Many of Europe’s most splendid, fairytale like cities become even more magical during. Vibrant seasonal decorations, enchanting illuminations, and pristine snow white landscapes all add to the charm. Here are six European cities to (re)discover this winter!
1) Hallstatt, Austria
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hallstatt is a historic town that was retained its authenticity as the cradle of Hallstatt civilization. This little gem in the famous Salzkammergut lake region extends east of Salzburg in Upper Austria’s southern tip. This Austrian town surrounded by its eponymous lake has a rich history that spans 7,000 years and is also home to the world’s oldest salt mine. Salt was once transported to the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas but Hallstatt is even more famous for its cemetery. Despite a rich history and large numbers of tourists, Hallstatt has remained peaceful and charming with its small pastel houses, countless flowered windows, romantic inns, fishing boats, gorgeous lakes and White Mountains, all of which contribute to the town’s incomparable cultural and natural landscape… or, in some parts of the world, hardly so! In 2012, Minmetals Land, a Chinese real estate company, created a full-scale replica of Hallstatt in the Guangdong province.
2) Lyon, France
Lyon’s Festival of Lights has garnered international renown. At 6 pm every 8 December, the city lights up for four days, during which more than eight million candles sit on the window sills of Lyon’s inhabitants. But how did this tradition start? In 1643, the south of France was ravaged by the plague and the city of Lyon was under the protection of the Virgin Mary. In that year, several thousand people from Lyon died from the plague that killed half the population. Due to their desperation, the aldermen prayed to the Virgin Mary and promised her an annual tribute if the plague ended. The epidemic stopped that year and Lyon’s inhabitants kept their promise. In 1999, the Festival of Lights grew to span four days and with more than 300 of the city’s sites and monuments illuminated. When you’re in town, discover the famous bouchons lyonnais, typical friendly restaurants where you are served a bunch of local specialties: grattons, tripe, pike quenelle, Saint-Marcellin, and more.
3) Saint Moritz, Switzerland
Located in the Swiss canton of Grisons, St. Moritz is one of the world’s oldest winter sports resorts but is perhaps best known for its 322 days of sunshine a year. The fascinating village is favored by an exceptional environment: Upper Engadine. This region stretches 30 miles to the other side of Switzerland, is a somewhat enclosed valley of about 6,000 feet where the sunlight peaks through the mountains, an ideal backdrop if you’re looking to stave off the typical winter gloom. When juxtaposed against the light and the mountains, the lakes of St. Moritz sparkle like diamonds and sublimate this landscape that seems to lack nothing.
4) Colmar, France
Colmar has many pros, but it is primarily a city with incredible charm. Located in the heart of a wine region, Colmar’s rich heritage makes the city shine, from gothic architecture to traditional half-timbered houses to important monuments and much more! The historic center is home to the famous “Little Venice”, a romantic and flower-filled area that you can discover by boat. Do not miss the Unterlinden Museum and its beautiful collection that spans ancient archeology and objects from modern times. In the winter, the city hosts one of France’s most beautiful Christmas markets in France.
5. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Icy (or almost icy) canals, winding and possibly snow-covered paths, small houses with red and sloping roofs: Amsterdam has all the credentials to be considered a winter wonder. Added to this are 40 light installations by internationally renowned artists whose colors decorate the city every day from 5 pm to 11 pm, Amsterdam (from 29 November) is tinged with real magic and becomes a real fairytale village.
6. London, England
Okay, London isn’t exactly a mountain-dwelling village, it’s rather a busy metropolis, and, for us at Musement, one of the best cities to get into the Christmas spirit! When the streets and shops are decorated for the holidays, the British capital exudes a radiant charm: Oxford Street and Regent Street adorned with angels and carpets of intermittent lights, Carnaby Street all colorful and lively, Covent Garden full of flowers, Christmas balls, trees and lights, and the city skyline reflected in the Thames. Even city rats have a perfect (urban) winter landscape!