When you think of winter, you think of cosy nights by the fire, mugs of hot cocoa to stave off the cold and a long wait for the weather to pick up again. The last thing that probably springs to mind is packing your bags for a getaway, let along leaving the house for the next few months.
But more and more, winter-time cruises and holidays are proving popular, with the chilly climes and snow-capped charm putting these already-picturesque destinations in a new light. In fact, if you’re brave enough to venture out during the fourth season, then you might find that some of these places are more beautiful in the winter than the rest of the year.
Here, we’ll present eight destinations that turn into winter wonderlands when the temperature starts to fall. Don’t forget to pack accordingly!
During winter evenings, Bruges’ cobbled streets and fairy-tale style architecture are bathed in a warming glow that’s enough to make anyone forget about the chilly weather. Endlessly charming, visit during the Yuletide season and you’ll witness a vast swathe of Christmas markets, stalls and workshops filled with treats a-plenty. With a cup of glühwein in hand, take a stroll around the Grote Markt, Bruges’s main square, where you’ll be surrounded by ice skaters, wooden huts, and a wondrous ambience that’s all its own.
Prague, Czech Republic
Another European gem that lights up during the colder months, Prague is proving very popular as a winter-time escape right now. Whether you go before or after Christmas, the Czech capital sparkles with arresting charm, casting snow in purple hues that adorn its surroundings perfectly. And best of all, it never seems to get too busy, so you’re free to explore its museums, streets and cafés in relative peace. Be warned, it most probably will snow, so be sure to bring your walking boots and a warm coat.
New York City, USA
There’s something about New York City and the winter that just goes hand in hand. Tailor-made for the colder months, its sprawling metropolis looks even better when its draped in blue evening light and buckets and buckets of snow. Backed by Manhattan’s towering skyscrapers, get your skates on and head over to the rink in Central Park while everyone else is shopping. With silver screen splendour always at the core of the Big Apple’s popularity, give it a go when it’s cold for a New York experience with a difference.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site considered one of the prettiest places in the world, this tucked-away Austrian village is a picture-postcard example of the effect winter weather can have on its surroundings. Quiet and remote, you’ll find charming painted buildings and snow-capped mountains begging to be photographed, along with their speciality fish and pork dishes to warm yourself after your sub-zero strolls. The small-town appeal is what makes Hallstatt so special – the Chinese have even built their own replica – and for picturesque photo opportunities, it doesn’t get much better than here.
The Estonian capital, the European Capital of Culture in 2011, and the place Skype calls home, Tallinn is adorned with a medieval ambience which boasts an other-worldly appeal. In the snow, the impressive buildings and Toompea Castle begin to resemble a fairy-tale town, while its compact scale makes it the perfect place to explore on foot. Why not check out the Kalev Marzipan Museum Room and learn about the sweet treat? Or go for something with more of a punch and sample Vana Tallinn, a dark rum-based liqueur that nicely balances sweet and strong – a perfect remedy for the cold.
Winter cruises don’t always have to mean braving the cold. From October, cruising Down Under is in full swing, with the warmest temperatures between December and March, so if you’re looking to get away from the cold, make Sydney your go-to destination. There’s an undeniable novelty to basking in the heat during the winter months – head to Bondi Beach, sit back, relax and just think of everyone else back home having to face the terrible weather.
It’s not just Santa’s Grotto and reindeer that Lapland is known for. Shrouded in near darkness that gives it a mysterious allure, Lapland’s long winter affords plenty of opportunities to see some truly spectacular sights. Time your visit between January and March, and you might just get to see the aurora borealis lighting up the sky with its patented swirls of brilliant colour. A delightfully satisfying sight.
If you fancy the extravagance of the Middle East without the soaring high temperatures of the summer, visit in winter when you’ll still be warm without feeling like you’re going to melt. And Doha is a superb place to experience the country in milder climes, with sun-kissed skyscrapers poking out amid beautiful mosques and traditional marketplaces. While you’re here too, be sure to give Qatari brunch a try; a showcase of seafood that’s not to be missed.