20 Best Winter Destinations in Europe
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There’s something special about visiting Europe during winter. No two places experience it quite the same way and a visit in winter often feels like you’re seeing a destination for the first time again. Unlike other seasons, winter can completely transform a place and create a visiting experience that you just can’t get at other times of the year.
The short days and the snow provide the opportunity to enjoy winter sports or activities like searching for the northern lights. Alternatively, winter brings with it some important dates and celebrations, like Christmas and New Year’s Eve. These festivities allow local culture and traditions to shine through, showing you a side of a place you’d never otherwise see.
Not every destination is suited to winter, but for those that are, there’s unlikely to be a better time to visit. Let’s take a look at the best winter destinations in Europe and what makes each so special.
1. Hallstatt, Austria
Some places in Europe look their most natural during winter, like the pretty little alpine town of Hallstatt. Sitting isolated by a lake, this small Austrian town is dwarfed by the nearby Alps that look like their truest self when gleaming with white snow. But what makes Hallstatt so special is its combination of majestic landscape and delightfully quaint alpine houses.
Walking through town doesn’t take all that long, but you’re sure to find yourself stopping every few steps to admire the view in front of you. Made up of small alleys that work their way between traditional wooden houses, Hallstatt is wedged between the lakefront and the steep hillslopes behind. If you’re feeling energetic, consider hiking your way up to the Hallstatt Skywalk high above town for even greater sweeping views.
Hallstatt is a very pretty place during summer and spring too, but winter elevates it to an unmissable destination.
2. Prague, Czech Republic
There’s no question that the city of Prague is one of Europe’s most grand. So, it’s hardly surprising how crazy busy the Czech capital gets during its warmer months. Funny thing is, Prague is just as compelling during winter and has a fraction of the tourists. This city of old world grandeur, architecture and culture may even look more atmospheric with a light dusting of snow than under blue skies.
And while Prague is certainly a place of culture, its love for beer and partying means Prague is a fun destination as well. Enjoying the different local beers across the city’s many bars is enjoyable no matter the season. If you’re looking to warm up and drink some beer at the same time, Prague has you covered with its many beer spas, where you can literally soak up the local brews.
Not to be forgotten is the city’s famous European Christmas market, where you can savor the city’s festive spirit with seasonal drinks like hot mulled wine and the local drink of grog.
3. Tallinn, Estonia
Great big capitals can be great to visit in winter, but their smaller, cuter siblings can be too. Take the Estonian capital of Tallinn, for example. Centering on a pretty walled old town, this is the historic core of Tallinn that most tourists stick to. While the short summer brings with it better weather for outdoor sightseeing, it can’t compare with the way winter brings out the best in Tallinn’s adorable cityscape.
You’re in luck visiting this Baltic capital in winter as Tallinn takes on a picturesque, fairy-tale like quality. This is bolstered by the presence of the Old Town Christmas Market with heart-warming lights and a great big Christmas tree. The chance to go ice skating in a place like this is another reason to brave the temperatures outdoors. Truthfully, it can get really cold in Tallinn during the depths of winter, so no wonder locals like a good sauna and spa given the time. Of course, there’s always the option of curling up at a bar or cafe and watching the snow fall out the window.
4. Salzburg, Austria
The festive season is near and dear to the hearts of Austrians, so visiting a major destination like Salzburg is a definite homerun. This time of year is one of the busiest for the city, with celebrations and festivals left and right. All of this builds upon the sightseeing classics like the Mirabell Palace, Hohensalzburg Fortress and the Old Town area with classical music wafting through the air.
For starters there’s the Salzburg Christmas markets, where you can treat yourself to traditional gingerbread and spiced glühwein. Then there are the more unusual Austrian traditions associated with Christmas, like the pagan institutions of Krampus and Perchten which feature scary, demonic-looking beasts. For Silvester, the long-established holiday on New Year’s Eve, bring in the new year waltzing in the streets as fireworks rain down. Salzburg also enjoys the annual Winterfest circus carnival at this time of year, adding yet another dimension to this cultural experience.
5. Nuremberg, Germany
Europe is especially well known for its Christmas markets, and if Germany is considered to have the best, then the best of the best is found in the city of Nuremberg. This Bavarian city is home to one of the most famous Christmas markets in Germany, elevating a splendid medieval old town into a dreamland. A tradition dating back centuries, the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt has become a monumental festival of good cheer.
With well over one hundred stalls to visit, you can shop and eat until your heart’s content. Traditional foods not to miss include everything from the simple bratwurst sausage to the addictive local gingerbread, lebkuchen. Both can be washed down with a rewarding glühwein, hot mulled wine that will leave you forgetting how cold it actually is outside. The Nuremberg Christmas markets don’t just sell food and drinks though. They have plenty of potential souvenirs and gifts on offer, from Christmas ornaments to other worldly knickknacks.
6. Budapest, Hungary
In recent years the city of Budapest has finally been recognized as the great destination that it is. Part of what makes the Hungarian capital so endearing is the way that it takes winter in its stride. You might think winter would limit what things there are to do in Budapest, but the city actually seems oddly suited to the short days of winter. Even one look at the magnificent parliament building illuminated at night will convince you of that.
Budapest is quite famous these days for its large thermal baths, where people from all walks of life come together to soak. Good fun in the middle of summer, but come winter, they’re a god send as you stay warm below the water’s surface. Other ways to keep warm include hiding out in a grand old cafe or snacking on toasty treats like chimney cakes and other festive foods at local Christmas markets. Otherwise, do the opposite and embrace the cold with fun activities like ice skating with Vajdahunyad Castle in the background.
7. Barcelona, Spain
Looking for somewhere special to bring in the new year? How about the effortlessly cool city of Barcelona?! A true city of culture, not only do you get to see this fantastic city, but you get to experience New Year’s Eve the Spanish way. That means gathering with locals to watch the fireworks and taking part in the tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight for luck in the year to come.
Of course, visiting Barcelona in winter has its other perks too. For starters, the city is a fair bit warmer than elsewhere in Europe, so spending time outside won’t be such a hard ask. Plus, coming in winter means you’ll avoid the high tourist numbers that have led to Barcelona’s overtourism problems. And really, the only thing you’re really missing out on with a winter trip is the beaches. Even still, it’s hard to be bored in a place like Barcelona. So, whether it’s wandering the Gothic Quarter or sampling tapas, a winter city break here is a great idea.
8. Rovaniemi, Finland
For those excited about the coming of Christmas, why wait for Santa Claus to come to you when you can go to him instead?! By that I don’t mean the North Pole, but actually the small city of Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland. Just outside Rovaniemi you’ll find the Santa Claus Village, official home to good ol’ Saint Nick. Almost right on the Arctic Circle, when you visit the village you can meet Santa, get a special stamp in your passport and hang out with some genuine reindeer. It’s hard not to get swept up in this fairy-tale place.
Besides spending time with Father Christmas, Rovaniemi has other activities too. To learn more about the region and the Arctic, head to the Arktikum Science Museum for an up close and personal look into culture, history, and nature. For something more adventurous, why not go sledding with adorable and energetic husky dogs? The city is another good place to venture out and hope to see the mesmerizing northern lights. Rovaniemi is kind of the perfect place for all things Arctic and thus, one of the best winter destinations in Europe.
9. Abisko, Sweden
Wintertime is an opportunity for a lot of different activities, but one of the most enchanting is watching the northern lights dance across the sky. For a prime spot to watch this unbelievable phenomenon, somewhere like Abisko is hard to beat. A tiny village in Swedish Lapland, Abisko sits north of the Arctic Circle, so you can bet it’s going to be frightfully cold if you visit in winter.
It’s not the cold weather that makes it the best time of year to seek out the Aurora Borealis. No, it’s how close you are to the poles and the long nights that provide the best conditions for making out this magical light display. Abisko ticks both of those boxes. Once there, you need somewhere away from light pollution and cloudy weather, like the Abisko Aurora Sky Station, which was built for that exact purpose. Then it’s just a matter of looking up into the night sky and hoping that you get to see the magic happen.
10. Interlaken, Switzerland
Some places just seem made for visiting in winter, like the resort town of Interlaken in Switzerland. While it sits in a valley, the town is close to plenty of high peaks in the Alps and is a popular destination for outdoor activities. After all, when the Alps are on your doorstep, you want to make the most of them, right? Interlaken offers the convenience of accessible mountain activities from the comfort of a town that has the facilities to cater to your every whim.
What’s great about Interlaken is that it has activities to suit all types of temperaments, from those looking for gentle fun to those who take things to the limit. At the milder end of the scale is the chance to head up into the mountains, visiting peaks like Eiger and Jungfrau. Then there’s all the fun to be had on the slopes, with snow sports like skiing and snowboarding. Finally, see the Alps from the sky with extreme sports like paragliding and skydiving. Whatever you choose, when you get back you can warm up again and indulge in Swiss treats like cheese fondue.
11. Copenhagen, Denmark
Although you don’t need a good excuse to visit the city of Copenhagen, the festive season is probably as good as any. Denmark’s capital makes for an ideal setting to enjoy all the different elements that make this such a special time of year. The Danes love their hygge, and the onset of short and cold days pairs perfectly with that mood of cosy comfort.
One of the best things to do in Copenhagen, the Tivoli Gardens amusement park is even greater fun than usual come winter. From special dazzling lights to its Christmas markets and all the festive foods found therein, you’re sure to find this seasonal spirit intoxicating – and I don’t just mean the warm mulled wine known as gløgg. Besides Tivoli, other places in Copenhagen that will charm you with festive cheer include the ever-brilliant Nyhavn and the ice skating rink at Frederiksberg Runddel.
12. Venice, Italy
There are few tourist destinations in the world more popular than the floating city of Venice. So why not pick your moment and visit the Italian city of canals during its least busy time? After all, it seems fitting to visit somewhere nicknamed La Serenissima at its most serene. A trip to Venice in winter means not having to struggle past wave after wave of cruise tour groups as you wander along the city’s charming canals. The chaos of summer is replaced with an air of peacefulness, which is the ideal atmosphere for a leisurely city break.
In truth, Venice isn’t quiet for all of winter. No, things switch gears when Carnival comes to town, a celebration that Venice has long been famous for. Witness parades of people dressed extravagantly pass by while wearing the ornate masks that are truly unique to the Carnival of Venice. An unbelievable festival in a destination that beggar’s belief is a pretty hard combination to say no to.
13. Reykjavik, Iceland
It seems only fitting to visit somewhere called Iceland in winter, right? Surely, they know the best way to survive through winter and come out on the other side. Well yes, they do. From the comfort of the island’s capital city of Reykjavik, you can hope to see Iceland at its icy best. Up by the Arctic Circle, the people of Reykjavik have perfected the winter experience.
The city doesn’t just endure the winter, but locals embrace and celebrate it with the Reykjavik Winter Lights Festival. Held in early February, this free annual event is designed to coax people outdoors with imaginative and striking light displays. If you’re looking to warm up however, head to one of Iceland’s geothermal pools, like the ever-popular Blue Lagoon Spa. Here you can soak in the outdoors, letting the toasty mineral waters work their magic. And if the geothermal pools don’t do the trick, the local Icelandic schnapps ought to warm your bones.
14. Lake Bled, Slovenia
Slovenia is a country of endless beauty, but tourists mainly flock to picture-perfect Lake Bled. Truly beautiful year round, this alpine lake becomes a fairy-tale winter wonderland once winter comes. With views to the Julian Alps, Lake Bled is characterized by its crystal clear water, surrounding forest, clifftop castle and island church. It’s really just one postcard moment after another that results in this epic destination.
Staying in the small town of Bled – where you must indulge in a Bled Creamcake – you’re right by the lake’s edge. With a walk or drive along the lakefront you can reach Bled Castle or Mala Osojnica for some spectacular views. To visit the island Church of the Assumption of Maria, either take a pletna boat or bravely walk there if the lake has completely frozen over; it does happen! Whether Lake Bled is at its best during winter is debatable, but it’s hard to argue that it’s not magical when the lake is draped in the winter colours of blue and white.
15. Innsbruck, Austria
If you’re looking for a textbook winter holiday with winter sports and an alpine backdrop, look no further than Innsbruck. Positioned among Austria’s Alps in Tyrol, this city is made to be a winter destination. With its imperial architecture and impressive Baroque castle, Innsbruck could be just another great cultural city break. But its location means you have the best of both worlds – a welcoming city that offers immediate access to a winter sports playground.
Whether it’s skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing or ice-climbing, the mountains and glaciers surrounding Innsbruck are there at your leisure. Plus, no matter your skill level, you’ll find something your speed. Even though Austria and Innsbruck are quite popular during the winter months, the sheer number of winter resorts in and around Innsbruck means you shouldn’t have trouble finding somewhere to stay for your winter getaway.
16. Bergen, Norway
One of Norway’s most popular destinations, the coastal city of Bergen looks its most natural come winter. After all, it’s Norway, you expect it to be cold and snowy. Found among fjords and mountains, Bergen is often where people base themselves to explore the magnificent vistas this combination of landscape features creates. With a fjord cruise, it won’t be hard to see why places like Bergen were used as inspiration for the movie Frozen.
Even with snow covering the streets and the brisk outdoor weather, it’s possible to spend time sightseeing around Bergen. From the quaint waterfront buildings of Bryggen to the fantastic views found up at Mount Fløyen and Mount Ulriken, you won’t regret braving the cold to see Bergen like this. Up above the city, you can take advantage of the ample snowfall with both downhill and cross-country skiing. Alternatively, stay warm and cosy inside, munching on pepperkaker gingerbread with a nice mug of cocoa.
17. Canary Islands
Now, not every winter destination necessarily has to be a cold one. It’s just as good to escape the cold weather for somewhere warmer and get a break from shivering. For all that, there’s likely no better place than the Canary Islands. Resting off the coast of West Africa, these Spanish islands typically enjoy pleasant sunny weather while Europe freezes. And while other island destinations tend to close down during winter, you can be sure the Canaries will truly be open for business.
As for what there is to see and do in the Canary Islands, take your pick between lounging on a beach, playing in the water with diving and surfing or hiking across the islands’ memorable landscapes. Volcanic at heart, these islands enjoy varied terrains that include epic craters, sand dunes and ash fields. Basically, you won’t have any problem finding outdoor activities to take advantage of.
18. Strasbourg, France
When people think of France, there’s a good chance they picture places like Paris and the French Riviera in spring and summer. But France is a wildly diverse country and somewhere like Strasbourg, on the German border, works surprisingly well as a winter destination. An immensely pretty medieval city, Strasbourg is made up of charming half-timbered houses, impressive historic churches and scenic canals. Imagine an enchanting medieval town sprinkled with snow and there’s a good chance you’re picturing Strasbourg.
Proof that great Christmas markets exist outside Germany, Strasbourg’s has been running for centuries within its Old Town. Drawing greater and greater numbers of visitors, the Christmas markets offer up stalls selling handcrafts and warm drinks around a massive glittering Christmas tree. The rest of your visit can focus on sightseeing, with typical Alsatian scenery found in the small quarter of Petit France, the city’s most photogenic area.
19. Bruges, Belgium
There’s good reasons why people traveling to Belgium make sure to visit the charming city of Bruges. This historic city combines all that is endearing and lovable about the Belgian region of Flanders – splendid architecture, scenic city canals and all the beer and chocolate you can handle. What’s great is that when visiting in winter, Bruges is just as enchanting but without the massive crowds.
Maybe the only downside is that you won’t be able to experience a canal cruise during winter, but a trip along the cobblestones in a horse carriage is a nice alternative. Plus, Belgian cities like Bruges know how to do Christmas lights and decorations, building on the already marvellous atmosphere that it enjoys during the rest of the year. It’s hard to imagine the city’s main square, the Markt, looking even more delightful, but Christmas lights will do it. And whether it’s out at the Christmas markets or inside a warm beer cafe, there’s beer and gluhwein to drink and frites and waffles to devour.
20. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Any time is a good time to visit the city of Amsterdam, so why not make a winter visit. This ever-popular destination in the Netherlands always impresses with its picturesque canals, but winter somehow makes this city even more painfully beautiful. The Amsterdam Light Festival probably has a part in that, creating an even greater spectacle from this famous destination. Another spectacle worth catching is the Sinterklaas parade, where Santa sails into town among a flotilla of boats.
Amsterdam certainly isn’t a destination that shuts down when winter rolls into town, canal boat rides continue even as the mercury drops. Of course, when the canals freeze over you’re better off strapping on some skates. The rest of the time there’s the major ice rink just outside the classic Rijksmuseum. And yes, while Amsterdam is often beloved for its partying, coffee houses and red light district, it’s also a city of culture too. Spending some time in the city’s world class museums and art galleries is clearly one way to beat the cold.
As you can see winter comes in many guises in Europe and I am sure one of these winter destinations has your name written all over it.
15 Best Places to Visit in Europe in Winter
Most people may think of warm-weather vacations as the only logical way to enjoy their time off, but there’s something to be said for embracing the icy weather, too. Winter brings about the magic of Christmas, the adrenaline of ski runs down mighty mountains, and the romance of sleigh rides under the starry cold skies.
While not every European city is suited to winter, some just flourish as the temperatures plummet. Take a look at our list of best places to visit in Europe in winter and what makes each so special.
1. Zermatt, Switzerland
During most of the year, Zermatt is a sleepy village. Come winter, though, skiers of all abilities descend upon it to take over the 200-plus kilometers of pistes. Zermatt is a haven for expert skiers, with off-piste opportunities and top stations sitting at altitudes of almost 4,000 meters.
Non skiers will find plenty of things to do in Zermatt as well. For those who want to try snowshoeing and winter hiking, Zermatt offers plenty of sunshine during the colder months, perfect for a walk in the wilderness. There’s also tobogganing and sledding, as well as guided hikes for those who want to discover off-the-beaten-path areas.
A great easy trail to try is the 2.2-kilometer walk from Blauherd to Fluhalp, where you can catch sight of chamois grazing on the slopes and the Matterhorn in the distance.
2. Bregenzerwald, Austria
Snowshoer in Bregenzerwald
The Bregenz Forest is the Zermatt of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. With many kilometers of trails available, chances are good you’ll get to enjoy this winter wonderland much on your own.
Clean air and clear skies mean this is the perfect destination for star gazing and night walks. In fact, the area is known for its snowshoeing trips through the forest on full moon nights, as well as its Damüls “cuddle path.” This is a romantic five-kilometer path better enjoyed under the stars.
Start at the Zum Glöckle public house, past fairy-tale wooden huts and towards the Alpe Unterdamüls hut. Though the hut is closed in winter, the nearby country inn and restaurant is a great place for a cup of hot chocolate as you reach your destination. It’s an easy walk on powdery snow illuminated by the infinite starry sky.
The towns of Au and Bezau are in the Bregenz Forest and offer easy access to ski trails, sledding, and sleigh rides, as well as winter hiking. There’s also plenty of things to do indoors when you need a break from the cold, including museums, galleries, and artisan buildings showcasing local handicrafts.
- Read More: Top Tourist Attractions in Bregenz & Easy Day Trips
3. Val Thorens, France
Skiers in Val Thorens
Sitting at an altitude of over 2,000 meters with 140 kilometers of pistes, Val Thorens is the highest and most famous ski resort in Europe. The resort is surrounded by dramatic peaks and a blanket of snow as far as the eye can see – great for sports enthusiasts but also truly spectacular to see.
For those who want the beauty without the adrenaline, Val Thorens has plenty to offer off the slopes as well. From snowshoeing and winter hiking to more unusual activities such as mountain biking on snow or sliding down the mountain on France’s longest toboggan run. You can try an ice driving course or fly down the mountain on the highest zipline in Europe at hair-raising speeds of over 100 kilometers per hour. Or test your true courage with an ice diving experience.
- Read More: Top-Rated Ski Resorts in France
4. Reykjavik, Iceland
Iceland is at its best in winter, when the alien-looking landscape is covered in blue ice as far as the eye can see. The land of the eternal glaciers, Iceland offers the kind of adventures you can’t find anywhere else in Europe.
Every February, Reykjavik holds the Winter Lights Festival, which showcases light installations and plenty of outdoor activities to celebrate the last month of winter and the upcoming lighter days.
If you’re looking to warm up, Iceland is also famous for its many geothermal pools, where you can soak in steaming hot water under the icy midnight sky.
Reykjavik is also the perfect starting point for adventures around the country. From here, you can catch a train or a short flight to other corners of Iceland, where you can do everything from glacier hiking in Vatnajökull National Park to witnessing the 10,000-year-old Great Geyser in action.
- Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Reykjavik
5. Abisko, Sweden
Northern lights in Abisko, Sweden
Abisko is often considered the best place to see the northern lights on a budget. This is because the village has a special microclimate that makes catching the dancing lights on the sky a lot more likely than in other Scandinavian destinations. This means shorter stays are needed, which is easier on the budget.
Abisko is also the perfect destination for die-hard winter fans who want to experience cross-country skiing, sledding, snowmobiling, and winter hiking under the never-ending polar night.
The world’s first ice hotel is also located nearby – you can either spend a night here in “cozy” -5 degree Celsius temperatures or just take a guided tour to learn about its construction and history.
6. Hallstätt, Austria
Hallstätt sits right on the shores of Hallstätter See, full of 12th-century fairy-tale churches and quaint Alpine houses and surrounded by the snowcapped Dachstein Mountains.
Hallstätt is tiny, with a population of under 1,000 permanent residents who live in Alpine timber houses built up on the steep hill slopes.
Equally stunning all year long, Hallstätt really shines when it’s covered in snow and ice. If you’re feeling up to the task, the best view of winter Hallstätt is from the Hallstatt Skywalk high above town, though reaching it requires a hike not always possible in the depth of winter.
- Read More: Top Tourist Attractions in Hallstatt and along the Hallstätter See
7. Rovaniemi, Finland
Aerial view of Rovaniemi, Finland
For December travelers, no other destination makes more sense than Rovaniemi, considered the official home of Santa Claus. A fairy-tale place just four kilometers south of the Arctic Circle, the Santa Claus Village feels like a mix of amusement park and Arctic wonderland.
The area around Rovaniemi is a favorite for northern lights tours. Over 200 aurora borealis displays can be seen here every year – one of the highest numbers in Scandinavia.
Even if you don’t catch a display of northern lights, Rovaniemi goes through a magical period of Polar Twilight (rather than Polar Night), where the sun will still rise for a couple of hours per day. During these months, bluish, glittering snowdrifts cover everything, providing a magical quality to nature and buildings alike.
The Ounasvaara outdoor area around town is perfect for snowshoeing among snow-covered forests, while Ounaskoski beach is a famous spot for winter swimming under the midnight sun.
When you need some indoor time, Rovaniemi offers plenty of icy breaks, including a snow restaurant, an ice hotel, ice slides and castles – plus a warmer break in the form of the Arktikum Science Museum.
- Read More: Top-Rated Things to Do in Rovaniemi
8. Nuremberg, Germany
Nuremberg Cathedral during the holidays
Christmas markets are a European staple, and few countries do Christmas markets better than Germany. After all, it’s hard to beat the blinking of holiday lights in a medieval town, especially under a soft dusting of December snow. The Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt, which has been around since around the 1500s, is considered one of the best Christmas markets in Germany.
Here, over one hundred stalls sell everything from the famous local “Rauschgoldengel” (gold-foil angel decorations) to the traditional lebkuchen gingerbread against a backdrop of historical buildings.
With shopping done, visitors can catch a holiday concert at the Lorenzkirche church, home to one of the largest organs in the world. Or take a stroll up cobbled streets to the grounds of Nuremberg Castle, then visit the city’s toy museum to learn about the centuries-old tradition of wooden toy making.
- Read More: Top Tourist Attractions in Nuremberg & Easy Day Trips
9. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague in the winter
Winter rolls over Prague in early December and lasts well into February, with a dusting of snow regularly covering the Old Town’s church spires and red rooftops.
Second only to Germany for its great Christmas markets, the city is lively and busy during the second half of December, as tourists from all over Europe come over for some holiday merriment. February is Masopust or carnival season in Prague – another great time to visit during the cold months to see a fanciful parade of giant puppets and whimsical costumes.
The city that Franz Kafka loved just feels more magical in winter, as ice-skating rinks open all around the city, and medieval churches put on classical music concerts for the delight of visitors.
If you need a break from the cold Prague evenings, Prague is home to many other attractions, including over 100 museums and galleries, an indoor aqua park, one of the oldest libraries in the world (the 12th-century Strahov Library), great shopping, and much more.
10. Bergen, Norway
Colorful snow-topped buildings in Bergen
Arrive in Bergen in January, and you get a few magical things all packed into one. Colorful wooden buildings covered in snow, breathtaking views of the fjords covered in icy mist, and a chance to catch the northern lights dancing over the city.
Bergen’s idyllic harbor is a pleasure to explore off-season, as snow covers the fairy-tale-looking landscapes around. Sit at a café near the water to sip some hot chocolate and try kanelboller, Norway’s version of a warm cinnamon roll. Then take the funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen for a spectacular view over the entire city.
Fjord cruises run throughout the entire winter, and there’s truly no better way to experience the quiet magic of the fjords than from the water. Plus, the Bergen mountains around offer plenty of opportunities to try cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or sledding. The five-hour hike between Mt. Ulriken to Mount Fløyen is a popular winter walk just on the edge of town.
During November and December, the world’s largest “gingerbread town” is built within the city of Bergen. And on winter days, when the weather doesn’t cooperate, you can get a peak of the country’s strong connection to the sea at the Bergen Maritime Museum.
- Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Bergen
11. Venice, Italy
Grand Canal in Venice on a winter’s day
Venice might surprise you as a winter destination, but there’s a reason it often makes the top 10 winter lists. Once the colder months arrive, the tourists leave. This means you mostly get the sleepy streets, Piazza San Marco, and the bridges on the canal to yourself. Just remember to visit before the second half of January, as that’s when Carnevale kicks off and things get busy and expensive again.
While Venice might not sound like a snow destination, it can certainly snow in the city, and the canals often freeze in winter, the sun glistening on the ice in a rainbow of lights.
When the canals aren’t frozen, you can still catch a gondola ride – just bundle up under a thick blanket as you ride on the misty waters. During December, Venice’s largest square is turned into a gigantic ice-skating rink.
- Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Venice
12. Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg in the winter
Paris might capture the heart of lovers everywhere, but there’s a storybook French city on the German border that can do winter charm a lot better than the country’s capital. Strasbourg borrows from its neighbor to offer traditional Christmas markets, gigantic Christmas trees, and a dusting of snow as you walk through the stalls with a cup of hot chocolate.
Plus, Strasbourg is an enchanting medieval town famous for its half-timbered houses and picturesque canals that are stunning in any season.
The Franco-German influences can be seen everywhere in Strasbourg, including in its cuisine. No visit to the city is complete without sitting at a café near the water to taste an apple and cinnamon tartes flambées – which literally translates to “pie baked in the flames.”
And don’t let the winter weather scare you from taking a walk around the cobblestone streets of La Petite France, the oldest section of the city and the most photogenic, where millers and fishermen once sold their fare in the medieval houses that still stand.
The Strasbourg Cathedral, the 17th-century Barrage Vauban, and the Baroque Palais des Rohan are great places to visit in winter. They’re particularly stunning in December when decorated in Christmas lights, but they’re also a great indoor escape all winter long.
13. Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
Skiing at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
Located just two hours North of Venice and perhaps better known for being home to the 1956 Winter Olympics, Cortina d’Ampezzo is the getaway to the Italian Dolomites and one of the best ski resorts in Italy. Sitting just steps away from Lake Sorapis and the Tre Cime National Park, the town is also a high-end destination for winter lovers. The Winter Olympics will return to Cortina in 2026 – so now is the perfect time to visit, before the crowds take over again.
For adventure lovers, the town offers easy access to three skiing areas: Faloria Cristallo Mietres, Tofana, and Lagazuoi 5 Torri. Plus, there are great hiking trails you can use for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter, and an Olympic ice stadium to try ice-skating and curling. There’s even an international mushing dog sledding school, where visitors can take a short “driving” class, spend time with the dogs, and then enjoy their very own 30-minute ride on a husky-powered sled.
The town itself transforms into a winter wonderland in December, with a lively Christmas market, famous for its hot chestnuts and charming wooden huts selling handmade crafts. But the sense of wonder extends all throughout town during December, with many 18th-century buildings and cozy cafés covered in lights and holiday decorations.
14. Copenhagen, Denmark
Colorful buildings in Copenhagen’s Nyhavn district
Compared to the rest of Northern Europe, Denmark has milder winters with snow that usually doesn’t make an appearance until January. This makes it a great destination for city lovers who want to experience the magic of winter with walks by the canal in Nyhavn or the ultra-famous Kronprinsensgade street, Copenhagen’s best destination for cafés and boutique shops.
As one of the oldest amusement parks in Europe, the 19th-century Tivoli Gardens is worth a visit anytime of the year. But the massive area is especially dazzling in winter, when thousands of tiny twinkling lights bounce off the ice and snow all around you.
Tivoli actually has a special Christmas season (which runs from mid-November through early January), when Santa Claus makes regular appearances, holiday-themed shows are always on, and the restaurants inside the park serve traditional European Christmas dishes. During January and February, the park remains open, and the massive ice-skating rink becomes the main attraction.
Aside from Tivoli Garden’s own Christmas market, you’ll also find large Christmas markets at King’s Square and Nyhavn, and even one inside the city zoo.
Need a break from the cold? After soaking up café culture, stop by one of the city’s many museums, many of which put on special winter shows and exhibits.
15. Budapest, Hungary
Budapest in the winter
Compared to capitals in western Europe, Budapest is more affordable and much less crowded in winter, making it the perfect place to visit at Christmas for those on a budget. In December, the city is home to two main Christmas markets: Vörösmarty Square and St. Stephen’s Basilica.
The market at the square is the largest, with over 100 stalls selling everything from a selection of craftwork to handmade chocolates and the popular Mézeskalács gingerbread. There’s live music here daily, too, with a program that includes Christmas music but also jazz and blues, as well as traditional dancing. The market in front of the church is smaller but offers a skating rink and puts on a delightful light show, with lasers projecting on the façade of the basilica itself.
Budapest is famous for its thermal baths and hot springs – and there’s no better time to enjoy them than in the freezing winter days. The Széchenyi Baths are the largest and busiest, while the Gellért and Rudas baths are the most visually striking if you’re after stunning architecture.
If you’re up for braving the outdoors instead, the City Park Ice Rink – one of the oldest skating rinks in Europe – is hard to beat, with the Vajdahunyad Castle in the background. Or you can try a cruise down the Danube River for stunning views over UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The 15 WARMEST Places to Visit in Europe This Winter
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Last Updated 5 months ago
When you think of ‘warm winter getaways’, it’s usually not European cities that come to mind.
Most people think of islands in the Caribbean, safaris in Africa, or over-water bungalows in the Maldives. However, Europe has some decently warm cities during winter, many more than you might have previously thought.
Just because it’s winter doesn’t meant you have to scratch Europe off your holiday bucket list. We’ve researched all the warmest places you can travel to in Europe during the winter months of December, January, February and March.
Why visit Europe in winter?
As you will see in the places mentioned below, a pattern starts to emerge. All of these European cities during the winter months are cheaper, less crowded, and free of sweltering 35+ degree weather, making it a great time of year to visit.
While everyone else is on a crowded beach in Cancun, you can be checking some insanely beautiful countries off your bucket list, and not freeze your buns off at the same time. Here are the warmest places with the highest temperatures to visit in Europe this winter.
The 15 WARMEST Places to Visit in Europe This Winter
1. Canary Islands, Spain
The Canary Islands are a cluster of beautiful Spanish islands just off the coast of Morocco and only a 4 hour flight from London. These islands boast some of the warmest and sunniest weather in Europe during winter.
Which island should you visit?
You really can’t go wrong with any of them, but the most popular are Tenerife, Grand Canaria, and Lanzarote. No matter where you end up be prepared for endless amounts of outdoor activities, sports, hiking and natural wonders.
Average Daily Highs °
December: 21°c – 70°f
January: 20°c – 68°f
February: 20°c – 68°f
March: 21°c – 70°f
2. Limassol, Cyprus
Not only is Limassol fairly warm throughout the winter months, but it’s also a city that has the best of both worlds. You’ll love the mixture of modern areas with the strikingly beautiful old town.
The narrow stone streets wind out from the old fishing harbour with buildings dating back to medieval times. Combine that with beaches, castles and Greek ruins and Limassol is a winter getaway you won’t regret.
Any city in beautiful Cyprus will have similar temperate weather because of the island’s location in the far east of the Mediterranean Sea.
Average Daily Highs °
December: 18°c – 65°f
January: 17°c – 63°f
February: 17°c – 63°f
March: 20°c – 68°f
3. Azores Islands, Portugal
The Azores Islands sitting along in the North Atlantic Ocean have been long referred to as “Europe’s Hawaii” and it’s not hard to see why. Waterfalls, volcanos, natural thermal pools, mountains, lush greenery and miles of beaches are just some of the similarities.
Many people haven’t even heard of the Azores before and that’s a good thing! Enjoy the unspoilt nature while you still can!
If you need to get out of the snow, fly into the Azores direct from New York in 5.5 hours, or from Lisbon in 2 hours.
Average Daily Highs °
December: 18°c – 65°f
January: 17°c – 63°f
February: 16°c – 61°f
March: 17°c – 63°f
4. Seville, Spain
Seville is officially the warmest city year round in continental Europe and winter is a great time to visit. While you might get caught in the occasional downpour, it’s much better than trying to visit in summer when temperatures commonly reach over 40°C! Ouch!
Winter brings less tourists and much lower prices, with even some of the highest rated hotels coming down to under $100 a night.
You won’t run out of gorgeous cathedrals, handsome museums and fine art shows to fill your days with.
Average Daily Highs °
December: 17°c – 63°f
January: 16°c – 61°f
February: 18°c – 65°f
March: 21°c – 70°f
5. Faro, Portugal
Faro is the southernmost city in Portugal and the perfect getaway spot for someone seeking quiet R&R time. It’s a quaint and charming town offering an escape from the hustle and bustle, and has warm weather in winter unlike most of Europe.
Just like in Seville, tourist numbers are lowest in winter, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t lots to do. The winter season only bring around 5 days of rain each month, so there are still many sunny days to golf, beach walk, bird watch and cycle.
Average Daily Highs °
December: 17°c – 63°f
January: 16°c – 61°f
February: 17°c – 63°f
March: 19°c – 66°f
6. Gibraltar, UK
Many people have heard of the ‘The Rock of Gibraltar’, but not as many could place it on a map. (Especially us North Americans!)
Gibraltar is a tiny 6 square kilometre British Overseas Territory, located on the tip of Spain, with views toward Morocco. It’s been under British rule since 1713, but has exchanged hands many times before that.
While it’s small, Gibraltar is a great winter vacation spot for it’s mild climate and long list of things to do. You can explore over 150 caves, 50km of World War II tunnels, botanical gardens, take the cable car, or walk on the suspension bridge. You’ll also be a stones throw from both Spain and Morocco to easily add some extra warm winter destinations to your trip.