Rick Steves’ tips for enjoying Europe in the winter

If you’re a seasoned traveler, you’re probably already well-versed in the benefits of traveling during off-peak or shoulder season (November through March). If Europe is on your list of off-season destinations, here are a few tips from travel writer Rick Steves to help you make the most of your time there. (TCA Staff)

Take advantage of smaller crowds

A huge selling point for off-peak season travel is the lack of crowdedness. Steves points out that many European sightseeing staples are more accessible this time of year. (Premium TNS Content)

Take advantage of smaller crowds

“Without having to buy advance tickets, you can often show up when you want at places like Florence’s Uffizi, Paris’ D’Orsay, and Barcelona’s Picasso Museum. (Picasa/Dreamstime)

Take advantage of smaller crowds

Sightseeing crowds are thinner, allowing you to spend some time enjoying Europe’s treasures up close,” Steves says. (Dreamstime)

Don’t bank on outdoor excursions

Though you might have an easier time getting to outdoor European destinations because of thinner crowds, cold weather may still be a deterrent, Steves says. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Don’t bank on outdoor excursions

“Museums provide a warm and cozy haven, while outdoor sights can be harder to enjoy: Frigid weather can drain the fun out of even the Eiffel Tower and other must-sees.” (Dreamstime)

Enjoy outdoor sports

If you live in an area where snow is nonexistent, you may really embrace the wintry weather and enjoy engaging in outdoor activities. “(I)n some places, such as Switzerland, winter activities — skiing, sledding, and other snow sports — are an important part of the culture (and tourism),” Steves says. 

Plan around adjusted schedules

Steves warns that during the winter shorter days and colder temperatures might impact certain activities. 

Plan around adjusted schedules

“English-language tours, common in the summer, are not as common in the off-season, when most visitors are natives. And winter sightseeing can be especially frustrating in smaller tourist towns, where many sights and restaurants close down entirely.”

Experience holidays

Countries like Germany ring in the Christmas holiday with markets, celebrations and festivals that will surprise and delight.

Experience holidays

But you should also try to experience some of the other festivities this time of year brings like Mardi Gras and Carnival. “The quintessential destination is Venice, which erupts for 18 days in an extravagant festival of costumes, parties, dinners, themed parades, and masquerade balls — a final debauchery before the restrictions of Lent,” Steves says.

Experience holidays

“The festivities end with a huge dance on St. Mark’s Square, lit with fireworks.”

Pack accordingly Description:

Off-peak travel season happens in November through March, so it will definitely be chilly and damp. “You’ll need to pack heavier, including a good waterproof coat and shoes,” Steves says.

Enjoy the scenery

While cold season European travel will undoubtedly offer lots to do — Steves says nothing will beat enjoying the uncrowded peace and seasonal ambiance at your destination, whether it’s Barcelona or Dusseldorf.

Enjoy the scenery

“While fields and squares are filled with color and vibrancy in the summer, in winter the atmosphere feels intimate, as naked branches, lonely vistas, and solitary candles flickering in windows offer a peaceful charm with the promise of life and renewal just around the corner.”

Theo Chicago Tribune

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