As much fun lying on a beach with frozen cocktails is, we won’t be able to do that for a while. But no worries. We have prepared this superlative list for having the best time in European winter.
What is so special about European winter?
Yes, European winters! chilling wind, frozen breaths, snow-clad landscape and no hope of warmth. If I have to pick the most spectacular season in Europe, it will be winter. Reason? The unmatchable beauty, the newness, the monochromatic scenes and of course hot chocolate! As Europe is blessed with a long winter, it could be difficult for some to appreciate it. Coming from someone who has grown up in a region of ten months of hot summer (yes, going up to 48 degrees celsius hot), European winter is a bliss and hence I am constantly finding new reasons to go outdoors and soak in the freshness. Here are my favorite activities to enjoy the hell out of European winter.
Want to see the mountains covered with the deep white sheets of snow? Lace up your shoes and get ready for some action. Hike up that mountain and witness the mesmerizing snow clad views. Don’t forget your warm mittens and caps!
After the energetic hike, do you know what you deserve? The big pot of melting cheese! It is all about balance my friend 😀 Treat yourself with cheese fondue. Be it at your home or at an old Chalet up in the mountains. Just try it. (Yes! Your clothes will stink of cheese after that!). You can also take your cheese love to the next step by visiting the Gruyere cheese factory in Gruyere, Switzerland.
It is a variant of hiking with big Raquette attached to your shoes to avoid getting sunk into the snow. I tried this superb activity recently and it blew my mind. I even shared a video from the magical view on Instagram. Super fun!
Skiing or Snow boarding
Another common winter sports are Skiing and Snow boarding. Get your skis/snowboards and take the train to next slope. Enjoy your day going up with ski-lifts and coming down skiing or snowboarding. Don’t know how to ski or snow board? Get yourself enrolled in a beginners school. That is my target for next winters! Bonus: Don’t forget the untouched views all around.
Outdoor hot water bath
Not very sport enthusiastic? No worries. We have got you covered. Sit back and relax in open hot water baths. One of the most fantastic experiences. You can find them almost in every European city. Most of the public swimming pools have an open air pool. Feeling a bit more luxurious? Try the numerous baths in Budapest or Iceland (check out the hot Golden circle tour). You can even pamper yourself with open air jacuzzi near an Igloo at Iglu-Dorf, Switzerland.
Cross country skiing
Cross country skiing is a variant of skiing where you do not take the ski-lift up but walk up with the skies. I have never tried it personally but I am sure I would suck at it. But I now people who love it. I guess you might have to try it yourself to see if it fits you.
From artificial ice skating rings to frozen lakes, European winter provides multiple spots for ice skating. There are multiple skating rings set up at Christmas markets as well.
Sledding (sledging or tobogganing)
We recently had an adventurous day including snowshoeing up and sledding down the mountains and I highly recommend it to everyone. I know, for sure, that Swiss mountains offer very well maintained slopes for sledding. If you go up north in Europe (Scandinavia), you can even try dog sledding.
Igloos have fascinated me since I was a little girl. Well, last year I managed to figure out how the life feels there. We spent a night in Iglu-Dorf in Switzerland and can advise you the same. Expert tip: Use the washroom before settling into the sleeping bags. It is not fun wearing three layers of clothing in the middle of the night to pee! Interested in the complete story? Read it here.
Christmas markets offer a much need cultural break in almost all small and big cities in Europe. From local food stall and gluhwein to Christmas decorations, they offer a colorful festive vibe and are not to be missed.
Witness the magical Northern lights
Who does not want to see the most magical show of nature? I am itching to experience this one. The shining green-pink reflections of light are as close to the dreamland as it goes. After spending about 10 days in Iceland, we could not witness them but some day..
Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural wonders like Glaciers, ice caves etc. While in Iceland, we had the chance to see the largest and most voluminous ice cap Vatnajökull in Iceland. Did I mention Game of thrones was shot there as well? There are many others in different regions of Europe (Switzerland for example). You can also book the guided tour to climb up the glaciers.
Witness the stunning Ice caves
Though we missed the spectacular northern light show on Iceland, what we did not miss were the marvelous ice caves. Created by the underground rivers cutting out the blocks of ice, these were the highlights of our Iceland holiday.
Snuggle on your warm couch with loads of Chocolate
I know you must have been tired with all the sports activities I mentioned above. Well, one superlative thing about winter is that no one can judge you for wrapping yourself up in a blanket (like a burrito) and just appreciating the warmth. If you have someone to snuggle with you, perfect. If not, you know what makes everything better: hot chocolate 🙂 or maybe visiting the Cailler chocolate factory for gulping down as many chocolates as you want!
Last but not the least, travel. Winter is usually treated as offseason for traveling in Europe due to the cold weather. But I find it one of the best times to hop around. Other than all the useful reasons I mentioned above, traveling off-season is much cheaper. So, pack your bags and get ready for a super fun winter!
Winter does not have to be cruel and indoors only. We have a broad spectrum from snuggling down on a comfortable couch with hot chocolate (maybe be with some marshmallows) to going extreme and try out glacier climbing or skiing. Enjoy the stunning landscapes, the freezing noses, the fogging breath and most of all, enjoy the serenity.
Now you tell me, do you like European winter? How many winter activities have you tried from the list above? Which ones are your favorite?
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