1. Prague, Czech Republic
With its snow-capped spires and cobbled, winding streets, Prague is a fairytale city that remains relatively tourist-free in winter.
The stunning architecture looks even prettier under a sheet of snow, with one of the most beautiful areas being the old town, with its turrets and Romanesque vaults. Gas street lamps were recently reinstalled throughout the city center, adding a romantic hue to evenings. Cafes here are ideal for escaping the bitter cold.
Where to eat: Lokál Dlouhá. This restaurant is known for its svíčková na smetaně (beef tenderloin and cream sauce).
Where to sleep: The Alchymist Grand Hotel & Spa is a five-star, fairytale-like hotel in the middle of the city’s old town.
What to do: After the Christmas markets (which run from early December to early January), the fascinating Estates Theatre is where Mozart conducted the world premiere of “Don Giovanni” in 1787.
2. Salzburg, Austria
Christmas carol “Silent Night” was first performed outside a small chapel juts outside Salzburg.
Courtesy Salzburg Tourist Board
Where to eat: Goldener Hirsch on Getreidegasse. This beautiful restaurant is located within the old stables of an historic townhouse. The food is traditional Austrian with a modern twist.
Where to sleep: The Statkrug. A beautiful four-star Austrian hotel with one of the city’s best roof terraces.
3. Tromso, Norway
Tromso: One of the world’s best spots for northern lights.
Courtesy Gaute Bruvik/Visitnorway.com
There are several reasons Tromso, known as the capital of the Arctic, is great in winter. It’s widely regarded as Norway’s most beautiful city and is a base for spotting the northern lights.
Where to eat: Arcantandria is famous for its shellfish.
Where to sleep: The four-star Clarion Post Bryggen has rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows offering stunning views.
What to do: The Perspektivet Museum on Storgata offers fascinating insight into Norwegian art.
4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Dutch capital is far less crowded in the winter season.
Jannes Glas/Flickr,Creative Commons
Where to eat: The cozy Restaurant Greetje has traditional Dutch food (and lots of Delft).
Where to sleep: The beautiful five-star 717 boutique hotel on Prinsegracht is housed inside a former sugar trader’s residence.
5. Nagano, Japan
Where to eat: Fujiki-an on Daimonkikyocho is famous for its soba noodles, which they’ve been making since 1827. A picture menu makes ordering easy.
Fujiki-an, 67 Daimonkikyocho, Nagano, +81 26 232 2531
Where to sleep: Hotel JAL city on Toigoshomach is a short walk from both the train station and one of Japan’s largest wooden temples — in winter the views over snowy Nagano are breathtaking.
What to do: The Zenkō-ji temple, built in the seventh century, ranks as the third-largest wooden temple in Japan. Zenkō-ji (Japanese only), 491-i Nagano-Motoyoshicho, Nagano-shi; +81 26 234 3591
6. Reykjavík, Iceland
Hiding within — great geothermal pools.
Visitors can try their hand at a wide range of winter sports or skate on the city’s Tjörnin pond. Many cozy coffee houses sell rúgbrauð — locally made, dark, sweet bread.
Where to eat: Dill restaurant in the Nordic House cultural center. Chef Gunnar Karl Gislason is passionate about local produce and the food here is some of the freshest in Iceland.
Where to sleep: Owned by Icelandair, Hotel Marina is a quirky, colorful hotel located in one of the city’s trendiest districts.
What to do: Harpa, the city’s concert hall, was designed by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson to reflect Iceland’s geology. It’s constructed from more than a thousand glass blocks.
7. Berlin, Germany
From its pop-up ice skating rinks and sledding hills, to the outdoor concerts and markets, Berlin is buzzing with activity in the winter season.
Where to eat: Die Berliner Republik on Schiffbauerdamm is famous for both its food (currywurst is a specialty) and its beer, thanks to a stock exchange-style system that allows drinkers to purchase their favorite beer at rock bottom prices — if they order at the right time.
Where to sleep: Hotel Otto on Knesebeckstraße is located in one of Berlin’s quieter neighborhoods. Extras include a “surprise” button in the lift.
What to do: Dr Pong on Eberswalder Strasse much surely rank as one of Berlin’s quirkier bars. It’s a ping pong bar, and perfectly sums up Berlin’s underground nightlife scene.
8. Ottawa, Canada
Where to eat: Restaurant 18 on York Street serves traditional Canadian cuisine with a modern twist.
Where to sleep: The Arc Hotel is a warm winter retreat, with a fire in the lobby and complimentary champagne for guests.
What to do: From January to February visitors can take a spin on the world’s largest natural ice rink — the Rideau Canal.
9. Washington D.C., United States
Lightning up a white Christmas every year in Washington D.C.
Astrid Riecken/Getty Images
Where to eat: Equinox Restaurant specializes in what its head chef refers to as “Mid-Atlantic cuisine.” He basically means fish, and lots of it.
Where to sleep: The Palomar is a small, vibrant hotel just a short walk from the Whitehouse, the National Mall and the Smithsonian.
10. Edinburgh, Scotland
Cobbled streets, a beautiful castle and lovely public gardens make Edinburgh a beautiful city any time of year, but in winter it’s breathtaking.
Where to eat: Edinburgh isn’t about haggis and tatties. For fine dining, One Square restaurant and bar at the Sheraton Grand on Festival Square is the place to go. The drinks menu is impressive — there are 52 types of gin to choose from.
Where to sleep: Jurys Inn is a short walk from the main attractions and offers a warm Scottish welcome.