Happy Holidays, Frohe Feiertage, Joyeuses fêtes, ¡Felices Fiestas!

However you say it, the holidays are celebrated in style in Europe—and you and the kids are invited
Madrid  Prado Museum
After a day at the museums, warm up with a mug of chocolatey goodness in Madrid’s Chocolatería San Ginés (Digital Vision)

From the snow-laden slopes of the Alps and shimmering Aurora Borealis in the northernmost skies to the cozy chocolaterias of Spain, Europe offers families a place and a reason to celebrate the joys of winter—thrills, chills, spills, and that glorious feeling when you step into a fire-warmed room after a day of snow play.

So strap on your skis and snowboards, lace up your skates, and get ready for the best that Europe has for winter-loving families, including cheaper flights and generally fewer crowds. If you've thought of Europe as a summer destination only, here are 15 joyous reasons to think otherwise.

Best Spot for Hot Chocolate: Madrid, Spain
Spain is rightfully known as one of the top spots on the planet to indulge in hot chocolate. Find out why at Chocolatería San Ginés, Madrid's veritable hot chocolate institution (Pasadizo de San Ginés 11, next to the Church of San Ginés). This chocolateria has been around for more than 100 years, frequented by all ages in the afternoons to stave off hunger while waiting for those 10 p.m. Madrid dinners, and by older crowds late into the evening after a night on the town. Fact is, dipping fresh churros (forget the ones in Mexico and fast-food joints—they don't come close) into sinfully rich hot chocolate is good any time of day or night.

Best Something for Everyone Ski & Snowboard Resort: Val Gardena, Italy
Val Gardena, set in the magnificently humbling terrain of the Dolomites, offers one of the largest ski networks anywhere, and what is considered perhaps the best snowboarding area in Europe. Whether your family has teens or tots, this is an ideal spot for a mountain vacation. Selva, with easy access to some of the area's best runs, is the perfect village base. If you're skiers, head to the Alpe di Suisi for family skiing in expansive, picturesque terrain. Riders can challenge themselves on the slopes or at one of several snow parks. The best snow here is often in February and March, making it perfect for U.S. school breaks. And it's not just about skiing and riding. There's phenomenal food in an Austrian-Italian tradition; proximity to Bolzano, a city offering multinational culture and excellent shopping; and Selva's own nightlife—great if your kids are in their late teens and 20s, or if you want to go out on your own. Add to that the welcoming Italian people who believe that playing on mountains is definitely a family affair, and this might be paradise. www.val-gardena.net

Published: 22 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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