Five ways to enjoy winter without skis!
Travel advice: Five ways to enjoy winter without skis.
As temperatures fall, many destinations acquire a special charm – free from crowds. We pick 5 ways to enjoy the wonders of a cold winter across the world. Just because you don't like skiing, doesn't mean you cannot still enjoy the beauty of a destination in the snow!
It's easy to neglect the fact that many destinations have a special atmosphere in winter. Snow, frost and ice transform a landscape, as do natural spectacles such as the Northern Lights; and, as long as you have warm clothes, intense cold adds a special drama to a city. What's more, those cultures that are subject to a deep freeze tend to be good at keeping things cosy – Viennese coffee houses and the saunas in Finland spring to mind.
Here are some suggestions for places where winter adds to the attraction.
Temperatures listed are for January, unless stated otherwise.
1 - Lapland
Why? The silent plains of Finnish Lapland – the conifers heavy with frost, the sun just breaking over the horizon and casting immense shadows across the sparkling snow – are one of the great winter landscapes. And you have a great chance of seeing the Northern Lights. You can visit as a skier (though the resorts are small and quite limited), but it's more fun to try husky sledding, reindeer sleighing or, if you don't mind the engine noise, snowmobile safaris – all of which are widely available, partly because of the large numbers of people looking for things to do after a visit to Father Christmas.
How cold? Typically, the temperature hovers between 10F and 18F (-8 to -12C), but I have experienced -13F (-25C).
2 - Vienna
Why? Few cultures do cosy interiors better than the Viennese. Nothing beats the rush of warm air that greets you in a traditional coffee house as you step in from the cold. And one great strength about Vienna is its compactness: you can march briskly from sight to sight without ever getting too chilly. The December Christmas markets also add a special atmosphere.
How cold? Daytime temperatures usually creep just above freezing in January; it's about 25F (-4C) at night. But there can be much more intense cold snaps.
3 - Berlin
Why? The other great central European capital is much less compact, but it has a superb, well-heated public transport system and some of the world's best concert halls, museums and cultural centres. In winter, you have the luxury of seeing the Gemäldegalerie, the Pergamon or the recently restored Neues Museum without the crowds.
How cold? An average maximum of 36F (2C), average minimum 28F (-2C). But often significantly colder.
4 - The Low Countries
Why? Remember the Brueghel scenes of Flemish landscapes in the snow? Times have changed in Belgium and Holland, but several historic towns – including Bruges, Ghent, Haarlem – have changed little since the 16th and 17th centuries, and when there is a cold snap they can be particularly beautiful and timeless. Last winter was one of the coldest for years. Who knows what this year will bring – but to catch the cities at their best, look out for falling temperatures and book at the last minute.
How cold? Compared to my other suggestions, it's virtually tropical in Bruges, peaking at 43F (6C) in the day and nudging 32F (0C) at night.
5 - New York
Why? We've all seen footage of the steaming vents in the streets of Manhattan. That atmosphere is at its best in winter when the city is certainly cold, but also typically very sunny (five hours a day on average, which is more than half the daylight hours). Snow falls regularly, and there are few cityscapes to match Central Park after a blanketing the night before.
How cold? Typically 37F (3C), dropping to 25F (-4C) at night.
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