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Winter-Railing through cold Europe

Written by: on December 15, 2013
Winter-Railing through cold Europe
Winter in Antwerp (Source: Flickr, visitflanders)

It’s about this time of year when people really start to miss summer. Missing the feeling of going out in a t-shirt and shorts, the taste of ice cream melted by the sun, the constant smell of suncream, and more importantly – not constantly shivering in an old student house. For most of us, our yearly holiday can seem months and months away, but a little thought, your Christmas holiday could be the one adventure you don’t want to forget in a hurry.

Instead of lugging round heavy rucksacks and sweating in the dense humidity of summer-time Europe, why not opt for a wintery InterRail adventure instead. Peak times are over, accommodation and activities will be cheaper, and it will undoubtedly get you in the Christmas spirit. InterRailing can be equally as rewarding during the winter months, getting a unique glimpse of Europe that most do not consider. Here are some ideas to get you in the spirit for exploring the wintery delights Europe as to offer.

 

THE BASICS:

If you are a member of the EU, you can purchase an InterRail ticket, if you are outside of the EU, the Eurail pass is what you need. The great thing about these passes is that you receive a 35% discount if you are under the age of 25. Prices start at £152 for 5 days of travel within a 10 day period. The most popular ticket is 10 days of travel within 22 days (£223), meaning you don’t have to rush or limit yourself to any countries. At first this cost may seem a lot, especially for a student reliant on their overdraft, but when you consider that a train from London to Scotland can cost over £80 then this is an absolute bargain.

 

TOP SIGHTS TO SEE WHEN TRAVELLING IN WINTER

See the Northern Lights - There aren’t many people who can say they’ve seen the Northern Lights. It isn’t especially popular to visit the arctic circle when winter hits as temperatures can be eye waveringly low, but this is a sight which you will never forget. Abisko, Sweden is one of the top destinations in the world to see the aurora borealis, situated 200km north of the Arctic Circle. The best thing about this is that it is free!

Northern Lights
(Source: Dave MacFarlane)

Take the Glacier Express and explore snowy Switzerland - Praised as one of the most famous railways in the world, the Glacier Express packs in the greatest sights that this picturesque country has to offer all from the warmth of your train cabin. The journey is an incredible adventure, climbing up to the scaling heights of 2033 metres and passing through countless tunnels and passes. The section between Disentis and St. Moritz is included in the InterRail pass, so you can see these sights almost entirely free of charge.

View from the Glacier Express, Switzerland
(Source: Flickr, PeterThoeny)

Visit Germany’s famous Christmas Markets – What is Christmas without a visit to a Germany market. This year why not make it a proper authentic experience and get into the contagious festive mood with warming Glühwien and a tasty Bratwurst. The most well-known markets are found in Cologne and Munich, but head out to Aachen for a real festive feel.

Skiing in Bulgaria – What’s a winter holiday without going out into the snow yourself? For many of us poor students, skiing is out of the question due to high costs, but the best place to ski on a budget is Bulgaria with its outstanding resorts and a change from the famous French and Italian Alps. The InterRail website suggests Bansko; a charming alpine town which offers cheap accommodation and skilift passes. The train ride here is glorious spiraling up into the mountain valleys and along riversides to reach the charismatic town.

Catch some winter sun – Remember that Turkey is included on the InIerRail pass, so if you’re in need of some warmth in these wintery months then head East to the Aegean coast which remains at around 14-20°C. Here you can pretend it’s summer whilst you go scuba diving, exploring ancient ruins and enjoying every degree of heat. The best part of this is that outside of peak season you will get better value for money.

(Source: Flickr, Hendo101)

Aegean Coast, Turkey
(Source: Flickr, Hendo101)

Visit Norway’s spectacular fjords on the Flâm Railway- The world’s steepest railway, this route takes you on a tour past incredible waterfalls and through snowcapped mountains before reaching the Norwegian fjords. The train itself is delightfully vintage and yet retains itself as a masterpiece of engineering.

Reindeer sledding in Finland – Every (big) child’s dream can be found in Rovaniemi, the ‘official’ home of Santa Claus. Here you can book safaris which will organise ice fishing, snowshoeing and other exciting activities which you won’t forget in a hurry.

Reindeer Sledging in Finlandfe
(Source: Flickr, timo_w2s)

Find the party in Bratislava, Slovakia – A relatively alternative city to the typical tourist path is Bratislava. Visit for some added European culture and the opportunity to find great and importantly cheap nightlife. With a few glasses of Borovicka schnapps to cure the winter chills head to Subclub, a techno club in a former Soviet nuclear shelter. After a night out head to an ice hockey match (the national sport) to soak up the local atmosphere.

Find the lights in Lyon – Every December, for four days, Lyon hosts the Fête des Lumières. Light artists from all over the world create animated clips, performances and fire shows all over the city, on buildings, streets and bridges. A spectacular sight to see in this magnificent medieval city and guess what – it doesn’t cost you a penny!

Fête des Lumières, Lyon
(Source: Jack Dhainaut)

Copenhagen - Discover the beauty of Copenhagen in the winter. Go iceskating on one of the capitals many outdoor skating rinks, soak up the atmosphere in a cosy cafe, visit the 19th century amusement park and gardens which organisers light up entirely whilst you enjoy a mug of glögg or a ride on an old wooden rollercoaster.

(Source: Julia Dorrington)

Tivoli Gardens, Copehagen
(Source: Julia Dorrington)

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