Is it worth it to visit Europe in winter? Yes! What are the best cities to visit for a winter city break in Europe? Glad you asked! Keep Reading to find out the best winter destinations in Europe.
Winter is the most magical and enchanting season of the year. It is a time characterized by warm drinks, being with friends and family, and snuggling up under warm blankets. But it is also a time that many people dislike and try to stay indoors to avoid the colder temperatures. Well, it is time to change the mindset that winter is a season for hiding away. And that we only to resurface for spring.
The best way to break free from the winter blues is by traveling! And it just so happens that the winter season is great for traveling. During the winter in Europe, various cities undergo a transformation into delicate and spellbinding destinations that need to be explored. The best part about winter in Europe is that the landscapes, temperatures, and characteristics of winter differ greatly from country to country. From Norway to France to Spain you will find a completely different winter experience and that is very exciting.
More so, in the winter months, there are significantly fewer tourists in Europe and attractions are less busy. Plus flights & accommodation are more cost-effective, and exploring is more intimate. While you already might be aware of some of these stunning European travel destinations, there may be some new and surprising destinations. These are perfect to add to your winter in Europe bucket list!
Best Travel Destinations for Winter in Europe
In This Post
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Contributed by Emily from Wander-Lush
If you’re looking for a fairy-tale winter destination, Slovenia’s Lake Bled ticks all the boxes. Fringed by the Julian Alps and with a tiny church-topped island at its center, Lake Bled is an absolute icon. The landscape looks that much more magical wreathed in snow and ice and illuminated by a wintry sapphire glow.
Lake Bled is an easy drive or bus trip from Ljubljana, making it perfect for a quick winter getaway. While you could easily spend your days on Lake Bled wandering around the shore (the lake can be circumnavigated on foot in a couple of hours), there are loads of winter activities on to keep you busy. Depending on weather conditions, if the freeze is deep enough, you can ice skate on the lake. If not, a rink is set up overlooking the lake to host skating discos, ice bowls, and other activities. Nearby Straza Hill is a good spot for skiing, and Vogel Ski Resort offers snowboarding lessons.
If the lake isn’t completely frozen, you can take a traditional boat out to the island to visit The Church of Mary the Queen. No matter the weather, Ljubljana Castle, perched over the lake, is a terrific place to spend some time learning about the area’s history. You can get magnificent views from the castle’s terraces. In town, Christmas markets appear starting from November, and during the holidays, you can see light displays, nativity scenes, and other religious and cultural festivities.
At the end of the day, retreat to one of the sweet pubs in Bled town (Gostilna Pri Planincu is my favorite) for a hearty Slovenian meal. Or head back to your cozy chalet on the lake’s edge to savor a mug or two of mulled wine.
Contributed by Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles
If you are looking for a fabulous winter destination in Europe, where you can enjoy the full range of winter activities, consider Stockholm. Stockholm is a lively city all year round. There are lots of things to do in Stockholm any time of year, and winter is no different. Although it does get cold, the Swedish capital doesn’t get the full brunt of the Arctic freeze because of its protected location. And as the Swedes say, there is no bad weather, only bad clothing! So bundle up and get ready to enjoy a winter holiday in Stockholm!
Among the most popular winter activities in Stockholm is ice skating. There are skating rinks in many parts of the city, but the skating rink in Kungsträdgården, the beautiful park in the city center, is hugely popular. You can rent skates for a very modest price and you can also ice skate the natural waterways of Stockholm. Join a tour so you do this safely, with an experienced guide. Depending on how frozen each body of water is, you may be able to skate on Lake Mälaren or even the Baltic Sea!
If you enjoy skiing, visit the nearby Hammarbybacken ski resort. Easily accessed via the subway, the resort features a few easy slopes, and you can rent equipment. Flottsbrobacken is about 30 minutes away, and also features several easy downhill slopes. There are also tours that offer cross-country skiing and snowshoe hiking, so you have lots of choices for winter sports in Stockholm!
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, you can visit some of Stockholm’s popular Christmas markets to drink mulled wine, eat gingerbread, and browse stalls selling local arts and crafts. Stockholm’s many shopping streets are lit up and festive, inviting evening strolls. Even though the days are short, wandering around the Old Town, or visiting one of Stockholm’s many world-class museums, are fun things to do during the day.
Contributed by Roshni from The Wanderlust Within
Alta, dubbed “the town of the Northern Lights”, lies well above the Arctic Circle at 70 degrees north latitude. With a population of 20,000, it is the largest city in the vast wilderness of Finnmark County. From late November to mid-January, Alta experiences the Polar night, when the sun never rises above the horizon. This means that for a few hours a day, there is a twilight blue glow that washes over the landscape, before turning pitch black for the remaining 20-22 hours a day.
The darkness does, however, make it perfect for chasing down Mother Nature’s elusive light show. It is best to join a Northern Lights tour so you have the highest chance of witnessing the eerie beauty of the Aurora Borealis, so we got our tripods ready and headed out. On our tour, we waited patiently inside a picture-perfect cherry-red Norwegian cabin, keeping warm with hot chocolate and homemade ginger cake. Two hours passed and just as we were giving up, the clouds parted and vivid blasts of green started to leap from one side of the sky to the other.
The shimmering Aurora lasted for 45 minutes, allowing us plenty of time for photo opportunities and to take in the beauty of the lights. We spent two nights in Alta trying to fit in as many winter activities as we could, including visiting the unique Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, snowmobiling, snowshoe hiking, dog sledding, cross country skiing, ice fishing, and reindeer sledding.
Contributed by Casey and Linn from Viraflare
Germany offers numerous attractions and hiking opportunities so places like Stuttgart are usually overlooked when planning a trip. I’m not sure why as the city is so vibrant with many different historical attractions. One of those amazing attractions this beautiful city has to offer is its annual Christmas Market! The market covers a lot of the city center and stretches through multiple streets, set up in tents and plentiful Christmas stalls. The Christmas Market spans the entire month of December as well, so there’s plenty of time to schedule it in.
As far as treats and food, if you have a sweet tooth like me, there are a plethora of vendors offering sugarcoated peanuts and other candies. But, even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, there are tons of other options like schnitzel and German sausages! On top of these delicious treats and delectable food, a signature of the German Christmas Markets is their ridiculously good glühwein selections, a sweet wine served warm in festival unique cups! Each market has a different mug that they serve it in, so if you’re planning on visiting other markets, keep the mugs as they make perfect/unique gifts!
The Stuttgart Christmas Market isn’t new either, as it was officially mentioned in 1692 and has an oral history dating back further. This means you don’t get to just partake in amazing foods and sites, but a three-century-old tradition of German celebration!
Sierra Nevada, Spain
Contributed by Linn from Brainy Backpackers
As Europe’s most southern ski resort situated only a couple of hours from the beach, Sierra Nevada is a popular destination for a day trip from Malaga or Granada. However, the little Spanish mountain town deserves a longer visit than that. With breathtaking views, the cute winter village is situated only an hour and a half from the cultural city of Granada and Alhambra. Sierra Nevada is small enough to walk around the snowy streets that are filled with shops, restaurants, and bars.
There are ski slopes for all levels, but if you are new to skiing, don’t worry. You can rent all the necessary gear and get a ski or snowboarding course with a private instructor if you need one. It is even possible to do cross-country skiing or other winter activities for children and adults alike. Among other things, you can enjoy slides, bike-skiing, and sleight trips. Even if you do not want to go skiing, you can take the cable car to the start of the slopes and enjoy a beer in the sun. A fun activity is to go on a night walk to the second-highest mountain in Sierra Nevada, Veleta (3396 meters). From there you will get mesmerizing views of the city lights in Granada city.
Contributed by Maggie from The World Was Here First
If you’re looking for the perfect Europe winter destination, then you really cannot go wrong with spending a few days in Granada, Spain. Located in the southern region of Andalucía, Granada doesn’t have the perennially warm weather that other cities in the region do, however, it is almost always blessed with brilliant sunshine and is certainly warmer than the vast majority of Europe during the months of December-March.
Visiting Spain in winter is one of the best times to head to the country, and Granada is no exception. Though temperatures might be a little bit cooler, average highs rarely dip below 12°C and the corresponding lack of tourist crowds make this small city a lot easier to manage, as well. Granada is famous for its magnificent Alhambra, however, there is also a lot more that the city has to offer. For instance, there is no better way to warm up during the chilly winter days than crawling between Granada’s famous tapas bars and taking part in a truly unique part of this city’s culture.
In the summer months, the winding streets of the UNESCO-listed Albaicín neighborhood are packed with tourists, as is the famous Mirador de San Nicolas (St Nicholas Viewpoint). In the winter months, there are far fewer tourists to contend with so you can enjoy some of these beautiful attractions with fewer people. Granada is also located in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountain range, close to some of the best ski resorts in Spain. While this country isn’t usually the first place that jumps to mind when thinking of hitting the slopes, it is entirely possible to go skiing at an affordable price if you’re visiting Granada in the winter months.
Contributed by Michelle from The Wandering Queen
One of the best places to visit in Europe in the winter is Zermatt, Switzerland. Zermatt is a skiers and snowboarders paradise. This town is tucked away in the southwestern border of Switzerland and Italy. There are so many activities in the small town, even in the winter! One of the best things to do is to take the Gornergrat Bahn (the train) for outstanding panoramic views of Matterhorn and all the surrounding mountains. The Gornergrat Bahn was the first, fully electric cog railway in Switzerland. Taking the train up to Gornergrat is an excellent experience as you slowly ascend you capture the majesty of Zermatt, surrounding mountains, and the Matterhorn.
Another great spot to explore is Glacier Paradise. This area has the highest cable car station in Europe. There is a restaurant, a glacier palace, and you can ski 365 days of the year at the Theodul Glacier area. If you are not interested in skiing, I would still make my way up here as you can spot mountains in Italy and France! The views are extraordinary. No matter what time of year you go to Zermatt it will be an outstanding time. The views are incredible the people are friendly, and there are countless activities.
Contributed by Melissa from Thrifty Family Travels
Vienna in winter is beautiful! Whether you visit during the months where you can expect snow or the months leading up to Christmas where the streets are beautifully decorated, Winter is wonderful time to explore Vienna.
If you’re in Vienna at Christmas time, then you are in for a real treat. The streets are full of beautiful decorations and lights and it seems there is a Christmas Market and Christmas tree on every corner! One of the best Christmas markets to visit in Vienna is Christmas World at Rathausplatz. With the lit up Gothic Revival City Hall in the background and the various little wooden stalls in the foreground, and Christmas decorations galore, the scene is just magical!
Winter is also a wonderful time to go to one of the many balls in Vienna, or spend the evening snuggled up to loved ones as you take in the city on a horse-drawn carriage. Take a break from the cold weather in a cozy bar or restaurant and warm up by drinking mulled wine and eat spicey apple strudel or crisp wiener schnitzel. Oh and don’t forget to try the roasted chestnuts either. If you’re after snow in Vienna, the best time to visit is January and February – December tends to be warmer and less likely to snow. But no matter what time you visit Vienna in winter you’re sure to enjoy your time.
Contributed by Maureen from So Many Places! So Little Time!
There are just so many gorgeous villages and towns in Switzerland where you could spend your winter holidays that it is difficult to have to choose one, but our favorite is a cozy mountain village high up on the side of a mountain in the Bernese Alps called Murren.
Why is it your favorite you may ask? It is everything you imagine a Swiss village would be like. Everywhere you turn there are the most stunning views, as it faces the Monch, Eiger and Jungfrau mountains. It is an adventure just getting there. Plus it is only accessible by a series of mountain trains and cable cars and is car-free, so there’s no traffic noise or fumes to contend with. It is a small village but has plenty of accommodation and everything you will require on your holiday, including some excellent restaurants and bars and the best apple strudel you will find anywhere in the world.
What is there to do there? If winter sports are your passion, you will find 53 km of ski and snowboard pistes on your doorstep. There are toboggan runs and a network of winter snowshoe walking tracks. Take the cable car up to the top of the Schilthorn from Murren. There’s a great revolving restaurant up there which was featured in a James bond film called “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” a James Bond museum and more breathtaking views. One cable car stops back towards Murren at Brig is an exhilarating new activity called “The Thrill Walk,” which involves wandering around sheer cliff faces of the mountain on a walkway. To find more information about “The Thrill Walk” go here. Enjoy your wonderful winter holiday in Murren.
Contributed by Kat from Wandering Bird
If you’re looking for a unique winter destination in Europe, or wondering where you can see the Northern Lights in Europe, consider Kiruna in Sweden.This beautiful town has everything you’re looking for- snow, views and it’s officially one of the best places to see the Northern lights. Despite the snowfall, Kiruna has a surprisingly high number of clear nights. This means you have a great chance of seeing the Northern lights should they appear during your stay.
While you’re waiting for the Aurora, there’s plenty of other things to do in Kiruna. Heard of the world-famous Ice hotel? Yep, an entire hotel built completely from ice- walls, reception, beds- everything. It’s built differently each year- definitely worth a visit and a drink in the bar, even if you aren’t staying there. You can also go snowmobiling across frozen lakes and incredible snow-covered landscapes, cross-country skiing (not for the faint-hearted), dog-sledding with a team of huskies, hiking (yep, in the snow), wildlife viewing and photography tours or just relax and enjoy the incredible views. If you’ve chosen a good hotel, you could even relax in your very own hot tub!
One of our favorite activities is a trip to the nearby Sky Station, where a cable car will take you up the mountain to a restaurant at the top- a perfect place to enjoy a meal with fabulous views. Kiruna is available to visit all year, but in the winter it really comes alive, making it the perfect winter destination.
Contributed by Wendy from Nomadic Vegan
Surrounded by two different mountain ranges, Geneva is the perfect base from which to explore snow-covered peaks and participate in all kinds of winter activities, not just in Switzerland but also in the Alps and Jura mountains in neighboring France.
Whether you prefer snowboarding, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing or even ice skating, the possibilities are virtually endless. The Jura mountains are a quick train ride away and offer some gentle slopes that are perfect for beginners. This is also the place to come for cross-country skiing trails, both freestyle, and classic. For more challenging slopes in the Alps, plenty of Swiss resorts can also be reached by train, while shuttle buses from Geneva’s airport head to Chamonix and other famous ski resorts in France.
Come in mid-December to experience L’Escalade, a very local festival that commemorates the night in 1602 when the citizens of Geneva boldly resisted the attack of the Savoy army. The torch-lit parade of locals in historical costumes is the highlight of the festival. One week later, the city celebrates the Course de l’Escalade, a foot race where people dress up in outlandish costumes and run through the Old Town. And if you’re really lucky, you might get to see one of the spectacular ice storms caused by “La Bise”, the notorious frosty wind that blows off Lake Geneva. When the conditions are right, La Bise can cover park benches, sidewalks, and entire trees in ice, creating a magical winter wonderland.
Contributed by Derek from Everything Copenhagen
One underrated European city for a winter getaway is Copenhagen, Denmark. The temperatures get colder, but there’s no loss in activities or sightseeing. In Copenhagen, the Christmas season is especially exciting. You’ll love the Danish capital during winter. The whole city is covered in festive evergreen garlands, pretty lights and Christmas Markets.
My favorite Christmas Market is located in front of the Hotel D’Angleterre in Kongens Nytorv. It’s one of the most picturesque squares in Copenhagen all year long, but it’s especially gorgeous during the Christmas season. The Christmas Market is always bustling and the backdrop of Hotel D’Angleterre is especially grand. This is because the hotel is magnificent, but they also use LCD screens to turn the hotel’s facade into an advent calendar. It’s a must-see Christmas feature in Copenhagen.
For the best Christmas decorations, head to Tivoli Gardens. This charming amusement park is located across from Copenhagen City Hall. Each year it’s brilliantly outfitted in Christmas lights, a blanket of (usually artificial) snow and plenty of holiday cheer. Just strolling the grounds with a warm hot chocolate is all you need, but the rides are operating all winter too.
If you know anything about the topography of Denmark, you wouldn’t expect skiing to be on a list of winter activities in Copenhagen – but think again! This year the city opens its first and only indoor ski slope, CopenHill. It’s built atop Copenhagen’s waste management center and it is architecturally stunning. If you’re not much of a skier or snowboarder, you can trek out on the hiking trail built into the project. There’s not much more you can ask for in a European winter destination. For Christmas markets, a holiday-themed amusement park and even urban ski slopes – Copenhagen has it all.
Contributed by Jeff Miller from Our Passion for Travel
When it comes to a winter destination, you’ll want to make sure you have access to food to warm the belly. And what better place to choose than the northern Italian city of Bologna. Long regarded by locals and visitors alike as the home of the best food in Italy, there is no end to the food delights that can keep you warm. Aside from the Italian staple of lasagne and the Bolognese favorite of tagliatelle al ragu, there is another dish to help you overcome the colder weather. Tortellini en brodo (or Tortellini in broth) is the perfect winter dish. A combination of soup and pasta, it will get you through the harshest winter’s day.
Bologna can be scorching hot in the summertime, which makes a winter escape all the better. The hike to the top of Bologna’s tallest building, the Asinelli Tower is a lot easier on a cooler day. An upwards trek of 498 steps will certainly get you heating up as you take in the best views of Bologna. Walking the 666 porticoes to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca is another great stroll more agreeable in cooler conditions. At the halfway point, the walk heads uphill as you make your final ascent to this stunning church that overlooks Bologna from a distance.
If you’re very lucky during a winter visit to Bologna, you’ll have a dusting of snow. Against a backdrop of this city’s amazing red, orange and yellow color palette, this makes for a stunning sight.
Contributed by Helen from Helen on her Holidays
Seville is a brilliant destination to visit during winter in Europe, mainly because of the weather. With temperatures regularly topping 40 degrees centigrade in the summertime, many of Seville’s gorgeous outdoor attractions are uncomfortably hot during July and August. In contrast, while much of Europe shivers in the winter, the temperatures in Seville are pleasantly balmy, with plenty of sunshine and little rain.
Things to do in Seville while getting a much-needed dose of wintertime sun include visiting the magical Real Alcazar palaces and gardens, wandering the other-worldly paths on top of the Metropol Parasol (the world’s largest wooden structure), visiting Seville Cathedral (the third-largest church in the world) and taking a tour of the roof, taking a rowing boat around the ornamental canal at the Plaza de España and strolling along the banks of the Guadalquivir River. Pause for tapas and a glass of traditional orange wine at one of Seville’s many excellent restaurants – even in January and February you can dine outdoors.
With so many fantastic outdoor attractions, it’d be a real shame to visit Seville in the height of summer and spend your time hopping between air-conditioned buildings. Visit in the winter instead and make the most of your time in Seville.
Contributed by Katy from Untold Travel Media
One of the most anticipated events on the calendar in Italy happens in February when Carnevale is celebrated in the city of Venice. The canal city comes alive with masquerade balls, concerts, and events. Revelers wander the streets and laneways in elaborate costumes in contrast to the wintry fog that shrouds the city. Dating as far back as the 12th century, Carnevale celebrates a historic military victory of the Venetian Republic and marks the beginning of Lent. The event runs for two weeks and attracts over 3 million visitors each year to Venice.
You’ll find tickets to the most glittering parties hard to come by however it is easy to soak up the atmosphere. Visit one of the traditional mask-making workshops and choose a beautiful mask to wear. Make sure to be in Piazza San Marco on the second Sunday of celebrations for the spectacular “Flight of the Angel” reenactment where an “angel” flies above the piazza suspended on a rope. Then watch the candle-lit gondola parade, a highlight that people travel the world to see, especially if they are in Europe in winter.
Contributed by Ellis from Backpack Adventures
If I had to choose my favorite winter destination in Europe it would be without doubt Sarajevo. The capital of Bosnia Herzegovina is not so well known as a place to visit during winter, but it has lots of things to offer this time of the year and makes for a perfect city trip. What I love most about Sarajevo in winter is the cozy atmosphere. First of all, Sarajevo has a lively cafe culture and with the cold outside, they are brimming with activity. Wherever you are, there is always a cafe nearby to warm up with a cup of tea or coffee. They are great places to meet friendly locals, some of them happy to practice their English.
The best cafes and restaurants are in the scenic old town called the bascarsija. The snow turns the bascarsija in a winter wonderland straight out from a fairytale. It feels contradictory because the Ottoman buildings make it look like you are somewhere in Turkey rather than Europe. This is where east meets west and Sarajevo got its nickname as the Jerusalem of Europe.
Winter also sees a number of events. Because Sarajevo is such a multicultural city with different religions there is no Christmas market, however, there are amazing European Christmas markets all around if you are looking specifically for one. However, there is the Sarajevo holiday market that celebrates both the Catholic and Orthodox holidays. There are more than 30 stalls with handicrafts, snacks, drinks, and live entertainment. In February there is also the Sarajevo winter festival where artists from all over the world bring interesting concerts, performances, and exhibitions to town.
Sarajevo has plenty of indoor activities with its interesting museums, but also for those that love the outdoors Sarajevo won’t disappoint. Surrounded by the Dinaric Alps it’s a perfect destination for winter sports. The ski resorts of Bjelasnica and Jahorina are less than an hour from Sarajevo. Here you can go skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing. You can even stay in one of the mountain log cabins to stay the night so you can wake up among the snow-covered pine forests.
Contributed by Nabiha from Verses by a Voyager
London, the capital city of the UK is one of the best destinations to visit in the winter season. It is one of the greenest cities in the world and therefore has plenty of outdoor places to explore despite being a metropolitan city. There are many beautiful outdoor parks in London that get beyond amazing during the winter season when it snows and the trees are covered with it displaying a white blanket all around. Some of these include Holland Park, Reagent Park, and St James Park.
Moreover, the crowd is less and therefore the natural beauty of the city can be enjoyed in a better manner. During the winter season, London hosts some of the best ice rinks in the country including the one at the National History Museum and the Tower of London. People from all around the country visit London during winters to enjoy these ice rinks.
London has many Christmas markets during the winter season including the ones at the South Bank, Greenwich, London Bridge, and Leceister square. These markets get hundreds of visitors and are among some of the best in Europe. More so, Kew garden is a very beautiful garden in London and during winter when the flowers aren’t in their full bloom, this garden is decorated with lights presenting a mesmerizing view. It is one of the must-visit places in London during Europe in winter.
Contributed by Maya and Sari from Chasing Lenscapes
Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, is a great destination year-round thanks to its abundance of attractions, marvelous food scene, and trendy vibes. No matter when you’re planning on visiting Lisbon, you’re going to have a wonderful time, even during the winter months. As a winter destination, it outshines many of its European competitors simply because of the weather conditions and variety of things to do on rainy days. So, what is so great about a winter vacation in Lisbon?
First, the weather conditions are some of the best compared to other European countries. With an average temperature of 15 °C during the day and 10 °C during the night and an average of 14 rainy days per month, you’ve already got great chances for pleasant winter weather.
Second, Lisbon is not a cheap destination, and it’s also a very popular tourist destination during the summer months. Therefore, traveling during the winter months can lower the costs and shorten the time you’d have to wait in line to visit some of the most popular attractions.
Third, there are so many things to do in Lisbon. From strolling around the charming old neighborhoods of Alfama and Bairro Alto to visiting the magnificent monuments in Belem. Many of the attractions are indoors, so rain shouldn’t bother you, and you can always pop into one of Lisbon’s museums such as the MAAT (museum of art, architecture, and technology), the National Tile Museum and many more.
In addition to all of the above, Lisbon can be a great Christmas and New Year destination, especially for people who hate the cold. January offers great shopping opportunities, and in March you can visit the nearby towns of Torres Vedras and Sesimbra for some Mardi Gras parades. If you are looking for a cool place to escape the cold winter months, Lisbon is definitely one of the best winter in Europe destinations!
Contributed by Valerie from Valeries Adventure Time
If you are traveling Europe in winter, Munich has to be on your list of places to visit. Every year, this beautiful city in the south of Germany transforms into a winter wonderland with loads of things to see and do. Obviously, if you come in the time before Christmas, you will have the chance to visit one of the many Christmas markets that pop up all over the city.
My favorite one is the Tollwood Winterfestival which takes place at the Theresienwiese near Munich central station. It is an alternative Christmas market with over 200 stalls where you can buy all sorts of handcrafted trinkets and try delicious organic food from all around the world. Every year the festival has a different theme but it always concentrates on raising awareness about environmental issues and social equality. Other than that, you can also find loads of traditional Christmas markets around the city and enjoy the beautiful lights with a hot cup of Glühwein (mulled wine).
Even after Christmas, Munich is worth visiting during the cold winter months. One of my favorite places to visit when Munich is covered in snow is Schloss Nymphenburg (Nymphenburg palace) in the south of Munich. If you are lucky, the stream that leads up to the palace grounds is frozen and you can ice skate on it. But even if that’s not the case or you are not into ice skating, going for a walk in the snow here is magical and will lift your spirits even on the coldest of winter days.
Contributed by Lance & Laura from Travel Addicts
Near the roof of the world, way north of the Arctic Circle, travelers flock to Tromso, Norway every winter. Pinned between the mountains and the Norwegian Sea, Tromso just feels remote. The northern-most everything in the world can be found in Tromso: the world’s northernmost brewery, the northern-most cathedral, and the northern-most university. If it’s north, it’s in Tromso. But this Norwegian city also has another boast: it is the best place in the world to see the Northern Lights.
Almost every single night, the dancing green and purple lights can be viewed in the skies above the city and the surrounding islands every night. The Northern Lights viewing opportunities are so good here that people travel from around the world for a chance to experience the aurora. Every night, travelers head out from the city into the sub-zero temperatures for a glimpse of these mysterious lights. Nothing is more wintry than seeing the Northern Lights in Tromso.
If staying up late to see the lights isn’t your thing, there are lots of snow-based activities to fill your days: snowshoeing, cross-country skiing (called Nordic skiing here), and even dog sledding. Because the weather is so cold, locals and visitors like to warm up inside. The city of Tromso is wild about spicy food. You’ll find lots of Asian restaurants to fulfill your need for warmth and spice.
Contributed by Sophie from Bitten by the Bug
Brussels is beautiful at all times of the year, but in Winter there’s a quaint seasonal charm about the city that makes it extra magical. The streets and shop displays look wonderful thanks to the twinkling Christmas decorations and lights. There are fewer visitors, which makes it more enjoyable to wander around and explore the city. And yes, it’s cold, but there are always plenty of nice bars and restaurants around to warm you up. Toone, one of the most authentic bars in the city center, even has a fireplace and a cat besides their large selection of Belgian beers. It can’t get cozier. Getting a portion of fries or a delicious Brussels waffles with multiple toppings also helps to beat the cold.
Winter is when the Brussels Christmas market installs in the city center and fills the streets between Grand Place and Place Saint-Catherine with lovely Christmas stalls and a stunning Ferris wheel. Apart from original souvenirs, they also sell traditional food, glühwein, and shots of ‘jenever’. The latter is a traditional Belgian liquor made from juniper berries and is available in a wide range of flavors. If you’d happen to visit at the end of Winter in Europe, you’ll get to enjoy Bright Brussels, a light festival that transforms Brussels into a huge outdoor art gallery.
Contributed by Stephanie from History Fangirl
If you want a great winter escape in Europe, check out Borovets, Bulgaria. This gorgeous Bulgarian ski resort town comes alive every winter, as Europeans from all over come to enjoy skiing on the peaks of the Rila mountains. During the day you can enjoy all of the wonderful Borovets activities that are available, from skiing and snowboarding to tobogganing and going horseback riding through the snow. If you want to escape the cold and relax, there are a plethora of spas and steam rooms available to unwind in. You can even go to a local outdoor hot spring called Kotvata.
The après-ski scene is vibrant, so you can always find a place to enjoy the Borovets nightlife.
For food, check out Sunny’s for authentic Bulgarian dishes (I’m partial to the egg-and-cheese mish-mash myself). Make sure to try some of their homemade spicy rakia while here! If you want a fun spot to enjoy some international cuisine, head to Cool Runnings, Bulgaria’s only Jamaican restaurant. Borovets is just an easy two-hour bus ride from Sofia, so anyone with access to a budget flight to Sofia (or even Plovdiv) can get here with ease and start enjoying Bulgaria’s winter wonderland right away.
Contributed by Maria & Rui from Two Find a Way
If you’re looking for true European winter charm with snow-covered mountains, the sweet smell of cinnamon on the street, architecture that seems out of a fairytale, and Christmas spirit that lasts for months, you really need to visit Zakopane. This charming town is located in the South of Poland, nestled in the Tatra mountains, the natural border between Poland and Slovakia, and very easy to access both by car and public transportation.
Whether you’re searching for adventure in the middle of stunning nature, or just want a cozy and comfortable stay for a few days, there’s certainly something in Zakopane for you. The town is filled with dreamy accommodations and mountain cabins, countless restaurants, and a market filled with beautiful local products. There are also plenty of ways to appreciate the stunning views from the top of the Tatra Mountains easily, the most famous being the Gubalowka and Kasprowy Wierch cable cars. Winter activities are easy to find all over the city, and besides the Winter sports, Zakopane is also a great destination for hiking.
When you find yourself in Zakopane you need to try delicious Polish pierogi, and stop at one of the street stalls selling oscypek – fantastic grilled smoked sheep cheese served with cranberry sauce.
Contributed by Vicki from Vicki Viaja
If you think of places to visit during the winter in Europe, Barcelona probably might not be the first place to pop up in your head. Most people connect the Catalan capital with summer vacation, beach and a lot of sunshine. But what many people don’t know is that also during the winter months you can find a lot of sun and many things to do in Barcelona.
Anyway, during the winter, there are far fewer tourists in the city than in other seasons. This gives you much more tranquility and freedom while exploring the city. Another great thing due to fewer tourists is that you don’t have to stand in line so much when visiting all the amazing sights that are part of your Barcelona itinerary. Even your accommodation is most probably a few bucks cheaper if you visit during the winter months (except for Christmas).
You will most certainly not going to swim in the sea during the winter months but a visit to one of Barcelona’s marvelous beaches is still absolutely worth it. Since there are way fewer tourists you can have a wonderful and peaceful walk along the beach and enjoy the sun. Afterward, make sure to sit on one of the terraces to sip a hot coffee or sangria because you can even sit outside during the winter months. As long as there is sun you most probably won’t get cold.
Contributed by Diana from The Elusive Family
Lauterbrunnen is uniquely located in one of the most beautiful regions in Switzerland, the Jungfrau region. Between skiing, taking cable cars and lifts and visiting numerous peaks and a variety of other winter activities in the Alps, Lauterbrunnen’s location is ideal. In the winter, the village is in one of the central-most locations for skiing in the Alps and its location is easy to get to by train, or car (when accessible). Ski schools are close to Lauterbrunnen such as the ski school in Murren and ski rental equipment is available in Lauterbrunnen.
Cross country skiing and sledding are also popular activities that are accessible from Lauterbrunnen. Sled trails are located in Lauterbrunnen and up in Murren, while cross country tracks run from the base villages under the Alps. Other winter activities that are popular include winter hiking, ice skating, curling as well as snowshoe trekking.
A variety of villages are accessible from Lauterbrunnen as well. Murren is easily reached by cable car from the center of Lauterbrunnen. Grindelwald is another popular ski resort and, in the winter, many of the slopes are connected and can be reached by either skiing or cable car. Lauterbrunnen is great destination for the winter and has a variety of things to do in the winter and great things to do during other seasons as well.
Contributed by Sanne from Venividi Blog
Rome is my favorite city in the world. It has everything: beautiful buildings, a lovely atmosphere, a rich history and (of course) amazing food. I have visited Rome both during summer and wintertime, and, partly because of its mild climate, Rome is perfect for a weekend break during the winter. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: It’s a perfectly fine idea to eat gelato in Rome in winter.
Visiting Rome during the winter has many advantages. First of all, it won’t be too hot, so you can easily visit outdoor attractions in the middle of the day. Make sure to visit the Roman Forum and the Colosseum and learn about Rome’s ancient past. Moreover, even when the weather is not so great, there are many museums in Rome that you can easily spend days without having seen everything. The Vatican museum is, of course, a must, but don’t forget the Capitoline museums or the Borghese Gallery.
Because it’s dark early during the winter, you can watch the city by night even if you don’t stay in or near the city center. One of my favorite activities in Rome is to see the lights of the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon when it’s already dark. After that, you can enjoy Rome’s finest pizzas in Trastevere, another neighborhood that lights (literarily and figuratively) when it gets dark.
Contributed by Dagney from Cultura Obscura
Krakow is one of the best winter destinations in Europe. During the summer, Krakow’s biggest attractions can feel rather cramped. In the winter, however, the city is significantly less crowded. Krakow is the perfect city for those interested in learning more about one of Europe’s darkest chapters. There are several Krakow museums and memorials dedicated to WWII and the Holocaust.
Since many of these sites are popular, visiting in winter can be beneficial as they require less – if any – booking ahead. With fewer people, you also have more opportunities to reflect on and appreciate the site. If you are hoping to visit near to or over Christmas, you are in luck. During December, a Christmas market is set up in the main square (Rynek Glowny) and it comes to life with lights and festivities. Although it gets pretty chilly, you can easily warm up over a cup of grzaniec (Polish mulled wine).
Any time through the winter is wonderful if you want to avoid the crowds – though keep in mind, it gets pretty cold and the weather isn’t always the best. However, given how picturesque Krakow city center is, no matter the weather – rain, snow or sunshine – you will be awed.
Contributed by Kasia from Glam Granola Travel
Full disclosure: when it comes to Edinburgh, I am fairly biased. I lived here for a year and, regardless of season, return as much as humanly possible. That said, I think it’s a particular underrated winter destination! Nobody wants to go to Scotland in the winter since it has something of a reputation for being dreary. Well, let me tell you, this couldn’t be more wrong. Edinburgh is one of the most hauntingly beautiful medieval cities in the world, and even more so with a dusting of fresh falling snow.
Plus, outside of the busy tourist season, you’ll have many of the popular spots all to yourself. The exception to a quiet winter in Edinburgh occurs every New Year’s Eve, in the form of the legendary celebration of Hogmanay. I didn’t realize until I lived there since the only NYE destination anyone cares about in the US is New York City, but Edinburgh throws a low key iconic New Year’s party! “Hogmanay” means the last day of the year in Scottish and is celebrated every year with music, traditional activities, and a fair amount of drinking.
Edinburgh throws a massive street party with well-known musical performers. Whether you’re in town for Hogmanay, a mug of mulled wine at the Christmas market, or simply cozy up in a welcoming pub, Edinburgh is a perfect European city to spend the winter.
Contributed by Cath from Passports and Adventures
Finnish Lapland is one of the best winter destinations in Europe, simply because there is so much to do in the region. The region is quite large and has several towns that are popular in the winter months, especially with families visiting Lapland with kids to see Santa Claus. Towns to visit include Yllas, Saariselka, Levi and the official hometown of Santa Claus, Rovaniemi. While Rovaniemi is one of the biggest towns, you can choose to visit any of the towns and still enjoy all the activities on offer.
Once December comes, Finnish Lapland is blanketed in snow, making it a veritable winter wonderland. If you want adventure you can elect for a husky safari ride. There are many companies operating safaris with dogs, just make sure to choose one with good ethics. Advice on this can be obtained from the local tourism board. You could also enjoy a meeting with some indigenous people, the Sami, and their herds of reindeer.
If skiing is your thing, you can take your pick of towns to visit. The further north you go, the earlier the snow will arrive, and Levi is a ski resort in the north which is a popular winter destination in Finland. Other great winter activities to enjoy in Finnish Lapland include snowmobiling, ice swimming and hunt for the Northern Lights. And of course, if you are visiting Lapland with kids, a visit to Santa Claus is a must. Finnish Lapland is a winter destination in Europe that has something for everyone.
Contributed by Hannah & Adam from Getting Stamped
One of our favorite European cities to visit in the winter season is Budapest. Not only is Budapest just an all-around cool city to visit, but it also offers some of the best Christmas markets in Europe. You’ll find unique, locally made gifts and also have a chance to eat and drink some Hungarian specialties. The biggest Christmas markets in Budapest take place in the heart of the city, Vörösmarty Square from early November until New Years Day. Visit food stalls, local craft vendors and listen to live music every day.
If you’re looking for something a little more intimate, the St. Stephen’s Basilica Market is for you. It features a small ice skating rink and Christmas tree for ample photo ops among the vendors and food tents. There also is a special custom-designed light screening show displayed on the facade of St. Stephen’s.
Want to feel like a local? Then we suggest attending the charming old town of Óbuda that features a beautiful town hall, a larger ice skating rink, carousel and tons of free concerts. Feel like less of a tourist as you check out this unique area of Budapest. And if you’re feeling like venturing out of Budapest for the day, make your way 30 minutes out of the city to Szentendre, a picturesque little town. Walk past the rows of color old houses on the cobblestone streets as you check out their Advent Market that features local artists and producers from the area.
Contributed by Kate from Our Escape Clause
Stunningly beautiful, home to some unforgettable Christmas markets, and framed by rolling, sometimes snowy, hills, Salzburg in winter is a special treat to the senses. Salzburg’s Christmas markets are among the best in Austria (and therefore among the best in Europe). And that alone is enough of a reason for it to rank among the best winter destinations in Europe.
Whether you want to go ice-skating, soak in the ambiance of listening to carols, eat your way through every pretzel and krapfen insight, or simply sip on some warm gluhwein while browsing the plentiful number of Christmas ornaments and decor for sale, a trip to Salzburg’s Austrian Christmas markets isn’t one you’re soon to forget. Once you head away from the festivities, though, there’s still plenty to see in Salzburg in winter. Depending on your interests, be sure to make time to tour Mozart’s former home (and in Salzburg, two of his former homes are available for tours!). Plus chase down Sound of Music filming locations like the Mirabell Gardens, listen to a beautiful concert of Mozart music in an opulent setting. Or pay a visit to one of the many museums around town.
Those searching for a bit more festive cheer once they’re done with the markets can head to the very spot where the carol “Silent Night” was written in a small town outside of Salzburg.
I hope you found some wanderlust inspiration and are preparing for your winter in Europe travel adventures!
Where are you heading this winter season?
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