To many people, holidays mean beaches, fruity drinks and warm weather. If you aspire to walk along the Seine or eat gelato by the Trevi Fountain, why do it in the freezing cold? I travelled from late November to mid-February, and those in the northern hemisphere (especially Europe) know that these months aren’t exactly desirable in the tourism industry. There’s a reason winter is considered the “off-season,” but in reality, the colder months provide many advantages to those who want to see the world. Here are 5 reasons why travelling during winter is simply the best.
1. Saving money
Because this colder time is seen as a less desirable time to travel, companies will often sell their services for a fraction of the usual price to attract an already smaller pool of customers. When comparing places to stay during off and peak seasons on websites like Hostel World, the highest rated accommodation either increases significantly or can be completely sold-out from May-August in popular European destinations. Using flight comparison sights like Sky Scanner will show that winter months are the often the cheapest time to fly. In addition, certain sights will be less expensive during the off-season. For example, the Acropolis, along with many other landmarks in Athens are discounted by 50% during low-season. These cheaper prices mean seeing more for less.
2. Popular destinations won’t be overrun with tourists
Something about standing in a queue for hours takes a sense of magic away from seeing some of the wonders the world has to offer. While certain attractions such as the Eiffel Tower and the Vatican are busy year-round, travelling during winter months guarantees many locations will be less flooded by tourists. Standing in the cold may take away from outdoor sights but arguably so do crowds of people shoving and blocking views. The other benefit of fewer tourists is that cities truly come alive with the local culture when residents make up most of the population. Travellers can experience locations more genuinely with fewer tourist traps and a more authentic adventure.
3. Christmas markets
I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking the holiday season is full of charm and warm feelings that can protect from even the harshest cold. If that’s not already sufficient, why not visit any of the amazing Christmas markets that Europe has to offer and indulge in a cup of mulled wine or delicious and traditional winter treats. Some places that boast the best winter markets are Belgium, France and particularly Germany. Because many run from November to January, you can still experience them while avoiding the price hikes directly around Christmas. The holiday season fills the most beautiful cities on the planet with festive cheer
4. Cities turning into winter wonderlands
While certain locations are objectively meant to be enjoyed in the sun, so many of the gorgeous cities in Europe truly reach their full potential by transforming into winter wonderlands in the colder months. Imagine strolling down the cobbled streets of Prague or amongst the medieval buildings in Bruges while a gentle flurry of white snow fills the air around you. Picture walking through the English Garden of Munich, one of the largest urban parks in the world, feeling the snow crunch beneath your feet as you watch those surfing (yes surfing) on the river. In the perfect location, winter can take an already stunning city and turn it into nothing less than a fairytale.
5. Not necessarily sacrificing warm weather
If the last four reasons weren’t enough to convince you that travelling during winter is incredible, and you truly are susceptible to the winter blues, you don’t have to sacrifice the sun for a cheaper and less chaotic holiday. Choosing locations like Spain, Italy or Greece mean temperatures will never get too cold. While being in Barcelona in late February, I was able to walk around in a t-shirt and jeans and watch the sunset on the beach. Of course, this does depend on your tolerance for the cold. Spanish locals were wrapped up in coats and scarves while tourists from places like England and Scandinavia were comfortable in shorts and flip-flops. Travelling during the summer in these countries can actually mean it is far too warm to spend much time outside during the day, so winter can provide travellers with cooler air without needing to bundle up.
Unless a tropical paradise is the only holiday you want, there’s no reason why you can’t save some money and time while experiencing an undoubtedly magical time in Europe. If you’re interested in long-term travel through Europe on a small budget, then picking the off-season may be the best option for you. Just make sure to invest in a good coat!