It can be so nice to be able to spend some vacation in winter to relax for a few days and discover a new little part of the world. Europe is such an amazing place to spend the winter and there are so many cities to discover. Whether you are looking for a winter destination in the sun, winter sports in the snow or a city break – we got you covered with those 12 best European cities to visit in Winter. But hear me out first, in this guide, you will not only find the typical recommendations such as Vienna, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Paris, and Berlin.
In the following, we would like to introduce you to some beautiful European winter destinations that you probably haven’t thought of visiting this winter.
What to find out in this post
- 1 The best European Cities to Visit in Winter
- 2 City Trips
- 3 Dublin, Ireland
- 4 London, Great Britain
- 5 Prague, Czech Republic
- 6 Hamburg, Germany
- 7 Bordeaux, France
- 8 Winter Wonderland Vacation
- 9 Harz Mountains, Germany
- 10 Oslo, Norway
- 11 Reykjavik, Iceland
- 12 European Winter Sun Destinations
- 13 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
- 14 Porto, Portugal
- 15 Canary Islands, Spain
- 16 Visit the European Capital of Culture 2020: Rijeka, Croatia
The best European Cities to Visit in Winter
Temperature*: 35 – 50°F/2 – 10°C
Dublin is a beautiful city that immediately captivated me with its exuberant Irish atmosphere. The capital of Ireland is not only famous for its leprechauns but is also surrounded by breathtaking nature.
A visit to Dublin in winter is particularly worthwhile, as there are generally far milder temperatures than in other cities of Central Europe. In the harbor area of the city, every year in the wintertime the Dublin Christmas market takes places. A real highlight that you shouldn’t miss.
What you should definitely not miss either when visiting Dublin is a visit to a typical Irish pup, e.g. In the Temple Bar. If you’re interested in beer and breweries, you’ll also have the chance to see the brewery of the globally popular Guinness beer here in Dublin.
Another sight that should be part of every Dublin itinerary is Dublin Castle, which is located in the heart of Dublin.
Extra tip: Make sure to try an Irish Apple Cider.
You might also likeThe Ultimate Ireland Itinerary with tips from locals
London, Great Britain
Temperature*: 39 – 53°F/4 – 12°C
London, the famous British capital, is a real highlight in every season. Not for nothing is London one of the most popular travel destinations worldwide. With its mix of traditional English buildings, such as Buckingham Palace, and new modern buildings like the Shard skyscraper, London is simply a real eye-catcher.
A visit to London in winter is particularly worthwhile since usually, the temperatures there are way milder than in many other winter destinations in Central Europe (same as in Dublin). London also offers many great winter activities and decorations: Skating at the Sommerset House or Natural History Museum or the beautiful lights of Oxford Street is just a few of the many options available in winter.
When visiting London, don’t miss Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, and Westminster Palace.
Extra tip: If you’re in London during the Christmas season, you should definitely check out the giant Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square.
Prague, Czech Republic
Temperature*: 30 – 46°F/ -1 – 8°C
Prague, the golden city, is worth a visit at any time of the year. As the capital of the Czech Republic, this beautiful city has made a name for itself as an absolute fairytale city. But even those who are not necessarily fans of the old Czech Christmas fairytales will simply love Prague in the winter.
At Christmas time there is not just one, but several gorgeous Christmas markets in the city. The most famous is probably the Old Town Square one, but also the Christmas markets at Prague Castle, the Republic Square, and Wenceslas Square, as well as the others, are definitely worth a visit. In addition, Prague offers its visitors an ice skating rink from mid-November to mid-March.
You should definitely take a walk over the Charles Bridge. Covered with snow, this popular sight looks all the more beautiful. But also Prague Castle and the Town Hall Clock cannot be missed at any visit to the Czech capital.
Extra tip: Do not leave Prague without enjoying a delicious Trdelnik, one of the best traditional foods in the Czech Republic. Just don’t break your tongue when ordering;)
Temperature*: 30 – 46°F/ -1 – 8°C
For those who want to have a look at authentic German Christmas markets this winter, Hamburg, the pearl in the German north, is a fantastic destination. The city on the Elbe is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in Germany for me and a real must-see if you are traveling in Central Europe.
There are many great activities and attractions in winter all over Hamburg as well. Like almost every German city, Hamburg has a handful of great Christmas markets to offer, where you can drink warming mulled wine. In addition to the traditional Christmas market at the town hall, which has made a name for itself especially through its flying Santa Claus statue, also the Christmas markets at the HafenCity and the Santa Pauli Christmas market are real eye-catchers. At the HafenCity and the Wandsbeker Winterzauber Christmas market, you will also find ice rinks, which open their doors for young and old.
If you’ve never been to Hamburg before, you should not miss the Speicherstadt. My personal highlight in Hamburg was a harbor cruise. For real musical fans, of course, seeing one of many musicals offered there is also a must-do if you are visiting Hamburg.
Extra tip: If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, you can just use one of the harbor ferries to drive around the harbor a bit, instead of going on a touristy harbor tour
Temperature*: 37 – 57°F/ 3 – 14°C
Bordeaux is a city that really surprised me positively. After the French capital Paris could not really live up to my expectations, Bordeaux enchanted us all the more.
With its small shops and bakeries, narrow streets and old buildings, the city in the south of the country reflects the typical French vibe shown in classic French movies.
Especially in winter, this French city is worth a visit. Not only the Christmas market of Bordeaux invites you to linger. With a hot mulled wine with a delicious cinnamon note, your stroll around feels already much warmer. If you would rather try a real Bordeaux wine, you can drink a glass (or two) in one of many beautiful little bars, while you enjoying the beautiful architecture of the city from the window. Snow-covered, this city looks even more beautiful.
The most beautiful and unforgettable sight for us is Bordeaux’s Place de la Bourse. This place is located directly on the river Garonne, which flows through the city. What makes this place special is the so-called Miroir d’eau (water mirror). Incidentally, this is the largest reflection pool in the world.
Winter Wonderland Vacation
Harz Mountains, Germany
Temperature*: 23 – 41°F/ -5 – 5°C
The Harz is not only the most beautiful low mountain range in Germany but also the highest mountains in northern Germany. You can find the Harz spread over three federal states: Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia.
In addition to numerous UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites, you will find especially one thing there: absolutely beautiful nature. For all hiking and outdoor enthusiasts, the Harz is, therefore, the perfect destination in winter.
All animal lovers can also enjoy a visit to the Harz National Park, which stretches over a distance of 247 km² (153 square miles), including red deer, lynx, and wild cats.
In addition, ski fans are definitely not going to get bored while staying in the Harz Mountains. The Harz is full of ski resorts and slopes. Particularly popular are the Wurmberg, Altenau, Braunlage and the Bocksberg in Hahnenklee. Incidentally, you can read about the current snow depths and ski information here.
Temperature*: 23 – 39°F/ -5 – 4°C
In the south of Norway lies the capital Oslo. For many, culture- and Scandinavia-lovers, this city is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Not only in winter it attracts many visitors as the Vikingskiphuset and Akershus fortress are a real must-see in town.
Nevertheless, a visit in winter is worth twice, especially for winter sports fans. Because in Oslo and its surroundings you will find perfect places for sledding, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, and ice skating. If you want to take it easy, relax in one of many saunas and warm up a bit. For the hardened sauna visitors, using the sauna on the Oslofjord is an unforgettable experience, where you can dive directly into the icy Oslofjord after your sauna session.
Also, a visit to the Christmas markets shouldn’t be missed, probably the most famous is the Christmas market in the Norwegian open-air museum (attention, high admission!) and the Christmas market at the city hall (Julemarked). Have a sip of Juleøl, the Norwegian Christmas beer, or heat up with a cup of Gløgg as you stroll over the snowy Christmas market. The ultimate winter wonderland feeling can definitely be found during winter in Oslo.
Temperature*: 26 – 40°F/ -3 – 4°C
If you want to dive even deeper into the winter, visit Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. Not only the surrounding nature but also Reykjavik itself, with its great museums, such as the Perlan Museum, thermal spas, and great food attract thousands of visitors each year.
In winter, the northernmost metropolis in the world is transformed into a true winter wonderland. Here you will find everything you could expect from a winter holiday destination: ski resorts, the Winter Lights Festival in February, a Christmas village that offers an experience for young and old alike, and ice rinks such as the popular ice skating rink at Ingólfstorg Square. If you prefer it a bit warmer, relax in one of the 17 baths of Reykjavik. These naturally warm outdoor pools make up a large part of Icelandic culture.
If you are lucky enough you can experience another highlight of Iceland during your stay: the Northern Lights. For many, it is a big wish that finally comes true – to see the Northern lights ones in their lifetime. That is why Reykjavik has become one of the most popular winter destinations in Europe in recent years.
European Winter Sun Destinations
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Temperature*: 46 – 64°F/ 8 – 18°C
How could I write a list of the most beautiful winter destinations, without mentioning my beautiful home of choice Barcelona? After my first winter here on the Spanish east coast, I will probably never be able again to spend a whole winter in cold and gray Germany. I got used way too much to the mild winter here including a lot of sun, which shines here even during the winter months almost every day and allows you to enjoy your café con Leche in the afternoon on the terrace of one of many bars or cafes in Barcelona.
Even though Barcelona is not exactly the typical Christmas destination, you will still find streets festooned with fairy lights throughout the whole city. The main Christmas celebrations here in Spain will take place for many people on the 06th January celebrated on the Three Kings Day. That’s why every year a huge Kings Parade will take place, which leads through the entire city center. There are also many stalls that sell churros with hot chocolate, as this is a very typical breakfast for Three Kings Day (but also a great snack on any other day). Next to the Sagrada Família and the Cathedral (La Catedral), there is a small market selling typical Catalan Christmas decorations and handicrafts.
Temperature*: 42 – 62°F/ 6 – 17°C
Porto totally surprised me and became one of my favorite cities in Europe. And that although Lisbon often puts Porto in the shade.
The winter in Porto is relatively warm and sunny for European standards, which makes it a great destination to recharge your batteries. Although it is still warm at this time of the year, you will find plenty of winter decorations, small Christmas markets with Christmas trees and even an ice skating rink.
One of the most beautiful things to do in Porto is simply to walk around without a destination and discover the city on your own. If you take a break, you should definitely try one of the typical Pastel de Nata and a glass of the famous port wine. You can do that, for example, in the Riberia neighborhood.
Another must-see sightseeing attraction is the São Francisco Church, Porto Cathedral and the impressive 19th-century Palàcio da Bolsa Stock Exchange.
The beach of Porto is nice for a walk, but at this time of the year, it is definitely too cold to swim. However, there are surf lessons taking place even in winter.
Canary Islands, Spain
Temperature*: 59 – 73°F/ 15 – 23°C
While your colleagues in your snow-covered country back home drive to work while freezing, you lie in the sand while the warm sun shines on your tanned skin – if that doesn’t sound like a dream. Did you know you can have that feeling during the winter without leaving Europe? The Canary Islands belong to Spain, even though they are geographically located near Morocco. The winter in the Canary Islands is closer to Central European spring weather and therefore the perfect destination for those looking for a bit of winter sun.
Whether active holidays, hiking, cycling, and swimming or relaxing beach holidays with the whole family. There is something to do for everyone in the Canary Islands. The island of Gran Canaria e.g. is a dream for cyclists and hikers but also offers museum-lovers many opportunities. If you prefer simply spending time on the beach, you will love Fuerteventura. Whether you spend your time there with water sports or relaxing on the beach, is totally up to you. The island of Tenerife is a real must-see for nature lovers and hikers, who will enjoy breathtaking hiking trails in the National Park as well as in the Parque Las Águilas. But also the other islands Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, and El Hierro are excellent destinations during the winter.
In each of the Canary Islands, you will discover great Christmas decorations. Haven’t you secretly been dreaming of your Christmas tree to be a palm tree this year?
Visit the European Capital of Culture 2020: Rijeka, Croatia
Temperature*: 37 – 57°F/ 3 – 14°C
Why not be one of the first ones to discover the Capital of Culture 2020 Rijeka? In addition to the mild climate that prevails here in winter, there are a lot of great sights to discover.
The port city, which is located on the northern Adriatic Sea, offers many historic buildings. One of them is the fort of Trsat. Even though the name is hardly pronounceable for most of us not familiar with the Croatian language, this castle built in the 19th century is a real eye-catcher and an absolute must-see for every visitor to Rijeka. The Croatian city also offers a lot of religious sites worth visiting, such as St. Vitus Cathedral and the Basilica of Our Lady of Trsat. If the weather is not as good as expected, lots of museums offer an interesting shelter: great representatives are e.g. the Computer Museum, Peek & Poke, and the History and Maritime Museum.
Since the temperatures in winter are still mild, it is advisable to sit outside in the sun and drink delicious Croatian hot wine. You can do this, for example, in the popular shopping street Korzo. Right in the same street, on New Year’s Eve, there’s a big party every year, which you definitely shouldn’t miss if you’re visiting during the holidays.
Temperature = mid-temperature minimum – mid-temperature maximum November – February
Did you find a place that you would like to visit? Or maybe you can recommend us an even better destination? Let us know in the comments below!
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