Looking for a change in scenery? Here are 5 European winter wonderlands to escape to this summer

Mom and daughter enjoy playing in the snow after making a snow man. Picture: Supplied

Mom and daughter enjoy playing in the snow after making a snow man. Picture: Supplied

Published Dec 14, 2023


As the Southern Hemisphere gears up for the heat of summer, with South Africa already experiencing a number of scorching heat waves this year, a winter holiday could be just what the doctor recommends this festive season.

For those yearning to swap flip-flops for snow boots there are some incredible winter destinations that promise not only a change in temperature, but a shift in scenery and experiences.

From enchanting European cities adorned in festive lights to serene Nordic landscapes blanketed in snow, here are 5 destinations South Africans can visit to experience a winter wonderland, according to KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is a popular tourist destination all year round, and the colder months is a great time to explore this enchanting city.

According to the airline, the city’s iconic canals, usually bustling with summer activity, sometimes freeze over during winter, allowing tourists a rare chance to ice skate on the canals, provided the conditions allow, however, the canals are still bustling during this time of year as the Amsterdam Light Festival illuminates the city.

“Amsterdam's Christmas markets, located in the popular Dam Square and various other locations around the city, offer an additional festive layer to the colder months.

“There, tourists can warm up with glühwein and oliebollen and find the perfect gifts for friends and family.

“Winter in Amsterdam is not just about embracing the chill; it's an invitation to discover the city's timeless beauty with a touch of seasonal magic,” said the airline.

Oslo, Norway

Although the days are shorter winter in Oslo is a perfect way to explore this popular Nordic destination.

“A winter fjord cruise offers breath-taking views of Norway's pristine landscapes, while the Viking Ship Museum, home to ancient vessels invites visitors to explore Norway's rich maritime history.

“The city fully embraces the festive spirit as The Norsk Folkemuseum's Christmas Market opens to visitors during the cold winter months,” the airline said.

Oslo is also famous for its array of winter sports activities so tourists can combine winter activities like alpine skiing, cross country skiing or skating with shopping, dancing, dining and culture.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, with its historic charm and medieval architecture transforms into a fairytale destination in the winter months, while the city's iconic Charles Bridge and Prague Castle create a create a perfect backdrop for tourists wandering through the city.

“The city’s narrow, cobblestone streets of the Old Town, adorned with festive lights, feels like visitors are stepping into a holiday postcard.

“The Christmas markets in Wenceslas Square and the Old Town Square, accompanied by the mesmerising astronomical clock, offer a delightful mix of seasonal treats, handmade crafts, and a festive atmosphere.”

Warm up with a cup of mulled wine as you explore the city's centuries-old beauty, making Prague an enchanting winter escape for those seeking a blend of history, culture, and festive cheer.

Zürich, Switzerland

Zürich is a great destination to visit in winter for many reasons.

“The city is surrounded by numerous ski regions where visitors can try their hand at popular winter sports like skiing, tobogganing, or ice skating.

“Visitors can explore the renowned Bahnhofstrasse, transformed into a glittering shopping avenue during the holidays, or indulge in Swiss delicacies at the Christmas markets,” said the airline.

It said that the city's cultural offerings, from world-class museums to cosy cafes, provide warmth against the winter chill and with its blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and festive allure, Zürich offers a peaceful and enchanting winter retreat for those seeking a balance between tranquillity and urban sophistication.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland has certainly become one of the trendiest travel destinations to visit right now.

“During winter, Reykjavik transforms into a cosy retreat. The city's charming streets, adorned with twinkling lights, create a magical atmosphere against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains.

“Visitors can unwind in geothermal pools like the famous Blue Lagoon or head out on a once-it’s-lifetime experience of witnessing the iconic Northern Lights,” said the airline.

It also said that Reykjavik's vibrant cultural scene, from quirky art installations to local cafes, provides refuge from the winter chill and that the city's proximity to the Northern

Lights adds an extra layer of wonder, making Reykjavik an ideal destination for those seeking a simple yet extraordinary winter escape.