Cities draped in snow with their cheerful festive markets and out-of-this-world winter wonderlands; this magical time of the year has the ability to completely transform places into the most beautiful winter destinations. Here’s our list of the most Instagrammable winter cities and landscapes in the world.
Iceland offers an almost otherworldly landscape of imposing ice formations and natural wonders, such as the beautiful Northern Lights. However, the island isn’t all glaciers and frozen fjords. Home to over 130 active and extinct volcanoes, this really is the land of ice and fire. If you’re planning a trip, be sure to visit its small capital, Reykjavik, which is surprisingly cosmopolitan for its size; full of captivating art, cool cafes and wild nightlife.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
A true fairytale castle, Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany, was built by King Ludwig II, otherwise known as the “Fairytale King”. A great admirer of the classical composer Wagner, the king built the castle in his honour and named it after the Swan Knight, one of Wagner’s opera characters (Neuschwanstein means literally “New Swan Castle”). This same castle later inspired Walt Disney, who designed his Magic Kingdom in its image.
Moscow in winter is a thick blanket of snow, furry winter boots, fantastical architecture and sparkling lights. Russia’s legendary winters are magical, if you’re wrapped up warm of course, and nothing could be more picturesque than a traditional troika ride through the winter wonderland of nearby Kolomensky Park.
Prague, Czech Republic
The historical Czech city of Prague holds its own against any other stunning European city, with its hauntingly beautiful Old Town and its Baroque castle on a hill. Wander its cobbled streets and take in the intricate detail of the medieval astronomical clock, mounted on the Old Town Hall, before taking a misty morning stroll across the sweeping stone bridge, complete with 30 looming statues, that crosses over the Vltava river.
In winter, this gingerbread-house town of frosted window panes, church spires and frozen canals would give any storybook village a run for its money. Possibly the most idyllic setting for any Christmas getaway, Bruges is just as pretty in late January and February when the streets are quiet and cosy Belgian pubs invite you in from the cold with their warm fires and sugar-dusted delicacies.
Finland’s most northerly region, Lapland, is a dark place during the winter months, experiencing only 2 and a half hours of daily daylight during late December and early January. However, towards the end of January that amount almost doubles, and between then and March visitors have the best chance of glimpsing the stunning spectacle of the Northern Lights dancing in the sky. Add to that its cosy log cabins, reindeer and snow-quilted forests, and you’ve got one of the most picturesque winter settings on the planet.
Harz Mountains, Germany
For those nostalgic for the charm of old-fashioned journeys (or fans of Harry Potter), Germany’s Harz Mountains are the perfect destination during the wintertime when you can take the beautiful Harz steam railway on a journey through the snow-covered landscapes. The wonderful old-fashioned trains criss-cross the mountainsides, through pine forests and gorges, stopping off at nearby towns and villages along the way.
Turkey may be a popular summer destination, with its glorious beaches and turquoise seas, but don’t overlook a visit in the winter season, especially to the beautiful Cappadocia region. This historical area in central Anatolia features an unusual moonscape of ‘fairy chimneys’ and honeycomb mountains which, over the years, have been used as secret shelters for ancient civilisations.
Norway’s varied landscapes of colourful house-dotted archipelagos, frozen mountains and dramatic fjords makes it a stunning destination at any time of the year. Come winter and a fresh snowfall, the chance of the Northern Lights and the sight of dog sledding through the white wilderness and you’ve got a truly spectacular landscape.
Cascades National Park, USA
In the north-west corner of the Unites States, near Seattle, the Cascades National Park is known for its untamed wilderness and alpine landscapes. Few people visit in the wintertime, when its jagged mountain peaks, topped with more than 300 glaciers, are snow-covered and cascading rivers are frozen over, making it the perfect spot for a peaceful hike away from the busy world.