Keeping it cool: this winter's top ice attractions across Europe

The Arctic’s chilliest accommodation is turning 30, with new sub-zero suites to celebrate.Tuesday, 12 November 2019

From its humble beginnings as an igloo on the banks of the Torne River, the Icehotel has grown to become the biggest attraction Swedish Lapland. Each winter, the teeny village of Jukkasjärvi, set around 100 miles inside the Arctic Circle, welcomes artists from across the globe, equipped with chainsaws and chisels, tasked with transforming frozen blocks into works of art that shape the hotel’s Main Hall, Ceremonial Hall, Ice Bar and Art Suites.

In 2016, the hotel cemented its permanent status with the addition of Icehotel 365, making stone-cold stays possible year-round in an ice-filled structure chilled via solar energy, part-insulated with a turf-covered roof. This year, to toast three decades of cutting-edge cool, the Icehotel’s anniversary accommodation will be crafted by artists from 34 different countries, including a subterranean ice room populated with giant ice ants; a bedroom inside an ice-carved kaleidoscope; and another decked out like a frozen theatre, complete with ice-carved curtains and a stage. Furthermore, the Ice Bar will be serving up thrills and spills in the form of frozen roller coasters and carnival games. Opening for the season on 13 December, there will also be a photography exhibition showcasing 30 years of ‘ice memories’. Very cool indeed. 

Three icy attractions

The museum: Lumen Museum of Mountain Photography, Italy
Set 7,463ft up in the Alps, in a stylishly reimagined cable-car building, this new four-storey space is home to archive work by pioneering photographers of the icy peaks, including France’s Joseph Tairraz, Switzerland’s Jules Beck and Vittorio Sella of Italy, along with high-altitude images by contemporary photographers.

The spa: Arctic Bath, Swedish Lapland 
This winter (February 2020) sees the much-anticipated opening of a floating hotel and spa on the Lule River near the small village Harads. The ‘bath’, concealed inside a vast circular nest of floating logs, employs frigid river water, complemented by a hot bath, saunas, a spa treatment room, lounge and restaurant, along with several floating hotel cabins, and some on shore.

The festival: York Ice Trail
With 50-plus sculptures, the UK’s biggest outdoor ice trail returns with plenty of opportunity to get hands-on (while wearing mittens). Previous years have featured frozen wonders such as a Tyrannosaurus rex and a phoenix, which was carved then set alight outside York Minster in a nod to the city’s appearance in several Harry Potter movies. 1-2 February 2020. 

Published in the National Geographic Traveller (UK) Winter Sports guide 2019 

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