Best Winter Destinations in Europe
There’s something magical about visiting Europe during winter. During this time of year, Europe transforms and is unlike anywhere else in the world.
There so many amazing things to see, from exploring towns and cities to see Christmas markets and sampling tasty food and drink, to going off the beaten track to see snow-capped mountains and medieval castles.
You can also take part in incredible activities only available at this time of year including husky rides in Lapland, tobogganing in Norway to seeing the Northern Lights.
Check out our list of the top European destinations you should consider booking a trip to this winter.
1. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is a beautiful city at any time of year but over the winter months, it really is quite spectacular.
Expect snow-dusted red roofs, cobbled streets and one of the most beautiful Old Towns in the whole of Europe, the city also offers a fantastic Christmas market and some of the best scenic landscapes you can find.
Oh, and while you’re there, be sure to try a trdelnik. These sugary treats are one of the country’s most well-known cuisines – a flaky cinnamon pastry cooked on an open fire and filled with fruit and ice cream.
2. Vienna, Austria
Vienna really comes to life over the festive period. With imperial palaces, charming Christmas markets and an infamous café-culture, the city oozes class and appeal. It was even voted the best city in Europe last year, which goes to show how great a place it is to visit – whatever the season may be.
Perfect for couples and families alike, Austria’s capital is famed for its operas, chocolate (try the Sachertorte), and classical concerts. Make sure to visit the Schönbrunn Palace and St. Charles Church while you’re there and, if you’re feeling lazy, enjoy a horse-drawn carriage around the snow-covered city.
3. Venice, Italy
One of the more popular additions to our list, Venice may be one of the most visited summer destinations in Europe, but during winter, the city transforms itself entirely.
If you plan a trip during February you can experience the Venice’s Carneval, one of the most impressive celebrations in the world featuring elaborate costumes, spooky masks, and an abundance of extravagant dancing. Tourists travel from all around the world to witness residents bring the canal city’s colourful history to life.
However, when the festival isn’t on, the floating city returns to its unique impressive self, and without the huge influx of tourists you typically encounter during the summer months.
4. Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen is one of the most pretty cities in Europe, with cobbled streets and locals riding bikes.
The Danes are known the world over for hygge – a feeling of cosy contentment gained by enjoying the simple things in life. During winter in particular, you can feel this for yourself, especially when visiting Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen.
There are many great things you can do while you’re in Copenhagen, including exploring the Christmas markets, ice skating at Frederiksberg Runddel and seeing the Tivoli Gardens Park. This magical, old-fashioned fairy tale amusement park features a number of winter-themed attractions and eateries, making it the perfect place to feel hygge and get in the Christmas spirit.
5. Lake Bled, Slovenia
If you are looking for one of the most scenic, romantic and picture-perfect European destinations, Lake Bled could be the place for you.
The Slovenian resort town features a castle on a hill which overlooks a stunning round lake with a church at its centre. Over the winter months, thie lake freezes over and transforms into a giant ice rink for tourists and locals alike to enjoy.
With markets around the lake’s edge, a plethora of scenic things to do, and some of the cheapest beer you can buy, visiting Lake Bled honestly leaves you feeling like you’re in some kind of old Disney film.
6. Budapest, Hungary
Winter is Budapest’s forte: there is simply no better time to visit than after the Danube river has frozen over, and the city springs into wintry life.
Famed for its Szechenyi outdoor thermal baths, these become an amazing destination over the winter months, keeping you warm as you relax below the water’s surface. However, there is so much more to the city than simply thermal baths – Budapest has one of, if not, the best Christmas markets in Europe, where you. can find tasty treats like chimney cakes and numerous festive foods.
Ice skating in the foreground of Vajdahunyad Castle is also a must-do, as is visiting the city’s various ruin bars and magnificent parliament building while lit up at night. If visiting Budapest doesn’t leave you feeling festive, we don’t know where else will.
7. Abisko, Sweden
Abisko is a small village in Swedish Lapland, located north of the Arctic Circle. This village is one of the lesser known locations on our list but perfect if you are seeking a great outdoors destination with activities.
One of the main reasons to visit Abisko is to see the spectacular Northern Lights, this is one of the best places to see this phenomenon. Although you're never guaranteed to see the Northern Lights, by visiting Abisko, you stand a good chance.
Other activities you can do here include going cross-country skiing, exploring national parks and husky riding.
8. Interlaken, Switzerland
Interlaken is a resort town in the mountainous Bernese Oberland region of central Switzerland. Interlaken is located in a narrow valley surrounded by mountains, lakes and glaciers.
Interlaken is picture perfect in winter with old timber houses located around Lake Thun and Lake Brienz with the snowy Alps in the background. As well as exploring the town, Interlaken is the perfect base for outdoor adventure activities like hiking and skiing.
9. Rovaniemi, Finland
If you love Christmas, or are keen to travel with children, the city of Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland should be near the top the list of places to go.
Located close to Rovaniemi, you can visit the Santa Claus Village, the official home of Saint Nick! You can get to meet Santa, have a special stamp in your passport and see real reindeer. It’s hard not to fall in love with Rovaniemi!
Due to the location, near the Arctic Circle, temperatures are extremely cold so be prepared for this.
10. Bruges, Belgium
Bruges is one of the top European cities to visit during the winter. This historic city is charming with old architecture, scenic city canals and lots of amazing locals beers and chocolates to sample.
11. Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh is one of the most historic cities in the UK with gothic architecture, cobbled streets, castles and gardens.
Edinburgh comes to life during winter, and if possible, try to visit for Hogmanay, where you can get to see street stalls, music, entertainment, free concerts, fireworks, ice skating and more.
If possible, try to do a day trip to the highlands which look spectacular during winter.
12. Transylvania, Romania
Transylvania is one of the most scenic locations in Europe where you can see world famous castles, medieval towns cathedrals, and Dracula's home.
This region is one of the best places to see in Romania.
Transylvania in winter really is something out of a fairytale and during winter the mountains, towns and castles lined with snow. One of the benefits of visiting outside of the busy peak summer period, you will avoid all the tour groups and crowds.
13. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam is one of the most visited cities in Europe and it is easy to see why it such a great place to visit. There is culture, history, bars, restaurants, impressive nightlife and picturesque canals - perfect for an all year round visit.
Any time of the year is a good time to visit Amsterdam, but during winter it feels extra special. During this period there is the fun Amsterdam Light Festival and the Sinterklaas parade, where Santa sails into town among a flotilla of boats.
If you manage to visit when it is really cold, you will also get to see the canals frozen over and people ice skating on the canals! There is also a large ice rink located near the Rijksmuseum. Or if you are keen to escape the cold, there are so many museums and art galleries to check out.
14. Reykjavik, Iceland
Tourism in Iceland has boomed in the past decade, and for good reason. This country is one of the most spectacular in Europe with friendly people, outdoor adventures, thermal pools, waterfalls and a black beach - one of the most unique things you can see in the world.
What makes Reykjavik stand out from other cities is the outdoor geothermal swimming pools, including the Blue Lagoon. No matter how cold it is, you can put your swimming costume on and relax in the naturally warm waters while everywhere around is covered in snow.
You might want to plan your visit in time with the Winter Lights Festival which takes place in February and includes lots of entertainment and winter sports. Be sure to also check out the famous Icehotel located nearby in Kiruna or search Iceland group tours which allow you to explore the whole island.
15. Bergen, Norway
Located on the southwestern coast of Norway, Bergen is home to fjords, mountains and amazing scenery.
Bergen is one of the best destinations in Norway and is magical during the winter period. The town is beautiful with small wooden cabins, friendly people and also the chance to see the Northern Lights.
If you would like a traditional winter Scandinavian experience, consider Bergen as your destination.
16. Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia and is one of the most up and coming destinations in Europe. There are lots of historic sites to see and in winter the Tallinn’ cityscape is stunning. Tallinn is smaller than most Euopean capitals and getting around is easy.
17. Lucerne, Switzerland
Visiting Switzerland during winter is a good idea, the towns and so pretty and the mountains and countryside are some of the most scenic spots in the whole of Europe.
Lucerne is definately somewhere you should consider going, this city has everything, world class accommodation, shops, museums, ferry rides on Lake Lucerne and also it is in close proximity to some of the best ski resorts in the country.
When wandering around Lucerne you will get to see medieval architecture, snowcapped mountains and the secenic Lake Lucerne. If you would like to stay longer a lot of people find winter jobs in Switzerland.
Paris is always a good idea! It is no wonder why this is one of the most visited cities in the world and winter is such a great time to visit.
Paris is amazing (but cold) in winter with famous tourist locations like the Champs-Elysées all lit up. There are lots of Christmas markets in Paris and also queues to attractions like the Eiffel Tower are a lot smaller than in other seasons, another bonus of visiting during this period.
19. Athens, Greece
Isn't Athens more of a summer destination? Well, yes. But it also one of the most underrated places to go in winter. This is one of the cheapest winter city destinations to visit in Europe and one of the benefits of visiting during this period is there are hardly any tourist crowds.
Prices for accommodation are also lower whilst there are no queues for tourist attractions and also temperatures are not as cold as other places on our list. If you are lucky and visit when it snows, you will get amazing photos of the Acropolis which looms high of the city.
20. Andalucía, Spain
Andalucía is probably somewhere you haven't thought about going during winter, but if you are keen to escape the cold, this region of Spain is a great place to consider.
Andalucía is located close to the north African coast and temperatures in winter are very mild. Although you won't be able to go sunbathing on the beach of swimming in the ocean, the chances of it being sunny are high.
There are also so many amazing places to choose from including Seville, Granda, Cordoba, Cadiz, Jerez, Malaga and Marbella. Andalucía is perfect for short winter city breaks, or if you have more time to spare you could plan an overland trip.
Other Places to Consider
- Salzburg, Austria
- Dublin, Ireland
- Berlin, Germany
- Ljubljana, Slovenia
- Grindelwald, Switzerland
- St. Petersburg, Russia
- Zermatt, Switzerland
- Annecy, France
- Hallstätt, Austria
If you would like to see and do more than your average visitor, search and compare the best Europe tours for trips.