However, if you slung Jack Frost his icepack, he’d skate a way through some of our planet’s most captivating cities. And perhaps Jack has a point.
Is there anything quite as refreshing as gulping icy air in a spot-coloured wonderland? Or anything quite as poetic as the percussion of chattery teeth, cracking through an honest winter silence?
Reports from my homeland confirm that the northern hemisphere is being frogmarched towards winter like a sulking child. While they’re languishing in the penultimate season, I’m reminded of the multitude of reasons I’d happily travel into the winter.
1. You need fewer clothes
A plump overcoat and a tangle of colourful wool covers whatever you’re wearing, plus there’s little chance of becoming stained with sweat.
2. It’s often cheaper to get there
This is especially true of inter-European flights — as winter falls, so do the prices.
3. It’s quieter
Naturally, most tourists choose to spiral a foreign spire during the summer months. Embrace the shhhhh.
4. It’s often cheaper to be there
Winter is typically the low season, so prices are lower and often more flexible than frozen.
5. You’ll get better photos
Snowflakes flirting with a frozen river. Steam rising from a bowl of sleepy noodles. Shots of winter’s ways have the edge over their summer equivalents.
6. You’ll feel energised
Winter has the ability to keep your internal battery running for longer — there’s no sweltering heat to drop you to your knees.
When it comes to confirming your flights it’s simply mind over matter. Picture yourself there: chasing your breath through a Scottish close or reheating your fingers in a Siberian saloon. Perhaps this collection of win-terrific cities will warm you to the idea.
1. Seoul, South Korea
Seoul has no less than five palaces; including the highly rated 12th century Changdeok-gung Palace, which is conveniently connected to fellow World Heritage site; the Jongmyo Shrine. In terms of tucker; warm up on Kimchi, a spicy pickled cabbage dish, which is so revered it even has its own museum; The Kimchi Museum.
Then there’s Korea’s other famous export — tae kwon do, literally translated as the art of hand and foot fighting and literally kick-ass. If you’re in search of snowfall, you’ll need to be in town from early December through to March.
2. Vilnius, Lithuania
One of the nippiest of the “New Prague” claimants, Vilnius becomes downright villainous in January, when average maximums of –5 degrees keep Lithuania’s capital in a permanent trance. Complete with an obligatory Old Town, grand Presidential Palace and the curious River Vilnia, Vilnius is ideally situated in one of Europe’s most interesting regions: the Baltic’s.
Vilnius is home to a young, lucid population. Stoic Lithuanian’s have emerged from the Soviet Union and armed themselves with an alluring creativity. Since Lithuania joined the EU crew, the bold economy has pumped the capital with big ideas, which has resulted in their current reign as 2009 European Capital of Culture. There’s a lot to take in this winter season, like the story of Three Crosses Hill and one of Europe’s most beautiful icons, St. Ann’s Church.
3. London, England
Ask any Englishperson what snow means to them, and they’ll look you straight in the mince pies and scowl ‘gridlock’. While it’s true that the traffic freezes with the turnips, it’s also true that this is a brilliant time to explore the capital’s labyrinthine laneways.
Capture the shiver of a chilled Beefeater; escape the snap in one of London’s fantastic — and mostly free — museums and galleries; weave a way through a market, and if you’re feel a cold sweat coming on, take a break in the Ice Bar and soak up the -5 degree atmosphere. Rise early in the Big Smoke, with fewer footsteps it’s a great time to absorb the essence of London before it heats up for another day of incredible hustle and bustle.
4. Oslo, Norway
Nestled in the southern quarter of Norway, Oslo attracts a mere six hours of quasi-daylight during the winter months. This famously festive capital is awash with winter fun. A stroll along Karl Johans gate will bring you to the foot of the enormous Norwegian Parliament, Stortinget. If art’s more your thing then don’t miss the brilliant Frogner Park, which in turn homes the awesome Vigeland Sculpture Park, which is pure magic when seen snuggled under a bright blanket of snow.
There are numerous noteworthy museums, including the Munch Museum, which houses The Scream — unless it’s been stolen (again), and no Norwegian winter is complete without the blazing spectacle of the aurora borealis (northern lights).
5. New York, USA
The Big Frozen Apple is the quintessential winter wonderland. The run up to Christmas sees thousands sway to the thrum of the iconic shopping districts. Grab yourself pastrami on rye from Katz’s and a coffee from the street, and then curl up on a cornerstone to inhale the city’s addictive spirit. Warm retreats can be found at any time of the day: rise early to visit the New Fulton Fish Market; spend the afternoon in the MoMA’s superb galleries; and finish the day at a show on Broadway.
Served by three airports, over 6300 subway trains, an armada of ferries, 12,000 taxis, 4372 public buses, hundreds of trains and dozens of horse-drawn carriages you’ll never be short of a ride. However, nothing beats a winter walk and if there’s one tip I can offer for NYC, it’s to look up. While the city continues to grow taller, there are hundreds of handsome buildings that are replete after just two-storeys.
6. Beijing, China
The Chinese don’t always get their snow as God intended. They’ve been known to toss a fistful of silver iodide into the air and whoosh; Beijing becomes doused in ironic purity. Beijing is on an Olympic comedown, yet don’t forget its magnificence is capable of withstanding even the mightiest commercial thaw.
The city’s doused in some of the richest history available. Tourists scuttle across Tiananmen Square, through the Forbidden City, up the steps of the Temple of Heaven and up and down the Great Wall. There are few better places to be this winter than huddled in one of Beijing’s resilient hutongs stabbing your dumplings with your chopsticks, cheered on by a dozen curious strangers.
The fact that you need fewer clothes to enjoy the winter, shouldn’t overshadow the fact that what you pack is infinitely more important. Winter weather clothes are typically more expensive to accrue if you overlook an item, so take time to get it right. Layers are perfect, but don’t forget to cover your bonce and don’t scrimp on your duffel coat.
I bet you didn’t see this one coming. In the words of Shrek “Onions have layers. Ogres have layers”. Therefore, we travellers should have layers.
2. Fingerless Gloves
Controversial, huh! I much prefer the fingerless type, it means you can feel the snugness, but can still poke a Frenchman in the eye.
3. Reusable Plastic Bags
I’ll let you in on a secret, snow is actually water. Therefore, when it melts, it’s wet. Pack some plastic if you’re shifting around at pace.
They’re no longer the off-white colour you caught your granddad wearing. Thermals are cool. And warm. And cool. And warm.
5. Thermos Flask
A Scotsman invented this: It’s often freezing in Scotland. Scottish people like to drink. Scottish people have red hair. Scottish people eat boiled offal. Convinced?
6. Language Guide
Your feet are wet from snow and your body is screaming for tea, but you’re in Korea and no one understands you. Make things simple with one of World Nomads’ straightforward language guides. Chop chop (절단 절단).
There’s nothing more rewarding than escaping the cold to a little-known haven and sipping on any of the following warm treats.
1. Mulled Wine
Spiced red wine found in various forms, but always dignified and served a welcoming warm
2. Hot Toddy
Take your favourite hot bevvy, and slosh liberally with Scotch. Or brandy. Or rum. Or blow your mind and leave out the hot bevvy. Sweeten to taste.
Japan’s most famous liquor is sake, and come winter the Japanese love nothing more than heating up the lower grade sake to make atsukan (hot sake). Even the cold stuff should warm you up.
There’s a world beyond the humble English breakfast tea. Take a look at what the locals are supping and you could discover a whole new brew.
5. Hot Chocolate
It’s hot, and it’s chocolate. Need I go on? Take it con churros for a heavenly winter treat
6. Irish Coffee
The old Caife Gaelach is a great way to chase your cornflakes, and will ensure you have a good craic the whole day.
So, you’re kitted out for a trip through the nip. While you’re there, take time to embrace the seasonal elements of winter — fearless icicles and cheerful chimneys, snugly duvet and hearty clay pots, and of course the trials and tribulations of our old friend, Jack Frost.
About the Author
Written by the footloose Englishman, Ant; World Nomads very own guest blogger and the solo scribe of the charismatic travel blog Trail of Ants.com. Ant's currently drenching a thirst for travel during his third year of dragging a smudged and odorous backpack around the world.
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