Europe in its Winter Glory

When planning a winter vacation, Europe isn’t typically the first spot to jump to mind.

You’ll need to pack more layers, so your suitcase may be a little heavier. But in most cases, the crowds will lighter. So, travelling off-season is worth the trade-off. And the costs of plane tickets.. I bet you’ll like that too.

One of the must dos when visiting Amsterdam is a canal tour. Typically, it’s something you would want to do by day, so you can see the scenery. But in December, it’s when the sun sets that you want to be on the canals for the Amsterdam Light Festival. In its 6th year, there are more than 40 works of art that light up along the canals. Canal boats typically have narration in English explaining the meaning of the pieces and the artists that created them.

Amsterdam Light Festival canal tour

Artists are selected from all over the world. Some pieces are more elaborate than others, but the overall WOW power is worth staying up late for. And it’s a good way to fight jetlag when you first get into town. The festival runs the entire month of December, and into a good chunk of January.

From the Netherlands to France.. more canals are waiting, but with a very different view. This is the Petite France area of Strasbourg. The half-timbered houses date from the 16th and 17th centuries and were once home to the likes of fisherman, butchers, and tanners. It’s the type of neighborhood where it’s simply fun to wander.

Heidelberg Palace/Castle

No trip to Europe is complete without a visit to a castle. Heidelberg’s is a classic. Perched in the hillside it has great views of the old town down along the Neckar river. The castle is also home to a giant wine barrel. It’s said it was built to hold more than 34-thousand gallons of wine.

After visiting the castle, you’ll want to wander the old town. Heidelberg is home to the largest university in Germany. With a population of about 150,000 thousand, more than 30,000 are college students, it has a fun, relaxed feel.

Rudesheim cable car ride

When you travel in winter you have to be prepared for the possibility of snow. Located on the Rhine River, snow is not typical in Rüdesheim, Germany, but the cable car ride was still going, even though it was coming down hard the day I was in town. With a population of about 7,000, it’s a fairly small spot, but it’s less than an hour drive from Frankfurt, so getting there really isn’t hard. It’s also a popular stop with many river cruise lines. Along with the cable car ride over the vineyards, the Christmas Market is what attracts winter guests.

castles along the Rhine Gorge, Germany

I discovered Rüdesheim on a river cruise with AMAWaterways. One of the big benefits to a river cruise is you unpack once and wake-up different places, but the scenery that comes with a river cruise is a big perk as well. This is the Rhine Gorge, lined with castles, fortress ruins, and just pretty river fronts spots. You have those moments where you just don’t know which way to look.

Dana’s trip was hosted by AMAWaterways, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.

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