Year-End in Colourful Europe

Flamboyant lights, bustling Christmas markets, creamy hot chocolate, powdery white snow and gorgeous landscape photography… Christmas in Europe is something entirely different for those of us who have been accustomed to tropical weather. With the strong Singapore dollar, a Christmas retreat in Europe can be within most budgets.

Photo buffs can never go wrong with castles in mountains, and the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. Germany is said to be one of the most picturesque in the world, surrounded by the Alps and acres of Bavarian forests. If architecture is more to your taste, Estonia’s capital Tallin is home to Old Town, one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

For snowy mountain landscapes without having to climb mountains, Aiguille du Midi, in the French Alps is accessible via cable car from Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, a commune in France. The commune itself is a Charming ski resort and one of the oldest in the country. If you love wide spaces and vast flat lands, the endless pastures of Yorkshire Dales in England are blanketed in snow, dotted with glowing dots of lights from cozy pubs,and you might see ponies and sheep wandering around covered in warmer garb by their farmer masters.

However, you would want to take some precautions with your cameras. Batteries run out of power very quickly in cold weather, so bring spare batteries, and wrap your batteries and cameras in a warm padded pouch when not in use. Condensation on the lenses is the more crucial problem so look out for it and make sure your lenses are dry before you keep them.

Within the cities, you’ll find Christmas decorations and lights just about anywhere. National Geographic recommended Austria’s Vienna, Belgium’s Brussels, Spain’s Madrid and Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens for their great lights and atmosphere. But just about any European city is delightful in winter. Don’t forget to l00k in the shop windows; aside from displaying the newest winter fashion, they are also adorned with lights and Christmas displays, sometimes animated. If you visit Milan’s Quadrilatero d’Oro, the famous designer shopping district in the evening during this period, you might spend more time admiring the windows than the luxury collections.

The Christmas market is one of the biggest charms of wintry Europe. These markets usually last from mid- November to early-January, but it varies with the market and city. You can fill your stomachs with delicious food and drinks which are sometimes unique to the season, relive your childhood with games and attractions like the carousel and Ferris wheel, buy unique handmade crafts and souvenirs. The markets themselves are often beautifully dressed up for the occasion. The massive ones may even have spaces for performances and dancing.

Germany is the place to be if you want to get your fill of Christmas markets as this is the country that Christmas Markets originate from. According to European travel website ”European Best Destinations”, recommended cities and communes include Aachen, Leipzig, Nuremberg, ‘ Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Dresden and Cologne, Other winners are Croatia’s Zagreb, France’s Colmar, Lille, and Strasbourg, Austria’s Vienna, and Belgium’s Brussels where you can indulge in the chocolates they are so famous for.

The UK has atmospheric Christmas Markets and London’s Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is a popular Christmas destination with plenty of rides and attractions on site.

For a cozier choice, Christmas is a beloved theme in p0p culture, and many stage productions will have something just for the season. London’s West End is famous for its high quality plays, and there is the benefit of them being in English. If you happen to be in Milan, don’t miss the opportunity for some Christmas operas. There is a good reason for the La Scala Milan being a world-renowned opera house.

Europe is gorgeous and vibrant in winter despite some inconveniences, such as, the early sunset (as early as 5pm), and the intense dryness. Plan your itinerary accordingly, stay hydrated, use moisturisers and pack the right clothes so that you can fully immerse yourself in an enjoyable winter experience.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.

Picture from Pixabay