Thursday, February 12, 2015

The world’s coolest winter cities

Glittering frost, sparkling snow and twinkling lights bedeck cities across the world every winter. But which are the most magical? Holiday Lettings wraps up warm and celebrates in cities from Santa Fe to Amsterdam.

                                                               Edinburgh, Scotland
Photo credit: Duncan (license) via

Edinburgh’s striking castle, quaint cobbled streets and pretty public gardens make it a perfect city to visit in winter. Walk through Princes Street Gardens and gaze up at the vast tree as you twirl round the ice rink, or jump on the Ferris wheel for breathtaking views of the castle. Stroll to Arthur’s Seat on the edge of the city on a crisp, clear day and take in the panoramic cityscape.

For a different perspective on the city, welcome in 2015 by joining the Hogmanay Street Party’s torchlight procession. Recover with a tranquil candlelit concert at St Giles Cathedral or jump into the thick of it at The Keilidh arena party. Watch as spectacular fireworks illuminate the city’s landmarks.

                                                     Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Photo credit: Carolina Georgatou (licence) via

You thought Amsterdam was beautiful in the tulip-laden spring? Just wait until you see the city dusted with a fine powder of fresh snow. The famous bridges are ‘painted’ pristine white and warm lights from canal-side houses glow across the water. Deep freezes sometimes even leave the canals ice-covered - why not join the skaters gliding past houseboats and under bridges?

The city holds an annual light festival from November to January that’s well worth a trip: you can stroll through the city’s streets or take a boat along the canals to see light art, installations and projections depicting floating bridges, ghost ships and lighthouses. They add a splash of light to the darkest time of year.

                                                                 Tromsø, Norway
Photo credit: El Coleccionista de Instant (license) via

It’s not just the fabulous Northern Lights that make Tromsø fantastic in winter, but they’re a pretty good starting point when exploring the city. Shiver at the Arctic Cathedral’s glacial arches and icicle-like lamps. Then warm up with a Sami (Laplander) exhibition at the Tromsø Museum or learn about Arctic expeditions at the Polar Museum.

How about your own Arctic expedition, running the Polar Night Half Marathon? With over 1,000 participants, it’s the country’s biggest winter race. You run in complete darkness, your way lit by candles and, if you’re lucky, the Northern Lights. It’s a chilly but unique experience.

                                                                     Santa Fe, USA
Photo credit: Paul Sableman (license) via

Santa Fe may sound like the world’s worst winter city – after all, it’s best known for its traditional adobe (sand and clay) buildings, dramatic desert setting and ristras made with dried local chillies. The city is lovely in winter, though, as aromatic piñon smoke perfumes the air and snow frosts the adobe walls. It even boasts a terrific ski resort, which gets about five metres of snow every year.

For more of the festive spirit, do try and catch Las Posadas on December 14: it’s a candlelit procession that recreates Mary and Joseph’s search for a room. Candles are given out so spectators can help light their way. Follow the procession as it twists and turns through the city’s historic centre - just watch out for the devils turning them away and don’t forget to boo when they do.

                                                                        Nagano, Japan
Photo credit: Wajimacallit (license) via

Speed down the immaculate slopes of this former Winter Olympics host town and relax in its natural hot springs after an exhausting day on the piste. You can visit the charming snow-covered Buddhist temples or Japan’s oldest existing castle in neighbouring Matsumoto. Why not check out the famous snow monkeys bathing at the nearby Jigokudani Monkey Park too?

Travel 45 minutes to Iiyama City to participate in their annual Snow Festival, with vast snow sculptures soaring over the main event area and smaller statues filling the downtown streets. You can choose your favourite entrant in the sculpture contest or try snow tubing and ziplining. For more fun, head on to the Kamakura Igloo Festival for illuminations and fireworks.

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