Winter is for staying at home and being cosy on the sofa? Absolutely not! Winter is a great season to go for a weekend away and experience some of the best winter city breaks in Europe.
Travelling in this season has many advantages from avoiding the crowds to finding a sweet deal on cheap city breaks.
Whether you’re a sucker for winter sun or in search of a winter wonderland this ultimate guide to 32 top winter city breaks in Europe recommended by travel bloggers will inspire you to book your flight right away.
🎄 Best European Winter City Breaks For Christmas Markets
When we think of winter city breaks in Europe, our minds instantly wander to the Christmas markets that light up every corner of the continent.
It’s a time when cities like Prague and Budapest transform into winter wonderlands, each with its own unique charm.
#1 Bruges, Belgium
There is no better way to experience a truly festive season in Europe than visiting Bruges at Christmas time! Picture strolling amongst medieval townhouses adorned by fairy lights with a delightful Belgian hot chocolate in your hand.
Christmas in Bruges is a truly magical time, and the city really pulls its weight when it comes to festive decoration and activities happening in different locations, with the most special Bruges Christmas Market in the central city’s square.
Apart from the Christmas activities, there are excellent chocolatiers to visit and enjoy proper Belgian hot chocolate, De Halve Maan Brewery to sample Belgian beer and a Beer Museum.
We loved sitting in one of the cafes overlooking the postcard-perfect Quay of the Rosary viewpoint where the two main city canals meet, and a boat trip through the canals.
#2 Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is a wonderful destination any time of year, but during the winter it gets even better! Winter in Prague is generally much quieter, and with much fewer tourists, so you can explore the city in relative peace and feel more like a local.
Walking the streets, visiting the castle, seeing the famous astronomical clock and admiring the beautiful Church of our Lady Before Týn are all essential places to visit in Prague at any time of year. During the winter, it is cold though, so come prepared with plenty of layers and warm clothes – temperatures often hover around freezing, even during the day.
That said, there are plenty of things to do in Prague to keep warm, such as visiting some of the museums like the National Gallery, National Film Museum or Apple Museum which is filled with Apple products old and new.
The food in Prague is hearty and warming, so a tasty meal in a pub or restaurant washed down with Czech beer is a perfect way to while away a couple of hours or a food tour is another option where you can warm up at each stop along the way.
Christmas markets also take over many of the squares in Prague, selling beautiful souvenirs, tasty snacks and mulled wine.
If you are lucky, you might get snow while visiting Prague in winter, which makes the city seem even more magical. I loved getting up early to see the famous Charles Bridge covered in a dusting of snow – and with even fewer people than during the day!
As for where to stay in Prague, the Old Town is the most popular spot with tourists as it is close to most of the attractions in the city. As long as you are prepared for the weather, there is no better place to visit during the winter.
By Claire, Tales of a Backpacker
#3 Budapest, Hungary
If you’re planning a city break in Europe this winter and want to go somewhere festive and Christmassy, Budapest in winter is a fabulous choice!
Budapest has everything you want in winter: adorable Christmas markets with loads of delicious festive food and crafts, cosy bars and cafés that make it inviting to take a seat and warm up for a bit from the cold, winter activities like ice skating and Christmas lights shows, and excellent hearty food and tasty wine to fill your belly in the best way.
What better than a bowl of goulash and a Hungarian red wine to warm you up from the cold?
Between sightseeing, you can warm up and relax in one of Budapest’s many thermal baths, which are lovely in the winter. I especially love the Széchenyi baths with their colourful yellow facade, where you can enjoy the warm outdoor pools and the contrast of the frosty air on your skin. To reach attractions that are further away, Uber services in Budapest come in very handy.
If you’re visiting in winter, it’s best to go in December, when the Christmas decorations are at their peak! Please do note, though, that the actual days surrounding Christmas will mean a lot of businesses and attractions will be closed, so it’s better to aim for the first two weeks of the month.
As for where to stay, I suggest staying on the Pest side of the city, which has more restaurants and is easier to walk around and visit Buda by day to see some of its attractions such as Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion. Stay in one of the hotels with an indoor pool to enjoy a warm and soothing escape from the chilly weather.
By Allison from Eternal Arrival
#4 Salzburg, Austria
Famous for its associations with Mozart, The Sound of Music, stately palaces, and magnificent fortress, Salzburg is a stunning place to visit at any time of the year. And yet, experiencing winter in Salzburg is an unmissable experience.
The magic starts in late November as Christmas markets start appearing in squares around the city, and flows through to December when giant garlands and fairy lights adorn every façade in the old town.
It’s this month you’ll want to watch out for the Krampus parades and the famously terrifying costumes set to scare little children (and unaccustomed adults!) in the street.
Come January you’re likely to find the city dusted with snow. This is the best time to have the city streets to yourself as you browse the boutiques for typical Austrian treasures.
Pop up to the Salzburg Fortress and wander the castle grounds, as well as the hilltop gardens that surround it. In February the snow settles, and it’s an excellent time to try your hand at one of the nearby ski fields, such as Zell Am Zee or Bad Hofgastein.
To make the most of Salzburg in winter, stay central to cut out any unnecessary transport time. Hotel Goldener Hirsch is a central hotel with plenty of old-world charm that will help you experience the authentic side of the city.
By Nadine from Le Long Weekend
#5 Vienna, Austria
If you can survive the cold weather of Austria, then Vienna has to be on your European winter bucket list. Not only is this city a fantastic destination for those who love architecture, history, and culture, but in winter, it wears a festive atmosphere that can only be described as magical.
There are plenty of wintery activities to put on your Vienna itinerary, including visiting its enchanting Christmas markets, admiring the decorated streets, ice skating on a colossal rink (which is open until March) in city hall square, attending the New Year’s Eve ball, and enjoying the Philharmonic’s New Year’s concert.
And if you’re overwhelmed by the weather, you can always grab a cup of coffee and devour a piece of strudel at one of Vienna’s iconic cafes or visit one of the city’s museums. Fun fact – there are more than a hundred of them.
Personally, my favourite thing about Vienna is its elegance. The architecture in this city is exquisite, and every single building is beautiful, whether it’s just a residential building or a landmark like St. Stephen’s Cathedral or the Schönbrunn Palace.
Vienna is not the cheapest city to visit, so I’d recommend searching for hotels outside the city centre. I absolutely loved staying at the Ibis Styles Wien City, which was adorably furnished, clean, comfortable, and close to public transport.
By Or from My Path in the World
#6 Rovaniemi, Finland
Rovaniemi is the ultimate winter destination in Europe. Located on the Arctic Circle, it’s right there where Santa has his official seat!
The No. 1 attraction in Rovaniemi is thus the Santa Claus village. Explore its main building – the Post Office – to see the cute shop assistants with long pointy hats, plenty of little souvenirs to buy, as well as a mailbox with letters to Santa from all over the world, neatly divided according to the countries they came from. You can arrange to see Santa too (year-round!), but it’ll set you back €30.
Apart from visiting Santa Village, Rovaniemi is just a pleasant town to spend a few days in. It’s the largest city in the Finnish Lapland and is still quite easily accessible from Helsinki.
You can engage in many winter activities in Rovaniemi. The most popular are husky and reindeer safari and snowmobile rides.
At the beginning and end of winter (October, November, March), you can also often see the Northern Lights. The magical show nature puts on will belong to one of the most memorable experiences in your life!
When it comes to skiing, there are only small slopes around Rovaniemi, since the area is relatively flat. But if you like cross-country skiing, you’ll be in heaven! You can also try a snowshoe hike, which is more fun than it sounds.
And an experience not to be missed is the real Finnish sauna. In winter, snow serves as the best cool down after the hot experience.
When choosing a place to stay in Rovaniemi, you cannot go wrong with the mid-range Arctic City Hotel.
#7 Copenhagen, Denmark
In the winter, Copenhagen is quite dark and cold, which makes it an unassuming winter travel destination. But the popular Danish word “hygge” defines the feeling of cosiness and contentment, and you’re sure to feel this all around Copenhagen in the wintertime which makes it such a special time to visit.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the city comes alive with Christmas markets. The iconic Nyhavn area is beautifully decorated, and you must be sure to visit the most popular Christmas Market at Tivoli Gardens, which is the second-oldest amusement park in the world.
Another great winter activity in Copenhagen is a visit to CopenHot. This is the ultimate Scandinavian experience, with hot tubs and saunas overlooking the beautiful canals.
For skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts, you can strap on your skis right in the middle of Copenhagen at CopenHill, which is a ski hill built right in the middle of the city.
And if you’re looking to stay warm inside, Copenhagen has a booming culinary scene that can’t be missed. You’ll find some of the trendiest international food in the Vesterbro, Nørrebro, and Meatpacking neighbourhoods. And if you’re looking for a memorable Nordic dining experience, 108 is a great option.
At the end of the day, the perfect hotel to rest at is Axel Guldmeden Hotel, which is a welcoming and cosy Bali-inspired hotel located close to the central station.
By Madeline from Madeline Rae Away
By Veronika from Travel Geekery
#8 Stockholm, Sweden
I couldn’t think of anywhere better than visiting Scandinavia in winter, which is a magical adventure and a true winter wonderland. We were lucky enough to see Stockholm in the height of winter for a last-minute city break, and we have never experienced anything like it.
From the snowstorms to the meatballs and Swedish art of Fika (taking the time to appreciate your surroundings while enjoying coffee and cake), it was one of the most laid-back and breathtaking city breaks I have had.
The thing I loved most about Stockholm and something that I would recommend to anyone visiting is to take a tour of the Stockholm Subway Art. It is the world’s longest art exhibition, and each station is entirely different, and each tells a unique story.
You can choose whether to self-guide or take a guided tour for this. I suggest doing this at night when it’s quieter. It also is an excellent opportunity for some unique holiday photos.
When it comes to choosing your accommodation in Stockholm, there are plenty of options. The top pick has to be The Mornington Hotel. It’s warm, eclectic, close to the heart of Stockholm city and it even has a sauna which is excellent after a long day out in the cold!
By Peter and Lauren from Our So Called Life
#9 Brussels, Belgium
Brussels is a very charming city in Belgium and a great destination to visit during winter, because of its Christmas markets, the lovely lights throughout the city and warm cafés that are always ready to welcome you in for a warm drink.
Another good thing about Brussels during winter is that it allows you to enjoy the top city sights without the crowds, making it easier and more pleasant to visit.
Brussels is abundant in museums, palaces, squares, shops and restaurants, so there is always something going on for you to enjoy. Spend your days roaming the city streets, dipping in and out of cafés and restaurants for hot drinks and warming plates of delicious local cuisine.
While the weather in Brussels is chilly during wintertime, the Christmas charm, yummy hot Belgian chocolate, fresh warm waffles and plenty of options for indoor activities make it an ideal destination for a winter trip in Europe.
The temperatures generally range between 2-7C and sometimes even drop to negative numbers. You still want to wear some warm layers of clothes and explore the indoors and outdoors of this charming city.
While Brussels is an excellent destination with plenty of things to do during a long holiday, it is also very compact that you can easily explore in a day, which is sufficient time to visit the main sites.
Brussels is very easily accessible as a day trip by train from many major cities such as Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Luxembourg. It has many different options for accommodations, from budget to luxury, depending on your style and budget. The best option is to find accommodation in the city centre, as you can visit all the main attractions on foot from your hotel.
By Paula from Paula Pins the Planet
#10 Reykjavik, Iceland
A lot of people will tell you that visiting Iceland in winter isn’t worth it, or that it’s an unforgiving tundra with no sunlight and nothing to do. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Iceland is a winter wonderland of epic proportions, and Reykjavik is where the adventure begins.
When we visited in January, the whole city was blanketed in beautiful snow, which coupled with the vistas of snow-capped mountains in the distance, made the sunrises and sunsets spectacular. Despite the rumours that winters are very dark in Iceland, you actually will get a good 8 hours of sunlight (including the sunrise and sunset) each day, so don’t worry!
While in Reykjavik, you can’t miss its wealth of attractions, all conveniently located close to the city centre. Start your morning at Hallgrímskirkja Church. If you arrive right at 9:30 am, you’ll likely have the place to yourself, and you can watch the sunrise from its steeple.
The Einar Jonsson Sculpture Park is right next door. Next, you have just enough time to do some strolling around Laugavegur Street, Reykjavik’s main promenade, before joining a Free Walking Tour at 11 am. This 2-hour tour will take you around all of the city’s must-sees, such as the Austurvöllur Main Square and Alþingi Parliament Building, Harpa Concert Hall, the historic district, and the Tjörnin Pond! Make sure you tip your guide at the end!
We loved our stay at the Guesthouse Helga, only about a mile away from Laugavegur Street. While the decor was a bit old-school, the rooms were spacious and inexpensive.
The next day, you can’t miss a day trip to the Golden Circle, the first stop on Iceland’s Ring Road. You can take a day tour or rent a car. The Golden Circle comprises 3 stops: the Continental Divide in Thingvellir National Park, the two geysers at Geysir and Haukadalur and the Gullfoss waterfall, a massive waterfall at the end of the Hvítá River.
If you want to venture further out of Reykjavik to explore more, try the full Ring Road.
By Tegan & Alex from Why Not Walk
🏰 Top European Winter City Breaks For Culture
For those seeking a cultural feast, winter city breaks in Europe offer a unique opportunity. Cities that are usually super busy and pricey during peak seasons like Paris and Rome become more accessible and intimate in the colder months.
#11 Rome – TOP Winter City Break In Europe
Rome is an icon of Europe throughout the entire year. However, visiting in winter is ideal due to the lack of crowds, lower Rome accommodation rates and the unique experiences you can have!
The weather in Rome in winter is relatively mild, rarely dropping below freezing. January is typically the coldest month of the year. The quintessential Roman experiences, such as visiting the Colosseum, exploring the Roman Forum, or tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain, are all still available for visitors.
Winter brings new experiences that aren’t available year-round – such as ice skating at Castel Sant’Angelo or dining on freshly harvested artichokes. Artichokes are typically available in winter through to spring on many Roman menus.
If you’re planning on celebrating Hanukkah, you should head to Piazza Barberini where a 20-feet-tall menorah is lit every night at 6 pm (or 4 pm on the Sabbath).
You can celebrate your Christmas by attending the most-watched mass in the world on December 24th. The Pope delivers the Mass at St. Peter’s Square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Be sure to get your tickets when they are available in November as this event fills up fast. There are also several massive nativity scenes throughout the city to enjoy.
The holiday lights and decorations will be sure to wow you as you walk through history in the Eternal City (not to mention the shopping deals). Due to its mild temperatures, lack of crowds, and rich history, Rome is one of the best winter getaways in Europe.
By Pamela from The Directionally Challenged Traveler
#12 Athens, Greece
If you’re looking for somewhere that offers both sightseeing and mild temperatures in winter, look no further than the Greek capital of Athens for a captivating city break.
Just a four-hour flight from the UK, Athens is far enough away to provide travellers with slightly warmer days but also close enough to home still to offer plenty of Christmas spirit and festive celebrations. Plus, it’s quieter and cheaper too so you’ll get the best of all worlds!
Athens in winter allows you to explore all of the world-famous archaeological sites and museums without the crowds. And, as you won’t spend so much time queuing, you’ll have extra hours to discover some of the more off-the-beaten-track areas like Anafiotika or to indulge in a blissful hammam experience, take a food tour or even rent a car and venture outside of Athens to visit Delphi or Meteora Monasteries.
The centre of Athens boasts a giant Christmas tree, several ice rinks, and a Christmas-themed cafe that takes decorations to the next level, so you’ll be able to get your festive fix. There are also plenty of Christmas markets and high-street stores where you’ll be able to do your gift shopping.
While Athens doesn’t exactly feature sun-bathing temperatures in winter, the sunny days do lend themselves nicely to a day trip to the coast where you can dine on fresh seafood and soak up the views with a coffee or warm rakomelo in hand!
As always, if it’s your first time visiting Athens, I’d recommend staying fairly central, near Plaka or Monastiraki, or even better, choose one of the Athen’s hotels with indoor pools to make your getaway even more indulging.
By Chrysoula from Athens and beyond
It is undisputed that Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. But did you know that Barcelona is a great travel destination, even in winter?
In contrast to most other cities in Europe, Barcelona is usually still pleasantly warm in winter. This is because the sun shines almost every day, even in winter. Therefore, even during the winter, you can still sit on one of the countless terraces in the city and enjoy a coffee or a few typical Spanish tapas.
Barcelona’s city beach, Barceloneta, is a great place to spend your day. Even if the Mediterranean’s water is too cold for swimming in winter, now is the perfect time for a long stroll on the beach.
A beach walk is even more worthwhile in the cold season than in summer, as you have much more space and tranquillity. Because, unlike the summer, you won’t find a big crowd here.
Of course, you should also explore the typical sights of the city when you visit in the winter. Sagrada Família, arguably the most famous building in the town, is a must on every visit to the Catalan capital.
If you are in town at Christmas time, you will also find a small Christmas market in the park in front of the basilica, where you can buy traditional Catalan Christmas figurines.
If you are visiting in winter, accommodation in the city centre is incredibly affordable. Because at this time of the year, you usually pay a lot less than if you visit Barcelona in the high season.
By Vicki from Vicki Viaja
#14 Zurich, Switzerland
Switzerland is mostly known as a winter sports destination – however, there is much more to do, and there are some great cities to visit. And one of them is Zurich. Located in the German-speaking part, of the north of Switzerland, Zurich is a fun city break in winter.
Surrounded by beautiful mountains, that aren’t part of the Alps, and Lake Zurich, it is perfect for those who enjoy gorgeous scenery and nature. If it snows, strolling Lake Zurich is a fun winter activity, but visiting the lake is also a must on any other day.
If you want to do some winter sports activities you can also head to the “house mountain” – Uetliberg, and do some tobogganing or even do some ice skating at some of the ice rinks.
However, if you visit in December, then you can see some of the famous Christmas Markets, some of the best Christmas Markets in Central Europe!
At any time of the year, you can stroll through the old town of the city and see the cute and colourful buildings. Zurich is also a great base for some excellent day trips to stunning places nearby like Lucerne, Interlaken or Basel.
Stay around Lake Zurich or in the old town, which is not the cheapest but a great way to make the most of the city.
By Arzo from Arzo travels
#15 Paris, France
Paris in winter is a great place to be. The weather is not that cold like in other cities in northern Europe so people still can enjoy the streets of Paris as long as they wear warm winter clothes and shoes. I recommend spending 3 to 4 days in Paris to get the most out it.
First-time visitors in Paris may want to stay central, perhaps in one of the hotels near the Louvre or in the picturesque neighbourhood of Le Marais.
Winter in Paris kicks off in December with the Christmas markets and lights so people visiting Paris for the first time can combine sightseeing activities with a tour around the best Christmas markets. Christmas holidays in Paris are high season, so it is paramount to book everything well in advance, especially accommodation and the top tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre Museum.
For more relaxing winter getaways, choose January and February when the crowds are gone. This is the perfect time to visit the most famous museums in Paris or some temporary exhibitions. Also, Parisian cafes are great places to be, and some of them have heated terraces to drink outside.
By Elisa from World in Paris
☀️ Sunny Winter City Breaks In Europe
Chasing the sun during the colder months? The sunny winter city breaks in Europe are just what you need. In cities like Lisbon and Seville, the sun still shines brightly, offering a warm respite from the winter chill. These destinations boast milder temperatures and fewer crowds, perfect for exploring and soaking in the local culture.
Seville is the capital of the Spanish autonomous community of Andalusia and the province of Seville. Established on the lower reaches of river Guadalquivir, Seville is located in the southwestern part of the Iberian Peninsula.
The city is particularly beautiful in its wintery aura, making it picture-perfect. The town is especially appreciated for its rich history, striking architecture, and authentic culture that includes mouth-watering cuisine and Flamenco heritage.
Seville is a great place to visit in winter for many reasons. The city holds an excellent Christmas market every winter, attracting visitors from all over the world. The market is a blend of festive tradition and arts. You will be able to find here cheap but good quality products. It includes various kinds of items, like- ornaments, handmade gifts, organic oranges, cheese, clothes and more.
Seville is much quieter during winter times, making it the perfect season to explore its sights. You cannot miss the gardens of Alcazar Palace and the grand architecture of the Cathedral. Watch the sun setting over the city while strolling a nearby plaza.
If you’re an adventure enthusiast, the region offers some excellent hiking routes in Sierra Norte.
TIP: Make sure to pack extra layers to protect yourself from the bitter cold of the mountainous climate. Look for good deals on food and hotels offered during the wintertime in Seville. For example, there are many small, family hotels in Seville, such as NH Collection Sevilla and Melia Lebreros with affordable rates.
By Paulina from Paulina on the road
If you want to experience summer and winter at the same time, you should visit Andalucia and one of its gems – Granada. Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, it’s less than an hour drive from the southernmost ski resort in Europe, where you can enjoy skiing or snowboarding during the winter.
On the other hand, there is the Mediterranean coast, and you can enjoy the beach less than an hour away. The temperatures in winter might not be super hot, but still, it’s usually warm and sunny enough to enjoy the seaside.
Granada itself is lovely in winter, especially with the Christmas lights on every street. Once there, you should visit the Alhambra palace and fortress – the most famous landmark in Granada and Albaicin – the Medieval Moorish district with narrow winding streets, cosy Moroccan tea houses, and splendid views of the city and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
As a university town, it’s also thriving with nightlife. There are endless party opportunities, be it Saturday or Monday. People usually start with a “botellon” which is a before party somewhere in the street. Then move to one of many music bars for dancing and a couple of drinks, and after that (around 3 am) go to a club and party until morning.
When speaking of Granada, it’s hard not to mention its delicious tapas and countless tapas bars, where you get this free snack each time you order something to drink.
By Anna from Liquid Travelling
#18 Jerez de la Frontera
One of the best places to spend a city break in winter is Jerez de la Frontera. Situated in the south of Spain only an hour south of Seville, and the city is highly underrated.
Being the sherry capital of Spain, if not Europe, the city has a whole lot of old, traditional sherry bodegas to visit.
The weather is usually sunny, and temperatures can get up to their twenties in the day time so sitting outside in the sun enjoying a lunch or a drink is perfect.
If you get there for Christmas, there are cute Christmas markets and lightning which makes it even nicer to get lost in the streets. The Spanish Christmas tradition is all set around the 6th of January, the day the three holy kings brought presents for the baby Jesus. This day and the evening before you can expect to see the streets blocked by big parades where even the three holy kings themselves throw sweets to the excited child spectators.
Winter is also when the oranges hang colourfully on the trees, and late winter is the time for orange blossoms which fill the air with a sweet scent of flowers.
One of the best things about visiting Jerez de la Frontera is that it’s really kept its local charm and most tourists are Spanish. So for a real Andalusian experience, this is one of the best cities to go.
By Linn from Brainy Backpackers
Tarifa is one of the best winter city breaks in Europe, especially when you are looking for some sun and warmer temperatures during Europe’s’ coldest months. It is located in the province of Andalucía in Spain and is the southernmost city of continental Europe. From Tarifa, you can enjoy a marvellous view over the Street of Gibraltar and the northern part of Morocco.
What sets Tarifa apart from other cities in Europe is its mild climate in winter, which is characterized by an average of only six days of rain per month and 6 hours of sun per day. Compared to Paris, this is the triple number of sunshine hours and just half of the rainy days. Furthermore, Tarifa always receives a constant ocean breeze, making it one of the windsurfing hotspots in Spain.
Besides the weather, two things are fascinating about Tarifa: the first is the cute little old town of Tarifa, which is entirely car-free inside the old city wall. You can wander around the several alleyways and narrow streets and discover hidden gems, creative stores and cosy cafés on every corner. When looking for accommodation in Tarifa, make sure you stay in one of the historic houses of the old town.
The second feature of Tarifa is its huge number of possible day trips as there are many exciting places within driving distance. The most famous one is the British “Overseas” Territory Gibraltar, less than a 1-hour drive away. Bolonia, a mere 30-minute drive from Tarifa, is a secluded destination and features an impressive wandering dune as well as one of the most complete Roman town ruins – located right on the beach.
And last but not least, some of the best highlights of Andalucía are less than a 2-hour drive away, such as the impressive mountain town of Ronda, the interesting city of Cádiz or the mountain range of the Sierra de Grazalema with some fantastic hikes, scenic lakes and gorgeous winding roads.
By Chris from Punta Cana Travel Blog
#20 Chania, Greece
While the temperature in mainland Europe struggles to get above freezing, you can count on Crete pushing 15°C, even in the coldest depths of winter. The island is just about as far south as you can venture in Europe, and the milder weather and frequent winter sun make it a great winter destination.
Chania, in the west of the island, is by far its most attractive city. Some restaurants close for the winter months, but there are more than enough things to do in Chania to warrant the trip there over winter.
The Old Town is a mixture of Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman Turkish architecture, with its narrow lanes and painted houses that are a wonderful place to wander and explore. Chania Harbour is still the place to go in winter, with most of its restaurants open, where you can savour the view of the 19th-century stone lighthouse that has become the symbol of the city.
If you walk the mile or so along the harbour wall to the lighthouse, you’ll be rewarded with views over the city to the snow-capped White Mountains, looming well over 2000 metres above sea level.
The area around Chania has some of the best beaches in Crete, and indeed Greece. Most of the infrastructure of the beaches – the umbrellas, sunbeds, and tavernas are gone until the following spring.
However the city beaches around Chania, including Nea Chora, Agioi Apostoli and Iguana Beach – are still popular with locals and visitors, with cafes and bars open around the beaches. Nearby, the gorgeous Stavros beach on the Akrotiri peninsula is deserted but breathtaking.
If you hire a car, you can also reach stunning Falassarna and Elafonissi beaches on the west coast, though very little will be open.
By David from Delve into Europe
#21 Lisbon, Portugal
One of the best cities in Europe for a winter break is Lisbon, the Portuguese capital. Sitting on the West Coast beside the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon enjoys sunshine, even in winter, and warmer temperatures than many of its northern counterparts, making it a great place to escape for some winter sun. That said, you most likely won’t get a tan.
Lisbon is a city that is quite chilled for a capital city. It is steeped in history and culture, and a winter city break will mean you miss the crowds of summer.
For families visiting Lisbon with children, you won’t be short of things to do with them, with the Oceanario de Lisboa a must-visit. This aquarium regularly makes the list of top 10 aquariums in the world and can even be enjoyed without kids.
For history fans, a visit to the Castelo de Sao Jorge, Belem Tower and the Jeronimos Monastery is a must. The roofless Carmo Convent is also another great place to visit. A day trip to Sintra to see the Pena Palace and Castle of the Moors should also be factored into your Lisbon itinerary if you have time.
If you visit in December, Lisbon does have some excellent Christmas markets where you can buy traditional Portuguese crafts and produce. However, these are not as large or typically Christmas-like compared to Christmas markets in the northern half of Europe.
If you don’t want to stay in the city, then Cascais is a great suburb to stay in, with a direct train line into Lisbon. From there the city is accessible via the trams and metro system. No matter where you stay, you will thoroughly enjoy a winter visit to Lisbon.
By Cath from Passports and Adventures
❄️ Best Non-Touristy European City Breaks In Winter
If you’re seeking a more off-the-beaten-path experience this winter, our selection of non-touristy winter city breaks in Europe is perfect. These hidden gems offer a quieter, more authentic glimpse into local life during the winter months.
From the quaint streets of Tbilisi to the undiscovered charm of Riga, these destinations promise a unique and tranquil escape.
#22 Tbilisi, Georgia
When planning a European winter city break, most people think of places like Salzburg, Munich, London or Paris. Very few think about Georgia – but the Caucasus has a lot to offer.
Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia and is filled with impressive architecture, both old and new. Close to the Bridge of Peace, there are several futuristic buildings, while the small side streets of the old town contain lots of colourful houses. The area around the Royal Baths is particularly interesting to explore and provides fantastic views of the Narikala Fortress high above the city.
Winter is an excellent time to visit for fewer crowds. The Christmas market, the many cosy cafes and the restaurants which serve hearty meals are perfect for winter days and evenings. During winter temperatures are around zero degrees and it rarely snows in the capital, although in other regions of the country, you can go skiing.
Part of what makes Tbilisi such a good destination is the number of day trips that are possible. The most popular are:
• Kazbegi for panoramic mountain views, Gergeti trinity church and skiing in nearby Gudauri
• The pretty hilltop village of Sighnaghi and the wine region of Kakethi where you can visit vineyards and go wine tasting
• David Gareja monastery, set in a desert-like landscape on the border with Azerbaijan
By Kristi from Adventures with En Suite
#23 Manchester, England
The English city of Manchester is a fantastic place to visit for a city break. This cosmopolitan city has a whole host of attractions to see, many of which are only on during the winter months.
During November and December, Manchester hosts Christmas markets which have over 300 stalls spread over ten locations across the city. Here you can admire handmade gifts from all over Europe. There’s also a wealth of yummy food on offer from traditional German bratwurst and Spanish paella to locally-sourced vegan and vegetarian fare.
Another great place to visit is Winter Funland – the UK’s largest indoor fairground with lots of rides, an ice rink and a circus. Manchester is also home to the Chill Factore, which is the UK’s longest indoor ski slope. Here you can try your hand at winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, sledging or the giant ice slide.
You’ll find lots of food options to suit all tastes and dietary requirements in Manchester. The Northern Quarter is packed full of trendy cafes, the Chinatown area is also very popular, and the city’s famous Curry Mile is the best place to get some authentic Indian food.
If you’re staying in Manchester, a city centre hotel would be your best option, so that you can easily explore the city via walking and public transport.
By Jenni from Choose Veganism
#24 Yerevan, Armenia
Yerevan is a travel destination that not many people know about, despite being the capital city of Armenia. When it comes to cities that are ideal for a winter break in Europe, Yerevan has to be on top of the list.
Why? Yerevan is blessed with abundant natural beauty and rich history; it’s away from the crowds, especially during the winter season. And to top that, Yerevan is extremely budget-friendly compared to other mainstream European cities.
And finally, because the temperatures range from 5-12°C and the city has a pleasant winter sun which makes travelling an enjoyable experience. As the temperatures can, on rare occasions, go lower, remember to carry some extra pairs of warm clothing with you.
The best area to stay in Yerevan is near its heart – the Republic Square. The city centre has affordable and quality accommodation that gives you easy access to different parts of the city. Golden Palace Hotel and DoubleTree by Hilton are some of the recommended accommodation options.
Some of the best things to see and do in Yerevan are the Yerevan Cascade, Republic Square, Mother Armenia Statue, Cafesjian Centre for the Arts, Opera Theatre, Zvartnots Cathedral, Genocide Museum, History Museum of Armenia, and the Cathedral of Saint Gregory the Illuminator.
What I particularly loved about Yerevan was its warm hospitality and low travel costs. Do not miss out on this gem of a city if you’re planning a winter escape!
By Vaibhav Mehta from The Wandering Vegetable
#25 Gothenburg, Sweden
Sweden’s second-largest city, Gothenburg, makes for a great European winter break. Alongside the canal cruises on Paddan boats, and the tropical botanical gardens, the most popular activity in winter is to visit the fantastic Christmas Markets in Gothenburg.
Throughout December the city is turned into a festive winter wonderland with four main Christmas markets scattered across the city.
The largest and most popular one in Sweden is located at Liseberg Amusement Park. It is a unique combination of rollercoaster rides, ice skating shows, and Christmas stalls. The amusement park is decorated with over 5 million Christmas lights all powered sustainably by wind power.
Liseberg is a great place to enjoy some traditional Swedish sweet treats such as glogg (a sweet mulled wine) and Pepparkaka (Swedish gingerbread biscuits). If you want more than snacks, make sure you book into the four-course Swedish Christmas buffet dinner that Liseberg hosts.
The best place to stay is Hotel Bellora, a centrally located design hotel with a fantastic buffet breakfast.
One of the best things to see in winter in Gothenburg is the singing Christmas tree, a choir arranged on a platform in the shape of a Christmas tree, something that needs to be experienced in person!
By Roshni from The Wanderlust Within
#26 Belfast, Northern Ireland
Belfast is one of the lesser-known winter getaways in Europe which I find works to its advantage when it comes to dodging the crowds that can take over the more popular destinations at this time of year.
Belfast is otherwise relatively calm and serene through the winter months and packed with lots of local charm.
It is also easy to navigate the city centre on foot starting with the central Christmas Market in Belfast found under the rather spectacular background of Belfast City Hall right in the centre of the city.
However, much of the draw at this time of the year is the cosiness of the traditional Northern Irish pubs and bars which come to life with festive shenanigans including the charming cobbled streets of the historic Cathedral Quarter near Saint Anne’s.
To include some of the better bars there is the Duke of York and the Crown Liquor Saloon which both have private ‘snugs’ for more intimate nights out, and many pubs will have traditional live music throughout the season.
But there is something for everyone in Belfast’s close-knit city centre, be it the shopping streets of Donegall Place and the free viewing dome at Victoria Square, or just a romantic stroll along the Lagan Riverside when it’s all lit up at night.
To best explore the city, I would recommend staying in the Great Victoria Street area, and a great stay is at the Europa Hotel which connects directly to the main transit lines for further at the Europa Station.
By Allan from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor
#27 Warsaw, Poland
Warsaw is the perfect winter destination for those wanting to enjoy the magic of a European winter without the crowds. This means if you visit any of the top attractions or museums in Warsaw, you might even have them to yourself. Warsaw has an impressive number of museums about different periods of the city’s history. Some of the most popular are the Warsaw Uprising Museum and the Chopin Museum.
If you visit before Christmas, you can expect to find several Christmas Markets throughout the city where you can buy local crafts and winter treats. The most popular markets are in the Old Town and outside Royal Wilanów.
Additionally, ice rinks pop up throughout the city. If you’re visiting in November or January, the Old Town and Royal Wilanów will be significantly less busy, and you might even get them to yourself for a bit.
But no matter what time you visit in winter, the perfect treat during a Warsaw winter is hot chocolate at Cafe E. Wedel, where you can select the type of chocolate you want and a variety of mouth-watering toppings.
Winter is also a great time to head to a Milk Bar and try some of the traditional food of Poland, such as pierogi or kapuśniak (cabbage soup), as they are warm and comforting.
By Dagney from Cultura Obscura
#28 Bansko, Bulgaria
If you love skiing and snow sports, then you must take a trip to Bansko this winter. Bansko is a town in south-east Bulgaria, situated among the Pirin Mountains. It’s a well-known ski resort, attracting thousands of national and international tourists every year.
At the mention of skiing, most people automatically think of Switzerland or France. However, Bansko has in recent years become a very popular ski resort amongst international tourists and now competes with the better-known destinations for winter sports.
Bansko is primarily known as a ski resort, but it has so much more to offer than just skiing. You can indulge in a variety of winter sports, take a ride on a ski lift, enjoy scenic walks, or visit the thermal mineral springs in Banya – a nearby village situated just 5km from Bansko town.
There are lots of great places to stay in the area. There’s a great choice of luxury hotels, and self-catering lodges, and there are even some independent eco-hotels located in the town too.
Although Bansko has been made more commercialised for tourists, it’s still easy to get a taste of traditional Bulgarian life and cuisine. Whilst visiting, you must remember to taste the local Bulgarian food. After spending time out in the snow, there’s nothing better than warming yourself with a hearty homemade soup or hot pot.
I love how Bansko guarantees a quality skiing holiday or winter break while offering you the chance to experience the traditional side of Bulgaria as well. A trip to Bansko is perfect for all ages, and it’s one of the least expensive winter destinations to visit in Europe!
By Luisa from Online Personal Stylist
#29 Riga, Latvia
During winter, one of the best cities to visit in Europe is Riga in Latvia. It’s a charming and historic city on the Baltic Sea. You’ll never be bored when you visit the Latvian capital because there are so many things to do in Riga.
Old Town in Riga is one of the best places to stay for your winter city break. Lodging is relatively inexpensive, and the entire old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visit some of the landmarks like the majestic House of the Black Heads. It was built in the 13th century when Riga was a key Hanseatic merchant city. The structure was built as a palace for the wealthy and unmarried merchants of the Hanseatic League. It’s full of ornate design and is one of the most opulent buildings in the city.
You should also visit Riga Central Market, Europe’s largest open-air bazaar. It’s a great destination in the city all year, but in the winter it’s free of summer crowds, and you’ll get even more attention from vendors. Stop there for a bite to eat and to browse the unique local foods.
Also, make sure to enjoy the Latvian tradition of sauna. It’s a perfect winter activity and an incredibly relaxing experience. There are saunas in most of the high-end hotels and other stand-alone facilities in the city like Balta Pirts Sauna.
Of course, the city of Riga hosts unforgettable Christmas Markets, and they claim to be the site of the first-ever Christmas tree. Regardless, you will find plenty of fun during your winter trip to Riga.
By Derek and Mike from Robe Trotting
#30 Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh may not have the best sunshine, but it truly is a year-round destination with plenty of outdoor and indoor attractions.
Come to Edinburgh in winter to enjoy the dazzling Christmas lights that decorate the town, to watch the exclusive shows and pantomimes that run throughout Christmas and beyond, and to participate in one of the world’s largest New Year street parties – the Hogmanay. Whatever the reason, Edinburgh is one of the cities that never disappoints you.
For some of the best winter landscape views across the city, climb Calton Hill (a short hike up the hill) which offers sweeping views. For some more breathtaking vistas, climb up the iconic Arthur’s Seat or Salisbury Crags, the highest viewpoint in the city. The paths could be steep and slippery during winter due to ice formation.
Soak in the city’s festive vibe all through December. There are Lantern Parade, beautiful Christmas markets, the largest ice skating rink in Britain and brilliant pantomimes that certainly give you a great Christmas feel.
End the year in style by joining what is known as one of the largest New Year’s street parties. This 3-day event begins with a torchlight procession. It is filled with music concerts, traditional Scottish dancing, and fireworks and ends with a loony dunk (a cold dip into a freezing river with fancy costumes).
See the majestic Edinburgh Castle, walk the cobbled stones of the Royal Mile, visit the old and new towns of Edinburgh, and don’t forget to catch some nightlight vibes in Grass Market. If the weather isn’t promising, head to Camera Obscura, Dynamic Earth or the National Museum of Scotland.
Explored by Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple
#31 Tromso, Norway
Tromso in winter is magical, and its small size makes it a perfect city break in Europe. While the city is relatively small, it provides the ideal gateway to explore the Arctic and what it has to offer. While there may not be much daylight in winter, there are still plenty of activities available, including dog sledging, whale watching, and more.
In the evenings, explore the fantastic culinary scene of the city, with plenty of independent restaurants serving up regional dishes utilising rare and wonderful Arctic ingredients from cloudberries to Arctic Char and beyond.
Spend the nights hunting for the Tromso northern lights out in the wilderness, where they can often be seen dancing across the sky. Tours are the best way to see the northern lights, although you may be lucky enough to be able to see the northern lights from Tromso city if they are powerful enough.
The city is compact, and many of the main sites can be visited within a day, with a trip on the Fjellheisen cable car being a must.
Within Tromso, there are plenty of great places to stay, such as the Radisson Blu which is conveniently the place that most tours leave from. Alternatively, spend one of the nights away from Tromso in the Ice Domes, an epic ice hotel located out in the tundra.
Tromso is most definitely one of the best city breaks in Europe for a fantastic and festive winter holiday. It is reasonably easy to get to by plane from several destinations, or you can take a ride up the Norwegian coast on the Hurtigruten and see the Norwegian city that way.
By Megan from Megan Starr
#32 Tallinn, Estonia
One of the very best winter breaks in Europe is Tallinn in Estonia! Located in Eastern Europe and part of the Baltics, this city (and country) lacks its crowds of tourists that visit during the summer. However, Tallinn winter is even more magical.
One of the best reasons to visit Tallinn during the winter is their Christmas Market. Voted one of the best in Europe for years, you have to see it to believe it. Located in the Old Historic Square, complete with medieval buildings washed in pastel colours, this Christmas Market has it all. From mulled wine, delicious eats and fun gifts to take home.
The best place to stay during the winter is in the Old Town at Hotel Telegraaf. Located on one of the main cobblestone streets and is complete with a spa, pool, restaurant, and bar. You can easily walk to most of the main attractions from this location, and the Christmas Market is a one-minute walk away.
Some of the best tips for visiting are:
· Most of the Old Town is cobblestone and slick. Prepare to wear good walking shoes.
· Prices are very cheap compared to summer prices. So this is the best time to visit.
· The official currency is the Estonian Kroon, but some places take the Euro.
By Nicole from Eatlivetraveldrink
Winter City Breaks In Europe: Wrap-up
Wrapping up our trip through the best winter city breaks in Europe, we’ve seen some amazing places. From busy markets to underrated winter destinations, there’s something special about each city.
We particularly loved our wintery trip to Bruges, the delicious Belgian chocolate and waffles. And Prague was also incredible with its snowy rooftops and warm cafes.
Europe’s got plenty of great spots to check out in winter!
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