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Europe’s Best Winter Festivals
21st September 2017

Christmas markets are a big appeal during the festive season, but there are so many other winter events happening all over Europe which are just as exciting. If you are considering a short break either side of Santa Claus’s visit, these fantastic festivals are well worth a visit.

Amsterdam Winter Lights

Amsterdam Lights Festival

Making use of the city’s picturesque canals, the Amsterdam Light Festival sees installations arrive all over the city to illuminate the streets. To be seen from land and water, over 40 different pieces of light art will create a beautiful route through the Dutch capital. This year’s event will take place from the 30th November 2017 until 21st January 2018 and will include an evocative piece of work by Chinese artist Ai WeiWei.

Ice Magic, Hasselt

Ice Sculptor

The Belgian town of Hasselt holds its own ice sculpture festival every winter and, this year, the theme is Antarctica. Elaborate creations will be displayed in a pavilion that’s kept at around -6˚c, so be sure to bring your hat and gloves. Ice Magic is part of the celebrations at Winterland, Hassalt’s Christmas market, and will include sculptures depicting famous Belgian explorer Adrien de Gerlache, who made an attempt to cross the Antarctic Circle 120 years ago. You can see these magnificent creations between November 19th 2017 and January 8th 2018. Hasselt can be reached via train from Brussels and Leuven in under an hour.

Ljubljana Dragon Carnival

Ljubljana Dragon

Many cities hold carnival celebrations around the beginning of Lent and Ljubljana’s Dragon Festival is one that takes place on Shrove Saturday (10th February 2018). As the Slovenian capital’s mascot, a giant dragon is joined by other traditional characters in a procession through the historic city streets. There is also a programme of exciting events for adults and children to help celebrate the cultural heritage of Ljubljana.

Altitude Comedy Festival, Mayrhofen


Billed as the ‘Funniest Show on Snow’, the Altitude Comedy Festival takes place at the Austrian ski resort of Mayrhofen, in the Alps, and can be reached by flying into nearby Innsbruck. The event features stand-up by well-known comedians that will be familiar to us in the UK from shows such as Mock the Week and Live at the Apollo. Details for the 2018 festival are yet to be announced but, according to the Twitter page, are due to be released soon.

Salzburg Mozart Week

Mozart Salzburg

Celebrate Mozart’s birthday in the world capital of music, as this week-long festival comes to Salzburg. Held annually since 1956, international performers flock to this wintry city to showcase the composer’s most famous works in new ways. Highlights of the Mozart Week, taking place from January 26th until February 4th 2018, include the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Mozart Children’s Orchestra.

Reykjavík Winter Lights Festival

Hallgrímskirkja Reykjavik

We end this list as we started it, with a fantastic display of illuminations. However, unlike Amsterdam’s festival, this event is a metaphorical ray of light as well as a physical one. Towards the end of an extended period of darkness, this long weekend celebrates the imminent return of daylight and showcases the many faces of Reykjavik. As well as famous landmarks like the Hallgrímskirkja and Harpa Concert Hall being lit-up magically, the Reykjavik Winter Lights Festival sees many museums and swimming pools open late to host music concerts, theatre performances, fashion shows and more.

If you would like to attend any of these exciting winter events, we can help you plan your trip. We are experts in arranging European city breaks and can offer so first-hand advice if you need it. Call us on 0800 988 3369 to book or talk to our team.

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