Traveling during the winter and early-spring months affords you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a city without typical summer and fall crowds.
You’ll also have the chance to enjoy events that are season-specific or only run for a limited time.
To serve as inspiration, here are six events worthy of a winter trip!
Amsterdam Light Festival
The Amsterdam Light Festival puts other holiday light shows to shame. Every year, incredible artists from all over the world create site-specific light installations along canals and walking paths throughout the city. You can enjoy the Light Festival on foot or take a canal boat ride for the best perspective of these illuminated masterpieces. The festival runs from the beginning of December through the third week of January and adds an enchanting touch to an already charming city.
Holiday River Cruise
If you want a holiday to remember, spend the season cruising along the great rivers of Europe: the Seine, the Danube, the Rhine, the Main. See Gothic cathedrals and medieval castles lit up in all their holiday glory. And experience Europe’s legendary Christmas markets, a tradition since the 13th century, where you can sip hot mulled wine, taste local delicacies, take in concerts, and shop for handmade jewelry, toys, and other artisan crafts.
The Northern Lights
One of the most majestic spectacles you’ll ever see, the Northern Lights—also known as Aurora Borealis—are created by solar particles colliding with gases in the atmosphere. The resulting waves of color fill the sky in a brilliant spectrum of colors. While there’s no predicting exactly when the Northern Lights will appear, they are best seen on crisp winter nights in Iceland.
Valentine’s Day in Paris
What better place to spend the holiday of love than in the City of Love? See ballet at the enchanting Paris Opera House, stroll through one of Paris’ renowned art museums, or treat your loved one to dinner in the Eiffel Tower or on a Seine River cruise. You can also get outside the city to explore Versailles or the Loire Valley, with its exquisite chateaux.
Carnival in Venice
A tradition that dates back to the 12th or 13th century, Carnival in Venice lasts for about two weeks leading up to Lent. Venetians, both aristocrats and peasants, would intermingle at parties wearing elaborate masks and costumes. If you visit Venice during Carnival, you can attend balls or concerts in costume or simply walk around the city—especially Piazza San Marco—and admire the magnificent masks and artistry.
St. Patrick’s Day
Get the authentic St. Patrick’s Day experience with a March visit to the Emerald Isle. The holiday has a rich tradition in its home country of Ireland. While drinking is one facet of the celebration, Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival is a five-day long event that includes walking tours, plays, film screenings, art and photography exhibitions. There’s also the grand parade, the Festival Funfairs carnival, and the nightly tradition of Greening the City, where major buildings are drenched in green lights.