The Best of Europe in the Winter
It's that diffuse, pale winter light: It makes everything more beautiful, more mysterious. Seeing Europe in the winter—after the summer crowds have dissipated—is an entirely different experience. Skate the canals, shop the holiday markets, and take in the atmosphere. Just bring a scarf.

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Holland on Skates

When waterways in the Netherlands freeze into glittering paths, overjoyed residents take to the ice. Visitors can buy or rent a pair of noren (traditional long-blade skates) to glide across town or take part in one of the country’s dozens of tochten, organized tours or races held throughout the nation’s 2,200 miles of canals. Check the local newspaper or the website for route announcements. Ice skating along the frozen lanes also provides a chance to marvel at how the canals have shaped the landscape. Because a quarter of the Netherlands lies below sea level, the Dutch have relied on drainage systems to keep their heads above water. Skate the molentocht, or mill tour, in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Kinderdijk (pictured) to see 19 windmills that once pumped water from the lowlands into the surrounding reservoirs. The historic village about 15 miles from Rotterdam is a peaceful setting for one of the country’s favorite winter pastimes.

If you travel to Kinderdijk to skate the molentocht, reserve a room at the Pincoffs Suite Hotel in Rotterdam. Stieltjesstraat 34, 31/(0) 10-297-4500.

This appeared in the November/December 2012 issue.

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by Jessica S.
AFAR Contributor
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