Ahh, winter. The arrival of its shorter days and frosty morning heralds the countdown to the festive season and begins a time when we start reflecting on our year as it draws to a close and, hopefully, start looking forward to the next! There’s nothing like it and I’m not ashamed to say I love it! Sure, summer has its charms: light evenings that turn into balmy nights and sun-drenched days which give you the excuse to head to a beer garden at 12pm (obvs). But there’s plenty to be said for winter too… cosy evenings, roaring fires, fuzzy jumpers AND (best of all) that hard-earned summer body can take a back seat in favour of drowning in hot-chocolate and stuffing yourself with pigs in blankets!

Love it or loathe it, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere at least, the cold season is here for the next few months. Fancy embracing the magic of winter but not into Christmas markets? Despair not! We’ve put together a list of some of our fave things to do if you happen to be on the continent during the chilly winter months – and there’s not a Christmas market in sight *gasp*.

New Year's Eve in Munich

Take on Tollwood Winter Festival in Munich

See out the old year and ring in the new in style at the lively Tollwood Winter Festival: the place to be in Munich on NYE. Think: a cornucopia of music and dancing, cabaret performances, plenty of German beer and some hearty food to keep you going. Not gunna be there for the big night itself? No stress! The festival runs for a month from the last week of November.

Get lit at Amsterdam’s Festival of Lights

Now, we know what you’re thinking: Amsterdam is famous for its red lights all year round. But if you amble over to Amsterdam in the dark winter months, you will find the inky night sky lit up by hundreds of seriously impressive light installations at the city’s open-air light festival! This annual event runs for nearly two months and boasts displays from some of the world’s most famous ‘light artists’ – now there’s a cool sounding job…

Unmask Venice’s famous carnival

Venice is beautiful no matter when you visit, but it really comes into its own during the world-famous Il Carnevale. The winding back-streets fill with masked revellers in impossibly beautiful and ornate masks and the squares come to life with an explosion of creativity, colour and fun. Tag on to one of the larger than life parades or bag an invite to a masked ball in the ultimate bid to banish the winter blues!

Experience Up Helly Aa in Lerwick, Scotland

Up Helly Aa! No, we’re not being rude, it is in fact the name of an ancient festival which takes place every year on the last Tuesday of January in the small town of Lerwick: the main port town of the remote Shetland Islands. This awesome festival of fire which celebrates the area’s Viking heritage is now one of the largest in Europe, attracting visitors from all over the world who come to see big, burly Viking look-alikes carrying flaming torches and a dramatic finale. Well, that’s one way to heat up a January evening!

Up Helly Aa in Scotland

Practice your pirouettes in Vienna

Vienna: beautiful, cultured and refined. It’s also the home of indulgent Sachertorte and some seriously good coffee. All this makes the Austrian capital a fantastic destination at any time of year, add a little chill to the air and some festive cheer and you’ve got the stuff of travel dreams! Live out those winter wonderland goals at Vienna Ice Dream skate rink. Head over to the spectacular City Hall, strap on your skates and make the most of 8000 square metres of ice, smack dab in the middle of Christkindlmarkt (perfect for a mulled wine or 5 to warm up afterwards!)

Natalie Baker
Born in the USA but raised in London, Natalie is a lover of all things travel. Her favourite city is Paris – which isn’t surprising given her slightly OTT love of pastries. She is also an animal lover and proud mum to 5 furry babies.