Amazing winter events in Europe during January and February

When the temperature drops, you may be tempted to just stay inside with a cosy blanket wrapped around you, doing nothing fun or adventurous. Oh, what a mistake!

Winter in Europe sets the perfect stage for numerous amazing events and festivals, giving you the opportunity to enjoy this magical season.

We’ve chosen nine incredible events that will take place in January and February 2018 in Europe; we’re sure you will find something you will enjoy!

If you are a carnival and music lover…
The world-famous Carnival of Venice will take place from 27th January to 13th February 2018. During the carnival city comes alive with its magical atmosphere – there are masks of different colours, shapes and designs everywhere you look, lively dresses and elegant costumes. Music and entertainment will follow you wherever you go in this town during the carnival, and it’s a unique opportunity to feel like you time-travelled back to another century, where everything is mystic and beautiful.

If you want something more wild, join the thousands heading to Carnival de Santa Cruz, Tenerife from 7th February to 18th February 2018. This festival is traditionally held every February on this stunning Canary Island, and it’s the source of immense entertainment for all generations. There are amazing costumes everywhere, and for a good reason: costume competitions and election of the Carnival Queen. You’ll enjoy the show, parades, beautiful and bizarre costumes, music concerts, jaw-dropping performances, street parties and much more!

Nice Carnival is a big thing in France. In 2018 it will take place from 17th February to 3rd March. This lively and colourful festival lights up the winter mood; people dress up in costumes, enjoy the show and the music, and have fun. You’ll love it for its happy feeling, as well as costumes, street performers, and clowns.

For a more calm and easy atmosphere, where you will relax and just enjoy the great jazz music, Winterjazz in Denmark is a perfect event. This music festival is held in several cities across Denmark: Copenhagen, Aalborg, Aarhus, Odense and Esbjerg, from 2nd February to 25th February 2018. You can hear hundreds of Danish and international jazz artists all across Denmark, so if you find yourself in this stunning country in February, don’t miss this great festival.

If you put great food and drink as your priority…
You’ve heard of wine tasting, but what about chocolate tasting? Amsterdam gives you the opportunity on 24th and 25th February to taste numerous different kinds of chocolate on its Amsterdam Chocoa Festival. Besides discovering and enjoying new flavours, you will learn about chocolate making and different kinds of chocolate, and more sweet stuff!

For all you beer lovers out there, Bruges Beer Festival in Belgium is exactly what you need for a perfect holiday! This festival will take place on 4th and 5th February 2018 in the historic centre of Bruges. You will have the opportunity to taste more than 300 different beers from more than 70 breweries. What’s more interesting: there are new beers launched at the festival every year, so it’s a great opportunity to try something new and exciting.

If you’re a visual type and enjoy winter lights…
Amsterdam Light Festival, which is held from 30th November to 21st January 2018, will amaze you with its beauty. As the day turns into night, this city turns into a fairytale, with its glowing artwork lights above the water, and it inspires everyone lucky enough to see it at this time of the year.

Closer to home, 30th January 2018 is a special day in Scotland because of one unique traditional event: Up Helly Aa in Lerwick, Shetland, is all about fire, burning torches, Vikings, and glory! If you want to see hundreds of people dressed up as Vikings with fire torches, burning a wooden Viking ship in honour of their history, and then dance all night around the fire, you have to see this one-of-a-kind event!

If the fire is not so much your thing, there is something completely different for you in the ice of Sweden’s Lapland: Jokkmokk Winter Market from 29th January to 4th February 2018. With over 400 years of tradition, people from all around the globe gather to enjoy Swedish food specialities, music and dance, and of course the beautiful, glowing decorations.

And there you have it! These are just a few of the events and festivals Europe has to offer in the winter months, so get out of that blanket and experience a new adventure! We’ll look at some more next month.

Hidden Zagreb: five secret spots you won’t find in a tourist guide

We asked a true local, Dorotea Albertina Knezevic, who was born and brought up in Zagreb, for her top tips.

Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, has become an increasingly popular destination in the last couple of years. It’s received an award for the best European Christmas Market last year, and it keeps attracting more people by continually improving what it can offer to travellers like you.

That means one thing: Zagreb can be swarming with tourists! If you want to visit Zagreb, but you want to avoid overcrowded tourist sites, here is a special treat for you: five hidden places in Zagreb to make your trip a truly unique experience.

Savica Lakes
Only five minutes car ride from the industrial part of the city, in the southeast outskirts of the town, you’ll find the perfect water oasis. The Savica Lakes is a complex of twelve lakes, surrounded by greenery, the chirping of birds, and serene swimming swans. You can take your picnic basket and a blanket and enjoy the view.

Medvedgrad Fortress
Medvedgrad, a medieval fortress built in the 13th century, watches over Zagreb from the southern slopes of Medvednica mountain. This picturesque but formidable castle defended the city from the Tatars, who often raided two ancient settlements of Zagreb: Gradec and Kaptol.

Through the years, the castle was the residence of many aristocratic families. One of the most infamous owners were the Counts of Celje, with the ill-famed countess Barbara “The Black Queen” as a head of the family.

Solar System Model 
Did you know that Zagreb has its very own solar system? That’s right! Most of the locals know about the “Sun” in Bogovićeva Street, but even they are not familiar with the existence of the other planets in this fascinating scale model art installation that is spread all over the city.

So, if you’re up for a little walk – put on your adventurous shoes and start your planet quest.

Grič Tunnel 
The tunnel that served as both a rave party venue and a bomb shelter in World War Two is located in the very centre of Zagreb. This 1,150-foot long tunnel is open to the public from 9am to 9pm. You can enter it from one of three entrances – Mesnička Street, Tomićeva Street or Art Park. I encourage you to walk through the tunnel and try to make an echo!

Zagreb’s First Traditional Teahouse 
After visiting all those places, a good cup of tea would be much appreciated! Jing Yuan – a teahouse in the centre of Zagreb, is a perfect place for it. It’s a traditional Chinese teahouse where you can enjoy a true tea ceremony and rejuvenate your body and mind. You can’t miss it – it’s in Ilica Street right after British Square.

Enjoy your secret Zagreb tour!

What should you buy at a Christmas market?

Visiting a Christmas market can be exciting, but once you’ve absorbed the fairy-tale surroundings and sampled the glühwein, it is easy to get lost among stalls full of novelty items and souvenirs.

However, you can find locally-made products and traditional gifts worth spending your money on. Here are some of the best:

Stollen
Stollen is a luxurious fruit bread made with candied fruit, raisins, and spices and rolled in icing sugar. It is thought that the first Stollen was made in Dresden as a Christmas offering to the Saxony rulers of the time. Known as Christstollen, the medieval version was less appetizing, containing only flour, oats, and water.

To this day, Dresden Stollen must be made by a registered baker. On 3rd December every year, an enormous Stollen is pulled through the streets of the city by horse and cart.

You can find versions made with rum, champagne, marzipan, and almonds. Buy it early, as traditionally, it should be stored before being eaten.
£2 – £50

Herrnhut Star
The Herrnhut Star is an iconic Christmas decoration used all over the world. Historians believe the 26-point stars were first made in a school in Herrnhut as part of geometry or math lessons in the late 1800s.

Herrnhut was the birthplace of the Moravian Church and so the stars appeared in local churches before being commercially produced a few years later.

They are still made by hand at the original factory in Herrnhut. In the markets, plastic and paper versions are common. Buy a bulb and light yours up inside.
£8 – £175

Lebkuchen
One food you will find at every Christmas market is Lebkuchen, a gingerbread made with honey, spices and candied citrus peel. Records exist of Lebkuchen being made in Nuremberg as early as 1395. Honey was in abundance because local forests were full of bees, which were kept by the Zeidler, or Bee-keeping Guild.

In the 1600s a guild of Lebkuchen bakers emerged, creating their own recipes and intricate designs.

Today, you will find Lebkuchen inscribed with messages in icing, packaged in decorative tins, or baked into heart-shaped cookies.

Different kinds of Lebkuchen are distinguished by the proportion of nuts they contain – Elisenlebkuchen, named after the daughter of one of the original bakers – must contain at least 25 percent nuts.
£2 – £110

Wood art
When tin mining declined in the Ore Mountains in Saxony, local miners took to carving wooden kitchen implements and toys to make a living. The miners also made decorative candle holders, known as Schwibbogen, which were placed in windows around Christmas-time to guide the miners home, and Christmas pyramids, which they made to hang in their houses.

Today, you will find these German folk art pieces at all Christmas markets. The authentic versions are made by hand. Look for the label saying, ‘from the Erzgebirge.’
£2 – £4,500

Glass baubles
In Lauscha in the late 1500s, poor glass blowers who could not afford the traditional fruit and sweets to hang on their Christmas trees created versions out of glass, and the Christmas bauble was born.

Early baubles were shaped like apples, pears, and pine cones, but the glass blowers got creative, and between 1870 and 1940 a huge variety of different ornaments were made and exported around the world.

Today, there are still around 20 small glass blowing businesses in Lauscha. You will find all kinds of baubles at Christmas markets – just make sure to pack them carefully!
£8 – £50

Prune figures or Zwetschgenmännle  
According to folklore, when a Nuremberg resident could not afford gifts for his children, he made them figures out of prunes from the tree in his garden. Now, the ‘prune man’ is given at weddings, Christmas, and New Year, and brings good luck and wealth to those who keep him in the house.

Hundreds of different versions are available, but all have arms and legs made with prunes, heads made from walnuts and bodies made from figs.  Despite their components, they are not supposed to be eaten!
£2 – £20