Tea time in Edinburgh
The Scottish capital takes on a charm all of its own during the winter months. A play of light and shadows moves over the city as the day passes by. Built on top of Castle Hill, impressive Edinburgh castle is high on your list of must-visit places. Inside, you will discover the Stone of Destiny on which the kings of Scotland were crowned. In ancient times, it was believed that the stone opened up the stairway to heaven; you are living the Celtic legends. Outside, the panorama from the medieval fortress is simply superb. You could stay forever gazing at the city's ochre sandstone buildings blanketed in snow. Try to be there at 1:00 p.m. for the daily ceremonial firing of the gun; in the past, it was fired so that ships in the estuary could set their clocks.
After this show, perk yourself up with a hearty soup at the Redcoat Café within the castle walls. For dessert, give in to temptation and try the carrot cake made from grated carrot, flour and stirred yogurt.
Next, leave the towers and turrets behind and walk down to the Old Town where you will wander through its maze of narrow streets. The winter brightness creates a mysterious, almost magical atmosphere against the dark facades. Enjoy a break amidst the genteel surroundings of The Dome, an illustrious tea room with resplendent Georgian decor and culinary delights. Sip a delicious Chinese green tea infused with jasmine flowers or an invigorating ginger infusion.
When the sun sets behind the hills, the windows of the city twinkle with the warm glow from the cosy rooms behind. This evening, treat yourself to some modern cuisine at Number One, a Michelin-starred restaurant offering the very best local produce in inventive dishes. If you enjoy trying local fare, the Scottish filet of beef served with sautéed foie gras and broccoli is a real treat to warm the cockles of your heart.
+44 (0)131 225 9846
+44 (0)131 225 9746
14 George Street
+44 (0)131 624 8624
1 Princes Street
+44 (0)131 557 6727
Best time to visit Edinburgh in the snow: January–February
Sauna and fika break in Stockholm
First green European capital, Stockholm shares a soulful sensibility with nature, a phenomenon that comes to light through the 14 islands of the archipelago and its 26 parks. As soon as you arrive, you understand that in winter, the city lives just as much outside as inside. Start by roaming the alleys of Gamla Stan, the old town, with the sprawling royal castle (containing over 600 rooms) as its focal point. The only sound you will hear as you wander through the narrow streets of this district is the crunching of your footsteps in the snow, as visitors are few and far between at this time of year.
At the first shiver of cold, it is time for fika. This Nordic ritual is so much more than the simple coffee break. For the locals, it is an institution, a time to really relax for a while in the middle of the day and switch off from everything that is going on. Choose the cafe at the Fotografiska, the photography museum, for your fika. Comfortably seated in a cosy armchair, admire the sublime view over the sea, the pastel-coloured walls of the city and its snow-white streets.
When the cold bites harder, it is time to snuggle up in a sauna. Those with a hardy constitution might head to Hellasgården Park where tradition dictates that you should start by taking a plunge in the lake's icy waters! After a shower, you seek refuge in the sauna where the 60°C temperature will bring you back to life.
As the day draws to an end, it is time to sample the local fare. Surrounded by cosy cafes, clothes shops and trendy bars, try Swedish meatballs at Meatballs for the People… a friendly, lively atmosphere is guaranteed.
116 45 Stockholm
+46 8 509 005 00
131 33 Nacka
+46 8 716 39 61
Meatballs for the People
116 40 Stockholm
+46 8 466 60 99
Best time to visit Stockholm in the snow: from January to March
Winter traditions in Montreal
Montreal is bursting with things to do at any time of the year. From mid-November, white powdery snow covers the city without curbing Montrealers' enthusiasm one bit. In the daytime, everyone puts on their snowshoes to tackle the trails set out in some city parks. In La Fontaine Park, almost 35 hectares of snow-laden trees, frozen lakes and wide, white clearings await you.
This winter adventure works up an appetite. So, head west out of the city to the town of Rigaud and find yourself a table in a traditional sugar shack. These small cabins, located on the outskirts of big cities, are enjoying growing success. The locals go there to warm up and enjoy a meal. Stop off at Sucrerie de la Montagne, 40 minutes by road from Montreal. In the rustic setting of this small, remote chalet, you can enjoy a fabulous smoked maple ham after tasting a creamy pea soup. For dessert, those with a sweet tooth will love the maple-syrup crepe – it is to die for!
In the evening, make your way to Place des Festivals in the city centre. From the end of November to January, the open-air Luminothérapie exhibition illuminates the Canadian city with contemporary works of art which change every year. Kaleidoscope colours, ephemeral glimmering light and interactive installations brighten up the Montreal night. It is a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike.
La Fontaine Park
Montreal QC H2L 3A7
Sucrerie de la Montagne
300 Chemin Saint-Georges
Rigaud, QC J0P 1P0
Place des Festivals
Montreal, QC H2X 3X5
Best time to visit Montreal in the snow: from December to February
Saint Petersburg's fairy-tale palace
Born of Peter the Great's dream, Saint Petersburg takes on a bright and magical air under a thick blanket of snow. Whether you are an experienced art lover or a complete novice, hurry along to the Hermitage, one of the most famous museums in the world. After climbing the magnificent imperial staircase, you set off in search of Catherine II's incredible Peacock Clock and then the ‘Madonna Litta' by Leonardo da Vinci. As you walk through the rooms, take in the full glory of this resplendent Russian baroque setting.
Outside, the Neva River, frozen at this time of year, is a reminder that the Baltic magically transforms into a sea of ice. Make the most of daylight hours – it gets dark at about 4 o'clock – and stroll down roads with perfectly aligned facades. Classical, Baroque, Art Nouveau – the city is a rich canvas of architectural styles.
Make sure you set time aside to perform some fancy moves on the ice rink on New Holland Island. From November to March, almost 2,000 m² of ice cover the lawns of this recently restored park.
Evening arrives and you should head to Blok, an iconic restaurant and flagship of Russian nouvelle cuisine under the auspices of chef Alexander Rappoport. Its Odessa spaghetti with a touch of caviar and spicy sauce will reveal the warm, wild flavours of the North, giving you an amazing dining experience in this Russian city.
2 Palace Square
Saint Petersburg 190000
+7 812 710 9079
New Holland Park
Potomkinskaya Ulitsa 4
Saint Petersburg 191123
+7 812 415-40-40
Best time to visit Saint Petersburg in the snow: from November to March
Alone in the streets of Prague
In winter, the ancient city of the kings of Bohemia lives by its unique charm. As dawn breaks, take a solitary walk over Charles Bridge; its 21 Baroque statues will watch over you. As the winter mist swirls around this 14th century construction, the banks of the Vltava River are shrouded in mystery. It is a moment of pure magic. Behind you, the old town with its Gothic tower slowly starts to stir and the medieval astronomical clock chimes into life.
The Café Slavia beckons you in for a delicious hot chocolate with a panoramic view over the castle and Malá Strana thrown in for free. Generations of intellectuals from the last century have gathered within its Art Deco walls.
From this vantage point, watch the sun as it moves across the sky, playing on the rooftops and the pink, anise-green and pastel-blue facades. Your stroll becomes a time for contemplation as you enter Josefov, the Jewish quarter with its museum and old cemetery with 10,000 graves. Prague is just as stunning at night, which in winter falls at about 4:30 p.m.; after that time, the City of a Thousand Spires is aglow with light.
For a bit of warmth, do as the locals do and book yourself in to the Bernard Praga Beer Spa. Imagine relaxing in a wooden bathtub filled with hot water while enjoying a refreshing local beer in the heart of a Czech winter – it makes for a memorable experience.
Smetanovo nábř. 1012/2
110 00 Staré Město
+420 224 218 493
U Staré školy 141/1
110 00 Staré Město
+420 222 749 211
Bernard Praga Beer Spa
110 00 Staré Město
+420 777 00 18 18
Best time to visit Prague in the snow: from December to February