From views of the Northern Lights to the snowy peaks, these are the best places for cold-weather lovers this winter.
Once the snow starts to fall and temperatures dip below freezing, everyone flocks south for warmer weather. But travelers often neglect the magic of a chillier destination. Whether you want to bring the whole family or go solo to avoid those awkward holiday conversations, these ten spots won’t disappoint.
The Northern Lights are on everyone’s bucket list, and Abisko National Park in Swedish Lapland has near perfect conditions to see the natural phenomenon. The unforgettable Tree Hotel, perched among the snowy trees and Ice Hotel, 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle are two stays you didn’t know you needed. Book a Northern Light Photo Tour or dine in a candlelit tent on the ice for an unforgettable wintertime experience.
INSIDER TIPPack thermal underwear and hand warmers.
The Old Town of this Eastern European city is something out of a fairy tale, with pastel buildings and medieval castles lining the cobblestone streets. This year, the famous Tallinn Christmas Market will descend upon Tallin’s Town Hall Square. More than 40,000 Christmas lights will illuminate the area. But the star of the show is the towering Christmas tree in the middle of the square, a tradition since 1441. There are rows of tents selling gingerbread, mulled cider, and Estonian classics like black pudding and sour cabbage. Kids can visit Santa after he arrives by reindeer sleigh.
INSIDER TIPTry Estonia’s famous black rye bread.
Known as Japan’s best onsen town, Kinosaki is the ideal place to soak in an onsens and winter is the best time to visit. This 1300-year-old hot spring village is said to have shot up from the ground after a Buddhist priest fulfilled the wishes of an oracle by praying for the health of the locals for 1,000 days. The quaint streets are lined with traditional ryokans and Japanese architecture and there are seven public onsens to choose from. For a luxurious private onsen, book a stay at Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei.
Home to some of the country’s best slopes, chicest hotels, and coziest restaurants, Aspen is an ideal winter getaway. Book a room just seconds from Aspen Mountain Ski Resort at the Little Nell or the St. Regis Aspen. Partake in an epic après ski with over a dozen choices for bites and booze after a day on the mountain. For those who don’t ski, there’s ice skating, fly fishing, snowmobiling, and sleigh rides.
INSIDER TIPTake the local bus to the breathtaking Maroon Bells.
Known as “The Capital of Christmas,” France’s first Christmas market has been spreading holiday cheer since 1570. From November 24th to December 30th, visitors from all over the world can witness Alsacian charm oozing from the city’s 300 wooden chalets. Browse handmade goods, drink warm cider, and snack on regional bredele cakes near the city’s massive Christmas tree. You can also visit the Off Market, a place to buy socially-responsible products and participate in DIY workshops, tastings, debates, and concerts.
A snow-covered winter wonderland, Banff is like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. During winter, the town transforms with colorful decorations and lights while Mother Nature provides the snow. There’s a slew of outdoor activities like skiing at one of three mountains—Norquay, Sunshine and Lake Louise—along with plenty of outdoor ice skating rinks, snowshoeing trails, and natural hot springs. Visiting during the holidays? Don’t miss the Spirit of Christmas shop for two floors jam-packed with Christmas loot.
Our neighbors to the North know how to make the best out of a long winter. Book a ticket to Igloofest, an outdoor rave, or the Montreal Chocolate Show. If it’s savory treats you’re after, head to Fête des Fromages d’Ici, a free cheese party or Le Happening Gourmand, one of Montreal’s restaurant weeks. Take the kids to Fête des Neiges Snow Festival for sledding and ice skating and Montréal en Lumière, a free outdoor extravaganza with light shows, food, music, and art throughout the city.
Not for the faint of heart, winter in the Faroe Islands is harsh, but the stunning natural beauty is worth the journey. You’ll be able to explore the Old Town, Skansin, and the Bird Cliffs and visit Tórshavn, the world’s smallest capital, and buy knitted gifts at one of the holiday pop-ups stores around town.
Winter in Vienna is filled with roasting chestnuts and age-old Christmas Markets like the Viennese Christmas Market in front of City Hall. There’s free entrance on the weekends, when you can listen to carols and drink mulled cider while the kids decorate Christmas cookies. Don’t miss the Christmas Village at the famous Belvedere Palace, where more than 40 stalls sell handcrafted goods and treats. If you haven’t had enough Christmas markets, there are five more spread throughout the city.
WHERE: New York
If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a snowfall on your visit and experience a brief and rare moment of quiet as the city grinds to a halt, blanketed in white. That, and the stores of Fifth Ave all lit up, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, and The Rockettes are just a few of the reasons to visit New York during Christmas. The city comes alive with Holiday Markets at Bryant Park, Columbus Circle, and Union Square.