Certain cities are better in winter. That’s not to say that they’re bad in summer or spring, but when the temperature drops and the light begins to fade more quickly, they start to exude a certain charm, and what makes them unique seems to resonate even clearer. It could have something to do with the breathless quality of the air, or the way certain cities slow down. On the other hand it could well be to do with the myriad of Christmas markets that pop up or the availability of hearty, steaming food that is always available to offset the chill. Whatever the reason, there are a number of cities that it pays to visit in winter.
As a mega-city, London can be quite romantic in the winter. It usually doesn’t snow, but the air is crisp and cold and can make the city feel quite temperamental and moody. And while it can be pretty expensive, it’s largely a cashless city, which means you can get by using credit or debit cards. Some select stores now accept payment via PayPal, so it’s worth knowing the benefits of setting up an account. There’s something to be said about standing on Southwark or Tower Bridge and feeling the wind buffeting you off the Thames.
The city is also host to a lot of festive traditions. Visit Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland and drink some mulled wine. It’s a great place to enjoy some Bavarian culture and take the family. There’s even simple joy to be had in walking around the city. Harrods, for instance, becomes festooned in lights and is a veritable beacon of illumination on Brompton Road. And if you’re looking for something a bit more active, then head to Somerset House to ice skate in their famous courtyard.
For the culture lover, there is no better than Vienna. A refined urban space which spawned works by greats such as Beethoven and Mozart, and the birthplace of Schubert – Vienna is a powerhouse of concerts and recitals. The Vienna Concert House is a must for lovers of classical music, as well as “The New Year’s Concert“. Held at the Golden Hall of the Musikverein and started in 1939, the concert is performed by the Vienna Philharmonic and led by various celebrated conductors. Vienna also offers a host of opera houses – such as the Volksoper Wien – as well as numerous museums and art galleries.
While known for its start-up culture and ceaseless partying, Berlin becomes a whole different city in the winter. Check out the Alexa Christmas Market just behind Alexanderplatz – it’s packed with stalls selling a number of different Christmas goods, as well as all the glühwein and bratwurst a person could hope for. Once the snow falls, city parks such as Tiergarten take on a somewhat eerie and ethereal cast. Strolling through them feels like walking through an enchanted forest.
For culture lovers there’s also an exhaustive amount to do – classical music at the Piano Salon, the Berlinale film festival in February, the Transmediale Festival, or go shopping for books at ‘Another Country’ book shop. If you have to take advantage of Berlin’s relentless party scene, fear not. The clubs, as always, will be open and waiting.