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Winter may not seem like the obvious time to visit a holiday destination, but the truth is many stunning cities around the world offer a winter holiday experience on par with their summer offerings, if not better. 

To safely traverse your winter destination, it is best to come properly prepared with the right clothing and footwear options. Warm, layered clothing pieces will keep you comfortable, while something versatile like a pair of Dr Martens will keep you steady on your feet and walking for hours. 

Aurora Borealis

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia, can best be described as having the grace of Vienna, the cultural significance of Copenhagen, and the architectural wonders of Prague without overwhelming crowds. 

During winter, the city receives a generous dusting of snow, creating the idyllic backdrop to the festive markets that take over the town squares. Enjoy an evening of ice skating at the Tivoli Hall, or spend the day exploring Lake Bled, with an island castle crusted in ice, seemingly plucked straight from a fairytale. 

Tromsø, Norway

Tromsø, known as the capital of the Arctic, is often referred to as the most beautiful city in Norway, and it is the top location for spotting the historic northern lights. It is located within the ‘aurora oval,’ a ring of heightened geomagnetic activity that circles the northern hemisphere. 

Midwinter is considered the peak aurora season, with many light tours offering up-to-date forecasts for those hoping to witness this incredible phenomenon.

If you want an escape from the cold, check out the Polar Museum, which will give you an insight into the history of Arctic expeditions, or the Tromsø Museum, most known for its Sami exhibitions. 

Reykjavík, Iceland

Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavík, is one of the coldest places in Europe. But despite its freezing temperatures, it is still a popular tourist destination during the winter months. A dip in the numerous natural hot springs and geothermal swimming pools is the best way to stay warm.

At the same time, the annual Winter Light festival, held every February, is a traditional celebration that will leave you in awe. 

Tourists can participate in a range of winter sports or enjoy a day of skating on the city’s Tjörnin pond. Many of the local coffee houses serve rúgbrauð, a locally made, dark, sweet bread. 

Innsbruck in winter

Nagano, Japan

Nagano, located on mainland Japan, north of Mount Fuji, is a former Winter Olympics host city and the perfect place to base yourself to explore nearby ski resorts. The natural hot springs found on the outskirts of town are the perfect place to end off a day on the slopes before heading out for a delicious, local meal. 

For non-slope days, visit the spectacular, snow-covered Buddhist temples or stop by the Togakushi Minzoku-kan folklore museum, which contains a fascinating display dedicated to the ninjas who once trained here. 

Innsbruck, Austria

If you are a winter sports lover, very few cities compare to Innsbruck. The spectacular Nordkette Mountain Range runs along the city’s northern border, where cable cars can whisk you onto the slopes in minutes. And at 2,300m, the Hafelekar peak is an absolute showstopper. 

Innsbruck’s Altstadt is a bustling winter wonderland filled with festive Christmas markets and exciting attractions like the Hofburg and Ambras Castle. Be sure to check out the Alstadthotel Weisses Kreuz for accommodation options. It is just 200m away from the breathtaking Imperial Palace. 

Edinburgh castle

Edinburgh, Scotland

With its delightful cobbled streets, iconic castle, and picturesque public gardens, Edinburgh is a sight to behold any time of year. But when the winter months roll around, and the entire city gets a sprinkling of snow, it is transformed into a breathtaking wonderland. 

Princes Street Gardens is transformed into an idyllic winter destination, complete with an ice skating rink, an enormous festive Christmas tree, and a Ferris wheel, all set to the backdrop of the famous Edinburgh Castle.

For an escape from the bustling city center, Arthur’s Seat at the edge of town is a beautiful spot to enjoy a leisurely winter stroll.  

Prague, Czech Republic

With its snow-capped spires and winding, cobbled streets, Prague is a city from the storybooks. But this tourist hotspot becomes relatively tourist-free during the winter, making it the perfect time to take in the sights and sounds without much disruption. 

The iconic architecture of this historic city looks even prettier under a dusting of snow, with the old town being a particularly beautiful sight.

Gas street lamps have been reinstalled throughout the city, creating a romantic hue once the sun begins to set. The many delightful cafes dotted along the cobbled streets are the ideal places to escape the bitter cold. 

Christmas in Edinburgh

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The best part of visiting Amsterdam during winter is the noticeably reduced crowds filling the historic streets of this famous city.

Take a walk along the many canals, enjoying the magical atmosphere the winter weather brings, with twinkling street lights, buzzing street-side restaurants, and snow-dusted houseboats lining the canals. 

To escape the winter chill, visit the Rijksmuseum or the Anne Frank House, both steeped in historical significance and immeasurably more enjoyable with fewer people around.

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