Weather in Europe can change in an instant, especially in winter. In some parts of Europe, you will find frigid cold, Arctic-like temperatures. In other areas, you might find plenty of sunshine and warmer days. We hope you enjoy our list of the 10 best winter city breaks in Europe!
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Best Places to Visit in Winter in Europe
The winter months are considered an off-season for many European destinations, which makes for a great opportunity to explore some amazing cities! Not only will can you save a significant amount on accommodations, but you’ll also find discounts in restaurants and on attractions. If you are looking for some easy getaways, we recommend visiting these European cities this winter.
1. Athens, Greece
The best time to visit Greece might actually be the winter months. Greece in winter offers an endless amount of historical sights, no crowds, and cheaper prices. Everything dies down a little in the winter, so take advantage of this time to see the must-see sights like the Acropolis and the Parthenon.
You’ll experience weather with an average temperature of 53°F and very little snowfall. The colder months clear out the tourists, making this the perfect place for activities with fewer crowds.
When exploring Athens, be sure to visit the Acropolis, take a day trip to one of the Saronic Islands, visit Plaka, the oldest street in Athens, climb Lycabettus Hill to see a stunning view of the city, or explore the National Garden of Athens.
2. Barcelona, Spain
Spain is a fantastic place to visit in the winter, and Barcelona is one of the best! Go skiing and snowboarding nearby, or take a walking tour of the city.
Some of the best things to do in Barcelona include walking around to see the Christmas lights and enjoying churros with a hot cup of cocoa for dipping.
Don’t forget to see the iconic Gaudi building La Pedrera, take a tour of the Castle Amatller, and visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Sagrada Familia Basilica. If you’re staying for a night or even a week, here are some ideas for where to stay in Barcelona.
3. Berlin, Germany
This city is so full of history, but it’s also one of the best winter city breaks in Europe. There are a ton of historical monuments and sites to visit, including the Berlin Wall and some great museums. In addition, there are plenty of free things to do in Berlin, so you can save some money!
Berlin turns into a winter wonderland every year with lights, Christmas decorations, and festivals all season long. If you’re visiting during the Christmas season, you’ll find some of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
Go for a visit to the Pergamon Museum, take a stroll through the Berlin Christmas Garden, and eat the city’s delicious street food (be sure to try currywurst and döner kebab) paired with a pint of beer.
4. Budapest, Hungary
One thing Budapest is famous for is its thermal baths! Consider going ice skating at Hungary’s Városligeti Műjégpálya park followed by an afternoon dip in one of the city’s famous warm bathhouses.
Budapest is one of the best winter destinations. The cold weather is worth it when you get to experience festive markets in the city center. Pick up a hot cup of mulled wine and a bag of roasted chestnuts to keep you warm while enjoying the sights.
Take a ride on the famous Tram No. 2, visit the Fisherman’s Bastion (a medieval terrace overlooking Pest), or see a light show at St. Stephen’s Basilica at night.
5. Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen’s winter is like something out of a fairy tale! In the middle of town, you’ll find the Tivoli Gardens amusement park and plenty of Christmas spirit to go around.
Be sure to visit the Christmas markets during the holiday season, take a trip around an ice skating rink, or drink a cup of warm glögg.
There are many fun winter sports to try in Copenhagen as well. Try ice skating at Fredriksborg or skiing at Amage Bakke. Be sure to tour nearby castles, walk along the Strøget, or see the beautifully lit Købmagergade street.
6. Interlaken, Switzerland
There are so many things to do and see while you are in Interlaken. You can take a drive through the surrounding mountains and countryside, but adventurous travelers should consider snowshoeing or even winter kayaking!
The winter season is the best time to visit ski resorts or go cross-country skiing in Interlaken. It’s a completely different experience than Switzerland in the summer months!
While visiting the city, be sure to get a cup of hot chocolate, go on a food and culture tour, and enjoy some gooey cheese fondue for dinner. You will surely enjoy one of the most beautiful cities in Switzerland!
7. Lisbon, Portugal
While Lisbon’s peak season is during the summer, there are still so many fun things to do during the winter! If you are into history, consider visiting one of the 23 museums that they have to offer, have a drink at the former brothel Pensão Amor, and even take a gourmet tour of the city.
Since it doesn’t snow in winter, this is the perfect winter city break for those looking for warmer winter temperatures. Even though there are fewer tourists, there are still plenty of open tourist attractions everyone can enjoy.
When visiting Lisbon, take a stroll up to Castelo de São Jorge, try a walking food tour of the city, or enjoy a tour of the famous Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower. You can also listen to popular fado music and enjoy a glass of Ginja Espinheira at a local cafe.
8. Prague, Czech Republic
While it will be cold in Prague, it will also be a lot less crowded. While you’re there, make sure to visit the Jewish Quarter and take a tour of Prague Castle. A few other notable mentions are visiting the John Lennon Wall and Charles Bridge.
Prague is one of the best European winter destinations, with popular attractions and fewer people with the exception of Christmas time. Prague is considered one of the best European cities for holiday markets, so expect crowds if you come at this time of the year.
If you want to avoid the holiday crush, consider a winter visit in February or even March when it starts to warm up but the people haven’t arrived en masse.
If you do come to the Christmas markets, you’ll often find them covered in snow and sparkling in the sunlight; it’s a magical sight! You can also skate at a local ice rink, visit museums, or visit the Charles Bridge at twilight to see the lanterns lit as the sun sets.
9. Rovaniemi, Finland
If you are looking for a great place for Christmas spirit, head to Rovaniemi. The main attractions here revolve around Santa Claus Village where Santa lives year-round! There’s also Snowman World with snow tubing hills and ice skating to get your family active!
Santa Claus Village really offers a full experience. Here you can do arts and crafts with the children, watch shows, eat at nearby restaurants, and do many other fun things.
10. Venice, Italy
Winter is the perfect time to visit Venice if you’re looking for beautiful Christmas markets and spectacular views. The city streets are less crowded, and you can take a guided tour of this ancient European city or simply explore the narrow alleyways and canals on your own.
Venice celebrates Carnival in February, and this is a great place to see elaborate costumes, masks, and fun! Celebrate Venice’s unique history and enjoy a ton of significant free events during this time.
You don’t need to wait until summer to head to Europe! Our favorite 10 best winter city breaks in Europe are all spectacular, and some of them aren’t even that cold!
Book Your Flights – You can find discounted fares using sites like Momondo or Skyscanner. If you want to keep an eye on discount fares, we suggest signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights, a daily newsletter with flight sales around the world.
If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. It’s nice to have a space where you can relax before your flight.
Book Your Accommodation
We regularly use Expedia.com and Hotels.com to find lodging when we travel. It’s a great way to compare vacation rentals, hotels, and resorts.
If your family knows they want to stay in a vacation rental, we recommend looking at VRBO and Plum Guide.
Book Your Transportation
For rental car agencies, try Rentalcars.com. We tend to use Hertz simply for the quality of service. If you need airport transfers, we recommend Welcome Pickups.
When traveling in Europe, we use AutoEurope to make our bookings. They find the best rates and allow you to compare different car rental agencies. Europcar is another option. If you plan to take the train, we recommend using Rail Europe.
Book Your Tours and Travel Photos
We regularly used companies like Viator and GetYourGuide to book tours when we travel. Both have great communication and a large variety of activities that work for all ages. Other companies to look at include Tours by Locals and Withlocals.
If you’re visiting a city with multiple attractions, be sure to check out a discount pass, such as CityPASS or Go City. Both are worthwhile investments.
Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational-based activities. The former teacher in me loves their tours. For unique, curated activities, check out Headout.
One of our favorite things to do annually is taking photos with Flytographer. They have photographers around the world and we’ve used them on four separate occasions. This is our favorite travel souvenir.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
With the state of travel these days, it’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threats, or cancellations. We always travel with insurance and would recommend SquareMouth, Travelex, or Medjet as good options. And if you want to compare different insurance options, use Travel Insurance Master or World Nomads to find the best policy for your group.