Tallinn, Estonia

With its Gothic spires and conical snowy roofs, cozy beerhalls, and vintage-look bars, Tallinn is one of the ultimate winter cities. Visitors can duck into a cool coffee shop after strolling the old town, seeing the atmospheric Dominican monastery and the castle on Toompea hill (see tourism.Tallinn.ee). The skating rink on Harju street is next to St Nicholas’ church. There are illuminated cross-country ski trails at the Pirita Health Track (piritaspordikeskus. ee), 15 minutes outside the city.

• Ryanair flies from Luton, Stansted, Manchester, Brussels Airlines from Edinburgh and Brsitol, FlyBe from East Midlands, and EasyJet from Gatwick. Returns in February from about £85. Hotel St Petersbourg (+372 6, 286500, hotelstpetersbourg.com, doubles from €110) has fine vodkas and a dining area decked with tapestries. old house Guesthouse (+372 6 411464, hostels.ee/old house , doubles €30) is cheap and cute


Budapest, Hungary

The pleasure of a hot bath takes on new meaning in the Hungarian capital, where an Ottoman rule has left several splendid Turkish bathhouses. Neoclassical Szechenyi is huge, with an outdoor pool, steam rooms, 80C sauna, and bar. Opulent Gellert has a stained-glass atrium, while Rudas baths host a monthly club night nicknamed a “party” (spa/party) with Cinetrip (fine trip. hu/en) on Saturdays from 2 March. Then there’s the Ludwig Museum of Modern Art (Ludwig museum. hu), the huge Buda Castle, and the fiery, paprika-spiked goulash from Karpatia (Carpathia. hu/en), one of the city’s oldest restaurants.

• Ryanair flies from Manchester and Stansted, FlyBe from Liverpool, East Midlands, and Aberdeen. Budgetplaces.com has many bargain apartments (attractive Kiraly) in an attractive building with wrought-iron balconies around a courtyard in central Budapest, which sleeps six from €30 a night.

Black Forest, Germany The Black Forest turns white

The Black Forest is a gorgeous place to explore when there’s snow underfoot and on the pine trees. Winter hiking and snowshoeing trails criss-cross the low mountain areas. Equipment can be rented in Baden-Baden, Schonau and Freudenstadt (blackforest-tourism.com/winter_aktiv/winter_schneeschuhwandern). There are a few little ski resorts, such as Feldberg, and more than 1,ooo miles of cross-country ski tracks. See wellness-stars.de/Thermen for a list of attractive spa hotels with saunas and thermal baths.
• Take a Eurostar train from London St Pancras to Strasbourg via Paris (five hours), or Germanwings flies to Stuttgart from Heathrow, Stansted, and Manchester, or FlyBe from Birmingham

Florence, Italy

Venice is famously magical in winter, but Florence, too, can be a better bet off-season when the hordes of sightseers disperse. The art’s all still there, so see the Duomo, the Uffizi (do book in advance at uffizi.firenze.it) and as many Botticellis, Donatellos and da Vincis as you can, then refuel with piles of delicious pasta in a cosy osteria such as i Tozzo di Pane (osteriatozzodipane.it) at via Guelfa 94r, or Casa Trattoria (casatrattoria.com) by the river on Lungarno Ferrucci.

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• Vueling flies to Florence from Heathrow, and Ryanair and EasyJet fly to Pisa (an hour from Florence by train) from several UK airports

Utah’s national parks, US Snow-covered hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park.

The rock formations of Bryce Canyon are stunning at any time of year, but especially in winter when snow contrasts with the red rock of the hoodoos (fairy chimneys) and the green pines. Walking trails in and around the canyon – thronged with tourists in shorts and baseball caps in summer – are almost deserted in winter. How about a guided full-moon snowshoe hike or a tutored winter astronomy session (see nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/winter.htm)? The Arches and Zion national parks are worth a cold-weather trip too.