The Best Places In The World To Enjoy Winter
From Talin to Tromsø – where to travel to this frosty season.
Tromsø, Norway. Photograph courtesy Nordlys Festivalen
Ah, wintertide. As soon as October departs for November, thoughts inexorably turn to open fires, roasting chestnuts and Christmas lights. Plenty will mutter of “escaping” for some winter sun, but where’s the magic in that? What if you love winter in all of its pristine, frosted glory? What if you relish the chance to grab your heavy scarf and winter coat and explore the wider winter wonderland? Not to mention the romantic kudos to be garnered from getting cosy on a weekend away. And that’s where we can help. These – in our humble opinion – are the five finest places to get your frosty fix this winter.
Vienna, Photograph by Ms Eugenia Maximova/eyevine
There are Christmas markets and there are Christmas markets. And then there’s Vienna – where the legacy of “December markets” stretches all the way back to 1298. The Austrian capital exudes an old-fashioned warmth during the winter months, with twinkling decorations adorning imperial architecture, three outdoor Christkindlmarkts, and the whiff of hot gluhwein never far away. And if it does get a little chilly, few places are as well equipped with cafes and bars in which to warm up. (Gastwirtschaft Wratschko on Neustiftgasse is a particular treat).
Tallinn, Estonia. Photograph by Mr Richard Hylerstedt/EyeEm/Getty Images
The world’s first Christmas tree was erected here in 1441 (sorry Prince Albert) and festive vigour remains as sturdy as ever in the Estonian capital. Tallinn’s medieval old town is indisputably beautiful year-round, but ascends to an entirely new level between November and January, with lanterns glowing above snow-coated cobblestones and multiple Christmas markets to explore. On Town Hall Square, you’ll find the successor to the legendary tree, surrounded by a cluster of huts selling seasonal wares. Be sure to check out the pretty ice rink on Harju Street, too, and if you’re looking to impress, make a dinner reservation at the outstanding Rataskaevu 16.
Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland. Photograph courtesy of Visit Rovaniemi
You’ve likely never heard of it, but Finns revere Lapland’s Rovaniemi as “the official hometown of Santa Claus”. To give them credit, the entire place does resemble a scene from the front of a Christmas card – and it’s not hard to imagine a team of elves beavering away in a workshop around the corner, while the big man surveys a list of gifts. The town is surrounded by pine forests and pristine snow meadows, where you can enjoy tobogganing runs and reindeer sleigh rides. And if you fancy an especially unique experience, book into the Arctic Snow Hotel and request one of their glass igloos (just don’t forget your swimwear for the hot tubs).
NEW YORK CITY, US
New York. Photograph by Gallery Stock
A cliché? Perhaps. But there’s a reason why so many of the finest Christmas movies are based in New York. During wintertime, the Big Apple sparkles with a unique icy alchemy, obvious to anyone who’s walked her famous streets between Halloween and New Year’s Eve. After a hard day’s shopping in the holiday sales, stop by Serendipity 3 for one of their signature hot chocolates to power you up, before strapping on your skates and hitting the famous Wollman Rink on the East Side of Central Park. The shorter the days, the stronger New York’s magic.
Tromsø, Norway. Photograph by Getty Images
The snowy island-city near the top of Norway is one of the most reliable places on the planet to spot the Northern Lights. It’s also a mecca for winter lovers, with world-class dog sledding (go for the moonlight option, with as many reindeer skins as you can carry) and a mountaintop cable car proffering spectacular views of the frozen coastline. The pretty city centre is bedecked with fairy lights throughout the winter and there’s plenty of good shopping to be had, as well as a number of world class museums and galleries (in particular the Polar Museum). For dinner, head to Emmas for some ridiculously delicious Nordic fare, but be warned – you’ll definitely need a reservation.
Where to stay: ScandicIshavshotel