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Looking for somewhere to escape and soak up the winter magic without bumping in to all the usual crowds? From the Pyrenees to Scandinavia, these little-known European towns are truly enchanting at this time of the year and have yet to make their break on the international stage.
Located on the shores of the eponymous Lake Hallstatt, this dreamy Austrian village is a maze of 16th century houses, replete with cozy cafés and cute shops. Get the funicular to the Skywalk Hallstatt viewing platform for a romantic view of the lake and valley buried in the snow beneath you.
Also known by its German name Villnöß, this tiny village is located in northern Italy in the South Tyrol region with views of the Dolomite mountains, a UNESCO world heritage site. Like something straight out of The Sound of Music, the Funes Valley is a jaw-dropping alpine complete with cozy log cabins to cozy up in after a day’s hiking.
Tucked away on the border with France, Puigcerdà is the capital of the Catalan region of La Cerdanya and the ultimate winter weekend break for every Barcelona resident. Surrounded by mountains, it has quick access to ski slopes and scenic alpine walks, while the town has a veritable buzz at weekends when the city-folk appear.
The remarkably well-preserved Medieval old-town of Bamberg has earned it UNESCO World Heritage status and as you stroll along its impressive baroque facades and enchanting Rose Garden it’s easy to see why. Like something out of a fairy-tale, Bamberg also boasts some 11 breweries and a rich cultural program.
Tucked away in the valley of the Low Tatras mountains, Jasná is in fact one of Slovakia’s most popular ski resorts come winter time. A quiet, family-orientated village, those looking for a little more action can hop down to Liptovský Mikuláš for bowling, ice-hockey and lots of cheap Slovakian fare.
If what you want is a snowy winter wonderland, Damüls should be just what you’re looking for thanks to its record beating 9.3m of snowfall each year – the highest in Europe. And with everything from Nordic skiing to tobogganing and of course, skiing, there are a million and one ways to enjoy the powder in Damüls.
A picture-perfect fishing village located on the shores of the Lofoten archipelago, Reine is a peaceful winter retreat which offers visitors the possibility to stay in converted fishermen huts overlooking the water. The winter is great for scenic mountain walks and cozying up with a good book in front of the fireplace, with the mountains as your backdrop.
Located north of the Arctic Circle, Abisko is the ideal place from which to get a glimpse of the magnificent Northern Lights. During the day time escape on a snow-mobile to explore the mountains or opt for a dog-sleigh ride and a night in the ice hotel for something a little more romantic.
If you’re not ready for the mountains but want somewhere to enjoy frosty mornings and the smell of an open fire, the Costwolds are a real treat this time of the year. In 2006, Kingham was voted ‘England’s favourite village’ thanks to its rows of endlessly cute limestone cottages and rustic English pubs offering heart-warming winter pies and real ale.
Located in the French Savoy region, the small village of Notre Dame de Bellecombe is nestled between two mountain ranges in the Val d’Arly. Offering spectacular vistas of the Mont Blanc, the village has managed to preserve its architecture despite having direct access to the slopes. When you’re not skiing make time to discover the gastronomy of the Savoie, rich in cheese cured meats and wine.
Located in the scenic Val d’Aran in the middle of the Spanish Pyrenees, the small village of Arties is surrounded by green meadows and snowy peaks at this time of the year. The hamlet is lined with colourful houses connected by old cobbled streets that give it a feel of centuries gone by. Seemingly disconnected from the world, Arties is ideal for romantic escapes or solo retreats for time to think and breathe in the fresh mountain air.