The Best Winter Destinations in Europe You Shouldn’t Miss

view of a snowy mountain landscape on a sunny day

Winter is a great time to visit Europe. With temperatures plummeting in most of the continent, there’s no better way to enjoy jumper weather than with a heart-warming drink while exploring some of the best winter destinations in Europe. Whether you are a winter-sports aficionado or want to see the world at a different pace, Europe in winter has something for everyone, and is a lot less crowded!

With that in mind, I have asked fellow travel bloggers to share with you their favourite winter destinations in Europe, to help you plan your coming adventure. So, without further ado, here is the ultimate guide to the…

Best Winter Destinations in Europe

View of a statue with two witches and a the old town of Wroclaw in the background.
Witches Bridge (Wroclaw, Poland) © Karolina Klesta | Lazy Travel Blog

Wroclaw, Poland

by Karolina from Lazy Travel Blog

Wroclaw is one of the best winter destinations in Europe. Still, a gem to be discovered despite being the European Capital of Culture in 2016, Wroclaw provides a winter vacation spot that will not break your budget. With flights to Wroclaw starting at 30GBP (around 35 €) from England and accommodation that costs less than 7GBP/8€ for hostels and 20GBP/25€ for 2-star hotels, one can have a winter getaway at this fairytale location for under 200GBP/250€.

The best time to visit Wroclaw is from the third week of November to the end of December to experience one of Poland’s best and biggest Christmas markets, which will literally take you to a whole new world. Take a step into Plac Solny, Wroclaw’s market square is like passing through the enchanted cupboard that leads to Narnia. Teeming with traditional wooden stalls and Christmas decorations, you will be tempted to stop by each of them. With the scent of smoked sausages, ginger biscuits, cinnamon, and chocolate in the air, it would be difficult to resist the temptation to avail of the local treats that they sell at the market.

Although Wroclaw’s Christmas market is truly a wonder to visit with its creative installations and theatrical performances, it is not the only attraction the city has to offer. Known as the City of Bridges and also referred to as the Lower Silesian Venice, Wroclaw is situated on 12 islands connected by over 100 bridges. Whether you are a big fan of architecture, a photography enthusiast or a couple looking for a romantic spot, you’ll find your favourite bridge and island from the many that Wroclaw has to offer. As you wander around the city, you will also notice some quaint dwarf figures, each with a trade of his own. Try to find all of them. There are around 300 sitting on window sills, climbing up lamp posts, and chilling out in squares. When you get tired, head to one of the restaurants in Wroclaw to try traditional Polish food. Bigos is a must!

Warsaw, Poland

by Or from My Path In The World

Orange facade of a building with beautiful details and many windows
Old Town of Warsaw (Poland) © My Path in the World

Warsaw is often associated with its painful past or with being grey and boring, but this city is a lot more modern and vibrant than people think. Beyond the fact that it is a lot less touristy than other European cities, it’s also budget-friendly and offers something for all kinds of travellers. It preserves its history and heritage and you can find so many UNESCO Sites in Warsaw, but it’s also home to trendy cafes and restaurants, urban art, parks, and cool museums.

One of the best things to do in Warsaw is to wander around the old town, which was reconstructed after WWII. With colourful buildings and landmarks like the Royal Castle, you’ll surely fall in love with this charming area. Another interesting thing to do in this city is to visit its museums, which are perfect to escape the cold weather. Some of them include the Uprising Museum, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, and the Neon Museum.

Let’s also not forget about the amazing Polish food. From dumplings called pierogi and potato pancakes to soups and stews, it’s the definition of comfort food, which is exactly what you’ll want on a cold winter day.

Since Warsaw is still quite underrated, it’s not as crowded as other European winter destinations, yet you can still enjoy Christmas markets and decorated streets and feel that winter wonderland magical atmosphere.

Important tip: Even though Poland is a part of the EU, the currency used is Zloty (or PLN). You can exchange or withdraw your money all over the city, but I recommend bringing some PLN with you, at least for the first few hours of your trip.

Zakopane, Poland

by Maria & Rui from Two Find a Way

Snowy Mountain View with evergreen trees in the foreground
Mountains in Zakopane (Poland) © Two Find a Way

Zakopane is a charming town in the South of Poland, nestled in the Tatra mountains, the natural border between Poland and Slovakia. It’s likely you’ve never heard about this town, but after you learn a few things about it, we’re sure you’ll want to visit Zakopane as much as we did.

There are plenty of reasons to visit this region at any time of the year, but Zakopane is especially enchanting when you explore it in the winter, as the snow makes everything more magical. Whether you want to rest or are seeking adventure, this is the perfect destination.

On the one hand, Zakopane is almost made for nature lovers. The scenic views abound, there are plenty of hikes for all levels of difficulty, as well as winter sports for all ages. On the other hand, the town is filled with delightful cafes and restaurants, a market filled with beautiful local products, and there are plenty of unique cabins in the middle of the mountains with everything you need for a relaxed stay.

If you want to enjoy the stunning mountain-top views without hiking, the city is well prepared with cable cars to take you to the top (Gubalowka and Kasprowy Wierch are the most famous in the region).

When you find yourself in Zakopane, don’t forget to indulge in delicious pierogi and stop at one of the street stalls selling oscypek – delicious grilled smoked sheep cheese served with cranberry sauce.

Winter in the Polish city of Zakopane is all about scenery worthy of a fairytale: snow-covered peaks, colourful decorations, warm drinks, and delicious sweets, for a fraction of the price of what you’d pay for a similar experience almost anywhere else in Europe. Although Zakopane is a famous tourist destination in Poland, to many travellers across Europe, this charming town remains a secret.

Prague, Czech Republic

by Claire from Tales of a Backpack

View of a cobblestone bridge at sunrise
Charles Bridge, Prague (Czech Republic) © Tales of a Backpacker

Prague is beautiful at any time of year, but the crisp, cold air, mist and snow make Prague even more magical in winter. Visiting Prague in the winter is far more enjoyable than going there during the busy summer months. It will be cold, and it may well snow, but avoiding the crowds that descend on the city in warmer weather is well worth it. 

Prague is a fabulous destination, known for its historic city centre, beautiful architecture and buzzing nightlife. Although prices in Prague have gone up over recent years, it is still a cheap city to visit in Europe and is easily combined with other European destinations such as Budapest and Vienna. However, it has become a popular destination for stag parties and groups of rowdy people taking advantage of the cheap beer. Visiting during the winter will avoid most of these groups, and you can enjoy exploring the city in relative peace and quiet.    

If you do go to Prague in winter, make sure you wrap up warm, bring plenty of layers and a good pair of walking shoes to stop you slipping on the ice. To keep warm, head to the Christmas Markets for a cup of svařák (mulled wine) and some hot goulash stew. Speaking of food and drink, the food in Prague is hearty comfort food at its best and taking a food tour is a nice way to explore the city while taking a break from the cold in restaurants and bars along the way.    

Most of the main attractions in Prague remain open during the winter but opening hours may be shorter than during the summer, so check the timetables carefully for where you want to visit.  

Finland

by Chelsea from Pack More into Life

Santa's Village in the Snow

If you are looking for the perfect place to enjoy beautiful landscapes and winter fun, then Finland should be on your list.

Known best as a destination to spend time with St. Nick, it is also packed with skiing, dog sledging, reindeer sleigh rides and the chance to catch those elusive northern lights!

Start in Helsinki to gain your bearings and stroll around the market square with the Christmas market (December) and beautiful Helsinki Cathedral overlooking the piazza. If you are visiting later in the year, the little shops around the market square are worth visiting, as well as the Old Market Hall to grab some snacks and lunch. 

After a day or two in Helsinki, jump aboard the overnight Santa Train to head into the Lapland region, with Rovaniemi as your final destination. The town is packed with a great science museum, eateries, and an ice sledging luge. You’ll also find plenty of tour operators offering a variety of winter activities.

Looking for some Christmas fun? Head 10 minutes out of town to the Santa Park (best for kids) or the Santa Claus Village to mail some postcards, see an ice castle, go sledging and get in the Christmas spirit!

Want to read more about Finland and what it offers in Winter? Check out Chelsea’s Winter Finland Guide!

Copenhagen, Denmark

by Derek from Robe Trotting

View of a snowy townsquare
Copenhagen in the snow (Denmark) © Robe Trotting

If you’re looking for a great winter getaway in a European city, look no further, Copenhagen in Denmark is the place to go. The days may be cold and dark, but locals in Copenhagen stay outdoors as much as possible. Blankets and heat lamps keep outdoor seating an option for cafes and cocktail bars alike. 

The Danish capital is a festive and lively destination, especially during the Christmas season. There are fantastic Christmas markets for spending your day. Local Copenhageners love being outside and shopping for gifts and drinking glogg, a traditional holiday drink. Glogg is a mulled wine or warm cider with added nuts and raisins. It leaves you with a tasty snack after you finish the drink and keeps you cosy as you enjoy the markets.  

Two Christmas markets stand out; Tivoli and the Christmas Market at Kongens Nytorv. Tivoli Gardens is a popular year-round destination in Copenhagen. It’s an amusement park that is gorgeous at any time of year but is especially decked out each year for Christmas. The Christmas markets in Tivoli are so well-decorated that you have to visit them when you’re in Copenhagen over winter. As a bonus, book tickets at Tivoli’s Crazy Christmas Cabaret. It’s a fantastic holiday cabaret and the only English-language production of the year.

Kongens Nytorv is a popular square near Copenhagen’s harbour. It’s a posh square which hosts a large and bustling Christmas market. The market is overlooked by The Hotel D’Angleterre, a stunning building that converts to an advent calendar each December. They do this with LDC screens placed over the windows so the facade down counts the days to Christmas. 

Make Copenhagen your next winter city break in Europe and find out how wonderful it is for yourself.

Belgrade, Serbia

by Christina Leutner

Wintery city with people walking hand in hand
Belgrade in Winter (Serbia) © Christina Leutner

Belgrade is one of those underrated cities you immediately fall in love with when you give it a chance. The White City might not be the prettiest at first glance, but this is what is so charming about it. The capital of Serbia, situated at the Danube and Sava river, is beautiful to visit during wintertime. You may even have the chance to walk among snow-covered streets.

A beautiful walk in the city is through Skadarlija, also known as the art district. Some of the oldest restaurants are situated in the streets, so why not stop and have a shopska salad and some wine from the wine region close to Belgrade.

When you visit Belgrade be sure to check out the Nikola Tesla museum, which honours and displays the work and life of the famous inventor, physician and electro engineer.

From the old fortress, you’ll have a great view over Belgrade and the two rivers. Next to it is the Kalemegdan Park, the largest park in the city, where you have a chance to visit the military museum.

The church of Saint Sava is one of the largest orthodox churches in Eastern Europe and while it is impressive from the outside, the inside is still under construction. And if you are into murals and street art, the Savamala district is the perfect place to be, to stroll around.

Right now a lot of construction is going on to make Belgrade a modern city. If you want to experience the old and authentic Belgrade, now is the perfect time to visit the capital of Serbia.

Kotor, Montenegro

by Mar from Once in a Lifetime Journey

View from the top of a mountain over a seaside town
View of Kotor (Montenegro) © Once in a Lifetime Journey

While Kotor in Montenegro is thriving with tourists in the summer months, what you get in winter is more solitude and tranquillity to experience the gorgeous town as it once was – an idyllic seaside town with a touch of fairytale romanticism. A particularly wonderful thing to do in winter in Kotor is to hike up to the St Georges Fortress. 

While there are different routes to the top, the main path is about 1.2km long and snakes up the 1,350 steps. When at the top, you will reach a total elevation of 260m above sea level. While you do need to be relatively fit to get up the many stairs, it’s not too difficult and the panoramic view is totally worth it. The walk up to St Ivan, a 14th-century castle, will take at least half a day. 

When back down, it’s really romantic to just stroll through the ancient cobblestone streets, passing beautiful churches like St Tryphon’s Cathedral, St Lukes, or St Nicholas. The Maritime Museum is a fun way to learn about Kotor’s shipping history and taking a break on the rooftop of Hippocampus is a must. 

Do note that the vibe in Kotor in the winter is quite minimal with a few of the shops and museums on hiatus. So expect a relaxing time where you can take it easy and pretend you’re in medieval times while slowly exploring the nooks and crannies of the gorgeous city.

Transylvania, Romania

by Emily from Wander-Lush

View of a sandstone building with a tower in a wintery town cityscape
Brasov in Winter (Romania) © Wander-Lush

If you’re looking for a classic European winter destination, you can’t beat Transylvania. Central Romania is raw and rugged – picturesque villages set against the magnificent Carpathian Mountains look even more beautiful in winter. It’s cold, but there are still plenty of blue-sky days.

Transylvania is a great choice for a Balkan road trip, or you can travel the slow way using the country’s network of trains. Start with a few days in Bucharest (Romania’s hip capital city) before continuing north, stopping off at castles and fortified churches along the way. Sinai, Brasov, Sighisoara, Sibiu and Cluj Napoca are all highlights of the Transylvania region.

There are a few things that make wintertime in Romania particularly special. The country’s robust style of architecture was made to withstand cold temperatures, and town squares look picture-book perfect dusted in snow. Romanian cuisine is comfort food through and through – there’s nothing better than a bowl of Sarmale (cabbage rolls) served with polenta, or Papanashi (doughnuts with jam and sour cream) to warm you up. In December, Christmas markets are held in most cities. And if you’re a fan of winter sports, there is great skiing and snowboarding to be had in the mountains, including just outside the city of Brasov.

Winter is the off-season in Romania, but in my experience, pretty much everything tourist-related (including most museums and all restaurants) remain open throughout the colder months. Winter is a great time to travel because it’s quieter, and you can get great deals on everything from rental cars to boutique hotels.

Brasov, Romania

by Diana from In Between Pictures

Brasov is an enchanting town located in the heart of Transylvania, Romania. You may not have heard of it before, but its unique medieval architecture and postcard-worthy landscape make this town a unique place you simply cannot miss, especially in the wintertime!

In the winter, you will find the town blanketed in white snow, decked out in holiday decor, and the lively Christmas market set up in the city’s main plaza. You will find over 40 stands, concerts, and much more. If that wasn’t enough, there’s an abundance of ski resorts in the nearby town of Poiana Brasov (just a 20-minute bus ride) where you can glide on the powdery white snow covering the Carpathian Mountains – like in the Swiss Alps, but for a fraction of the price.

Make sure to check out:

  • The Black Church – Brasov’s famous landmark and Romania’s leading gothic church. It’s the biggest building in town so you can’t miss it!
  • Brasov’s Defensive Fortifications – White Tower (Turnul Alb)
    • Tip: Located near Graft Bastion, there’s a wooden staircase that takes you all the way to the top – all 200 steps – where you can enjoy a great view of the old town.
  • Soak in the beautiful scenery at the Council Square lined with beautiful merchant houses located at the heart of medieval Brasov.
  • Râșnov Citadel, although is not located in the city, the fortress has a great panoramic view of the city and the mountains. It’s 26mins by car or 1 hour by train.

Leipzig, Germany

by Kristie from The Family Adventure Project

Leipzig Christmas Market from the Ferris Wheel. The Fairytale Forest aptly surrounds the Christmas tree
Leipzig Christmas Market from the Ferris Wheel. (Germany) © Family Adventure Project

Leipzig, in the state of Saxony, is a magical place to visit in winter. In November and December, you can spend time at the huge Christmas Market, which dates back to 1458 and is the second oldest in Germany. There’s a Ferris Wheel, an enchanted forest and in the Finnish market, we discovered a singing Santa!

Music is a staple in Leipzig, the home city of many famous composers. Staying outside, if you can brave the chill, there’s a great interactive music trail that takes you on a short tour of the city centre. You can visit some world-class music venues like the Gewandhaus Concert Hall, and even conduct a digital orchestra in the Mendelssohn House.   

Leipzig is a city that embraces young and artistic people, and Spinnerei artists’ hub is a great example of this. There are also a wealth of hipster and historical bars; pop into Mephisto Bar for a devilish surprise.    

Nürnberg, Germany

by Laura from Travel Addicts

A castle building from the inner patio and a tower
Nürnberg Castle (Germany) © Travel Addicts

Nuremberg, Germany, is a wonderful destination to visit in the winter. In December, it hosts one of the most popular Christmas markets in Europe, and when that closes, the city is quiet, making it a great time to visit the prime tourist attractions.

The Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg is known for being one of the top markets in Germany. Centred in the city’s Hauptmarkt, there are hundreds of vendors selling handmade glass ornaments, nutcrackers, and smokers alongside Nuremberg’s traditional “prune people” decorations. You can try Glühwein (mulled wine), Lebkuchen (gingerbread), and traditional Nuremberger sausages that have been staples in the city for over 500 years.

At Christmas time and beyond, Nuremberg is full of other interesting things to see and do. One undeniable aspect of Nuremberg’s history is its role in Nazi activity in the 1930s and ‘40s. The Nazi Party Rally Grounds that once hosted millions during annual meetings can still be visited and serve as a fascinating time capsule along with the Documentation Center, the site’s museum. You can also visit the courtroom where major Nazi figures were put on trial following the war. Both sites will be fascinating stops for history lovers.

In addition, there is lots of medieval and Renaissance history in Nuremberg. You can visit the 1000-year-old Imperial Castle, which hosted emperors and heads of state. A few steps away, you’ll find the home and workshop of Germany’s most famous artist Albrecht Durer who rose to prominence in the early 1500s. Another favourite stop is Weissgerbergasse, a row of brightly coloured half-timber houses that were home to the city’s tanners in the Middle Ages—it’s the best-preserved street in old town Nuremberg.

Quedlinburg, Germany

The quaint town of Quedlinburg in the Harz Mountains of Germany feels like walking into a fairy tale. A UNESCO historical site, Quedlinburg’s cobblestone streets and timber-frame houses have been restored to its original state over the course of decades by craftsman from all over the country, the good olf way!

Full of history, you can take a stroll at night with the night guard to learn more about what went down in the golden age of Quedlinburg or visit the castle and cathedral up the hill for some breathtaking views over town.

If you are staying for a few days, you should check the steam train up to Brocken too for a nice day out in the mountains and an unforgettable experience.

Budapest, Hungary

by Clyde from What Blogs Her Mind

VIew of a bridge at nicht with lights on all archways

Aside from Germany, Budapest in Hungary is also famous for its Christmas markets, which you shouldn’t miss if you visit the city in wintery December. Amid the crowds in the frosty cold evening, you can grab a mulled wine to warm yourself up, or try some of the local dishes like Langó, made with fried yeast dough coated with sour cream, cheese and salad and even the unusual blood sausage, made from pork blood.

The famous Christmas markets in Budapest is in the one Vörösmarty Square and the Christmas market in St.Stephen’s Basilica. With no entrance fee, you can enjoy your Christmas and winter and stroll around these markets especially at night with your loved ones or friends.

Another reason why Budapest is a wonderful place to visit in winter is its famous thermal baths. Budapest is not coined as ‘‘city of Spas’’ for nothing. Budapest alone has 118 thermal baths and for as little as 21€, you’ll have access to Gellért Spa, one of the famous thermal baths in the city. Gellért Baths offer both outdoor and indoor pools, which are appropriate for tourists who need more warmth and don’t want to linger outside. Szechenyi Baths is another option for a famous thermal spa in Budapest, and like Gellért, Szechenyi has also indoor baths and for only 16€, you can enjoy the thermal spa which comes from a natural hot spring. Thermal Spas don’t only promise you warmth from a cold winter, but thermal Spas offer also medicinal and healthy benefits like alleviating joint illnesses, arthritis, and orthopaedic injuries.

Important information: Hungary is part of Europe, but they still use their local currency the Hungarian Forint, so make sure to either bring some along or get some from an ATM as soon as you arrive (exchange rate at the time of writing this post was 1€ = around 328HUF).

Luxembourg

by Jessica Pascoe

veiw over a yellow building with a black cone shaped roof next to a river on a foggy day
Luxembourg © Jessica Pascoe

One of my favourite European destinations for a winter getaway would have to be the land-locked, tiny Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, which we visited over Valentine’s weekend.

Luxembourg City, whilst tiny, is a fantastic destination for a winter break in Europe; it’s compact and easy to get around, it has lots of delicious restaurants, and plenty of stunning scenery to enjoy, including what’s known as the ‘most beautiful balcony in Europe, Le Chemin de la Corniche. At only 10 minutes’ walk from the city centre, this balcony runs along the Alzette valley on the city ramparts from the Bock Promontory up to the Holy Ghost Citadel. There are stunning views over the Alzette valley, the city district of Grund and the Rham Plateau, and it’s perfect for a crisp winter’s walk.

If you want to warm up, visit one of the dozen or so museums and galleries. We were surprised by just how many museums there were in such a small city; Luxembourg City is, in fact, a ‘bastion of contemporary art’ showcasing internationally-acclaimed artists and thought-provoking exhibitions.

There’s no better way to top off a European winter getaway to Luxembourg City than with a delicious meal. We treated ourselves to a tasting menu at fine dining restaurant Le Sud, located on the banks of the Alzette river, in the suburb of Clausen. The restaurant itself is incredibly opulent and has a traditional French flavour. We opted for their special truffle-themed menu, which was incredibly indulgent, partnered with surprisingly delicious local wines – Luxembourg tends not to export their wine due to the low yield, so make sure you try as many as you can! Aside from the wine, my favourite part of the evening was choosing from the amazing cheeses on offer and served from a cart that was wheeled tableside.

Paris, France

by Nesrine from Kevmrc

Eiffel Tower in the Snow

Like for many people all over the world, Paris is on your bucket list and you are wondering what time of the year you should go? Well, here is a Parisian girl’s advice: visit Paris in winter!

Of course, the weather is generally cold, rainy and grey but visiting the city of lights in winter is definitely a magical experience. And if you are lucky, you may even see the Eiffel Tower under the snow (Image © Kevmrc.com)… 

Here are the main reasons why you should visit Paris in winter: 

  • No crowds: there are 3 times fewer people at this time of the year! As you may already know, the capital of France is the most visited city in the world and believe me, it can be difficult to enjoy the attractions in the high season. In winter, however, you will be able to take all the photos you want and see the Mona Lisa (yes, sometimes you can’t see it because of the number of people).
  • Transportation: they do work in winter! Indeed, Paris main train lines are under construction during summer. So, for example, if you want to visit Versailles castle in summer, prepare yourself for a long and tiring trip to Paris underground. 
  • Illuminations: In December, Paris is decorated with lights all over the city for Christmas. The main attractions are beautifully lit up, creating a very magical atmosphere you should experience at least once in your life! 
  • Christmas markets: there are a lot through Europe, but Parisian Christmas Markets are among the best! You can find many of them in the city where you can drink the famous « vin chaud » (« hot wine ») and hot chocolates. 

Still hesitating? Here are many other reasons (and photos) that will convince you to go to Paris in winter!

Morzine, France

by Inma from A World to Travel

Snowy sky slopes in the french alps
Portes du Soleil (France) © A World to Travel

Every winter sports lover has the majestic Alps on his/her list. Now, one of the best places to establish a base and enjoy all these mountains offer is the idyllic Morzine, in the heart of the French Alps. At its doorstep, one of the largest domains in the world – Portes du Soleil with 600 km of skiing – offers countless experiences and adventures to those who defy snow and cold and give it a chance.

Morzine is a popular destination for skiers from the UK and the Nordic countries, among others. They appreciate ski chalet holidays and visit it often. This destination is also chosen by freeride lovers – for the large amount of powder snow that piles up in some points of the ski resort – and freestyle, since the large domain has many snowparks; among which is the famous ‘The Stash’, built-in wooden by the well-known snowboard brand Burton. What makes it even cooler is that it is located among the pine trees of Les Lindarets; which also makes it perfect when visibility conditions – due to heavy snowfall or fog/clouds – are not ideal.

London, United Kingdom

by Marie from Temples and Treehouses

Christmas lights on a wide London road
Festive lights in London (United Kingdom) © Temples and Treehouses

London is one of the most festive cities in the world to visit in the winter. You can drink hot apple cider or spicy mulled wine in a cosy English pub, pop into the Ritz for a luxurious afternoon tea surrounded by ornate decorations and a towering decked out Christmas tree, and eat delicious British comfort food. At Borough Market, you can stock up on mince pies, cheeses and more. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, the festive fairy lights and ornate trees that illuminate almost every street and shop window are a tourist attraction in themselves. There are festive markets and funfairs, including Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and rows of lovely ski chalet-style stalls along the south bank of the River Thames. And to top it off, you can ice skate in beautiful surroundings, such as the grand Somerset House or by the Natural History Museum. 

Speaking of museums, London is also home to an incredible number of museums and art galleries, and many of them are completely free to visit. The British Museum and the National Gallery, where you can see some of the world’s most famous paintings, are two great examples. 

Istanbul, Turkey

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 activity, 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 yoghurt-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 drink, warm, hearty breakfast of menemen (spiced tomatoes, peppers, and eggs) was my favourite way to start every winter day in Istanbul. I couldn’t get enough, 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 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 this 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 a genuinely spiritual experience. Even better with a piping hot cup of Turkish tea in hand

Winter-Sun Destinations in Europe

Faro, Portugal

by Diana from The Elusive Family

View over a white and yellow beautifully decorated church on a sunny day
Faro (Portugal) © The Elusive Family

Faro, located on the eastern side of Portugal’s Algarve region, is the main city for flights coming into the Algarve region, making this a city that many people visit, but also a wonderful city to visit offseason. In the winter, the weather is cooler but still very nice due to its location further south in Europe. The usual lack of tourists during this time makes the city enjoyable for discovering the hidden gems the city has to offer.

Faro has a distinct central walking area and an incredibly welcoming atmosphere towards all visitors. There is an abundant collection of restaurants, cafes and bars that have a variety of food, though the seafood in many establishments is one of the key reasons to go. Fresh seafood in Faro is a given, and many restaurants outdo each other to serve the best fresh seafood from the local catch.

Faro is also known for its sandbars, lagoons and mudflats south of the city, which takes a bit of effort to get to. When visiting, be prepared for a lot of wind, as the cooler winter months are a bit less predictable weather-wise. Some days may be chillier and windy with rain, while others may see the sun out with some clouds but still a coolness in the air.

There are a few unique things to do in Faro.  The Capela de Ossos is a chapel in an 18thcentury church made entirely out of bones and skulls of former monks.  It is accessible during the daytime for a small entrance fee and is a very interesting thing to see when in Faro.  There is also a park in the centre of Faro, Garden of Alameda Joao de Deus, where numerous peacocks roam freely. It is worth a visit to see the numerous birds venture around the park.

Seville, Spain

by Maggie from The World Was Here First

Modern building that looks like a mushroom at the top of an escalator in Seville, Spain
Metropol Parasol (Seville, Spain) © Maggie Turansky | The World Was Here First

If you’re chasing warm weather and are on the hunt for the perfect winter destination in Europe, then look no further than Andalucía’s capital, Seville. This southern Spanish city is the ideal place to visit in the wintertime as there are far fewer crowds and average high temperatures rarely dip below 16°C (60°F), even in the coldest of months.

While many people like to visit Spain in winter because of the great weather, heading to Seville in the offseason will allow you to enjoy this popular destination with fewer tourist crowds, as well. Seville is also known for getting oppressively hot in the summer months, meaning that you will likely be able to see and do more in the pleasant winter weather than you would in the height of summer.

Some of the top things to do in Seville are to visit the incredible Seville Cathedral, wander through the Real Alcázar (which was used as a filming location for Game of Thrones), crawl your way through the infinite tapas bars throughout the city, and catch a flamenco show in one of its birthplaces — the Triana neighbourhood. It can also be worth exploring the historic Jewish Quarter, Barrio Santa Cruz, or heading to the fantastic local market, Mercado de Triana, where you can purchase delicious Spanish produce from local vendors. If you want to get a great view of the city, make sure to walk along the top of Las Setas, the colloquial name for the Metropol Parasol.

All in all, if you’re looking for the perfect winter destination in Europe where you can beat the cold and the crowds, then Seville is a great choice.

Tarragona, Spain

by Emma from Our Spanish Life

Roman Ruins and a blonde baby
Roman Ruins in Tarragons (Spain) © Our Spanish Life

Tarragona, on the Costa Dorada south of Barcelona, is a wonderful place for a winter break in Europe and a must-visit for anyone interested in history. 

Not only are the cheap Ryanair flights to Reus even cheaper in the winter, but the city also has a lot to offer to low-season visitors.

Tarraco, as the city was known by in the days of the Roman empire, still boasts Roman ruins in the thousands. The ruins include a stunning 2nd-century amphitheatre, a necropolis, partial ruins of a Roman forum and tombs.

Most of the historical sites are in the city-centre so you can easily walk between them. There are no queues or restrictive entry requirements. As an added plus, passes can be purchased at the bargain price of 11.05€ from the tourism office, which covers entry to all of the important sites.

If ruins aren’t your scene, Tarragona is still a great place to visit. The beautiful Rambla Nova (think Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, minus the millions of tourists and pickpockets) is the ideal place for a stroll. 

Take some time to admire the Monumento a Los Castellers, a striking monument to the human towers that originate in Tarragona. Cafes and restaurants line the Rambla Nova, all the way to the Mediterranean Balcony (Balco de Mediterrani) where you can enjoy stunning views over the Mediterranean and El Miracle beach.

This 500m-long beach is well-suited for a walk in the Catalonian sun – the perfect antidote to a grey Northern European winter. 

If your budget allows it, I’d recommend staying at the Hotel SB Ciutat. The rooms are comfy, spacious and a little bit luxury and the location can’t be beaten. Right next to the bus station for further travel, and at the base of the Rambla Nova for exploring the city on foot.

Palma de Mallorca, Spain

by Anna from Would Be Traveller

View of a intricate sandstone cathedral next to water
Palma de Mallorca (Spain) © Would Be Traveller

There are plenty of reasons to choose Palma de Mallorca as your next European winter destination. As well as being cheaper and much less crowded than in the height of summer, Palma de Mallorca also enjoys beautiful weather, even in the depths of December. While most of Europe freezes in winter, Palma de Mallorca stays a balmy average high of 19°c. You’ll be treated to crisp, blue skies, hours of sunshine and lush green landscapes if you venture outside of the city.

Though much of Palma de Mallorca is best explored by wandering through the streets (yes, people still go to the beach, even in winter!) it won’t matter if it rains, because there’s still plenty to do indoors.

If you’re a fan of art, architecture or religious buildings, the Cathedral is a must-visit. Inside, there’s a huge display of beautiful stained glass windows, tall ceilings and intricately decorated frescoes.

Beyond the city, if you’ve access to a car or public transport, there are picturesque little towns that still welcome visitors over winter, including the old towns of Valldemossa and Alcudia. Close to coastal Porto Cristo, nature lovers will find Las Cuevas del Drach – a huge network of caves just waiting for you to explore. Inside the caves, the temperature remains a steady 21°c – perfect if the temperature outside drops and you need to warm up!

No matter what you decide to do, you’re sure to have a wonderful time in Palma de Mallorca.

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