Planning a vacation can sometimes result in "Goldilocks" syndrome—trying to find something for everyone that isn't too hot or too cold, but just right. The solution to this conundrum might just be Alpine Europe—the regions of Austria, France, Italy, Switzerland and some parts of Germany that house the Alps—the largest mountain range in Europe.
What most often complicates vacation-planning matters is that typically there are ideal—albeit limited—timeframes to trek to certain destinations. For example, it's best to visit Italy in June, right before the country's peak tourist season and when the weather is (almost) guaranteed to be nice enough so that you won't mind waiting in those long lines outside the Vatican. Conversely, thousands of travelers fly north to Switzerland in January and February, the perfect time to trade a snow-filled driveway for a snow-capped ski slope. Yet, these limited seasons might not always mesh so well with the vacation availability of family and friends—but that's only because few destinations boast the year-round versatility of Alpine Europe.
In the winter, Europeans and Americans alike flock to the area's snowy lodges to ski and snowboard, while the summer welcomes visitors on escorted tours and cruises to traverse and admire the vast panoramic landscape. If you're lucky enough to experience both seasons in any region of Alpine Europe, you're bound to have a completely different experience on each trip.
Take Switzerland, for example, a country that best exemplifies the diversity of all of Europe's Alpine regions. Regarded by some as the skiing capital of the world, Switzerland in the winter months offers a range of ski towns quite literally from A to Z, from Arosa to Zermatt. Come summer, those snow-capped mountains give way to cavernous valleys that offer breathtaking views perfect for picturesque sightseeing hikes and walks.
Those looking for a more leisurely Alpine vacation can opt to take a ride in one of Switzerland's many mountain trains, which allow you to take in the greenery and peaks of the Alps from the comfort of a restful seat.
In addition to winter sports, the regions of Alpine Europe also can help get you and your family in the holiday spirit during the snowy season. Christmas markets are one of the more popular traditions in all Alpine countries and, with more than 2,500 markets, Germany is perhaps the most famous destination of them all. At such markets, you'll find the classic Christmas nutcracker, hand-carved angels and incense-burning figurines made from Germany's Ore Mountains. The oldest and most famous German festival is Munich's Christ Child market on Marienplatz.
The Austrian city of Graz is another lesson in the diversity and history of Alpine Europe. The city is the location of one of the most famous medieval city centers in Europe. The center of Graz is perfect for a spring or summer stroll, as it offers modern architecture built next to baroque mansions, as well as old-town squares filled with some of Alpine Europe's most innovative culinary treats. These combinations garnered Graz the top spot on UNESCO's list of World Cultural Heritage Sites as Central Europe's best-preserved city center.
Just as Goldilocks searched for the perfect porridge, chair and bed, your vacation brood might be looking for snow or sun, sporting or relaxing. By vacationing in any of the regions of Alpine Europe, there truly is something for everyone.