When it comes to selecting popular European winter destinations, one challenge always pops up. How the heck do you shortlist them?
In this case, it took a bit of consensus between colleagues, followed by random volleys of a dart aimed at a map of Europe. Here are the five results that surfaced.
There's always been a free-spirited vibe in the Spanish city of Barcelona, especially when it comes to art and some of its more outlandish events. For openers, its take on Mardi Gras, in the form of the Sitges Carnival, is every bit as outrageous as similar events held in New Orleans and Rio, but one that places a great emphasis on LGBTQ inclusion. Those looking for more reverent events might prefer the Three Kings Parade on Jan. 6, which is Christmas Day for those who follow the Julian Calendar.
Locals in Copenhagen, Denmark will prompt visitors the best way to take in the town is on foot, so it's best to dress for the elements. However, a cup of a wine concoction called Gløgg that's offered at the plethora of markets in the city will certainly help keep you warm. If you have something more ancient in mind, there's a number of Danish castles to tour, including Kronberg, the setting for Shakespeare's Hamlet. But the ultimate attraction remains Tivoli Gardens, which features one of the most elaborate takes on the Yuletide season you'll ever find in Europe.
Fully recovered from its split from Slovakia years ago, the Czech Republic city of Prague isn't a widely-traveled winter destination, which is good news for folks who want to take in the sights without distractions. The big draw is its party-heavy nightlife, since Czech Republic citizens down more alcohol per capita than any other country in the world. More mellow travelers, however might prefer the majestic mountain peaks of the nearby Central Bohemia Uplands or the gothic architecture of Prague Castle.
Reykjavik in Iceland might be the lauded stomping grounds of quirky pop singer Bjork and the site of a superpower summit that started to signal the end of the Cold War, but the isolated capital has its own rustic charm. Instead of enduring the cold season, this is a hardy lot that embraces it, given the popular Winter Lights Festival every February. Of course it helps that the volcanic land mass has more than its share of geothermic pools where locals and visitors can bathe and relax in the naturally-heated waters.
Before heading to Vienna, Austria, it's best to bone up on all things cultural. And we're talking high culture here, since the city's highfalutin reputation is synonymous with Beethoven, Haydn Mozart and Schubert. Vienna doesn't disappoint, since the activities reflect that enlightening legacy from waltzing at any of the 450 ballroom events staged in the city to watching opera at the palatial Wiener-Staatsoper. More down-home folks aren't left out, though, as there is no shortage of museums, coffee houses and markets worth checking out.