The winter holiday season is a popular travel period in Europe. Christmas markets in and around Germany draw large crowds from the KMC, but they are not your only options. Low-priced airfare and Europe’s interconnected rail system make many cultures and attractions well within your reach. Here are a few alternative destinations for your winter getaways that will not disappoint.
Interlaken is Switzerland’s “city between the lakes,” nestled in the Swiss Alps of the Bernese Oberland region of central Switzerland. The twin lakes, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, sparkle as they reflect the surrounding mountains that hold numerous hiking and skiing trails. Interlaken also holds history in the form of its monastery, which was active from 1133 until 1528 but is still open to the public. Though small, Interlaken is the perfect place to rest up before or after the hectic holiday season.
London, United Kingdom
Each of London’s famous attractions, from Big Ben to the London Eye, looks even more attractive when the city is blanketed in snow. London Christmas markets also draw a crowd.
“The Christmas markets in London are so different from the ones in Germany,” said Jasmine Browne, wife of Staff Sgt. Cliff Browne. “My family and I try to make a trip there every year.”
While Christmas markets are fun, the true culmination of Christmas in London is found in Trafalgar Square, home of the capital’s biggest Christmas tree. Christmas carol services envelope the tree for the entire month of December, and families are encouraged to attend.
Bruges is the picture of a European fairy tale. Medieval buildings, cobbled streets and glistening canals come together to transport visitors into the past. Bruges is famous for the floodlighting of evening sunsets that emphasize the picturesque layout. If traveling in the winter, visitors have the city almost entirely to themselves, as it is the slow season for tourism. See the famous Belfort or any of the city’s museums without fighting the crowds during the holidays.
Vienna is the perfect destination for arts fans of all ages. Classical music enthusiasts can attend concerts at the Vienna Concert House, where they will enjoy performances of Christmas carols and the New Year Gala. The culmination of Vienna’s winter concert season is “The New Year’s Concert” at the city’s Golden Hall of the Musikverein. Vienna is the perfect place to introduce children to the world of arts and culture. Rather than attend another production of the Nutcracker, visit Volksoper Wien, Vienna’s most popular opera house, for Hansel and Gretel, the classic story by the Grimm Brothers. Children will be drawn in by the beauty of the production, and families can relive the experience when they read the fairy tale for bedtime afterwards.
Prague, Czech Republic
Franz Kafka once said, “Prague never lets you go. This dear little mother has sharp claws.”
This couldn’t be more true in the winter season. Prague is another city with minimal tourism during the winter, so heavy foot traffic won’t be an issue. The gas-lit street lamps and warm cafe hot chocolate more than make up for the cold. Visit Prague Castle, take the children ice skating in the city center or meander through Prague’s unique take on Christmas markets. Family fun waits around every corner.
Any one of these destinations would make for an outstanding family holiday in Europe. Do not let the cold keep you shut up indoors!