Seeing a city from a new, less crowded perspective is one of the top reasons to visit Europe in February. There’s nothing quite like kicking back in front of a roaring fire after a day of exploring famous landmarks – which you’ll often have all to yourself – with a wonderful, wintry backdrop. So give yourself a relaxing treat to start the year off right – read our guide to some of the best last minute February holiday destinations.
Berlin becomes a whole other city in the colder months. Ice-skating becomes the locals’ pastime of choice, pavements are cleared of outdoor seating to reveal ample space to perambulate the city’s streets, and Berlin’s expanse of bars, museums and theatres become the epicentre of activity. The newly reopened Staatsoper House on Unter den Linden has a major programme of productions taking place in February. Such as Richard Wagner’s Tristan Und Isolde and Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata. While the Berlin Film Festival takes place from February 15 – 25, opening with Wes Anderson’s new animated production, The Isle of Dogs. Bundle up and wander around town seeing the city’s iconic sights (including the Brandenburg Gate and Berlin’s countless world-class museums), before warming yourself up with the area’s traditional cuisine, which includes schnitzels, pretzels and giant steins of beer.
Ah, Bruges. The superbly-preserved medieval city is just the place to relax and explore after the frenetic Christmas rush. If you visit Bruges in the winter months, you’ll find it substantially less crowded without the crush of fair-weather tourists – and plenty of the city’s attractions are open all year round, including chocolate shops, theatres and museums. Bundle up with the blankets provided for a cosy carriage ride around the city, scale the 366 stairs to the top of the Belfry Tower for incredible views, or wander across picturesque cobbled streets and misty canals. Reward your efforts by tucking into a steaming cone of fries from the frite carts found around the city centre. If you’d rather eat indoors, the Flemish delicacy Carbonade Famande, a beef and onion stew slow-cooked in beer that’s also known as stoverij or stoofvlees, is the ultimate winter warmer available in lots of restaurants around the centre.
Leiden, The Netherlands
Leiden, with its sprawling canal network, cosy pubs and 17th-century architecture is the perfect year-round retreat. Possessing a charm not unlike Amsterdam, the city’s impressive collection of museums are a must-see, while the weekly Saturday food market is the perfect place to pick up a delicious Stroopwaffel from one of the local stalls. In winter, the canals will often freeze over, instigating impromptu ice rinks (as well as outdoor seating) all over the city. While the water is said to be thick enough to hold, you’ll have just as much fun watching such a strange phenomenon from the side-lines, and you’ll often find the pavements all the less crowded for it. Spend an afternoon doing the Leiden poetry walk – a series of over 100 poetic murals located all over the city, before catching a canal-side sunset that will make you feel as inspired as former-resident Rembrandt.
Pssst… Book a crossing from Dover to Calais, Hull to Rotterdam or Hull to Zeebrugge by 31st January and receive one of our fantastic Early Booking Offers, from a £40 fuel voucher to 10% off your fare!