Whether you’re on a city break or a rural retreat, sun is a highly prized commodity among everyday holiday-makers. But there are plenty of places out there that wear winter well.

Here are a few places that are even more beautiful in winter – from a festival in East Asia to the cities of the United States. The cold never bothered us anyway!


1. Iceland

Iceland is a stunning winter holiday cold-spot
(Getty Images/ iStockphoto)

We can only imagine the disappointment of summertime tourists to Iceland that don’t do their homework before flying, and are surprised to find rolling pastures, snow-free cities, and temperatures in the twenties. Iceland only lives up to its name from around September onwards, when much of the country disappears under a thick blanket of white.

There’s plenty to recommend ice-less Iceland, but if you’re after dazzling auroras and glistening ice caves, you might want to select your season with care.

2. Hallstatt, Austria

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One of the most picturesque winter destinations in Europe, if not the world, the alpine village of Hallstatt resembles a host of gingerbread houses coated in a thick layer of icing sugar. Surrounded by mountains, forests, and a large lake, it’s packed with screensaver-worthy scenery in and out of town. The nearby salt mine is closed for winter, but the fairy-tale aesthetic makes Hallstatt a perfect place to just be. Add hot cocoa, snuggly thermals, and medieval-looking dwellings filled with roaring fires.

3. Chicago, USA

Chicago in the winter months is majestic (iStock/PA)

The cities of the Northeast United States suffer notoriously brutal winters, but only Chicago is fortunate enough to lie on the shores of Lake Michigan. One of the five great lakes straddling the US-Canadian border, most of Lake Michigan freezes over every winter, including the Chicago Bay Area. The result is a stunning panorama of thick ice sheets stretching as far as the eye can see, which double as a skating rink.

4. Harbin, China

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If you’ve heard of Harbin, capital of the Chinese province of Heilongjiang, it’s probably for one, very wintry reason. The annual ice festival draws 10 to 15 million visitors every year, to see a wide roster of structures ranging from an icy Great Wall of China to the icy Taj Mahal. At the 2020 edition last January, sculptors crafted 220,000 cubic metres of ice into palaces, snow slides and statues, the tallest of which towered 46 metres into the sky.

5. Transylvania, Romania

Transylvania in winter
Transylvania’s winter landscapes will give you the chills in a good way (iStock/PA)

The spiritual home of Count Dracula, there’s something about the jagged spires and impenetrable pines of Transylvania that flourishes during a long winter evening. Architecturally and atmospherically Gothic, this Romanian region is filled with angular castles perched on rocky mountainsides, overlooking old-fashioned villages connected by treacherous, winding roads. At its best Transylvania is dark, wild, and a little bit sinister.

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