europe in winter

Aug 26th, 2003, 12:22 AM
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europe in winter

I have travelled quite a lot in Europe but always in summer, fall or spring. I am tempted to spend January there next year and would love some advice on where to go and what to expect of winter (I am Australian and rather spoilt as far as winters go) I am not interested in winter sports but am otherwise generally interested in anything.
adventurer is offline  
Aug 26th, 2003, 01:25 AM
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Hi Adventurer,
As far as the UK goes, its smack bang in the middle of the fooball and rugby seasons, not sure if you class these as winter sports or not, but if you like these sports its a good time to visit. However Most of Europe will be very cold, probably Australia has never seen this much
There are an abundance of museums,castles and theatres to see.
Just dress warmly and bring your umbrella.

Have fun

Mucky is offline  
Aug 26th, 2003, 02:22 AM
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My first trip to Paris was in February, and my second trip there was in January, both several years ago. It was BITTERLY cold each time; however, we enjoyed both trips very much!

Once you choose where you're going, make sure any specific places you might want to visit (museums, historical sites, anything outdoors, etc) will be open. Some places are closed during the winter months.

BrimhamRocks is offline  
Aug 26th, 2003, 04:37 AM
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Perhaps this is your chance to experience snow! During winter, most Europeans either ski, go to the Caribbean or the Far East for some sun, or take city breaks to one of the many interesting capitals. I normally go for a real "winter experience" option to somewhere with proper snow, such as Scandinavia. One Christmas I went to Salzburg, and this year I'm planning on St Petersburg. I enjoy the difference in the seasons and save the beach trip for the summer.
Kate is offline  
Aug 26th, 2003, 04:52 AM
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Hi adventurer,

So am I right in saying you wouldn't mind below-zero(C) temperatures all the time, including daytime? In which case I would second Kate's suggestions: Scandinavia and the Alpine region would be good choices, and maybe a novelty for an Aussie?!

If you would prefer it to be milder how about London or Paris, where the daytime temps will probably get above freezing.
melr is offline  
Aug 26th, 2003, 05:00 AM
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I don't know - certainly in the UK things are pretty grim. The sky is normally overcast, grey and miserable.
So that's cuts out most tourist outdoor activities. Plus some things are closed. If you stick to cities: museums, nightlife, indoor stuff - you should be okay. If you're not into winter sports then personally I would leave it to the other seasons.
GaffaUK is offline  
Aug 26th, 2003, 05:08 AM
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I spent a week in Prague one January. It was very cold, though there was no snow, but it was sunny with clear blue skies every day. It didn't rain once. It was much less crowded than what I'm led to believe it is from spring to autumn.

I also spent a Christmas in Venice. The weather was just as I described for Prague, though there was just one day of very cold rain, though that didn't stop me from getting around. That day, there was a wonderful, free Boxing Day concert in the Frari. I usually went back to the hotel for a "heat-up" hour around 5.30 each day!

Next winter trip I do, I'll definitely invest in a pair of good longjohns, though! I thought I was adequately equipped for the cold, but on the trail all day every day, my legs, hips and ankles got very cold indeed.

Both cities were stunningly magical in winter. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, the summer months are out for me in many of the hotter countries as I can't take the heat.

Bruges is another place on my list for a winter visit.
Kutya is offline  
Aug 26th, 2003, 07:28 AM
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Another vote for Bruges (Brugge)!
BrimhamRocks is offline  
Aug 26th, 2003, 09:24 AM
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Since you have travelled widely in western Europe I think you would find the cities of central Europe easy to visit. They have many gothic and especially baroque gems untouched by war, cities which offer hotels, food, drink, museums, galleries, cathedrals, churches, castles, concerts and cafes at high quality and low price. Britons have a short list of favourites for winter weekends: Prague, Krakow, Budapest, and Tallinn. But there are plenty more: Riga, Vilnius, Wroclaw, Cesky Krumlov, Bratislava, Kosice, Eger, Pecs, Szeged (nineteenth century, but beautiful and active), Brasov, Sibiu, and Plovdiv. Your easiest approach is a flight to Helsinki (for the Baltic capitals), Frankfurt (for Poland or Prasgue overnight), Munich (for the Czech and Slovak republics overnight), or Vienna (for the Czech and Slovak republics, Hungary and the Balkans), then a train (often with a sleeper) to your selected city or cities. The planes and opera houses book up but you need pre-book nothing else: everywhere and every train has space.

Required dress is a fur hat with a bow on the top and tie-down earmuffs (best bought in central Europe), a thick woollen scarf, leather (not woollen) gloves, long johns, an overcoat or greatcoat, shoes with thick soles to keep you above the slush, and enough socks never to have damp feet. There is a climate database for 85,000 cities worldwide at A way to use this is to find and jot down the temperature figures for the coldest places you have ever been, and then compare those with cities that you are thinking of seeing. Temperatures below zero are better than those just above zero: cold rain is far nastier than fresh snow.

You should book a very central hotel: two-star is fine. At home, or in an internet cafe, you can look up the good annotated accommodation lists that has for nearly all these cities. Or once you have a list of cities you like the look of you can ask me to name old, central, hotels at thirty euros a night. You can do your sightseeing from museum opening time, usually ten, to lunch or after lunch, rest from 5.30 to 7, and go out again to enjoy those concerts, ballet, clubs, and restaurants that take your fancy. If you carry the Lonely Planet guide to East Europe and the Thomas Cook European Timetable you can book just the first city for just four nights, then extend there or move to the next city, and so on for as long as you are in Europe.

Railway stations, trains, and busses are well heated: bus stations are not. There is a note on getting the best from sleepers and couchettes at

You cannot enjoy city parks and gardens, pavement cafes, country walks, open air museums, and some of the country houses. You can enjoy a strong musical life, and in Prague even English language theatre. Except for hotels in Prague your costs are about a third of the costs you know in western Europe.

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ben_haines_london is offline  
Aug 26th, 2003, 10:05 AM
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Another vote for Prague. If you ask me, it's MEANT to be seen in winter!

I went to Venice in the winter too...I agree, the crispness in the air gave it a magical feeling.

Ben's made great suggestions for wintertime travel.
crazymina is offline  
Aug 26th, 2003, 12:13 PM
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Mr Haines, I hope you have or will write for the public, it's a shame not to share your travel and cultural insights with an even wider audience.

adventurer, I haven't been that many places in winter, but I've also experienced some very cold and nasty so-called "springs" so don't be put off from winter travel. Keep dry, keep warm,and have an extra pastry and hot chocolate. Paris and London, for two, are excellent in winter. To use extremes, if I had to choose between visiting Italy in summer or in winter, I would definitely choose winter.
elaine is offline  
Aug 26th, 2003, 01:48 PM
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Two years ago we spent a week in the middle of Feb. on the southern coast of France--Nice to Perpignon. the cote d'Azur was sunny and nice but we still wore light jackets every day. Towards Perpignan we ran into the notorious tremountaine winds that blow 80 miles an hour for days on end. They did tend to put a damper on things, and they even caused the TGV trains to be shut down. We then spent 3 cold, miserable, rainy days in Paris.

Last year we spent the 1st 2 weeks of March in Andalucia in southern Spain. Weather was delightful and mild. We even hiked in our shorts through some orange groves. I have a trip report out there somewhere on this site titled something like Spain or Andalucia in winter.
julies is offline  
Aug 26th, 2003, 03:04 PM
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"Required" dress????? A fur hat with a bow???? Yeah, right!
Aug 26th, 2003, 03:28 PM
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Intrepid: Have you tried one without earmuffs and bow, in Romania in February ?
Your whole life would begin to centre upon your ears.

Ben Haines
ben_haines_london is offline  
Aug 26th, 2003, 03:33 PM
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The earmuffs I can understand. But what's the bow for?
BrimhamRocks is offline  
Aug 29th, 2003, 05:03 PM
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Thank you to everyone for your detailed advice. Lots of food for thought and fantasy over my weekend!
adventurer is offline  
Aug 29th, 2003, 05:06 PM
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By the word 'bow', do you mean strings attached to the hat that you can tie under your chin, to keep it on in a blizzard? I'd still love to know what the 'bow' is for.
BrimhamRocks is offline  
Aug 29th, 2003, 05:35 PM
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You have it: those strings

Ben Haines
ben_haines_london is offline  
Aug 29th, 2003, 08:48 PM
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Hi Adventurer,
We have been to Europe mostly in the winter months, November, December, January, and love it. The cities always seem to be much cleaner because there are less people around and the queues are much shorter.
I too am used to living with warmer weather, that's what makes the change great.
Another plus for January is that all the sales are on, so for shopping it would be great.
Happy planning
Mischka is offline  
Aug 29th, 2003, 10:01 PM
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Just a point :

Europe is warmed by the gulf stream.
It is geographically closer to the poles than other continents (check Ottawa v Oslo !). The effect of this is very short winter days in North European countries.

Temperatures are not really the problem - you can always add clothes. Expect minimums between -30C in Scandinavia and +5C in Southern mediterranean spots.

As always low humidity is more comfortable, and very low temps are generally dry.


mpprh is offline  
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