TRIED & TESTED: 25 CHARMING MUST SEE PLACES IN EUROPE IN WINTER!
Europe is an incredible continent to visit at any time of the year but there’s something utterly charming about it when visiting in winter.
If you’ve got dreams of walking cobbled streets while snow falls from the sky, or sipping on mulled wine in the warm glow of Christmas markets, or even escaping the cold for some winter sun, then we’ve got you covered.
Here are 25 recommendations from ourselves and other travel bloggers for the best winter European vacations – whether you want to shop at the biggest and best Christmas markets, visit the snowiest places in Europe or choose from a bunch of warm winter destinations!
9 Must See Places in Europe in Winter for Christmas Markets
Nowhere does Christmas markets like Europe!
The most famous ones can often be found in Germany but there are huge numbers of towns and cities across Europe that have jumped on the Christmas market train.
Here are our pick of the best European Christmas markets to add to your winter Europe itinerary… some may even be closer to home than you think!
Why visit Bath in winter: Bath is a magical city to visit at any time of the year, especially as the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But at Christmas-time, Bath becomes that bit more magical thanks to its award-winning Christmas market. Seen as one of the top European Christmas markets and one of the largest in the UK, the Bath Christmas Market sees over 150 chalets pop up around Bath Abbey and the historical centre. This year, you can make your visit even more special with a Bath Christmas Market Experience, which offers you the chance to make a Christmas wreath, enjoy a Champagne lunch at The Ivy Bath Brasserie and take a rejuvenating trip to the Thermae Bath Spa.
Best time to visit Bath in winter: The Bath Christmas market runs from November 28th to December 15th this year . Weekday evenings and mornings are best if you want to avoid the crowds.
Don’t miss: Glow in the Dark Mini Golf at Royal Victoria Park. During winter, the 18-hole mini golf course is magically lit up from 4 – 9.30pm every day, while you play with golf balls that glow in the dark. Lots of fun and something different to try this winter!
Where to stay in Bath: Staying central is best as you’ll want to be close to all the Christmas action. Recommended hotels include No.15 Great Pulteney Hotel and Spa, The Gainsborough Bath Spa and Abbey Hotel.
How to get to Bath: Train is – by far – the easiest way to get to Bath. Bath Spa railway station is just across the road from the high street shops – and is just five minutes walk from Bath Abbey, which is where the bulk of the Christmas market stalls can be found.
Top travel tip: Don’t bother driving; parking in the city centre is a nightmare! But if you absolutely must drive, use one of three Park & Ride services.
Read more: How to Spend the Perfect Day in Bath
Why visit Brussels in winter: With well over 200 chalets dotted across the city, the ‘Winter Wonders’ Christmas market in Brussels is huge, making Brussels (in our opinion) one of the best winter city breaks in Europe. Wander along the Bourse, or head to Place de la Monnaie, Place Sainte-Catherine and Marché aux Poissons and you’ll find all the traditional festive wares you’d expect including Christmas decorations, handmade gifts, artisan chocolate, colourful toys and delicious street food. You’ll also find a magical ferris wheel, vintage-inspired carousel and ice rink that only appear during the winter period. Perhaps what’s most interesting about Christmas in Brussels is that the city honours a different country every year. Last year, Finland took centre-stage and took over a small section of the Christmas market to sell traditional Finnish food and handcrafted products. You could even see the colours of their flag adorning the Christmas tree at Grand-Place; how sweet is that? Who will be honoured by Brussels this year? Only time will tell.
Best time to visit Brussels in winter: The Christmas markets usually run from the end of November through to early January. We’d recommend heading there at the beginning of this period, so you can buy a Belgian chocolate advent calendar from Neuhaus; they’re truly delicious and a total Christmas must-have!
Don’t miss: The fifty comic strip murals adorning buildings throughout the city; they’re cool to see at any time of the year.
Where to stay in Brussels: Where you choose to stay in Brussels depends on what you plan on doing during your winter trip. If you’re keen to do some day trips to other towns and cities, then we’d recommend staying somewhere close to either the Gare Centrale or Gare du Midi train stations (the latter also being where the Eurostar terminal is) like Pullman Brussels Centre Midi or Motel One Brussels. If you plan to only visit the main sights in Brussels, then staying close to Grand-Place would make it easier for sightseeing on foot or via the Metro. You’ll pay a little more in order to be central, but it’ll be worth it in order to be closer to everything you want to see during your visit; recommended hotels in the centre include Hotel Agora Bruxelles Grand Place and Hotel Hubert Grand Place. And if you’d prefer to stick close to the “action” when it comes to the Christmas markets, then staying around the Bourse, St. Catherine or De Brouckère areas is recommended. A couple of good hotel options near these areas are Hotel Saint Nicolas and NH Collection Brussels Centre.
How to get to Brussels: Brussels is a well connected city. There’s an international airport roughly 7.5 miles north of the city, which covers over 200 destinations worldwide. Brussels is also well connected across Belgium and internationally via its extensive rail network. In fact, Brussels is a stop on the Eurostar, which is a much more relaxed way to visit the city… and comes highly recommended by us!
Top travel tip: Don’t forget that Brussels is a great base for day trips to places like Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp for more festive feels. Bruges takes less than an hour to get to via the train, as does a trip to the diamond district of Antwerp, while historic Ghent is just over 30 minutes away.
– Recommended by Bridget from The Flashpacker
Why visit Kraków in winter: Visit Kraków in winter for its traditional Christmas market and the chance of seeing the city transformed by a dusting of snow.
Best time to visit Kraków in winter: To visit the Christmas market, make sure that you are in Kraków between the last week in November and Boxing Day (the confirmed dates for 2019 are 29th November – 26th December).
- Visiting Kraków’s Christmas market in Rynek Glowny, the city’s geographical and spiritual beating heart. Pick up traditional souvenirs and keep the winter chill at bay with a glass of mulled wine.
- Exploring Kazimierz, the old Jewish Quarter and Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory.
- Taking the opportunity to visit the former concentration camp of Auschwitz. Although sobering, this is an unforgettable experience.
- Feasting on pierogi, sublime Polish dumplings.
Where to stay in Kraków: I stayed at the Mercure Stare Misto. This is a modern 4-star chain hotel, conveniently located opposite the train station and a ten minute walk from the Market Square.
How to get to Kraków: Kraków’s airport is well served by international flights and the city is connected to other European cities by train. Getting from the airport to the centre of the city is super simple, with a frequent train service to Kraków’s central station (Kraków Główny). A one-way ticket costs the equivalent of £2 and the journey time is around 15 minutes.
Top travel tip: To make the most of your visit to Kraków, take one of the excellent walking tours, led by a local guide offered by Free Walkative! As the name suggests, this is free but tips are appreciated.
Read more: 4 Days in Kraków: The Best Itinerary
– Recommended by Liza from Tripsget
Why visit London in winter: Surprisingly (for some), London is a great winter destination to visit in Europe. London is one of the biggest cities in Europe and it takes Christmas celebrations to the next level. Having one Christmas market is not enough for London, so there are at least five of them (I only know of five, there might be even more). My favourite Christmas market is Leicester Square Christmas market – a compact, cosy German-style Christmas market in the heart of London. Most tourists visit Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park (but it’s a bit too crowded for my liking). It doesn’t normally snow in London, so don’t expect a white Christmas, however, the atmosphere is charming even without snow.
Best time to visit London in winter: The best time to visit London in winter would be early December and just after Christmas when the Christmas decorations are still on. If you’re coming just for Christmas decorations and the best Christmas spots in London, you can come as early as November when the decorations are already on and the ice skating rinks are open.
Don’t miss: A trip to Carnaby street for the best Christmas decorations!
Where to stay in London: I would recommend staying in an Airbnb in London; that way, you will experience the real life in London. Anywhere near a tube station (even in zones 3-5) would be convenient to explore the city, however, you will save a lot of money, as hotels in London are very expensive.
Top travel tip: Most of the museums in London are free, so you can take advantage of sightseeing in London, especially when it rains!
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
– Recommended by Paulina from Paulina on the Road
Why visit Luxembourg City in winter: One of the top winter destinations in Europe you cannot miss this year is Luxembourg! You may have never thought of this small country as a great winter destination, however there are plenty of things to do during the holiday season in one of the tiniest countries in Europe. First, there is the legendary Christmas Market in Luxembourg City, which is becoming one of the most famous ones in the entire region. Indeed, people from all over travel to Luxembourg City in order to enjoy tasty mulled wine, typical Luxembourgish food and brass band music.
Best time to visit Luxembourg City in winter: The Christmas market usually starts the last weekend in November.
Don’t miss: If you are a nature lover and you are wondering where to stay in Luxembourg in order to make the most of your trip, I recommend visiting the gorgeous countryside of the Grand-Duchy. Indeed there are plenty of hiking trails awaiting you in the northern and eastern part of the country. The Ardennes and Mullerthal Trail are probably the most famous ones. As it hardly snows in Luxembourg, you can go hiking in Luxembourg even in winter. Just remember to bring enough warm clothes.
Why visit Paris in winter: Paris truly sparkles in winter. The Eiffel Tower dazzles with free light shows every evening, Christmas markets glisten with all of the festive cheer and surprises you can think of, designer boutiques and their inventive window displays will make your head twist and turn with every step and giant Christmas trees across the city glimmer with reams of tinsel and huge baubles. Paris in winter; even just saying it sounds magical… have we convinced you enough yet?
Best time to visit Paris in winter: If you can time your winter trip to Paris with the first Sunday of the month or on a Friday night, then you can gain free entry to some of the city’s top museums and attractions like the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and Pompidou Centre.
Don’t miss: The Christmas tree at Galeries Lafayette. The theme changes every year and it’s truly spectacular as the tree sits beneath the famous glass dome roof and drops down for the full five floors!
Where to stay: Nothing screams “chic” more than renting an apartment in Paris in winter like one of these: Louvre Elegant ChicSuites (where old Parisian grandeur meets luxury) or Sweet Inn Les Halles – Etienne Marcel (where quirky meets colour and style).
How to get to Paris: Although you can fly to Paris from multiple cities across Europe and beyond, one of our favourite ways to get to Paris remains to be the Eurostar as it’s comfortable, reliable and inexpensive.
Prague, Czech Republic
– Recommended by Veronika from Travel Geekery
Why visit Prague in winter: Prague is one of the most romantic winter destinations – and even more so at Christmas! Christmas markets are pretty much everywhere, so you can choose whether you prefer the larger ones in the city centre or rather the more intimate ones in Prague’s neighbourhoods. Winter in Prague often means snowfall and there’s nothing more amazing than seeing Prague’s spires and rooftops all covered in white. If you visit when it snows, take walks late at night and early in the morning to experience the real magic of wintery Prague.
Best time to visit Prague in winter: Most Christmas markets open on December 1st. The smaller ones finish by December 24th, the most festive day for Czechs. However, Prague’s largest Christmas market – at the Old Town Square – has the Christmas cheer going until January 6th.
Don’t miss: Enjoy ice skating right in the historical city center at Ovocný trh.
How to get to Prague: Prague can be reached easily by plane, train and bus. It’s only four hours away from Berlin by car, train or bus and 2.5 hours from London by plane.
Read more: Winter in Prague: The Most Magical Season
– Recommended by Margherita from The Crowded Planet
Why visit Nuremberg in winter: Christmas times and the fairytale atmosphere!
Best time to visit Nuremberg in winter: Nuremberg is worth a visit any time of the year, but in winter it’s truly special. The main reason to visit are the Christmas Markets, open from the Friday before the first Sunday in Advent to the day before Christmas Eve (November 28th to December 23rd this year). The main Christmas market is in Hauptmarkt, the main square in the Old City, but the cute little wooden huts and the scent of gluhwein spills all over the neighbouring streets, so you can expect to be surrounded by Christmas vibes everywhere you go. Christmas markets are amazing but they can be busy – if you don’t like crowds, we recommend visiting at another time. There is plenty to see and do in Nuremberg in winter, including lots of museums to escape to when the weather gets too cold. The Nazi Documentation Centre is a must if you are into history, and for something more light-hearted, we recommend the Toy Museum!
Don’t miss: Besides the main Christmas Market, we also recommend visiting the Sister Cities Market, displaying crafts and Christmas wares from Nuremberg’s sister cities (from Antalya in Turkey to Verona in Italy – there are too many to list here!) This market sits on a square just north of the main market and it’s worth a visit if you’re looking for unique souvenirs.
How to get to Nuremberg: By train or bus from elsewhere in Germany, otherwise by plane. Low cost airlines like Ryanair and KLM also fly there.
Top travel tip: If you’re planning to visit multiple museums, get the Nuremberg Card, which also includes transport for 48 hours.
Read more: 36 Amazing Things to do in Nuremberg
– Recommended by Kris from Nomad by Trade
Why visit Vienna in winter: Vienna is always beautiful, but the city really comes to life around the holidays. Lights twinkle all over and the decorations are sure to get you in the Christmas spirit – especially in the evenings when the décor is at its prettiest. Best of all, several wonderful Christmas markets perfect for shopping and dining can be found in popular locations.
Best time to visit Vienna in winter: Most of the markets begin in late November and run until just after Christmas, but each one sets its own dates and opening times. You’ll definitely want to time your winter visit to hit at least one of these for a truly special experience.
Don’t miss: The Viennese Christmas Market, located right in front of the gorgeous Rathaus building. This market features the classic booths selling souvenirs and gifts, food stands, gingerbread hearts and gluhwein, but has the added bonus of the spectacular backdrop. If you’re looking for more than just shopping, hit the fantastic skating rink next to the market that features twisting, turning ice-covered pathways for you to explore.
Where to stay in Vienna: If you’re planning on visiting the Viennese Christmas Market mentioned above, check out Hotel Regina. Located just a couple of streets away from the market, it has a beautiful façade and interior. As a bonus, the breakfast served there was one of the best we’ve had at a hotel in Europe.
How to get to Vienna: Vienna is easily accessible via all forms of transportation. It has an international airport that handles flights from a variety of foreign and domestic destinations if you’re travelling from further away. If you’re travelling from elsewhere in Europe, there are plenty of train routes that will lead you there, as well as some bus routes. If you’re driving, you may find it easier to leave your car at a commuter lot and take public transportation into the city centre rather than deal with trying to find parking.
Top travel tip: Vienna definitely gets cold in winter, so be sure to pack enough warm clothing and layers for walking around outside. This includes boots as you may well encounter snow.
10 Must See Places in Europe in Winter for Snowy Adventures
From skiing in the alps to husky sledding in Nordic countries like Finland, there are a huge number of European destinations that are simply perfect for adventures in the snow.
Here are our pick of the top ten – are you ready to dust off your snow boots and thermals?
– Recommended by Roshni from The Wanderlust Within
Why visit Alta in winter: Dubbed “the town of the Northern Lights”, it’s easy to see why Alta is the perfect place for a snowy adventure. The city is located 70 degrees north latitude and well above the Arctic Circle. However, as the Norwegian coast gets a taste of the Gulf Stream, Alta doesn’t get as cold during the winter months as say Canada, Sweden or Finland.
Best time to visit Alta in winter: Alta is the largest city (population of 20,000) in the vast wilderness of the Finnmark County, and from late November to mid-January, it experiences the Polar night. This is when the sun never rises above the horizon, meaning it’s pitch dark for almost 22 hours a day. However, the darkness does make it perfect for chasing down the Northern Lights.
Don’t miss: Alta has some wonderful sightseeing and it’s well worth spending at least two nights here to visit the modern Northern Lights cathedral and the unique Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, as well as take part in outdoor activities. Snowmobiling, snow shoe hiking, dog sledding, cross country skiing, ice fishing and reindeer sledding are all on offer here.
Where to stay in Alta: I recommend staying at Trasti & Trine based on the River Alta. It’s popular for dog sledding tours but also has a range of lodges and cabins available, as well as a restaurant.
How to get to Alta: Alta can be reached by plane or cruise.
– Recommended by Joanna from Overhere
Why visit Livigno in winter: Livigno is a beautiful mountain resort located in the Italian Alps between Swiss Engadin Valley and Italian Alta Valtellina Valley. It is a perfect travel destination for winter sports enthusiasts because Livigno is a world-class ski resort. There are about 115 kilometres of ski runs, which are accessible by a total of 32 lifts. Livigno is famous not only for its excellent ski infrastructure – the weather in this part of Italian Alps is also exceptionally good. Snowfalls start in November and end usually in April. This makes ski season in Livigno very long; skiers can enjoy perfect conditions on the slopes from the end of November until the beginning of May. Another advantage of the weather in Livigno is the number of sunny days – it really is rare to see clouds in the sky above this mountain resort.
Best time to visit Livigno in winter: The best time to go skiing in Livigno is April. The day is long, prices are lower and snow conditions are still fantastic. Also, there are fewer people on the ski piste.
Where to stay in Livigno: The best place to stay in Livigno is Camana Veglia. It is a lovely Alpine-style hotel situated right next to the ski lift. Rooms are comfy and warm, beautifully decorated in a typical mountain style. Breakfast served at the hotel’s restaurant is ample and delicious with vegan and gluten-free options.
How to get to Livigno: The closest airport to Livigno is in Bergamo. Travelling to Livigno by car takes about three hours. There is also an airport bus shuttle called Livigno Express, which goes to the mountain resort every day.
Read more: The Essential Guide to Livigno Ski Resort
– Recommended by Jodie from Alajode
Why visit Lofoten in winter: With 24 hours of sunlight in the summer and not a single second in December, timing is crucial when planning a trip to Lofoten. Most visitors choose to visit in June for the “midnight sun” but winter is one of the best times to visit the Lofoten Islands. Not only will you have most things to yourself, but some of the best things to do in Lofoten can only be experienced at this time of year.
Best time to visit Lofoten in winter: The beginning and end of winter is by far the best time to visit Lofoten. With a good balance of sunlight and darkness, you can enjoy activities such as snow hiking and cold water surfing during the day, and can still enjoy a dip in the hot tub and a good night’s sleep in a cosy cabin at the end of it. It’s also the best time of year to see the Northern Lights because the skies are generally clear.
Don’t miss: One of the best parts of Lofoten in winter is driving around and seeing all the beautiful scenes around you. With snow coming on and off, the same scene can look different from day to day – or even hour to hour! Don’t be afraid to revisit places during your trip.
Where to stay in Lofoten: Hattvika Lodge is a family-run hotel in Ballstad. The cabin-style rooms are traditional on the outside but tastefully decorated on the inside – and a wonderful place to come back to at the end of the day. The owners are always happy to share their local knowledge too.
How to get to Lofoten: The easiest way to get to Lofoten is to fly in to Leknes airport. Flights depart from Oslo, Tromso and Bodo.
Top travel tip: Make sure you pack for the weather! You’ll want to spend as much time outdoors as possible, so make sure you pack warm clothing and waterproof layers.
Read more: The Best Time To Visit The Lofoten Islands
Why visit Ruka in winter: Ruka is in the north east of Finland, close to the Russian border, so snow is guaranteed in winter. Ruka is also home to an award-winning and totally charming ski resort, which is ideal for beginners, and is open for a whopping 200 days per year! So if you have your heart set on snowboarding and skiing this winter then Ruka is definitely worth a look. Plus, you’ll get the chance to try the ultimate bucket list activity – husky sledding! This can even be combined with a snowmobiling excursion; just imagine rocking up to your husky sled straight off the back of a snowmobile, pretty cool huh?
Best time to visit Ruka in winter: Head to Ruka between November and mid-March and you’re guaranteed to see a heavy blanket of snow throughout your trip. We visited in January, and still to this day, we say it’s the best place to come for snow in Europe in January.
Don’t miss: Husky sledding! It’s a must when in this part of Finland and can easily be done as a day tour from Ruka Village and the ski resort.
Where to stay in Ruka: Scandic Rukahovi (a charming ski-in/ski-out hotel with ski storage area) or Kelokoto Chalets (4-star wooden chalets with kitchens; just a one minute walk to the Ruka ski slopes).
How to get to Ruka: The closest airport to Ruka is Kuusamo, which is about 25 minutes away by car. You can take the airport bus to Ruka, or if you’ve booked a ski/snowboard holiday, then you’ll likely be offered a door-to-door coach service.
Top travel tip: Winter temperatures in Ruka frequently dip below -20 Celsius, and can even go as low as -30 on some days. This is quite a shock to the system but is loads of fun when you’re wearing all the right gear and taking breaks in front of the fire while drinking delicious Glögi… so remember to take it easy during your Finland snow adventure.
– Recommended by Anita from Travelling Balkans
Why visit Sighisoara in winter: Sighisoara is a beautiful UNESCO city nestled in the heart of Transylvania and is a superb winter destination for travellers coming to Europe. This little city can get packed in the summer, so not only can you enjoy the snow-topped rooftops of Sighisoara, but you also get to enjoy it in peace as fewer people visit during winter.
Don’t miss: One of the many great things to do in Sighisoara is to walk up to the top of the old Clock tower to get a 360-degree view over Sighisoara. The stairs leading to the top also pass through a museum so you can learn a little more about the history too. A ticket to the top costs only €3. You may have heard about Sighisoara before as Vlad Dracula was born here. Nowadays, you can visit the residence where he grew up and even have a bite to eat at the kitsch Dracula restaurant, which has been setup within the house.
Where to stay in Sighisoara: When staying in Sighisoara, I highly recommend staying at Fronius Residence, which is set in an old restored home that dates back to hundreds of years ago!
How to get to Sighisoara: Getting to Sighisoara is easy as it has great train and bus links from the likes of Brasov and Cluj Napoca, two other major cities to visit in Romania. From Brasov, it’s about a two hour drive away, so if you have a car, this can be a great day trip destination.
Top travel tip: My top travel tip is to bring great shoes as the streets are lined with old cobblestones, which can be slippery in the snow!
The Golden Circle, Iceland
Why visit Iceland in winter: Although Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, is a charming city to visit, you simply must rent a car and head out in search of Iceland’s most dramatic scenery in order to see this country at its absolute best. Visiting Iceland’s Golden Circle in winter is hugely popular due to the increased chances of seeing the Northern Lights and the fact that this part of the country becomes a total winter wonderland. Alongside the Northern Lights, visiting the Golden Circle at this time of year also means winter hiking, slipping into relaxing hot springs while snow falls from the sky and seeing Gullfoss waterfall at its prettiest and most magical.
Best time to visit Iceland in winter: Northern Lights tours run from September through to April, and although seeing the Northern Lights can never be guaranteed, most recommend visiting Iceland in November, December or January. This is when the days are shorter and darker and snow is expected.
Don’t miss: Iceland’s epic waterfalls, which are found throughout the country. Some of our favourites that are either within the Golden Circle or close by are Gullfoss, Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Öxarárfoss and Gljúfrabúi.
Where to stay in Iceland: Staying in the Golden Circle means you have a greater chance of seeing the Northern Lights as you’ll be away from light pollution and you won’t have to drive too far on each day to see some of Iceland’s most popular sights. Some of our favourite places to stay in Iceland are Icelandair Hotel Fludir, Uthlid Cottages and Golden Circle Apartments.
How to get to Iceland: A mistake a lot of first time visitors to Iceland make is thinking they’re flying into Reykjavik. You’ll most likely be landing at Keflavik International Airport, which is actually a 40 minute drive from Iceland’s capital. This is just one of the reasons why we’d always recommend renting a car in Iceland.
Val di Sole, Italy
– Recommended by Claudia from My Adventures Across The World
Why visit Val di Sole in winter: Val di Sole in Trentino (northern Italy) is a fantastic place to visit in winter where you will find a great variety of things to do, whatever kind of traveller you are. The gorgeous Dolomites mountains are the backdrop of this breathtaking resort, which is perfect for skiing with over 100 km of slopes of all difficulty.
Best time to visit Val di Sole in winter: The best time to visit is around Christmas when the decorations are out and the markets are open.
Don’t miss: An afternoon at Ossana, a tiny village where hundreds of nativity scenes are set up, in different styles and in different sizes. It’s like an open air museum, surmounted by a beautiful medieval castle that can also be visited. If you happen to go when it snows, the atmosphere will be magic. Also, make sure to visit Ragaiolo Waterfall. It freezes in the winter, for a truly romantic atmosphere, and the suspended bridge provides perfect views and incredible photo opportunities.
Where to stay in Val di Sole: Stay at Hotel Dimaro if you want a plain but comfortable room that is reasonably priced and from where you can easily explore the valley. Most hotels have a spa for those that want to relax. Some spas overlook the snowy peaks for top relaxing views.
How to get to Val di Sole: Fly to either Venice or Verona in northern Italy. You are better off renting a car and driving yourself there. Alternatively, you can take a train to Trento and from there, a local bus.
Top travel tip: People who enjoy good food will enjoy the earthy and nutritious meals. Make sure to try canederli, sort of dumplings made with old bread and local sausage and cheese and cooked in a thin broth, and the various apple pies made with local apples. Rifugi – scattered along the slopes – are excellent places to try local food.
Read more: A Winter Guide To Val Di Sole
Val Lumnezia, Switzerland
– Recommended by Eniko from Travel Hacker Girl
Why visit Val Lumnezia in winter: Val Lumnezia means “Valley of Light”. This area gets a lot of sunshine throughout the year, which means even in winter, you can enjoy outdoor activities in sunny weather. Thanks to this, a lot of ski lifts operate with solar power. Val Lumnezia has a lot to offer in the winter months. Ski lovers can enjoy the abundance of slopes in the area. However, there are several activities for non-skiers as well. You can descend from the mountains and enjoy the views on the sledge run. There are also many well-kept and signposted hiking trails.
Best time to visit Val Lumnezia in winter: January is a good time to visit to avoid the crowds as it is after the busy Christmas period and before the local school holiday season.
- The mountain village of Cumbel, which is the start of several scenic hiking trails
- Eating a classic Swiss cheese fondue for dinner
- Skiing in the Obersaxen/Mundaun/Val Lumnezia ski resort
Where to stay in Val Lumnezia: We stayed at a local Airbnb with the most gorgeous views of Val Lumnezia.
How to get to Val Lumnezia: Switzerland is well-known for it’s reliable and convenient public transport. So if you don’t have a car, you can visit the region by train or bus. There is a railway station at Ilanz/Glion, which is also a stop for the famous Glacier Express. The local post bus also serves the Val Lumnezia region.
Top travel tip: Bring suncream to avoid getting sunburnt in this wonderfully sunny region.
Val Thorens, France
Why visit Val Thorens in winter: Val Thorens in France is home to one of the world’s most popular ski resorts, which is also part of the famous ‘Three Valleys’ ski area. At an altitude of 2,300m, it’s also Europe’s highest ski resort with some absolutely spectacular views from the pistes. Given its altitude, a winter trip to Val Thorens guarantees snow even at a resort level, so you won’t have to go far for some of the most epic adventures in the snow. And if you’re after a top snowmobiling in Europe destination then Val Thorens is as good as any. Scott has skied at Val Thorens well in excess of three times now so the following tips come straight from him.
Best time to visit Val Thorens: Come early or late in the ski season for peak snow conditions and fewer crowds.
Don’t miss: The mountain zipline, which is the highest in the world, and perfect for the true adventure-seekers among you.
Where to stay in Val Thorens: One of the best things about Val Thorens is its huge range of ski-to-door accommodation to suit most budgets. I’d recommend staying at either Altapura or the Snow Lodge Boutique Hotel.
How to get to Val Thorens: Fly into Chambéry, which is the closest airport to Val Thorens at 1 hour 40 minutes away; you can drive from there. Or you can also get the Snow Express Ski Bus all the way to Val Thorens from London.
– Recommended by Allan from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor
Why visit Zermatt in winter: When it comes to winter destinations, it is hard to look past Switzerland, a country that has snow on its peaks even during the hottest summer months. And when it comes to Switzerland, it is hard to look past Zermatt, a cute Swiss alpine resort located just beneath the backdrop of the rather magnificent Matterhorn. A mountain scene that is quite probably the most famous in Switzerland having influenced both the shape as well as the packaging of the iconic Toblerone Bar. It is also easy to travel around the peak from Zermatt itself with cable cars connecting all the surrounding mountain peaks.
Don’t miss: There is much more to Zermatt than its rather special backdrop as it is also one of the most popular ski resorts in all of Europe with over 200km of pistes, which are host to not only skiing, but all sorts of winter sports.
Where to stay in Zermatt: My main recommendation would be to spend at least one night in a hotel with balcony views of the Matterhorn. There’s a rather special 5-star experience at CERVO Mountain Boutique Resort, although we lumped for a stay at Hotel Capricorn at a fraction of the price, but it still has some unbeatable views of the Matterhorn.
How to get to Zermatt: Many people travel to Zermatt to join the famous Glacier Express, a railway that connects between Zermatt and St Moritz past some of the most magnificent winter scenery you will ever see. And this would be the best way to travel either to or from Zermatt by train.
Read more: Switzerland’s Glacier Express
5 Must See Places in Europe for Winter Sun
While a huge part of Europe slips into a cold freeze, there are also lots of countries in Europe that are perfect for escaping the cold.
So if it’s beaches and cocktails in the sun that you’re after this winter, take note of these five must see places in Europe in winter for the sunseekers among you.
Why visit Funchal in winter: Nicknamed ‘The Island of Eternal Spring’, Madeira sees temperatures close to 20 Celsius and in the twenties year-round, making it one of the most perfect places to visit if you want nice weather guaranteed. My Mum owns a timeshare in Madeira, and although we now stay there during the early summer months, we used to always visit at the end of February for the perfect winter escape. Not only does a winter trip to Madeira guarantee nice weather, but it’s also an island perfect for nature-lovers and is absolutely brimming with culture!
Best time to visit Funchal in winter: Given the steady temperatures year-round, you can visit at pretty much any time of the year to have a good time. But November has slightly warmer air and sea temperatures than the rest of the winter months, making Madeira one of the best places to visit in November in Europe if you want a break from the cold.
Don’t miss: The volcanic rock pools in Porto Moniz on the north side of the island; they’re beautiful, historic and perfect for swimming in. You can easily reach them as a day trip from Funchal as either a day tour or moderately priced taxi ride.
How to get to Funchal: Funchal has a short runway that juts out into the sea, so not every airline flies here, as it does take a certain amount of skill-level in order to do it safely. We usually fly with TUI to Funchal but easyjet and British Airways also fly there.
Lanzarote, Canary Islands
– Recommended by Jenny from TraveLynn Family
Why visit Lanzarote in winter: During the winter months, day time temperatures hover around 20 degrees in Lanzarote and the sea can (just about) be warm enough to swim in. But you may be thinking that the stereotypical package holiday resorts and Irish bars of Lanzarote aren’t quite for you? Well step away from the main resorts and you will find a wild and barren island, waiting to be explored. Indeed it is very possible to get off the beaten track in Lanzarote, although do note that Christmas holidays and the UK February half term holiday does get busy and prices go up.
Don’t miss: Base yourself in the north of the island, which offers the most panoramic views and unspoilt towns, as well as some beautiful secluded beaches.
Where to stay: We recommend staying at family-run Finca de Arrieta. This is an enclave of luxury yurts, just outside the sleepy village of Arietta in the north of Lanzarote. This is an off-grid eco-resort running off wind and solar panel with water fed from an underground well onsite. There are yurts for all budgets and there’s a playground, small pool and farm animals onsite.
Top travel tip: You will need to hire a car to get around ideally as public transport is limited. But it’s very easy to drive around the island and it only takes 40 minutes to get from the northern tip to the southern tip.
Read more: Lanzarote with kids: off the beaten track
– Recommended by Amber from Food And Drink Destinations
Why visit Malaga in winter: Travellers have made their way to the Costa del Sol in Spain, especially in winter, for decades. They are drawn in by the warm sun and of course beautiful beaches. Malaga, located in the heart of the Costa del Sol, is one of the most popular cities to visit during the cold northern European winter. Known predominantly for its beautiful beaches, including beaches within the city centre, Malaga has all the conveniences of Madrid and Barcelona in a smaller, more manageable city.
Best time to visit Malaga: After a summer with sweltering temperatures in the low 40s Celsius, Malaga cools off nicely from November to March with temperatures hovering around the low 20s. With the rest of Europe at or below freezing, Malaga is a big draw to warm up even for a week.
Don’t miss: Malaga’s food scene. Often overshadowed by the likes of Seville and Granada, Malaga has its own vibrant tapas scene. To find the best tapas in Malaga, step away from the main squares and explore the small alleyways. A pro tip about eating tapas in Malaga: look for berenjenas con miel (fried eggplant drizzled in honey or molasses). It’s a light and delicious snack made with locally sourced ingredients; a real staple of southern Andalusian cooking.
Where to stay: Malaga offers a wide range of accommodation choices including serviced apartments, hostels and hotels. A few hotels worth looking into are the Petit Palace Plaza, Barcelo Malaga and Gran Hotel Miramar.
How to get here: Malaga has its own airport for flights within Europe and is only a three hour train ride from Madrid.
– Recommended by Michael from The World Was Here First
Why visit Seville in winter: Seville is the perfect destination to visit in winter as temperatures stay in the mid-teens to low twenties Celsius. This makes it ideal for exploring, particularly when compared to the hot summer months where temperatures regularly exceed 35 degrees Celsius!
Best time to visit Seville in winter: While any time in winter is fine to visit Seville, December is a particularly great period with a number of Christmas markets and festivities occurring throughout the city. The atmosphere in Seville for New Year’s Eve is also fantastic.
Don’t miss: Visiting the Real Alcázar is one of the highlights of a trip throughout southern Spain, with the impressive Mudéjar-style Royal Palace used as one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones.
Where to stay: Monte Triana is a lovely modern hotel located a short walk from all the major sites that’s perfect for couples looking for some comfort while visiting Seville.
How to get to Seville: Seville is incredibly well connected by train and bus routes from other parts of Spain. It’s also serviced by a number of different airlines making it easy to get to from other major European cities.
Top travel tip: While temperatures are fairly warm during the day, they do drop at night so make sure to still pack a jacket for those chilly evenings.
The Algarve, Portugal
Why visit the Algarve in winter: Winter is a fantastic time to visit the Algarve. While the rest of Europe is a mix of rain, snow and grey skies, the Algarve typically has blue skies and temperatures in the high teens Celsius. That’s not going to be warm enough to go swimming in the sea or in a non-heated swimming pool, but it’s great weather for sightseeing, walking and topping up your vitamin D supplies. It’s also an incredibly affordable time of year to visit the Algarve. Hotel prices are typically a fraction of what they are during the summer months and it’s not unusual to find hotel rooms going for €20 in winter, which would be three or five times that in summer.
Best time to visit the Algarve in winter: While the weather in the Algarve can be good throughout the whole winter, it obviously does get some grey days and some rainy days. It is always going to be a bit of a gamble, but I’ve personally found January and February to be the riskiest months weather-wise. I personally like to visit in December because it means I get to see a little of the Christmas celebrations in the Algarve as well.
Don’t miss: The Algarve is a unique place to spend Christmas as the warm weather means that it doesn’t feel as “Christmassy” as somewhere with a colder climate would. Dig deeper, though, and you’ll find some interesting Christmas traditions as well as a whole host of Christmas foods like fatias douradas, azevias and filhós – all worth going to a cafe to try.
How to get here: The easiest way to get to the Algarve is to fly to Faro, the Algarve’s regional airport. Failing that, you can also fly to Lisbon; the drive down only takes around 2.5 hours.
Top travel tip: If you’re visiting for Christmas, it might be best to do your Christmas shopping beforehand. Personally, I don’t think it’s the easiest place to find Christmas presents.
Read more: The Algarve Travel Guide
There you have it… 25 utterly charming must see places in Europe in winter, whether you’re after the biggest and best Christmas markets, adventures in the snow or the perfect winter sun break. Which destination tops YOUR list? And have we missed out any other must see places? Let us know in the comments…
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