Fancy a bit of pre-Christmas sparkle to get you in the mood for the festive season?
Metro picks out five top destinations which really shine in winter.
Most destinations are at their most charming and beautiful during the winter months, so it’s recommended you plan to go soon. Cozy cafes, stunning Christmas markets and snow-studded scenes are what make each individual destination so special.
Aim to visit between now and February, when you can really make the most of the festive and magical vibe that enveloped each city during the months of winter.
Sound of the Sea
Nestled on the Northern Dalmatian coast, Zadar feels somehow isolated from the rest of Croatia. It is rich in history; the city gates date back to the Renaissance and are guarded by a ferocious looking Venetian lion.
And for full-on spookiness listen to the sounds of the Sea Organ on the front.
Built by architect Nikola Bašic, the organ plays random notes as the seawater crashes into the pipes.
Medieval, sensual, magical and gothic … Bruges is the most extraordinary, ordinary place.
Serving as a cultural bridge between North and South Europe throughout the 14th and 15th century, daily life has become rather sleepy since it ended.
But, under the dormant surface lies an eclectic culture shaped by centuries of battle and hardships.
Meander around the streets by horse drawn carriage or stop off at Café Vlissinghe (www.cafevlissinghe.be) the oldest Cafe in Bruges for traditional Belgian beer.
Opera, cafes and Christmas
Vienna embraces the festive period like few other cities.
The joie de vivre (possibly helped along by the delicious gluhwien sold on the streets) is contagious and the café culture reflects this; Café Drechsler (www.cafedrechsler.at) serves delicious brioche and scrambled eggs. The city is also a musical hub, The Staatsoper Opera (Opernring 2) —once the local hangout of Mozart and Beethoven — has some spectacular shows.
FINNISH LAPLAND, FINLAND
With a white Christmas guaranteed Finnish Lapland is the ultimate winter wonderland. The days may be ridiculously short, but that’s the least of your worries when you’re too busy having fun snowmobiling, tobogganing or husky-sledding (most are floodlit when the sun goes down… just after breakfast). Stay in the village of Saariselkä; the indigenous Sámi people are amazing hosts and have plenty of fascinating winter tales to tell to brighten up the long nights.
LES CERNIERS, SWITZERLAND
An Eskimo Experience
A holiday without running water or electricity may not sound like the most enchanting experience. But a stay at Whitepod (www.whitepod.com), a mountainside chalet east of Lake Geneva, may change your mind. You’ll feel a bit like an Eskimo once settled in your igloo-like tent but there are plenty of sheepskin rugs, hot water bottles and wood burners to keep you warm. Climbing mountains in the snow may leave you feeling cramped and sore, thankfully you can indulge in a Thai foot massage in the central chalet’s Spa and 30 minutes away are the hot thermal springs of Lavey Les Bains.