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33 Best Winter City Breaks in Europe

by Or Amir

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I’m not very good at dealing with cold weather, but I can’t deny that Europe in winter is pure magic. The Christmas markets, the decorated streets, the snow – everything is just irresistibly enchanting. After visiting a few times (and loving it despite the impossible temperatures), I’ve decided it’s time to create a proper winter bucket list with the help of some fellow bloggers. So here it is – from popular places to underrated destinations you might haven’t considered, these are the best winter city breaks in Europe.

 

Europe winter travel destinations: 33 Best winter city breaks in Europe

 



POPULAR WINTER CITY BREAKS IN EUROPE

VIENNA, AUSTRIA

The Austrian capital is known to be one of the best winter cities in Europe. Vienna in winter is utterly enchanting thanks to its Christmas markets and decorated streets, but you can also add plenty of other activities to your itinerary.

Those include ice-skating in the city hall square (on a rink that is open until March), attending the New Year’s Eve ball, enjoying the Philharmonic’s New Year’s concert, embracing the snow, and warming up at one of the city’s coffeehouses.

Beyond these winter attractions, Vienna is the perfect destination for architecture, history, and culture lovers. From historical landmarks like the Schönbrunn Palace and St. Stephen’s Cathedral to unique architectural creations like the Hundertwasser House to more than a hundred museums, this city has it all.

As for accommodation, I recommend searching for hotels outside the city center to save money, and I loved my stay at the adorable Ibis Styles Wien City, but you can also check out my roundup of places to stay in Vienna.

Top winter city breaks europe - Vienna Austria

 

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY

It’s so easy to fall in love with such a beautiful city like Budapest, and in winter, the festive atmosphere makes the Hungarian city even more charming and worth visiting.

From some of the best (and most affordable) Christmas markets in Europe to an impressive 3D light show projected on St. Stephen’s Basilica to Europe’s largest ice rink, there’s plenty to do in Budapest in winter.

When you feel the need to escape the weather, you can warm up at one of Budapest’s cozy cafes, visit a museum, soak yourself in the city’s thermal baths, take a ride on an illuminated Christmas tram, grab a drink at a ruin pub, or stuff your face with warming street food like chimney cakes and lángos (deep-fried dough topped with sour cream and cheese – YUM).

If you have any time left on your itinerary after enjoying some of these winter activities, you must visit iconic landmarks like the Parliament and Fisherman’s Bastion, but don’t forget to spice up your trip with Budapest’s hidden gems like the Museum of Sweets & Selfies or the non-touristy Józsefváros district. Stay at the budget-friendly, spacious, and central Red Valentine Apartment.

Budapest

Budapest in winter. Photo: Unsplash

 

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

Looking for the best winter weekend getaways in Europe? Add Brussels to your bucket list. When the beautiful central square (the Grand Place) and the entire city center host the Winter Wonders events, you’ll be able to enjoy Brussels’s biggest Christmas market, Christmas parades, a Ferries wheel, an ice-skating rink, and a huge illuminated Christmas tree.

On New Years, there’s also a magnificent firework display at the foot of the iconic Atomium, and in February, Brussels hosts a light festival called Bright, consisting of dozens of light installations scattered around the city.

Your Brussels itinerary would not be complete without making up some time for all the delicious food and drinks. From mulled wine and Belgian beers to waffles and Frites (Belgian fries), these are exactly what you need to warm up on a cold winter day. For a great stay in central accommodation, book the Boutique Hotel Saint-Géry.

Best Europe winter city breaks - Brussels

Brussels in winter. Photo: Unsplash

 

STRASBOURG, FRANCE

By Brianna from Curious Travel Bug

Strasbourg makes for a fantastic winter destination in Europe as the city has charming architecture and cozy restaurants that can be enjoyed year-round.

One of the best things to do in Strasbourg is to explore the Petite France historic district. With canals lined by half-timbered buildings, the city evokes a very fairy-tale-like atmosphere. You can even tour the canals by boat.

The Strasbourg Cathedral is also a must-see. With Paris’s Notre Dame being closed, it’s one of the best gothic style cathedrals in France. While here, be sure to try some Alsatian specialties like kougelhopf and flammekueche.

winter trip to Strasbourg is perfect for exploring some of the best Christmas markets in Europe. Strasbourg hosts multiple Christmas markets that take over the squares in Petite France and offer up a magical experience with the streets decked out in lights and Christmas trees. As for accommodation, stay at the highly-rated Hôtel de l’Europe.

Strasbourg France

Strasbourg. Photo: Curious Travel Bug

 

PRAGUE, THE CZECH REPUBLIC

By Adriana from Czech the World

Prague is one of those destinations that can be visited at any time, but winter has a magical atmosphere, especially because of the Christmas markets at the Old Town Square.

And that’s not all, wintertime is usually less crowded, and you can easily stroll the romantic cobblestone streets with Gothic and Renaissance buildings where you can find lovely cafes or pubs with world-famous beer.

Don’t forget to walk the Royal Route, which begins at the Prague Castle – the largest historical Castle complex in Europe. Then, continue down to the Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square, where you’ll find the famous Astronomical Clock.

If you are searching for the best places to stay in Prague, try Old Town Apartment Konviktska. Enjoy your winter stay and remember there are also other amazing places to visit in the Czech Republic.

Best winter vacations in europe - Prague

Prague. Photo: Unsplash

 

MUNICH, GERMANY

By Stuart from Go Eat Do

Germany is famed for Christmas markets and those held on Munich‘s central Marienplatz square warrant visiting during Advent. Public transport presents opportunities for a day trip skiing on the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, or to enjoy the Alpine views and participate in the après ski.

If the weather doesn’t warrant a trip to the Alps, Munich’s world-class museums make it worthwhile spending time in the Kunstareal art district, home to the Pinakothek art galleries.

Science and technology lovers may prefer exploring the vast Deutsches Museum, which demonstrates equipment such as a Faraday Cage. Sipping a local beer in one of Munich’s beer cellars is a way of warming up after spending time outdoors sightseeing.

A winter excursion to the Dachau Memorial, about 20 minutes from Munich’s central station, provides insights into the grimness of life in a Nazi-operated concentration camp. Complete your trip with a stay at the central family-run Hotel Eder.

Munich

Munich. Photo: Unsplash

 

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN

By Jordan from Inspired by Maps

Gorgeous, lively, and oh-so-cosmopolitan, Sweden’s capital Stockholm is a by-word for hip and trendy — for a good reason! It is always fashionable, cool, and 100% welcoming, even in the depths of winter, making it such an excellent destination for a short winter city break in Europe.

Suppose you are planning a visit to Stockholm in winter. In that case, you can go skiing on the slopes just outside the city, twirl around a classic ice-skating rink, wander the Christmas Market at Drottningholm Palace or just curl up inside a warm cafe with a mug of hot chocolate and watch the world go by.

You’d think the city would be a frozen, dark place at this time of year, but instead, Stockholm in winter is full of twinklings lights, intimate pubs, and gratifying food. To make your stay extra magical, check into the regal Berns Hotel.

Snowy Stockholm

Best winter vacations in Europe – Stockholm. Photo: Unsplash

 

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK

By Nadine from Le Long Weekend

As the birthplace of Hygge, Copenhagen knows how to do winter best. Cozy cafes, bars, and restaurants line the wide streets, their heated patios complete with sheepskin rugs and throw blankets invite you to stay awhile. Meanwhile, colorful markets and boutique fashion stores make for a delightful shopping experience.

If you’re visiting Copenhagen in December, you’ll benefit from the many Christmas markets that dot the city (be sure to look out for the floating Christmas parade too!), but there’s plenty to do if you visit later in the season as well.

The famous Tivoli Gardens delight both young and old, outdoor skating rinks evoke festive cheer, and hot saunas will thaw you out after a day’s exploring.

Book a room at 71 Nyhavn Hotel, and you’ll wake up in the heart of the action, right on Copenhagen’s most famous canal.

Best winter getaways in Europe - Copenhagen

Copenhagen in winter. Photo: Le Long Weekend

 

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LONDON, ENGLAND

By Hadas from Luxury Voyager

London is one of the most popular destinations for a reason. It is an amazing city to visit, especially as a winter break. From its huge variety of restaurants and shopping to its most popular Christmas market – Winter Wonderland – London can cater to every taste. 

Winter in London is indeed a special time with the town being beautifully decorated with Christmas lights, and the streets are filled with happy crowds. Christmas season is the best time for shopping in London with many shops offering sales and attractive discounts. Don’t miss out shopping at the iconic Oxford Street, which includes a variety of shops.

Throughout the town, there are many Christmas Markets however the biggest one is Winter Wonderland. It’s one of the best free things to do in London as everyone can have fun in Winter Wonderland. Whether you’re traveling with kids, as a couple, or with friends, the market offers activities for any age group.

London offers a wide variety of accommodations depending on your budget and needs. Recommended hotels in the city center are The Hoxton, and The Ned.

Best winter holidays in europe - London

London. Photo: Luxury Voyager

 

PARIS, FRANCE

By Linn of Brainy Backpackers

One of the best city breaks in winter is the city of love, Paris. Temperatures might drop to 3°C/37°F at nighttime, but with a warm winter coat, a beanie, and mittens, you’re set for the perfect Paris itinerary.

Think Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and Sacre Cœur followed by a sunset boat trip in the Seine. Wander around the Christmas markets or try Vin Chaud, which is a winter specialty of warm red wine sweetened with sugar and infused with spices like cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom while orange slices and raisins give the extra flavor.

Ice skate by the Eiffel Tower or walk along the illuminated Champs-Elysées during winter sales. Stay centrally at Elysées Union or the floating hotel Hotel OFF Paris Seine for a unique experience.

Paris in winter

The illuminated Champs-Élysées, Paris. Photo: Unsplash.

 

RIGA, LATVIA

By Caroline from CK Travels

Riga, Latvia has a picturesque old town, which makes it a magical destination for a European break during the winter months.

There are many things to do in Riga in the run-up to Christmas. One of the most popular attractions for both locals and tourists is the famous Christmas Markets. The city comes alive with pretty stalls selling local crafts, mulled wine, and Latvian cuisine, and many of the historic buildings in town are lit up with festive lights.

As Riga is located in the chilly and snowy Baltics – there are heaps of fun winter activities you can enjoy outside of the old town. These include quad biking on a frozen lake, Husky dog-sledding, and even bobsledding!

Highly-rated recommended hotels to stay in for your winter break include Dome Hotel & Spa and Hotel Neiburgs.

Riga Latvia

Riga. Photo: CK Travels

 

DUBLIN, IRELAND

By Emer and Nils from Let’s Go Ireland

Dublin, the capital city of Ireland, is a particularly charming city in wintertime that offers a wide array of must-see attractions and activities.

Admission is free to the Chester Beatty Library, where you will find incredible collections of fine art and manuscripts from all over the world. Other great options to add to your itinerary include the recently opened Museum of Literature Ireland and the Little Museum of Dublin, both of which offer fascinating insights into Ireland and Irish culture.

To enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the city, head to the Gravity Bar in the Guinness Storehouse. For a unique festive atmosphere in the surroundings of a castle, stop by the delightful Christmas market in Dublin Castle, called Christmas at the Castle.

The Shelbourne Hotel and Iveagh Garden Hotel are superb accommodation options in the heart of Dublin within reach of all the main attractions.

Snowy Dublin

Snowy Dublin. Photo: Unsplash

 



BEST EUROPE WINTER CITY BREAKS: UNDERRATED OR OFFBEAT DESTINATIONS

WARSAW, POLAND

Polish winters are not easy to deal with, and there’s a slight chance you’ll turn into a popsicle, but if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with a magical winter wonderland in many cities in Poland.

There are dozens of things to do in Warsaw throughout the year, but in winter, you get to marvel at the most incredible illuminated Christmas displays, wander through the Christmas markets, and go ice-skating in one of the rinks that dot the city. One of Warsaw’s biggest landmarks, the Wilanow Palace, wears a festive look and is decorated with thousands of lights.

If the weather becomes overwhelming, you can always warm at a cafe with some hot chocolate (and you’d be surprised how good hot chocolate is in Poland), devour a hearty Polish meal at a cozy restaurant, or wander around the city’s amazing museums.

Warsaw is also worth visiting because it’s a very-budget friendly city, and it’s easy to find central accommodations that are not too expensive like Hotel Chmielna.

Warsaw Poland

Best winter breaks in Europe – Warsaw

 

MOSCOW, RUSSIA

By Lindsey of Have Clothes, Will Travel

Moscow in winter is simply magical and looks as though the city were plucked straight from a fairytale. There are many beautiful Christmas lights displays, as well as Christmas markets that begin in late November and run to the end of February.

The most famous Christmas market is held in Red Square. Here you can shop and marvel at the snow-covered St. Basil’s Cathedral, with a mulled wine in hand.

One of the best things to do in Moscow during winter, though, is to visit a traditional Russian banya! In short, a banya is similar to a sauna. The biggest difference, though, is that a “banya” has high levels of humidity in it, while a sauna will have dry air.

Where to stay: The Metropol Hotel is one of the most historic and centrally located hotels in Moscow. This hotel is also the setting for the best-selling novel “A Gentleman in Moscow.”

Moscow

Moscow in winter. Photo: Have Clothes, Will Travel

 

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN

By Roshni from The Wanderlust Within

Sweden’s second city, Gothenburg, makes for a great winter break. As well as the Paddan boat cruises along the city’s canals and the tropical palm house gardens, the most popular thing to do during winter is to visit the iconic Christmas Markets in Gothenburg. They are the largest in the country, and the most popular ones are inside Liseberg amusement park.

Decorated with 5 million Christmas lights and countless trees, Liseberg is transformed into a winter wonderland, with rollercoasters for all ages, festive Christmas stalls, a traditional Christmas buffet dinner, a seasonal ice skating ballet show, and of course, Santa’s workshop.

A visit to the Haga neighborhood is also a must, as it’s the perfect place to embrace the local fika culture (a Swedish tradition often translated to ‘a coffee and cake break’) with the largest cinnamon rolls in Sweden!

Hotel Bellora is a great place to stay whilst in Gothenburg, as it’s centrally located and the buffet breakfast is incomparable.

Gothenburg Sweden

Gothenburg. Photo: The Wanderlust Within

 

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND

By Allan from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor

Belfast, the quiet capital of Northern Ireland, is one of the lesser-known winter destinations perfect to avoid holiday crowds. It is also an inexpensive city with lots to explore, starting at the Belfast Christmas Market at the center of the city beneath the backdrop of the majestic Belfast City Hall.

The city is otherwise perfect for a short break being able to cover on foot, including the main tourist attractions, which leaves lots of time to immerse in the lively local ‘craic’ that the city is famous for. And it is the seasonal celebrations that make Belfast a fantastic winter destination with so many cozy bars and pubs through the more exciting areas of the Cathedral Quarter and Botanic.

For hotels, it is hard to see past the Grand Central Hotel for views from above, or the Titanic Hotel in the refurbished drawing rooms of the Titanic Quarter.

Best winter cities in Europe - Belfast

Belfast. Photo: It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor

 

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LUXEMBOURG CITY, LUXEMBOURG

By Paulina from Pauline on the Road

Luxembourg City is the perfect destination for you to visit during the wintertime. Being Europe’s cultural and financial center, Luxembourg City is home to many museums, castles, beautiful hills, cuisines, and more!

Winter makes the perfect time to visit this charming and tiny country of Europe, especially when the snow-covered castles and rolling-hillsides are a treat to watch. Further, the chilly temperatures, few crowds, and cool breeze bring out the real-spirit of tourism and let you experience the Christmastime to the fullest.

Additionally, there are plenty of things to do in Luxembourg City, including shopping in the annual Christmas Market, which is unarguably at the top of the list. The city hosts many antique street-markets from November-January on account of Christmas, offering a plethora of items from Christmas embellishments to winter sweaters and hats for everybody!

Otherwise, you can explore the amusement-park rides, go hiking, visit nearby valleys, and catch up live performances in the evenings. Plus, you can relish the traditional dishes/drinks like Judd mat Gaardebounen at the food stalls.

Likewise, there are numerous luxurious and fabulous hotels in Luxembourg, like Sofitel Luxembourg Le Grand Ducal or Le Place d’Armes Hotel.

Snowy Luxembourg

Snowy Luxembourg. Photo: Unsplash

 

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN

By Jiayi from The Diary of a Nomad

One of the best cities to visit in Europe in winter is Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. This underrated destination doesn’t get a lot of tourists, making it the perfect spot for a unique city break without the crowds.

Starting the month of December, the city center is filled with beautiful festive decorations and lights, and one of the areas where you’ll find them is Icherisheher (the Old City). There, you’ll see a Christmas market with a selection of local food and souvenirs.

Another one of the best places to visit in Baku is Fountain Square, the liveliest part of town. During winter, you’ll see a big Christmas tree there surrounded by gorgeous festive lights. It’s the perfect place to take a stroll, especially because some of the best restaurants in town are there as well! Consider staying at Four Seasons Hotel Baku to get a beautiful view of the Old City from the rooms.

Baku Azerbaijan

Baku. Photo: The Diary of a Nomad

 

ZAGREB, CROATIA

By Dagney from Cultura Obscura

Whether you are looking for a less crowded city break during the winter or a ski holiday with the family, Zagreb is the perfect option. You can get all the magic of the holidays in the heart of the city with Christmas markets and skating rinks. Alternatively, rent a car and drive out to Sljeme, the local ski mountain, or head out to Plitvice National Park to enjoy the frozen waterfalls.

Winter in Zagreb can be unpredictable, though. Some years the city is coated in snow, while others it’s so sunny, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was summer – until you go outside, of course.

Since temperatures get quite cold, winter is the perfect excuse to duck into one of many Zagreb cafes and get acquainted with the local coffee culture. Also, be sure to check out some of the city’s award-winning museums!

I highly recommend staying at the fun and modern Art Hotel, conveniently located in the historic old town.

Zagreb Croatia

Best winter holidays in Europe – Zagreb. Photo: Unsplash

 

BATH, ENGLAND

By Nichola from Globalmouse Travels

Bath is a great city to visit at any time of the year but it really comes into its own in winter when most of the tourists have dissipated. Visiting the Thermae Spa pools is a real treat when the warm waters feel particularly decadent to relax in and see the tops of the houses around you.

Winter is also the perfect time to walk along the canals here where the little boats moored up for the season puff out clouds of smoke to keep the residents inside warm.

If you’re visiting Bath with kids, then they (and you) will love stepping into the historic Sally Lunn’s for buns and mugs of hot chocolate. Stay at the Bath Spa Hotel (and try their afternoon tea for a real treat too).

Bath England

Bath. Photo: Unsplash

 

LISBON, PORTUGAL

By Cath from Passports and Adventures

One of the top winter city breaks in Europe is the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. While Lisbon does have some Christmas markets such as the new Wonderland Lisboa, this is not the main reason to visit Lisbon in winter.

With its milder winters than much of Northern Europe, it is the weather which is the draw for many visitors during the winter months. Pay a visit to the Castelo de Sao Jorge, the castle which gives stunning views across Lisbon, and wonder at the roofless Carmo Convent. Head to Belem and visit the famous Belem Tower and Jeronimo Monastery before hunting down some pasteis de nata, Portugal’s amazing custard tarts.

If you are traveling as a family, some of the best things to do in Lisbon with kids include visiting the Oceanario de Lisboa, the zoo, and taking a ride on the famous Tram 28 line. Stay at the budget-friendly, centrally-located, and highly-rated GS Chiado Boutique Studios & Suites.

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Belem Tower Lisbon

Belem Tower, Lisbon. Photo: Passports and Adventures

 

KIEV, UKRAINE

By Suzanne from Meandering Wild

Kiev (Kyiv as it is known locally) is a city of domed cathedrals and street markets. It can be explored on foot or using the underground system with stations that have spectacular architecture.

The UNESCO world heritage sites of St Sophia Cathedral and Kiev-Pechersk Lavra are examples of domed cathedrals with ornate gilded interiors. The square outside St Sophia Cathedral is also the location of the city’s Christmas market.

Note that Christmas in Ukraine is celebrated on the 6th of January, which can mean some places are closed during this period. Plus, in the winter, it can be bitterly cold in Ukraine, even in the city center.

 A short walk from the main city center is the Staro Hotel, which is opulent and friendly and is surrounded by cafes and restaurants in the Podil area.

Kiev Ukraine

Kiev. Photo: Meandering Wild

 

TBILISI, GEORGIA

By Kristin from Adventures with Ensuite 

Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, also has a lot to offer during winter. Temperatures are around 0°C/32°F, but it is the driest time of year, so if you wrap up warm, it is an excellent time to explore the cozy cafes, atmospheric old town and enjoy the fabulous views over the city from Narikala hill.

After a day or two in the capital, there are many good day trip options. The most popular are Kazbegi in the Caucasus mountains (for fabulous mountain views and skiing in nearby Gudauri), Sighnaghi, a pretty hill town in the wine region, and the Stalin Museum in Gori.

Tbilisi has accommodation across all pricing brackets. Fabrika is one of the most popular hostels and is also a good place for a drink. At the other end of the scale is the boutique Rooms Hotel.

Tbilisi Georgia

Tbilisi. Photo: Adventures with Ensuite

 

MALAGA, SPAIN

By Joanna from Andalucia in my Pocket

If you are looking for something different, Malaga (southern Spain) is a great destination for a warm winter getaway. Whilst you won’t find Christmas markets or mulled wine because the temperatures are too high to properly enjoy them, you will discover a fantastic Christmas lights display, with tunnels of lights that cover the entire Calle Larios.

Most of the time, the special guest that turns on the Christmas lights is local resident Antonio Banderas, so save the date and include it in your Malaga itinerary if you want to see the famous actor.

Usually, winter in Malaga is quite mild, especially December, with temperatures that reach 15°C/59°F. Whilst it is not warm enough for suntanning, you can still enjoy a glass of wine and a portion of fritura Malaguena at one of the bars in the harbor or on the beach. A great hotel in Malaga, much cheaper in winter, is AC Marriott.

Malaga Spain

Malaga. Photo: Andalucia in my Pocket

 

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND

By Alyse from The Invisible Tourist

With a compact city center featuring many art galleries, historical museums, and Roman history to uncover, creating a Zurich itinerary is a must when visiting Switzerland. It’s one of the best European cities to visit in winter, as many visitors to the country during this time are off in the snowfields rather than Zurich’s Old Town. 

Step back in time in Zurich’s oldest Roman neighborhood of Schipfe, admire panoramic views of the city from Lindenhof Hill, take a look at Europe’s largest clock face at St Peterskirche, and marvel at the colorful facades of medieval buildings along Austinergasse.

If your visit coincides with the festive season, enjoy traditional Christmas Markets in the heart of the Old Town. The Dorfli Markets are the oldest in the city and are beautifully illuminated by glowing decorations at night.

Zurich is only 15 minutes’ train ride from the airport and the Hotel Scheuble is in a wonderful central location!

Zurich

Zurich. Photo: The Invisible Tourist

 

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OSLO, NORWAY 

By Sean & Sabine from The Travelling Chilli

Oslo may not be the most obvious choice for a winter city break to most people, however, the capital city of Norway has a lot to offer visitors during winter. Apart from snow-covered streets adorned with fairy lights and Christmas decorations, Oslo offers lots of other winter activities.

One day you can immerse yourself in the local culture, admire the inner city architecture around Karl Johann Gate and soak up the magic of the Christmas markets, while the next day you can explore the slopes close to the city center while skiing, snowboarding, or sledding.

You can also visit the Holmenkollen ski jump, which was used during the Olympic Winter Games of 1952. Don’t forget to put Vigeland Park on your list, which is the world’s largest sculpture park. It offers some amazingly dramatic statues which look even more surreal when covered with snow and frost in wintertime.

For a relatively budget-friendly accommodation, choose to stay at the central Citybox Oslo.

Snowy Oslo

Snowy Oslo. Photo: The Travelling Chilli

 

ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA

By Ellis from Backpack Adventures

St Petersburg in winter is notorious for its icy cold weather, yet it makes a great European city break. For those that dare to face the Russian winter, St Petersburg will offer you lots in return. In fact, with the snow and frozen canals, the city becomes a magical winter wonderland.

All you need to do is visit one of the city’s palaces and walk through the palace gardens to feel like you have entered a winter fairytale. Even the Neva river will be solidly frozen and covered under a thick blanket of snow, and ice skating rinks dot the city. 

St Petersburg is also a great winter destination because with all its museums, churches, and palaces there are lots of indoor activities in case the weather gets too cold. There are plenty of trendy cafes as well, so there is always a place to warm up. 

St Petersburg doesn’t need to be expensive either. With hostels like the Whisper Hostel, a winter city break in St Petersburg is budget-friendly and fun.

St Petersburg Russia

St Petersburg. Photo: Backpack Adventures

 

ATHENS, GREECE

By Lynne from Well-Caffeinated Traveller

Athens, the capital of Greece, is one of the oldest cities in the world, and one of the best cities in Europe to visit in winter. It is a vibrant city that is full of life, energy, and friendly people.

It offers a great mix of ancient history and modern art and architecture, and its prime Mediterranean location means it stays warm even in the winter. In fact, temperatures can reach as high as 18°C/64°F in November and December.

The Periscope Hotel, located in the center of Athen’s hip Kolonaki district, is the perfect base for exploring the city. Whether you spend the day exploring the ancient acropolis and surrounding Plaka district, shopping at one of the city’s amazing flea markets, or just indulging in the incredible Greek food, you will be glad you decided to visit. Don’t miss these 9 things you must do in Athens, Greece. You can thank me later!

Considering visiting a Greek island off-season? Here’s an amazing guide to Santorini in winter!

The Acropolis

Athens. Photo: Well-Caffeinated Traveller

 

MADRID, SPAIN

By Becki from Meet Me In Departures

If you’re looking for bright blue skies and sunny days with the crisp chill in the air, you should certainly consider visiting Madrid in winter.

The Spanish city is typically associated as a summer destination, however visiting out of season, you’ll find fewer crowds and cheaper prices. If you’re an art lover, then I’d certainly recommend Museo Nacional del Prado and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.

If you’re looking for an interesting insight into Madrid’s bygone era, then check out Platform 0. Chamberí Station. The abandoned station features tiles, posters, and fittings from the 1960s and before.

If you’re visiting Madrid in the lead up to Christmas, you’ll find decorations, lights, and displays donning every wall, lamppost, shop window, and town hall as well as pop up Christmas markets. If you’re in Madrid for New Years, be sure to take part in the 12 grapes tradition, when you eat one grape for every time the clock chimes at midnight.

As for accommodation, Hostal Maria Cristina is perfectly located near the main avenue Gran Via and offers clean and comfortable rooms.

Read more about Madrid:

 

Winter in Madrid

Winter in Madrid. Photo: Unsplash

 

ANDORRA LA VELLA, ANDORRA

By Stephanie from History Fangirl

The country of Andorra is a popular winter destination in Europe, but too many skip the country’s capital of Andorra La Vella and head straight to the slopes. However, this tiny capital has a fun mix of history, art, and relaxation. 

A typical day in Andorra La Vella in winter starts with a self-guided walking tour of the historic district of the city, followed by a stop a the Salvador Dali statue and a delicious lunch before heading to the spa to soak up and warm-up for the rest of the day.

Of course, during Christmas, it’s a festive time, but Andorra La Vella is a great winter trip during the whole winter season.

For budget accommodations, stay at the Hostal Cisco de Sans. If you’re looking for a more upscale experience, check out the Arka Hotel.

Andorra

Andorra La Vella. Photo: History Fangirl

 

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND

By Ryan from Passions and Places

Few travelers choose winter for their Reykjavik vacation; it’s cold, it’s dark for nineteen hours a day, and it’s very rainy. But what Icelandic winters lack in good weather, they make up for with fewer crowds, cheaper accommodations, and the chance to experience what few tourists ever do.

Iceland’s capital is known for being expensive, but colder temperatures reveal great deals, like the Kex Hostel, where you can snag a bed for less than $40 in the winter.

While the Blue Lagoon is one of Reykjavik’s biggest attractions, it doesn’t come cheap. If you want to save money while soaking in a hot spring, try the Laugardalslaug instead. The thermally-heated pools feel great and look amazing under the ever-present night sky.

Then, head to happy hour at a bar on the city’s main street, Laugavegur. Beers are often two for the price of one – a real deal when one drink can set you back $10.

Reykjavik Iceland

Reykjavik. Photo: Pixabay

 

NAPLES, ITALY

By Eric from Food and Drink Destinations

World-renowned as the birthplace of pizza, Naples, Italy offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy the city all year round, including winter. For nature and history lovers, Naples is the jumping-off point to visit Mount Vesuvius and the ancient city of Pompeii. Both are easily reached by public transportation.

Aside from tracking down the best pizza in Naples, the city is a food travelers’ dream. The food in Naples is seasonal. During winter, you’ll enjoy dishes only available for this short period. Make sure to try mustaccioli, a mouthwatering candied fruit covered in chocolate and honey.

In between tasty bites, Naples is loaded with museums, churches, and unique sites to visit. A mix of an art museum and an ancient burial site, one site not to skip is the San Gennaro Catacombs.

If you are looking for a place to stay, the Hotel Napoli on the Palazzo Turchini is a great hotel with amazing views of the city.

Naples Italy

Naples. Photo: Food and Drink Destinations

 

SOFIA, BULGARIA

By Rose from Where Goes Rose

Sofia is one of Europe’s most underrated capital cities for a winter visit. It’s a small, friendly city with a mix of cultures from orthodox Christian to Jewish. In recent years, a hipster scene is slowly evolving with coffee shops emerging beside traditional Bulgarian restaurants.

As well as visiting the German Christmas Market, you can visit the largest open-air ice rink in the Balkans, which is in fact a frozen lake. There are also plenty of intriguing indoor museums like the Red Flat, which is a recreation of a communist flat with a chance to learn about the era via a storytelling headset.

Even though it will be icy cold, there are few Bulgarian views as stunning as Seven Rila Lakes, two hours from Sofia, covered in snow. You can hike in this period despite the chilly temperatures and admire stunning frozen glacial lakes. Warm yourself up when you arrive back in Sofia by trying the national dessert mekitsa, fried dough served with icing sugar and jam.

Hostel Mostel is the most popular place to stay in Sofia. Once an old coaching inn for weary travelers, its purpose isn’t so different today. As the friendliest hostel in the city, it offers two free daily meals as well as group tours and bar crawls.



Pin this post about the best winter getaways in Europe for later!

Europe winter travel destinations: 33 Best winter city breaks in Europe

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8 comments

Marika September 13, 2020 - 1:32 am

I am getting shivers just reading about all these amazing place. Winter in Europe is the best!

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Or Amir September 13, 2020 - 5:10 pm

I totally feel you, Marika. Europe is always magical, but in winter, the fairytale vibe is off the charts.

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Elena Pappalardo September 12, 2020 - 6:29 pm

So I am not a winter person typically…but winter in Europe is a whole other matter!! All of these destinations have me dreaming! I really hope I can make it to my favorite continent for some winter festivities. Fantastic and thorough post as always, Or! Pinned for future inspo of course 🙂

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Or Amir September 13, 2020 - 5:06 pm

I’m not a winter person either, but Europe is always the exception for me (as I know it is for you) haha 🙂 I’m happy you like this list 🙂

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Shalzmojo September 12, 2020 - 3:28 pm

OMG what a terrific compilation of Christmas from all over. Love the fairy lights twinkling in the pictures and that tree in Madrid is just super awesome 🙂

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Or Amir September 13, 2020 - 5:05 pm

Thank you! Everything looks magical, doesn’t it?

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Rachel September 12, 2020 - 1:47 pm

You have really thought of everywhere! This post gives me wanderlust. I’ve always wanted to visit most of these places, Riga has been on my list for a while and you’ve given me a push to visit in winter now!!

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Or Amir September 13, 2020 - 5:04 pm

I couldn’t have published this post without all the other bloggers, but I did want to have a nice mix of popular and offbeat destinations 🙂 So glad you liked it!

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