Great cities for a winter getaway
During the winter is often the best time to take a holiday. You can take advantage of off-season prices and depending on where you go you can avoid the summer crowds. It’s almost certainly easier to get time off work, and most importantly it gives you a much-needed break from the wet and gloomy UK weather during the long winter months.
Winter may not be the best time for backpacking around the world but a city break means that you’re never far from shelter, central heating and a hot bath. There are also cosy cafes, welcoming bars and restaurants and seasonal attractions. Here are some of the best places to consider for getaways that will raise your flagging winter spirits.
The Big Apple is certainly less crowded with tourists when its frosty, and there’s always plenty to do during the winter months. You can warm yourself with roast chestnuts while checking out all the usual attractions, from the Statue of Liberty to the Museum of Modern Art. Seasonal activities include ice skating at the Rockefeller Centre or in Central Park, seeing in the New Year in Times Square, plus there are off-season discounts at restaurants and shows. There’s always a risk of extreme weather, including city-stopping blizzards, but dress appropriately and the savings you’ll make will certainly outweigh any disadvantages.
The main reason to head for Iceland in winter is to see the famed northern lights. They are best seen from the more remote parts of the country, but specialist tours can be booked in the city, giving you the best of both worlds. Also, within easy reach of Reykjavik is the ‘Golden Triangle’ that takes in Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and the Geysir Geothermal area. The legendary Blue Lagoon is also just an hour away by bus.
If you want some winter sun, then you might have to go further afield. Australia’s most popular city destination isn’t somewhere you just go for the weekend, but if you can spare the time and the air fare it’s well worth the trouble. Those thinking of spending a few months down under might want to put their belongings in a local storage unit as it will certainly be cheaper than paying rent on a house or flat during that time.
As for Sydney, the summer months there run from December to February, when temperatures range from 25 to 29 degrees Celsius. Celebrate Christmas with a barbie on the beach and enjoy the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race on Boxing Day. In January the Sydney Festival is a cornucopia of arts, culture and entertainment.
The Czech capital is transformed into a winter wonderland and there’s nowhere more romantic than the city of a thousand spires from November to February. Wander across the Charles Bridge and visit the castle that is like something out of the Brothers Grimm. Then take a look at one of Europe’s best traditional Christmas markets, appropriately situated on Wenceslas Square. The Old Town is never more charming than in the winter months, and events include the Prague Winter Music Festival and Masopust, the Czech Mardi Gras.
Rio De Janeiro
Rio in the winter months (or at the start of the year anyway) is all about one thing: carnival! In 2020, Rio De Janeiro’s carnival takes place from 21-26 February, but the run-up and preparations start far earlier. This does mean that, to be honest, there’s not much else going on during that time as most regular events are put on hold for the season. There are always the beaches of course, which are likely to be pretty crowded, and the carnival itself is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that’s not to be missed.
The Portuguese capital is one of Europe’s warmest cities during the winter months, so it’s ideal for a quick break with a bit of sunshine thrown in. Head for the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology then enjoy a ginjinha at a favourite bar (that’s cherry liqueur in a chocolate cup: the perfect winter treat). Lisbon in winter is far less crowded than during the summer months, so you can wander around and take in the city’s delights to your heart’s content.
Getting away from the UK over the winter gives you a chance to recharge your batteries and to reignite your love of life. You’ll come back reinvigorated and with plenty of memories to keep you warm through the gradually shortening nights until spring comes around again.