Europe draws millions of tourists throughout the year. But there is something to the magic of a wintry excursion to this part of the world that is irresistible. Many winter travelers may be drawn to the hot spots in Prague, the allure of the holiday markets in Germany, and the shimmering lights of Paris. But by making a point to go a little out of the way from the most popular locales, you will enjoy unique rewards. So the next time you're in the mood to plan for a European jaunt, consider these less-traveled winter destinations. You are sure to experience a novel adventure while also circumventing the usual crowds.
If winter village charm is what you're after, consider a cozy trip to Pertisau, a tiny hamlet on the Achensee Lake. Achensee is the largest lake in Austria's Tyrol region, with a serene waterscape framed with postcard-worthy mountain scenes. In the Schwaz District, the town borders the protected nature reserve known as Alpine Park Karwendel in the Eastern Alps. The picturesque region makes for some unforgettable winter skiing across its pristine mountain slopes.
The tourism industry in Pertisau has been going strong since the 19th century. The city is also known for the many natural cosmetics and other beauty products that are made locally. Surrounded by valley forests, alpine pastures, mountain peaks, and the expansive lake, Pertisau makes a picturesque setting for winter revelers. Enjoy hiking, a nostalgic steam-driven antique railcar ride on the Achensee Railway, or daring ice climbing experiences. Incidentally, in the summer months, the area doubles as a scenic paragliding paradise over flower-blanketed meadows.
The South of France in winter is ideal for a quiet, even introspective stay. By this time, tourist season has passed, but there are still plenty of things to do and places to explore. The beaches are likely deserted and the museums much less populated, but the scene is still warm and inviting.
In the 2,000-year-old port city of Marseille, a visit to Les Docks Village will satisfy your shopping bug, with its eclectic collection of indie eateries and colorful boutiques. Culturally enriching activities like a trip to The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations will help you to stop and think. Also not to be missed is the Château Borély, an opulent 18th-century castle that's been converted into a museum for fashion and decorative arts. The structure's imposing facade belies the grandeur within, while animal-inspired sculptural water fountains and manicured landscapes encase the castle from all sides.
More activities await in Marseille's urban center, which is host to the waterfront, vibrant performance spaces, bookshops, and tempting gastronomical stops featuring plenty of seafood.
It's bitter cold during winter in Stockholm, but there are plenty of urban wonders to keep your spirits lifted high. With a slightly more reserved aesthetic approach to the holiday season, the holiday decorations may be a bit more sophisticated here than other neighboring European cities.
Practice your best ice-skating moves on the Vasaparken Rink. It's free to the public between November and March, and if you don't have your own skates, you can rent them for a small fee. Alternatively, in the heart of the city, you can ice skate at Kungsträdgården, also free to the public. Skating amidst the cheery glittering lights of the Stockholm cityscape is sure to warm your heart.
During the holiday season in Stockholm, you can find several spectacular Christmas trees on display, delighting visitors day and night. The tree in Skeppsbron, Stockholm, is said to be the largest real Christmas tree in the entire world. Located on the edge of Old Town, the mighty tree towers at 39 meters high and is topped with a star that measures at a four meters. No matter what holidays you celebrate, the tree is a sight to behold.
Each year on December 13, the Lucia celebration is observed as an important cultural event all over Sweden. Activities during the event include candlelit processions, melodic choir performances, and special foods in honor of the annual ceremony. Lucia, known as the bearer of light, is a figure of mythology with a rich history.
If you're headed to the beauty of the Mediterranean coastal region during the winter, complement your visit to Valencia with the collection of arts and festivals the city has to offer. If you enjoy a wow factor with a bit of whimsy, don't miss one of the spectacular winter circus shows that are presented through the season. Enjoy the merriment and frivolity of a clown act, acrobatics, aerial artists, contortionists, and so much more at Valencia's Christmas Circus.
After the winter holidays, the Valencia Las Fallas Festival sends off the final days of winter with a bang. The intriguing blend of old-world charm and modern life fascinates visitors from every corner of the globe. Held during the Feast of St. Joseph, this fiery fiesta features colorful traditional costumes, music, dancing in the streets, plenty of floral arrangements, and blazing flames to warm a brisk end-of-winter evening. Ushering in the spring with this jubilant event, the Valencia Las Fallas Festival also presents towering papier-mâché forms known as ninots that can sometimes loom an impossible 20 feet overhead. These sculptural characters depict satirical figures from the worlds of politics, entertainment, sports, and the depths of the artists' imaginations. Pyrotechnic displays and brilliant, blazing bonfires light up the nights.