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31 Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

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Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

 

There’s nothing like a European winter.  The leadup to Christmas is an exciting time and one of the best continents to experience it in all its glory is Europe  With dazzling fairy lights, snow-dusted rooftops and the excitement of Christmas, here are the best European cities to visit in winter.

From cities you may not have heard of, to the more popular and obvious choices, there’s a city for everyone to explore in the winter!  Depending on where in Europe you would like to go to, you can even bypass a cold snowy winter if you don’t like the cold so much.

 

31 Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

1. Tirana, Albania

The bustling capital of Albania may not be an obvious choice but trust me, it deserves to be on the list of one of the top European cities to visit in winter.  This city has had a major overhaul in the last few years and the city has been revived into a fusion of art installations, murals, colourful cafes and interesting history.

Make sure you visit the Blloku area when in Tirana.  This is the most beautiful area with lots of cafes and great places to chill and eat.  You also cannot forget a stop at Bunk Art 2 and House of Leaves which are both very interesting museums about Albania’s dark communist past.  Bunk Art is even set in an underground bunker which goes beneath the city.

Tirana is a great city to visit in Winter because the summer here is unbearable.  The temperatures reach 40 degrees some days and being stuck in a city like this in the heat can be hard!  During the leadup to Christmas, you will find some lovely markets in Skanderbeg Square.  Although Albanians typically don’t celebrate Christmas, there is still a lovely Christmas vibe throughout the city.

 

Check out the best accommodation options in Tirana here

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

2. Sofia, Bulgaria

Suggested by Travel Breathe Repeat

If you’re looking for one of the best European cities to visit in winter, consider Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. We spent a winter weekend in Sofia one December and had a truly lovely time. Sofia is great for all types of travelers, especially in winter. Architecture and church lovers will enjoy seeing all the beautiful Orthodox churches and will fall for them harder in the snow. Skiers can pop off to nearby Vitosha Mountain or venture a little further to some of Bulgaria’s great and reasonably priced ski resorts. Food lovers will enjoy tasting the hearty Bulgarian fare, perfect on cold nights. Arts lovers will enjoy seeing a ballet or opera.

City lovers like us will enjoy simply walking around the city taking it all in. And it’s a place that definitely looks more lovely and feels more romantic under a dusting of snow. And everyone will love going to Sofia’s German-style Christmas Market. Sipping Glühwein surrounded by others enjoying the holiday season is always a great way to keep warm and happy.

Check out the best accommodation options in Sofia here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

3. Prague, Czech Republic

Suggested by Traveling Dany

Prague in Winter is one of the best European cities in the colder months, for a number of good reasons. Whether you’re planning a trip with your significant other, with your family or with a bunch of friends, you won’t get disappointed.

One of the things people either love or hate about Czech Republic is that winter usually means lots of snow. A pure white cover will hide the popular red roof tiles in Prague, and you might be able to take pictures of small patches of red only if you climb high enough. One of the best spots to see Prague from above is the Old Town Hall Tower. The entrance fee is pretty cheap and it includes the entry to the Old Town Hall’s underground, to the historical halls and the Chapel of the Virgin Mary.

If you’re looking for a European destination but you don’t have a big budget, you’ll be glad to know that Winter is low season in Czech Republic. Prague will be less crowded and considerably less expensive. This also means that your trip will be more authentic, as usually in winter the locals love to sit in pubs, sipping their beer while chatting with the tourists.

Another very interesting bit of information is that Prague Christmas market is one of the best in Europe: the whole city lits up like some sort of winter wonderland: you won’t want to miss it!

Check out the best accommodation options in Prague here

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

4. Bratislava, Slovakia

Suggested by Trip and Trail

Bratislava may not be the most famous of the Danubian cities but it surely has the charm and character to stand next to destinations like the nearby Vienna and Budapest with no trace of inferiority complex. The Slovak capital has everything you could ask from a central European city and additionally can offer a more relaxed and less crowded experience. Here is a list of some very cool things you can do during winter in this amazing city.

 Visit Bratislava Castle

It may have lost its status as Bratislava’s number one landmark from SNP bridge, but it is still an amazing castle with beautiful architecture and some of the city’s most amazing vantage points. If it happens to snow during your visit, then things get a fairytale twist.

Dine at SNP Bridge

Also known as the UFO Bridge this futuristic artwork of the communist era has risen to iconic status. Asymmetric and controversial, it can be seen from almost everywhere and is definitely worth a visit. You can go to the restaurant on top and dine while viewing the whole city around you or just stroll along its pedestrian walk over Danube and watch the river boats cruise beneath you.

Go Ice Skating

The city features numerous outdoor ice skating rings in the old town and the surrounding areas where you can also rent skates. If you are a sports fan don’t lose the opportunity to watch a game of ice hockey which is the most famous sport in Slovakia.

The Old Town

Bratislava has a gorgeous medieval center with stone paved alleys, big squares and numerous statues which have actually gained quite some fame lately especially on Instagram. Definitely visit Hlavne Namestie (main square), Michael’s gate and Hviedoslav’s square in front of the Opera. These areas host some colorful Christmas markets in December but if you’re looking for something less touristy and more quiet you can also go to Stara Trznica—the city’s old market.

Some cities are made to be walked and Bratislava is definitely one of them. Leave buses and taxis behind and discover this magnificent city by walking its streets and alleys during the day and night.

Check out the best accommodation options in Bratislava here

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

5. Luxembourg city, Luxembourg

Suggested by Paulina on the Road

One of my favorite European cities to visit in Winter is definitely Luxembourg. The capital of one of the smallest countries in the world is particularly quaint when it is covered by a snow cape. Thanks to its small size and being well connected to major cities in Europe, it can be easily visited from Paris, Brussels or Cologne during a day trip.

There are plenty of things to do in Luxembourg during winter. Even though it gets dark earlier than during summer, people still gather in the city center in order to enjoy one of the numerous concerts, festivals and restaurants. The most famous one is probably the Winter Lights Festival during which the narrow streets of the capital are decorated by impressive light decorations.

The highlight of winter in Luxembourg is definitely its Christmas Market. Located in the upper part of the old town, the Christmas Market has grown a lot during the last years. There are numerous food stalls where you can enjoy typical Luxembourgish food, local artisans and plenty of concerts on the central Place d’Armes.

As you can see, Luxembourg City is one of the top places to visit during this winter.

Check out the best accommodation options in Luxembourg city here

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

6. Krakow, Poland

Suggested by Passports and Preemies

Situated in southern Poland, Krakow is often an overlooked city.  Once the capital of Poland, Krakow is a city that is seeped in culture and history.  Known for having one of the best-preserved medieval cores, the historic center of Krakow was listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.

Beyond the sheer beauty and history surrounding Krakow, there are many other reasons to want to visit, especially in the wintertime!  Even though Krakow is the second largest city in Poland, there are plenty of times when you’ll catch yourself wandering the streets without hoards of tourists around.  Or in a café surrounded by locals.  Although a popular destination, Krakow doesn’t see the amount of tourism that cities such as Prague or Vienna see in the winter months.

When Christmas comes along the city is transformed into a cozy, winter wonderland.  Lights adorn the streets, and big Christmas trees are decorated and displayed throughout the city.  Even the horses are dressed in red as they trot through old town, pulling carriages behind.

Beyond the decorations, the main draw to visit Krakow during winter is the Christmas market that is set up in old town.  The smell of baked cheese and mulled wine will greet you as you weave your way tent to tent.

Aside from the history, Christmas charm, and medieval feel, there are also loads of sights to be seen in Krakow.  While Poland utilizes the Polish Zloty (PLN), Krakow is still relatively inexpensive.  It’s the perfect city to slow down, relax, and not break the bank along the way.

Check out the best accommodation options in Krakow here

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

7. Salzburg, Austria

Suggested by The Curious Pixie

Salzburg truly shines during winter, the city itself resembles a fairy tale village complete with a looming castle on a hill. In addition to its stunning architecture, as the setting for the 1965 movie The Sound of Music, and as the birthplace of renowned classical composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the city is also well-known for its skiing, Christmas markets, and numerous winter activities.

During the run up to Christmas the charm of the holiday season takes over Salzburg’s old city with Christkindlmarkt. The Christmas Market dates back to the fifteenth century and is one of the world’s oldest Advent markets. Imagine wandering the festive streets wrapped up warm in the crisp chilly air, snow-covered roofs, and the lovely smell of Gluhwein wafting from the magical markets. Sounds perfect, right?

The city’s main market is held in the shadow of Salzburg’s Hohensalzburg fortress, but the one held in Mirabell Square is especially popular with foodies who come to sample local delicacies. Christmas cookies, toasted almonds, roasted chestnuts, bowls of Kaiserschmarrn, ginormous pretzels and more – Bring your appetite!

In Salzburg you’ll also find St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf where the very first performance of the famous Christmas carol “Silent Night” took place back in 1818. For me it’s the perfect mini wintry city break. Read more in my 9 Essential Tips for Visiting the Salzburg Christmas Markets.

Check out the best accommodation options in Salzburg here

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

8. Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

Suggested by Wandering Carol

Karlovy Vary is a gorgeous spa city in the Czech Republic in the region of Bohemia. It may have a population of 48,500, but with its walkable spa center it has the feel of a small town – and an eye-catching one at that. Its pale pastel villas, hotels and historic spa buildings give it a fairy tale feel, and its many fountains pour out steamy thermal water even through the cold winter months.

In fact, many of the ornate colonnades that house the fountains are designed to shelter people from wind, rain and snow, so whatever the weather the number one activity is to walk from fountain to fountain with your spa cup and taste the mineral springs. The most elaborate to visit are the Mill Colonnade a Neo-Renaissance structure with sturdy stone pillars built in 1881, and the lacy-looking Market Colonnade constructed in 1883. If you really want to get warm, the fountains at the more functional-looking Hot Spring Colonnade are located inside, and this is where you’ll find the Hot Spring Geyser, Karlovy Vary’s hottest spring of all.

Other ways to keep warm in Karlovy Vary include soaking in the thermal water at the Castle Spa, eating Oplatky, paper thin wafers straight off the grill, or trying a shot of Becherovka, a local herbal liqueur that will warm you from the inside out.

Check out the best accommodation options in Karlovy Vary here

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

9. Paris, France

Suggested by World in Paris

Paris is a very good destination to visit in the wintertime. True, days are shorter and it is cold (and sometimes rainy) outside but there are so many cool things to do in Paris in the winter that you will forget about the weather, we promise!

Winter in Paris starts with the Christmas markets and shopping, ice skating at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and the New Year’s celebrations at Champs Elysées, Champ de Mars or Montmartre.  This is also the season of vin chaud, hearty fondues with friends or wine tasting tours.

When the “holiday crowds” are gone, it’s the perfect time to enjoy the city’s excellent museums and temporary exhibitions with almost no lines. Also, the first months of the year come with good french food festivals, whilst the popular Paris Light Festival (on the picture) lasts until the end of the year.

Finally, February is the month of romance in Paris, especially during the days around Saint Valentine’s day. Look for a cute boutique hotel in the heart of Le Marais or Montmartre, book a good restaurant and a night Seine boat tour or a night ride on a vintage car and you are set for a perfect romantic getaway in Paris.

Check out the best accommodation options in Paris here

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

10. Edinburgh, Scotland

Suggested by FunkyEllas Travel

Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city, is best visited in winter. Not only have the crowds went home, meaning the streets are beautifully quiet and the queues are appealingly short, but the accommodation is cheaper and all the attractions that were open in the summer are still open in the winter. Visit the museums on the cobbled Royal mile, all of which are free to enter, and discover Edinburgh’s murky and fascinating past. Stay in a cosy boutique hotel and eat in warm and inviting cafes and restaurants dotted around the Old Town.

Traditional Scottish food is perfect when it’s chilly outside so you can treat yourself to a bowl of rich Cullen Skink or a scrumptious place of haggis, neeps and tatties and you can’t visit Scotland without a dram or two of warming Scotch Whisky. You can find out more about the production of whisky at the Scotch Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile and lots of the bars have a huge selection to try out. I always enjoy a brisk early morning walk up Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano, near the centre, for stunning panoramic views of this charming city. I much prefer Edinburgh in the winter, I can wrap up warm and take my time exploring. Edinburgh suits winter very well.

Check out the best accommodation options in Edinburgh here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

11. Innsbruck, Austria

Suggested by Carolyn of Holidays to Europe

No matter whether your ideal winter vacation is all about skiing and snow play or you prefer less strenuous pursuits, Innsbruck is the ideal European city to visit in winter.

In the days leading up to Christmas the city comes alive with sparkling lights, a giant Christmas tree, market stalls and carol singers but throughout the remainder of the winter there are plenty of things to do in Innsbruck, too.

Innsbruck is just a 25-minute funicular ride from the Alps which means you can ski all morning and be back in the city in time for lunch.  There are endless opportunities for skiers of all levels to hit the slopes and there are more than ten ski schools around Innsbruck if you’re in need of a bit of tuition.

You can also try your hand at bobsledding and ice skating at Olympiaworld at Igls, just outside the city.

The city doesn’t lack in architectural or cultural splendour either.  The 15th-Century Golden Roof, with its 2,657 gold-plated copper tiles, is a must-visit as are St. Jakob’s Church, the Imperial Palace and Church, and Ambras Palace, which sits just above the city.

Winter is the perfect time to wander along Maria-Theresien Strasse, admiring the brightly coloured buildings with their ornate signs set amongst a backdrop of the Nordkette blanketed in snow.

The capital of Tyrol, Innsbruck may be Austria’s fifth largest city but it has a cosy and welcoming feel, making it one of the best European cities to visit in winter.

Check out the best accommodation options in Innsbruck here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

12. Wroclaw, Poland

Suggested by Karolina Patry

One of the best winter getaway destinations in Europe is Wroclaw, a city in Poland that has recently received its claim to fame by being the European Capital of Culture in 2016 with good reason. A walk to the center of its main square will make you feel like you have stepped into a storybook with the rows of painted houses from the 16th century flanking the dominating gothic structure of the town hall.

In December, this lovely location comes to life with an authentic Polish Christmas Market that is filled with colorful wooden stalls, artisan items, and Christmas attractions. It’s a beautiful, fairytale setting for a pre-Christmas feast of Polish dumplings, sausages, cheese, gingerbread chocolate, and mulled wine.

Aside from the Christmas Market, one of Wroclaw’s year-round attractions is catching the dwarves that are scattered all over the city as they perform their daily routine. You can also attempt to cross the city’s 100 bridges to explore its many islands. And, if you would like to know more about Polish cuisine then join the food tour for just under 3.5EU.

From just under 200EU, a wonderful winter weekend escape to the storybook world of Wroclaw is within your budget. For a longer stay, you can hop on a train to Jelenia for just under 3EU to get to the ski slopes of Karpacz and Szklarska Poręba.

Check out the best accommodation options in Wroclaw here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

13. Brussels, Belgium 

Suggested by Travel Passionate 

Brussels is a fantastic year-round destination, with plenty of indoor and outdoor activities to keep you entertained. One of the best reasons to visit Brussels in winter, though, it its excellent Christmas market located on the Grand Place in the centre of the city. This festive market allows you to stock up on Christmas gifts in one of the quaintest places possible, while also stopping for cups of mulled wine or hot chocolate along the way! The city’s lights and decorations are sure to get you in the Christmas spirit so it’s the perfect place for a winter getaway.

If markets aren’t your thing, you may be more intrigued by the whole host of museums and galleries that Brussels features, with everything from musical instruments museums and fine art galleries, to science centres and the Parlamentarium museum. There truly is something for everyone to enjoy so there’s no excuse not to go.

While Brussels may not boast the best winter weather, there are more than enough attractions and gastronomic delights to allow even the most discerning travellers a trip to remember. When the weather is dry and bright, visitors can enjoy walking tours, strolls around parks and gardens and sight-seeing in and around the Grand Place. When the rain descends, head inside for a Belgian beer or two, or discover the city’s interesting churches, museums, shops and galleries.

Check out the best accommodation options in Brussels here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

14. Budapest, Hungary

Suggested by Budapest Connection

With its rich cultural heritage, historical sites and thermal baths, Budapest is a desirable winter destination and I am sure that you will leave the city with great memories. Let’s learn more about what makes it a desired tourist destination.

 

Budapest is called “city of waters” for a reason. There is no other capital in the world that has as many hot springs as Budapest. Thermal baths are open all year round. The steam of the hot waters makes it possible to sit outside even when it snows. How cool is that?  But it doesn’t mean that water is the only attraction of Budapest. History is everywhere. You can feel it walking around its neighborhoods. The Castle District in Buda and the Jewish Quarter in Pest are areas that you definitely do not want to miss. These areas have their own characteristics that root in their history.

Sightseeing can make us hungry. Very hungry. Fortunately, wintertime is the best time when it comes to tasting Hungarian food because Hungarian cuisine is hearty.  The best places to try some of our dishes are Christmas markets!  All the traditional Hungarian dishes are available, our mulled wines and our national brandy “pálinka” are best to taste after a good meal. Be sure to try a chimney cake!  If you are afraid that these hundreds of calories will leave traces on your middle section, try one of our ice rinks!

I recommend the one in the middle of the Christmas market, that is right in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica. Here you can also watch Christmas themed laser shows projected on the walls of the church.  You can also try the ice rink largest ice rink in Europe, situated in City Park.

If you would like to get warm and cozy, Budapest has solutions: visit some of the many coffee houses during sightseeing. We have traditional ones with grandeur architecture and decorations such as the famous New York café, Gerbaud or Ruswurm.  If you are more into modern ones, no problem. You can find a trendy café shop on almost every corner of downtown Budapest.

Check out the best accommodation options in Budapest here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

15. Stockholm, Sweden

Suggested by Wandermust Family

Stockholm is not just a great city to visit in Winter but in my opinion is actually better to visit in Winter over summer! Sure the days are short with the dark nights closing in early and the temperatures plummeting to around zero but it is truly one of my favourite places to visit in Winter, as in Winter you don’t have the crowds of tourists and no cruise ships dock in the city at this time of year!

The Swedish tradition of fika – essential coffee breaks – are a great way to take refuge from the cold and is a truly local experience.

In the run up to Christmas the city comes alive with the market in the historic centre of Gamla Stadium which is a must for any Winter bucket list while the living history museum of Skansen has a very tradition market full of local artisanal products, roaring fires and traditional food and drink.

Stockholm is also a city set up for Winter activities with plenty of indoor attractions such as the Vasa Museum, Abba Museum and much more as well as truly Winter pastimes such as skiing and saunas in easy reach of the city!

If you are looking for a great place to visit in Europe in Winter then I heartily recommend Stockholm.

Check out the best accommodation options in Stockholm here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

16. Lisbon, Portugal

Suggested by Julie Dawn Fox in Portugal

Lisbon is a wonderful winter destination. At this time of year, there are fewer tourists to contend with as you stroll through the cobbled streets. Those streets are paved with limestone, which is what gives Lisbon it’s famous light and makes it a brighter, more cheerful city in winter than some other European cities. Although it can be chilly at night, temperatures are relatively amenable and you stand a good chance of days with clear blue skies and sunshine, even in December and January.

Christmas decorations, markets and outdoor concerts add extra interest from late November and the enticing aroma of roasting chestnuts is ever-present during winter months. On dry days, you can enjoy strolls beside the river and around the historical centre and bask in the winter sun at outdoor cafés and in parks. If the weather is less amenable, Lisbon has plenty of things to do indoors, such as the National Museum of Ancient Art, the Azulejos Museum or the Gulbenkian Foundation and indoor sights to discover including the fascinating Casa do Alentejo. Even the metro system is an underground art gallery – I spent a happy few hours on a rainy day travelling between stations to visit the best art works.

Check out the best accommodation options in Lisbon here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

17. Tallinn, Estonia

Suggested by Bizarre Globe Hopper

You may not think about Tallinn as a notable rival when thinking about the best winter cities in Europe. However, it has surprising charm and lots of character that will make you cherish the time you’ll spend there.

Firstly, harsh winters are pretty rare in Estonia nowadays. On the contrary, winters are quite easy-going and will let you explore around comfortably and without getting frostbites all over yourself. Tallinn has a very smooth public transport, and you can go pretty much anywhere inexpensively and rather quickly.

Secondly, Tallinn is full of medieval atmosphere, chic galleries, cozy cafés, and shops along alleyways that will lead you to unexpected places full of character. Notably, the medieval Old Town in the center of Tallinn is a place you have to check while there. Spotted with restaurants and vendors selling everything from arts and crafts to spiked, mulled wine to warm you up, is there. You can lose your sense of time here, in the middle of the well-preserved, medieval surroundings.

Thirdly, the Old Town of Tallinn also hosts one of the best Christmas Markets in Europe. Around the Holiday times, the Tallinn’s Christmas Market is the place to be for locals and foreigners alike. The atmosphere is sizzling, though the area is not as big and confusing as are its German counterparts, for example. And therefore, the Tallinn’s Christmas Market is cozy and bite-sized. Simply put; don’t miss this experience if you’re in Europe around Christmas time!

Check out the best accommodation options in Tallinn here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

18. Vienna, Austria

Suggested by Lexie Animé Travel

Visiting Vienna in winter might be a bit complicated when it comes to the weather. It’ll be very cold under 0 °C so don’t forget to wear comfortable and warm clothes for your tour of the city.

It was also in winter when my husband and I visited Vienna, the weather was low, and it was snowing that time. Even though the weather wasn’t that pleasing, I was surprised to see how the city is beautifully decorated with snow especially its Christmas markets.

We’ve visited a lot of places like St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Rathaus (Vienna’s City Hall), Karlskirche or St. Charles church and many more. My most favorite part was visiting Belvedere Palace, its garden was huge, and looks very artistic.

Belvedere Palace is the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy. It houses the Belvedere museum (listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site) which displays Austrian art dating from the Middle Ages to the present day.

Vienna the largest and the capital city of Austria. It is one of the famous tourist destinations not just in summer but also in winter. The city has a lot to offer when it comes to art and music. It is known for having the best Opera Houses, Palace, and Museums.

There are more than 10 Opera houses Vienna’s quartier areas and more than 40 museums. You can visit Vienna State Opera House, Vienna Volksoper, Graz Opera House, Salzburg Marionette Theatre, or Theatre an der Wien.

Some of the best Museums to visit are the Vienna Museum in Karlsplatz, Austrian Theatre Museum, Wien Museum, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, and Museum of Natural History Vienna.

Check out the best accommodation options in Vienna here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

19. Berlin, Germany

Suggested by History Fangirl

Berlin is one of my favorite cities to visit any time of year, but it’s especially wonderful to visit during the winter. The city has dozens of fantastic Christmas markets during late November and December, including special pop-up markets that are only open for a weekend or two. These receive far fewer tourists, so if you’re looking to shop for Berlin souvenirs away from the crowds, check these out!

The palaces in Berlin and Potsdam are wonderful to visit in winter, and they’re also far emptier than in the summer. You can check out Charlottenburg Palace in the city, or visit the UNESCO site in Potsdam as one of the many great options for day trips from Berlin.

If you find that it’s a bit colder in the city than you prefer, Berlin is a great place to be a tourist indoors. There are so many fabulous museums to visit, from art museums to history and archeology museums. The city even has an entire UNESCO Site called Museum Island, which is a collection of five world-class museums!

You can also explore the beauty of church architecture and take advantage of the city’s wonderful shopping opportunities.

As an added bonus, German cuisine is great for cold weather, since sausages and hearty stews will help keep you warm when you’re out in the cold!

Check out the best accommodation options in Berlin here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

20. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Suggested by Backpack Adventures 

People told me that going to Sarajevo in winter wasn’t a good idea. It would be cold and there was a good chance it would even snow. They were right about the snow, but not that it wasn’t a good time to visit Sarajevo. In fact, the snow only made things better and turned the city in a magic winter wonderland.

I had been to Sarajevo before in late summer. That time I enjoyed the outdoors such as the green hills surrounding the city and the terraces of the old town. This time the cold weather allowed me to explore other sides of Sarajevo that I had not seen before. Its interesting museums, its cozy restaurants with traditional Bosnian food, the snowy mountains and the remains of the 1984 Winter Olympics.

Bjelasnica and Jahorina were used for the Olympics and still are at the centre of wintersports in Bosnia. Both are easy to visit as a day trip from Sarajevo and bring you straight to winter wonderland.

Other advantages is that Sarajevo is relatively quiet in winter. For a European capital, Sarajevo is already a cheap destination and in winter prices are even lower. If you want the right mix of a charming city combined with winter landscapes and mountains, Sarajevo is the place to go.

Check out the best accommodation options in Sarajevo here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

21.  Warsaw, Poland

Suggested by Cultura Obscura

Having been to Warsaw at various times throughout the year, I can safely say Warsaw in winter is my favourite time to visit. Granted, I love the winter in general, so I might be biased and less put off by the cold.

Nevertheless, there is just something quite magical about it. As the holidays approach, most of the city becomes illuminated with various colors and lighting designs, and the Christmas market is in full swing. Several ice rinks even open up throughout the city as it becomes inevitably enveloped in snow. If you’re lucky, the River Wisła will freeze over and you can actually walk across it, which is a very surreal experience.

Despite all these awesome activities, winter is a significantly less busy time of year to visit. This means you may even get parts of the city to yourself (especially outside of the run-up to Christmas). If you’re interested in learning about the darker side of the country’s history, winter is also the perfect time to visit the memorials and museums in Warsaw. Even wrapped up in your warmest winter clothing, the cold weather will make many of the WWII sites within the city feel even more sombre and heartbreaking.

Check out the best accommodation options in Warsaw here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

22. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Suggested by Maps ‘N Bags

Amsterdam is a magical city all year round. The gingerbread houses and meandering canals make it look like a doll’s city. During summer, Amsterdam is filled with bright colors, but during the winter, the city gets austere shades and that undeniable “Christmas scent.”

The sweet-spicy aroma of food combined with the holiday decorations (and the charming architecture), makes the city a top winter destination in Europe.

One of the most romantic things to do in Amsterdam is to stroll along the canals in the evening. At that time, the windows are glowing, and many bridges have lamps around the arches decorating the night. If you don’t feel like walking in the cold, you might consider a cozy boat tour with wine to warm you up.

Moreover, Amsterdam hosts an incredible light festival every winter throughout the streets and canals. You can follow the route on foot or by boat.

Either way, be sure not to miss the local seasonal treats, such as oliebollen – a deep-fried dough covered in powdered sugar. Many restaurants and stalls sell them around the city, but you might score some freshly made in the Albert Cuyp Market. It isn’t a Christmas Market, but you can find many other delicious Dutch treats there.

Check out the best accommodation options in Amsterdam here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

23. St Petersburg, Russia

Suggested by Travel Cultura

Usually, tourists prefer visiting St. Petersburg, Russia in the summer. However, the city offers a variety of distractions at any time of year. Not depending on weather, St. Petersburg has a huge number of attractions and possible itineraries. By the way, changeable weather is an obstacle for exploring the city. Just think of proper clothes and shoes.

What are special things to do in St. Petersburg in winter? First of all, include your list a visit to local theatres. Russian ballet is known all over the world so don’t miss a chance to see a perfect show in one of the splendid St. Petersburg theatres.

Second winter advantage is less crowded museums. For instance, you’ll be able to quietly enjoy art collections of the Hermitage Museum or the Russian Museum.

Besides, St. Petersburg has plenty of cosy cafes where you can take a rest with a cup of hot spicy tea or a glass of mulled wine.

If you’re seeking an active pass-time, opt for skiing and snowboarding in one of the suburban resorts. Or take a figure skating lesson on an open-air skating rink.

Also, winter is a great time to enjoy night illumination on the streets. Nevsky Prospect, the main street of St. Petersburg, is full of lights and makes visitors believe they’re in a fairy tale.

To sum up, tourists are not limited to visit St. Petersburg in summer, during the season of Peterhof fountains and walks in the Summer Garden. In winter the cultural capital of Russia is also full of beauties and fascinating opportunities for spending great holidays.

Check out the best accommodation options in St Petersburg here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

24. Helsinki, Finland

Suggested by Eternal Arrival 

If you’re looking for an off the beaten path place in Europe to visit this winter, why not check out Helsinki? Finland’s capital is extremely cozy and has a ton of interesting things to do in winter  but it’s not as crowded with tourists like other Nordic cities such as Copenhagen or Stockholm. Helsinki is also one of the more affordable Nordic capitals to visit, but keep in mind that that’s in relation to other pricier places like Norway, Iceland, and Denmark!

Helsinki makes a great gateway to places like Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland where you can do all sorts of winter activities, but it’s also a fantastic winter city in its own right. From its excellent Christmas Market in front of the gorgeous Helsinki Cathedral to the frosty UNESCO-listed fortress of Suomenlinna to the Lux Festival each January, there are a number of exciting reasons to visit Helsinki in the winter time.

Other great things to do include roasting in the sauna (and taking a dip in icy water if you’re ultra-brave!), shopping and snacking at the indoors Old Market Hal, and checking out Finland’s excellent craft beer scene.

One of the best reasons to visit Helsinki in winter? You can easily get two European capitals for the effort of one, visiting Tallinn — another fantastic winter city in Europe — on a cheap, easy day trip with 2-hour ferries crossing the Baltic several times a day.

Check out the best accommodation options in Helsinki here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

25. Bristol, England

Suggested by Verses by a Voyager

Bristol, the largest city in the south-west of England, is often overlooked, however, it has a lot to offer. Winter in this part of the UK isn’t very harsh and therefore offers an amazing time to enjoy some outdoor activities.

Bristol is home to some iconic architectural buildings and visiting them on a pleasant winter afternoon is perfect. Standing for years, Clifton Suspension Bridge provides spectacular views around and an early sunset in winter is incredible to watch while you cross the bridge. The oldest park in Bristol, Brandon Hill, is home to Cabot Tower, a 105ft tower in the heart of the city and a climb up the steep stairs is required to reach the top of the tower.

In winter, as the climate is pleasant, a walk up the hill is easy and enjoyable. Bristol offers plenty of outdoor activities during winter. An open space in the city centre of Bristol, Millennium Square hosts an ice rink during winter and presents a lively atmosphere.

During winters, Cribbs Causeway Mall features a fabulous Winter Wonderland which has the largest outdoor ice rink in the South West. Bristol has Victorian-era mansions, Blaise Castle and Ashton Court, which are perfect to visit during foggy winter afternoons. Ashton Court is the centre of sports in Bristol and holds Golf events throughout the winter months.

Check out the best accommodation options in Bristol here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

26. Bucharest, Romania

Suggested by Earth’s Attractions 

While Bucharest may not be the first winter destination you think of, the city has a lot to offer and it can be a great city to visit in winter. Let me tell you why.

First off, in December, you get to see how we celebrate the National Day (December 1st.) We have a parade and everything 😉 On the same day, the Bucharest Christmas Market is opened in front of the Palace of Parliament. And if that’s not enough, the Christmas lights are lit on the same day.

The Bucharest Christmas Market is big, and has things to see and do for all ages – concerts from Friday to Sunday, each weekend, almost 130 cottages with Christmas-related products and some traditional souvenirs, a food court, an ice skating rink (free to use), and a carousel and train ride for kids (also free.)

Several other smaller Christmas fairs are opened throughout the city – especially in parks and malls – and the entire city is decorated for Christmas.

Bucharest is also a perfect base for one-day trips to the mountains –  gorgeous during this time of the year and perfect destinations for ski lovers.

Obviously, we celebrate New Year’s as well – a big concert – and we continue to have a perfect snowy winter in January.

February is dedicated to Valentine’s Day – yes, the holiday is popular for a few years now among Romanians – and Dragobete (the traditional Valentine’s Day).

Add to these specific winter events the numerous attractions in Bucharest and you will have yourself a comprehensive list of places to visit, from museums to parks and more!

Check out the best accommodation options in Bucharest here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

27. London, England

Suggested by Kids and Compass

London is a fantastic city all year round, even in winter.  If you go in December, then the whole city (but especially around Oxford Circus and Regent Street) is lit up with amazing Christmas lights and there’s a festive feel in the air!  You could also head to Kew Gardens to see the beautiful display here.

For more Christmas festivities go to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland.  You can expect genuine Christmas market stalls from Germany, ice rinks, an ice bar, and a funfair with rollercoasters.  Winter Wonderland runs from the end of November until early January.

You’ll also find ice rinks scattered through the capital and the rinks at Somerset House and Canary Wharf are some of the best.

For post Christmas cheer you can’t go wrong shopping in London’s January sales, and curling up with a hot drink in a London pub with a roaring fire is the perfect way to warm up afterwards. Later on in the season London’s Chinese New Year celebrations are second to none.

All of London’s main attractions are just as good in the winter, and you’ll have the benefit of cheaper hotel prices and fewer crowds.  Walking along the South Bank on a crisp winter’s day is even better than in summer.

And of course, it’s the UK, so you’re no more guaranteed good weather in summer than in winter!

Check out the best accommodation options in London here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

28. Venice, Italy

Suggested by More Life in Your Days

Venice is a spectacular city that is world-renowned for its beauty and we think it is one of the best European cities to visit in winter. For good reason, Venice 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 fabulous city without the crowds. And without the smell. The canals of Venice give off their own distinctive whiff in the summertime but the cooler winter months are happily odour free.

The low light of winter makes Venice even more atmospheric than it is in the summer and you’ll get to enjoy Venice in the dark when it arguably looks its best.

One of our favourite things to do in 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 get up close and personal with the fabulous places that line the largest waterway in the city.

For the ultimate Venice experience you should time your visit to coincide with the famous Carnival week in February, but be sure to book well in advance.

Check out the best accommodation options in Venice here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

29. Seville, Spain

Suggested by It’s Not About the Miles

Seville is well known for its blistering summers. The Andalusian capital is decidedly more comfortable in every other season, including the depths of winter, when the daytime average temperature hovers at a mild 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Some days in November or February, you can even enjoy the Spanish sun in short sleeves!

Seville offers a multitude of things to do whenever you choose to visit, and in winter you get some special benefits! Its popular attractions, including the famous Royal Alcazar and the gigantic Seville Cathedral, are not as crowded, making for short lines and an all-around much more enjoyable experience. You can still stroll outdoors, whether it be along the banks of the Guadalquivir River or inside the Maria Luisa Park.

Winter evenings find the streets of Seville still lively, with residents and visitors enjoying its renowned tapas offerings at city bars. Warm plates, such as stews, and spicy meats and vegetables are especially popular, because it’s the right season to appreciate them!

As the holidays approach, Seville takes on a festive air, with nativity scenes popping up everywhere. Christmas markets are set up in many different places in the city, and you can browse and shop for local products. Street vendors sell roasted chestnuts at street corners. The lights look gorgeous. It’s a wonderful time to be in the city!

On New Year’s Eve, join the crowds at Plaza Nueva to see the fireworks and count down the clock at midnight. On January 6, watch as the residents celebrate the Cabalgata de los Reyes with a parade, where the Three Wise Men distribute sweets and trinkets to the crowds watching the parade. It’s an amazing spectacle to see the holidays wind down with this grand celebration!

Plan a visit to Seville in the winter: you will not be disappointed!

Check out the best accommodation options in Seville here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

30. Albufeira, Portugal

Suggested by The Elusive Family

The southern coast of Portugal, known as the Algarve region has so much to offer visitors in the winter.  Located in the center of the Algarve the city of Albufeira has an abundance of great things to do during the winter months. The weather in Albufeira during the winter is mild and sometimes rainy, but perfect for spending time outdoors.

Albufeira, a large resort town, is worth visiting in the winter as it is the low season for tourists and costs are significantly less expensive, especially airline and accommodation costs.  Around the holidays, Albufeira has a fireworks show and a concert, making for a lively atmosphere.

There are several well-known beaches that can be visited in the winter, though the water will be cold, it still makes for a great day at the beach to enjoy the seaside.  Praia Oura, Praia da Pescadores and Praia Inatel are the top beaches to visit. A walk along the strip is a popular choice for visitors as the street is lined with numerous restaurants and shops.

There are also many day trips that can be done from Albufeira.  Lagos, Faro, Quarteira and Sagres are all cities that can be visited during the day, and offer visitors the chance to see the different areas of the Algarve.  Albufeira’s central location in the Algarve makes for the best spot along the Algarve for a winter destination.

Check out the best accommodation options in Albufeira here

 

 

Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

31. Rovaniemi, Finland

Suggested by Pack More Into Life

If you are looking for a true winter wonderland, then look no further than Rovaniemi, Finland. Located in the Northern region of Lapland, Finland, it is a city filled with a plethora of winter activities, cozy cafes, delicious restaurants, and high-class museums.

One of the most popular attractions is the Santa Claus Village located just a few minutes from the center of town. There you can visit with Santa, write postcards to family and friends stamped from the Arctic Circle, take a reindeer sleigh ride and mush dogs through the Finnish forest! You can also discover an ice hotel, winter playgrounds, and glass igloos to catch the elusive northern lights.

There is certainly something for everyone from a romantic getaway to a family trip to enjoy all the holiday activities. You can choose to rent a car or utilize the many tour operators with transportation to and from the various activities. You can also choose to fly into Rovaniemi or take the overnight 12-hour Santa Train with sleeping cars from Helsinki, Finland. I highly recommend the train for a unique experience!

Want to read more about all the things to do near Rovaniemi, Finland? Check out my Lapland Guide to Finland.

Check out the best accommodation options in Rovaniemi here

 

 

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Best European Cities to Visit in Winter

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Anna de Nord
    September 17, 2019 at 9:10 am

    Great post, Anita! I guess now we have a full list of dreamy destinations for many upcoming years )) Europe looks so wonderful in winter ♥♥♥

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