When winter hits, many people think it’s time to hide indoors. Sure, it’s cozy to curl up by the fire, but no one wants to get cabin fever. One of the best ways to get outside during the winter is to visit an ice castle. There are plenty to choose from, including some ice castles that are even indoors. You’ll find the true beauty of winter when walking through these crystallized creations. And don’t worry, most ice castles have fireplaces and hot chocolate for all you snow haters out there.
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Believe it or not, the ice palace or ice castle as some may call it, has been around since the 1700s. The first ice palace was built for Anna Ivanovna, the empress of Russia at the time. The castle only lasted for the winter and the empress passed away that same year.
Since then, there have been many ice palaces built all over the world. In Canada, an ice palace is built every year for the Quebec City Winter Carnival.
While the Empress of Russia’s ice palace was built by ‘gluing’ the ice together with water, the modern ice castle is often made by making thousands of icicles every day and spraying more and more water on them to make them stay in place. These ice creations are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. In fact, the more high-tech ice castles even have fireplaces and LED lights imbedded in the walls.
Ice Castle Edmonton
One of these high-tech ice castles is found right here in Canada, in the city of Edmonton (which also sports the world’s largest indoor mall). The Edmonton ice castle is built by the company ‘Ice Castles’.
Ice Castles was founded by Brent Christensen who built a giant ice cave in his backyard in Utah. Since then, they’ve put up Ice Castles in 6 different cities across North America.
The Ice Castle in Edmonton isn’t your average ice palace. It includes a throne room, waterfalls, ice mazes and other amazing ice creations. There’s even an ice slide! Dates for 2020 have yet to be announced, but keep an eye out for it. You’ll want to nab your tickets well in advance.
Lake Louise Ice Sculptures
If you’d rather head out to the mountains for your ice castle viewing, check out the Lake Louise ice sculptures. Located on the grounds of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, the ice castle and sculptures are the perfect family treat.
If you want to see how these amazing creations are built, visit during the Ice Magic Festival, which is part of Banff SnowDays each January. Don’t worry if you don’t get there then, the ice castle and sculptures stay around all winter.
The ice sculptures at Lake Louise are made in less than 48 hours and are carved out of 300-pound blocks of ice. Artists come from across the world to try their hand in this competition. Be sure to bring your skates or rent a pair at the hotel and take a twirl through the ice castle, built directly onto Lake Louise!
Jungfraujoch Ice Palace
Jungfraujoch Ice Palace just may be the most impressive ice palace in the world. Known as the “Top of Europe” the Jungfraujoch is a must-see for anyone travelling through the Swiss Alps.
Visitors can take a train up the mountain to the highest train station in all of Europe. Once up there, there’s plenty to see and do. The attractions include a 360-degree view of the Swiss Alps from the Sphinx Observatory, the Snow Fun Park, a place to learn about Lindt Swiss chocolate and … the ice palace.
Jungfraujoch Ice Palace is filled with enchanting ice sculptures. It also features the Alpine Sensation, a movie walkway with lights and music that connects the Sphinx Observatory.
One of the coolest attractions (literally!) set smack dab within the ice palace is the ice bar. Here, visitors can grab a frosty drink and try out some curling. Even the bar is made of ice!
Be sure to check out the weather before making the trip up to the “Top of Europe”. If it’s cloudy, the view will be covered. There’s loads of tour options to book as well.
If going on your own, there’s a few different train routes that will ultimately get you to Keline Scheidegg, where the cogwheel train departs. The train ride is part of the attraction, as you can take in several climate zones as you climb to 3454 meters. It’s the ultimate winter wonderland, trust.
Snow Castle of Kemi
Another one of Europe’s most stunning snow and ice attractions, the Snow Castle of Kemi is situated in Finland. It’s been built every year since 1996 from only snow and ice made from sea water. Within the snow castle, there’s plenty to see including intricate furnishings, ice sculptures and whimsical decorations. There’s even fairy-tale style sceneries within the corridors.
Not only can you walk through the snow castle, but there’s also an opportunity to stay overnight in the Snow Hotel. Between January and April, guests can book a room in the Snow Hotel and for the ultimate arctic experience. All rooms are completely built out of snow and ice and are kept at -5 Celsius. Fret not, you’ll get toasty warm snuggled up under arctic sleeping bags and fur blankets.
If you can’t make it to Kemi’s snow castle in winter, SnowCastle Resort is open year-round! Within this resort, there’s an ice restaurant, where you can enjoy your food at ice tables and even get married.
Quebec Winter Carnival Ice Palace
A yearly event, the Quebec Winter Carnival is on the bucket-list of many Canadians. There are plenty of events and things to see and do at the Carnival. One of the classic activities is visiting the Ice Palace.
The Quebec Winter Carnival always takes place in February and every year an ice palace is built for Bonhomme, the Carnival ambassador. This ice palace is where many carnival activities take place. Within the ice castle walls, visitors can se the history of the Carnival, as well as where Bonhomme hangs out.
In the evenings, the ice castle transforms into a snowy night-club, complete with a DJ, pulsating lights, plus local food and drink. (Caribou is just a species of deer!) Who knows, Bonhomme might even show up to check out the party! Besides the Ice Castle, you’ll want to take a few pics in snow cut outs and for goodness sake, indulge in some maple taffy!
Have you ever visited an ice castle? Which one is your favourite?
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