Winter in Europe is approaching.
Here we share the best places to visit in Europe in winter.
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Best winter destinations in Europe
Alta ( Norway )
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 the 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. We booked our tour, 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.
It was an unforgettable experience and Alta absolutely deserves a spot on your winter bucket list.
London ( UK )
Contributed by Eniko from Travel Hacker Girl.
London is a great place to visit in the winter months.
You can often find flights and accommodation much cheaper, than during peak season.
Read also: How to find cheap flights to anywhere.
The city is also not as busy, so you can enjoy London’s famous attractions without the crowd. That is of course if you visit outside the Christmas period.
London starts to get ready for Christmas from the middle of November.
That is when most Christmas lights are put up, the shops are decorated and Christmas markets open.
Christmas in London is my favorite time of the year. I don’t even mind the crowd, as the whole city is just so magical.
There are many different pop-up events.
Christmas at Kew is a big favorite for families. Couples like to visit the Backyard Cinema, which has a cool Christmas Labyrinth theme before the movie.
Of course, no visit to London is complete during the festive season without admiring the beautiful Christmas Lights.
Oxford Street and Regent Street normally have some more traditional lights. Carnaby Street looks very unique and different every year, which normally divides people.
Go and see for yourself if you like it!
Of course, London can be cold in the winter. The best way to warm up is by drinking mulled wine at Winter Wonderland or going ice skating in front of the Natural History Museum.
Sarajevo ( Bosnia )
Contributed by Ellis from Backpack Adventures.
Sarajevo is one of my favorite places to visit in Europe during the winter.
The capital of Bosnia Herzegovina is not so well known as a winter destination, but it has lots of things to offer during the coldest months of the year and makes for a perfect city trip.
What makes Sarajevo such a great winter destination is its spectacular setting surrounded by the mountains.
The Dinaric Alps are a great place for winter sports. It is not for nothing that the 1984 Winter Olympics were held in Sarajevo.
Some of the best places to go skiing and snowboarding in Bosnia can be reached within one hour from the city.
One of the largest ski resorts near Sarajevo is Bjelasnica that is still known as Olympic mountain since it hosted the Winter Olympics in 1984. It is famous for its steep slopes that are sure to be a joy for the experienced winter sporter.
However, for beginners, there are also easier options to take.
You can also go snowboarding or snowshoeing. The latter is a form of hiking through the snow. There are 8 snowshoe trails in Bosnia and a few are near Bjelasnica.
Another favorite ski resort among locals in Sarajevo is Jahorina. This is the second tallest mountain peak in the Dinaric Alps and was home to the Women’s Alpine competitions in the 1984 Winter Olympics.
Again this is a great place for skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing. Both resorts have ample of great mountain resorts with cozy log cabins to stay the night so that you can wake up in your own winter wonderland surrounded by snow-covered pine forests.
If you have enough of all the snow in the mountains, Sarajevo itself is a great place to relax.
It will be cold in winter, but there are plenty of indoor activities.
There are some interesting museums about the civil war in the nineties and there is a vibrant cafe culture in the city. A cafe where a warm cup of tea or coffee is waiting for you is never far away.
Prague ( Czech Republic )
Contributed by Randi from Just a pack.
Prague may not be the first place you think of when it comes to ideal winter destinations.
However, there are plenty of reasons to visit the City of a Hundred Spires in the winter.
First of all, visiting Prague in the winter means fewer crowds.
While Prague is a popular destination year-round, and especially in the summer and December, tourism drops considerably in the later winter months and popular sites like the Old Town and Mala Strana can be enjoyed with more elbow room.
The second and probably most appealing reason to visit Prague in the winter is the glorious Christmas Markets that pop up around the city in late November and early December.
No less than ten Christmas Markets spread holiday cheer across the city with stalls selling traditional Czech food and drinks, handmade wooden toys, Christmas ornaments, trinkets and more.
The more popular markets include the ones at Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, and at Prague Castle, but to get a slice of local life head to the Christmas Markets at Náměstí Míru or Jiřího z Poděbrad.
If you’re lucky, and the winter gods oblige, you may even get to see the markets with a dusting of snow – one of the most magical experiences the city can offer!
Innsbruck ( Austria )
Contributed by Alex from The Wayward Walrus.
Walking off the train in Innsbruck, Austria is like walking into a winter wonderland. Innsbruck in wintertime means arriving to a quaint city center full of traditional Gothic, medieval architecture surrounded by snow-capped mountains that give the entire city a crisp blue hue.
As Austria’s fifth-largest city, it has its own airport and international train station that makes getting here effortless, even during the winter months.
One of the best tourist attractions is walking around the Old Town or Altstadt von Innsbruck.
Here you’ll witness a city center stuck in time with cobblestone roads that date back 500 years ago.
Cafes, bars, and shops line the streets and provide visitors a way to get warm while they explore the city.
If you fancy exploring the surrounding areas you can easily take day trips to Swarovski Crystal Worlds, the Imperial Palace, Alpine Zoo, and Ambras Castle just to name a few.
And if you’re visiting around the holidays, don’t forget to check out Innsbruck’s traditional Christmas markets!
But it wouldn’t be a visit to Austria during the wintertime if we didn’t mention the loads of outdoor activities for all to enjoy in the surrounding mountains.
World-class ski slopes such as Stubai Glacier, Patscherkofel Vital Park, Bergisel Ski Jump, and Axamer Lizum Olympia Park are just a short drive or bus ride from Innsbruck.
If skiing isn’t your thing, take a trip to the Luge and Skeleton Track in Igls that was home to the 1964 Olympic Bobsledding competition and still functions today.
Athens ( Greece )
Contributed by Chris from Trip & Trail.
When it comes to winter destinations I lean towards either the snowy and winterish ones, or—on the other side of the spectrum—places with warmer milder climates.
Leaving the in-betweens—usually wet and miserable places like London for another time of the year.
In this sense, Athens makes an ideal winter destination.
The Greek capital is beautiful all-year-round but during summer it can get too hot and crowded; something you can avoid by visiting in the winter.
Yes, it may not have the fairytale Christmas markets of central Europe and the snow-covered squares, but it has a strong—rough around the edges—character and of course its inhabitants, the bohemian Athenians who by then have long forgotten the islands and the beach clubs of south Attica, have returned to the cozy bars and restaurants of the ancient city.
Plaka, Gazi, and Petralona are just a few of the city’s hip neighborhoods where you can find hundreds of small joints to drink your coffee in the day and have a delicious dinner followed by a drink in the night.
Needless to say, all the usual attractions of the city like archaeological sites and museums are open with the added bonus of smaller crowds and the absence of queues.
There is also a winter side to the usually sunny Athens though.
Events, concerts, and modern exhibitions take place throughout the city.
The Christmas theatre hosts some impressive happenings every winter and it’s always worth it to check its schedule.
The Christmas decorations are beautiful and you can admire them by taking a long walk on Ermou street (the city’s most famous commercial road) even during the coldest winter night.
Lose yourself in the narrow alleys of Anafiotika on the foot of Acropolis and don’t miss a visit to the Monastiraki flea market on Sunday mornings.
Cornwall ( UK )
Contributed by Nabiha from Verse by a Voyager.
Cornwall in the south-west of the UK is one of the most incredible places in the country to visit.
Generally visited during the summer, Cornwall is even prettier during the winter season, mainly because of the fact that the south-west of the UK is warmer as compared to the rest of the country and gets very less snowfall, making it more pleasant to visit the outdoor locations.
Cornwall has plenty of outdoor locations to be explored during winters.
There’s also the Eden Project, which is the largest indoor rainforest in the world. As the temperature inside the domes of the Eden Project tends to get very humid due to a large number of plants there, winter is the best time to visit to avoid the humidity during summer.
There are a variety of adventurous activities to be done at the Eden Project and winter is the best time to explore them.
Another magical gem of this county is the open-air Minack Theatre.
Overlooking the Celtic Sea, this Greek piece of architecture is incredibly beautiful. During the winter season, when it’s pleasant during the afternoons, watching a show at the Minack Theatre is a must-do activity in Cornwall.
Cornwall has some of the best beaches in the country which can be easily enjoyed during the Cornish winter as its pretty moderate.
During the winter season, the number of people visiting Cornwall is much lesser than the summer season and therefore all the locations can be better enjoyed with less crowd around.
Barcelona ( Spain )
Contributed by Vicki from Vicki Viaja.
Barcelona is a stunning city, no matter what time of year you visit. Most tourists come to Barcelona during the summer months to enjoy the beach and the warm weather.
However, there are a lot of advantages to visiting the Catalan capital during the winter months.
Christmas time in Barcelona doesn’t finish on 26 December as in most European cities but goes on until the 6th of January.
This day is called Epiphany, or also three kings day, and on this day Barcelonians organize a huge parade that goes through the entire city center.
Everywhere you can buy some fresh churros, which are best to be enjoyed together with a cup of hot chocolate.
Next to the Sagrada Família and the Cathedral of Barcelona, there is a small Christmas market selling small fir trees, Catalan handicrafts, and souvenirs.
However, 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. Even the queues in front of the famous Barcelona attractions are significantly shorter in winter.
For your accommodation, you usually save a few euros if you visit Barcelona during the winter season.
Even though it’s not warm enough to go swimming in winter, you can still enjoy the beach on a sunny day.
Read also: Why you must visit the Algarve in winter.
The beaches are relatively empty during the winter, which gives you a much more beautiful view of the sea.
The weather is usually very sunny even in winter so you can sit outside during the daytime and enjoy a coffee or a delicious sangria without being cold.
Edinburgh ( Scotland )
Contributed by Yvette from Wayfaring Kiwi.
Edinburgh makes a great winter holiday spot for a weekend break or even longer!
The Christmas Markets are one of the highlights during December; sip on mulled wine at one of the many pop-up bars, shop the stalls and appease your inner child on the fairground rides.
The Christmas lights at the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens are also a magical experience.
The city comes alive during Hogmanay, which is the name for New Year celebrations in Scotland.
Join in on the Torchlight Procession on December 30 that sees some 20,000 torchbearers march through the streets of Edinburgh to pipe, drum and dance bands.
On New Year’s Eve, there is a massive street party in the city center with live music, a ceilidh, and fireworks to mark the start of the New Year- with the magnificent backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.
Attending Hogmanay is a unique experience but those who want to avoid the crowds may want to plan their winter getaway to Edinburgh outside this festive period.
The city is relatively quiet in winter which means you won’t be waiting in line for the many attractions.
Edinburgh also has many free museums and art galleries.
The National Museum of Scotland is a fantastic museum filled with Scottish artifacts and you can spend hours admiring the exhibits.
And if the weather is dreich, as the Scots like to say, you can always cozy up in one of the many pubs and warm your insides with a glass of whiskey or mulled wine.
Scotland is also known for its hearty cuisine, so leave your guilt at home and indulge in a delicious steak pie, haggis, neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes), Cullen skink (fish soup) or sticky toffee pudding!
Kiruna ( Sweden )
Contributed by Kat from Wandering Bird.
If you’re looking for fantastic winter destinations to visit in Europe, look no further than Kiruna in Sweden.
This picturesque town has everything you need for a perfect winter holiday: snow, great views and it’s officially one of the best places in the world to see the Northern lights.
Despite the high likelihood of snow, Kiruna has a unique location surrounded by mountains and lakes, and those make for 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.
Every year a world-famous Ice Hotel is built in this area, it’s definitely worth a visit and maybe even a stay if you’re brave enough!
You can also go dog-sledding with a team of huskies, snowmobiling across frozen lakes and incredible snow-covered landscapes, cross-country skiing (not for the faint-hearted), hiking (yep, in the snow), wildlife viewing, join one of the photography tours or just relax and enjoy the incredible views.
If you’ve picked a good hotel, you could even relax in your very own hot tub!
One of my favorite activities is a trip to the nearby Sky Station, where a cable car will take you up a mountain to a restaurant at the top.
This is great evening out and perfect for stargazing while you enjoy a delicious meal. (This is also another fantastic opportunity for Northern Lights viewing if that’s your goal!)
Kiruna can be visited all year, but in the winter it really comes alive- making it the perfect winter destination.
Seville ( Spain )
Contributed by Dhara from Not about the Miles.
Seville is a fabulous European winter destination. The Andalusian capital stays vibrant all through the winter because winters are mild in the southern province of Spain.
There are many things to do in Seville throughout the year, and you can do almost all of them in the winter as well.
Even between December and February, daytime temperatures in Seville rarely fall below a balmy 60 degrees Fahrenheit. And with plenty of blue skies and sunshine on most days, sightseeing is a joy. Nights are a little colder, but all you need are a cozy jacket and long pants, to still be out and about.
All of Seville’s major sights are a joy to visit in the winter, with fewer crowds.
You can still stroll around the gigantic Plaza of Spain, or through the green Maria Luisa Park. The gardens of the Alcazar still look beautiful, because of the lovely palm trees and the architectural elements.
And you’ll have an overall more pleasant experience at the major monuments, with much shorter lines!
As Christmas approaches, gear up for celebrating!
There are lots of Christmas markets set up through the city.
Browse the markets for beautiful local arts and crafts, or just walk around, enjoying the ambiance.
Visit the plazas of the city at night to view the lights and to hear the magical sound of Christmas carols floating through the air.
Of special interest are the elaborate Nativity scenes set up in shops and squares throughout Seville.
If you are in Seville on New Year’s Eve, make your way to Plaza Nueva, to see the fireworks and to ring in the new year. Make sure you take 12 grapes with you…it’s a tradition to eat one grape for each stroke at midnight, to ensure good luck through the coming year!
Paris ( France )
Contributed by Elisa from World in Paris.
Paris in France is a great destination to visit in the Winter.
The weather is not as cold as in the north of Europe so you can enjoy the streets of Paris, perhaps with a break for a coffee in a cute Parisian café, as long as you wear warm clothes.
Winter in Paris starts with the first Christmas Markets, the opening of the ice skate rinks, and several other holidays activities.
During this period there are also various good food and wine festivals, most of them related to the holidays.
Other interesting events in Paris in the winter are the Festival of Lights – a magical stroll lit by monumental lanterns set in the alleys and pitches of Jardin des Plantes and Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes – or Christmas at Disneyland Paris.
It is not uncommon to see snow in Paris even if usually, it melts down really fast.
But last years we had some heavy snowfall in January and February with great photo opportunities by the most iconic sights in Paris.
Read also: The perfect Lisbon itinerary.
If the weather is too cold to stay outside, Paris has some of the best museums in the world like the Louvre Museum, or Orsay Museum, just to name a few.
But there are other lesser-known museums which are also worth the visit.
This list includes small museums like the Orangerie, Cluny Museum, or the digital museum l’ Atelier des Lumières, one of the newest additions to the city.
If you have more than 3 days to spend in Paris don’t hesitate to leave the city for a day trip. Places like Château de Versailles or Château de Chantilly are wonderful in wintertime.
Krakow ( Poland)
Contributed by Dagney from Cultura Obscura.
Krakow is a fantastic winter destination.
The city, often quite crowded in the summer is much quieter throughout the winter. Popular day-trips like the Wieliczka Salt Mine and Auschwitz require less advance booking notice.
Plus, as an added bonus flights and accommodation are typically cheaper in winter as it is offseason.
However, the real reason to visit Krakow in the winter is the atmosphere.
In December there is a lovely Christmas Market that fills up the city’s main square, Rynek Glowny.
The lights and festive drinks make the chilly weather feel almost warm and make a stroll around the old town extra cheerful.
Make sure to try a Chimney Cake together with your mulled wine.
In addition to the Christmas market, lights also go up around the rest of the city. Anyone arriving by bus or train via Krakow Glowny will be greeted by elaborate holiday decorations and sometimes music.
Krakow is a beautiful city to walk around as almost none of it was destroyed during WWII.
As a result, it still has plenty of traditional gothic and renaissance architecture, among others.
Although it is visually stunning any time of year, the winter ambiance and lack of crowds can make it extra magical.
If the cold weather feels daunting, make sure to pop into one of the city’s themed cafes, which are some of the top unusual things to do in Krakow. These include a board game cafe and cat cafes. Krakow is also a foodie destination and you can get anything from delicious pierogis to top-notch vegan food.
Contributed by Liza from Tripsget.
One of the best places to visit in Europe in winter is Malta.
Malta is a relatively small island country located in the Mediterranean Sea very close to the Italian island of Sicily.
Due to the location, it never gets very cold in Malta and moreover, on average, there are about 300 sunny days in Malta. This means that even winters are usually very sunny.
Hence, if you want to enjoy relatively warm weather (about 13-17C) and sun, it makes sense to visit Malta in winter.
Read also: 13 wonderful things to do in the Azores.
Malta consists of 3 main islands – Malta, Gozo, and Comino and all the three are worth visiting.
My favorite is probably Gozo just because it is a bit less visited and less busy but nevertheless has some incredible places.
It’s very easy to explore Malta by car – you can rent a car for 4-5 days and drive around the main island and Gozo (if you take a car ferry which takes about 30 min to traverse the distance), however, you will need to take a small speedboat to go to Comino.
Some of the main highlights to visit in Malta are the capital Valetta, the silent city of Mdina, a very photogenic amusement park Popeye village, Victoria fort in Gozo and, of course, the famous blue lagoon in Comino.
Malta has a very long and interesting history, so it also makes sense to buy a tour or even two to learn more about the island country.
Malta was also one of the filming locations of the Game of Thrones, so if you’re a fan of the series, it’s just another reason to visit Malta.
Bruges ( Belgium)
Contributed by Marie from A Life Without Borders.
With its lack of tourist crowds and a relatively mild winter climate, Bruges is one of the best cities to visit in Europe for winter.
Located in the West Flanders region of Belgium, the medieval city of Bruges is stunning all year round but Bruges in winter is just magical.
With pretty canals and cobblestone streets, ornate, gothic architecture, delectable chocolates, and charming Christmas markets, Bruges makes the perfect winter getaway.
From late November until early January, visit the charming Bruges Christmas markets.
Set in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage town, the Christmas markets boast old-time wooden chalets offering traditional hot mulled wine, homemade handicrafts, Christmas decorations and more.
And of course, the food stalls will have you drooling with a range of local food and drinks.
Enjoy strolling along the pretty cobblestone streets to get your fill of mouth-watering chocolates or take a cozy horse and carriage ride through Bruges charming old-town streets.
Take a scenic boat trip through the winding maze of charming canals before warming up with one of Bruge’s specialty hot chocolates.
Gaze at the pure white swans on the Lake of Love before climbing the Belfry of Bruges for panoramic 360-degree views over the city square.
Wander the Markt (Market Square) to discover gorgeous gild houses looking like a scene straight out of a chocolate box.
Cycle out to one of the four remaining windmills on the edge of town, before finishing your visit to Bruges with a superb Belgian beer in front of a roaring open fire.
Ljubljana ( Slovenia )
Contributed by Emily from Wander-lush.
Lovely Ljubljana, one of Europe’s smallest capital cities, is a joy to visit any time of year.
Winter takes Slovenia to a whole new level: the entire country transforms into a fairy tale landscape of white peaks and crystal lakes.
Ljubljana’s colorful Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture is enough to brighten even the dreariest of winter days.
Slovenia is a predominantly Catholic country, so there are plenty of seasonal festivities to enjoy in winter.
From November to January 2, Ljubljana hosts no fewer than four Christmas markets in the city centre.
As the holidays approach, the city is illuminated by one of Europe’s most ornate and imaginative light displays.
This is the work of local artist Zmago Modic and the annual display is always themed around ‘the universe’. Constellations, planets, and galaxies take shape in complex lighting arrangements, with a huge Christmas tree in Prešeren Square as the Centrepoint.
A great way to take it all in is on a special winter-themed boat cruise along the Ljubljanica river.
Another good reason to visit Ljubljana in winter is the food.
Slovenian cuisine is basically made for winter – decadent and heart-warming meals such as Štruklji, dough filled with a range of sweet or savory flavors (I like cinnamon or chocolate for winter), is the perfect treat to curl up with at the end of the day.
Ljubljana is crowded with boutique bars where you can sample Slovenian wines, including mulled varieties.
If you’re serious about vino, time your visit for early winter – the Slovenian Wine Festival is held in mid-November as part of November Gourmet Ljubljana, an entire month of culinary celebrations.
Ljubljana’s location in the center of the country makes it a perfect departure point for an amazing nature trip, including Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj.
You can find skiing and winter sports in Kranjska Gora, Maribor and Rogla – all under 2 hours drive from the capital.
These are a great budget-friendly alternative and usually much quieter than other places in Europe.
Brussels ( Belgium )
Contributed by Sophie from Bitten By The Bug.
Thanks to a nice balance between indoor and outdoor activities, Brussels is a great place to visit in Winter.
When the weather allows, it’s nice to take a stroll through the city center and marvel at its many beautiful sights.
Spot the differences in both wings of the asymmetrical, gothic town hall. Spin around on Grand Place to marvel at the stunning guild houses that surround the square.
Take in the magnificent view from Mont des Arts. Look for Manneken Pis and the other two peeing statues…
If you’re visiting during the festive season, make sure to check out the Brussels Christmas market and take a spin on the Ferris Wheel.
If you’re looking for shelter in case of rain, head to the Galeries Royales, which are covered shopping arcades with lots of fancy boutiques and some of Belgium’s finest chocolatiers.
It would also be the opportunity to try the famous waffles from Maison Dandoy.
Compose your own waffle by selecting your favorite toppings, and order a hot chocolate to go with it.
Another highlight in the Galeries Royales is Librairie Tropismes, one of the most beautiful bookstores in Europe.
History enthusiasts will enjoy the Coudenberg museum where you can explore the underground ruins of the former palace.
There are of course much more museums to choose from, so you’ll definitely find something that appeals to you.
Finally, there are many cozy bars and restaurants to warm up after spending the day outside. Order a local beer and the cold will soon be forgotten!
Zermatt ( Switzerland )
Contributed by Michael from MSCgerber.
Zermatt is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places to visit in Switzerland.
No matter in which time of the year you visit Zermatt, it is always somehow magical. However, Zermatt during Winter is, in my eyes, the best time to visit.
Zermatt is a car-free city, which makes it super lovely during wintertime. You can stroll around the tiny roads with your family, partner – or alone – and enjoy an incredible mood while seeing the Matterhorn in its full beauty covered with a massive amount of snow.
Arguably the best thing to do in Zermatt during Winter is skiing – as Zermatt is one of the best ski areas of Switzerland, if not the whole world.
And the best thing about it: The majestic Matterhorn is always in sight – which makes for an incredible panorama.
Furthermore, Zermatt is a starting point for various adventure and family activities.
No matter if you are looking for a crazy helicopter skiing adventure or a delicious cheese fondue with your family – Zermatt has something to offer for every traveler.
One of the best experiences is probably staying in an Igloo village, which is only available during Wintertime.
The only downside (in my opinion) are the extremely high costs of Zermatt, especially during Winter.
Everybody wants to enjoy the wonderful sceneries of Zermatt, so it can become really pricey.
I’d personally recommend staying one or two train stations away from Zermatt to save money and take the train every morning.
Finnish Lapland ( Finland )
Contributed by Chelsea from Pack more into life.
If you are looking for the perfect place to enjoy winter in Europe, then look no further than Lapland in Finland.
Located around the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi is a delight for visitors. Not only does it feature a huge Santa Claus Village with an arctic post office to mail fun postcards home with a special stamp.
There is also plenty of snow to play in, you can make reindeer sleigh rides through the Finnish forest and of course, your visit isn’t complete without a visit to St. Nicholas himself.
If that’s not enough, explore the various family-friendly activities such as mushing your own dog sled team, taking a snowmobile ride through the woods, going ice fishing on the lake and chasing the elusive Northern Lights.
The town of Rovaniemi also delights visitors with high-class museums, restaurants serving up international cuisine and a train station that has two overnight train departures to and from Helsinki, making train travel a fun way to reach Lapland.
You can either choose to rent a car and brave the winter roads or rely on a public bus system and tour operator buses.
Either way, be sure to venture an hour outside Rovaniemi to visit Ranua Wildlife Park. It’s the only arctic zoo and a great place to take the family to see animals that call this area their home.
Want to read more about dog sledding, visiting the Santa Claus Village, the best places to catch the Northern lights and the overnight Santa Train? Head over to my family travel blog!
Lake Bled ( Slovenia )
Contributed by Joanne from The world in my pocket.
Lake Bled in winter becomes a magical place, with streets covered with a blanket of snow, the castle overlooking the frozen lake and the stillness that reminds of a scene from the movie Frozen.
Not many tourists dare to adventure themselves to Bled during wintertime, but if you do, you won’t regret it.
There are many cozy places where you can hide from the cold weather, over a cup of mulled wine or a hot chocolate, looking at the snowflakes falling from the sky through the window of a café or restaurants.
If you are a fan of winter sports, Bled is a perfect base for going skiing in the Triglav National Park.
In less than half an hour drive away you will find the cable car that goes up to the Vogel ski center, one of the most popular in Slovenia.
There are slopes for every type of skier at Vogel: beginners, intermediate or advanced. If you are there check out lake Bohinj as well, which looks stunning in winter.
When lake Bled is frozen, you can even skate on it.
When the water is still navigable, the traditional pletna boats still carry passengers to the little island in the middle of the lake. It is said that if you ring the bell of the church from the island and make a wish, it will come true.
There are a few hotels in the area which have spas with natural thermal water coming from deep inside the mountains, where you can relax after a long day spent in the snow.
Geneva ( Switzerland)
Contributed by Wendy from The nomadic vegan.
Switzerland really comes into its own in wintertime, and Geneva is the perfect base from which to experience it.
The city itself only occasionally gets heavy snowstorms, but it’s surrounded by snowy mountains on both sides.
On the Swiss side, you have the majestic Alps, with endless possibilities for skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and other winter sports.
And if you’re a beginner skier, the Jura mountains on the border between France and Switzerland are the perfect place to learn.
The slopes are much gentler here, with plenty of easy green runs. If you’re traveling with kids, this is a great place to take them skiing or sledding.
Around the 12th of December, Geneva puts on quite a show in the form of an annual festival called the Escalade.
Locals dress up in period costumes from the turn of the 17th century, when Geneva’s citizens brazenly fended off an attack by the Savoy army in 1602.
Festivities are punctuated by battle reenactments, a torch-lit parade, and lots of mulled wine and local delicacies.
The following weekend, there’s a series of running races through the Old Town, including a fun run where people dress up in funny costumes.
Christmas and New Year, on the other hand, are pretty quiet, as the city’s many expats return to their homes to celebrate with their families.
Ice hockey is popular in these parts, and cheering on the local team, the Genève-Servette, at one of their matches is always a lot of fun.
And if you’re lucky, you might catch one of Geneva’s spectacular ice storms, when the notorious wind known as “La Bise” whips off Lake Geneva and covers everything in and around the lake in ice.
Borovets ( Bulgaria )
Contributed by Stephanie from Sofia adventures.
If you’re looking for a great winter European escape, head to Borovets, Bulgaria.
This snow-covered winter wonderland is one of Bulgaria’s three ski resorts and is popular with international tourists looking to enjoy a gorgeous ski resort at Eastern European prices.
If you’re an expert skier, you’ll be excited to hit the slopes as soon as you get here. However, if you’re looking to take your first ski trip, make sure to sign up for ski lessons.
The ski school is a great way to get introduced to the slopes.
There are more things to do in Borovets than just ski, however.
You can go tobogganing, ride on horseback through the snow, and enjoy the town’s delightful apres-ski scene.
Beyond the winter activities, you can escape the cold with a day at the spa.
There are great ski resorts to stay in, many of which are equipped with luxury steam rooms and spa services.
However, if you want to enjoy a relaxing local tradition, head to Kotkava, a natural mountain hot spring located just outside of the city.
You can also venture out with day trips to the beautiful mosque in Samokov and the nearby former royal palace.
While in town, don’t miss out on enjoying some of the city’s excellent restaurants, like Cool Runnings, Bulgaria’s only Jamaican establishment.
Borovets is just a two hours drive to Sofia, so it’s an easy budget flight away from most major cities in Europe, making it an accessible winter holiday for most of the continent.
Mallorca ( Spain )
Contributed by Nadine from Le long weekend.
The Balearic Island of Mallorca may not be the first place you think of when planning a winter getaway, but there are plenty of reasons why this Spanish destination should be visited in the cooler months!
Firstly, and most appealingly, the winter months are mild in Mallorca, so you’ll experience plenty of sunshine and highs of around 15 degrees Celsius in January.
And while these brisk temps don’t inspire swimming, you’ll still be able to make the most of the island’s beaches, which will be blissfully bare at that time of the year.
Walking, hiking and cycling are very popular pastimes on the island, and with the incredible landscapes, craggy mountains, lush forests, and sparkling coastlines, you won’t have to venture too far to experience the best of Mallorca’s natural playgrounds.
Away from the most touristic areas (resorts near the coast), you’ll find villages still full of local life, and of course, in Palma, the island’s trendy capital, you’ll find that it’s largely business as usual.
Browse the city’s historical monuments, shop in the vibrant boutiques and designer stores, and catch the famous Sóller train out to the seaside town of the same name.
Being the largest of the Balearics, Mallorca has plenty to appeal to all tastes, and while some of the accommodation options close down in winter, you’ll be able to find Airbnbs and traditional hotels that cater to tourists all year round.
And the added bonus is that you’ll pay much lower rates than in the peak season, making it the ideal time to indulge in an extended stay.
Gran Canaria ( Spain )
Contributed by Michelle from Greedy Gourmet.
Gran Canaria is the number one destination for a winter holiday or a winter getaway.
Just think of the fact that while it is going to be snowy and cold at home, you will be walking barefoot on Gran Canaria’s beaches under a bright sun.
Sounds like the perfect winter vacation, doesn’t it?
Gran Canaria is one of the Spanish Canary Islands, located off the northwestern coast of Africa.
The best part is that this sunny paradise is actually just a short flight away.
In addition, the flights are not horrendously expensive as compared to some other tropical destinations like the Caribbean or South-Eastern Asia.
On top of the beautiful sandy beaches such as for instance Playa del Ingles, Gran Canaria is home to the famous Dunes of Maspalomas. In this natural reserve, you can enjoy a lovely romantic walk by the sunset, a camel ride, or a buggy tour through the scenic dunes.
You can also go sailing, fishing, dolphin and whale watching, surfing and even go on a jet-ski ride.
If you love nature and love to stay active during your vacations, you can explore Gran Canarias many hiking trails and for example hike up all the way to the Bandama Caldera, which is a volcanic crater.
As you can see, there are many things to do in Gran Canaria.
The island offers something to all types of vacationers, whether you are looking to relax or whether you are looking for an adventure.
For more information on the 36 best things to do in Gran Canaria, check out my food and travel blog where you’ll find all sort of recommendations (including on dining options). Click right here.
Venice ( Italy )
Contributed by Chris from More life in your days.
Venice is a stunning city that is known throughout the world for its unique beauty.
For good reason, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.
But most people visit in the summer, which makes Venice a great choice for a winter getaway giving you the chance to explore this incredible city without quite so many crowds. And without the smell. The canals of Venice give off their own distinctive odor in the heat of summer but the cooler winter months do not suffer from this.
The low light of winter makes Venice even more atmospheric than it is in the summertime and you’ll get to enjoy Venice in the dark when it arguably looks its best.
You may need to wrap up warm in the depths of winter but on a cool, crisp winter’s day, Venice is hard to beat.
We love Venice because everything is just that bit different, there are canals instead of roads and boats instead of cars and this is what makes it one of the world’s great travel destinations.
One of the best ways to explore Venice is to cruise down the Grand Canal whether that is by Vaporetto (water bus) or on a private boat.
It is a fantastic experience and gives you the chance to have a close-up view of the incredible palaces that line the largest waterway in the city.
For the ultimate Venice in the winter experience, time your visit to coincide with the famous Carnival week in February, but be sure to book well in advance.
Tallinn ( Estonia)
Contributed by Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel.
Tallinn, Estonia is one of the most beautiful cities we have visited in Eastern Europe in the winter.
With a medieval, fairytale-like charm, Tallinn looks like it’s straight out of a holiday snowglobe.
The weather does get cold and daylight hours may be brief, but the cheerful atmosphere and the warmth and holiday spirit of the local people more than makeup for the gloomy winter blues.
Winter in Tallinn brings its own charms.
If you’re in Tallinn for Christmas, you’ll have the pleasure of seeing it decked out for the holidays.
Between the holiday lights strung up along the streets and in the restaurants and taverns, the good cheer and festivities, and the Christmas market in the Old Town Square, Tallinn in winter will leave you feeling like you’ve stepped onto a holiday movie set.
Tallinn is neatly organized and easy to get around, so even in the snow and with only brief daylight, you’ll always know where you are and how to get where you want to go. And there is quite a bit to be explored.
Whether you’re hoping to see the modern creativity of the Telliskivi Creative City, the steadfast charm of the medieval Tallinn Town Wall, or the natural wonders in the area, such as Kadriorg Park or the Jagala Waterfall, there is lots to enjoy in Tallinn in the winter.
Contributed by Maria & Rui from Two Find a Way.
Have you ever heard of Zakopane?
Many people haven’t, but if you’re a lover of the spirit of Winter you’ll surely want to visit Zakopane after you’ve seen some photos of this charming town.
It’s located in the southern region of Poland, at the foot of the stunning Tatra Mountains, the highest mountain range in the country.
So what makes Zakopane such a perfect winter destination? To start, this town seems straight out of a seasonal postcard, with its snow-covered mountain peaks, quaint wooden houses, and Christmas decorations.
Zakopane is unique not only for its nature but also for its unique architecture. Zakopane style is actually an art style in itself, synonym with a unique approach to folk architecture, and there’s a museum in town where you can learn more about it.
The beautiful buildings hold not merely museums but also great accommodation options, restaurants, and cozy cafes perfect for warm tea and sweet pastries during the Winter.
Even though this area stands out for the architecture, the jewel of the crown really is the nature you find all around Zakopane.
Because the region is well prepared to receive tourists, there are plenty of ways to see these natural sights: from hiking trails, to easily accessible funiculars and cable cars that will take you directly to the views.
There are also nearby ski destinations for lovers of winter sports.
One thing that sets Zakopane apart from other famous European winter destinations is how affordable it is. Even though the town receives quite a few local and foreign tourists every year (it is, after all, the Winter capital of Poland) the prices are still incredibly affordable compared to other similar locations and taking into account the quality you receive in return.
Some people like to fully indulge themselves in the best the winter has to offer, others are snowbirds who just want to escape the cold.
We included some top Europe destinations that appeal to everyone.
Winter lovers will enjoy the cheerful Christmas markets, the amazing ski destinations and the adventurous destinations in Nothern Europe where they can chase the Northern Lights.
Snowbirds can recharge their batteries at the sunny beaches of Southern Europe.
Happy Winter Holidays everybody!
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