The winter holidays are, without exaggeration, the most favorite holidays of most countries and peoples. Everything we expect from the holiday comes together at this time. First, exceptional mass character. From the natives of Tonga to the Alaskan Eskimos, who are wrapped in reindeer skins, from nomadic Bedouins to oil sheiks — all of them are counting out the last moments of the outgoing year and are hopefully, entering the coming year. Secondly, the holidays planetary scale. At least January 1 is a non-working day in the vast majority of countries of the world (with the exception of Islamic states of a fundamental sense, where celebrating any other holidays, except those, given by religion, is regarded as a direct departure from the faith). Well, the lucky ones are celebrating fully – from one week to half a month! Do not waste your precious time- rent a car and collect the best memories of your holiday.
Coming to Europe is better not at Christmas, but during Advent, when cities are preparing for the holiday. Ticket prices and housing at this time cost less, the number of tourists is lower, but the atmosphere is the most magical. These are six best cities for your European winter holidays.
In January, many other European capitals have no trace of holiday euphoria, but here fairs are still satisfying the eye.
The brightest and funniest events take place on Dome Square. It is so nice to wander in the light of colored bulbs with hot wine and local ginger pepper cookies, listening to Christmas melodies! Feel free to join the national custom of dragging and burning the deck. The cultural program should include going to a concert in the Riga Dome Cathedral, or to ‘The Nutcracker’ in the national opera. You can visit the zoo, which looks fabulous because of the illuminated paths. While walking down the city center, make sure that you do not miss the amazing Christmas trees’ annual parade. It is believed that the world’s first Christmas tree was installed in Riga.
Austria’s main Christmas destination is Vienna, but this year Salzburg is not less popular. Not only Mozart was born in the musical capital, but also Joseph Mohr, the author of ‘Silent Night, Holy Night’, which is the world’s main Christmas song. It will turn 200 years old on December 24.
You can not only hear, but also see the Christmas hit in Salzburg – at the exhibition “Silent Night 200”, where Mohr’s manuscript will be shown. Moreover, the Museum of Christmas will appeal even to those who do not like museums at all: where else do you see the Christmas tree of the First World War times, the 1880 den and Christmas decorations of the 19th and 20th centuries in the same place?
Children are fond of the most magnificent fair of Salzburg and the Hellbrunn Palace, as here they can make friends with a pony and send letters to the Infant Christ. On other hand, you can join the processions of Krampus and Perchten – furry devils with huge horns that punish the naughty children. Some people still believe that they are real.
In the evening, when 2500 lights light up on a 30-meter Christmas tree, it becomes obvious: magic came to Munich. The Marienplatz pleases with the main fair, smoothly flowing from the square into the alleys. Here you can visit the Europe’s first year-round bazaar of Christmas tree decorations. From 15.00 to 17.00 on December 10 and 17 you can meet the Krampus.
Until the New Year, the Tollwood Music and Theater Festival takes place, but the tickets are quickly bought up. However, from the balcony of the town hall, every day at 17.30, Christmas melodies are free for each person. At the exit from the Old Town, you can catch the Christmas tram with gingerbread, mulled wine and music inside. Until December 10, have time to drop by at the Christmas Post Office at the Town Hall to write a letter to friends or relatives. A letter with a special stamp will definitely reach the addressee, because you will hand it over to the angel personally.
In Bruges, it is easy to feel happy – and it is not only because of chocolate. When carts with horses pass by, and garlands are glowing on each window of the gingerbread houses, it is nice to look at the cute little objects at the fair and not think about anything bad. Allow yourself to be a little child on the rink with luminous trees, and then cool down at the festival of ice sculptures. You can watch the Museum of Lace or buy handmade Christmas tree decorations. If you suddenly feel freezing, have a sit in a 500-year-old bar, or try the most delicious hot chocolate in your life.
If Santa with a Christmas mood does not come to you, visit him personally in his Lapland homeland. Rovaniemi is full of entertainment and the main ones – meeting with Santa Claus, watching the northern lights and a walking over the Arctic Circle are free. In order to shake Yolupukki’s hand, you will have to stay in the queue, but you will be shown live on the website and on the YouTube channel of the gray-haired old man. There is a post office in Santa Claus Village, where a gnome will paste a unique arctic stamp on your card. For a fee, you can ride a snowmobile, get training at the School of the Dwarfs and have fun with children in Santa Park.
Usually, people come to Valkenburg to see the ancient castle and relax in the thermal spa, but in December, the most interesting is happening not in the city, but under it. In caves deep underground, limestone was once mined, and now sellers in costumes of elves, gnomes and leprechauns offer souvenirs, sweet almonds and mulled wine according to an old recipe. The light of the colored bulbs is reflected in the uneven arches, creating a fancy play of shadows, and the sounds of Christmas melodies are spreading over the underground corridors. Look for something special at the ‘Municipal Cave’ and ‘Velvet Cave’ fairs, watch a movie about Christmas history painted with limestone, and make a souvenir with your own hands. Above the ground, you will find a lot of interesting as well: the “Fairy Forest” park, the village of Santa and the Parade of fairy tales on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
To sum up: the New Year is a favorite day for almost all (already seven billion people) plus a long vacation in the middle of a working year. Moreover, tourism in the New Year’s holidays blossoms with a wild color amid the dull savanna of the low tourist season.