Wintery gray skies and cold temperatures make most of us want to stay in. But don’t Gothic cities, hot drinks, frozen lakes, and snowy slopes sound intriguing? That’s the kind of winter escape we’re talking about. The kind that brings out the best attributes in some cities. These international cities that make for a great cold-weather destination. Here are the top 10 winter cities to visit:
1. Prague, Czech Republic
Cobbled stone, winding streets and snow-capped spires make Prague a fairy tale city. In winter, this city is also relatively tourist-free which makes walking the streets more enjoyable.
Snow covered rooftops add a special magic to this city. Turrets, Romanesque vaults dot the old town which is one of the most beautiful areas. Recently gas street lamps were installed in the centre adding a little romance to the evenings. One can pop into one of the many cafes to escape the cold with a steaming hot beverage.
2. Salzburg, Austria
A perfect backdrop for any Christmas carol, this city makes winter come alive. Visit a thermal spa fed by natural hot springs in the city or surroundings. Renting a car to see surrounding areas is well worth while. The charming town of Oberndorf is very famous for the first performance of the carol “Silent Night”. The lake district “Seenland” is filled with mountainous scenery and picturesque villages. Seekirchen and Mattsee are worth a visit.
3. Tromso, Norway
Norway’s most beautiful city is also one of the best places to see the Northern Lights. These are just a couple of reasons why Tromso is considered the capital of the Arctic and makes for a great winter escape.
Fascinating museums, such as the Polar Museum offers a glimpse into the history of Arctic expeditions. The Tromso Museum is quite famous for its Sami exhibitions.
One can see the highest number of old wood houses in the north of the country with the oldest dating back to 1789. It may seem like a small village but Tromso has developed into a modern and diverse city with many great bars and restaurants.
4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Winter is the best time to visit Amsterdam’s museums. You won’t find line ups at this time of year in popular attractions such as Rijksmuseum or the Anne Frank House.
The Royal Carré Theatre celebrated its 130th anniversary last year. Performances but international athletes from Russia, North Korea and China are sure to entertain young and old alike. The Dutch National Opera has spectacular performances each winter and is a wonderful way to spend an evening out of the cold.
It’s never too cold to shop and smaller areas like Haarlemmerstraat in the Jordaan, the Spiegelkwartier and the Negen Straatjes are far more interesting places than any of the larger department stores.
5. Nagano, Japan
Skiing in Japan? As a former winter Olympics city, Nagano is a great place to explore nearby resorts. Hit some hot springs in the outskirts for some apres-ski relaxation. Snow covered Buddhist temples are also worth visiting. To get out of the cold, stop by the Togakushi Minzoku-kan folklore museum. Here one can learn about ninjas who once trained on the site.
The Zenkō-ji temple is the 3rd largest wooden temple in Japan and was built in the 7th century. Here one can see how the Buddhist monks lived through the ages here.
Picture menus are easy to navigate in the many noodle houses around the city and are always a great way to warm up from the cold.
6. Reykjavík, Iceland
Iceland’s capital is one of Europe’s coldest cities. Many of the natural hot springs are great places to warm up and recharge from the cold. Some of the best can be found in the Nauthólsvík area of the city. February is the time of the annual Winter Lights Festival which is a spectacular celebration of winter.
Skating on the city’s Tjörnin pond is just one of the many fun winter activities to do here. The locally made dark, sweet bread ‘rúgbrauð’ can be found in many coffee houses.
Geothermal swimming pools abound in this city and are a truly memorable experience. Soaking in the naturally warm water during a snowfall is something you can’t do in many places. Each pool has it’s own characteristics. Make sure you try a few to see which one you like best.
7. Berlin, Germany
Berlin is buzzine with action in the winter just as much as it is in summer. From outdoor concerts, pop-up ice skating rinks and sledding hills and markets, there is never a dull moment.
Magical lights can be found in Botanischer Garten from late November until January. A stroll along Kurfürstendamm and doing some shopping in the fine boutiques is always a favourite past time in this city.
Currywurst is a specialty of this city and can be found on most streets and many restaurants. Make sure to order a local German beer to wash it down. At night, head to Dr Pong on Eberswalder Strasse which is one of the quirkiest bars in the city. And you may have guessed it… it’s a ping pong bar.
8. Ottawa, Canada
One of the world’s largest winter festivals, Ottawa’s Winterlude, is famous for its ice sculptures, outdoor concerts and toboggan courses.
The heart of the city turns into one of the world’s coolest commutes. From January to February the 7.8-kilometer Rideau Canal Skateway is open to everyone. Commuters, schoolchildren and students to get through the heart of downtown skating along the canal.
In late February head out of town to a maple farm and check out how the famous syrup is made.
9. Washington D.C., United States
If you’re visiting in November and December, the ZooLights show at the National Zoo opens late and stages spectacular light displays.
Under fresh fallen snow, The White House and Lincoln Memorial look especially beautiful. To head out of the cold, check out the Museum of National History. For a special treat the Washington Ballet stages performances of “The Nutcracker” each winter.
10. Edinburgh, Scotland
Cobbled streets, a beautiful castle and lovely public gardens make Edinburgh a beautiful city any time of year, but in winter it’s breathtaking.
An ice skating rink, Ferris wheel help transform Princess Street Gardens into a winter wonderland. Arthur’s Seat is a beautiful location for a stroll and take in the views from the top and is located just at the edge of the city.
The city has a fascinating history and Edinburgh’s underground vaults are a great way to learn about the city’s past.