My husband and I visited Denmark last December. Yes, that was a bold trip for a California girl to take in the middle of winter. What possessed me?
For years, I planned my trips to optimize good weather. I would scour travel books and internet advice to find the picture-perfect time to visit a new location. Unless you are a winter sports fan, who wants to meet a new city for the first time in the cold, rain, and snow? It turns out that I don’t mind at all. I have discovered that winter travel has charms all its own.
- Cheaper: Outside of the last two weeks in December, hotel reservations and fares to non-tropical locations are generally much cheaper during winter. Simply put, travel is on sale in winter. My round-trip ticket from Los Angeles to Copenhagen cost $400.
- Less Crowded: Tourist sites, restaurants, and hotels are less crowded, or not crowded AT ALL. We had the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum in Copenhagen practically to ourselves one night. Walking through room after room of beautiful art without any other people is magical. Similarly, I was able to view an entire room of Gustav Klimt paintings alone at the Belvedere museum in Vienna in November 2014.
- Seasonal Menus: Good restaurant menus usually change with the seasons. The intrepid winter traveler can sample local food that may not be offered during the height of summer. Think heartier meat dishes, thicker sauces, warm drinks, and holiday specialities for each country. In Denmark, my favorite holiday dessert was risalamande, which is rice pudding served with whipped cream, vanilla, almonds and hot cherry sauce.
- Christmas Decorations: By traveling between mid-November and early December, one can experience the Christmas season around the world with few crowds. I love Christmas, and I enjoy learning about the holiday traditions that are unique to each country. In Denmark, for example, you find nisser everywhere during Christmas. Nisser look like elves or gnomes, and they are known to be mischievous protectors or guardians.
There is a another reason to travel in winter, though. The one that is most important in my opinion. It is hard to get to know a place if you only see it at one time of year. The cultures and traditions of communities vary by season and, yes, by weather. As someone who lives at the beach, I adore our summers with the crowds and the energy they bring. However, I look forward to the off-season just as much, when the town belongs once more to the locals and a few, lucky visitors. The pace of life slows. The restaurants are a place where everyone knows your name. In winter, I feel as if I live in a small community once more.
If one only visits Denmark in July, for instance, how would you truly experience the Danish concept of hygge? Although I have been told there are no equivalent words in English, Hygge loosely translates into a philosophy of coziness. This concept becomes important in a country when the sun rises at 8 AM, and sets at 3:30 PM. You can’t really explain hygge. You must visit Denmark in winter to feel its warmth.