1. Go skiing - Ski vacations are obviously the most popular kind of winter trip, but see if you can take one in January; the crowds will be less and so will the prices, especially after Christmas and New Years which are usually the most popular times for winter vacations. We were lucky enough to live in Cortina for four years which is one of the best winter resort towns around (our winter tips for Cortina are here) but there is great skiing all over Europe, especially in Italy, Austria and Switzerland. Ischgl is at the top of our list for another trip....and don't be put off by the lack of English - if it's a large and popular ski resort, there will be plenty.
2. Rifugio hop - Not a big skier? The rifugio culture is big, especially in Northern Italy and Tyrol. Rifugios are typically cabins in the mountains or woods that serve food and drinks and often have beds where you can sleep for the night and cozy fires that you can lounge by. One of our favorite things to do in the winter is to go to a rifugio for lunch or dinner - the food is all homemade and very typical of whatever region you're in and the atmosphere is so cozy. You can get to the rifugios on foot often, or you can ski or snowshoe to them. And if winter sports really aren't your thing, someone from the rifugio can come pick you up in a snowmobile.
3. Hit the Christmas markets - There are Christmas markets all over Europe throughout the month of December and they're perfect for anyone and everyone. You can pick out ornaments and stocking stuffers, eat delicious regional food like warm baked potatoes and sausages, listen to Christmas carols and drink mulled wine or hot chocolate. A few of our favorites: Bolzano, Italy; Salzburg, Austria and Munich, Germany.
4. Sleep in an igloo - We did this last winter and it was so exciting (and exotic!). The igloo was at the Hochjochferner Glacier in Val Senales (very Northern Italy) at the Bella Vista Mountain Rifugio. You can ski to the rifugio (or they'll pick you up on a snowmobile) and you spend the afternoon in the hot tub and sauna - or by the fire drinking local beer and playing games like checkers. You eat dinner with other travelers in the rifugio and afterwards, you go out to your igloo and sleep in the warmest sleeping bags. The igloos have strands of lights inside so you can see - we played a few games of Backgammon before we went to sleep - and they truly aren't as cold as you would think. In the morning, someone wakes you up at 7 for breakfast and then you ski down the glacier. It felt very adventurous and was such an experience!