Helpline Question of the Month: Where to go in Europe in February? Help!
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Winter European travel (without skis) doesn't get much attention from travel writers. And the websites of local hotels and tourism offices are sure to gloss over the chilly discomforts. Selena from Minneapolis, frustrated with Googling for answers, decided to go directly to her fellow travelers for their experience-based recommendations.
Hop aboard Selena's trip on our Travelers Helpline...
"My mom and I were planning on going to Egypt to stay with some family for a two-week vacation late Jan/early Feb. Since conditions aren't so great over there, we're now reconsidering a two week trip to Europe instead. But...we don't know where to go!! There are so many options! Sometimes talking to real people gives better insight than Googling:) Any suggestions are helpful! We're very unorganized and not planners at all, so we're very lost right now! Thanks!!"
— Selena in Minneapolis
For a trip during the middle of winter, I would suggest visiting bigger cities. That way, if the weather is bad, you have more options of indoor things to do.
Of course, if you're skiers, then Switzerland would probably be a good option. (Sorry, I don't know anything about skiing in Switzerland so can't suggest specific resorts.)
Paris and London would be wonderful choices. You could easily spend two weeks in just those two locations, and take day trips from each of those cities, depending on your interests and the weather.
How about Andalucía? Seville, Granada (Alhambra), Cordoba, maybe some hill towns. Add Madrid (and Toledo) since you will probably find it easiest to fly into Madrid. Spain is amazing, especially if you love exploring historical sites. You are visiting buildings that may be 1000 years old! And the people are very welcoming. Plus, it is much less expensive than London, in particular.
Thank you guys for responding! I really appreciate it!
Yeah, I guess weather should probably be a factor when deciding! We aren't skiers, but the thought of the Swiss Alps just seems so amazing! So it sounds like Paris and London are good choices so far. I'm just second guessing because I feel like they are such urban, busy cities and it might be nice to spend a few days relaxing in a smaller town with better sights. But maybe we should just stick to those two.
As for Spain, I forgot to mention I lived there for a few months last year (in Toledo actually!) so that's why it wasn't on our list. I've been to all of those places you listed, though, and they were AMAZING! It was definitely the best country I visited, so good suggestions. My sister is studying in Barcelona so that's the only reason we'd go there. I also plan to move there next year, so I'm trying to see some other places.
How about Paris plus Swiss Alps? It is only 3.5 hours by train from Paris to Lausanne. You could stay a night or two there, then head to one of several alpine villages for a few days. Most offer lots of activities for non-skiers, including winter hiking on cleared paths, snowshoeing, sledding, and sleigh rides.
Good choices would be Wengen or Mürren in the Berner Oberland, Kandersteg, which is closer and has a beautiful lake (frozen in winter) nearby, or maybe Zermatt in the Valais where the weather might be better. Or my favorite village, Bettmeralp, perched high above a valley on a south-facing slope. Check out:
http://www.kandersteg.ch/en/erlebnisse/winter; www.oeschinensee.ch; www.bettmeralp.ch; www.zermatt.ch; www.wengen.ch
Embrace the cold. In my humble opinion, if you go to a place that is somewhat warmer than the average European destination in February you stand the chance of having the opportunity to see all the stuff that would have been really great had the weather been warmer. I enjoy Paris, but in February? They aren't built for February. We travel a lot in the winter and have decided that, if you must go in the cold, then go to someplace where the cold is a benefit and not a detractor. Look at Northern Europe and what Rick Steves calls Eastern Europe. There you will find places where an entire culture revolves around the cold as opposed to attempting to survive it until it gets warmer.
We have been to Paris several times in January and loved it. No lines anywhere, the cafes all have covers and heaters in their outdoor sections, and the weather is usually decent - the average in Feb is about 48.
You also might consider southern Italy - Bari and some towns near there.
Heidelberg Germany is also a lovely smaller German city - we enjoyed it very much in January.
Traveling in winter can be very nice - just pack for the weather.
Paris and London would be my top choices, in that order. Like Lexma said, you can take day trips out of the city if you want to. Paris not built for February?? Wow. Of course it is. Paris is amazing any day of the year. Compared to Minneapolis in February, Paris will seem warm.
San Jose, CA
Rome is also lovely in February. Weather in the 40s to 60s the years I've visited. No lines at major attractions, and you might find you have some lesser attractions mostly to yourself, which was amazing.
New Paltz, NY
A few years ago I went to Venice in the middle of February. While it was freezing cold, the city was deserted; almost had the place to myself. Didn't think that was possible in Venice.
Florence, AL We've been to Munich, Innsbruck and Venice in February, and we about froze our tails off. The farther north you go, the better chance of inclement weather. You certainly won't find me in London that time of year. Have you considered moving your trip up to the end of March? The winter weather breaks then, and the chance of having a GREAT trip improves dramatically.
Seattle, WA Venice definitely will not be uncrowded in late-January/early-February in 2013. That is Carnevale. But that might be a great reason to go. How about Venice, Verona, and the Dolomites (for beautiful alpine scenery at Italian prices instead of Swiss)?
Westford, USA Rome and Paris. Shopping, cafes, museums, restaurants, sightseeing: lots to do both inside and outside.
Minneapolis, MN Wow! Thank you all for your suggestions and replies! I have read everyone's comments and we are still working on our itinerary. We are working with a travel agent that I found online and it looks like we will be doing London 5 nights, Paris 5 nights, and Geneva Switzerland 4 nights!
Again, thanks everyone for your help!!
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