Except for one 10 minute wait to get into a palace in Vienna, we waltzed freely into every tourist trap or treasure with little to no wasted time!
The epic pre-walking tour bundle.
There’s nothing that makes you feel more like a medieval knight than spending half-an-hour layering pants, sweaters, scarves and mittens (yes, I even layer my mittens) before heading to the nearest castle.
No strangers in my pictures.
In the winter you can actually snap shots of iconic castles, famous graffitied walls, and beautiful bridges without Wanda World Traveler or Sandy Snap-Happy messing up your perfect shot.
Who visits northern Hungary in January? Only the bravest souls. So Airbnb hosts and hostels have to pay their guests to stay. We found a beautiful quiet room in the centre of Budapest (surrounded by more restaurants and bars than we could count) for €15 a night–that’s a quarter of the summer price! What a steal.
If you are traveling Europe in the winter, you will not get to choose when to take sightseeing breaks. No, you will be forced to seek refuge at your body’s discretion. The good news is there are more hot alcoholic drink options than you can count. My favourite, so far, is rum and Early Grey tea. I kid you not, the cup was so hot I had to set it on the floor for a bit while carrying it to my table.
Ever wondered what it feels like to be a medieval peasant? Take a three hour walking tour in minus fifteen degrees and helplessly watch as sleet begins to fall from the sky.
Window seat views.
Nothing is so beautiful as a snow capped Slovakian mountain or an ice crusted German forest, especially when they can be experienced from the warmth and comfort of a bus or train. Summer tourists may find public transport or travel days inconvenient, but winter travellers know how to count their blessings.
In Poland, Christmas cheer stretches on into January. So if you haven’t had enough of Christmas carols and evergreen boughs you will find plenty of both in most town squares and some restaurants.
Ice skating and sledding.
Choose an iconic building and then instead of paying the entrance fee, go skating or sledding in front of it!Here are just a few of the winter fun locations we noticed or experienced:
Warsaw, Poland – Palace of Art and Science and old town square both have picture perfect rinks.
Krakow – Galeria Krakowska near the old town.
Prague – Any one of these eight great options.
Kassel, Germany – Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel (Here I speak from experience)
Slovakia – A short walk off of almost any roadway in the beautiful High Tatras mountains
Pat yourself on the back, you could be laying on a beach in Thailand, trying to surf in Australia, or tasting exotic food in India, but instead you are carrying a feather light backpack (since you are wearing every piece of your clothing) and wondering if these castle grounds would be prettier in the summer. You have chosen the road less travelled (at least this time of year) and for that you should be proud! Locals will smile and thank-you for gracing them with your off-season presence. Every restaurant server will forgive your inability to speak their language (due to your incessant shivering). Congratulations, you have earned yourself a travel badge…now get yourself to Istanbul.