Our Top 6 European Cities to Visit in Winter
When it comes to the best European cities to visit in winter, travelers are spoilt for choice. Vienna, Porto, Rome, Paris, Cologne, Krakow, Bruges, Seville, Funchal and Budapest – destinations that are sure to tick all the boxes if you’re keen to have a holiday in Europe during the cooler months. Why wait for summer, when winter city holidays are so much fun? Here’s our top European cities to visit this winter.
Winters in Vienna might be cold and often snowy, but if you’re prepared for the weather, you can enjoy this magnificent city at one of its most spectacular times of the year. The Austrian capital is one of the most elegant of imperial cities all year round, but visit during the festive period, with December temperatures averaging a frosty 0°C and you’ll experience this musical city in all its glory, with light bedecked streets and beautifully dressed shop windows.
From mid-November to Christmas, Vienna’s prettiest squares transform into magical Christmas markets, a tradition dating back to Medieval times, whilst the aroma of Christmas pastries and hot punch hangs in the air and locals skate on the city’s ice rink to the nostalgic sounds of classical favorites.
Visit early winter to enjoy sparkling Christmas decorations and festive shopping at fancy boutiques and Christmas markets alike. Keep warm while sightseeing with a glass or two of vin chard or a cup of hot chocolate at one of Paris’ many charming cafes. Or shelter from the elements with a visit to the Louvre, the Centre Pompidou, Musée D’Orsay or another of Paris’ world-class museums. For an alternative undercover adventure, head underground to visit the famous Paris catacombs – home to over six million bones!
Whilst you’ll need your brolly visiting Porto in the cooler months, compared to other European cities, the winters here are mild, with December temperatures averaging 10°C and it never snows. You’ll enjoy plenty of bright clear skies at this time of year too as well as all the sights, sounds and delicious flavors of this authentic Portuguese city without the crowds in tow.
Take a bracing walk along the famous Dom Luis Bridge, soaking up the glorious views or hop on a tram to enjoy the historic cityscape from a different perspective. Stroll the city’s boulevards stopping to take in the Art Deco architecture, street art and tempting shops! You’ll certainly want to pay a visit to one (or more!) of the city’s famed wineries to sample the world-famous product too. Whilst grapes have been cultivated on Portuguese soil since Roman times, port as we know it today dates to the latter half of the 17th century and you’ll find museums, cellars and port wine shops to browse all over the city.
Amble through the UNESCO old town, with its ancient churches, winding cobbled alleys, with washing strung high above and the haunting sound of fado echoing from tucked away bars. Take in the granite façade of the historic São Bento station, dating from 1916 and step inside to view the 2,000 hand painted tiles of its stunning murals! A warming coffee break is a must – accompanied by a delicious Portuguese pastry or famed pastel de nata of course!
Undisputedly Rome is one of the best cities in the world to visit at any time of year, but during winter – when generally the weather isn’t as bad as you might think – you’ll be able to explore this stunning city’s cultural attractions without the tourist hoards for a unique ‘Roman Holiday’! With temperatures during November generally hovering around 15-18°C you might still enjoy some lovely days, with afternoon sunshine casting its long shadows over the Eternal City’s iconic landmarks for truly exceptional views.
Pack your chicest winter wardrobe to stroll the Piazza Navona, take in the Spanish Steps, Colosseum and Palatine Hill against the backdrop of a crisp winter’s day. Make sure you savor the experience of a less-crowded Sistine Chapel or the tranquil beauty of the Villa Borghese’s gardens and artworks. You won’t need any excuses to immerse yourself in the coffee culture amongst the locals too, as you retreat to a cozy café for a real Italian coffee and some people-watching. And of course, nothing beats the comfort of some hearty pasta dishes to stave off the winter chill!
Finnish Lapland is a winter wonderland like no other, perhaps best exemplified in the region’s capital city of Rovaniemi. Aside from being perhaps the best place to spend Christmas (the town claims to be the official hometown of Santa Claus, after all), Rovaniemi is packed with reindeer farms, husky sledding, ice skating rinks, and Northern Lights safaris that make it a must-visit for adventurous families. If you’d prefer something a little less festive and a little more pensive, book a few nights at the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel. Here you can sip glogg by the fire, eat cloudberry ice cream and smoked salmon, and take in views of the snow-blanketed forests from your warm bed.
Visiting Switzerland during ski season is kind of a no-brainer—especially if you plant yourself in Zermatt. Sitting at the foot of the country’s iconic Matterhorn Mountain, this impossibly gorgeous resort town has an abundance of serious skiers, fresh powder, and epic views from the lifts. Its après-ski scene (which, let’s be honest, is just as important as the slopes) is also the best around: Enjoy a lemon drop martini at the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof’s Star Bar, refuel with some alpine cuisine at Brasserie Lusi, and take in a spa treatment or two at Hotel Firefly.
When you visit the birthplace of hygge (basically the Danish concept of “coziness”), you better believe your winter vacation is going to be inviting. That lovely feeling can be found throughout Copenhagen, from pastry shops to inviting hotels. Don’t feel like you have to stay indoors to enjoy the season, though. Those Michelin-starred restaurants, Tivoli Gardens, and canal views are certainly worth bundling up for. And is it just us, or do the buildings of Nyhavn look even more colorful against a snowy background?
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