Winter vacation ideas in europe: 15 Best Places to Visit in Europe in Winter
10 fantastic festive European winter city breaks – On the Luce travel blog
Plan the perfect short break this festive season with this selection of 10 fantastic European winter city breaks, featuring snowy scenery, fairytale medieval cities, Christmas markets and more.
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The ‘most wonderful time of the year’ is on its way – so turn on the carols, light the fire, pour a mulled wine and get planning your perfect winter city break. Europe has a festive destination to suit everyone – from husky sledding in Lapland to soaking up the sun in Spain, Christmas market shopping in Austria to ice skating on a frozen lake in Slovenia.
So if you fancy a planning a festive escape this winter, here are ten of my favourite, tried-and-tested European winter city breaks, with all the details you need, from what to do and where to eat, drink and stay to how to get there – and there’s a downloadable PDF version of the guide the end so you can save them for later.
10 of the best European winter city breaks
1. Salzburg, Austria
Overdose on glühwein and lebkuchen at one of Europe’s top Christmas market destinations. This culture-loving city celebrates the festive season in style, with music from Mozart to The Sound of Music.
SEE & DO
Salzburg is a pro when it comes to Christmas markets. The Christkindlmarkt in Dom Square is the best-known, with lines of wooden chalets selling tree decorations, gifts, food and drinks. But there are lots of smaller markets around the city as well as at the Hellbrunn Palace and in the pretty lakeside villages of St Gilgen, St Wolfgang and Strobl.
Join a Sound of Music themed tour* of the city to visit locations from the classic film (even if most of the locals have never heard of it). And when you’re all Christmassed out, visit Mozart’s birthplace and residence, look around the grand Mirabell Palace, check out the views from Hohensalzburg Fortress or explore the city’s high-octane side at Hangar 7.
Tree decorations in Salzburg’s Christmas markets
EAT & DRINK
Dine with Mozart with a candlelit dinner concert* at the oldest restaurant in Europe, the Stiftskulinarium, with dishes from Mozart’s day and music between each course. Or pop into his old haunt Café Tomaselli for a cake and a cup of his favourite almond milk.
And make sure to pick up some tasty local specialities at the Christmas markets, from glühwein and lebkuchen spiced biscuits to plates of bratwurst and sauerkraut.
The historic Hotel Goldener Hirsch* lies in the heart of the old town. It dates back 600 year and has luxurious rooms decorated in traditional Austrian style and two great restaurants. Salzburg’s international airport is only 20 minutes by bus or taxi into the city centre. Or by train you can reach Munich in 90 minutes, Vienna in 2.5 hours or Paris in 8 hours.
Read more: The best things to do in Salzburg in winter
Stalls at Hellbrunn Palace
Cross the Arctic circle to the snow-dusted winter wonderland of Rovaniemi where you’ll find Santa and his reindeer, huskies and maybe even the Northern Lights – who said Lapland’s just for kids?
SEE & DO
Santa Claus Village is the epicentre of all things festive in Rovaniemi – you can meet the man himself or send a letter from his post office, speed around on a husky sled or choose a more sedate reindeer ride, and try out a range of from different wintery activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice fishing and even ice swimming.
Head into Rovaniemi city centre to find out more about life in the Arctic at the Arktikum museum and science centre and try traditional Lappish food. Or take a Northern Lights tour* to hunt for the elusive aurora – it appears on 150 days a year on average in Rovaniemi. Just make sure to wrap up warm as winter temps average a chilly -13°C/8°F.
Santa Claus Village
EAT & DRINK
Try traditional Lappish dishes at Restaurant Nili in central Rovaniemi, who feature local ingredients like reindeer, Arctic char, puikula potatoes, lingonberries and even bear.
Or eat salmon baked over an open fire inside a teepee at Santa’s Salmon Place in Santa Claus Village. Chill out at the Ice Bar where drinks are served in a glasses carved from ice, or warm up with a glass of hot berry juice or glögi (Finnish mulled wine).
Santa Claus Village is 8km out of town and has a range of accommodation, from wooden cottages* to glass igloos. Rovaniemi airport (Santa’s official airport) has direct flights from London and Helsinki. The airport is 8km out of town with a bus connecting the town centre and Santa’s Village. Or the overnight train from Helsinki takes around 12 hours.
Read more: A winter wonderland trip to Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland
3. Bruges, Belgium
Whether you prefer chocolate and carriage rides or boat trips and beer, the medieval Belgian city of Bruges has a winter city break for you, and is packed with historic sights, scenic spots and Christmas treats.
SEE & DO
Start in the Grote Markt (market square) – the heart of Bruges’ old town – where you can climb the top of the medieval Belfort belfry tower. Its 366 spiralling stairs are a bit of a workout but the views from the top are well worth the effort. The Grote Markt is also where you’ll find Bruges’ Christmas markets and plenty of cosy cafés and restaurants.
Huddle up under a blanket on a horse and carriage ride around the city’s historic squares, decorated with fir trees and twinkling lights for Christmas. Take a boat ride around the city’s network of canals. Or visit museums dedicated to two of Belgium’s most famous exports – chocolate at the Choco-Story Museum and chips at the Frites Museum.
Bruges’ Christmas lights
EAT & DRINK
Bruges is heaven for beer lovers – take a tour and tasting at the De Halve Maan, a family-run brewery where you can also dine on beer-themed traditional Belgian dishes like carbonnades flamandes (a warming beef and beer stew). Or choose from over 300 beers sourced from across Belgium at ‘t Brugs Beertje.
There’s a chocolate shop on almost every street corner in Bruges, but for skillfully created weird and wonderful flavour combinations head to posh chocolatiers The Chocolate Line.
Eco-certified B&B Bariseele* has just three en-suite rooms in a quiet street 10 minutes from the Grote Markt, and serves breakfasts with chocolate included. The nearest airport is in Brussels, or Bruges is easy to reach by train. If you’re travelling from the UK it’s under two hours from London to Brussels by Eurostar then an hour by local train to Bruges.
Read more: How to spend the perfect weekend in Bruges
Bruges’ Grote Markt
4. Bath, England
The genteel streets of Bath get extra sparkle for the festive season with carols, carousels and Christmas markets. Explore this UNESCO-listed city’s history and soak away the winter chill at the Thermae Bath Spa.
SEE & DO
Bath has so many historic buildings that the entire city is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site – take a walk along the Royal Crescent with its curved terrace of grand Georgian townhouses, cross covered Pulteney Bridge and visit Bath’s Gothic Abbey, where you’ll find the city’s Christmas market from late November until mid-December.
When you start to feel the cold, thaw out at the Thermae Bath Spa with its steam rooms and rooftop thermal pool, where you get a view over the city’s skyline as you soak away. Or experience spa life Roman-style at the Roman Baths and taste a drop of the mineral-filled (if slightly metallic tasting) spa waters from the King’s Fountain in the Pump Rooms.
The Roman Baths
EAT & DRINK
Afternoon tea is an English tradition – go old-school with a Champagne cream tea at the opulent Pump Rooms or try local speciality the Sally Lunn bun, a 17th-century brioche-style bun which is spread with cream or butter.
Try a Jane Austen-themed ‘Gin’ Austen cocktail at the Bath Distillery’s Canary Gin Bar, which serves 230 different gins, including their own blends, before dinner at The Circus, with modern European dishes made using local and seasonal ingredients.
Splash out on a stay at the city’s most famous address at the Royal Crescent Hotel*, a luxury five-star hotel and spa in two converted 18th-century Georgian townhouses. Bath is 90 minutes by train from London and 15 minutes from Bristol, which has an international airport. Air Decker buses from Bristol Airport to Bath take around an hour.
Read more: A weekend in Bath: 2-day Bath itinerary
The Royal Crescent
5. Seville, Spain
Swap snow for sunshine for a Spanish winter break in Seville. With midwinter highs of 16°C/61°F you won’t need the thermals for a city break of spectacular architecture, parks and plazas, and tasty tapas.
SEE & DO
Enjoy a stroll in the sunshine through Seville’s María Luisa Park to the Plaza de España with its rose-gold stone buildings and intricately painted bridges and balustrades. Seville is famous for its azulejo tiles which were made in the Triana district across the river, and you’ll find the Centro Ceramica Triana museum there telling the history of the craft.
Visit the Real Alcázar royal palace with its ornate Moorish-style buildings and lush gardens. Head to the 15th-century cathedral to see the nativity scene and shop Seville’s Christmas markets, then climb to the top of the Giralda tower for the best views in town.
Or visit the quirky Metropol Parasol. Nicknamed the setas (mushrooms), this unusual structure is made from a lattice forming six parasols with a walkway across the top.
The gardens at the Alcázar
EAT & DRINK
Seville’s tapas bar are a cosy place to spend a winter’s evening, with dishes like chickpea stew, marinated anchovies, manchego cheese, acorn-fed ham and local dry sherry. Try Bar Antiguedades on Calle Argote de Molina and Ovejas Negras and La Cava Bar on Calle Hernando Colón, working your way from one to the next until you’re stuffed.
La Bella Sevilla* is a small hotel in the heart of the old town, on a pedestrianised street a few minutes’ walk from the cathedral, which has some rooms with balconies. Seville has an international airport, with a bus connecting it to the city centre in around 35 minutes. Or by train it’s under 3 hours from Seville to Madrid or 2.5 hours to Cádiz.
Read more: The best things to do in winter in Seville, Spain
Seville’s festive market
6. Mainz, Germany
The lesser-known German gem of Mainz is one of our favourite European winter city breaks. Shop, eat and drink your way around the city’s markets and try the local wine – mulled or otherwise.
SEE & DO
Head to the Mainzer Dom, Mainz’s immense cathedral which mixes up Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture and towers over the city centre. Mainz’s Christmas markets take place below it, with streets swathed in greenery, fairy lights and baubles and traditional stalls selling carved decorations, sweets, biscuits and local sausages.
Visit the Gutenberg Museum to learn the story of local boy Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the world’s first printing press. Take a walk along the half-timbered buildings on the Kirschgarten, see a show at the grand Staatstheater and be wowed by the Rococo interiors of St Augustine’s Church. Or cruise the River Rhine on a sunset boat trip.
Christmas market beneath the Mainzer Dom
EAT & DRINK
Mainz is one of nine Great Wine Capitals around the world and the surrounding Rheinhessen region is famous for its Reisling, Müller-Thurgau and Pinot Noir wines.
Taste some of the area’s best at Proviantamt wine bar, then enjoy a wine-themed dinner at Haus des Deutschen Weines, with traditional specialities like Tafelspitz (boiled veal in broth) and Schnitzel. And call in at Dicke Lilli, Gutes Kind café for a coffee and cake fix.
The Favorite Parkhotel Mainz* is set inside the city’s park along the banks of the River Rhine, with a pool, spa, beer garden and Michelin-starred restaurant on site. The nearest airport to Mainz is in Frankfurt, which is 40 minutes away by train. Or you can reach Paris or Amsterdam in under 5 hours by train and Berlin in around 6 hours.
Read more: A Christmas market river cruise on the Rhine
The historic centre of Mainz
7. Tallinn, Estonia
With its towers, turrets, castles and cathedrals, visiting Tallinn in winter is like stepping inside the pages of a snowy fairytale. Trade summer stag parties for peaceful winter days in its medieval old town.
SEE & DO
Go back in time to the 13th century in Tallinn’s old town. Head to the Old Town Hall Square – where you’ll find the Christmas markets in December – where the town hall is surrounded by pastel merchants’ houses. Walk the old town city walls or head to Kohtuotsa and Patkuli viewing platforms on Toompea Hill for views over the city rooftops.
Visit the ornate, onion-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral for a taste of Russia, and find out about Tallinn’s days of occupation at the Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom. And if you get cold, warm up with a hõõgwein (mulled wine with fruit and nuts) in a cosy cellar restaurant – if you see a lit candle outside it means it’s available there.
Snowy rooftops in Tallinn
EAT & DRINK
Dine 15th-century style at III Draakon medieval tavern, where dishes like elk broth and ox meat sausages are served by candlelight in the courtroom of Tallinn’s old town hall.
Or for something more modern, Rataskaevu 16 takes local ingredients like Baltic herring, elk and sea buckthorn and gives them a contemporary twist. And 80s music fans won’t want to miss DM Baar, Estonia’s (and maybe the world’s) only Depeche Mode-themed bar.
At the heart of the old town, the Merchants House Hotel* is a historic Estonian merchant’s house converted into a cosy hotel with friendly staff and a mix of modern and traditional style rooms. Tallinn’s international airport has flights from around Europe and is only 4km from the city centre, with bus and trams linking the two in around 15 minutes.
Read more: Visiting Tallinn in winter: The magic of Tallinn in the snow
Pastel merchants’ houses in the Old Town Square
8. Colmar, France
Colmar may look like something out of a storybook, but it’s anything but Grimm. This Alsatian city mixes French and German influences and adds a sprinkle of Christmas magic as it’s lit by festive illuminations.
SEE & DO
Follow the illuminated trail through Colmar’s cobbled streets, with streets draped with lights and colourful buildings linking the city’s six Christmas markets – voted the most beautiful in Europe. Shop for crafts at the Koïfhus indoor market, buy traditional Alsatian products in Place Jeanne d’Arc or eat your way around the Marché Gourmand.
Take a boat trip on the canal past the half-timbered buildings of Petit Venice. Visit the Unterlinden Museum, with artworks and artefacts including the famous 16th-century Isenheim Alterpiece. Or take a day tour* of the villages of Kaysersberg, Riquewihr and Hunawihr on the Alsace Wine Route for some of the area’s best wines.
EAT & DRINK
Colmar’s local cuisine combines French and German flavours. Try a flammekueche or tarte flambée (a kind of thin-crust pizza which is topped with bacon, onion and crème fraîche) at La Soi, a traditional Alsatian winstub or wine tavern.
Or splash out on a Michelin-starred meal – Colmar has 10 options to choose from, with two-star JY’s having a prime spot by the waterside. And don’t miss the local wine, with delicious Reislings, Gewürztraminers and sparkling Crémant d’Alsace.
The stylish four-star Hotel le Colombier* has a great location in Petit Venice, with rooms overlooking the canals. Colmar is 2.5 hours from Paris by train. Or there is a small airport in nearby Strasbourg, which you can each by train in 35 minutes. And there are larger airports in Basel (45 minutes away) and Zürich (2 hours away).
Read more: Visiting Colmar, Alsace: France’s fairytale town
Colourful shops in Colmar
Norway’s second-largest city is the gateway to the fjords, with some of Europe’s most jaw-dropping landscapes on its doorstep, as well as a historic old town, great seafood and knockout mountain views.
SEE & DO
Explore the UNESCO-listed port area of Bryggen with its colourful shopfronts, home to restaurants and art studios. Learn about Bergen’s history at the Hanseatic Museum. Soak up the views from the top of Fløibanen funicular railway – lit up so you can sledge or ski into the evenings – or catch the Ulriken cable car to Bergen’s highest mountain.
Take a day trip out into the fjords on the self-guided Norway in a Nutshell day trip. It starts off with the train from Bergen to Myrdal where you board the scenic Flåmsbana railway – one of Europe’s most spectacular train trips. From Flåm you sail through the fjords before catching the bus from Gudvangen to Voss and boarding the train back to Bergen.
Shopfronts in Bryggen
EAT & DRINK
Norway has some of the best seafood in the world – taste it straight off the boat at the Bergen Fish Market, where stalls sell fresh fish and shellfish. Vegans should head to the Daily Pot, which does organic power bowls and tasty vegan cheesecakes.
Or dine in style at Cornelius Sjømat seafood restaurant, located on a small island surrounded by fjords and mountains, a 25-minute boat trip outside of Bergen. Their Meteorological Menu is inspired by the day’s weather and what local fishermen catch.
The Bergen Børs* is a modern, boutique hotel in Bergen’s old stock exchange building with a cocktail bar and restaurant, located close to the centre of town. Bergen’s international airport is 20 minutes by airport bus from the city centre, with flights to Europe and connections further afield via Oslo. Or it’s 6.5 hours from Oslo to Bergen by train.
Snowy villages on Bergen to Flåm railway
10. Ljubljana & Lake Bled, Slovenia
Get two destinations for the price of one in the last of our European winter city breaks – urban life in the charming Slovenian capital Ljubljana and scenes straight from a Christmas card at Lake Bled.
SEE & DO
Explore the cobbled streets of Ljubljana’s old town – stroll along the banks of the River Ljubljanica, cross the famous Triple Bridge, visit the Baroque Church of the Annunciation and take the funicular to the hilltop castle – keep your eye out for dragon statues along the way too. And visit the edgy Metelkova district for street art by day and bars by night.
Then head out on a day trip to Lake Bled. Visit the famous island Church of the Assumption of Mary – you can either take a boat trip out to the island or if it’s cold enough for the lake to freeze then you can skate. Take a walk around the lake on the 6km waterside path, and climb up to 12th-century Bled Castle for panoramic 360° views on a clear day.
Ljubljana’s old town
EAT & DRINK
Slovenian food mixes influences from Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia in dishes like Kranjska Klobasa (Carniolan sausage), Bleki pasta and Bograč meat stew.
Try local specialities at Figovec restaurant in Ljubljana or dine with a view at Bled Castle Restaurant. And if you have a sweet tooth, pick up a Prekmurska gibanica (poppy seed, apple, walnut and cottage cheese cake) or a creamy, custard-filled Bled Cake.
The clean and bright Ljubljana Center Apartments* in the centre of the old town sleep 2 or 4 and come with fully equipped kitchens. Ljubljana’s airport is 45 minutes outside of the city by bus. Lake Bled is 54km northwest of Ljubljana, and it takes around 90 minutes by bus or two hours by train (changing train in Jesenice) to get there.
Read more: 5 reasons to visit Ljubljana, Slovenia
Lake Bled in the snow
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Why a Europe Vacation is an Excellent Winter Travel Plan
As the northern summer comes to a close, you might find yourself thinking “Next summer, I’m taking that trip to Europe.” Maybe you wanted to go this year and things didn’t quite work out. Maybe another opportunity came up, or maybe you’re just waiting for the perfect time to go. Here’s the thing. There’s no “perfect time” to take a Europe vacation.
With so much variation in climate, culture, and crowds, from Iceland to Istanbul, a plan that works brilliantly in one country might leave you feeling frustrated and uncomfortable in another. The flipside to there being no perfect time to “see Europe” is that there’s no bad time to take a Europe vacation either. Even in the middle of winter.
Winter is certainly prime time for sunny vacations in the south, but those vacations also come at a premium price. Don’t dismiss our neighbours across the Atlantic when you’re planning that winter escape. They might not offer you sun and surf, but most of them enjoy a milder winter than many parts of the US and Canada. Even Iceland, with its shortened days, rarely sees winter temperatures drop much below -5°C/23°F. Fly on down to Portugal’s Algarve, and say hello to a January that hovers around 12°C/54°F. While that’s not quite beach weather, it’s a lot more comfortable than freezing at home. A winter Europe vacation can also offer an immersion and insight into your destination that just isn’t possible in the crowded peak season. Plus, you’ll enjoy thinner crowds and lower prices.
Let’s start with the first of those obvious benefits. Europe’s top attractions are usually well worth the wait. Still, some travellers are tempted to wing it in summer, asking “How bad can it be?” Run a Google image search for “Vatican museum queue” to answer that question! We can’t stress enough the wonderful, crowd-thinning powers of winter. These even help in popular cities like London, Rome, and the object of one of my favourite winter trips, Paris.
Skyline of snow-covered Rome in winter, Italy
A Different Side of the World’s Most Visited Cities
While it’s only our personal experience, my travel companion and I loved visiting Paris in winter. We gained access within minutes to The Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, the Paris Catacombs, and Sainte-Chappelle, each of which can keep visitors waiting an hour or more during peak season. Full disclosure, we also had the Paris Museum Pass in hand, which offers queue-skipping privileges. Most queues however moved fairly fast, even for visitors without the pass. Our only real delay was at the Towers of Notre Dame, where space is at a premium. If you have at least two days at leisure in Paris, I heartily recommend picking up the Paris Museum Pass. You’ll probably be spending a good amount of your winter Paris vacation inside, and this little wonder opens up dozens of top notch museums, galleries, and other attractions for you to explore.
One more subtle benefit to visiting Paris in winter smashes an infamous stereotype. We didn’t doubt that stories of Parisian rudeness had been exaggerated. Nonetheless, we’d braced for “tourist fatigue” and a certain brusqueness from the locals. Our experience couldn’t have been more different. Paris is not a city of false courtesy, but it is one that values patience, politeness, and visitors who make an attempt to blend in. We found Parisians to be courteous to a fault. Perhaps by December, tempers frayed by the annual descent of over 15 million visitors have had time to mend. Locals no longer feel like they’re fighting for space in their own city, and the approaching holiday season puts everyone in a better mood. It’s a nice opportunity to see this magical city through the eyes of its residents, free from legions of selfie-snappers.
Eiffel Tower and vintage carousel in Paris at sunset in winter, France
Cities Decked Out in Holiday Finery
While you can find plenty of festive decorations at home, there’s something about the way Europe does Christmas that simply transports you, echoing centuries of traditions unique to each country in the shadow of a unified continent focused on the future. Most every major city in Europe will offer some sort of Christmas market, but those in Austria, Switzerland, and southern Germany go all out. Vienna, Nuremberg, and other cities make the most of their snowy, Alpine locales and architecture to create a vision of winter that feels like something out of a fantasy story. Even cities like Cologne, where the architecture is more modern, find their own ways to get into the Christmas spirit (not hard when you’re Germany’s go-to destination for chocolate, fragrances, and other ideal last minute gifts).
Winter is a terrific time to connect a number of these cities on a Central Europe tour by land. But another way to experience this region during the holidays is on a Christmas Cruise. If a cruise on the Danube or Rhine has been your dream Europe vacation for years, few options beat combining it with the magic of the Christmas season in this part of the world.
Traditional Christmas market in the historic centre of Frankfurt, Germany
Ice, Snow, Santa Claus, and the Greatest Light Show on Earth
An Iceland, Lapland, or Scandinavia vacation is a great choice in winter, and no, I’m not crazy. Even in the Nordic countries, winters can feel mild compared to a lot of North America. True, the days are shorter, but Northern Europeans know how to make the most of their natural conditions and wild seasonal changes. These countries offer a number of experiences you won’t find anywhere else.
Chief among these is The Northern Lights, a phenomenon you’ll only be able to see in winter, and only if you venture outside the big cities. In Iceland, a trip to see the lights is pretty straightforward. Excursions leave more or less nightly from Reykjavik, making the Northern Lights an easy addition to your Iceland vacation, even if it’s just a quick stopover.
Rug Up and Fly! Why Winter is Prime Time for an Iceland Vacation
Northern Lights over Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, Iceland
There is however, another way to see them, staying in accommodation you’ll be talking about for years to come. A glass-domed igloo in the Lapland region of Finland gives you the ultimate view of the northern sky’s most spectacular show. What could be better than relaxing in a warm bed to enjoy it, knowing the snowy forest is right outside?
If you’re taking a family vacation in Europe (or you just want to be a big kid), Lapland also lays a pretty good claim to being the home of Santa Claus. You can even stay in Santa’s Village over Christmas Eve! It’s located right on the Arctic Circle, close to Lapland’s capital, Rovaniemi. Rug up, though. This is one Europe destination where winters do average below -10°C/15°F. But then, what would be the fun of visiting Santa without snow?
Glass igloos of Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Finnish Lapland
Snowbirding the European Way
Alright, so the magic of the holiday season has passed, you’ve rung in the New Year (with the resolution to travel more, of course) and now you’re just trying to get through those long, dreary months of January and February. You could take off to Florida or Arizona and pay premium rates with most of the snowbirds, or take advantage of the mild spring-like weather and off-season bargains available on the beaches of Southern Europe. Most of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean are great winter vacation spots, but some stand out in particular.
We’re going to go out on a limb and guess that at least one of your friends has been to Portugal in the past year. These days, it seems everyone in North America is talking about this small but hugely influential country as if it’s only just arrived. But Portugal has been enchanting Europeans for a very long time, nowhere more so than in its Algarve region. The beaches here are almost peerless, but if you’re coming in winter, you’ll have the chance to enjoy more of a cultural getaway, exploring the small villages that dot the region, delicious Portuguese cuisine, and a hopping year-round nightlife if you’re so inclined. Golfers will love it too, since the Algarve is famous for its links.
Consider a Portugal Vacation for Your Winter Getaway
Beautiful beach, cliffs and stairs in colourful Carvoeiro in the Algarves, Portugal
Just across the border lies Spain’s Costa del Sol, a 150 kilometre stretch of gorgeous coast between Gibraltar and the city of Malaga. It’s crammed with sun-seeking Europeans in the summer, but in the winter months, it’s a great way to immerse yourself in the culture of southern Spain without feeling the tourist crush. Staying for a month or more, on this Europe vacation, also gives you a terrific jumping off point for day or overnight trips throughout the region. Granada, Cordoba, and even Seville are all within day tripping distance, and you’ll find it much easier to get tickets for popular attractions like the Alhambra.
If you’d like to spend the winter months somewhere completely different, where the crowds are relatively thin even in summer, Malta might just be your ideal Mediterranean hideaway. English is understood by most everyone, and the island’s tiny size makes getting around and exploring relatively easy. History buffs and culture vultures will also love the unique intersection between European and Arabic cultures here.
Traditional houses and walls of Valletta, Malta
Whether you’re looking to escape the cold or dive right into all the season has to offer, Europe is a winter destination you can’t afford to dismiss.
News: Ideas for winter holidays in Europe❄
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Ideas for winter holidays in Europe❄
Ideas for winter holidays in Europe❄
Winter in Europe is different: in the north – heavy snowfalls and sunny weeks, the Mediterranean beckons with sunny weather, and the central part – with cozy cafes and a Christmas atmosphere. This is the best time to visit megacities and villages: at this time there is no influx of tourists, so you can visit more interesting places.
1. Rovaniemi, Finland
✨If you want to really feel the atmosphere of Christmas, you should visit Finland, the Lapland city of Rovaniemi. It is he who is traditionally considered the habitat of the main Christmas character – Santa Claus. Here you can visit the cave in which the fabulous grandfather supposedly lives. This cave is a kind of storage of Christmas – souvenirs from all over the world are collected here, symbolizing this holiday. There is also the Arktikum museum in the town, thanks to which you can learn a lot of interesting things about the life of people in the northern latitudes. Keep in mind that it is very cold there, so be sure to take warm clothes with you and plunge into a fairy tale.
2. Christmas Markets: Germany and Austria
✨In December, markets are opened in Germany and other countries of central Europe, imbued with a romantic Christmas atmosphere. Here you can buy everything: from gingerbread to sledge bells and all sorts of goodies, which are served with a glass of warm mulled wine. Useful advice: Fairs in Cologne, Vienna and Munich attract crowds of tourists, but fairs in small towns can be a pleasant surprise.
3. Prague, Czech Republic
✨According to tourists, one of the best European cities for winter holidays is the Czech capital Prague. This place is ideal for lovers of comfort and romance – quiet streets, houses in a medieval style … Prague is beautiful at any time of the year, but in winter, when twilight falls early on the city and numerous lanterns are lit, making the snow sparkle and shimmer with different colors, the city seems simple fabulous. The mild climate also contributes to comfort – in Prague there are rarely severe frosts. The main weather disadvantages of the city are strong winds and dampness, but you can hide from these troubles in any roadside cafe, with which Prague abounds.
4. Budapest, Hungary
✨Skating couples holding hands exhaling puffs of steam in the freezing air. .. There’s no better place to join them than the picturesque Varosliget Park in the Hungarian capital with its huge outdoor skating rink. Frozen after skiing? Budapest is famous for its magnificent thermal baths. Helpful Hint: At night, try to find the “ruin pub” category bars – these are drinking establishments created in abandoned buildings.
5. Venice, Italy
✨Venice is also a good option for winter tourism. Most of the visitors come there in the summer, and as a result, the city is simply packed: it is very difficult to find a place in a hotel or rent a room, you have to stand in long lines to ride the gondola. In winter, it is much calmer there: you can wander the streets, admire the beauty of buildings, visit museums and ancient cathedrals, ride river buses or visit the Fenice Opera House. And in February you can watch the Venice Carnival. This is one of the most popular attractions this month in Europe, so you need to prepare for a large influx of tourists. It is better to admire the city itself and delve into its history in a quieter time.
6. Jasna, Slovakia
✨Slovakia offers affordable skiing. The cost of renting accommodation and food is also quite affordable, and the local friendliness cannot be compared with the arrogance of the alpine slopes. Jasna resort is the best in Slovakia, it is located among the impenetrable Tatra Mountains, with long slopes, on the sides of which snow-covered coniferous trees grow.
where to go with a child, where to relax in winter resorts
Winter holidays in Europe with children are simply wonderful! Snow-capped peaks of the Alps at the famous ski resorts, thermal springs, ecological tourism in the nature reserves of Lapland, where you can meet Santa Claus at the same time.
A trip to amusement parks and super shows and attractions in Disneyland and Gardaland, travel to European cities, when the spiers of the town halls of Stockholm and Copenhagen, the majestic Cologne Cathedral, a little powdered with snow, are ready to welcome you, and the beautiful places of the Mediterranean and the northern seas during cruises – all this beckons, attracts and truly fascinates! And for young children, the best tourists in the world, this is an indelible impression and wonderful entertainment.
Europe in winter: where to go?
If you take care of a Schengen visa in advance, then there are simply no problems with choosing a place where to go in winter with a child on the European continent! You can devote the New Year holidays to some kind of holiday program, when wonderful Christmas markets are open, or even ride reindeer or dogs in Finland.
You can visit historical places, see the main attractions of such beautiful European cities: Paris, Madrid, Vienna, Prague and others, you can have fun in the best amusement parks in Europe.
It is not necessary, even if the child and you have such an opportunity, to strive to get to Europe around Christmas and New Year. At this time, everything is beautiful, but quite expensive. There is an opportunity to dispel the myth about the “mad” cost of holidays on the continent and go on a winter holiday with children in Europe inexpensively, for example, on a bus tour.
Such a holiday is becoming more and more popular due to its richness and budget. We will consider all these possibilities in detail in the article.
A trip to the ski resorts of Europe
This is, of course, a wonderful form of recreation that is gaining more and more popularity. Magnificent winter Alps, Balkans, Apennines appear in all their glory. During such trips, a charge of vivacity and health is acquired, and the impressions for you and your children are wonderful! French, Austrian and Swiss ski resorts will, of course, be more expensive, but Bulgarian (Bansko), Slovenian (Jasna), Polish (Zakopane), Romanian (Poiana Brasov) resorts provide excellent conditions and a wonderful holiday. However, they are relatively cheap.
And, of course, it is very important to have ski slopes for children almost all over Europe, instructors who can quickly and safely teach a child (and adults, by the way, too) the basics of this wonderful sport, conditions for skiing: ski lifts, equipment rental, variability of slopes .
And it is also important that in Europe, unlike the ski resorts of other continents, there are always places where you can go with interest with your children after skiing. The mountainous Tyrol in Austria is especially distinguished by this, and Switzerland with France and Italy are a miracle in this regard, how good they are.
Ecological holidays in European resorts in winter
Feels close to ski holidays, but with a greater concentration on admiring the unique nature of old Europe, a trip to ecological resorts is worth it. A trip to Lapland, the home of Santa Claus, is one of the most interesting options for such a trip. Here you can ride a dog sled, imagine yourself as a “little robber” from Andersen’s fairy tale and tickle a deer, etc. Well, Santa Claus is already a “snack”! Super impressions for your beloved children are guaranteed!
Or you can go to Austria and admire a real miracle of nature there – the Eisriesenwelt ice caves, just 40 kilometers from Salzburg, or go to Switzerland to the White Pod resort and enjoy the amazing Alps in winter. There are ideal conditions for relaxation everywhere, but if the children suddenly get bored with it, they got into a car or a bus, and now you are already in the center of the benefits of civilization in an hour!
A trip to the thermal spas of Europe with children in winter
This is one of the most wonderful types of recreation! Winter, cold, slush, and you are happy to take balneological procedures in thermal springs, which are quite numerous in Europe. Yes, and it will be “fun” for children to swim in a naturally hot pool when steam comes from it on the street!
Among the wonderful and inexpensive hot springs in Europe are Terme Olimia in Slovenia, Vrdnik Banya in Serbia, Poseidon Gardens on the island of Ischia in Italy, Bad Waltersdorf in Austria.
It is worth highlighting two more wonderful places in terms of relaxation at thermal springs. The first is Budapest with the Széchenyi baths and the modernist Gellert baths. Budapest is an amazingly beautiful city, and this tour to the thermal spa will be combined with an “excursion” to one of the most attractive cities in Europe.
It will also be interesting for children. The second is the thermal baths of Caldera in mountainous Andorra, where one of the best complexes in the world is located. There are Roman baths, and Turkish, and Finnish, and pools, from which you emerge and see majestic mountains in front of you. By the way, in Andorra “thermal” and ski holidays can be combined.
Winter excursions to the cities of Europe
The cities of Europe are wonderful in winter! Magical Prague and slightly pompous Vienna, romantic Paris and business-like Brussels, prim London and amazing Stockholm look great in winter, especially around Christmas time, which children really like.
Bus tours in Europe in winter
They are diverse because Europe, despite its striving for unity, is very different. Hungary and Italy, Prague holidays and holidays in Paris, Munich and six capitals in one trip – all this will bring great pleasure to you and your child for relatively little money!
The only thing to consider is that long journeys are rather tiring, and no matter how the children get depressed during such a trip. But if the child treats such options well, then this is almost an ideal option in terms of the amount of impressions received!
The most beautiful cities in Europe in winter
After all, you can “wave” to Europe in your own or rented car and see these snow-covered cities, as if they came from a fairy tale. Here is Andersen’s Copenhagen, and here is Dumas’ Paris, here Astrid Lindgren’s snow-covered Stockholm (do not forget to go to Junibacken, the museum of the writer, go there!), And here Bremen of the Grimm Brothers, Conan Doyle’s London and J. Rowling and Mozart’s Vienna.
These cities are beautiful in their winter charm, whether you decide to fly there, come on a bus tour or by car. What to see, decide for yourself, but the beauty of Europe in winter is worth seeing. And for kids, it’s great!
A trip to amusement parks in winter
This type of recreation will surely make the little hearts of children beat with joy! After all, it is such a joy to get to Disneyland in Paris or Europa-Park in Rust in Germany, Tivoli in Copenhagen or Port Aventura near Barcelona, Gardaland in Italy or Liseberg in Sweden.
Such parks can be listed for a long time, they are united by the happiness that they give to their visitors, regardless of age, with their rides, shows, exhibitions. Some amusement parks have their own hotels, for example, in Disneyland, so that nothing distracts children from pleasure!
Sea cruises in the Mediterranean
In winter, these cruises have their own charm. Yes, swimming in the open air will not work, but due to the unique climate of Middle-earth, it is likely that the weather will be pleasant during the winter months. And to go to the sights of Athens and Naples, Malta and the Cote d’Azur of France, such cruises will definitely make it possible!
And the suffocating heat that is so characteristic of southern Europe in the summer, and which so prevents you and children from enjoying travel, will not be your companion at this time.
Budget winter holidays with children in Europe
Not necessarily the associative series “Holidays in Europe – winter – children” should end with the definition “expensive”. Yes, during the pre-Christmas and New Year periods prices skyrocket. But you can go at another time, and the cost of the tour will be much more acceptable.