For some reason the wanderlust never fades, and for me it bites especially hard at the beginning of a new year. The beginning of the year provides a great opportunity to explore destinations that come into their own in the cold winter months. Winter fairs, great architecture covered in pure white snow, and unique winter activites all draw people in to explore these locations at their best. Here are the 5 best destinations in Europe for a getaway at the beginning of the year.
I fell in love with Bruges after watching the creatively named film In Bruges. Now the film is hilariously dark and funny, and you should go watch it, but we’re talking about the city and it is an absolute winter wonderland. A large proportion of the streets are cobbled which provides and authentic old world feel to the city. Combine this with medieval architecture, and canals throughout the city and you end up with a kind of medieval Amsterdam which comes alive during winter. Visit the medieval bell tower of Bruges which after 360 steps, will offer you 360° views of the entire city! Just next to the bell tower lies the traditional ice rink that is open until January. For the romantics out there you should visit Love Lake and cross its bridge with your partner; legend has it that you will fall in love forever if you do.
There is no better feeling than being infinitely warm whilst you are surrounded by a cold and wintery environment. Budapest can offer this feeling in abundance thanks to its many unique and beautiful thermal baths. Whats better than soaking in a outdoor bath with water heated up to 30°C whilst the thick snow is falling all around you?! Add a cup of hot cocoa into the mis and you’re in wintery heaven. Whilst your not relaxing in thermal bliss, you have the opportunity to explore this beautiful city; why not explore Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube, take in the stunning Parliament Building (pictured), and at night drink in the ruin bars that have been preserved from past wars.
Vienna covered in a thin layer of snow is one of the most beautiful sights you can behold in Europe. A couple of years ago I spent 4 days in Vienna over the summer and it was spectacular, I can only imagine the wonders of being there in winter. Touted as one of the best Christmas markets in the world, Wiener Christkindlmarkt am Rathausplatz will give anyone an extra shot of Christmas spirit. Here you can buy mulled wine, local food, ornaments, and souvenirs from traditional wooden market stalls. The whole city itself is covered in beautiful (not tacky) Christmas decorations that transport you into a world of Christmas from hundreds of years ago thanks to the cities period architecture.
Bergen, Norway is a southwestern coastal city that is surrounded by vast towering mountains that contain many of the countries famous fjords. The city sticks out amidst the tall trees and the mountains due many of the cities wooden buildings being painted bright colours such as yellow and red. Amongst the fjords surrounding the city is Norways largest which is spelt Sognefjord – I have no idea how to pronounce this. As well as exploring the cities great surroundings there are plenty of things to do in Bergen. Why not visit the cities historic wharf that contains many of the cities best restaurant and bars, or take a trip on the funicular up the side of mount Floyen for astonishing views across the unique Norwegian landscape.
Now Croatia may pop into your mind as a popular summer destination with white sandy beaches and beautifully tanned people swimming in azure blue seas – and you’d be right. However, Croatia, and particularly Zagreb, are quickly becoming a winter destination that no one wants to miss out on. Zrinjevac Park in Zagreb comes alive in the winter time thanks to over a million lights decorating the trees and other structures. Walking around this park will transport you back in time as it contains ornate fountains, food stalls, and mesmerising music performances. Tkalča Is a bustling wintery street that runs through the heart of Zagreb; there are many bars, restaurants and coffee shops for you to sit in while you soak up the busy atmosphere of this street. King Tomislav Square is a popular attraction that contains a huge ice rink as well as plenty of traditional and quirky food stalls that will tempt any appetite.