Skip to main content

10 unexpected delights to discover in Europe this winter

Image of 4 mugs of mulled wine

Europe in Winter, what springs to mind? Rainy grey skies, huddling under blankets and endless cups of tea – right? Wrong! Forget everything you think you know because you’ve never been more wrong. Europe throughout the off-season months (we’re talking Autumn, Winter and Spring) is literally where it’s at.

Here are the 10 unexpected delights during winter in Europe and the rest of the off-season (our new favourite time, btw.)

Golden Summers

Just as the seasons turn, the leaves become golden and the days begin to draw in, bam! Golden summers hit. Known as a period of unusually dry, warm weather occurring in late Autumn, these kinds of summers are Europe’s last 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.

Image of three people standing outside the Colosseum

Image source:Contiki

Oktoberfest

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 to end all beer festivals. But it’s also so much more than just beer swilling and um-pah-ing. It’s a true glimpse into Germany’s culture and ne of the best opportunities to catch up with the locals and learn about the history of the festival. Explore endless market stalls, release your inner child at the fun fair, and chomp on every type of sausage known to man.

Image of musicians at Oktoberfest

Image source:Contiki

Ancient Castles

If Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon have 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.

For avid Game of Thrones fans though, check out the town of Dubrovnik in Croatia for the real life King’s Landing.

Edinburgh Castle in Scotland

Image source:Contiki

Mulled everything – but mainly wine

AKA Europe’s winter drink of choice. There’s literally nothing better during winter in Europe than exploring the twinkling Christmas markets of Munich or Berlin and 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 kind of German treat, and a roaring open fire.

Image of three mugs of mulled wine

Image source:Contiki

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.

Image of two girls looking at the Eiffel Tower

Image source:Contiki

Austrian Delights

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 snowy mountains? Thought so.

Exclusive to our ski Austria trips, you can stay in a Contiki owned traditional Austrian Gasthof (AKA a super cool wooden lodge) that’ll bring your Contiki family even closer! Friends who bunk together, stay together, right? Complete with delicious local food and your very own on-site team, life in the Austrian Alps is pretty damn awesome.

Girl in a snowy winter chalet in Austria

Image source:Contiki

Hogmanay

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 iconic sets in past years.

Image of New Years celebrations in Hogmanay

Image source:Contiki

Splurging in London

London is known for many things: big ben, big red buses, big ferris wheels. But topping all these things is the shopping! From the lavish and wildly expensive sectors like Mayfair and Knightsbridge, to the very best of the high street like Oxford Street, 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… Go!

Image of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament at sunset

Image source:Contiki

Amsterdam florals

Spring is a beautiful season across all of Europe, but at the first hint of sunshine it’s Amsterdam that really brings the WOW factor. Cherry blossom season is Japan’s crown jewel, and tulip season is Amsterdam’s answer to that.

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.

Image of tulips in Amsterdam

Image source:Contiki

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 weather’s 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.

Food tastes so much better when you’re not sweating through your shirt, trust off, and trust the off-season!

Image of cured ham in a Barcelona market

Image source:Contiki

Up next

Stop dreaming and make sh*t happen!

Austria Ski – 1 week

2 countries, 9 days

Austria Ski – 1 week

View trip
Best of Spain

1 country, 12 days

Best of Spain

View trip