With its Gothic spires and conical snowy roofs, cosy beer halls and vintage-look bars, Tallinn is one of the ultimate winter cities. After strolling the old town, seeing the atmospheric Dominican monastery and the castle on Toompea hill, visitors can duck into a cool coffee shop (see tourism.tallinn.ee). The skating rink on Harju street is next to St Nicholas’ church, and there are illuminated cross-country ski trails at the Pirita Health Track (piritaspordikeskus.ee), 15 minutes outside the city.
• Ryanair flies from Luton, Stansted and 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 tapesteries. OldHouse Guesthouse (+372 6 411464, hostels.ee/oldhouse , doubles €30) is cheap and cute
The pleasure of a hot bath takes on new meaning in the Hungarian capital, where Ottoman rule has left several splendid Turkish bath houses. Neoclassical Szechenyi is huge, with outdoor pool, steam rooms, 80C sauna and bar. Opulent Gellert has a stained-glass atrium, while Rudas baths hosts a monthly club night nicknamed a “sparty” (spa/party) with Cinetrip (cinetrip.hu/en), on Saturdays from 2 March. Then there’s the Ludwig Museum of Modern Art (ludwigmuseum.hu), the huge Buda Castle, and fiery, paprika-spiked goulash from Karpatia (karpatia.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 lots of bargain apartments such as 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
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 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.