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1st Time Traveler!Winter in Europe: Destinations

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1. Posted by SofiaQui (Budding Member 6 posts) 22w Star this if you like it!

Well, hello everyone! I'm planning my first trip to Europe, in winter ( January, Feb and March). I'm trying not to complicate my journey and I want to dedicate time to every country/city I visit.
I need help with the following: I was planning on visit Spain and France, but in a recent post I saw that those countries do not offer much in that season, so I need suggestions where to travel in winter, and wich places are worth visiting, how much time..etc.
I hope you can help me :)
Thank you!

2. Posted by Beausoleil (Respected Member 324 posts) 22w Star this if you like it!

I've never been to Spain in winter so can't comment, but there certainly is a lot to do in France in the winter. It would help if you would tell us what kind of things you want to see and do, and perhaps where in these countries you plan to go. With that information, we can give you suggestions.

Whatever you choose to do, I hope you enjoy your trip.

3. Posted by harbinger (Budding Member 39 posts) 22w Star this if you like it!

I was in South West France the last week of February and was spoiled with options to do. But that depends on your interests of course - if you have a desire to sunbathe or snorkel, then you're probably out of luck.
As a general rule, the major cities are pretty well weather independent with lots of indoor activities, and a surprising number of the mid sized cities offer a good amount to do, especially if you are interested in museums, art, culture and/or shopping.
In fact, I would argue that the winter months in which you intend to travel are among the best to visit major tourist attractions as you'll avoid the crowds. As an example, we stayed in Carcassonne - which gets 4 million tourists a year - and we pretty well had the place to ourselves (especially after dark). You'll have a different tourist experience to those travelling in peak summer season, but it could well be a better one, and almost certainly a cheaper one.

4. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5088 posts) 22w Star this if you like it!

For me, winter is really the best time to go to Spain. I can recommend any- and everywhere in Andalucia (the far south of Spain). For example, March in Ronda is perfect, with the almond trees blossoming, but the tourist hordes not yet having arrived. Sevilla, Granada, Cadiz, Tarifa, etc - all relatively quiet, with mostly sunny 20+ degree days (of course that's not guaranteed, and you can be unlucky - but so far it's been overwhelmingly what I've experienced) to bask in. Also perfect hiking weather in the Sierra de Grazalema.

5. Posted by SofiaQui (Budding Member 6 posts) 22w Star this if you like it!

Quoting Beausoleil

I've never been to Spain in winter so can't comment, but there certainly is a lot to do in France in the winter. It would help if you would tell us what kind of things you want to see and do, and perhaps where in these countries you plan to go. With that information, we can give you suggestions.

Whatever you choose to do, I hope you enjoy your trip.

Thank you for you comment! It's so helpful. I intent to go around the city and see the historical buildings, or museums, things like that. I was planning to go from Barcelona to Montpellier, and then visit Toulouse, then I'm figuring out where to and...well, I like to do a lot of planning, besides I've never been to France, and I want to discover those little places that are worth seeing.

:)

6. Posted by SofiaQui (Budding Member 6 posts) 22w Star this if you like it!

Quoting harbinger

I was in South West France the last week of February and was spoiled with options to do. But that depends on your interests of course - if you have a desire to sunbathe or snorkel, then you're probably out of luck.
As a general rule, the major cities are pretty well weather independent with lots of indoor activities, and a surprising number of the mid sized cities offer a good amount to do, especially if you are interested in museums, art, culture and/or shopping.
In fact, I would argue that the winter months in which you intend to travel are among the best to visit major tourist attractions as you'll avoid the crowds. As an example, we stayed in Carcassonne - which gets 4 million tourists a year - and we pretty well had the place to ourselves (especially after dark). You'll have a different tourist experience to those travelling in peak summer season, but it could well be a better one, and almost certainly a cheaper one.

Oh! Thank you so much!
Can you tell me, wich route did you made? Wich cities you visited and recommend? I'm not much of a swimmer so it won't bother me if I miss on snorkel haha!
It's like you say, I'm more interest in museums art and culture...and book shopping, and finding a nice place to read! :)

7. Posted by harbinger (Budding Member 39 posts) 22w Star this if you like it!

Happy to be of help!
The route you take really depends on the way you intend to travel. We hired a car for the week and based ourselves in Carcassonne, as the major focus of our trip was to explore the fabulous Cathar castles in the surrounding region (a Christian sect who were persecuted by the Catholic Church in the 13th centuries). I've seen a lot of castles in my time, but Peyrepertuse is the most impressive fortification I have ever experienced, and is perched on a dragon's back ridge high above the surrounding region.
We also visited the enchantingly pretty coastal town of Collioure - home to many Impressionist artists around the turn of the 20th century and famous for its delicious local anchovies (thanks for that tip, beausoleil). There are also very pleasant 'second division' cities towns such as Narbonne with interesting history and good bird spotting in the lagoon, and Cite de l'Espace in Toulouse will allow you to rediscover your inner child (you get to experience what a moonwalk would feel like, clamber through a relica of the Mir space station, and after 7 hours, we still hadn't experienced it all).
If you don't hire a car, then both France and Spain are both well served by buses and trains. On a previous trip, I based myself in gorgeous Avignon and explored the surrounding region by public transport. That entire area is steeped in Roman history - Orange, Nimes and Pont du Gard are just three stunning examples - as well as fascinating Papal history (Avignon was the seat of the Antipope during the Papal Schism that bizarrely gave rise to two popes). I even went swimming (if not snorkelling) under at iconic aqueduct at Pont du Gard ... but then that was early October :)
Barcelona is a vibey, feel good city that's proudly Catalan, and feels very different to most other Spanish cities. I think you could spend months there without running out of interesting things to do, and visiting out of season, you wouldn't have to contend with the crowds that besiege it in warmer months - I visited in early November, and it was lovely. It's worth visiting for Gaudi's architecture alone, and the Sagrada Famiglia cathedral is truly one of the wonders of the world.
At the time of year you are planning to visit, I would stay south for the majority of the time, because the weather will be better, but in my opinion, you really can't visit France and miss out on visiting Paris. Keep an eye out on the SNCF rail site, which offers regular special fares that are terrific value.
Hope that's enough to get you started, and feel free to revert with further queries. Researching and planning is part of the joy of the travel experience :)

8. Posted by Beausoleil (Respected Member 324 posts) 22w Star this if you like it!

If you like books and are near Carcassonne, take at least a half day to explore Montolieu, the city of books. Don't take the word "city" too literally. It's a small village about 15 miles northwest of Carcassonne. The streets are lined with bookstores (every language with French predominant) and most have a place to sit and look through the books. There is also a very nice, though small, Museum of Printing that we enjoyed.
http://www.discover-carcassonne.com/en/montolieu-village-books-9
http://www.montolieu-livre.fr/le-musee

These two web sites give more information. The second one is in French but if you right click, you should be able to choose to translate the web site. If not, use Google Translate or something similar. The hours are obvious even in French.

We ate at Les Anges au plafond (The Angels on the Ceiling) so be sure to check out the ceiling. There are, indeed, angels up there. They make their own bread and the place is welcoming and the food very good. It is also quite reasonable. http://www.lesangesauplafond.com/

You could spend a month just in that area. We did and never ran out of things to do. The area is beautiful and there is a lot to visit. BTW, I'll second a visit to Collioure. It is stunning. We first discovered it when our daughter asked to see colorful fishing boats. We were hooked and have been back many times.

It you go as far as Collioure, hop on the D81a and visit the Village of Fishers (Le Village de Pecheurs) between Canet-Plage and Saint-Cyprien-Plage. It is fascinating and also a gorgeous drive. When the weather is clear (usually), you can see Mt. Canigou in the distance covered with snow and also wind surfers (in wet suits) in the Mediterranean on the other side of the road. Lots of free parking.
http://www.ot-canet.fr/articles-1/39-7-le-village-de-pecheurs/

Have a great trip.
http://www.ot-canet.fr/articles-1/39-7-le-village-de-pecheurs/

9. Posted by MeganRose_SU (First Time Poster 1 posts) 22w Star this if you like it!

Spain has such diverse climates in each regions it depends what kind of thing you want out of winter travel. There are lots of mountains and tons of ski hills which are still going strong this year!

Right now I am in Valencia Spain for their annual Las Fallas festival, which is basically fireworks everyday, and beautiful street art and statues which they will set on fire at the end of this week. I make an affort to be in Valencia in March just for it!

10. Posted by Daisymarshall (Budding Member 26 posts) 22w Star this if you like it!

South of France can have lovely weather in March around 60-70 degrees. Having said that, France is beautiful in the winter too. I've only visited Spain in the summer so can't really comment on that.

Have you considered Italy?