The offseason is the best time to visit Europe and pretend it is your own private playground. Whilst the famous cities of London and Paris never really loose the crowds, here are a few trade-offs I am sure you will fall in love that are (nearly) free from selfie stick attacks and queues long enough to be a flight time during the offseason.
A lot of people think the capital city of the UK is where it is at for New Year Eve… Wrong!
The Scottish capital of Edinburgh is pretty magical over the festive season, with its markets and old world charm over Christmas right through to its very unique festival celebration. Hogmanay, the unique New Years celebration stats on the 30th December and runs through to the 1st January. It’s three days of events, Vikings, fireworks and celebration.
(Ok, this one might not escape the crowds but trust me, the Scottish countryside in winter will be tourist free to explore after the festivities.)
A lot of people warned me against travelling to Icleand in winter and although it didn’t go perfectly, the money saved and snowy covered experiences were worth it.
The northern lights hid the whole time sadly for me but seeing the country covered in snow, the incredible New Year celebrations, trekking glaciers, hunting waterfalls and snorkelling between two continents even in the cold are some of the best travel moments you can have. Iceland is the kind of place that looks different each season, so even between Autumn and Winter there is a considerable difference.
By far my favourite capital-city in Scandinavia, Stockholm is a dream in summer when kayaking or cycling through the city is a great way to explore. But thanks to its characterful old-town, year-round events calendar and slightly lower prices in the off-season, its a great city escape all year round.
The Christmas Markets here are ace but there are also lots of things to discover inside, the Vasa Museum, complete with the famed ship that sunk minutes after setting sail. The subway system in Stockholm is also one of the most decorated in the world, with numerous stations being complete artworks you barely need to venture outside into the cold.
The capital city of the Saxony region, Dresden was a pleasant surprise. The city is compact enough to aimlessly explore on foot, and the grand Baroque architecture, which was restored (and in some case, is still being repaired) following the extensive damage of the war makes this a worthy European city break to rival some of the other grand cities in central Europe. Although it might not be as large as some of these other cities, the depth of arts, culinary creativity and emerging street-art scene here make it a great long weekend destination.
While the height of summer and the month of December when the Christmas Market, one of the most impressive in the country, bring in the crowds, Dresden doesn’t yet seem as discovered as Munich, Cologne and Berlin which means you can marvel at the architecture, enjoy your winter Gluhwein and get lost in countless galleries and museums without having to face an army of fellow tourists.
Mont Saint Michel, France
The city of Romance is never known for being quiet no matter what time of year it is, but this Abbey Island enjoys its most peaceful time to visit during the winter months. The former converted Prison in Normandy receives over three million visitors a year so hitting it up outside of the summer means the small narrow streets and little creperies are much easier explored without having to shove your way to the perfect vantage point.
Luxembourg does not get the attention it deserves. I used to think of it as a sterile, business, financial haven but the ramparts, vistas and a multi-level split of the old town had me heading back for two February visits.
If they ever need a new location for a Harry Potter shoot then this needs to make the cut. It isn’t the cheapest place to visit in Europe for sure, but heading here before summer kicks in should save you a fair bit of dollar. It’s also a pretty romantic spot to spend Valentines day thanks to the old architecture and chateau-converted restaurants.
If you have a thing for Canals, coffee and quirky capital cities then skip out on Amsterdam this year and head to Ljubljana. Since I visited four years ago Slovenia has garnered a heap of online attention but trust me, Europe’s cutest capital city is the ideal winter escape.
With a growing wine scene, plenty of canal-side dining options, great winter markets and a really eco-conscious vibe throughout the country, it’s the perfect jumping off point to see Lake Bled which looks simply magical against the snowy mountain backdrop.
One of my favourite winter trips was when I carted my parents off to Warsaw one freezing-cold January day. There are a few reasons I loved visiting Warsaw in winter; it’s cheap, it’s festive and it feels like a fairytale.
As most of the old city was rebuilt in its original style after the war, the colourful buildings look postcard perfect against the Christmas decoration and winter projections on the facades. The snow also makes some of the quite harsh Soviet architecture look a little more inviting. Big mugs of beer, hearty Polish cuisine, great value flights and accommodation all make it an awesome winter city break in Europe.