Summer is peak season in Europe, but the stifling crowds, sweltering heat and exorbitant prices aren’t everyone’s cup of tea (or stein of lager). The contrarian traveler might find winter more appealing, especially with the low airfares that are common from November-March. The Euro has dropped 9% against the dollar since late August, so this could be a great time to plan a jaunt across the pond.
Due to a vaguely Clark Griswoldian fantasy about having a traditional family holiday, I’d love to visit Germany’s Christmas markets. These typically start the last week of November, which fits nicely into Lufthansa’s current economy sale. Depart from 16 U.S. cities from Oct. 29 into March (with Dec. 15 - Jan. 8 blacked out).
As Northern Lights shimmer above snowy landscapes, winter can also be a wonderful time to visit Scandinavia. Venture to Oslo and try the Korketrekkeren toboggan run. The two-kilometer ride starts at one metro station (Frognerseteren) and ends up to 10 minutes later at another (Midtstuen), providing easy access back to the top for more fun. Fly to Oslo -- or Copenhagen, Stockholm or Helsinki -- for $322* each way (based on roundtrip purchase, plus taxes and fees) in the current sale from Scandinavian Airlines.
Or for a last-minute fall getaway, take advantage of Air France’s October fares. Check out the Festival de l'Automne (through December), featuring an array of visual arts, theatre, dance, music, cinema and more. Also, the International Contemporary Art Fair (Oct. 20-23) will showcase the work of more than 2,500 artists. Meanwhile, Chocolate lovers can indulge in tastings, demonstrations and symposiums at Salon du Chocolat (Oct. 20-24 at Porte de Versailles convention center).