4 Reasons Why This European City Is A Magical Winter Destination

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For a majority of American travelers, Europe is best experienced as a sunny getaway.

Scenic coastal drives, gelatos in Italy, Mediterranean sun-soaking, and long balmy afternoons exploring cobbled towns make up the perfect summer combo: why would you willingly opt for an off-season Transatlantic trip and have it any other way, right?


Winter festival in old town Edinburgh at night, Scotland UKWinter festival in old town Edinburgh at night, Scotland UK

Did You Have Any Idea The Capital Of Scotland Was This Pretty?

European winters may not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially when days get progressively colder and shorter, but trust us when we say some destinations are best experienced in the darker months and truly come to life when bedecked with glistening-white snow.

The Old Continent is not all about beach getaways, after all, and when it comes to Edinburgh, a hugely-overlooked destination in Britain, wintertime is when tourists will find it at its most magical.

Edinburgh is the financial and cultural heart of Scotland, one of four historic nations comprising the sovereign state that is the United Kingdom, and it has achieved distinction as one of the best-preserved Gothic cities still standing.

Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland, United KingdomRoyal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Home to around half a million inhabitants, ‘Auld Reekie’, as it is informally called by locals themselves, stands among Europe’s most beautiful national capitals, and it is a magical winter destination with a tourist offer that rivals seasonal favorites like Prague, Budapest and Berlin.

Still unimpressed? Here are five reasons why Edinburgh should make your winter wishlist:

Lively Christmas Markets

Though Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have monopolized Christmas tourism in recent years, the British Isles have been silently keeping up with their winter traditions, and Christmas markets have now been popping up across several British cities.

Young Girl Eating Crepe Under The SnowYoung Girl Eating Crepe Under The Snow

Edinburgh is no exception, as it hosts one of the largest in the country, running for seven weeks this season from November 17, 2023 to January 6, 2024.

Seeing the capital of Scotland in its festive attire should be a bucket list item for every avid traveler, especially when the city center, which combines elements of both medieval and Georgian architecture, is transformed into a lively funfair full of outdoor events, rides, and food stalls.

Most of the activity is centered around the Princes Street Gardens, facing the landmark Balmoral Hotel, and sandwiched between the castle-dominated Old Town, established in the Middle Ages, and the New Town, an extension of the historic city that started construction in the 18th century.

@lydia.rich almost that time again… #fyp #edinburgh #edinburghscotland #xmas #christmasmarket #snow #holidays #winter #holidaycountdown #scotland #hiddenscotland #visitscotland ♬ The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You) – Nat King Cole Trio

From eggnog to mulled wine to delicious sausages and haggis, and every Scottish delicacy in between, the market is the ideal location for savoring your way through winter in Edinburgh, embracing the cozy atmosphere, and experiencing the culture.

Winter Just Suits Scotland Better

Unless it’s the ever-warmer Sicily, you wouldn’t visit Italy in winter as it just doesn’t fit the overall vibe.

It’s windy, it rains occasionally, and eating ice cream as you stroll a pastel-colored Amalfi town on a stormy late November day does not sound as appealing.

Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland, United KingdomScott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

On the other hand, Scotland is not exactly known for its subtropical weather, and though it is indisputably nice in summer, on the odd day when temperatures are high enough for you to ditch those extra layers, there is no denying it is made for winter.

It may sound redundant to say, but Edinburgh does look its prettiest this time of year, particularly when it snows and the dark sandstone buildings with conical roofs and pointy spires that dot the hilly Old Town are covered in the white stuff.

This is a capital recognized as a World Heritage Site precisely for its wide range of Gothic monuments, and you simply can’t beat that darker ambiance, with shadows cast on already somber-looking ancient edifices and dimly-lit narrow closes shrouded in fog on a crisp December morning.

Male Tourist Walking Down A Narrow Alley Or Close In Old Town Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, North Western EuropeMale Tourist Walking Down A Narrow Alley Or Close In Old Town Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, North Western Europe

Brits Themselves Love It

Furthermore, Edinburgh has been named the second-best ‘staycation’ in the United Kingdom, beaten to the number-one spot by London.

Based on trends observed on Trivago, after the British capital, the jewel in Scotland’s crown is the average British person’s favorite U.K. destination, with reservations spiking over the Christmas and New Year periods.

You know what they say: go where the locals go, and Edinburgh sounds like a pretty sound choice if you’re hoping to combine a cultural immersion with some sightseeing and food-tasting this winter, and escaping somewhere sunny instead is not non-negotiable.

Snow-Covered Old Town Edinburgh, Capital Of Scotland, United Kingdom, North Western EuropeSnow-Covered Old Town Edinburgh, Capital Of Scotland, United Kingdom, North Western Europe

Still in doubt? It’s worth mentioning that last year, Edi was voted the best city break in all of Britain, with as many as 71% of visitors having reported high rates of satisfaction following their stay, irrespective of sunny weather.

That is because Edinburgh has a lot to offer visitors even on a rainy day, including quirky cafes, such as The Elephant House, where Harry Potter was conceived, state-of-the-art museums, with the National Museum of Scotland, where the world-famous cloned Dolly sheep is preserved, and Camara Obscura, one of the first illusionist museums to name a couple, and the imposing Edinburgh Castle.

One Of The Best Times Of Year To Visit This Wonder Of Nature

The Caledonian Sleeper train crosses Rannoch Viaduct on the scenic West Highland Line railway in the Scottish Highlands.The Caledonian Sleeper train crosses Rannoch Viaduct on the scenic West Highland Line railway in the Scottish Highlands.

When visiting Edinburgh in winter, you cannot miss out on a chance to take a day or weekend trip to the Scottish Highlands.

Comprising 33 percent of Scotland’s landmass, this dramatic mountainous scenery is rich in folk legends and centuries-old myths, pertaining to the conquest of the Scottish heartland by Nordic rulers, the rise of Scottish clans, and their subsequent wars waged against invading English kings.

Other than mountains, including Britain’s tallest Ben Nevis, the territory has a high concentration of medieval castles, picturesque lakes, which occasionally freeze over during winter against the dreamy backdrop of snowy peaks, and remote islands distinctive for their Gaelic language and culture.

@johanna.gssl I would never have thought that Scotland is so beautiful even in winter. Have you ever visited Scotland during this time? 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿❄️🥾 #fouryoupage #fyp #scotland #scotlandhighlands #scotlandroadtrip #scottishhighlands #scotlandaesthetic #bucketlisttravel #jacobitetrain #scotlandmustsee #wintervacay #winterurlaub ♬ September – Sparky Deathcap

Though you could easily explore the Highlands as a stand-alone trip, you can definitely tick off some of the main highlights as part of an organized tour departing from Edinburgh.

These include Ben Nevis itself, the mysterious Loch Ness, home to the elusive monster, Glencoe, the infamous site of a painful massacre that shook Gaelic society to its core centuries ago, and Pitlochry, a charming village with a long-standing whisky-making tradition.

Edinburgh Castle Seen From Princes Street Gardens With Ross Fountain In The Frame, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, North Western EuropeEdinburgh Castle Seen From Princes Street Gardens With Ross Fountain In The Frame, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, North Western Europe

Finally, Edinburgh is one of the most accessible European destinations for American travelers this winter, with flights available on United Airlines for as cheap as $601 roundtrip, departing from Newark (EWR), a major transit hub on the East Coast.

Americans can travel to Scotland and the wider United Kingdom visa-free for up to six months, and all they must present upon boarding is a valid passport with at least six months of validity left.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com


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