Trying to find some must see places in Europe in winter?
Then you’re in luck because I’ve asked some of my fave blogger buddies to share with me their picks for the best places to see in Europe in winter.
If you’re in need of a little European winter travel inspiration then you’ve come to the right place.
Between their fascinating histories, delectable cuisines, and mesmerizing landscapes, these 22 locations really are some of the best winter city breaks in Europe.
This diverse assortment of European winter destinations will appeal to just about any type of traveler, from the most adventurous to someone looking for a little relaxation.
So leave the long ques, inflated prices, and insane crowds behind.
Enjoy some of my favorite European cities during the winter, when many of these places take on a new character and charm that is totally different from their summer counterparts.
But enough gum flapping!
Let’s check out 20 of the best places to visit in Europe in winter!
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1. Grindelwald, Switzerland
By: Dorothy Shively of Oz and Other Places
I’ve never been a fan of cold weather, so if I’m planning a trip during the winter it’s usually to someplace with a beach.
But this past year, Grindelwald, Switzerland changed my mind.
“Why add Grindenwald to your winter itinerary?” you may wonder.
Well, Grindelwald is a small town, nestled in the Swiss Alps of the Jungfrau region, that can be easily accessed by either train. Plus, there is even a year-round bus that can escort you through town.
While my favorite thing about Grindelwald was definitely the views (like the one above), a close second was the laid-back attitude.
Everyone in town, from our Airbnb host to the ski shop attendant, was super friendly and helpful.
This town is much more affordable than many of the better-known ski towns in Switzerland. Yet, this winter wonderland still offers travelers a ton of charming chalets and restaurants to choose from.
You also won’t get bored since there is a ton to do here; anything from downhill skiing to sledding to hiking!
Grindelwald even has a ski lift that leaves right from the center of town, making it easy to get to the ski slopes and enjoy a nice day of winter fun.
If you’re looking for a fun and picturesque winter getaway that is absolutely one of the best places to go in winter in Europe, then you can’t go wrong with Grindelwald!
2. Rüdesheim, Germany
By: Lindsay Davies of I’ve Been Bit
In the middle of Germany’s wine country lies a tiny little town with plenty of charm known as Rüdesheim.
Here, adorable shops and quaint, cobblestone streets are around every turn, just waiting to bewitch anyone who visits.
Sprinkle in some snow and quickly Rüdesheim becomes one of the most beautiful places in Europe in winter!
Don’t Believe Me?
Just take a ride up the Seilbahn, or chairlift, and enjoy some of the brilliant views of nearby castles and iconic vineyards filled with Riesling grapes.
Even in the dead of winter:
You’ll be awestruck by the view of the sun, just above Ehrenfels Castle, as it sets beneath the Bingen hills on the horizon.
Just be Sure to:
Bring a hot cup of coffee (or a tall glass of wine) and just watch the brilliant colors take over the sky. I dare you not to fall head over heels in love with this picturesque place!
3. Bled, Slovenia
By: Mary Beth Charles of MB Sees
I’ve been to Bled, Slovenia, twice during winter, and if this amazing place isn’t on your list of must-see places during winter in Europe, then it should be.
Just take a crisp, quiet winter stroll around the lake’s scenic waterways and you’ll likely find a local roasting chestnuts over an open fire, right along the shore.
But if this Site doesn’t Offer Enough Christmas Charm for you:
Then visit during the winter holiday season and experience some of the wonders of a lakeside, Winter Village.
After Enjoying this Quaint Holiday Village:
Find a nearby local who can take you on a gondola ride to the Church of the Assumption, on Bled Island, in the middle of the lake.
Once on the Island:
A 99-step stairway will lead you from the landing area all the way to the church entrance. Go inside and try ringing the church “wishing bells”, a task that is surprisingly difficult.
Take some time to explore Bled Castle; a historic structure that overlooks the lake on a nearby cliff and that provides visitors with some of the best panoramic views in the entire area.
This castle is also home to an amazing wine cellar where castle caretakers will package a bottle of Slovenian wine for you that comes straight out of the oak barrels stored here.
Just seal the bottle with wax, add your own label, and you have a unique souvenir that will remind you of your beautiful time at Lake Bled.
4. Athens, Greece
By: Anna Hall of Would be Traveller
Athens, Greece is one of the best winter city breaks in Europe since it is a great place to escape the frigid cold found in many other European countries.
Winter isn’t peak travel season in Athens, so not only will the city be less crowded, but the prices will be cheaper too!
I visited Athens for the first time in December, and it felt like I was one of the only tourists there!
And while guidebooks and bloggers warned me that I would need to queue for hours at ticket offices, there was barely any queue at all.
Instead of climbing up the Acropolis in the blazing sun, we arrived at the top without even breaking a sweat.
Visiting Athens in winter also meant that we could take pictures of the Parthenon without hordes of tourists getting in our way.
The one downside is that during the winter, Athens was a lot colder than we expected since we actually had snow during our visit.
But that didn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves while we were there. Just make sure that you’re prepared and check the weather forecast before you go!
5. Salzburg, Austria
By: Nicky Cade of That Anxious Traveler
What’s the best thing about traveling to Europe in the winter?
If you’re anything like me, then it has to be the pretty streets decked out in Christmas regalia, the beautiful views of snow-capped mountains, the ultra cute-yet-practical sweater that you wear by a roaring fire, and the hearty food that you devour in a friendly pub.
There is no better place to find all of these things, and more, than in Salzburg, Austria.
Check! One of the best things to do in Salzburg is to stroll through the achingly beautiful streets, with wrought-iron shop signs that look like they came right out of a Christmas card.
Just take a stroll down Getreidgasse (a street where you’ll find the house in which Mozart was born), and gaze upon rows of holiday decorations that stretch out as far as the eye can see; a true winter wonderland.
Check! Catch the funicular up to Hohensalzburg Fortress, and marvel at the jaw-dropping view of the Berchtesgaden Alps.
They’ll be blanketed by snow and create a magical view that is only enhanced by the city’s pale brick buildings and the golden hue from the city’s many charming streetlights.
Check! Pop by my favorite Salzburg eatery – Gasthof Alter Fuchs – and enjoy a huge serving of schnitzel, sausage, or strudel.
You’ll feel wonderfully cozy amidst the fox-themed surroundings of this delightful restaurant.
Yup, Salzburg has it all! The only thing you’ll need to supply is your own cute winter sweater. Sorry.
6. Brussels, Belgium
By: Nicola Rae of See Nic Wander
On any given day, there’s a lot to love about Brussels.
It’s a homey city that is compact and easy to navigate, making it perfect the perfect destination for “directionally challenged” travelers like me.
The people are also super friendly and the architecture is amazing since the Grand Palace basically left me speechless every time I walked by.
And While Yes:
Brussels is less flashy than neighboring Paris and London, it still has a quiet charm that makes it feel cozier than other, bigger cities.
Who wouldn’t become slightly obsessed with a city that is known for beer, frites, waffles, and chocolate?
But I must say that in the winter:
Brussels is nothing short of magical.
This city takes awesomeness to a whole new level by introducing Christmas Markets into the city landscape; markets that make the streets practically come alive with little, snow-covered huts that sell food, gifts, and warm mulled wine.
For much of December and January:
Winter festivities take place every day and become one of the best things to do in Brussels; with light shows that illuminate the Grande Palace and outdoor ice-skating rinks where you can watch children glide by.
When I see those twinkling Christmas lights and walk through the miles of winter markets, I feel like this is the way that winter was always meant to be.
7. Madrid, Spain
Spain is one of the most popular places for a vacation when it comes to Europe in Winter. If I had to take my top pick in the country my finger would definitely hover over Madrid.
The temperatures are definitely a draw when it comes to the country but Madrid however can get really cold as compared to places like the Canary islands. It even snows sometimes. Yup! I’m not kidding you.
So, then what’s the draw?
Madrid has loads to do and a whole lot of history to immerse oneself in. Definitely head out on a walking tour. If the weather permits then try out one of the cycle tours! It is fun and the exercise does keep the body nice and toasty!
The city has loads of museums which are nice and warm. In fact, a lot of the museums rank as top things to do in the city!
Madrid is central and pretty well connected. That means that you can embark on plenty of day trips from the city.
While you are at it, don’t forget to try out the food that makes the capital city so popular!
8. Vatnajökull Glacier, Iceland
By: Kris Morton of Nomad by Trade
Southeastern Iceland is home to Europe’s largest glacier by volume; a glacier that offers visitors a spectacular assortment of ice caves to explore.
We took a guided tour of the glacier, that departed from the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, and were driven 40 minutes into the surrounding national park before we reached the ice cave itself.
Before We Descended into the Caves Below:
We snowmobiled atop the glacier for about an hour. Once we were finished, we ventured into the cave and were blown away by the light that bounced off the rippling blue ice above us; a stunning scene, while caving in Vatnajökull Glacier, that made us feel as though we were walking underwater.
Because the Vatnajökull Glacier Sits Upon an Active Volcano:
We saw streaks of black ash within the ice cave that added to the beauty of this enchanting place; ash that dates all the way back to eruptions from hundreds of years ago.
And while this expedition was a bit pricey, it was worth it since this site has become one of our favorite places to go in Europe in winter.
9. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
By: Lindsey Shianna of Hello Jetlag
Situated along Germany’s Romantic Road, the picturesque town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is known as the Christmas capital of Germany; and for good reason, since you can stop here and shop for Christmas themed gifts, all year round.
It’s during the winter season that this tiny town really shows it’s festive side. Step inside the medieval walls of the city’s Old Town and be transported into a winter wonderland full of garland, twinkling lights, and Christmas trees that line the streets ( a perfect stop along any of the best European Christmas market cruises)
Feel a bit Hungry?
Then snack on some roasted chestnuts or snowballs (scheeballs) that are made of shortcake dough and smothered in powdered sugar and chocolate. You can also into any restaurant in town and warm up with a nice, tall glass of hot, mulled wine.
But it Gets Better!
Visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber during the holidays and you’ll see one of Germany’s most popular Christmas Markets, a market that is now over 500 years old!
Don’t forget to visit the German Christmas Museum and learn about the history of Christmas while enjoying some holiday decorations that date all the way back to the 1870’s.
So While Yes:
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is magical throughout the year, this tiny town’s affinity for all things festive makes it one of Europe’s best winter destinations.
9. Tromso and Alta, Norway
By: Amanda Williams of A Dangerous Business
When I think of popular winter destinations in Europe, I think of cold weather since I’m a Midwest girl and don’t mind the cold if I’m traveling to an amazing place like Northern Norway.
Not only are there a ton of fun things to do in Northern Norway, but this region is also a lot warmer than most people think since it sits along the coast and is warmed up by the adjacent, currents from the Atlantic.
If you plan to visit one of the most beautiful places in Norway this winter:
Then definitely check out Tromso, the “Gateway to the Arctic” and the largest city in the region, as well as Alta, a much smaller, more Northern town that is home to an ice hotel that you can sleep in!
Both cities offer visitors the chance to enjoy a variety of winter activities like driving your own dog sled and cross-country skiing. They are also two of the best places to see the Northern Lights.
You’ll definitely need to stop for a moment and catch a glimpse of the vibrant, Northern Lights as they dance through the sky and make you fall in love with some of my favorite European cities in winter. Because there truly are a ton of amazing things to do in Tromso during the winter.
By: Sue Davies of Travel Life for Now
Portugal has been a hot destination in Europe for the past several years. Therefore, during the summer, that means crowds, crowds, and oh yeah, more crowds.
But not so during the winter when there are hardly any crowds at all!
Not only were we able to easily see most of Sintra in a day (something that is impossible in the summer), but we also walked right into some of Lisbon’s top attractions, like St. George’s Castle, Jeronimos Monastery. and the Carriage Museum.
Portugal is located in Southern Europe and has a Mediterranean climate. This means that winters here are mild (think the mid-50s with some dips) and much sunnier than in cities like London or Paris.
If you’re looking for one of the warmest places in Europe in winter; a place that has wonderful food, and interesting places to explore, then Portugal is the place for you this winter.
11. Rovaniemi, Finland
By: Katalin Waga of Our Life, Our Travel
Rovaniemi, Finland is my favorite winter destination in Europe. We spent our last two winters and are looking forward to a third!
Located along the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland:
Rovaniemi is the perfect place to see the northern lights amidst the charming backdrop of a white, snowy winter wonderland.
You can also join a snowmobile safari and hunt for this magical green phenomena, meet some reindeer herders, or simply enjoy the exquisite, Lappish scenery.
If you need to escape the cold for a while:
You can visit the Arktikum Museum and see some spectacular displays about the Arctic and the Sami people that live there. If you’re lucky, you might even see the northern lights in the building’s skylights as you stroll through the museum.
And if that’s still NOT enough:
You can even visit Santa Claus, and his reindeer, as he prepares for the holidays in his village, right next to the city.
Rovaniemi, Finland really is the perfect place to enjoy the true spirit of winter.
12. Nice, France
By: Clare Dewey of Epic Road Rides
Nice, on France’s Côte d’Azur, has been the premiere winter destination of the British aristocracy for generations.
And there’s a reason for that.
Nice is a vivacious and glamours city that is a perfect European winter destination for anyone looking for a more temperate climate.
Skies remain blue and temperatures remain high enough for you to enjoy a nice lunch outside; a rarity in northern Europe during the winter.
A truly vibrant and authentic city that intrigues visitors with the elegant architecture around the Bay of Angels, fabulous museums (our favorite museums are the Musée Matisse and the Musée Marc Chagall), exquisite art galleries, and superb parks.
For an amazing view of the city:
Just climb the vertical steps (or take the lift!) at the Promenade des Anglais and you’ll find enchanting vistas as far as the eye can see. There’s even a kids playground, a lovely waterfall and a yummy cafe for everyone to enjoy.
You can also bring your bike along and enjoy some world-class cycling along the Côte d’Azur in Nice.
But whatever you do:
Visit Nice this winter and I promise that you won’t regret it!
13. Château-d’Oex, Switzerland
By: Katie & Ben of Two Wandering Soles
Not far from Geneva lies the small town of Château-d’Oex, Switzerland. A whimsical and wintery place that has so much charm, it looks like it came out of a fairytale or postcard.
Surrounded by mountains and dotted with traditional Swiss architecture, this village is beautiful throughout the year.
With snow-covered roofs and enchanting ski slopes covered in snow, Château-d’Oex is truly magical during the winter.
But if you really want to enjoy the exquisite views that this town has to offer:
Then take the panoramic train to Château-d’Oex and savor this picturesque landscape throughout your hour-long journey.
Be sure to warm up in a cozy lodge with a nice pot of cheese fondue. The cheese comes out piping hot and is served with crusty bread that is perfect for dipping. Pair your fondue with a nice white wine for the perfect wintertime meal in Switzerland.
Between all the food, beauty and fun in Château-d’Oex, Switzerland:
This tiny town really is the perfect addition to any European winter itinerary.
14. Innsbruck, Austria
By: Olivia Rutt of My Wandering Voyage
What do you picture when you think of winter in Europe?
Do you picture a ski chalet? Fresh white snow? Hot cocoa and mulled wine? If any of these things come to mind then Innsbruck, Austria is the perfect European winter vacation for you.
Situated in Eastern Austria:
This colorful city is perfect for skiers and non-skiers alike. During your stay, you’ll want to stop by Inn Bruke, the main bridge that runs over the Inn River. This spot has incredible views of the river’s turquoise waters and the pastel colors of the Mariahilfstraße.
For another fantastic sight:
Take a trip into the mountains to Seegrube Norkette, a platform that overlooks the Inn valley and that gives visitors stunning, panoramic views of the surrounding Alps.
But make sure you explore this lovely town too!
Just grab a mug of mulled wine, and wander through Innsbruck’s old town, contently getting lost in the wayward streets.
Along the way:
stop at Goldenes Dachl and visit one of the city’s most famous buildings.
Innsbruck really is the perfect winter destination, especially for anyone on a road trip through central Europe.
15. Munich, Germany
By: Susanna Kelly of Wandering Chocobo
Munich, Germany is the perfect place for a winter city break in Europe.
Not only will you (probably) get to see a quaint dusting of snow atop the charming red rooftops of Munich’s many historic buildings, but you’ll also get to enjoy a variety of outdoor winter activities in Munich, like sledding, ice skating, and curling.
If you feel like getting out of town:
You could take a day trip to the Alps and experience some world-class skiing.
But if the cold is too much for you:
You can also step inside one of the city’s many museums, churches, bookstores, cafes, theater halls, and hot indoor saunas.
Plus, depending on when you visit:
There are many different Christmas markets for you to explore; markets like a global sustainable market, an art market, and even an LBGTQI Pink Christmas market, making this the perfect city for a Christmas market trip!
Munich truly has something for everyone and if you ask me, winter only makes this gorgeous European city even better!
16. Bruges, Belgium
By: Suzanne Murphy of Seeking Suzanne
In many ways:
Bruges, Belgium is still considered one of Europe’s best hidden gems, despite gaining tremendous popularity after the 2008 movie In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell.
Visiting Bruges is like taking the best parts of Belgium and wrapping them up in a pretty bow.
The old town center and scenic canals boast an endless amount of charm that fits nicely with the recent influx of trendy bars and beer gardens into the city.
Chocolate shops, breweries and cafes all line Bruges charming, cobbled streets and give way to the expansive Markt Square where you can indulge in a variety of cultural activities like climbing the famous Belfry tower, visiting the local Salvador Dali museum, or exploring 2BE Beer Wall, the world’s largest beer museum.
November through January is the best time to visit Bruges since you can enjoy a stunning Christmas market that virtually engulfs the city in true, holiday spirit.
Explore the market:
And indulge in some Belgian waffles, truffles, and raclette fondue to help keep you warm on a cold and blustery day. Once you’re full, find a cozy pub where you can relax after a fantastic day exploring all that Bruges has to offer.
17. Budapest, Hungary
Another capital city that makes a great place to visit in Europe in winter is Budapest. The iconic city is popular during the summer months but few realize how winter transforms the place into a winter wonderland.
On the side of the Danube river, the gorgeous architecture of the city is usually framed with white. Yes! The snow makes a striking contrast with the old bathhouses and the architecture of the older buildings. It is a sight that I love.
Winter shopping is fun:
If winter markets are your thing and you don’t mind a walk then head up Castle Hill. Here you can catch one of the best views of the city and the Danube river as it winds its way on land. Don’t forget the local delicacies and the hot apple cider that you will find being sold.
One of the best things to do in the city when the cold seeps into your bones is to head to one of the 100 thermal springs that Budapest has. The whole thermal spring baths goes back to when the Romans occupied the land. In fact, while you are at it, get a spa!
You can see why Budapest is a great place to spend winter in Europe.
18. Gothenburg, Sweden
By: Hannah Kacary of That Adventurer Blog
My favorite winter destination in Europe is Gothenburg, Sweden. I traveled to Gothenburg one December when I needed a bit more Christmas spirit.
And with its quaint winter charm, Gothenburg definitely gave me that.
It’s the perfect winter destination since it gets cold (but not frigid), has an awesome Christmas market (complete with mulled wine and cider) and has thousands of Christmas lights strung up everywhere, twinkling brightly.
For a fantastic winter’s day in Gothenburg:
Start out with a visit to the Gothenburg Archipelago while wrapped up in exceptionally warm clothes and sipping a hot chocolate.
Spend the afternoon at the Christmas market where you can warm up with a nice dinner full of meatballs and mash and create the perfect end to a lovely day.
19. London, England
By: Krix Eniko of Travel Hacker Girl
Visiting London during the winter season is a great idea, especially during Christmas.
Throughout the holiday season:
The whole city feels almost magical, with Christmas lights twinkling in the city center and vibrantly colored, holiday-themed shop windows popping up everywhere.
Throughout November and December:
You can also find a variety of different Christmas markets, throughout the city, that sell everything from handcrafted products, to delicious street food to mulled wine.
If you want to avoid the crowds that celebrate Christmas in London:
Try visiting London during January or February when there are fewer tourists, shorter queues for major attractions, and more affordable accommodations.
London has a much milder climate than much of Europe. Therefore, if you dress appropriately, you can still enjoy lovely walks along the Thames or through the city center.
If the weather is a bit too chilly for you, you can always visit one of London’s many free museums or watch a show in the West End.
20. Three Cities, Malta
By: Sarah Vanheel of Cosmopolican Luxury Family Travel
The Three Cities is an ideal winter destination for anyone looking to escape the harsh cold of a European winter.
Here, not only will you find a bright winter sun, that makes this area one of the warmest places in Europe in February, but you’ll enjoy grand architecture that will take your breath away.
And while other tourists will be overrunning Valletta, the European Capital of Culture in 2018:
You’ll be enjoying your morning coffee, with the locals, on the terrace of one of the Three Cities’ hole-in-the-wall cafes
To get here:
Simply take a picturesque water taxi ride from the capital, and marvel at the beautiful views of Gardjola Gardens (at the tip of Senglea), and Fort Sant Angelo (at the tip of Vittoriosa (Birgu)), before ending your journey in the harbor of Cospicua (Bormla).
All Three Cities breathe authenticity and charm:
Yet each has their own distinct personality. Vittoriosa, once the capital of Malta, is our favorite since it is a maze of beautifully restored narrow streets and has an enchanting, grand marina.
21. Puglia, Italy
By: Cris Puscas of LooknWalk
Why do I love to visit Italy during winter?
One word: Puglia!
My first visit was in March and I fell in love. The weather was ideal for a t-shirt (the wind can be brutal so a windbreaker is a must), the crowds were non-existent, the prices were affordable, and the food was amazing!
I love Puglia so much that I even lived there for five weeks during the winter!
While I was there, I was even lucky enough to see a presepe (nativity scene) where actual people acted out the scene and created an entire city.
The only downside is that:
If you want to travel between cities it’s challenging since connections are limited. But it’s not impossible. Just research the departure schedule and have a translation app ready, unless you speak Italian (one of my top Italy travel tips for Puglia).
Oh and one more thing:
Pack some shoes with good grip that won’t slip on wet stairs.
22. Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
Tucked away, above the Arctic Circle in Sweden, is the teeny tiny town of Jukkasjärvi (say that ten times fast).
A quaint, idyllic winter village where you can embrace the harsh beauty of an ice-cold winter.
Just gaze up at the vibrant glow of the Northern Lights and enjoy a majestic landscape of snow that is dotted with reindeer in the distance.
But it gets better!
Believe it or not, but Jukkasjärvi, Sweden is home to the largest ice hotel in the entire world!
With over 65 rooms, the ICEHOTEL of Sweden looks like something plucked right out of Disney’s Frozen, minus the talking snowman.
Each room here is meticulously hand-carved from ice, creating a unique set of ice sculptures that capture the true natural beauty and artistry of this magical place (we had jellyfish floating through our room).
This hotel even has a fully functional ice bar where drinks are served in glasses that are made entirely of ice.
Feel free to grab a drink, relax, and look out over the majestic, frozen river where sled dogs impatiently wait to take you, across the ice, on the ride of your life.
The perfect place to enjoy all the beauty of an almost magical, winter vacation in Europe.