Europe in Winter – what springs to mind? Rainy grizzly grey skies, huddling under blankets and endless cups of tea – right? WRONG. Forget the preconceptions and the naysayers, as Europe throughout the winter months (we’re talking Autumn, Winter and Spring) is literally where it’s AT. Here are 10 unexpected delights Europe offers up in Autumn, Winter and Spring (our new favourite seasons FYI):
Just as the seasons turn, the leaves become golden and the days begin to drawn in, BAM – Indian summer hits. Known as a period of unusually dry, warm weather occurring in late Autumn, Indian Summers are Europe’s last summer hurrah. Make the most of the warm days and balmy evenings with alfresco drinks along the Seine, sunset strolls along the canals of Amsterdam and snap happy times at the Colosseum or the Vatican, capturing sunsets of epic proportion.
Admit it, wearing a dirndl whilst listening to German folk music and eating bratwurst is up there on your 10 things to do before you die list. Or at least it should be. Oktoberfest is the beer festival of beer festivals, but is also so much more than just beer swilling and um-pah-ing. Explore endless market stalls, release your inner child at the fun fair or chat to locals about the history of the festival whilst chomping on every type of sausage known to man.
If Game of Thrones has done one thing, it’s make us wish we lived in a land where castles and dragons were as common as studio flats and internet cats. The dragons we admit defeat on (sadly), but the castles are alive and kicking. Our top pick? It has to be Edinburgh castle. Over 2,000 years old and built atop an extinct volcano, Edinburgh castle is one of the most haunted locations not only in Scotland, but the whole of Europe. Look out for the missing piper, the ghostly drummer and the tortured prisoners of centuries past.
Mulled everything - but mainly wine
AKA our winter drink of choice. There’s literally nothing better than exploring the twinkling Christmas markets of Munich or Berlin or cosying up after a hard days skiing with a steaming hot cup of fruity cinnamony alcoholic goodness. As your Grandmother used to say, it’ll warm you to your cockles! Best enjoyed with some German cakey treat and a roaring, crackling open fire.
Ice skating on (yes on) the Eiffel Tower
When it comes to the Eiffel Tower and ice skating, you have two options. 1 – you can skate UNDER the Eiffel Tower, looking up at the magnificent beast or 2 – you can skate ON the Eiffel Tower, directly a part of the magnificent beast. Both options are obviously pretty cool. Option 1 is the Trocadero rink and the bigger option of the two, ideally positioned near a Christmas market. Option 2 is a once in a lifetime experience, skating on ice 57 metres up the tower itself. Tough decisions (#firstworldproblems).
Ever wanted to wake up amongst the snow-capped mountains of the Alps, carve powder all day then unwind at night to the backdrop of good friends and a crackling open fire? Thought so. Exclusive to our ski Austria trips, you can stay in a Contiki owned traditional Austrian Gasthof (AKA a super cool wooden lodge). Complete with yummy local food and your very own on-site team, life in the Austrian hilltops is pretty damn awesome.
New Years Eve is celebrated all over the world, but for a totally unique experience, try out Hogmanay in Edinburgh. Steeped in tradition, Hogmanay celebrations can be traced back to Anglo-Saxon times (or in other words, a LONG time ago). The legendary street parties are reminiscent of ancient folk lore, which states each New Year should be brought in with warm hospitality to friends and strangers alike. The music’s also pretty great, with the likes of Django Django, Chvrches and the Pet Shop Boys playing last year.
Splurging in London
London is known for many things – the Queen, big ben, big red buses. But topping all these things is the SHOPPING (ladies, you know you agree). From the lavish and wildly expensive (Harrods, Selfridges) to the very best of the high street (Topshop, COS, Whistles), London is a shoppers paradise whatever your budget. To make your money go further, plan your spree in early January so you can literally go wild during the biggest sale season of the year. Credit cards at the ready.
Spring is a beautiful season across all of Europe, but at the first hint of sunshine it’s Amsterdam that really turns on the WOW factor. Flowers bloom, parks and gardens wake up from their winter sleep and the world famous Keukenhof Gardens opens its doors. With the warmer weather, why not indulge your active side by hiring a bike, heading out of town to explore Old Holland or even hitting the beach. Or you could just chill on a sun terrace and soak up some Spring rays.
ALL the food in Spain
If you’re a little bit of everything kind of person, a trip to Spain in Spring will be right up your street. The weathers warm and lovely, unlike the intense heat of the summer months, so you can stroll around the markets of Barcelona, Seville and Madrid at your leisure before taking up residence outside a tiny tapas bar, tasting everything and anything on the menu.