There are plenty of reasons why now is the best time in a decade to visit Europe: you’ll avoid summer crowds, both visiting from elsewhere and taking advantage of the continent’s propensity for extensive August vacationing. Not having to stand in a large crowd to see some of the most architecturally distinctive buildings in the stark light of winter is also a plus. And, if your fondness for sports includes a favorite soccer team somewhere in Europe, you might be able to catch a game while you’re in town.
There’s also the matter of economics: right now, the Euro is at its lowest level in a decade relative to the dollar. Lower airfares and less expensive hotel rooms, along with a dollar that can be stretched further than usual make a compelling case for travel. When asked about current bargains to Europe, George Hobica, founder and president of the travel site Airfarewatchdog, said, “There have been some good fares to Scandinavia, Barcelona, Lisbon; and also to Taipei, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam in Asia from NYC, SEA, LAX, SFO. [It’s] also very cheap to Russia although the visas are expensive.”
If you’re visiting Scandinavia, Helsinki might be a good place to start. Its location on the water makes for some scenic vistas, and the vibrant cultural scene includes the Kiasma museum, with an excellent selection of contemporary art. There’s also a heavy sports presence there, including popular soccer (HJK Helsinki) and ice hockey (HIFK) teams. Across the Gulf of Finland is Tallinn, Estonia, where ultra-modern buildings coexist with centuries-old structures, some of which now hold museums, galleries, bars, and music venues. Both cities are home to numerous evocative spaces; if you’re willing to brave the cold, there’s much in both that awaits discovery.
Your interests might lead you further south in Europe: Spain or Portugal, for instance. (Or perhaps you’re just inclined to temperatures that are well above freezing.) Whether you’re opting for a hotel room or an AirBnB spot, there’s an abundance of distinctive spaces in Lisbon to lay your head. And there’s great food to be had there as well: a recent piece in The Guardian shined the spotlight on the wide-ranging food scene found there, which encompasses everything from large-scale dining to the city’s distinctive food kiosks, which elevates street food to heights rarely found elsewhere.
Or you could head east and find yourself in Barcelona, on the Mediterranean Sea. There are plenty of ways to spend your time there, including museums dedicated to the works of Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. In the late winter, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya hosts Formula One test days. (The Spanish Grand Prix will be held later in the year.) And the rivalry between local soccer team FC Barcelona and Real Madrid is one of the most heated in professional sports.
Certain other cities are perennially good values for travelers. Dublin, for instance, offers both the cosmopolitan pleasures of a capital city, but also exists in close proximity to a number of beaches and valleys that visitors can explore. And travelers making their way to Vienna can take in the city’s numerous historical buildings, spend a day or more exploring the cultural institutions and museums that call MuseumsQuartier home, or visiting the wineries that can be found on the outskirts of the city. And if you have a yearning to tackle multiple cities in a single trip, its proximity to several other major cities makes it a good starting point for your trip.
Whether your interests are focused on food, culture, or sports, there are plenty of options to explore in these cities, along with many others. February brings with it carnivals to a number of cities, along with Munich’s Starkbierzeit (or Strong Beer Festival), which runs across the span of several weeks in February and March. The bargains are there to be had, and the cities are there to be explored.
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