Want to enjoy a snowy and fairy-tale winter getaway? Here are the best winter destinations in Europe to add to your bucket list.
From enjoying views of the snow-capped buildings, tasting mulled wine to getting the cheapest bargain on almost everything – there are plenty of reasons to visit Europe in winter.
When the snow starts to fall, this beautiful continent of Europe turns into a cozy and fairytale destination that everyone should visit at least once during this season.
But with so many options, finding the perfect Winterland destination might not be the simplest thing to do. To help you narrow down the options, here are the best winter destinations in Europe to add to your snowy bucket list.
The best winter destinations in Europe to add to your bucket list
1. Poiana Brasov, Romania
Contributed by Allison from Sophia Adventures
If you’re looking for a wonderful snowy getaway in Europe that won’t break the bank, look to spending the winter in Romania!
There are plenty of wonderful places to visit in Romania in winter, but my personal favorite is the lovely mountain resort town of Poiana Brasov, about 30 minutes away from the historic town of Brasov.
The location of Poiana Brasov is hard to beat: nestled in the beautiful mountains with dozens of kilometers of ski pistes around, yet also within an hour’s drive to some of Transylvania’s most interesting sights such as the spooky Bran Castle, the timeworn Rasnov Fortress, and the historic fortified walled city of Brasov.
Other important sights are just a bit further afield, like Peles Castle and the beautiful UNESCO-listed city of Sibiu. But in Poiana Brasov itself, there’s plenty to do!
There are countless wonderful ski resorts in Poiana Brasov, many with excellent spa facilities and restaurants – after having sampled a couple, my favorite is Hotel Teleferic’s spa and restaurant, which are the highest quality in Poiana Brasov.
You can also learn to ski at one of the many ski schools, take the lifts up to ski independently, enjoy hearty traditional Romanian foods like polenta and pork stew, or go snowshoeing in the beautiful forests surrounding Poiana Brasov.
2. London, England
Contributed by Eniko from Travel Hacker Girl
London is one of the best European cities to visit in winter. You might think it is cold, wet and miserable, but actually, if you wrap up warmly, it can be the best time to visit the city.
London is not as busy or expensive during the winter months. You can see all the famous attractions without the crowds. Flight tickets and hotels tend to be cheaper during this off-season. Of course, the Christmas period is an exception as there are lots of tourists and locals who want to experience Christmas in London.
From the middle of November till the end of December, you can expect lots of people but this shouldn’t deter you because London is magical during the festive season.
There are lots of cute Christmas markets to visit with Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park being the biggest one. It is a lot like a theme park, as it has many cool rides, food stalls, and even music and theatre performances.
If you want to warm up, I suggest going ice skating on one of the many pop-up ice rinks in the city. The Natural History Museum, Tower of London, Somerset House and Hampton Court Palace are all great options.
There are also some events that you can only experience in the city during the Christmas period. So don’t miss your chance to visit Christmas at Kew or the Backyard Cinema if you are in London during this special time. And after Christmas, the city becomes quiet again.
Related post: Big mistakes to avoid while traveling in Europe
3. Zakopane, Poland
Contributed by Holly Connors from Four Around The World
Our favorite winter destination in Europe is by far Zakopane in Poland. It is located less than an hour from Krakow by bus or car and it is essentially a winter wonderland for all ages.
We were lucky enough to spend a white Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Zakopane and can’t wait to do it again in the future. There is so much to see and do and the whole town has a festive vibe.
Zakopane is at the base of the Tatra Mountains giving snow-capped mountain views from every direction. That, paired with the traditional wooden houses will make you feel like you’re in a children’s fairytale land.
There is plenty of opportunity for skiing, snowboarding, and other family-friendly snow activities. And at the end of a long day out in the snowfields, wind down in the heated pools at Chocholow Thermal Baths. There are over 30 pools with mountain views, plus water slides and other fun stuff.
Take a day trip up Kasprowy Wierch in the cable car for incredible views before enjoying lunch in the restaurant. This can be very popular during the peak holiday season so you may have a bit of a wait – It’s worth it though!
Another must-do in Zakopane is going up the funicular to Mt Gubałówka, located right in Zakopane. At the top, you will find great views, shopping stalls and food to enjoy, plus some fun attractions too. There are also beginner ski lessons held during winter. Zakopane offers everything you want in a European winter destination and more!
4. Bansko, Bulgaria
Contributed by Michael Jensen & Brent Hartinger from Brent And Michael Are Going places
“Forget Zermatt! Head for Bansko, Bulgaria, Instead”
Everyone knows the Alps make a great winter travel destination, especially if you’re a skier. But that’s the problem – everyone knows it. Ergo, the resorts in the Alps tend to be mobbed and expensive in winter which is why you should consider heading for Bansko, Bulgaria, at the base of the Pirin Mountains.
It’s one of the cheapest ski resorts in Europe, costing half or less of what you’d pay in the Alps. And accommodation are even more affordable than that. No, Bansko isn’t as chic as Zermatt or Chamonix. But the forests are pristine, and the skiing is great.
The town itself is designed for tourists. And with its red-tiled roofs, lovely village center, and gorgeous mountain vistas, it has plenty of charm of its own.
The town is divided into two parts. Up the Mountain, the area around the gondola that takes visitors up to the slopes has plenty of amenities: a large Aldo for groceries, plus ski and trendy clothing shops, bars, and restaurants serving typical western fare.
Meanwhile, Down the Mountain lies the original Bansko village, where you’ll find a more traditional Bulgarian experience, including surprisingly good food. Try the shashlik (skewers of chicken or pork), Kebapche (spiced minced meat), and Lutenitsa (a tomato and red pepper spread).
Even better are the surroundings: great stone fireplaces crackling with warmth, and roughhewn wooden tables with sheepskin throws. It’s all incredibly cozy.
Traveling with non-skiers? There’ll be plenty for them to do too – strolling the cobblestone streets, exploring the marvelous Delchev St. with its wonderful babbling brook, or visiting the Holy Trinity Church with its distinctive stone in the tower.
At night, you can all meet at one of the towns with a number of natural hot springs, then soak for hours under a star-filled sky. And with the money you save, you’ll be able to stay twice as long as you would at Zermatt.
5. Edinburgh, Scotland
Contributed by Chrysoula from Historic European Castles
While Edinburgh is most definitely a cold winter destination in Europe, it doesn’t mean that you should write it off your Bucket List for places to explore during the winter months.
Edinburgh has a certain charm about it that warms your cockles at any time of year and the city streets look just as picture-perfect as ever, if not more so, with the Christmas lights and dark nights of winter.
Edinburgh’s Botanical Gardens, George Street, and the Royal Mile are all lit up with Christmas lights throughout the season so there are things to see on every corner.
November and December see Christmas Markets line the streets of Edinburgh with plenty of local handicrafts and gifts on sale, as well as warming drinks such as hot chocolate and mulled wine to keep you toasty when you can’t feel your toes!
Edinburgh Castle is a wonderful attraction year-round where you can while away a few hours witnessing the 12th-century chapel, the Great Hall and even the Scottish Crown jewels.
The nearby Holyrood Palace, Camera Obscura, and the Museum of Edinburgh are also great attractions to visit when exploring Edinburgh in winter.
If you like to party, you might want to enjoy Silent Light, a silent disco-cum-light show where you can dance the night away in style.
Of course, it would be amiss not to mention Hogmanay in Edinburgh which is one of the world’s biggest celebrations for ringing in the New Year.
The town heaves with locals and tourists alike who come out to drink, dance, and watch the city’s spectacular fireworks display. This one is not to be missed!
With all this charm and beauty, Edinburgh is definitely one of the best winter destinations in Europe that should be on everyone’s winter bucket list.
6. Lofoten Islands, Norway
Contributed by Jodie from Alajode
Winter may just be the best time to visit the Lofoten Islands in Norway. The Lofoten Islands, while beautiful all year round, aren’t so much of a hidden secret anymore – and that means there are more tourists visiting than ever.
The Lofoten Islands are best enjoyed when they’re as isolated as can be, and that’s much easier during the colder months. While you may not be able to enjoy some of the epic hikes they offer in the summer months, you will be able to see the best of the Lofoten Islands.
During winter, the Lofoten Islands become a snowy winter wonderland with a postcard-worthy photo waiting to be taken in every direction you look. Think snow-capped mountains, icy lakes below the iconic fishing cabins and the best hot tub or sauna you’ve ever experienced in your life!
Winter is also the best time to see the Northern Lights in Norway. You won’t have to stay up late to see them either since the Lofoten Islands are located in the Arctic Circle and enjoy long hours of darkness during the winter. T
hen, after a day of exploring and an early Northern Lights sighting, you can snuggle up in your cabin and enjoy a full night’s sleep so you’ll be ready for the next day.
7. Copenhagen, Denmark
Contributed by Derek from Everything Copenhagen
Copenhagen is a fantastic city to visit at any time of the year. The Danish capital can seem like a different city depending on the season you visit.
Everything changes from month to month including the crowds, temperatures, and activities. When is the best time to visit Copenhagen? It’s always a great time to visit Copenhagen, and winter can be really special.
During Copenhagen’s winter period you have Christmas markets, festive decorations and seasonal drinks like glogg (mulled wine).
The city is decked out with Christmas lights and evergreen garland – it’s gorgeous. There are Christmas markets in the main squares around town and everyone in Copenhagen is out enjoying the season.
One of the best Christmas attractions in Copenhagen is Tivoli Gardens. The charming old-world amusement park is beautiful year-round, but its Christmas decorations are breathtaking. There are lights and decorations everywhere and the grounds are coated with artificial snow.
In the winter months after Christmas, Copenhagen slows down a little and the crowds die off. However, even in January and February, it’s still a great city to visit. Copenhagen in this portion of winter is a little colder, the days are short and most locals hunker down inside. This is a great time of year to visit museums, enjoy the cozy pubs and go to board game cafes.
If you’re looking for the best European cities to visit in winter, Copenhagen should be on your list. It’s, of course, different than visiting the city during the summer, but there’s never a bad time to enjoy Copenhagen.
To enjoy your European winter break, make sure you have all the winter essentials. Find out what you’ll need in Europe in winter by checking out this complete Winter packing list for Europe.
8. Stockholm, Sweden
Contributed by Albina from Ginger Around The Globe
The capital of Sweden is usually very crowded in the summertime, which makes it a perfect European winter destination. You might be freezing, but if you are lucky, you can see northern lights.
If you go to Stockholm in wintertime, you might not have so much light outside, so I would very much recommend doing all of the outside sightseeing at daylight. For example, seeing the royal palace or walking around the canals.
The great thing about coming here in winter though is the fact that there are not that many people around, which means that most of the time you don’t need any reservation and things, in general, get cheaper. And in the blue winter light, also, cozier.
And what do you do in a cozy city like this? Well, let me tell you, Stockholm has a lot of free museums. Even if you are not fond of them, I would still say that there are museums for everyone. You can find things like Nobel price museums, ABBA museum, museum of the nordic, museum of Vasa – the ship that was supposed to be the greatest but drowns after one kilometer.
For a cozy afternoon, there are a lot of very nice cafés where you can feel the right Swedish Fika. In general, Sweden is a winter paradise, especially if you prefer city life over nature.
9. Trento, Italy
Contributed by Margherita from The Crowded Planet
Italy is usually considered a nice weather destination, but it also has a lot to offer in winter! For example, did you know that Italy has great Christmas markets? One of my favorite places to visit in Europe in winter is Trento, located in the Trentino region in northern Italy, surrounded by the Alps.
Trento used to belong to the Austrian Empire until the end of WWI when it became part of Italy, and it’s worth a visit for its blend of Italian and Germanic architecture and traditions – which naturally, include Christmas Markets.
Visit Trento in winter and wander the streets drinking mulled wine and eating roasted sausages, while twinkling lights decorate the buildings all around you.
Also, don’t miss visiting some of Trento’s best-known sights, like Buonconsiglio Castle and the Cathedral. If you want to spend a day skiing, Trento is a great departure point – Mount Bondone is only a quick drive from the town, or you can head to world-class resorts like Madonna di Campiglio and Pinzolo in under an hour.
10. Lucerne, Switzerland
Contributed by Carolyn of Holidays to Europe
One of my best European destinations in winter is the Swiss city of Lucerne. Pretty at any time of year, but in winter, with snow dusting the rooftops, it’s like a real-life fairytale.
Less than an hour by train or car from Zurich, Lucerne is easy to get to and there are plenty of things to do both in the city and nearby.
The city’s most well-known landmark is Chapel Bridge, a medieval wooden bridge with a shingle roof that spans the River Reuss. In addition to the 17th-century pictorial panels which line the eaves of the bridge, another feature is the octagonal-roofed water tower which alongside it.
There’s probably no prettier scene in Lucerne in winter than the Chapel Bridge sprinkled with snow.
Other locations in Lucerne worth visiting include the Old Town, where numerous buildings sport painted facades and oriel windows, the Jesuit Church and the Dying Lion statue.
The city is also home to a number of museums which are the perfect places to escape the wintry weather. These include the Swiss Transport Museum, Picasso Museum and the Rosengart Collection where you can see works by Cezanne and Chagall. Also, don’t forget to see the city from the water aboard one of the regular cruises on Lake Lucerne.
You can’t go to Lucerne without experiencing a visit to one of the nearby mountains – Mt. Pilatus, Mt. Titlis and Mt. Rigi which are just three nearby mountains that make a great day excursion from Lucerne and offer stunning views of the snowy peaks surrounding the city. With these many things to do in Lucerne, it surely is one of the best cities in Europe to visit in winter.
11. Budapest, Hungary
Contributed by Marie from A Life Without Borders
With a relatively mild winter climate and lack of tourist crowds, Budapest is one of the best European cities in winter. From skating on outdoor ice-rinks to cruising the river Danube, there are plenty of things to do in Budapest for a perfect Europe winter getaway.
Take in the stunning winter views of Hungary’s capital by heading to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Fisherman’s Bastion or the Citadel on top of Gellert Hill. Stroll down the beautiful Andrassy Avenue or Vaci Utca in the city center before warming up in one of Budapest’s many historic cafes.
Keep out of the cold by luxuriating in one of Budapest’s famous hot thermal baths. I recommend trying central Szechenyi Bath or Rudas Bath for its amazing rooftop jacuzzi with views overlooking the Danube River.
Take tram number two for a scenic ride along the Danube to soak in the glorious views of the city and the river. Ice-skate in City Park with stunning fairy-tale architecture as a backdrop before hitting up one of Budapest’s famous ruin pubs.
If you’re traveling to Budapest from late November until early January, visit one of the charming Budapest Christmas markets, including the Vorosmarty Square Christmas Market and the Advent Market at St Stephen’s Basilica, for warming hot spiced wine and hearty Hungarian food.
12. The Isle of Skye, Scotland
Contributed by Kat from Wandering Bird
The Isle of Skye is one of the best places to visit in Europe in winter. The crowds have gone, but the beautiful views still remain for you to enjoy.
The air is crisp and cold, meaning you get incredible photos of the mountains, sea, and wildlife. And many shops and businesses open right through winter, as people live on and visit Skye all year round.
European winter is fantastic in Skye for 3 main things:
Photography: The crisp evenings create perfect conditions for sunset photography. Because sunset happens earlier, it’s possible to get some great shots and still return in time for tea.
This is also a fantastic place for photographing the night sky as light pollution is incredibly low. Make sure you bring warm clothing – it gets very very cold as soon as the sun goes down.
Wildlife sightings: Winter is amazing for wildlife sightings, both in and out of the sea. Stand quietly by the shoreline and you’ll probably see otters, seals, and dolphins playing in the shallows.
We once had a wild dolphin in the bay within 20ft of us! You’ll also see many birds which don’t migrate- try to catch them early in the morning or at sunset.
Whiskey tastings: Nothing will warm you up faster than a dram of whiskey. The world-famous Talker Whiskey distillery is on Skye and is a great indoor activity if you have inclement weather. You can also enjoy a glass (or two!) in front of a roaring log fire at the local pub.
If you are creating your own 2-3 day Isle of Skye itinerary, make sure to include activities for dry and wet weather as the weather can be changeable and completely different from what was forecast. But if you can, be sure to go and find the hidden gold cave!
13. Istanbul, Turkey
Contributed by Kaisa from Glam Granola Travel
While I love Istanbul any time of year, it is particularly special in the winter. There is a chill over the Bosphorus and popular sights are calm and peaceful. It is still abuzz with activities, to be sure, but serenely so.
Two of Istanbul’s most well-known spots, the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, will be much less crowded than other times of the year.
These ancient, breathtaking structures are really best appreciated at your own pace, in your own space. Specifically, you won’t have tourists bumping into you every few feet as you explore, whether that’s inside or outside their walls (but trust me, definitely go inside)!
As you walk through Sultanahmet Square and Old Istanbul, buy a cup of boza (a sweet and sour yogurt-based drink) from one of the street vendors.
They only come out in the colder months. While we’re on the subject of food and drinks, a warm, hearty breakfast of Menemen (spiced tomatoes, peppers, and eggs) was my favorite way to start every winter day in Istanbul. I couldn’t get enough of it, and it’s one of those things that doesn’t taste the same when you try to make it at home.
Istanbul’s famous Grand Bazaar is hectic at any time of year, but on a chilly day, it’s a particularly nice indoors activity. It is one of the biggest, oldest covered markets in the world – I bought literally all of my souvenirs here. Get your bargaining hats on, though!
In markets that are popular with tourists, the sellers know they can take advantage of less savvy shoppers. That said, shopping in the Grand Bazaar was quite fun and most of the sellers were friendly.
There’s something very lovely about winter in Istanbul. Watching a light snowfall over the ancient city on the banks of the Bosphorus is genuinely a spiritual experience. Even better with a piping hot cup of Turkish tea in hand!
14. Avignon, France
Contributed by Nadine from Le Long Weekend
When thinking of winter holiday destinations in Europe, Provence probably isn’t the first place that springs to mind. But while life does slow down a little as the tourist numbers trickle out, there’s still plenty to do and see throughout the region in winter. And in Avignon – the cultural hub of the region – it is largely business as usual come the cooler months.
Attractions in Avignon are numerous and varied, so there’s little chance of getting bored during a visit to the city, and you’ll benefit from cool, but generally sunny days in which to explore.
You’ll be able to visit the iconic Palais des Papes without the usual crowds, wander along the Pont d’Avignon and peek into the petite chapel that sits upon it, and take in the views from atop the Rocher des Doms gardens that overlook the city and River Rhone.
Christmas celebrations abound in December too, so warm up with a vin chaud (mulled wine), browse the Christmas markets and be sure to buy one of the colorful Santons de Provence – small figurines traditional to this part of France. If, on the rare occasion, the whether doesn’t play nice, there are also plenty of cafes, restaurants, galleries, and museums to keep you cozy for an afternoon.
Related post: The Most beautiful castles to visit in France
15. Venice, Italy
Contributed by Chris from More Life in Your Days
Venice is a beautiful city that is famous all over the world for its undeniable beauty. This has led it to become one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations (for good reasons).
At times Venice can struggle to cope with the influx of visitors – this is why it is such a great place to visit in winter. As most people visit Venice in the summer, a winter visit gives you the chance to explore this incredible city with slightly smaller crowds.
It also won’t smell so bad. The canals of Venice give off their own pong in the heat of the summer months, but in the cool of winter, this is not such a problem.
Venice is even more atmospheric in the winter thanks to the low light and fog on the water, and you will also get to enjoy Venice in the dark when it probably looks its best. You may need to wrap up warm in the depths of winter but on a cool, crisp winter’s day, Venice is hard to beat.
A great way to explore Venice is to float down the Grand Canal getting a good look at the up view of the beautiful palaces that line the biggest canal in the city.
You might like to time your winter visit to coincide with the famous Carnival week in February. This may not be the best way to avoid the crowds but it does give you the opportunity to see this unique cultural event.
16. Prague, Czech Republic
Contributed by Kylee from Passports and Preemies
The capital of the Czech Republic, Prague is one city in Europe that is just as wildly popular in the winter months as it is in the summer months all thanks to the way the city transforms itself during Christmas. If you choose to visit Prague during winter, specifically Christmas time, you’ll be in a Christmas haze!
There’s Christmas music blaring from the town square. Markets found in each square smelling of mulled wine decked out in ornaments and lights.
Christmas trees lining the streets and more! While temperatures drop during this time, the city wraps you in Christmas warmth urging you to get out see the town transform.
If you do find yourself visiting Prague during the winter, make sure to bring warm clothes and layers! Temperatures drop and snow frequently blankets the city.
It’s a magical way to see the popular sites of Prague. Just like the summer months, during wintertime, the tourist attractions are still open for viewing!
Visit the Prague Castle, the largest castle complex in all of Europe. Or mosey your way down Charles Bridge, a bridge that was built beginning in the 13th-century. And don’t miss the world’s oldest working clock, the Astronomical Clock, found in the Old Town Square.
No matter when you decide to visit, before or after Christmas, Prague is a magical European winter destination. So pack a warm coat, grab a hot chocolate, and roam the streets of this historic old city.
17. Borovets, Bulgaria
Contributed by Stephanie from Sofia Adventures
One of my favorite European winter destinations is the Bulgarian ski resort town of Borovets. This beautiful, snowy paradise is just two hours outside of Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, making it an easy winter escape from almost anywhere in Europe.
If you come during the winter, you’ll find there are tons of things to do in Borovets, from skiing and snowboarding to riding horses through the snow and tobogganing.
At night you can enjoy all that the Borovets apres-ski scene has to offer, from cocktails, karaoke to clubs. Or if you’re not ready for the winter fun to end, you can actually go skiing in Borovets at night!
The town, while small, has some excellent restaurants. You can try everything from Italian to Jamaican to (of course!) traditional Bulgarian cuisine.
If you want to stay warm, you can spend a day at the spa, or should I say spas? There are many hotel spas and saunas to enjoy, or you can take a trip out to the natural hot springs at Kotvata.
There are several important historic sites, like a former palace owned by the Bulgarian Tsars, within an hour of Borovets, so culture travelers will be able to fit in a few educational experiences in the middle of all the winter-themed fun.
18. Vilnius, Lithuania
Contributed by Ana from Merry Go Round Slowly
The capital of Lithuania Vilnius is one of the best European cities in winter because it offers so many of both cultural and natural sights. Walk around the UNESCO protected Old Town of Vilnius, visit the Republic of Uzupis and the newest Contemporary Art Museum called MO.
Vilnius offers a great selection of coffee places all around the city center, so whenever you get cold on your way, there will always be a great place nearby to get warm.
If you want to experience winter in nature, head to Belmontas Park, where you can take a walk along the river of Vilnele and admire the waterfalls and watermills, or take a stroll through the Vingis Park, the green lungs of Vilnius.
During Christmas time and until the 7th of January you should explore the area around the Cathedral square. This is the place where the main Christmas tree and the main Christmas market takes place.
If you are visiting Vilnius in February, you might be lucky to celebrate the Carnival, which in Lithuanian is called “Užgavėnės”. Get ready to eat a lot of pancakes!
And towards the end of February and the beginning of March, Vilnius hosts its biggest street fair Kaziuko mugė or Saint Casimir’s Fair. It is large annual folk arts and crafts fair, which dates all the way back to the 17th century.
You will find all kinds of traditional crafts for purchase, but also a lot of local foods to try. For a true Lithuanian experience, look around for hot beer with honey, smoked fish and mushroom-shaped cookies called “Grybukai”.
Remember to pack a warm coat and mittens – you are very likely to encounter a lot of snow, especially in January and February.
19. Tallinn, Estonia
Contributed by Dagney from Cultura Obscura
If you’re wondering where to go in Europe in winter, Tallinn is one of the best options. The city is known for it’s fairytalesque old town, and in the winter the inclement weather makes it seem even more magical. Views from the Patkuli viewing platform are a must, as you can see the city from above, shrouded in fog.
From the last week of November until the first week of January, a Christmas market is set up. Local handicrafts and lots of glögg (mulled wine) are available at various stalls.
Even if Christmas markets aren’t for you, there is still plenty to do during winter in Tallinn. One benefit of visiting at this time is that there are almost no other tourists.
This means that you will have many sites literally to yourself. You might even find yourself wandering around the old town on your own.
With over 40 museums at your fingertips, you will never run out of things to do! Some of Tallinn’s best museums to visit include; the KGB Museum at Hotel Viru, the Seaplane Harbour Museum and the KUMU Art Museum.
Be sure to leave the old town, and explore the nearby places. You can shop at the Balti Jaam market, spot street art in the Telliskivi Creative City or enjoy a coffee in Kalamaja.
20. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Contributed by Sydney from A World in Reach
Amsterdam is a wonderful destination to visit at any time of the year, but it is especially magical during the winter months. The city’s canals are always picturesque, but they are even more so when there is snow falling!
If you can brave the cold, windy weather, you’ll find tons of great things to do in Amsterdam during winter. When visiting in December, you’ll be amazed by the beautiful Christmas lights and decorations that line the streets.
Amsterdam is also home to several Christmas markets, where you can sample festive Dutch foods, buy crafts and souvenirs, and warm up with some mulled wine.
If you’re visiting Amsterdam for New Year’s Eve, you’ll be able to ring in the new year with a beautiful fireworks show or by dancing the night away at some of the best parties in Europe.
There’s more to Amsterdam in winter than just holiday celebrations. All winter long, you can go ice skating at the rink at Museumplein.
On rare occasions, the canals even freeze over – if you’re lucky enough to visit during this occurrence, you can even go ice skating on the frozen canals! If you need to warm up from the cold, spend some time in one of Amsterdam’s excellent museums.
And if you want to escape from the city and experience a more traditional Dutch winter, consider taking a day trip from Amsterdam to a nearby city or town. No matter what you choose to do, you’ll definitely enjoy your winter visit to Amsterdam!
21. Zermatt, Switzerland
Contributed by Allan Wilson from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor
There are few winter destinations in Europe as stunning as Zermatt – a massively popular ski resort town beneath the backdrop of the Matterhorn, the same mountain peak that influenced and is depicted on the Toblerone Bar. It is also the third highest peak in Western Europe and the most iconic in the Swiss Alps.
But aside from the rather magnificent mountain scenery, Zermatt is a huge ski resort with over 200km of pistes and is always exciting throughout the winter months with winter sports enthusiasts. But there are also many tourists there for the winter scenery and sightseeing which includes the cablecars that connect between the surrounding peaks of this mountain resort town.
Zermatt also marks the start of the world-famous Glacier Express Train, known as the Slowest Fast Train in the World, which runs between Zermatt and St Moritz via some of the most amazing winter scenery you will ever come across.
Otherwise, there is a lot to do in the town throughout the winter season – the long festive period and après ski vibes in the evenings when the bars and night venues are alive with beers and mountain banter. And I will always recommend the local restaurants which specialize in the Swiss Alp favorite of cheese, fondue hot pot, and maybe some rostis.
#eff8fbBefore you go to this ski heaven of Zermatt, make sure you have all these skiing essentials for a perfect ski holiday.
22. Stuttgart, Germany
Contributed by Diana from Travels in Germany
Undeniably one of the best winter vacations in Europe, the city of Stuttgart is located in a valley in the Baden Württemberg region of Germany. The city is one of the largest in Germany and is home to some amazing places such as the Wilhelma Zoo, a botanical garden zoo combination as well as numerous museums.
The Mercedes Benz Museum is one of the most popular indoor activities in Stuttgart. The massive collection of automobiles, particularly the classic cars and buses is spread out over a massive multi-story round building.
The history of the automobile as well as the history of numerous transportation vehicles is laid out in the museum and makes for one of the most fascinating museum experiences.
Stuttgart is also home to a fantastic Christmas market known as the Weihnachtsmarkt. Stuttgart’s Christmas market is one of the biggest and oldest in Germany.
Beginning at the end of November, the market lasts for approximately 4 weeks. It is open every day and welcomes millions of visitors every year. The market is spread out over several different squares and has an incredibly detailed display of shops and vendors.
There is an abundance of things to do especially for families such as a Ferris wheel, a steam train, and several small carnival rides as well as an ice rink.
23. Rovaniemi, Finland
Contributed by Dandt fromThe Elusive Family
An absolutely incredible destination, Rovaniemi in the heart of Lapland Finland needs to be on everyone’s list as a snowy European winter destination. Its location in the heart of the Finnish Lapland and its official designation as the hometown of Santa Claus makes this an attractive winter getaway. It is an especially special experience if you are doing Lapland with kids.
Rovaniemi is located on the Arctic Circle, and visitors can step right in the middle of the imaginary Arctic Circle line to take pictures at Santa Claus Village. Rovaniemi caters to everyone, particularly because the area is known for some of the best winter activities in Lapland.
Some of the most popular activities in Rovaniemi include husky rides through deep snow as well as reindeer rides. There are many tour operators in the area to help travelers book their excursions for these rides.
Ice fishing and northern lights chasing are other popular activities and are very common in the winter. Northern lights can be seen from Lapland during the winter, as tour operators drive further out from Rovaniemi to allow visitors a clear view into the open sky. Visitors need to be dressed in the proper winter gear especially in the middle of winter.
Nothing would be complete without visiting Santa during this time. Santa Park and Santa Claus village both have Santas where you can also experience other things such as Santa’s Post Office and Santa’s elf helpers in both locations.
Santa Park is an underground bunker themed park where you can also watch shows, do family-friendly activities and make cookies. Rovaniemi has something for everyone in winter and offers the ultimate Finnish Lapland experience.
24. St Petersburg, Russia
Contributed by Rai from A Rai of Light
What makes the imperial city even more special during Winter is the wonderful atmosphere with a whole host of things to do at this time of the year.
Considered the cultural capital of the country, it has a long history, dating back to the early 1700s during which it has gained many artistic and architectural treasures.
The city is beautiful in the snow as locals prepare to celebrate the festive season. Winter offers plenty of Russian celebrations, outdoor activities, and cultural events during this time.
From sledging at Victory Park to skiing at Tsarskoye Selo and Ice Hockey at the Ice Palace, there’s often an event taking place to celebrate the season.
It is easy to be seduced by beautiful views of frozen canals and rivers while discovering a city full of unique finds. If it’s too cold to be outside, there’s still a lot to keep you busy indoors.
No visit to the city is complete without a stop at some of the main attractions in Saint Petersburg. Highlights include the Mariinsky theatre, the Hermitage Museum, and the Winter Palace, housing a massive collection of historic items from around the world.
25. Tromsø, Norway
Contributed by Megan from Megan Starr
Tromsø, Norway is easily one of the best winter holiday destinations in Europe and all of the world. The unofficial capital of Northern Norway is a sizeable city that has so many things to offer every type of traveler, whether you’re visiting solo, as a couple, or with your family.
One of the best things about Tromsø during winter is that it is a northern lights paradise for those chasing the aurora. There are several tours with quality guides available that will give you a taste of the experience – I saw the lights twice in Tromsø on my couple of days there during winter.
Another plus to visiting Tromsø in winter is that you have a large range of activities at your disposal. You’ll find everything from dog sledding in Tromsø to Sami experiences where you can learn about the indigenous culture and people that have called this area home for years.
In addition to the many activities in Tromsø, it is a great base to fly or visit other locations in Northern Norway during winter.
You can take a short flight to the Lofoten Islands and witness a totally different type of scenery. You can also hop over to Alta, an adventurer’s wonderland, or even the Nordkapp where you will get to see the tip-top of Europe under the northern lights. Tromsø truly is one of the best winter holiday destinations in Europe.
26. Tbilisi, Georgia
Contributed by Yukti from Travel With Me 247 Blog
Tbilisi lies on the confluence of Asia and Europe and so it has a perfect blend of both Asian and European cultures. Tbilisi offers wonderful Georgia cuisine, friendly and hospitable people, enchanting Caucasus mountain ranges with 8000 years old unique wine. During winters there are many cultural celebrations as the whole region is soaked into the festive season.
There are natural Sulphur baths in the city – Abanotubani and known for its mineral-rich hot springs. In winters you can book your private healing waters spa to relax – they also have family rooms.
From Tbilisi, you can go skiing on the snowy mountains of Caucasus nearby which takes approximately 1.5 hours to reach.
As Georgia is not a very expensive country, skiing nearby Tbilisi is very affordable and worth doing during winters. People even come here to take ski lessons by hiring ski instructors at affordable prices.
There is also a cable car taking people to the top of Narikala fortress from where you can have stunning views of the city. Not only the beauty of this place will enchant you but also the hospitable and loving people of Georgia will captivate your heart and mind.
27. Tirana, Albania
Contributed by Mar Pages from Once in a Lifetime Journey
Tirana, the capital of Albania, is one of the fantastic places to visit in Europe in winter as the crowds have dispersed and you get to explore this fascinatingly artistic city that has a bright future beyond its dark history.
If you didn’t know, Albania was led by the dictator Enver Hoxha who was extremely secretive and paranoid.
One of the greatest things to do in Tirana in winter is to go underground and explore Albania’s history through some of the 175,000 bunkers. Although Hoxha planned to build 210,000 between 1975 and 1985 only these have survived.
The Bunk’Art exhibits are seriously informative and provide a lot of great information on the country and its checkered past. Similarly, the House of Leaves focuses on the Sigurimi or the Albanian Secret Intelligence and you can learn even more at the National History Museum.
But not all is dark in Albania’s winter, there are some superbly colorful murals to explore around the city. You’ll see rainbows and portraits on buildings, characters on electricity boxes and wonderful graffiti all over the otherwise repressive architecture.
Warm-up at one of the hipster cafes in Blloku and if you’re up to it, take the Dajti Ekspres cable car to the top of Tirana and have a bite to eat. It will be freezing up top, so be sure to dress up warm. And don’t forget to taste some of the best foods in Albania like stuffed aubergine and peppers or fërgesë (baked cheese in a spreadable form with roasted peppers and tomatoes).
28. Innsbruck, Austria
Contributed by Mansoureh Farahani from Travel With Mansoureh
Alpine cities and towns are dream destinations for winter holidays and snow lovers, and Innsbruck in the west of Austria is no exception.
This Austrian city with its imperial architecture and medieval houses surrounded by beautiful snow-covered mountains is a popular European winter holiday destination amongst international and local tourists.
Innsbruck is a very pretty town that can be good for a cultural city break while enjoying winter sports and activities. The fun winter activities in Innsbruck include skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing or snow hiking.
There are various ski resorts with ski trails for different levels. So, no matter how skilled you are, you’ll find something comfortable for your own pace.
You can stay in the city instead of booking your accommodation near the resort because most of the hotels provide a free pass for buses to the ski resorts. In this case, you can get familiar with the history and culture of the city while having access to this winter sports playground.
The best way to get to Innsbruck is by flying or by train. If you are going to take a flight, make sure you go during the day and choose the window seat since the landing at the airport, which is located on a deep valley surrounded by mountains, is an experience you shouldn’t miss.
Keep in mind that Innsbruck is a very beautiful place also during summer, spring and autumn too, but winter and the white snow make it a magical and memorable experience.
29. Paris, France
Contributed by Lena from Salut From Paris
Visiting Paris is high up the bucket list of many travelers. But while most of them are coming over during summer, winter definitely has some strong selling points! However, Paris is never really offseason, but you’ll still find significantly fewer crowds, less waiting times at sights and most likely even better deals when renting a hotel room.
If you visit Paris in December, you can indulge yourself in Paris’ Christmas spirit. Many streets are illuminated and decorated and you can even visit some Christmas markets!
The most popular one is at La Défense, a business and commercial area with France’s biggest shopping mall, le Quatre Temps.
January and February are the coldest months in Paris and perfect to enjoy some of the many world-famous museums. If the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay are too mainstream for your trip though, visit the Palais Galliera, the Paris’ Fashion Museum! Talking about fashion… February is also the month when the Parisian Fashion Week takes place!
Even though it might be cold in Paris, that shouldn’t stop you from having long walks through the beautiful Parisian streets. Paris is a very walkable city and strolling through Montmartre or the Marais is one of the best things to do in Paris – no matter the season.
Winter is just a perfect excuse though for hopping frequently into warm cafés for a hot chocolate or a nice glass of wine.
30. Bucharest, Romania
Commonly known as the “Little Paris” or “Paris of the East” due to its sophisticated life, Bucharest, the capital of Romania is one of the best places in Europe in winter.
With crowds slowly dying out in winter, Bucharest becomes a quieter and a cozier city to explore. Though the city can be really cold since it snows most of the days during winter, if you brave up, you’ll be able to enjoy a new look of the city from monuments capped with white snow to twinkly lights surrounding the architectural wonders within the city.
One of the main things to do in Bucharest in winter or in any other season for that matter is to visit the Palace of Parliament which is the second-largest building in the world.
Book a guided tour to explore the 1000 rooms and be mesmerized by the many chandeliers in the palace (over 450 to be exact). Or just stroll around the city to admire the incredible Romanian architecture and art deco masterpieces plus the vintage clocks that are dotted around the city.
And if you visit during the festive season, visit some of Bucharest’s Christmas markets which are believed to be the best and largest in the Balkans.
When you want to warm up, soak yourself in the many thermal pools around the city and don’t forget to indulge yourself in the warm and hearty Romanian traditional dishes like Sarmale (cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and meat cooked in tomato sauce), or Jumari (Pork rinds served with raw onion).
So if you only thought of visiting Bucharest in summer, I hope you now know that it is one of the best places to travel in Europe in winter. All you have to do is to layer your clothing and you’ll be guaranteed one of the best winter holidays in Europe.
If you were still skeptical about traveling to Europe in winter, I hope this post changed your mind with all the different places to visit and things to do. All you have to do is to pack your warm winter clothes and you’ll be guaranteed an amazing time in snowy Europe.
ARE YOU READY TO TRAVEL TO EUROPE THIS WINTER? SHOP MY FAVORITE WINTER ACCESSORIES FROM AMAZON
– Full set thermal base layer for women and here’s is the men’s version
– Fleece for women and here’s the men’s version
– Winter jackets for women and this one for the men.
– Woolen socks -To keep your feet warm and dry at all times
– Gloves – these ones are actually touch screen sensitive, so you can use your phone without taking them off.
– Scarves – buy this long and thick one for extra warmth.
–Knitted cap – this is the one I recommend to keep the snow off your hair and to stay warm.
–Earmuffs – protect your ears from cold Europe by buying these cool earmuffs.
–Waterproof Winter boots for women and these ones for the guys
You can also read this comprehensive winter packing list to find out everything you will need to pack for your winter vacation in Europe.
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