TEN EUROPEAN CITIES TO VISIT DURING THE WINTER
From sleigh rides through the Swiss countryside and skiing the breathtaking Alps to lounging in outdoor thermal pools and raging at ice festivals, Europe has some of the best and most unique places to spend the winter. Whether you have just a weekend or a whole week to blow, there are an unlimited amount of places to explore. To help you narrow it down, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten cities to visit in the winter.
- Abisko, Sweden
If you’re a serious winter lover, Abisko is one of the best places you can go. Almost as far north as you can get on a train in Europe, this Swedish town is one of the world’s best places to catch the Northern Lights. Before you travel there, be forewarned that the sun doesn’t rise for weeks in December and January, but that means it will always feel like Saturday night! Besides gazing at the aurora borealis, visitors can ski, hike, ice skate, go dog sledding, and explore the national parks. Don’t forget to check out the famous Icehotel in nearby Kiruna, which was the world’s first hotel made of ice.
- Copenhagen, Denmark
As the home of Hans Christian Andersen, Copenhagen is one of the most fairytale-like cities in Europe, especially in winter. The Danish concept of “hygge” (or “coziness”) is at its peak in winter, when locals spend their afternoons and evenings relaxing, drinking hot chocolate, and enjoying their beautiful surroundings. Top sights in Copenhagen include Tivoli Amusement Park, Christiansborg Slot, and Rosenborg Castle, which are all even more charming covered in snow. Don’t miss out on Copenhagen’s winter culture month, Wondercool, which occurs in February and includes concerts in unusual venues, art shows, and culinary events.
- Transylvania, Romania
It doesn’t feel right to visit Dracula’s home on a warm, sunny day, so take a visit to Transylvania when it’s cold and snowy! In addition to Dracula, Transylvania is also home to many medieval towns filled with castles, cathedrals, and rich histories that are just begging to be explored. After you’ve frolicked to your heart’s content, don’t forget to hit up one of the area’s many ski resorts and national parks for some real winter activities.
- Venice, Italy
One of the top European tourist attractions in winter is the Carnival of Venice. Beautiful, haunting, and extremely weird, Venice’s February-March celebration is not to be missed. Costumed events can be very pricey, but you can get the full effect of the festival by enjoying the free events with a mask purchased on the street. Carnival aside, traveling to Venice in winter allows visitors to experience the city at a slower pace and really soak up the culture. The city’s canals, beautiful architecture, and old-fashioned atmosphere become magical in winter. A stop in Venice is a definite European highlight.
- Prague, Czech Republic
With its snow-capped spires, cobblestone streets, and the romantic hue of its gas-lit street lamps, Prague is right out of a fairytale. It is relatively tourist-free in the winter, which is surprising because the city’s natural beauty comes to life under a blanket of snow. Stroll through the Prague Castle at your own pace or hit up a local cafe to escape the cold, especially Choco Cafe, which has more than a dozen types of hot chocolate. If you’re in the Czech Republic long enough, be sure to take a day trip to Cesky Krumlov, which is known as the “Pearl of Bohemia”.
- Granada, Spain
If you’re looking to take a break from the bitter cold, Granada is a great solution. However, don’t go Spain under the impression that it will be a beach vacation. Even southern Spain is too cold for the beach in the winter, which is why a city like Granada is such an ideal option because there is more to do than just stroll along the sand. No other region has as much variety as Granada — you can ski the Sierra Nevadas, head to the coast, or simply just roam the city. Spain is much cheaper and less crowded in the winter months, so visitors can truly enjoy the city’s sights without waiting in line or breaking the bank.
- Innsbruck, Austria
Innsbruck is known as the ski and snowboard capital of the world. As the two-time host of the Winter Olympics and covered in internationally recognized alpine resorts, Innsbruck does not disappoint. In addition to tearing up the slopes, visitors can tour the famous Olympic ski jump and other facilities. Innsbruck was also a seat of power for centuries and history buffs will love visiting the royal Habsburg home and soaking up the city’s beautiful architecture. Furthermore, Innsbruck is the home of Swarovski Crystals, and no visit to this city is complete without a tour of their bizarre but beautiful headquarters.
- Reykjavik, Iceland
Even though Iceland is a trek from most popular study abroad spots and it is among Europe’s coldest areas, there are many reasons why its capital is a must-see place. The annual Winter Lights Festival in February is one of the best European celebrations of winter and its abundance of winter sports, museums, and restaurants make it quite a happening place. What makes Reykjavik even more special are the city’s many outdoor geothermal swimming pools, which are some of just a few in Europe. There is nothing quite like relaxing in their naturally warm waters while the snow falls around you. Every pool is unique, so visitors should try as many as possible.
- Edinburgh, Scotland
The winding streets, stunning castles, and beautiful Princes Street Gardens transformed into a winter wonderland make Edinburgh a city to definitely visit in winter. There is nothing more charming than ice skating in the center of one of Europe’s oldest cities and wandering through the Edinburgh castle as the snow slowly falls, if you’re lucky to see it. Be sure to check out the highlands as well, which are exquisite in winter. Arthur’s Seat, on the edge of the city, is the perfect place to take a snowy stroll while soaking up unparalleled views.
- Bled, Slovenia
Bled’s incredible natural beauty combined with its peaceful surroundings make it one of the most superb alpine areas in Europe. Renowned for its healing climate, thermal lake water, and “tucked away” ambiance, this small city is perfect for anyone looking to have a relaxing winter escape. However, don’t shy away from Bled if you’re looking for a bit more adventure – its terrain is ideal for anyone interested in outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, or ice skating. In between relaxing and skiing, don’t forget to check out Bled Castle, a medieval fortress believed to be the oldest castle in Slovenia.
Whether you’re into shredding the slopes or strolling the quaint cobblestone streets, Europe has plenty to offer in the winter. Don’t get bogged down by the cold weather or cabin fever – just pop some cold-weather travel gear on and try something you otherwise couldn’t do in your own city.