Europe in winter

Sep 16th, 2014, 11:27 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 410
Europe in winter

Hi everyone
As a teacher in Australia, my long break is in Dec / Jan.... so I have the opportunity to travel for 4-5 weeks at this time of the year. We just love Europe and so want to see more, but haven't travelled in winter time before. We have been to Switzerland, London, Berlin, Prague, Paris , Italy - but not experienced them in Winter.
We are after some ideas / advice regarding:
Pros / cons to travelling in the Europe in winter
Things to be wary of
We are into photography, history, walking - not so much skiing - so any recommendations on where to go.
A similar post appears in the USA thread as we are trying to decide between the 2!
LakesideChick is offline  
Sep 16th, 2014, 11:39 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Love, love, love Switzerland in winter (and we don't ski, we hike). Last year in December we visited the Engadine, the BO and then spent Christmas in Munich. Incredibly festive, and we're hoping to return this Christmas as well.

Only cons I'm aware of are high season rates in ski areas and having to book for one-two weeks over the holidays.
Melnq8 is online now  
Sep 17th, 2014, 12:57 AM
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 7,763
Some gross generalizations:


1. If you don't go skiing, it's the low season so lodging will be cheaper.

2. Not so many tourists.

3. Southern Spain: sunny and cool but not cold.

4. If you come before Dec. 24: Christmas markets!


1. Central/Northern Europe: Cold, wet, dark

2. Short days.

3. Driving in possibly poor conditions.
sparkchaser is offline  
Sep 17th, 2014, 01:13 AM
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More Pros:

1. Central/Northern Europe: can have cold, dry, sunny, crisp days, if there is snow, even more beautiful. It is not always cold and wet.
2. Short days but long twilight
3. Very good at clearing snow from roads, except for the UK
Odin is offline  
Sep 17th, 2014, 02:38 AM
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Hi LakesideChick,

Well . . . even if you don't ski, if you want to enjoy a ski resort, you'll be paying high-season prices. All of the mountain destinations will be on high season, and many hotels require a full week's stay because demand is so high. If you are going to Switzerland in the winter, I would think you'd want to enjoy the mountains, so do expect to pay those prices. The cities in winter are ok (not as glorious as the mountains, obviously), and there you will pay lower prices.

Of course, there are many more tourists in the mountains in Dec & Jan because of the draw of skiing. In addition, there is a major ski race in Wengen in mid-January (Lauberhorn ski race) that draws thousands of competitors, coaches, media, and fans. Grindelwald hosts an ice-sculpting contest at the same time, and that also draws a lot of folks.

Switzerland does a great job of keeping many walking/hiking trails cleared of major snow in the wintertime -- I live in Bavaria, and we don't keep the trails cleared at all.

Have fun as you decide & plan!

swandav2000 is offline  
Sep 17th, 2014, 03:00 AM
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In the winter I like to travel to cities. The cultural season is in full swing. It gets dark pretty early in much of Europe in the winter, but this is much less of a disability in cities, where you are spending your time in museums and in the evening going to restaurants and performances.

In cities there is well developed public transportation, so driving in bad weather is not a concern.

I have taken winter trips to Paris, London, Barcelona, Rome, and Venice, and I would happily return to any or all of them at that time of year.
Nikki is offline  
Sep 17th, 2014, 03:47 AM
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A lot of Italy is really nice in December and January. This includes Rome and Naples and much of Sicily. If you don't mind bundling up a bit at night then Florence and Verona and Venice can also be very enjoyable, as well as the less touristed cities like Bologna and Torino. It is easy to get around by train but trying to do things with a car is unpredictable because of weather-related driving hazards in some areas.

Generally speaking the scenic areas of Italy (lakes and sea and rural vineyard country) are not worth risking with the exception of the Dolomiti, where you don't need to ski to have a good time. Roads are kept clear and there is regular bus transportation from Venice to Cortina d'Ampezzo. Just beyond the Dolomiti but on the train line is Merano, which is somewhere I hope to go sometime in winter:

Depending on how much time you have and how much you like to move around, it would be possible to do a loop from Venice>Dolomiti>Merano>Verona and back to Venice again or Milan (or Florence or Rome, because the trains are speedy).
sandralist is offline  
Sep 17th, 2014, 05:24 AM
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We've taken three December trips to Germany, Austria and northern Italy for the Christmas Markets. We're from New Orleans where we rarely get freezing temperatures or snow. The biggest problem I had was that, each time, it was so cold, I was miserable after a week... I can't imagine spending 4-5 weeks in that climate. But--that's me.

What I've enjoyed: The beautiful winter scenery. Hiking up to Neuschwanstein with snowflakes falling on us. The opera is in full season. The museums are all open normal hours but not as crowded. The Christmas markets are fabulous (but really cold since they're all outside).

Don't like: super short days--I think it gets dark around 4-5 pm. The cold and wet.

Good luck with your planning.
nola77382 is offline  
Sep 17th, 2014, 07:33 AM
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Europe includes much of the Med and the weather can be warmer there obviously. Greece is an obvious possibility. Islands like Rhodes or Crete can be 20C at Xmas some years and snow is highly unlikely.

Visiting a place in the off-season can be a very different experience. I'm a big fan of Switzerland but ski season is as busy or busier than their summer season. It all depends on what you want to do and see, what your interests are.

Venice in winter for example is very different than in summer. In general, I prefer most places in their off-season. Given your interests, I would avoid all ski areas completely and N. Europe, look towards the warmer possibilities.
Sojourntraveller is offline  
Sep 17th, 2014, 01:38 PM
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Uh, this won't distinguish anything. There are fine places to discovery history, walk around and take pics throughout Europe. What history specifically - Renaissance, Protestant Reformation era, Age of Discovery, Revolutionary period of the pre-industrial age (early 1800s and such), Great Game period, WW I (Aussies and Kiwis have a particular attachment to this because of the national remembrances of Gallipoli), WWII, Holocaust, Eastern European Communist history, etc.?

Are you disinclined to go where you've been already?

You're Aussie and Oz really has no winter equivalent to Europe's - are you frostophobic (I claim trademark rights in the word)? Where in Oz are you from? Can you handle subzero Celsius weather on a consistent basis?

Do you need a lot of daylight? Come December/January, it gets dark very early anyplace in Europe that is north of the Mediterranean coast.

If you really cannot handle the cold, you may be better off in the Southwestern US (California, Arizona) which can occasionally get chilly, but rarely frigid if you're not in the mountains.
BigRuss is offline  
Sep 18th, 2014, 03:24 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 410
Thank you all so much for the hugely useful and interesting advice. I've got a lot of thinking to do! No doubt I'll be back with more questions! I really appreciate your time and knowledge!
LakesideChick is offline  
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