Get more from a mini-break. Munich, Oslo and Prague are buzzing winter hotspots, and they’ve all got ski resorts nearby. We asked the snow pros who live there where’s best to ride, shop, drop and party.
Your travel guides: Nikita twins from Munich, Annette and Babette Steinbauer.
Why go: Munich has it all for the snow and city girl: lively bars, great shops and Germany’s best ski resorts just an hour away.
Shop and see: Stock up on Xmas pressies and feast on traditional sweets, glühwein and the ambience at one of Munich’s outdoor christmas markets – christkindlmarkts – throughout December. You’ll stumble across the central market on Marienplatz, but Tollwood Winter festival in Theresienwiese and Wittelsbacher platz market are worth the trips. Also in December, take a date and skate on the mobile outdoor ice rink in Karlsplatz. Bag some designer goodies at the twins’ fave shopping areas: Fussgängerzone, in Marienplatz, Schwabing, just outside the centre, or the two big shopping malls OEZ and Riem Arcaden.
Party: Bavarians are sociable, cheerful souls, so you won’t get thirsty or bored here! In summer, and for the Oktoberfest, beer gardens and beer halls are rammed, but in winter, a lively café-bar culture reigns. Haidhausen, across the river, is now more fashionable than the glitzy Schwabing. The twins’ fave bars are Cohibar, whatever the day, Australian bar on Fridays and, Balan, close to Rosenheimer Platz. Shake your booty at Milchbar on Mondays or Wednesdays, Eight Seasons or Café am Hochhaus on Thursdays, and Registratur on Fridays and Saturdays. As a rough guide, a small beer costs 3.50 euro (£2.40) in bars. Check the free-mag ‘In München’ when you get there for what’s on, where. Visit between mid-January and lent and you’ll witness Fasching, Munich’s carnival, another excuse for locals to party and dress up.
Eat: Bavarians take life a little easier than their fellow Germans, hence the bustling yet relaxed vibe in cafés and restaurants across the city. For a coffee and strudel, or lunch, the twins recommend Cadu, next to the university, Tambosi, in Hofgarten, Café Glockenspiel, at the top of the Marienplatz buildings, Café Central or Café Blue. Prices: 3 euro (£2) for a coffee, 10 euro (£7) for lunch. For dinner, tuck into tasty Bavarian fare – meat, potatoes and good beer – at Hofbräuhaus or Kartoffelhaus, or go Chilean at El Gordo Locco, Mexican at Sausalitos, Asian at Der Kleine Chinese or Japanese at Tokyo Sushi.
Sleep: Search for hotels, hostels or pensions (rooms with 3-5 beds) online and book before you go at www.muenchen.de or +49 (0)89 233 96 555. Base yourself in Hauptbahnhof if you’re on a budget, otherwise be more central in Marienplatz, Schwabing or Haidhausen.
Ride: Munich is a convenient gateway to the Alps and Germany’s dozen or so ski resorts in the south. An hour outside the city is Spitzing/Schliersee, a cosy ski resort with easy slopes, a small but perfectly shaped freestyle park and the best powder tree runs in Germany, say the twins. Warm up in Bäckeralm mountain restaurant for the best hot chocolate, says Annette. For après, drink in Rios or Seebar, eat Greek in Hellas and dance in Spinnradl or Moonclub. Day pass: 37 euro (£25). Book a bed in advance at www.schliersee.de.
Munich’s best-kept secret is Wallberg/Tegernsee, less than an hour’s drive from the centre. With no prepared slopes and long, steep powder runs, competent freeriders will have a riot, but play safe and ride with someone who knows the mountain, say the twins. For another buzz, hire a sledge and speed down Germany’s longest sled ride, adds Annette. Day pass: 28 euro (£19). Best for après: Bräustüberl, a big Bavarian-style bar and restaurant, Kaktus bar and the Moschner disco. Book accommodation in advance at www.wallbergbahn.de.
Zugspitze/Garmisch is Germany’s most popular resort with a mix of kind slopes and easy to reach backcountry riding, say the twins. A real bonus is the big and well-shaped freestyle park, although the pipe was missing last season. Day pass: 34 euro (£23). The resort can accommodate 20,000 visitors, so après is awesome: try Lodge, Evergreen, Sportsbar and Peaches for food and drink, or take the hour’s drive back to Munich and party there instead. Visit www.zugspitze.de.
• To Munich by train: Hauptbahnhof station is 2km from the central square Marienplatz.
• To Munich by road: easy! no tolls and great motorways.
• To Munich by air: Munich’s Franz-Josefstrauss airport is 28km northeast of the city centre. For low-cost flights look and book online at www.easyjet.com, www.flybmi.com, www.ba.com and www.lufthansa.com.
• To resorts: it’s best to drive. Hire a car at www.hertz.com from Franz-Josef-Strauss airport or a number of city locations and you can be in resort in an hour or so. Or take the 90-minute train ride direct from Hauptbahnhof station to Spitzing and Garmisch. Wallberg is two hours by train and bus.
Your travel guides: Roxy girls from Norway. Kjersti Buaas, Lisa Wiik (both from Trondheim) and Stine Brun Kjeldaas (from Oslo).
Why go: Olso is unofficially Europe’s largest après-ski resort, because the mountains are so close you can combine nights in the city with days on the piste. Its festive vibe is unbeatable and the shopping’s fab too.
Shop & see: Buy cheap or chic along Karl Johans Gate, Oslo’s main drag, or head to the more exclusive Bogstadveien in Majorstua ‘where the nice girls go’, says Stine. Lisa’s fave chill-out spot is Frogner Park, home to Vigeland’s striking open-air sculptures, while Kjersti makes for the waterfront at Aker Brygge for cold beers and people/boat watching. From the harbour, take a sightseeing cruise for stunning city vistas.
Party: Oslo has a buzzing bar scene, and Grünerløkka, on the east side, is now officially the place to party, say the girls. Settle into Parkteatret bar for soul, Bar Boca for mojitos or bag a riverside table at the trendy Bla Jazzclub, stay late and dance to Norway’s best DJs. Mono, Bar Robinet and Nylon are city-central and a bit alternative, while the more mainstream bars get lively on the Aker Brygge waterfront. Oslo snow pros hang out in the Living Room in the city centre, even though drinks are expensive, then head to the upmarket Odeon nightclub, in Majorstua, best on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Entry into most clubs is reasonable (50-100kr, £4-£8) and drinks tend to be a similar price in clubs and pubs, i.e. expensive everywhere! Expect to pay 60kr (£5) upwards for a beer and more for spirits. ‘Copy the Norwegians and have a few drinks before you go out,’ says Stine.
Eat: Everything from traditional – fantastic fish, reindeer steak and smørbrød (super-sized sarnies) – to sushi, international and fast food are served up in the city. For the best café lattes in town, try Java or the Kaffebrenneriet coffee shops dotted about town. For healthy bites on the move, pick something fresh from the organic Godt Brød bakery, on Oslo’s east side, or try the colourful fruit and veg markets in Grønland. Eat in at Delikatessen, a trendy tapas bar, or über-hip Fru Hagen, both in Grünerløkka. Aker Brygge has busy waterfront restaurants where the views come free. On average, you’ll pay 200kr (£16) for a café-style lunch. For dinner, try Arakataka, on the east side, for great gourmet seafood at reasonable prices. Friday night visitors can mix with arty types at the upmarket café bar in the Kunstnernes Hus gallery, open till late, but book ahead to get a table. Splash out at the sumptuous and very grown-up Theatercafeen, frequented by actors, politicians and rich old ladies, says Stine.
Sleep: Base yourself in the Nationaltheatret area if you can, and if you’re counting your krona head to a hostel, approx. 175kr (£15) for a dorm bed. Sleep in style at the Scandic Kna hotel where you’ll get an ‘awesome breakfast buffet’, says Kjersti. Prices approx. 900kr (£78) for a double room with breakfast. Play safe and book your accommodation in advance and online at www.visitoslo.com.
Ride: Follow the Oslo-based snow pros to Varingskollen, a 30-minute train ride from the city centre. It’s a small, day-trippers’ resort, but has a good vibe, great terrain park and weekday night riding until 10pm. Day pass: 240kr (£20).
Even closer is Tryvann, just 20 minutes on the subway. The resort boasts 14 slopes, 6 lifts, a pipe and park, picturesque cross-country trails, and floodlights for night riding. Day pass: 280kr (£24).
An hour’s drive from Oslo is Kongsberg, family home of Stine and a crowd of Norwegian snow pros, which means the pipe, park and pistes are a treat. Visitors party and crash here too. A typical après-ski routine, say the girls, is kebab (Kongsberg is famous for them), washed down with a few bottles of wine at Skragata bar and on to the Grand Hotel for a late night boogie. For sleeps, Kjersti recommends the Vandrerhjem hotel (approx. 760kr or £66 for a double room with breakfast) or Stine’s parents! Day pass: 285kr (£25) from 9am-9pm.
• To Oslo: Oslo airport Gardermoen is 45km north of Oslo. For low-cost flights look and book online at www.norwegian.no, www.ba.com, www.flysas.com, and www.lufthansa.com. On arrival, buy an Oslo Pass (visit www.visitoslo.com for outlets) for free travel, parking and discounts. A 24-hour pass costs 210kr (£18).
• To Varingskollen: take the 30-minute train from Oslo. The ski lift is 300m from Varingskollen station. Visit www.skioslo.com for 1-5 day package deals.
• To Kongsberg: 75 minutes on the train from Oslo, or 80km in the car. Buy an Oslo-Kongsberg train return plus day pass for 390kr (£33). Visit www.kongsberg-skisenter.no for details.
Your travel guides: The Czech snow pros (left), who call themselves ‘les saturelles’.
Why go: Prague is a hip haunt for culture vultures and party girls on a shoestring budget. Lengthen your stay and head to the Bohemian mountains for cheap riding on fun terrain.
Shop & see: Saunter through the web of sloping, cobbled streets to see gothic cathedrals, baroque palaces and magnificent city vistas. Must-see, hard-to-miss sights include Prague Castle, housing the cathedral, Royal Palace and art galleries, and Charles Bridge. From the bridge, stroll to the main square, Malostranské NamˇEstí , and the old Town, Staré MˇEsto, and mingle with young, cosmopolitan crowds in magical surroundings. Hidden down quaint passageways, you’ll find some cool skate/snow shops, says Boda. Skater girls should head to parks in Parukárka in the Žižkov quarter, Stalin Pendulum and Stvanice Peninsula on the river Vltava. Join in a game of frisbee while you’re there.
Party: Parties aren’t hard to find in Prague, say the girls. Roxy, in the Old Town, has great club nights and concerts, and on Mondays entrance is free. Check out www.roxy.cz in advance. Weekday nights head to XT3, at Palmovka, a small bar with a big atmosphere, low prices and table football, says Boda. To party till dawn, head to the three-floor club Abaton. See www.prostorabaton.cz. More beer is consumed in Czech than Germany, so beer gardens are plentiful here too. Lletenská Plan is the girls’ favourite. For a small beer, expect to pay 70 koruna (czk) (£1.60) in the centre, 20 czk (50 pence) outside.
Eat: You can eat on a budget and in style in this city. Be seen in Retro, in super-fashionable Vinohrady, or Dynamo and Tulip café, both in Nové MˇEsto. For coffee and cake in stunning surroundings head to the Obecní Dum, the city’s finest art nouveau building. For dinner, the girls recommend Cantina, in Malostranská, for Texan-sized
Mexicans. Expect to pay approx. 400 czk (£9.60) in the centre, 200 czk (£4.80) outside, for a meal. Stay away from overpriced eateries near the bridge, warn the girls.
Sleep: Crash cheap or chic, the choice is yours. £15-£20 should get you a comfortable hostel bed, but book in advance at www.travellers.cz. For approx. 50 euros for a double room, upgrade to the swish Hotel Claris in Vinohrady, says Boda. Visit www.hotel-claris.cz and book online. For a treat, try Dum U Velké Boty (house of the big boot), in Malá Strana old town, a charming, family-run hotel with a fascinating history. 3000 ckz (£70) for a double room. Visit www.dumuvelkeboty.cz. For special offers at other hotels visit www.prague-info.cz.
Ride: Czech has a handful of no-frills, big thrills ski resorts that boasted record snowfalls last season. The best and biggest resorts, Spindler˚uv Ml´yn and Pec pod Snˇeˇzkou, are in the Krkonose mountains, in the northeast of Bohemia, about 90 minutes drive from Prague. Les Saturelles rate Spindler˚uv Ml´yn for both freestyle and freeriding. It has a half pipe, snow park, 25km of piste and easy access off-piste. 15,000 tourists flock in high season, so après gets lively too. Day pass: approx. 550 ckz (£13). Visit spindleruv-mlyn.cz for packages and more info.
Pec pod Snˇeˇzkou was the venue for the first eastern European Roxy Jam last season, so the best pro riders in the world have tasted this resort. It’s worth a quick jaunt for its wide-open slopes, tree-lined powder runs, snow park and floodlit riding, plus there are a few lively bars and restaurants – Enzian and Ragtime – on the downtown strip. Day pass: approx. 550 ckz (£13). Hotel Horizont offers the best accommodation in the resort, but for cheaper options and package deals visit www.skipec.com.
The freestyle snowboard scene is kicking off in Czech right now, and riders are getting spoilt. The girls head to the superpipe at Klínovec in West bohemia, or Dolní Morava, in the Jeseniky mountains in the east, for pipe, rails and kickers. Visit www.jesenik.org or join the forum at www.freestyledm.cz or www.freeride.cz.
• To the resorts: the easiest way to get to the resorts is to hire a car (see www.hertz.com), although the train and bus will get you there slowly, say the girls. Spindler˚uv ml´yn and Pec pod snˇežkou are approx. 150km and 90 minutes drive; Klínovec in Krusne Hory is 150km and about two hours drive; and Dolní Morava is 200km, just over two hours drive. Visit www.czechtourism.com for more details.