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Is a winter holiday in Europe too cold for South African children? With a bit of research and preparation, we don’t think it should be off the cards. In fact, we think your children will love the adventure.

A winter holiday in Europe brings all kinds of new experiences for your children. Apart from a new way of dressing, think thick winter jackets, scarves, gloves, there’s  snowball fights, ice skating in the open air and sleigh rides.

“Parents enquiring about travel to Europe with their families in winter are often concerned that the cold might put a damper on their holiday fun. The truth is that travelling to Europe in winter can offer your children the most unforgettable experiences. From magical Christmas markets to fairy tale snowy wonderlands, Europe, when it’s colder, has a lot going for it. All it takes is the right preparation for all ages to deal with the chill,” says Nicky Potgieter, Flight Centre.

Tips for the best experience and the reasons to travel in winter

Potgieter shares five great tips to explore Europe in winter with your kids in tow, and explains some of the benefits of holidaying in winter, Europe’s off-season.

Ho Ho Ho… there’s no better place to meet Santa than at the Christmas Markets

Most cities and villages in Europe are proud of their Christmas markets, featuring towering Christmas trees decorated with twinkling lights, delicious goodies and cheerful music.

The most popular markets are a true feast for children as they will be able to meet Santa Claus and even Rudolph and his gang. Children can also expect true adventure lands with Ferris wheels, tobogganing, ice skating, circus shows and other entertainment. The Stuttgart Christmas Market in Germany even has a warm outdoor pool.

Dress for success

Cold kids will unquestionably become grumpy and tearful. The key is to dress for success if you want to have fun while exploring the European cities in winter.

Invest in a few quality winter pieces before you travel. The items on which you definitely should not skimp are warm and waterproof boots, as well as a proper insulating winter coat.

Don’t worry about feeling cold when you’re indoors though. Throughout Europe, indoors areas are always well heated during the winter. So, dress your little ones in layers that are easy to remove when you arrive in a restaurant or museum.

No more queues – make the most of the smaller crowds

Travelling to Europe’s cities in winter will allow you to experience the city of your choice without the crowds. Fewer tourists mean you waste less time lining up in front of a museum or other attraction while trying to get your children to behave. Instead, you can spend more time exploring the popular attractions and soaking up the culture.

In Paris, you won’t need to line up to enter The Louvre nor will you have to brave a snaking queue to ascend the Eiffel Tower. that make Paris such a beautiful destination.

Venice has become notoriously overrun during peak season. Come winter-time, however, the tourists stay away and the true charm of the city becomes apparent. The canals are quiet, hotels offer discounted rates, and you can visit the popular attractions without the risk of getting poked in the eye with a selfie stick.

Ski or take a sleigh-ride through the winter wonderlands

Almost as good as Disneyland … a skiing holiday ticks all the boxes for young adventurers. Your children’s eyes will light up at the mere mention of snowmen, sleigh rides, toboggans, zooming down the ski slopes and let’s not forget: roasted marshmallows.

Even if you prefer not to go on a week-long skiing holiday, combining a Europe city trip with a few days’ in the snow can make for a fantastic family holiday.

If skiing is not for you, seeing the snow-capped mountains and exploring the charming little villages in the Alps is still a great way to enjoy winter.

Enjoy hot chocolate and museum days

Although it’s always a great idea to explore Europe’s cities on foot, during winter, you’ll probably want to heat up a few times’ during the day. Just pop into one of the roadside cafés for a hot chocolate or tea every now and then to thaw out and give yourself and your children a bit of a boost.

Or you can explore some of Europe’s genuinely child-friendly museums. In these museums, you’re unlikely to see a ‘please don’t touch’ sign.

In Brussels, you can visit the Musée des Enfants (the children’s museum), which is all about education through fun. Plunge your hands into gloop, crawl through mirrored tunnels or sign up for an educational workshop.

In Amsterdam, the NEMO Science Centre is a modern, interactive science museum where children can take part in exciting experiments, while the Van Gogh Museum teaches children about art in a fun way.

Also in Paris, there are a great variety of interesting museums. The Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (Museum of Sciences and Industry) is not only the largest science museum in Europe, it’s also one of the best kid-friendly museums in Paris. And, even a museum such as The Louvre is not off limits for kids. The Louvre organises a treasure hunt with clues, puzzles and riddles. Your children will have a great time hunting the hidden treasure and navigating through the museum while learning about Da Vinci and Michelangelo.

So, is a winter holiday to Europe too cold for our South African kids? “Definitely not, as long as you plan ahead,” says Potgieter. “Winter can be a truly magical time for a family trip to Europe.”

Child magazine