While there is still time to get away on a city break this Autumn, winter is almost upon us and for those of planning ahead we have here some of the best cities for winter breaks.
Winter time is a perfect time to enjoy a city break. Escape from the Xmas shopping crowds and freezing weather in the UK in favour of heading somewhere where the city does winter in style. Some of the world’s best loved cities are undoubtedly better to visit at this time of year, whether you’re hitting the slopes, buying gifts or looking for a relaxing retreat, enjoy the cold comforts of a great fairytale city away from home. Find your festive spirit and experience the joy of some the best Xmas markets in Europe, the perfect way to explore a new city. Plan a city break to remember in one of these charming winter wonderlands…
Best for: Getting into the festive spirit
Salzburg, AustriaFor a festive city break, the alluring city of Salzburg in Austria is fantastic. Its stunning mountain location, and plethora of outdoor winter activities makes it ideal for a winter city break. Boasting beautiful scenery, and historical attractions it’s no surprise it’s a UNESCO World Heritage city, offering plenty of cultural attractions and a brilliant musical heritage.
The skyline is dotted with Gothic towers and cathedrals, and is perhaps most famous for being the setting for The Sound of Music and home to the late Mozart. Salzburg is home to some of the most enchanting Xmas markets in Europe which look all the more stunning when the snow falls. For an atmosphere like no other try the Salzburg festive market in Cathedral Square, with glittering festive lights, gorgeous food and the tranquil Salzach river nearby.
The city is also the gateway to some of the best ski resorts in Austria and triumphs over the rest of the Alps for snow-peaked mountains and wide range of naturally beautiful ski resorts. It prides itself on being the biggest glacier skiing in Europe, so why not head to the slopes and try your hand at skiing and snowboarding? Wagrain is a great area for family skiing, whilst Salzburgerland offers unspoilt villages and stunning lakes, and when you need to warm up there are plenty of quaint cafes to relax in and enjoy the city’s finest coffee and handmade cakes. Salzburg is home to some magnificent attractions and baroque architecture you can spend the day exploring. From the stunning views from the regions famous landmark, the Hohensalzburg Fortress, to the fantastic Salzburg Open Air Museum, which features over 60 old farmhouses, barns, and cottages, there’s lots to learn about this historical city. Enjoy the alpine village atmosphere, the breathtaking mountain scenery on a break to Salzburg – what’s not to love?
Best for: Hitting the slopes
Head to the heart of Europe and experience true winter magic in the fantastic city of Zurich. Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich oozes 19th century charm with its winding medieval streets, picturesque lakeside location and magical backdrop of snow-capped mountains. Known as the “portal to the alps”, the city is renowned for high quality skiing and as such, boasts a number of places to hit the slopes. One of the most popular resorts is Engelberg, close by the city; it’s a premier ski resort catering for all levels of skier and is highly recommended for snowboarding. Featuring 23 lifts, 41km of cross-country trails, and over 80km of downhill slopes to choose from, if you’re not skied in the Alps before you won’t be disappointed here.
In addition to skiing, the city also offers a unique range of cultural attractions, a stylish nightlife and a grandiose shopping experience with many famous brand store and quaint cafes and boutiques found along the mile-long Bahnhofstrasse street. Head to the old town and explore the cobbled, medieval streets, see the medieval architecture and spend your time wandering around of the many art galleries and Lake Zurich, which is absolutely breathtaking on a snowy winter’s day.
There are also over 50 amazing museums in the city, including the Swiss National Museum, which looks like a fairytale castle, and the Zurich Toy Museum, both of which will entertain both adults and kids. Of course, a visit to this captivating Swiss city wouldn’t be complete without sampling some of the chocolate creations the country is famous for, and you can find the finest in the Zurich Xmas markets or in one of the many confectionary shops littered around the main shopping streets. Zurich offers something for everyone, and is relatively quick and easy to reach making it great place to end your 2012 in style.
Best for: The Xmas Markets
Head for a unique city break to Scandinavia, and visit the captivating city of Copenhagen. A vibrant place, with magical castles, beautiful gardens, historical buildings and world-class dining there’s a real sense of the old and new in this Danish city. It’s the ideal place to escape to in the winter when the capital truly embraces all things festive, and there’s nothing like a festive market to really get you feeling Christmassy.
Copenhagen is home to one of the world’s most iconic markets in the world in the naturally beautiful Tivoli gardens. Located in the picturesque Old Town Hall Square, they really come alive at this time of year with a festive atmosphere and aroma unrivalled anywhere else in Denmark. Spend a day exploring over 70 charming stalls, where you can buy anything from handmade ornaments, to local Danish delicacies such as tasty glögg, pastries and fresh gingerbread.
For the kids there’s ice skating, and Santa’s grotto and even pony rides too! Once you’ve exhausted the markets, explore one of the city’s many attractions, such as the famous Little Mermaid statue, the popular shops on the Stroget, and the waterfront, where a boat tour is the perfect way to get a true vibe for the city. The festive city is also jam-packed with museums; the most exciting is the Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket and is famous through the city for its tasty danish pastries and fabulous fairytale location. The city’s largest, the Nationalmuseet is well worth seeing too for a great family day out. Once you’re ready to relax, sample some fine-dining in one of the world class eateries, head to the waterfront to admire the great city views as you dine.
For brilliant museums, art galleries, cosy cafes and dazzling traditional Xmas markets, experience the charm and culture of Germany with a winter city break to Berlin. The Winter Xmas markets are undoubtedly the main attraction of a winter break to this lively city, with their extravagant festive decorations, illuminations, if you’re looking for the ultimate Xmas market experience then this is the place to be. With over 50 different markets in the city, it’ll be hard to know where to begin, but the most striking is at Gendarmenmarktopen and is open all the way up until Xmas. Foodies will love this market, with the wonderful aroma of mulled wine, hot chestnuts, and traditional Bratwurst sausages filling the air there’s plenty of German food to sample during your stay. Buy unique Xmas decorations and handmade gifts which showcase some of the best work from European designers who thrive in the city of Berlin.
The Xmas markets are vital part of the city’s culture and are the ultimate way to indulge yourself on a visit to Germany, but there are plenty of other ways to spend your time in here. Berlin is home to dozens of mesmerising attractions, from the historical such as The Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin wall, to the contemporary, with a plethora of shopping streets and museums. Find out all about Berlin’s history at the popular DDR Museum, or head to Museum Island where you’ll find them in abundance. Perfect for a spot of culture, shopping and festive cheer, winter is a magnificent time to visit this traditional city.
Best for: A long city break
New York City
Central Park New York in WinterEmbrace the city that never sleeps and take a trip this winter to New York City, which is breathtakingly pretty at this time of year, particularly if it snows. The Big Apple is famous for its unrivalled attractions and festive scenery, but the main reason for its popularity at this time of year is for its Xmas shopping and fantastic bargains in the January sales. From Bloomingdales, Macys and the famous stores along Fifth Avenue, you can’t help but be charmed by the shopping streets of New York.
For first timers, no trip to the Big Apple would be complete without visiting as many of the famous tourist sites as you can. From the dazzling skyscrapers, the famous Times Square, to the Empire State building, for absolutely stunning views of the city. Ride in a yellow taxi, head to Staten Island for the Statue of Liberty, or for ultimate winter magic spend a day ice skating at the Rockefeller Center, in Central Park. This is especially popular with couples where you can enjoy the open-air ice skating and then relax taking a romantic early evening ride in a horse and carriage.
NYC is the ultimate city for any art fan as there are hundreds of brilliant museums and art galleries, particularly popular are the Guggenheim, the Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With so much to see and do it’ll be hard to decide what to include in your trip, but one thing you should definitely try and include, particularly if you love the theatre is going to see a Broadway show. NYC is the perfect place to escape to for winter city break, especially if you’re after a lively holiday with a vibrant Xmas atmosphere.
Winter is the best time of a year for a cosmopolitan city break, no matter what kind of holiday you’re looking for. Whether it’s for a mere few days away or something a little longer, there’s a city destination perfect for you just waiting to be uncovered this winter.