Northern Exposure

By Natasha Dragun

Northern Exposure
While there is plenty to love about summer in Europe, there’s no denying the allure of the continent without the crowds when the seasons change. Here are 10 reasons why a Trafalgar guided holiday should be at the top of your bucket list
  1. Avoid the Crowds

Tourists flock to Europe over summer, and as the world’s fifth most visited country for international tourism arrivals, Italy is buzzing with travellers keen to see some of the continent’s greatest attractions. When you travel with Trafalgar, you (mercifully) get to skip the queues – whatever the season. This saves you time and headaches when taking in the sights such as the Vatican Museums and Colosseum, among others. But there are many unticketed attractions that are much more pleasant to visit minus the crowds, too. On the ferry ride to Capri, for example, you can take photos and get a seat if you visit outside of summer; you can stroll across St. Mark’s Square in Venice and have it to yourself (almost) if you time your holiday right; and you can explore the historic streets of Florence at your own pace, soaking up the city’s sights and sounds. See these Italian sights and more with ease on Trafalgar’s 13-day Best of Italy itinerary.

  1. Cosy Up

Art, architecture, food and or course, beer are at the heart of a trip to London town.

It’s not hard to embrace low temperatures in one of the world’s most exciting cities when there are so many experiences that bring cosiness and warmth to the table. And there are plenty of opportunities to beat the chill on Trafalgar’s eight-day London Explorer guided holiday. Trace centuries of history as you saunter down the city’s avenues and visit Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey and Kensington Palace with a Local Specialist, then refuel with a delicious English cream tea (a pot of tea with scones, clotted cream and jam). Cruise the Thames, from the London Eye down to Greenwich, then warm up in an historic pub where dinner will be served. Like all Trafalgar trips, there will be plenty of cultural insights and surprises – not only will you have the opportunity to see the Crown Jewels and meet the Yeoman Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace but you’ll also be treated to a delicious meal at Heddon Street Kitchen, one of chef Gordon Ramsay’s newest London eateries. You can chill out, then warm up. Then do it all over again.

  1. Bask in the Winter Sunshine

Explore three enticing countries that lie at the crossroads of Europe and Africa – Spain, Morocco and Portugal – and all of their hidden treasures

Parts of southern Europe really turn up the heat over summer, driving locals and visitors to popular beaches or indoors to the safety of air-conditioning. The cooler months can usher in temperatures ideal for exploring, not to mention lazy afternoons enjoying the Mediterranean sun by the water. Madrid’s restaurants and cafés still spill onto the streets, offering a vibrant atmosphere and plenty of opportunities for people watching; you’ll be able to explore the fortifications and maze-like medinas of the historically fascinating Moroccan city of Fez without melting in the heat; horseriding in the Portuguese countryside will be an unexpected delight – the sun is shining, yet you won’t feel the need to retreat after an hour of exploration. Experience all these activities, attractions and more on Trafalgar’s 16-day Spain, Morocco and Portugal itinerary. On the farm in Portugal you’ll also enjoy a memorable Be My Guest experience, learning about the region’s magnificent Lusitano horses before lunch with the owners in the countryside.

  1. Be Enlightened

Take advantage of those long winter evenings by seeing one of the world’s most remarkable natural phenomena: the Northern Lights. You can tick this off your bucket list in the northern reaches of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. On Trafalgar’s six-day Northern Lights of Iceland Including the Blue Lagoon itinerary, you not only take in the country’s staggering landscapes – towering waterfalls, volcanoes, and steaming hot spring lagoons – but also have the opportunity to witness the dazzling lights of the Aurora Borealis dancing across the Icelandic sky. It’s one of those “pinch me” moments that most people only dream of, but that can become your reality over the cooler Icelandic months when darkness descends early and the skies are crystal clear.

  1. A More Genuine Experience

Winter in Paris is the perfect time to live like a local, with opportunities to lose yourself in historic streets and discover hidden secrets that you may not have had the chance to find otherwise. Stumble upon cobbled squares, little known to outsiders but popular among locals, or find a quintessential brasserie to visit for dinner, champagne compulsory of course. Meet Parisian artisans at work, talk to pâtissiers, witness gardens change colour and take the time to explore Paris’ historic neighbourhoods, where daily life unfolds before your eyes. If you start to get too cold, warm yourself up in one of the many museums, from the Louvre to Musée d’Orsay to the modern Centre Pompidou. When the mercury drops, you really get to experience this magical city the way its residents do. It’s also a great time to cosy up to unique Be My Guest experiences, connecting you some of the city’s most interesting locals and one-of-a-kind experiences.

  1. Magical Christmas Moments

Swap your annual chilly walks around the high street for one of the magical festive fairs in Europe where Santa Claus really does come to town. From London to Paris and Moscow to Frankfurt, you’ll find seasonal food, entertainment and more.

In Frankfurt, the aroma of stollen and glühwein wafts around every corner; you’ll visit the country’s most famous Christmas market in Nuremberg, where arts and crafts are sold alongside zwetschgenmännle (figurines made from prunes); and in Dresden, Germany’s oldest market, there are brilliant lights, mulled wine and songs to enjoy. Colourful Christmas markets take over Europe in December, with some embracing traditions that date back to the 1400s. Hyde Park in London is transformed into a winter wonderland, with markets, ice-skating, live entertainment and food and drink from around the world.

In Paris, lightshows illuminate arches, parks and monuments. On Trafalgar’s new seven-day Festive St. Petersburg and Moscow guided holiday, the winter atmosphere is amplified through the country’s love for excess. Moscow is transformed over the silly season with more than 400 dazzling light installations around the city; squares come alive with market stalls selling traditional foods and gifts; and Red Square turns into a giant ice-skating rink. Trafalgar’s eight-day German Christmas Markets trip is equally eye-opening, promising fairytale experiences across 12 of the country’s most exciting cities.

  1. Warm Hospitality

The Irish countryside dusted in frost, the winter sun creating a surreal mist over castles and lakes – it might be cold outside, but when you’re within easy reach of a pub, live music and a pint of Guinness, the cooler climes suddenly become a tempting invitation to make the most of Irish hospitality. You’ll experience this firsthand on Trafalgar’s seven-day Irish Highlights itinerary, which includes an amazing meal cooked by the Fulvio family, served in their Glenealy Farmhouse homestead. And while you eat and drink, they share their stories of life on the land.

  1. Do Cool

Christmas markets aside, Europe in winter means live music, exhibitions and theatre. There’s Amsterdam’s stunning Light Festival (November 30, 2017 – January 21, 2018), which illuminates the capital. Venice’s spectacular masked Carnival begins on January 27 in 2018, with all manner of intoxicating events – from parades to theatre to boat rides – consuming the Italian city. There’s also Belgium’s Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival, Cologne Carnival in Germany, the New Year’s Day ocean dip in the Netherlands, Fête du Citron lemon festival in France, Up Helly Aa in Scotland. Pick any Trafalgar guided holiday to these destinations at this time of year and you’ll relish the opportunity to make the most of these annual celebrations.

  1. Take in the Atmosphere

Snowflakes falling in front of the Christiansborg Palace, icicles hanging from the eaves of a Bavarian bar, the muffled crunch of snow underfoot as you cross the frosty roads in Helsinki or Oslo, the laughter of kids ice-skating on frozen lakes and rivers. Wintertime holds a magical appeal in Europe, and for travellers from Down Under, there’s nothing quite like it. Regardless of where you visit, the cooler months will introduce you to a fairytale world of lights and laughter, snow and ice, food and drink.

  1. Feast on Treats

Indulge your senses with hearty Italian regional cuisine and wash it down with a delicious bold Barolo or Tuscan chianti.

Trying different foods is reason enough to book your next holiday. But imagine if you had an excuse to eat handmade pasta cooked with delicious regional sauces, warming rustic soups and crisp wood-fired pizza for every meal? Trafalgar’s 10-day Flavours of Italy itinerary is the ultimate way to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with the country’s cuisine, from Rome to Chianti to Tuscany. And travelling when it’s cool means your appetite won’t go south as it can in warm weather.

You also won’t feel guilty about trying new flavours (yes, gelato is good even when it’s cold outside); you’ll relish sampling fresh bread and just-as-fresh extra virgin olive oil – and that additional glass of wine on the family owned vineyard overlooking the rolling Chianti Hills will be easy to justify. You’ll certainly take home more than you expected on the Tuscan cooking class, which includes a market visit. Eat well, drink well, and let the culinary delights of Italy warm your soul.

To find out more about how you can see Europe in a different light with Trafalgar travel, view their website here




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