Amsterdam Light Festival - Nemanja Pantelic

Three of Europe’s Best Winter Festivals

With the bright winter sun rising over frozen canals, winter is one of the most beautiful seasons to see your favourite European cities. And while the long summer days of lazing at the best of the festivals may be over for this year, the colder months bring a whole host of exciting events with them. From awe-inspiring illuminations in Amsterdam to curious literary themed carnivals in France, there’s a full programme of activities to keep the whole family entertained throughout the iciest of seasons.

Amsterdam Light Festival – 1st Dec to 21st Jan 2018

Amsterdam Light Festival - Julio Greff
Image by Julio Greff

As if Amsterdam wasn’t beautiful enough, every winter the city’s striking canals are literally put in the spotlight during the Amsterdam Light Festival, which showcases the creativity of some of the most innovative artists, architects and designers in Europe. The fifth edition of this unique event will take place throughout December until the 21st of January 2018, and will see iconic locations across the city come alive with illuminations. Take a walk around the centre of town and witness dazzling light sculptures dance on the River Amstel, floodlit bridges around the Canal Ring and breathtaking installations harnessed above the Herengracht.

Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival, Bruges – 18th Nov to 7th January 2018

Ice sculpture festival, Bruges - Suzanne Gielis
Image by Suzanne Gielis

There aren’t many settings more atmospheric than medieval city of Bruges, with its old-fashioned cobbled streets, historic Belfry, horse-drawn carts and cosy pubs and cafes. At Christmas, the Belgian city becomes a winter wonderland, boasting one of the best Christmas markets in the world, as well as an open air ice rink and the scintillating Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival by the main square. Luckily for people in Hull and East Yorkshire, Bruges just a short trip across the North Sea. Explore whole worlds carved from ice, featuring vibrant dragons and towering ships – or even try your hand at creating your own sculpture, before stopping off at the fully functioning ice bar for a hot drink.

Carnival de Nice – 17th Feb to 3rd March 2018

Nice carnival - HrodebertRobertus
Image by HrodebertRobertus

While winter brings so many things to look forward to, come February, everyone is usually feeling the chill. If you’re craving blue skies and azure seas, head to the South of France to see off winter and welcome spring in style in the French Riviera. Nice is usually synonymous with summer, but did you know it’s also home to one of the world’s best winter carnivals? Around the gorgeous Bay of Angels and quintessential promenade, the post-Christmas Carnival de Nice promises to be an event filled with excitement. Venture off on the space odyssey of a lifetime as the 2018 theme is ‘King of Space’, inspired by the exhilarating tales of Jules Verne and Georges Méliès. . The carnival will open with a beautiful parade and light show on 17th February and the festivities will continue all the way through to 3rd March for the heady finale: the burning of the “king”.

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Featured image by Nemanja Pantelic.