyond a 100 mile radius from our place. And when you live in the desert where I do, you have to go at least 250-300 miles to get anywhere good which would be the L.A. area.

    I love visiting different locations and learning the history while also browsing local shops, taking way too many pictures, sightseeing, eating, the works. If driving, I love stopping along the way to see what there is to offer along the road. Just so much fun.

    You certainly are quite lucky to have been able to travel to so many exciting places. Hopefully someday the hubby and I will as well.

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  9. Elizabeth’s avatar

    Wintertime is the only way I have seen Europe thus far. After working on a farm in Italy, I spent December and January traveling Western Europe. The holiday decorations and activities were charming, especially in Germany, where I enjoy many a Christmas market. But most of the places I went were bitter cold that year. Germany, Ireland and Scotland, definitely, and to my surprise, Granada and the south of spain were frigid. That combined with the fact that I was traveling alone made it a little lonely. I had a wonderful time regardless, but I definitely want to visit in the warmer weather.

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  10. MelissaNibbles’s avatar

    Your pictures are stunning. I can’t deal with the cold no matter where I am, but I’d head to Barcelona!

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  11. Danny’s avatar

    The picture of the three rainbows = AMAZING. you should totally send it to one of these “best photos of the year” contests

    Reply

  12. Belinda @zomppa’s avatar

    Being a Bostonian, I know what you mean! Europe is so romantic in the winters…only now, I’m in the South and seeing 75 the day before Thanksgiving was WEIRD. At least we got snow yesterday!

    Reply

  13. Anne @ Food Loving Polar Bear’s avatar

    I always want to escape the winter in Europe and this year is the first time we actually do so! Cape Verde is calling in March and that’s what keeps me warm during these (terrible) winter months :)

    Once again I realise how different people are; one wants sunshine all year round, someone travels to Europe especially in winter!

    Beautiful pictures!

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  14. Judy’s avatar

    I always have visions of being stuck in an airport due to a blizzard and missing my whole vacation. That causes me to travel for fun mostly in warm weather.

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    1. traveleatlove’s avatar

      Knock on wood, the only delay we have ever had was in Prague and was because the air traffic controllers in Ireland went on a day long strike! Places like Vienna seem so used to the snow; roads and everything are always impeccably cleaned and cleared. MUCH better than here in Boston!

      Reply

    2. Michelle’s avatar

      I love travelling throughout the seasons. We are having a wonderful (albeit cold) weekend trip down in DC right now!

      Reply

    3. Chef Kokopelli’s avatar

      I loved your photos – they gave me goosebumps and your text gave me memories of all the goodstuff I was missing…..I lived in Poland (Warsaw) for 5 years and traveled extensively via train throughout Europe during that time. It was GREAT.

      Reply

      1. traveleatlove’s avatar

        Poland is definitely on our must-travel list. I feel like that part of Europe is often overlooked but has so much history, friendly people, and great food!

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      2. Megan’s avatar

        We’re already starting to plan our honeymoon and quite excited to see that late Sept/early Oct is one of the best times to visit Italy. I’m starting to wonder why I don’t plan winter vacations like yours… I hate being here in the winter and I can handle it in the summer. And it was really nice to get away on the cruise in November. I may have to start planning future vacations for February… when I’d like to be as far from New England as possible!

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      3. Nikki @ The Tolerant Vegan’s avatar

        Winter is also my favorite time to travel! I love the cold and I love experiencing a new place without the hassle of tourists. Winter is a magical time!

        Reply

      4. alicia’s avatar

        Gorgeous pictures. I’ve only been to Europe in the winter twice – both times the UK. London was dreary – but I LOVED Scotland in February.

        Reply

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