WHITE WINTER GETAWAYS
TEXT: NANE STEINHOFF, AUSTRIAN NATIONAL TOURIST OFFICE
‘Tis the season to embrace cosiness and togetherness. And what better way to do that than to travel to hidden winter gems where visitors can leave their busy everyday lives behind? We picked three getaway ideas in Switzerland, Austria and Germany that embody white Christmas to the fullest and should be on everyone’s bucket list this winter.
Mysterious castles: Romance in Germany
One of the most famous sights in Germany is probably Neuschwanstein Castle. The Romanesque Revival palace sits on top of a hill in the middle of Bavaria and is a beautiful sight. In winter, endless snow-covered forests make this magical place even more captivating. Furthermore, far less visitors are to be expected in the winter months than in summer. So, why not take the train from Munich and enjoy a picturesque journey through Alpine villages and forested, snow-covered mountains?
Another magical German winter destination we recommend is the Mosel Valley in southwestern Germany. Home to many quaint towns, it is also famous for its numerous storybook castles that make the region a perfect winter destination. Think rivers, snow-covered hills, castles and stunning old-town centres with quaint half-timbered buildings.
Luxurious and sustainable: The Winter Village in Switzerland
This winter, The Chedi Andermatt in Switzerland, a five-star hotel that brings together authentic Swiss Alpine chic and Asian style, has transformed its sunny courtyard into a traditional mountain winter village, offering hearty food and drink and festive experiences rooted in nostalgia to guests of all ages. Walking through the Winter Village, guests will find themselves surrounded by tall fir trees as they amble down snow-covered paths leading to a real forest, with small clearings and traditional Swiss and Scandinavian cabins to explore. Experiences include intimate dining at The Chalet and The Kota – a typical Scandinavian hut built around a central firepit – a Finnish barrel sauna and hot tub, and the lively Village Square.
The Calet, a winter pop-up restaurant, in Andermatt, serves up Swiss specialties such as raclette and cheese fondue, while its new heated lounge sits up to 40 guests and impresses with cosy gathering spots around open fireplaces. Located in a separate cottage, The Kota is available to book for small events, and as the sun sets, up to 16 guests can enjoy a private dinner around the grill. Before a hearty meal, visitors can head to the Finnish Sauna and The Hot Tub, too. Hidden away and overlooking the fir forest, the barrel sauna can seat up to four guests at one time, who can choose from a variety of infusions all inspired by the Alps and fir forest. Guests can embark on a complete Finnish experience with a visit to the out-of-sight hot tub, which can seat up to five guests at a time.
Last but not least, at the heart of The Winter Village, visitors can find the Village Square, with market booths that sell local craftsmanship and serve festive treats such as mulled wine, Champagne, tea and punch, sweet crêpes and savoury galettes. For the younger guests, on selected afternoons, The Chedi Bear Club will take excursions to The Winter Village for games, Guetzlen and handicrafts, and to meet the roaming llamas. The Chedi Andermatt has worked in collaboration with a local llama farm for a number of years, and recently adopted a friendly llama.
Staying true to The Chedi Andermatt’s sustainable ethos, every cabin in The Winter Village has been made with local wood, whilst the Village makes the most of the natural light shining through the trees, using only a few additional lanterns to illuminate the Courtyard. Fir trees have been planted in pots, so they can be re-used around the town of Andermatt after the festive season. The hotel will even make a special donation, from the proceeds of The Winter Village, to NGO ‘Wald & Klima’ at the end of the winter season, to aid the organisation in their work to support reforestation and the forest development project Ursern. What’s not to love?
For all ages: Austria’s winter wonderland
In Austria, you can stand on a snow-covered summit in the morning, before embracing the freshly groomed slopes before everyone else and stopping at a mountain hut at lunch time. And the mulled wine and crackling fire awaiting you at your cosy hotel after a fun-packed day out. Austria holds firm as a top skiing destination, and it’s easy to see why. Skiing breaks in Austria are fun and authentic, the mountain resorts are great value for money, and many have snow-sure pistes well into springtime. And let’s not forget about the traditional mountain restaurants, the Kaiserschmarren and the legendary Austrian ‘Gemütlichkeit’.
Even better: there’s a family-friendly winter option to be found almost everywhere. A prime example of this can be found in the popular ski region of the Alpbachtal Wildschönau. Here, the Zwergenland is ideal for families trying out skiing for the first time and guarantees plenty of fun in the snow. Some of the many fun attractions here include a snowball playground, a large igloo, a ski carousel, a photo wall and three magic carpets.
In a culinary sense, Austria has a lot to offer throughout the year, but it is in winter when it becomes even more special. Let’s take a look at the Market of the Earth, for example. Located in Vöcklabruck in Upper Austria, the sellers on this market need to meet certain criteria to be accepted. Only items produced within a radius of a maximum of 40 kilometres, and according to traditional methods, are allowed at the stalls. The Market of the Earth takes place on selected dates and visitors can find everything there from juices to vinegars and oils, teas, herbs, vegetables, lamb, dairy and grain products – the perfect items for last-minute Christmas presents.
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