Even though many people prefer to travel in the summer, winter is a great time to visit Europe. Yes, it’s cold. Yes, it’s snowy, windy and cloudy. You can’t sunbath or swim in the sea, but you can do many other, equally interesting things. Europe is quieter and more peaceful in the winter than during the peak season, but numerous events are still being held, and there’s something special about them, a unique atmosphere that can’t be felt at any other time. To inspire your winter trips, here’s a list of nine fantastic winter festivals in different European countries.
The Patras Carnival, Greece
Dates: 17 January – 22 February 2016
The largest in Greece and one of the largest in Europe, the Patras Carnival attracts thousands of visitors. The program is full and diverse and includes such events as balls, treasure hunts, parades, dance shows and concerts. Many of the events are addressed to children, so participating in the festival can be a great idea for a family trip. The main ceremony takes place on the last day of the carnival – it’s the ritual burning of the carnival king in the Patras harbor. The burning part might sound a bit creepy, but it’s a joyful, colorful celebration.
Photo: Commons Wikimedia
Mozart Week, Salzburg, Austria
Dates: 22 – 31 January 2016
For the classical music lovers, the Mozart Week is like a few days in paradise. Austria is widely known for its strong connection to classical music and the Mozart Week is one of the events that confirm this theory. It’s organized by the Mozarteum Foundation Salzburg that, during the festival, hosts a variety of activities, from awesome opera shows and orchestra concerts to enchanting soloist recitals and chamber concerts. The festival is a unique chance to listen to excellent musicians performing in the atmospheric setting of snowy Salzburg.
Photo: Commons Wikimedia
Carnival of Venice, Venice, Italy
Dates: January 23 – February 9, 2016
The Carnival of Venice doesn’t need much in the means of introduction. One of the world’s most famous festivals, the carnival is mainly associated with characteristic, elaborate masks. Its history reaches back to 12th century, although what was first a local celebration, has now turned into an international, eventful festival. During the carnival, countless marvelous balls, wine tastings, street parties, tours, and cruises are being held in the charming town of Venice.
Up Helly Aa, Lerwick, Scotland
Dates: January 26, 2016
The main port of the Shetland Islands, Lerwick, is Scotland’s most northerly town. Usually rather peaceful, once a year the city turns into a full Viking village. The Scottish Helly Aa is one of Europe’s largest fire festivals, and everyone who’s interested in the history of Vikings should participate in it at least once. There are marches, parades, countless torches, bonfires and, of course, parties lasting all night long.
Photo: Commons Wikimedia
Kiruna Snow Festival, Kiruna, Sweden
Dates: January 27-30, 2016
Can you imagine a better location for a winter festival than a town located about 150 kilometers from the Arctic Circle? Kiruna is Sweden’s northernmost city, and it surely is a snowy wonderland, especially during the last week of January, when people gather to enjoy the charms of winter. The program includes concerts, theatre shows, a handicraft fair, dog sledding, snowmobile rides, skiing sessions, even a snow disco and a snow blower race. In addition to these fun activities, there’s the main attraction – a sculpting competition during which groups of artists do their best to create something out of snow blocks.
Copenhagen Winter Jazz Festival, Denmark
Dates: 5 – 28 February 2016
Copenhagen, in addition to being pretty, historical and cozy, is also quite jazzy. There’s the summer Copenhagen Jazz Festival, a huge event held annually. For those who after the summer events still crave jazz, there’s also the winter edition. Scandinavian and international musicians gather in the beautiful Danish capital to play music all around it. Venues, pubs, cafés, concert halls, theatres – everything gets filled with the sounds of jazz. Not only Copenhagen gets involved; some of the events take place in smaller towns, so the festival is a great excuse to explore more of Denmark.
The Lemon Festival, Menton, France
Dates: February 13 – March 2, 2016
Unique, the Lemon Festival is all about fantasy and imagination. Nearly 150 tons of fruit are used to decorate the town of Menton in the French Riviera. Hundreds of creative individuals work together to create amazing sculptures, some of them reaching up to 10 meters, all of them made of citrus fruit. Streets, gardens, and squares are dominated by different shades of orange and yellow. Refreshing smell of citruses floats all around the town. Numerous shows, parades, and concerts are being held in this fantastic setting.
By: Larm, Oslo, Norway
Dates: 2 – 5 March 2016
Combining elements of a conference and a festival, By Larm is a meeting point for artists, musicophiles, and specialists from the music industry. The schedule includes workshops, conferences, lectures, seminars, and debates, as well as numerous concerts. Events belonging to the conference part take place during the days; in the evening’s various Nordic artists perform in concert venues and clubs. There are both famous bands and aspiring musicians, so the festival gives you the opportunity to see your favorite artists and to discover some new sounds. With its diverse program, By Larm is more than a music festival – it’s also a great educational, inspiring initiative.
Tallinn Music Week, Estonia
Dates: 28 March – 3 April 2016
You might take a look at the dates and start wondering what does April have to do with winter. Well, in Estonia it does. March and April are still quite chilly and possibly snowy, so the winter mood isn’t gone. Tallinn Music Week, the largest indoor (there, you can figure it’s freezing since the events take place in venues instead of outdoors) festival in the Baltic States, offers an incredibly varied program. Rock, jazz, Estonian and international music, concerts, lectures, and exhibitions – there’s a lot to choose from and no chance to get bored.
Are you interested in some of these festivals? Look for the tickets then, some of them can be sold out very soon, especially those for the earliest events. And share this article with your friends, perhaps it’ll motivate them to travel this winter!