Winter in Europe is like a snow globe come to life. The fantastical scenes of Christmas markets, the smells of roasted nuts, and the snow flocked chateaus make a dreamy scene. But the best part? Visiting Europe in winter time usually means you can find cheaper flights, accommodation, and less crowds.
Having 3 winters in Europe under my belt, I've selected my top 14 Winter destinations. I tried to narrow it down to 10, but there were just so many magical places that I had to include.
Whether you're after the Christmas spirit, a charming, snowy landscape, or a frolic through a castle, this guide to the best places in Europe for the colder months has it all. From the best places to go for Christmas or if you're wanting an escape this is the best of Europe.
Grab a hot drink and get ready for the best cities and places in Europe to spend winter in.
The Best Winter Destinations in Europe
Below you can find a map of all the places discussed in this post:
1. Zermatt, Switzerland
The falling snow was mesmerizing as I sat by the window, overlooking the quiet town below. Not a car in sight or a soul walking around – only skiers gliding down well worn paths. I was in Zermatt, Switzerland and the ever looming Matterhorn had yet to be seen. After days of not seeing this incredible mountain, the clouds finally parted, the snow lifted, and she stood proudly.
This beautiful and romantic city is one of the prettiest in Europe. It offers plenty of winter activities and is the perfect place to relax. I had one of my all time favorite stays in this charming place and I will remember it for years to come.
2. Strasbourg, France
There is no city in the world that transforms into a Christmas wonderland quite like Strasbourg. Every single window and lane is decorated from nearly top to bottom with lights and even stuffed animals. It's a gingerbread town come to life with the half-timbered houses and the lively Christmas markets, shopping, and the traditions of German Christmas markets spilling over from the nearby country. Check out my full guide for what to do in Strasbourg for Christmas. Since you're in the area I suggest taking a short trip over to Baden Baden, Heidelberg, or The Black Forest in Germany for the traditional markets.
3. The Austrian Alps
In the summer months you'll find miles of green and the sound of bells on cows as they roam the wide open hills. But winter frosts the ground and makes everything feel like a wonderland. The rough peaks of the alps are truly an incredible sight and the tall steeples from the churches in the towns below make you feel like you're stepping back in time.
My favorite towns in the alps are in the Wilder Kaiser area. I absolutely love the towns of Zöll, Ellmau, Going, and Kitzbuehel.
4. Lake Como, Italy
If you're wanting a warmer spot and lower prices for your European travels in winter then Italy is a great choice. The famous lake is perfect for wine lovers and those that want to get away from the crowds. Take a boat ride out on the water or visit nearby towns like Bellagio and Varenna. There's also an incredible light show that occurs from mid December to January 6.
5. Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, Germany
Rothenburg is a fully walled in city dating back to the 12th century. If you're wanting the true romantic experience of traditional Christmas markets in Germany than look no further. Colorful buildings topped with snow are a real life fairy-tale setting. Here you'll find the German Christmas market museum so you can learn all about the traditions of this world famous tradition. Check out my full guide to Rothenburg here.
6. Translyvania, Romania
The home of Dracula is the perfect place for winter or Halloween vibes. You'll find surprisingly picturesque countrysides and incredible true stories of Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula. Be on the look out for hidden gems in these pretty cities such as catching a traditional Romanian wedding. There are castles galore as well as some of the best food I've had. Plus it's very inexpensive, the people are wonderful, and the history interesting.
I recommend visiting Sibiu, Sighişoara, and Braşov for true Romanian traditions and a beautiful surroundings. This underrated country is full of winding streets, stunning architecture, and delightful natural beauty making it worth the visit.
The shoulder season in Iceland is amazing. A bit chillier, but so much more room to roam. Your chances of seeing the Northern Lights are much better in the winter (and fall). You'll fly into Reyjavik but PLEASE, please make sure you get out of town and explore the diverse landscape Iceland has to offer. The crowd-free waterfalls
Take a break from the cold and jump in a warm geothermal pool. And there's more than just the Blue Lagoon! Check out Hotpot Iceland to find out where a Hotpot is (a thermal spa or pool) near you.
I recommend heading there in early winter to be able to enjoy as much of the landscape as possible.
Check out my 10-day road trip guide to Iceland here.
8. Maastricht, The Netherlands
Yes, you can of course visit Amsterdam, but consider heading to the cheery town of Maastricht. As one of the oldest cities in Holland you'll find a vibrant city with medieval architecture and historic cobblestone streets. I recommend taking a walking tour and warming up at a pub or over some divine waffles. “Pinky” is one of the best waffles I've had in my life! Located on the Southern tip of The Netherlands you can easily pop over to Liege, Belgium for some French cuisine.
9. London, England
I know what you're thinking: that it will be freezing and miserable. But London isn't really known for having particularly great weather. And London DECKS out its holidays like none other. Oxford Street is a feast for the eyes. There are string lights on every corner, bows as big as cars on shops, and you can skate in front of one of the prettiest buildings in the world. It's fantastic. There's even a Christmas market happening in Hyde Park.
Check out more winter wonderland in London.
10. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is a beautiful city no matter the season, but winter brings out some of the best in this city. A light dusting of snow covers the Old Town Square and the traditional Christmas markets make for the perfect backdrop. There are multiple markets throughout the city so you can go hopping from shop to shop for handmade goods and eat hot and delicious trdelinks.
Here's my complete guide to Prague in winter.
11. Lucerne, Switzerland
I know, I know, another place in Switzerland? Yes. It truly is just that pretty. This impressive but small city is full of intimate cafes with soft lighting and delectable food. The covered bridge is the oldest in the world and stretches over the lake. Flanked by snow-capped mountains, filled with medieval architecture, and a beautiful lake setting, this peaceful town is wonderful when you're all bundled up.
Lucerne lends itself as a great getaway for those that want to relax or explore.
I had such a hard time narrowing down cities in Switzerland for Winter, but if you're looking for one more, check out Bern!
12. Copenhagen, Denmark
The Danish have a whole word and really, lifestyle, for the feeling of coziness: hygge. There's no better place to warm up by the fireside with a nice glass of red and a sheepskin throw as you chat over the weather. You can also get your fill of delicious seafood at Torvehallerne or gaze at the colorful buildings on the docks of Nyhavn. Copenhagen even takes it a step further and offers a winter culture month, Wondercool, which occurs in February and includes concerts in unusual venues, art shows, and culinary events.
13. The Black Forest, Germany
The big cities are full of bright lights and beautiful Christmas decor. But you can't beat the natural and awe-inspiring beauty that is the Black Forest in Germany. It's inspired fairy-tales and stories throughout the centuries. The vastness of the mountains and the dense evergreen trees make for a beautiful scene. There are winter activities such as skiing and hiking or you can go into the nearby town of Sasbachwalden for coffee and cake. From here you can visit nearby Heidelberg, Strasbourg, and Baden Baden.
14. Rovaniemi, Finland
It's time to embrace the cold and head far north to the snowy wonderland of Rovaniemi. What better way to get into the holiday spirit than visiting the official home of Santa Claus? Located in the Arctic Circle this is one of the best places to go on a husky ride through a maze of evergreen and white. If you don't mind the cold temperature then this is the best way to spend your winter holiday.
There are so many beautiful places in Europe it can be hard to choose, you might just have to move here. Like I did!
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