There’s so much about Europe that makes it a perfect stop during your winter travels. The historic cities have a completely different feel in the colder months. All that snow leads to great skiing and other snow sports in the continent’s mountainous regions.
Of course, you can’t forget about the wonderful winter festivals. Beyond the can’t-miss Christmas fests, there are also all kinds of other winter festivals and events you’ll want to check out starting in November up until February. Here are nine of our favorites.
1. The Snow And Ice Sculpture Festival, Bruges
If you’ve been to Belgium, but never Bruges, now is the time to go. Belgium as a whole is perfect for some winter explorations. But when you stop into Bruges, particularly from November through January, you’re treated to a magnificent display of professionally created ice and snow sculptures. They reflect a different theme each year at The Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival.
2. Up Helly Aa, Scotland
If your interests lie more in fire than ice, then join revelers for the largest fire festival in Europe. Scotland’s Shetland Islands are growing in popularity for intrepid travelers, but there’s no shortage of people in the islands’ little town of Lerwick on the last Tuesday in January.
You’ll find plenty of people milling about in Viking-style costumes, drinking their fill and, of course, lighting things on fire. In particular, a traditional Viking longship is the victim, burned at the conclusion of a nighttime torch procession.
3. The Amsterdam Light Festival, Amsterdam
The Amsterdam canals are beautiful in the winter, especially with a little bit of snow. But what about when you add some lovely light installations atop it all? The Amsterdam Light Festival lasts from November through January.
Much like Bruges’s Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival, this festival always has a particular theme. Artists interpret the theme with their own styles, casting the city in light displays that flicker off the water beautifully.
4. Momentum Ski Festival, Verbier
If winter means one thing to you and that one thing is skiing, then you can’t miss the Momentum Ski Festival that takes place each year in Verbier, Switzerland. The famous ski destination is amazing enough all by itself, but the festival takes things to an entirely new level.
Held in late January and early February, the festival combines top-tier skiing with fun events ranging from concerts to comedy shows. Even non-skiers will like this event, for the posh nightlife scene it creates and the après ski fun.
5. Winter Solstice At Stonehenge, United Kingdom
This event may be crowded, but how many chances do you get to say that you celebrated the winter solstice at Stonehenge? Gather around with the hundreds of people in attendance to witness the sun’s rising over the winter landscape.
If you balk at the idea of cramming into one space with all those people for so many cold hours, then look for similar, quieter solstice celebrations at some of the other stone circles situated around the United Kingdom.
6. Hogmanay, Edinburgh
Hogmanay is frequently voted one of the most amazing New Year’s Eve experiences you’ll ever have. It’s right up there with spending New Year’s Eve in New York City’s Times Square. Try to get to Edinburgh over the New Year’s holidays once in your life and join the up to 400,000 attendees that flock to Edinburgh’s Old Town.
Music, dancing, drinking and fireworks are some of the things you will find.
7. Festival Of Lights, Lyon
See France beyond Paris this winter with a visit to Lyon for the annual Festival of Lights. The December event is easily accessible from Paris via rail service. You won’t regret visiting this part of the country near the holidays.
The festival’s beautiful light displays lend everything a festive, Yuletide spirit that you’re sure to take home with you.
8. Kaiserball, Vienna
Vienna is famous for its amazing balls. One of the best of them all is the Kaiserball that takes place on New Year’s Eve. It’s a ticketed event, so you’ll want to make sure that you plan far in advance to make it.
But even if you don’t, you can still find other balls occurring throughout the city on the same night. The best part? The Kaiserball takes place in an actual palace.
While in town, don’t miss out on shopping at Vienna’s lovely Christmas markets.
9. Rise, Les Deux Alpes
Another festival perfect for fans of all things snow sports, Rise is an independent festival that focuses on all your favorite snow sports. Given its location in the French ski resort town of Les Deux Alpes, it also places a high emphasis on art. Think of it as something a bit like Coachella, only in the snowy mountains rather than the desert.