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There are many reasons you should consider hoping the pond to Europe, but especially now– during the Winter months, when both the prices and the crowds are lower. I’m fortunate to have been able to travel to Europe several times. Still, I’m convinced that heading over during the winter months is a completely different experience than enjoying Europe during the heavy travel season.
From the Christmas markets to the snow-covered Alps to the stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, enjoying Europe from November to March is magical.
Here are 6 reasons why you should travel to Europe in the winter.
Let me paint this cozy picture for you: shops beautifully decorated for Christmas, twinkling lights everywhere, a light dusting of snow and you and your sweetie pop into a tiny hole-in-the-wall for a cup of rich hot cocoa and slice of cake to warm up and relax. THIS is Europe in the winter. When my husband and I head to Europe in the winter, we play out this scene at least twice a day. Although, we sometimes swap espresso, wine or beer for the cocoa. Either way, it’s one incredible scene. If you like NYC during Christmas, you will love most European cities at Christmas.
For our last European winter trip, we found round-trip, direct flights from Chicago to Vienna for $500 bucks a person. Which, if you’re counting, is about the same cost as a flight from California to Virginia. Compared to our other European vacations, this is a major steal thanks to the off-season pricing. Even though Christmas is a popular time to travel (see more below) we found that the flights were consistently lower during this time period, no matter where you wanted to go. The flight to Vienna wasn’t just a fluke, we found similar priced flights to Copenhagen and Germany before settling on Austria.
European food, especially French, British, Nordic and German cuisine is fairly heavy. And, that’s putting it mildly. Which, after dressing in 15 layers before venturing outside, I completely understand. I never knew the true meaning of stick-to-your-ribs fare until I was chowing on my second plate of spätzle just to stay warm.
Who wants raw vegetables when it’s 10 degrees F out? Instead, pass the carbs, pass the cheese and pass the hot cocoa (and glühwein)! Obviously, this kind of eating just feels better in the wintertime. Since the food choices don’t change much over the course of the year, I’m putting hearty food in the pro column for a Winter excursion.
Popping into a pub for a plate of spaetzle, sausage, and beer feels better during the winter than sticky summer months.
See also: How to Eat Well in Italy
For really discounted airfares, fly in or out on a holiday. Most years, we choose to travel on New Years Eve or New Years Day, saving major bucks along the way. Who want’s to fly on New Years Eve? If you don’t mind popping bubbly over the ocean, you can score serious deals. Same goes for Christmas and Christmas Eve.
The only downside to traveling during this time is that some restaurants/shops and sites will be closed for the holidays. In some cultures, Christmas Eve is a bigger deal than Christmas and vis-versa. In Vienna, almost everything was closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas and December 26th. In Salzburg, Christmas Eve was a ghost town, but Christmas day was bustling. We had planned alternative activities, so it was OK, but it just shows that flying out on a holiday means you aren’t missing much.
If you plan your travels over December, you’ll also get to enjoy the plentiful Christmas markets! On our last trip to Vienna, Salzburg and Budapest, we visited at least a dozen of the markets between the three cities.
Vendors selling food, sweets, homemade gifts, trinkets and more food. To be fair, this was the reason we wanted to come here for Christmas. I remember reading a story about the Salzburg market last Winter and immediately put it on my to-see list. They didn’t disappoint and were even more incredible than I imagined.
My forever memory: our first night in Vienna, BL and I giddy from excitement but half-frozen stumbling onto our first market. We were like kids in a candy shop. We promptly ordered a mug of hot spiced wine then perused the little shops while snow started to fall. It felt like a movie and I was only too happy to be the starring couple in that moment.
Perhaps the best reason to travel to Europe in Winter? The tourists are almost non-existent. Sure, people are still visiting the cities, but nothing compared to the throngs of people that occupy places from May until September. Even compared to my recent trip to Italy this past October, there were far less tourists in December. This means shorter lines at sites, easier dinner reservations and not feeling like you are drowning in crowds.
When it comes to deciding where to vacation next, food often plays a part when making travel plans. Of course, it’s subjective according to personal tastes, but foodies were recently asked to vote which countries have the best cuisines in the world and these were the responses.
Read More: 14 Countries with the Best Food in the World
For foodies, travel offers an enticing opportunity to discover new cuisines, ingredients, and culinary cultures. Seeking out famous restaurants, meeting local producers, touring wineries and distilleries, or foraging for indigenous ingredients can turn any vacation into an unforgettable epicurean adventure.
Whether it’s Michelin-star dining in Piedmont, cooking the fish you caught that day on the beaches of Costa Rica, joining a family meal at an Italian farmhouse, or tasting wine inside ancient caves in Georgia, immersed culinary experiences stick with you long after the trip ends. To help guide food-focused jet setters to the most mouthwatering spots on the planet, we’ve compiled the ultimate bucket list of must-have culinary adventures around the world.
Read more: 12 Culinary Journeys Around the World
Snacking can be a nutritious part of a healthy diet, but it’s hard to know which packaged snacks at the grocery store are better-for-you picks. To find the best store-bought snacks that are nutritionist-approved, we consulted with registered dietitians to get their picks. The experts helped identify packaged snacks that have an optimal nutritional profile – ones that are high in protein, fiber, and whole grains while low in sugars, sodium, and saturated fats.
With a little pre-planning, you can enjoy delicious and nutritious snacks that will keep you energized and feeling sharp throughout the day.
Read More: Dietitians Recommend the Best Travel Snacks
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