Why you'd leave a hot summer for a winter destination

With the chance of snow and fewer tourists, it's the time to travel.

Why you'd leave a hot summer for a winter destination

On the lower east side of Manhattan there’s a famous delicatessen called Katz.

It’s been there since 1888 and it’s famous for its sandwiches, particularly pastrami and brisket; less so for its coffee.

On any given day in the tourist season, the queue to get into Katz can extend out into East Houston Street and at least 100 metres up the road.

But if you’re there in winter, there’s a really good chance you’ll get straight in. You may even be lucky enough to sit at the very table where Sally faked her orgasm in front of Harry in When Harry Met Sally.

katz's deli

Now, take a flight over to Paris and head to the Louvre.

If it’s spring or summer and the peak of the tourist season, you’ll find yourself in a long queue to get in, and once you’re standing in the same room as the Mona Lisa, you’ll be trying to glimpse her over dozens of heads. Or you may give up.

But if you go in winter, you might need to wait only a few minutes – and no elbowing required – to get directly in front of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, and perhaps wonder what all the hype is about. But that’s another story.

Get the gist?

Summer, spring and autumn destinations are popular. That’s when most Europeans, Americans and Australians travel. If you go in winter, you miss most of the crowds. Not all of them, but a lot.

People argue that winters in America and Europe are bleak and who’d want to be out and about in rain, the driving winds or perhaps snow?

philadelphia winter

Who? Me.

Before I flew into New York in early January, I was concerned at the prospect of sightseeing in weather forecast to be as low as -18C. And that was before you added in the wind chill factor.

My concerns were groundless.

Dress appropriately and the only thing that might get chilly is your nose.

And if there’s anything more exciting than walking around Manhattan when there’s two feet of snow on the side of the footpaths, ice caps drifting down the Hudson River and frozen lakes in Central Park, then we’re living on different planets.

central park new york winter

Fewer queues mean you can see more.

The tiny coffee shops might have a table available instead of a queue at the window peering in.

Art galleries and museums can be accessed quickly. You can get tickets to the theatre, to an NBA game, the football, the ice hockey.

In Europe, getting a seat at a soccer game is rarely a problem, but you won’t get one in summer because they don’t play.

And accommodation is generally cheaper in winter, apart from Christmas and New Year.

Travelling in winter also allows you to make spur-of-the-moment changes to travel plans. You’ll be more likely to find alternative accommodation, train tickets to that little village in the mountains or seats on a cruise boat.

I know this because my family made late changes to our itinerary during a recent winter trip to Portugal. Airbnb bookings, train travel and a boat trip up the Douro River were not a problem to organise at short notice.

douro river in winter

You’ll also be dealing with locals who are not as stressed by the tourist hordes. There will be fewer ‘urgers’ trying to get your business, fewer pick-pockets.

Travel agents will perhaps suggest you try the ‘shoulder season’ – between April and June, or September to October – when the weather is generally mild and crowds aren’t at their worst.

lisbon winter

There’s truth to that, but it won’t be as cheap as in winter, or as delightfully uncrowded. Nor will it be as exciting as seeing snow on the ground and perhaps even experiencing a white Christmas. 

Now that’s something you don’t see in Oz.



    To make a comment, please register or login
    24th Feb 2018
    Sorry not convincing! I prefer April to June, pre season, spring, quiet and yet pleasant.
    24th Feb 2018
    Yep did go to europe in winter and it was very cold. Even with layers under my coat !! Not inducive to lolling around for hours outdoors sorry. When the misty rain with chips of ice started in amsterdam we simply headed indoors so although it had its awesome moments the weather did curtail many moments of sightseeing. There were still queues in Paris at the Louvre and Eiffel tower but luckily we're not touresty people so did'nt care but i would'nt travel in winter again. The in between seasons are our choice with mild weather as it makes for more enjoyable walking with the exception of scandanavia which we visited in summer. Oh and you can pre purchase 'skip the queue' tickets to iconic spots and avoid queues. We did this in the Vatican succesfully and went straight in. All comes down to what you want to experience. The other downside to winter travel is being bundled up warm for outdoors and then having to deal with over heated indoor venues where you strip off and carry heavy gear around.

    24th Feb 2018
    Not for me - born in Europe and I had 19 winters, one in the army. Never again in winter;
    going over to Europe every year round about Aug/Sept, best time for me and my ageing bones. OK, I give you that, it is cheaper in winter, but do you want to be crook over there?
    My reason for going is my mother is still living there and we celebrate her birthday in Aug.
    despite her real one being in Feb. A bit like Queen's Birthday holiday in Oz, eh?
    24th Feb 2018
    My wife and I spent 3 weeks in France (Paris and Lyon) last year, beginning on 28 Aug and we found few crowds and mainly good weather. We had been to Paris previously in April 2011 and it was wet and cold so recommend the other side of their summer when all the locals have returned from their summer holidays and are back at work. I suppose it is the luck of the draw but having traveled to Europe a few times previously in their autumn we always found the weather less extreme and though getting colder the days were still fine and sunny.

    25th Feb 2018
    Agree with your comments about the Louvre - I was there many years ago (in late September) and had the Mona Lisa basically all to myself. Was back there in June 2015 and couldn't believe the crowds!
    26th Feb 2018
    Winter is a wonderful time to explore Europe. I'll never forget a few magical January days in Venice. The sky was cloudless and there was no smells emanating form the water systems. An overcoat. gloves, beanie and a scarf. It was awesome to be on a train ploughing through fields of snow in southern Bavaria. Walked straight into the Tower of London.

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