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Best winter destinations in Europe

Athens

Winter comes in many guises in Europe – in the polar north there’s serious snow and sunless weeks, while you’ll find lingering sunshine in the mild Mediterranean, and cosy cafe culture and Christmas spirit in the centre.

It’s an inspiring time to visit grand cities and charming villages: with fewer queues you can fit more into your itinerary, and off-season accommodation prices make European travel wallet-friendly in November, December, January and February. Via Europe’s train network you can explore countries at your leisure, meeting locals going about their daily business away from the often-frenetic summer tourist season. Here are the 10 best winter destinations in Europe. 

Editor’s note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice.

A reindeer pictured on a farm in winter in Lapland, Rovaniemi of Finland Rovaniemi is the perfect winter wonderland destination © Roman Babakin / Shutterstock

1. Rovaniemi, Finland

Fistfuls of Christmas clichés characterise Rovaniemi, the “official” terrestrial residence of Santa Claus. Everyone’s favourite bearded man hangs out in an atmospheric Arctic Circle grotto, and it’s free to visit him (but photos are another story). Snow and reindeer add festive spirit, while the Arktikum museum gives insights into life at these latitudes.

Tip: Finnish thermometers have more numbers below 0°C than above, so pack serious winter clothing.

Christmas market at sunset in Vienna, Austria; shoppers are browsing stalls on either side of the road, while at the end is an imposing building with spires.Vienna is famous for its spectacular Christmas markets © posztos / Shutterstock

2. Christmas markets in Germany & Austria

December sees these romantic historic markets pop up all over Germany, Austria and other Central European nations. Expect cute stalls selling everything from gingerbread to sleigh bells and plenty of good cheer, toasted with a glass of warming glühwein.

Tip: Famous markets in Cologne, Vienna and Munich draw the tourist crowds, but seeking out ones in smaller towns is rewarding.

The Northern Lights are a green swirl above a snowy forest in Abisko, Sweden.You’re never guaranteed a sighting of the Northern Lights, but a visit to Abisko, Sweden gives you a decent chance © Mihai Speteanu / Shutterstock

3. Abisko, Sweden

Almost as far north as you can get in Europe on a train, Abisko in Lapland is for lovers of serious winter. The sun doesn’t rise for several weeks in December and January but that darkness makes it one of the world’s best places to view the majestic aurora borealis. Other attractions include cross-country skiing along national park trails and husky mushing.

Tip: Stop off at nearby Kiruna to see the famous Icehotel.

A close view of the fluted Doric columns of the Parthenon temple on a sunny day in Athens, Greece.Have the Parthenon and other marvels of Ancient Greece all to yourself on a winter visit to Athens © PavleMarjanovic / Shutterstock

4. Athens, Greece

It’s a real downer trying to Photoshop 500 people out of your would-be-prizewinning Parthenon photo, but during the winter in Athens it’s not an issue. All summer stresses – crowding, tourist pricing, intense heat, queues, air pollution – more or less disappear. The average temperature in Athens during the winter is around 13C (55F). It’s the best time to explore the country’s ancient heritage and get to experience local culture.

Tip: By all means do some island-hopping, but most accommodations close in winter.

The amusement park at the Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen; we see a lake in the foreground reflecting the illuminations from a Japanese-style pagoda and a rollercoaster with loops.Enjoy thrills and spectacle this Christmas with a visit to Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

5. Copenhagen, Denmark

For fairytale European winter, it’s hard to beat the home of Hans Christian Andersen. Forget the over-hyped Little Mermaid and head to the city’s cosy bars and cafes to watch snow flurrying outside. In the heart of town, the 19th-century Tivoli amusement park is a romantic, kitsch delight around Christmastime, with heartwarming illuminations and body-warming mugs of glögg.

Tip: Splash out on a meal at noma, considered by many to be the world’s best restaurant (reservations can fill quickly, so try to book several months in advance).

The best of Budapest’s thermal baths

6. Budapest, Hungary

Couples skating hand-in-hand, breath cloudy in the frosty air – there’s nowhere better for it than the Hungarian capital’s picturesque central park Városligeti Műjégpálya, with its enormous outdoor rink. Feeling chilly afterwards? Budapest is famous for its ornate thermal baths.

Tip: At night seek out a “ruin pub”– an atmospheric drinking venue artfully created in a once-abandoned building.

Skier at the summit of a mountain in Slovakia; there is cloud cover below and a chairlift rising to the right.Slovakia is the place to go this winter if you’re a skier on a tight budget © mpaniti / Shutterstock

7. Jasná, Slovakia

Slovakia offers high-quality skiing at affordable prices. Accommodation and food are reasonable too, and there’s a friendliness that’s missing from some of the snootier Alpine slopes. Jasná is the best Slovakian resort, with long descents flanked by snow-laden spruce trees, set in the ruggedly lovely Tatras Mountains.

Tip: Flights direct to Slovakia can be pricey, so don’t make this your entry point to Europe.

Part of the Alhambra complex - a Moorish-inspired fort with a graceful cloister in the foreground - reflects off the courtyard pool in Generalife Gardens, Granada, Spain.The Generalife Gardens are just one of the wonders of Granada, one of Andalucía’s – and indeed Spain’s – most fascinating cities © Yuriy Biryukov / Shutterstock

8. Andalucía, Spain

Tip: Head to the Sierra Nevada near Granada if you want snowsport action.

A snowy square of colourful houses in Sighişoara, Transylvania.Follow in the footsteps of Vlad Ţepeş, the historical Dracula, on a visit to Sighişoara, Transylvania © Matt Munro / Lonely Planet

9. Transylvania, Romania

You can’t visit Dracula’s lair on a sunny day with lambs bleating in the fields, right? Try steel-grey skies, bare trees and a smattering of snow. Braşov and Sighişoara, two hours apart by rail, are gorgeous medieval towns with various connections to Vlad Ţepeş, the historical Dracula, though it’s doubtful that he ever set foot in his so-called castle.

Tip: Bram Stoker never visited Romania, so don’t expect many parallels with the book or films.

Masked reveller dressed in red, white and black in Venice, Italy, with a row of gondolas behind them and the city skyline on the other side of the water.Venice’s Carnevale is a highlight of any European winter, but be prepared to book ahead © Oleg Znamenskiy / Shutterstock

10. Venice, Italy

Hauntingly beautiful and rather weird, Venice’s Carnevale in February is a European highlight. Elaborate costumes and spooky masks bring the canal city’s colourful history to life. Costumed dances are pricey affairs, but you can have a ball enjoying the free events with a mask bought on the street, but be prepared for epic crowding.

Tip: Book accommodation ahead. Day-tripping in and out on a train will lower costs considerably.

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This article was first published in December 2012 and updated in September 2020.

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Tesla’s Price Cut, and More Car News From This Week

Tesla’s Price Cut, and More Car News From This Week

Happy New Year, and welcome back. 2019 is young, and we’ve already got a transportation bombshell on our hands: New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced he wants to cancel a planned subway line shutdown in the country’s largest public transit system. He says a panel of experts found a smarter way to fix tunnels damaged by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy—and according to engineers we spoke to, Cuomo might be right. But what happens now? Will the city stick with its plans, formed over the course of three years, to revamp bike and bus lanes and pedestrian spaces? Transportation advocates hope so.

Meanwhile, we’re still a little stuck on 2018, which was filled with exciting advances for Tesla, scooter-share, and even self-driving cars (sometimes). Read about the happenings, before it all fades away. It’s been a few weeks. Let’s get you caught up.

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She’s baaaack! Rapper Azealia Banks makes another unexpected cameo on the transportation beat this week, as she and Elon Musk’s then-girlfriend, the art pop musician Grimes, became enmeshed in the ongoing lawsuit over the Tesla CEO’s tweets. Investors suing Musk and Tesla for market manipulation want to subpoena both women. Tesla lawyers are displeased.

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Spectacular Places to Visit in the USA – Explore the best of America’s Water Fountains

Buckingham-Fountain-Chicago1533773533.jpg

An enticing factor about water fountains is that their charismatic structures and art forms beguile you. You can’t stop marveling the ambiance it creates and some compel you to ponder about the fables behind its creation. While the USA is popular for an amazing collection of tourist attractions and natural sights, it also has a beautiful assortment of water fountains. Though not as magnificent as fountains in Italy, USA has an understated yet attractive group water fountains with historic significance scattered all through the destination. Let’s look at some interesting water fountains in the USA that you can visit on your USA holiday.

Bellagio Fountains – Las Vegas

Bellagio Fountains - Las Vegas
Perhaps the most iconic and well-known water fountain in the USA is the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas. Las Vegas being one of the most popular places to visit in the USA, Bellagio fountains is one spectacle not to be missed on your US trip. First of its kind in the world, Bellagio Fountains pioneer the art of synchronizing water jets, laser lighting, and music into a spectacular show. The water fountain set on a manmade lake right in front of the Bellagio hotel is one of the most mesmerizing sights to watch on Las Vegas strip. The grand fountain show became the source of inspiration for the extravagant Dubai Fountain. About 4500 lights and 1200 water nozzles create an awe-inspiring performance tuned perfectly with different genres of music. This remarkable water fountain show takes place daily in the evening, open to spectators to watch without spending a dime.

National World War II Memorial – Washington DC

National World War II Memorial - Washington DC
A symbol of homage for the Americans who laid down their lives in World War II, National World War Memorial in Washington D.C is one of the famous tourist places in the USA. Set amid the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, the fountain consists of 56 engraved granite pillars and small triumphal arches encircling a plaza. This arena consists the central water fountain and tiny arches of water spouting around it. The panoramic view of this water fountain looks amazing where you can find yourself gazing long into the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial through the fountains from different viewpoints. This national monument is open for everyone 365 days of the year.

Scott Memorial Fountain – Detroit

Scott Memorial Fountain - Detroit
This fountain was built as a commemoration of James Scott, who bequeathed his fortune to the city to build this giant water fountain that includes a statue of him. Located in Belle Isle Park in Detroit, this water fountain covers 510 feet of land and has fountain nozzles that shoot water up to 125 feet. In all, there are more than 100 water spouts that emerge out of human, animal and sea creature figurines. It is one of the most significant and popular site to visit in Detroit.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial – Washington DC

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial - Washington DC

Another gorgeous water presentation in Washington DC is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Spread over 7.5 acres of land, this memorial pays tribute to the 32nd President of the United States. Located at the National Malls Tidal Basin – a beautiful place in the USA to witness cherry blossoms, the memorial is designed as four galleries depicting the four terms of Roosevelt as President and has several water features. Though it isn’t exactly a water fountain, the memorial’s water elements are beautifully showcased in forms of stunning cascades and pools which are spectacular sights to view.

Pulitzer Fountain – New York

Pulitzer Fountain - New York
Located in the Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza, Pulitzer Fountain is another fountain that was bequeathed by its creator as a tribute to himself. Built to honour Joseph Pulitzer – an editor and publisher in New York, this fountain is a colossal 22 feet high 5-tiered ornate fountain adorned with sculptures and a large granite basin. The statue of the goddess of abundance – Pomona graces the top of the fountain. The fountain was made to look like those in Place de la Concorde in Paris, France. The fountain has borne the wear and tear of time and undergone several restorations and is still functional presently.

Buckingham Fountain – Chicago

Buckingham Fountain - Chicago
An iconic landmark in Chicago, the Buckingham Fountain located in Grant Park is among the world’s largest water fountains. Officially known as the Clarence F. Buckingham Memorial Fountain, this fascinating fountain is styled in the form of a layered wedding cake and the main water spray shoots up to 150 feet in the air. Representing the Lake Michigan, the fountain is inspired by the Bassin de Latone and modeled after Latona Fountain at Versailles. It consists of three tired basins with 134 powerful water jets. These basins are decorated with four seahorses that symbolize the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin which border Lake Michigan. The fountain operates in the months of May to October from 8 pm till 11 pm. The fountain showcases an impressive water and light show of 20 minutes every hour in the evening during its operational months.
While these water fountains are just a few handpicked selections, there are many more water fountains dotted all around the USA for you to explore. What is more exciting about these water features is that each has a historic or subjective significance for you to discover. These are no doubt some of the enchanting places to see in the US. In case you are wondering where to go in the USA for more charming experiences, check out these selections of spa resorts in the USA.

The post Spectacular Places to Visit in the USA – Explore the best of America’s Water Fountains appeared first on USA Travel Blog.

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