With St Andrews and its three streets, I find that balance is key. Sometimes, it seems the best part about living here is leaving here, as equally as it is returning home. With a tediously long second semester full of deadlines and dreary Scottish weather, the sights of Europe call. While February doesn’t exactly scream sunny European holiday, these city breaks are enjoyable all year round.
1. Oslo (flights from £52)
As a European getaway, Norway’s capital is super underrated. As a hotspot for museums, Oslo makes for a great reading week destination for those looking to immerse themselves in European culture and mediaeval history. The city has something for everyone, with the Akershus Fortress a perfect destination for mediaeval historians, while for the more modern visitor, the Opera House makes for an enjoyable visit. Many of the museums are on the Bygdøy Peninsula, where anything and everything is put on show. From the Viking ship museum (which is temporarily closed), to the Fram museum – which tells of the Norwegian polar expedition, to a Ski museum, the Nobel Peace Centre and the ‘Munch’ museum, which is dedicated to the life and works of Edvard Munch. His world-famous ‘The Scream’ painting can be found in the National museum too.
2. Paris (flights from £24)
The worthwhileness of a trip to the ‘city of love’ has been contested and called overrated in the past. My visit in October convinced me that there is no debate to be had. Thanks to global warming however, it was too warm for my vision of overcoats and woollen scarves, making a wintery February the perfect time for such attire. Everyone should experience Paris at least once, with beautiful and historic architecture, ample shops, french onion soup, and an abundance of bakeries and restaurants (learn from my mistakes and never order your steak rare.) At the very least, there are famous landmarks on every corner, with the Passy to Bir-Hakeim metro stops overlooking the Eiffel Tower. Going up the Eiffel Tower is a must, and I recommend going just before dusk for a breathtaking view of the sun falling asleep over Paris. For the art lovers, a selection of world class museums will keep you entertained for days, with a metro ride connecting the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay. To skip the crowds go early, but with February off-peak season for visitors to Paris, you’re already one step ahead!
3. Verona (flights from £41)
While the warmth of the Italian sunshine is something that everyone should experience, this gem of a city doesn’t need the soft gaze of the sun to highlight its beauty. Most famous as the setting for Romeo and Juliet’s love story, its mediaeval architecture speaks for itself regardless of the temperature. After visiting Juliet’s House, there are many other tales of the Roman empire to be explored, like the Piazza della Erbe or the Ponte Pietra – the oldest bridge in Verona. For bird’s eye views, the Torre dei Lamberti bell tower will give you panoramic views of the city. Lastly, why stop with Verona? After taking in the architecture and Italian food, you could be in Venice in 90 minutes, with trains leaving every half hour from Verona Porta Nuova to Venice Santa Lucia.
4. Reykjavik (flights from £129)
While unfortunately not my reading week destination, Reykjavik is at the top of my bucket list. It might seem crazy to fly to Iceland during peak winter, and while a little more expensive than the other destinations on my list, the views are not to be missed. The island is just waiting to be explored, with guided tours doing most of the work for you, so little planning is required. From visiting the Skógafoss waterfall, to partaking in snow-specific activities and of course trying the Instagram famous Blue Lagoon. In addition, every February, Reykjavik holds the Winter Lights Festival, which showcases light installations and perhaps most famously, Reykjavik is the prime place to bask in the glory of the Northern Lights. It is, however, important to pack warm, with the average temperature in February sitting at just 3 degrees celsius.
5. The Highlands (trains from £28.50)
Trips abroad can be expensive and exhausting. So if you want to stay in Scotland, even just for a day trip, head north. I wouldn’t be Scottish if I didn’t recommend the Highlands for a staycation. Just three hours north of St Andrews, Fort William plays host to what I would argue are the most scenic views in the UK. For climbers and the outdoorsy type, it is known as a gateway to Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest peak, with a ski resort and forest trails not too far away. If some culture is what you’re after, the northeast Ben Nevis Distillery explores whisky production, while a 30 minute drive northwest will take you to Glenfinnan, home to a Harry Potter legacy, the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Catch the Jacobite Steam Train for a first hand view. Finally, if you are looking to relax overnight, I’d recommend booking an Airbnb or an overnight cabin with a hot tub. From personal experience, the half naked freezing cold run from the cabin to the hot tub is an experience in itself.