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10 Reasons To Experience Europe In The Winter

Posted by Abbey Krzymowski on 4/1/21 9:00 AM

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It's no secret that Europe is absolutely amazing. The food, the sights, the history, the fashion, the cultures—an absolute dream all year long! And here's why you should consider exploring Europe during the colder months. 

Visiting Europe is incredible! But being able to spend an entire semester living in Europe as a volunteer is even better! Not only do you get to see and experience things like a local, but you'll also have plenty of weekends and vacation days to see both popular destinations and hidden gems. And you'll get quite the range of weather depending on which semester you're living there. Personally, we love being there during the colder months (so either a fall or spring semester).  There are so many unexpected perks that you don't get any other time of the year. 


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Once you get to visit Europe, and really soak in all of its wonders, you'll never want to leave—speaking from personal experience. Here are 10 reasons why Europe is the best to explore in the winter! 


Christmas Markets

Yes, this is the #1 reason that Europe is so magical in the winter! Especially around Christmastime. But, you'll find that since most of Europe celebrates Christmas through January 6th, the festivities get stretched through a lot more of the winter than the holly jollies do in the USA.

Many tourists travel to Europe specifically around the holidays for the markets (guilty as charged). Thanks to all of the music, treats, trinkets, scents, and holiday cheer, it's the perfect way to spend a day. There are DOZENS of these markets, so no matter where you are in Europe, you'll be able to find one nearby. Here's a complete list of all our favorite Christmas markets. And fair warning, you'll never be quite satisfied with holiday celebrations ever again after experiencing the magic of the season here. 

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Less Crowded

Well, unless you're at a Christmas market. Otherwise, you'll be able to experience very popular spots without the swarms of tourists that flock to Europe during their summer vacations. You'll spend less time in lines and will have less people in the background of your photos.

You should know that some of the smaller European towns which are oh so popular in the summer are mostly shut down during the winter months. Still fun to visit, but attractions usually have reduced hours and fewer restaurants are open. But it's still a traveler's dream! This is the time to visit bigger European cities (like Paris, London, Budapest, Vienna, Krakow, etc.) and the Mediterranean countries (like Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, etc.).

Less Expensive

Because it's the low season, you'll find cheaper flights, hotels and Airbnbs, buses, tour tickets, food menus, and so much more!  If being able to get cheap flights to cities all over Europe isn't enough incentive for you to go in the winter, I don't know what is!

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Cozy Atmosphere

Can we talk about how gorgeous cities and towns are when they're covered in snow? Not to mention the twinkle lights, candles in windows, or the mingled smells of mulled cider and sugared nuts. Perhaps you've heard of "hygge"? So much of Europe knows how to create this Danish mood of pure comfy, cozy contentment. And we're obsessed with it!

Winter Food

Speaking of mulled cider, it's one of our favorites. The perfect mixture of cranberry, orange, and winter spices. It's a staple at almost every market or festival you'll visit, along with so many baked goodies. Some of our favorites are pretzels, chimney cakes, bon bons, crepes, and these apple donuts. Also, just thinking about the hot stews, soups, dumplings, and sandwiches make our mouths water. So delicious!

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See The Northern Lights

This is what we call a once-in-a-lifetime. The best time of year to see the magical northern lights is from September through March! If you've ever wanted to visit Sweden, Iceland, Finland, or Norway, this is the ideal time to experience them. Here's all you need to know about seeing the northern lights for yourself!

A Lot Of The Attractions Are Indoors

If you love museums, this is the time to enjoy them! With smaller crowds, there are shorter lines, which means you'll get to warm up inside while seeing all of the famous masterpieces! Here's a handful of our favorites in Eastern Europe! And don't forget about the popular ones in Western Europe, like the Louvre in Paris, the National Gallery in London, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, or all of the impressive Vatican City

You can also spend time warming up in castles (like the stunning Neuschwanstein), cathedrals, government buildings, opera houses, and so many other famous, beautiful places! Plus, don't forget about the thermal spas spread around Europe which make for the ideal places to relax outside while staying warm. Our favorite one is in Budapest

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Outdoor Winter Sports

We're talking ice skating, skiing, and sledding! Need we say more? Experience ice skating in France, sledding in Ukraine, and skiing in Switzerland all in a few short months. Since these are such popular activities, you'll easily be able to find exactly what you're looking for. 

Winter Fashion

I don't know about you, but I sure do love layers. Especially when a colorful blanket scarf can double as a blanket on a long bus ride. If you visit any big cities like London, Amsterdam, Prague, Kiev, or Paris, there are gorgeous winter coats, hats, scarfs, mittens, etc. Keep your eye out for the newest fashion trends that have yet to make their way to the USA. Here are some excellent tips for dressing for cold weather

Easier To Be Spontaneous

Fewer tourists means that if you decide you want to get tickets to a show or tour just a week before the event, you might actually be able to! Or if you want to try that popular restaurant you've seen on social media, you might actually be able to get a reservation. Here are the best websites to get tickets for tours and events

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So seriously, what are you waiting for!?

Grab your ticket and head to Europe this winter! But if we're being honest, there's one more big decision to make. Which country in Europe is perfect for you

Good thing you can come volunteer in several European countries with International Language Programs! Get more info by talking to one of our reps who has volunteered in the past themselves. They love sharing about their experiences and answering questions! 

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Topics: All The Travel Tips, Europe

 


*Because of the worldwide pandemic, travel options are limited and frequently changing. You'll need to do additional research as resources + activities shared in this post may or may not be available at the time of your trip.

ILP volunteers — work closely with your Program Manager who can help you understand current country entrance requirements which will determine what countries you can visit during your semester. 


 

 

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We are ILP, a Utah-based non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. We love travel so we're sharing all our tips for making the most of your time living abroad + seeing the world, and how to do it all on the tiniest budget.

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