There’s something truly special about visiting Europe during winter, with the colder months completely transforming the landscape of your favourite destinations. Whether you fancy somewhere snowy or want to soak up the festive atmosphere at the charming Christmas markets, there’s lots to see and do in Europe over the winter period, and outside of the summer rush, you can also enjoy fewer crowds and reasonable prices. Forget summer vacations – embrace the season and enjoy a cosy winter break in one of these beautiful European destinations.
Prague is magical in winter, with its iconic Old Town Square decorated beautifully and the streets draped in Christmas lights from advent onward. Mulled wine is sold everywhere, some of the best winter markets in Europe are in full swing and the Gothic architecture is even more beautiful and atmospheric on a cold, dark night. Traditional Czech cuisine is better suited for winter months, too, with plenty of meats, stews and soups to warm you up. Winter is low season in Prague, so you can also enjoy the beautiful attractions to yourself and spend less time weaving your way through the crowds.
Enjoy the genuine Christmas experience at Rovaniemi, the Official Hometown of Santa Claus. With snow on the ground for approximately six months of the year, the capital of Lapland is home to Santa Claus Village, an attraction that draws more than 500,000 annual visitors from all around the world. This festive village is open every day of the year, enabling families to visit Santa Claus even in summer! This Finnish festive haven is full of charm, with reindeer, sleighs and decorations adding festive spirit. It’s also a popular place to see the Northern Lights, and is home to the Arkitum museum which explores the Arctic region and the history of Finnish Lapland.
Berlin’s cultural calendar is packed with great events during winter, including Berlin Fashion Week, the British Short Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival. Take your time to enjoy the city’s fantastic selection of museums, enjoy a beautiful winter walk through the quiet city parks and warm up in a cosy cafe, of which there’s countless to choose from. Berlin’s Botanical Garden turns into a winter fairyland from November to January with illuminations and light sculptures, while the Christmas markets are truly a sight to behold, with over 70 different ones to choose from!
Home to some of the most beautiful palaces in the world, Vienna is a stunning place to visit in the winter. The Austrian capital is famous for pulling out all the stops during the festive period and is full of Christmas markets, with one of the most popular taking place in front of the grand Belvedere palace. Treat yourself to a warming mug of gluhwein (mulled wine), embrace ball season for a spot of dancing and go ice skating at one of the numerous ice rinks set up across the city. One of the best things about visiting Vienna in winter is the (almost) guaranteed snow, with temperatures averaging around 0°C in December. You can also warm up at one of the city’s famous concerts and shows, with everything from casual church concerts to performances at the world-famous Vienna State Opera on offer.
The historical capital of Russia comes to life in winter, when the temperatures plummet and snow falls on the world-famous Red Square. Experience the visual wonder for yourself and immerse yourself in the festive season as you explore beautiful parks, squares and churches during this magical, romantic time of year. Ice skating is a popular winter pastime in Russia and there are a series of ice rinks set up across Moscow for visitors to take advantage of, including the largest in Europe. After you’ve spent some time exploring in the freezing temperatures, warm up in a Russian banya. This traditional bathhouse is the perfect place to relax and detox on a winter’s day, with firewood saunas, cold water pools and a range of treatments available. To complete your trip, take in the city centre’s mesmerising light display which is the pride of the city.
Visit the Belgian city of Bruges in winter and be instantly warmed by its friendly atmosphere and spectacular scenery. Wrap up warm and explore the city under its blanket of snow, enjoying the various markets and festivals that take place between November and January. Duck into some of the city’s unique artisan shops for handmade gifts, discover the winter markets in Market Square and enjoy a fantastic exhibition at the annual Ice Sculpture Festival. The city is beautifully decorated throughout winter and offers a unique feel with its beautiful Medieval and Gothic buildings. Once you’re done sightseeing, treat yourself to a signature cup of hot chocolate… it is the chocolate capital of the world, after all!