Feeding Gulls, Hanover, Germany
Feeding the gulls in Hanover | Photo by Christian K via Flickr

This will be my first Canadian winter in nearly five years. Truth be told, I haven’t seen snow since 2011. The one time it did snow in London, I was travelling around Morocco and I barely remember what it’s like to survive in below-0 temperatures. If you’re hoping to get away to Europe this winter, here are five lesser-known cities to visit:

Hanover, Germany

Head to Lister Meile in the Old Town of Hanover, Germany to immerse yourself in the festive spirit (and probably some warming mulled wine) of the German Christmas markets. This pedestrianized zone is a lively shopping area to explore. If you won’t make it in time for the Christmas markets, visit the impressive 17th century Neues Rathaus town hall to see how this Lower Saxony capital city has evolved throughout history.

Lloret de Mar, Spain

Lloret de Mar, Spain is known as Costa Brava’s party town that hits it peak in the summer months. However, once the chilly weather arrives, the tourist craze dies down and visitors can really get to see what life is like in this Catalonian city. Visit the Church of Sant Roma, a Gothic church with Moorish and Renaissance influences, to see some of Lloret de Mar’s cultural heritage. In February, party like a local with the region’s colourful carnival, Carnestoltes.

Vantaa, Finland

Beyond the airport, the Vantaa river and Tammisto forest nature reserve offer a beautiful rural landscape. If you’re going to spend a winter trip in Helsinki, head to Vantaa for its fabulous Flamingo Spa. Its adult area has two different pools, a biosauna, Finnish-style sauna, and Turkish-style sauna. Get a massage or relax in a whirlpool before or after your flight!

Marseille, France

A trip to the south of France in winter? You’ll be surprised at how busy you will be. Head down to the picture-perfect Old Port for some bouillabaisse, the iconic fish soup of Marseille. From there, you can make your way to La Maison du Pastis, to soak up their expert knowledge of the region’s famous anise liqueur. For something a little unexpected, explore the Capucins Market — a little taste of North Africa in this Provençal city!

Pisa, Italy

There is more to Tuscany than olive trees and wine grapes basking in the summer sun, Pisa can make an interesting winter break too! Forget those cliché photos of you holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, try something more traditional like bavettine sul pesce, a seafood pasta, and wash it down with Bianco Pisano, Pisa’s local white wine. From there, walk around Piazza dei Cavalieri, a delightful square in town.

Wintertime may not seem like the ideal season for a trip to Europe, but the spirit and romance of European cities in winter cannot be matched. I don’t know what I’ll do this year without the snow-covered gothic buildings in Prague, the frosty evenings spent at Christmas markets in London, or the steamy outdoor Roman baths in Budapest! Hopefully you’ve found some inspiration here for a winter trip to Europe.

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