Europe in Winter means snows, cold weather, shorter days and walking around in 3 to 4 layers of clothing – well, at least for most parts of Europe. While Europe’s snowy winter brings along its own charm backed with countless winter sports, not many people want to experience the cold temperatures that come with it. If you’re one of those people, all hope to enjoy the sun is not gone as they’re a number of winter sun destinations in Europe to consider.
Though the temperatures are not going to be like those in tropical regions or even guarantee you a swim in the ocean, you can expect to enjoy sunny and warm temperatures as you stroll along the different European beaches. So if you’re ready, let your dreams of chasing the winter sun in Europe begin now by ticking one destination at a time off this list
Before you travel to these winter sun destinations, make sure you have all the travel essentials. Here are some that you shouldn’t leave behind.
Travel Essentials you should never leave home as you travel to Europe
Best winter sun destinations in Europe
1. Algarve, Portugal
Contributed by Lena from Four on a world trip
One of the warm winter destinations in Europe is the Algarve coast in the south of Portugal. With an average temperature of 16°C – 19°C, you can expect mild and sunny days, but chilly nights. However, even if the days are sunny and you can spend great days by the beach, it’s not the season to take a swim – the Atlantic is freezing cold!
The nicest months to visit the Algarve during winter are February and March. It’s still deepest winter in most parts of Europe but already spring in the south of Portugal. The almond trees are in full blossom and the Orange trees are bending under the weight of the fruits.
One of the great advantages of visiting the Algarve in Winter apart from the nice weather is that this normally utterly touristic place is almost deserted. You will find the beaches empty, the walking trails lonesome and the traffic more than relaxed.
Taking advantage of this rare occasion, the Praia de Marinha is a must-do at the Algarve coast. The stunning limestone formations are even more impressive if you are the only visitor!
Another great spot to enjoy the region is Sagres. The most western town of the Algarve lays within very raw nature – rough and steep cliffs, desolate vegetation and very powerful waves that are endlessly rolling in. It’s a very popular spot for surfers.
But interesting for everyone else as well, the town is strongly linked to the Age of Discovery when Portuguese sailors went out to explore new lands. The remains of the oldest European nautical school can be visited in Sagres and when already there, the walk around the headland is breathtaking.
Contributed by Iuliya of Doing Life with Iuliya
Located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, Malta is blessed with one of the most pleasant winter seasons you will find in Europe. The temperature hovers around 17°C to 20°C, there is plenty of warm breezes, sunlight and best of all, the prices for hotels are at attractively reduced prices!
If you are looking to escape the winter chill, Malta is one of the warmest European countries in winter to consider. And you can be sure that you will be escaping the horde of winter tourists too! But just because it lacks the normal tourist crowd, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing to do in this European archipelago.
In Valletta, the capital city of Malta, there are many permanent exhibitions that are worth a visit, including the National Museum of Archaeology and the National War Museum. The Ramla Bay in Gozo and Golden Bay are some of the most beautiful beaches around the archipelago. While not quite suitable for a swim (the waves are strong), they are perfect for the ultimate Instagram shot.
And in case you didn’t know, Malta is a huge draw for Hollywood movies and television series ranging from The Da Vinci Code to HBO’s Game of Thrones! Some of the top places to visit include Mdina, which is one of Europe’s grandest fortified cities and featured as King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. Mdina’s golden labyrinth streets, which were also featured in the Game of Thrones series are so picturesque, it is actually a joy to get lost among them!
If you’re wondering where to go to bask under the gentle Europe winter sun, wonder no more. Malta is the perfect choice!
Contributed by Maggie from The world was here first
If you’re looking for warm European countries in winter while not straying far from mainland Europe, then you can’t go wrong with the lovely island nation of Cyprus. Located in the southeast Mediterranean, Cyprus is blessed with perennially beautiful weather and sees well over 300 days of sunshine per year. Even in the coldest months of winter, where much of Europe is shivering under a blanket of snow, high temperatures in Cyprus will rarely dip below 18°C.
Despite its apparent small size, there is a lot to do in Cyprus that is sure to keep you occupied no matter how long you choose to visit. While the water may be a bit too chilly for swimming, there are numerous points of interest and historical sites in Cyprus that are sure to make up for the lack of beach-going in the winter months.
If you’re interested in exploring Europe’s last divided capital, then make sure to head to the city of Nicosia in the center of the island. If you’re fascinated by ancient Greek history and ruins, make sure to explore all of the places to visit around Paphos – the historic birthplace of the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. If you want to see migratory flamingos in the wild, then make sure to head to the salt lake in Larnaca.
Cyprus is blessed with bright sunshine and some of the warmest weather in Europe, making it the perfect place for winter sun holidays in Europe.
4. The Island of Crete, Greece
Contributed by Chrisoula from Travel Passionate
While Crete is obviously a fantastic summer destination, you might be surprised to learn that it can also be a wonderful place to soak up some winter sun in Europe. Although temperatures won’t be that of more exotic destinations such as the Far East, you can still expect warm, sunny days – generally around the mid-teens (Celsius) – so you can definitely make the most of the café culture and the pristine island architecture.
Crete doesn’t have a full winter tourism season, but you will still be able to find some local tavernas and guest houses throughout the winter months (November – April). You’ll also be able to visit the most popular museums and archaeological sites without the crowds which is a real bonus!
Sea temperatures from December onwards will be a little chilly, but this time of the year can be great for surfers (if you bring your wetsuit!). There are loads of other fun things to do in Crete in winter, such as watching Santa dive in the aquarium, and hiking amongst the foliage and flowers as winter turns to spring.
5. Sicily, Italy
Contributed by Tara from Taras Travels
The island of Sicily in Italy is one of the best European winter sun destinations, as it’s temperatures rarely drop below 10 degrees and is full of history, architecture, food, and nature. Depending on how much time you have, there are a variety of outdoor activities that are perfect to rid your winter blues.
The main cities of Catania and Palermo, are baroque works of art that are best explored by foot. There are plenty of food, history and architecture tours to guide you around the piazzas, museums, harbors and medieval streets.
Wintertime in Sicily is also the perfect climate for walking outdoors in the sunshine. The island is quite mountainous once you get away from the coast and offers plenty of scenic hikes for every level. You can do an easy coastal walk or a hike leading to the Volcano of Mount Etna for the truly adventurous. Sicily is also one of the few places in Europe that you can ski and swim in a single day!
If you have more time, road trips are a great way to see the rugged coastline. A scenic ring road takes you around the island to picturesque Mediterranean villages and pristine beaches such as the pictured Tonnara di Scopello or the hilltop town of Taormina.
You won’t find better views, fresher seafood or better warm winter destinations in Europe than Sicily and on top of that, the winter months are a lot less crowded!
6. Lake Skadar, Montenegro
Contributed by Leo from Safari Nomad
One of the places where you can feel pleasant and warm even in the coldest months of the year is Lake Skadar in Montenegro. It’s located in the Balkan Peninsula and only 7 km away from the Adriatic Sea.
Lake Skadar is not only the largest National Park in Montenegro but also the largest freshwater lake in the Balkans, shared by Albania and Montenegro. In winter, its water expands to cover 540 square kilometers, in other words, it’s 14 km wide in winter (while in summer it is 7 km wide). Thanks to an intact ecosystem, lush vegetation, Mediterranean climate, the lake is a winter sanctuary for numerous birds that migrate from cold Northern Europe.
The lake is one of the biggest bird reserves in Europe and is home to over 270 birds which you can see on a bird watching tour. Other activities you can do there are, exploring the lake by hiring a boat or kayaks.
In winter you can enjoy the festival “Days of wine and bleak“, where one can try dried and fresh grilled bleak and wines from local producers. On the Skadar Lakeshore, there are small and lovely towns with picturesque architecture where you can stop by and try local food in one of the restaurants.
7. Mallorca, Spain
Contributed by Nadine from Le Long Weekend
The Balearic Island of Mallorca is more commonly associated with summer breaks to make the most of the island’s beaches, sunny climate, and upbeat atmosphere. But come winter, the island makes a tranquil Europe winter sun escape. You’ll still benefit from mild temperatures and plenty of sunshine to make exploring more pleasurable, but the beaches will be yours alone to enjoy.
Away from the resort areas, the towns and villages of Mallorca are still alive with local life, and in the capital, Palma, it’s business as usual – just minus the swelling of tourists. Browse the city’s historical monuments, shop till you drop in the upmarket stores and trendy boutiques, and take a waterfront stroll along the harbor.
For a day trip with a difference, catch the Soller train out to the colorful seaside town of the same name. Enjoy an al fresco lunch, stroll the serene streets, or hire a boat to explore the rugged coastline.
If you’re into cycling, winter is an ideal time to ride the island’s trails, with spectacular scenery to enjoy along the way. Ride over to the west coast for dramatic cliffs and thrilling roads, or the East for flatter roads and picture-perfect coves. The landscapes in Mallorca are second to none and really deserved to be enjoyed in any season.
8. Barcelona, Spain
Contributed by Vicki from Vicki Viaja
Although Barcelona may not be the warmest place in Europe in winter, it is certainly one of the sunniest. As long as the sun is shining, you can even sit outside in the winter and enjoy your coffee or an ice-cold Cerveza on one of the countless small terraces in the center of Barcelona or near the beach.
Even though the water is likely to be too cold to swim during the winter months, you can still take a beautiful walk along the city’s coast. In winter, there are fewer tourists, which makes your walk much more peaceful and quiet.
But it’s not only noticeable on the beach that there are far fewer tourists than during the summer months. Also, the attractions that you might want to visit during your time in Barcelona are less crowded which significantly reduces the time you have to wait in line. In addition, accommodation in Barcelona usually costs less during the winter season (unless if you’re traveling between Christmas and New Year) which is great if you want to visit Barcelona on a budget.
One thing you should definitely try if you visit Barcelona in the winter, are churros. You’ll totally love this sweet pastry – they’re mostly served with a cup of hot chocolate to dip your freshly-baked churros in before enjoying them.
9. Athens, Greece
Contributed by Ana from Would Be Traveller
Athens makes one of the great winter sun Europe destinations thanks to its mild temperatures and long days of sunshine. Beyond the obvious benefits of the beautiful Greek weather, prices for flights and hotels drop enough to make it a reasonably budget winter sun destination, and there won’t be crowds of other tourists getting in your way either.
Of course, most people come to Athens to see the incredible Ancient Greek temples, walls, and statues. While the summer can be too hot to spend so much time outside, the temperatures drop enough in winter to make a full day in the sun bearable and even quite pleasant. However, even if it does get cold or threaten to rain, the Acropolis Museum is an excellent place to go. Inside, you can learn about the ancient history of Athens with a great view of the Parthenon high above you.
Another great reason to go during winter is that Athens celebrates winter festivals really well. In the run-up to Christmas, concerts and an ice rink entertain tourists and locals alike, while a beautiful tree goes up in Syntagma Square adorned with twinkling lights and the traditional Greek decoration of sailboat ornaments.
You’re also guaranteed a good time in Athens for New Year’s Eve, with parties in bars and nightclubs, traditional Greek music performances at Bouzoukia shows and firework displays lighting up the Acropolis to bring in the new year.
10. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Contributed by Constance from The Adventures of Panda Bear
The areas surrounding the Mediterranean and Adriatic are well known for their temperate climates, and the city of Dubrovnik in Croatia is no different. Winters in Dubrovnik are mild and though there is a slightly higher chance of precipitation, the sun is usually out and the temperatures rarely dip to freezing during the day.
Even though you can’t kayak or ferry to nearby Lokrum Island in the winter, there are still many things to do in the city. You’ll still be able to walk the beautiful city walls and explore the old city of Dubrovnik. These walls were featured in the hit HBO series, Game of Thrones. Be sure to also visit Fort Lovrijenac on the same ticket.
The old city is also home to one of the first pharmacies in the world, located in the Franciscan Monastery. The Old Pharmacy was founded by the Franciscan friars and has been in operation for over 700 years, since 1317.
Dubrovnik Cathedral is also another great indoor spot to visit. The church is well known for its skeleton adorned interiors. Since winter is the off-season in Dubrovnik, crowds will be fewer and you’ll be able to better enjoy the city.
11. Madeira, Portugal
Contributed by Megan from Megan Starr
If you’re looking for the best places for winter sun in Europe, look no further than magical Madeira, an island located in the middle of the Atlantic that technically falls under Portugal. Easily one of my favorite spots in the world, this rocky and dramatic island has a volcanic history that has shaped its terrain and it is truly like nothing else in Europe or on this side of the world. While there are many things to do in Madiera, one of the main things that entices tourists is the scenery and warm climate.
Madeira stays pretty mild during the winter and many Europeans will flock to its soil for a sunny winter getaway. The capital city is Funchal and there are extremely cheap flights there via charter trips or via Lisbon. Once you’re in Madeira, you can stay in Funchal, or take off for one of the small villages, like Sao Vicente – a place on the coast known for its surfing, charming alleyways in the town, and tasty seafood.
Madeira also offers many Levada walks along old canals through the harsh terrain. These walks have become so popular and are a part of the culture on the island these days. It is just one of the many things to do there. If you’re looking to get a feel for the food culture, there is delicious seafood and several wine offerings on the island.
You can find everything in Funchal or by renting a car and driving the island and stopping at small, family-owned restaurants there. Madeira is easily one of the European warm winter destinations to flock to if you’re looking for a bit of sun and warmth.
12. Costa Tropical, Spain
Contributed by Joanna from The World in my Pocket
If you are looking for the warmest places in Europe in winter, then Costa Tropical in southern Spain is the perfect destination. This area, which is also known as the Coast of Granada, has its own microclimate which the temperatures in winter stay quite high. This is because of the proximity of the Sierra Nevada mountains to the Alboran Sea.
Costa Tropical is a fantastic European winter sun holiday destination not only because it shines pretty much every day but also because of the multitude of things you can do there. Water sports are very popular in Costa Tropical and many people choose to kayak and snorkel in the clear waters of the Alboran Sea. Renting a speed boat is also very affordable here, which is very useful if you want to see dolphins swimming in the sea.
If you like good food, Costa Tropical is a perfect place to visit for culinary experiences. You can find the sweetest exotic fruits that grow in Spain, which are used by the local restaurants to make creative salads (which btw you should always order with your lunch or dinner).
Costa Tropical is one of the best quality fishing areas in Spain, so you’ll be able to enjoy delicious fish dishes from the local restaurants including the Motril Quisquilla, which is a local shrimp that only lives here.
For nature lovers, Costa Tropical offers many hiking trails both on the coast and up in the mountains. And, if at any moment you feel a bit warm, just 40 minutes’ drive away you will find the snowy slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
13. Sardinia, Italy
Contributed by Claudia from My Adventures Across The World
When it comes to sunny and warm European destinations in winter, it is hard to beat Sardinia (at least, the coast of Sardinia). Surely you should be warned that winter is when Sardinia gets most of its rain – and that’s when mountains get regularly covered in snow. But it’s not nearly as bad as other parts of Italy and – even more so – of northern Europe.
Days in the winter are much shorter than in the summer, but Sardinia gets a great deal of sun, and temperatures are mild. Cagliari, the main city, is blessed with an average of 12 degrees Celsius during the day, with peaks of 18 and even 20 on warmer days.
Christmas in Sardinia is special. While most places in Europe are battling cold weather, locals in Cagliari go for a walk at the beach or even on a hike to enjoy the good weather (this is the case most years).
Yes, as a local I recommend visiting Sardinia in February. That’s when Carnival celebrations are in full mode, with mountain villages in Gennargentu and Barbagia hosting traditional parades (the best one is in Mamoiada) and Oristano – one of the main cities hosting Sartiglia, a festival during which men dressed in traditional costumes and wearing masks gallop on a horse, holding a spear and trying to catch a star lifted in the middle of the street. It’s an adrenaline-filled show that is truly worth seeing.
Other unmissable things to do in Sardinia in the winter include visiting the many archeological sites. I recommend going to Su Nuraxi of Barumini for something truly unique. Make sure to also visit Tharros, on the west coast of the island.
Among the cities you should visit there are Cagliari, the capital, as well as Alghero, Bosa and even Nuoro, home of a fantastic ethnographic museum, perfect to learn more about the history and the culture of Sardinia.
14. Valencia, Spain
Contributed by Heleen from The Global Wizards
The city of Valencia offers the best winter sun in Europe perfect for a city trip during winter. Think about sunshine, a nice temperature, no crowds, lovely streets, and a beautiful beach.
This Spanish city has a total of 300 days of sun per year and most locals have never seen any snow in their life. Indeed an excellent destination to escape the cold. During the day you can enjoy the sunshine while drinking something on one of the many terraces. In the morning and evening, however, you’ll need a good sweater or jacket.
Valencia is a city with many faces. Besides visiting some absolute highlights such as the ‘Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias’ (city of art and science) and the ‘Mercado Central’ (central market), winter months offer some other great opportunities.
First of all, you can hire a bike, which is great in winter because it is not so busy on the road as in summer. Go for a ride in the Turia park and take your picnic. Or maybe you could wander a bit further and take your bike to the El Palmar village, next to the Albufera nature reserve and enjoy an amazing winter sunset.
Secondly, go to the beach. You won’t come across huge crowds and the temperature is perfect for long beach walks. End with a delicious paella, seafood platter or a drink on the terrace of one of the beach bars.
During winter months, Valencia is also known for is chestnuts, corn, and oranges. The smell of stalls with roasted chestnuts and corn you can find on every corner is something you’ll definitely remember.
15. Mykonos, Greece
Contributed by Margherita from The crowded Planet
Greece is one of the best winter sun holiday destinations in Europe – and if you ask me, it’s the best time to visit Mykonos! In summer, it’s very hard to enjoy the island since it’s filled to the brim with party lovers and sun-seekers, and prices rise accordingly.
Winter is a whole different story – you can get great deals on all kinds of accommodation, including stunning villas, and pretty much on all Mykonos beaches there’s not a soul to be seen. Mykonos is sunny year-round, and daytime temperatures in winter are between 10 and 15 degrees, so it’s too cold to swim (unless you’re a Viking!) but it’s very pleasant to sit on the beach and just look at the wonderful, clear water.
Winter is also the time to discover the local, authentic side of Mykonos, chasing cats in the narrow streets of Mykonos Town, renting a scooter and touring the southern coast (without having to worry about traffic!), or trying to find the best family taverna on the island. This is a very different side of Mykonos from what you’ll be experiencing in summer – but trust me, it’s 100% worth it!
16. Costa Brava, Spain
Contributed by Babs from Travel gear for kids
Visiting the Costa Brava will not guarantee you great weather (as there are only a handful of places in Europe that will), but it’s common enough to have a decent amount of sunshine. We were visiting in November and spent the first 5 days on the beach with 25 degrees and the other 5 alternating between rainy and sunny (but colder) days.
The Costa Brava is easy to reach by flying into Barcelona or Girona and taking the train that travels along the coast -(next to the ocean, it’s a trip on its own!).
As for things to do, there is plenty! For starters, Barcelona is only 20 mins – 2 hours away (depending on the town where you’re staying), which makes for a great day trip. Furthermore, Girona is about the same distance away in the other direction. A visit to this Venice of Spain is well worth at least a day (but preferably a lot more) of your time.
Other towns (both along the coast and more inland) such as Tossa de Mar and Pals are filled with history and worth checking out. And don’t forget the possibility to dive deep into the world of famous surrealist artist Salvador Dalí, both in the charming beach town of Cadaqués (which inspired the painter and houses a museum) as well as his birthplace Figueres, which is famous for its large Dalí-museum.
17. Malaga, Spain
Contributed by Emma from Our Spanish Life
Malaga, on Spain’s Costa del Sol, is one of the best winter sun destinations in Europe that won’t cost the earth. With some of the best weather in Spain and some winter days getting up to 16 degrees Celsius, it’s the perfect climate for exploring the history and culture of the city and its surrounding towns.
As a bonus, if you visit in December you’ll get to experience the famous Malaga Christmas lights that illuminate Calle Larios. There is no better way to enjoy the Christmas holidays in the sun like in Malaga.
Malaga is easy to get to with low-cost carriers flying into Malaga airport from most major destinations in Europe. As winter is off-peak, you’re more likely to get a bargain flight so you can spend more on tapas and sangria. The city is well-connected with a low-cost train between the airport and Malaga city center and the surrounding towns, and there are buses for getting around the city center – you definitely don’t need to rent a car in Malaga.
Once you’re in the city center, it’s easily walkable and highly pedestrianized. With so many open-air attractions such as the Alcazaba and the Roman Theatre, as well as a good selection of indoor museums (the Picasso museum is a highlight), there is an attraction for all weather.
If you simply want to chill on the beach, Playa la Malagueta is walking distance to the city center, or further afield I recommend Playa de Santa Ana in Benalmadena, which you can reach in 25 minutes on the train.
18. Lisbon, Portugal
Contributed by Ioana from The world is my Playground
Lisbon is one of the best cities in Europe – from friendly people to great weather, affordable prices, an abundance of history and delicious food — it’s got everything you need for a getaway. Those same qualities also make it an awesome stopover during the winter months.
With average daytime temperatures hovering around 12-18°C in the winter, it’s the perfect place to enjoy the warmest winter in Europe while still enjoying the beauty of the city without the crowds. November is the best and warmest time to visit during winter, but you can’t go wrong by going in December or January either.
Lisbon is a city of charming neighborhoods, hills, and panoramic views. There are 7 “Miradouros”, viewpoints, that let you take in the spectacular angles and rooftops of Lisbon, particularly at sunset. Don’t miss the views from Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte, Miradouro de Santa Luzia, and Miradouro da Graca. Most have a small bar at the top that’s open when the weather is nice and sometimes can even provide you with a blanket so you stay warm while enjoying the views.
Head to Praca de Comercio, considered to be the heart of the city to really appreciate Lisbon’s oceanfront location, surroundings, and architecture. Stroll up Rua Augusta by passing through the Arco da Rua Augusta, which acts as a sort of gateway into the city. The charming commercial street is filled with gems, including the Elevador de Santa Justa, and leads to Rossio neighborhood which you can easily spend a couple of hours exploring.
Another sight you can’t miss is Castelo de Sao Jorge, a sprawling castle that offers spectacular views over the city. It also wouldn’t be a complete trip to Lisbon if you didn’t jump aboard the vintage tram 28 for an unforgettable ride through Lisbon’s hilly streets.
Pro Tip: Bundle up at night, Lisbon temperatures can decrease drastically once the sun goes down.
If you want to take Christmas breaks in the sun or just want to escape the snowy and cold winter of Europe without leaving the continent, I hope this list of the best winter sun destinations in Europe has given you a variety of places to consider.
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