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Excited to plan a winter vacation full of joy, adventure, and endless magic? These 25 places to visit in Europe in winter are some of the best places on the continent to experience the awe and wonder of this epic season in so many different ways.
From the breathtaking views as you gently sway in a cable car toward the top of a ski slope to the dazzling lights and mouthwatering aromas that consume you while you amble through a bustling Christmas market, winter in Europe has so much to offer.
Get inspired by these gorgeous natural spots, cozy mountainside towns, and hallmark European cities, all of which offer so much during the winter, and plan a trip you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Places to Visit in Europe in Winter
1 – Tromsø, Norway
One of the best places in Europe to see the Northern Lights, Tromsø is a city in the far north of Norway. Here, you can visit the Polar Museum, the modern Arctic Cathedral, and the Tromsø Cathedral, the only wooden cathedral in Norway.
Between the 26th of November and the 15th of January, you can experience the polar night, during which the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon. If you visit any time between September and April, you can experience the marvelous spectacle of the Northern Lights. Tromsø is one of the places with the highest chances of seeing the phenomenon.
Read more: Foods to Try in Norway
2 – Dresden, Germany
One of the most beautiful cities in Germany, Dresden is home to impressive baroque and rococo buildings and churches that are the reason for the city’s nickname ‘The Jewel Box.’
Some must-see landmarks in the Altstadt (Old Town) are the impressive Zwinger palatial complex, the Dresden Castle, the Fürstenzug mural, Brühl’s Terrace, and the wonderful Frauenkirche in Neumarkt square.
The Striezelmarkt, the oldest Christmas market in the world, opened for the first time in Dresden in 1434. Nearly 600 years later, it is still one of the most beautiful in Europe. The market is open from late November until Christmas.
Read more: Foods to Try in Germany
3 – Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Amsterdam Light Festival is reason enough to visit the lovely capital city of the Netherlands. Impressive light sculptures adorning the entire city and reflecting on the canals will have you staring in awe at every street corner.
If you’re lucky, you may get the chance to go ice skating on frozen canals. Otherwise, you’ll find many ice-skating rinks all over the city. And of course, you can’t miss the beautiful Christmas markets.
If you’re in Amsterdam on the third Saturday of January, you can also see the temporary tulip garden in Dam Square for National Tulip Day.
Read more: Foods to Try in the Netherlands
4 – Chamonix, France
This ski resort town to the north of Mont Blanc is a popular winter destination in Europe. While visitors mainly go to Chamonix for skiing or snowboarding, there is much more to do in the town and its immediate surroundings.
Take a cable car to L’Aiguille du Midi for some stunning views of the mountains, hike to the Glacier des Bossons, enjoy the festive decorations in town, escape the cold in the Crystal Museum, and binge on cheese fondue until your heart is content.
Read more: Foods to Try in France
5 – Transylvania, Romania
The fact that Transylvania is less popular among international tourists than other European destinations can only be a plus. Transylvania is a wonderful winter destination with beautiful natural sights, impressive castles, and lovely towns.
Wander around the historical centers of the main cities of Brașov and Sibiu, visit the beautiful Neo-Renaissance Peleș Castle, go skiing in Poiana Brașov or Predeal, and don’t forget to pay a visit to Bran Castle, aka Dracula’s Castle. While Bran is not really Dracula’s Castle (or Vlad Țepeș’s to be precise), it served as inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Read more: Foods to Try in Romania
6 – Lake Bled, Slovenia
The picture-perfect Lake Bled, just one hour from Ljubljana, is perfect for an idyllic getaway during any season. But during winter, there is a fairy tale atmosphere throughout the region that makes it incredibly beautiful.
Take a short hike to the top of Osojnica hill to enjoy a beautiful view of the lake and the mountains in the background. In the small town of Bled, check the Christmas decorations and nativity scenes, enjoy some hearty Slovenian food, and don’t forget to taste the famous Blejska kremšnita or Bled cream cake.
Read more: Foods to Try in Slovenia
7 – Lapland, Finland
Nothing says winter like Lapland. The region in the north of Finland is the place to go to enjoy virtually any activity involving snow. Plus, if you’re lucky, you can also witness an impressive Aurora Borealis. For an even more incredible experience, try staying in a glass igloo to watch the spectacle.
In Rovaniemi, pay a visit to the Santa Claus Village and check out Santa’s post office. Two of the most typically Lappish activities are husky safaris and reindeer rides that will take you through breathtaking landscapes. Try the Finnish sauna if you want to get warm and cozy instead.
Read more: Foods to Try in Finland
8 – Colmar, France
With its charming historical houses, Colmar feels like a mix between a French and a German town. During the winter season, the town is covered in festive decorations that make it even more magical.
Wander around town to see the unique houses covered in Christmas lights and decorations, drink mulled wine at the Christmas markets, go ice skating at the rink in Place Rapp, and try some traditional Alsatian food.
If the weather allows it, take a short boat ride along the La Lauch River for a different perspective of the picturesque town.
Read more: Pastries to Try in France
9 – Golden Circle, Iceland
Iceland’s so-called Golden Circle is a circular route that begins and ends in the country’s capital, Reykjavik. If you only have a short time to spend in Iceland, this route is perfect for experiencing some of the most beautiful natural wonders this country has to offer.
The Golden Circle goes through Iceland’s first national park, Thingvellir, the Geysir Geothermal Area, where you can see Iceland’s impressive geyser aptly named Geysir, and the spectacular Gullfoss Waterfall.
Other impressive spots on the route or reachable with a small detour are Thorufoss waterfall, Kerid Crater, and the Secret Lagoon. If you have some extra time, the Blue Lagoon is a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik.
Read more: Foods to Try in Iceland
10 – Bergen, Norway
If Tromso is a bit too off-the-beaten-track, Bergen is a much more accessible place to visit in Norway, but it does not fall short in beauty. The mountains surrounding the city get covered in snow and are great for skiing and sledding or even just hiking.
Take the Fløibanen funicular to enjoy a beautiful view of the city from above, go on a short Fjord cruise, and simply stroll around the city and enjoy the streets and houses covered in snow. Don’t forget to check out the colorful wooden houses in Bryggen and enjoy a fresh fish meal at the Fish Market.
Read more: Desserts to Try in Norway
11 – Dolomites, Italy
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Dolomites is a perfect place to visit if you want to enjoy the peacefulness and beauty of nature. Winter sports are undoubtedly the main reason to go to the Dolomites in winter, but you could also go to admire the landscape if you don’t want to hit the slopes.
Stay in the lovely ski resort town of Cortina D’Ampezzo or the village of San Candido, discover the awe-inspiring Tre Cime Natural Park, and wonder at the beauty of Lake Braies (Pragser Wildsee) in winter. Oh, and don’t forget to indulge in some heart-warming Alpine food.
Read more: Foods to Try in Italy
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12 – Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland
No trip to Iceland would be complete without visiting a glacier (or several). Vatnajökull National Park is one of the largest national parks in Europe and encompasses the largest glacier on the continent.
There are many activities to do in the national park, including glacier hiking, taking a boat tour to the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, taking a guided tour of the ice caves, exploring the Skaftafell area to see the Svartifoss waterfall, and walking on the spectacular Diamond Beach.
13 – London, United Kingdom
There is something more than a little magical about London throughout winter, especially during the Christmas holidays. The Christmas lights and decorations add a magical touch to the city, and despite the cold and wet weather, there are always plenty of activities to do both indoors and outdoors.
Visit the Winter Wonderland Christmas market, warm up with mulled wine at the Borough Market, and check out the lovely Christmas lights on Oxford Street and Regent Street. To stay warm and dry, have a hot afternoon tea at one of the many tea rooms, and enjoy lunch in a cute igloo at Coppa Club Tower Bridge.
Read more: British Foods You Need to Try
14 – Zermatt, Switzerland
At the foot of the iconic mountain Matterhorn, Zermatt is a stunning skiing and hiking destination in Switzerland. Aside from hitting the slopes, you can go on one of the many hikes, like the popular Five Lakes Trail that goes by the mountain lakes of Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Moosjisee, and Leisee. Most of these lakes offer gorgeous views of the Matterhorn reflecting in the water.
For some impressive views of the Matterhorn, take the cogwheel railway from Zermatt to Gornergrat. The train ride will offer amazing views, but the best are undoubtedly from Gornergrat summit.
Read more: Foods to Try in Switzerland
15 – Abisko National Park, Sweden
Abisko National Park in the Swedish Lapland, close to the border with Norway, is one of the best spots to see the Northern Lights in Sweden. For the best chance to see the Aurora, join a professionally guided tour that will take you to the best spots.
Aside from Aurora hunting, you can go on hikes around the Arctic wilderness of the national park, stay at the unique Icehotel, go on a snowmobile sled tour, and visit the Sami open-air museum in Jukkasjärvi to see the reindeer and learn about the Sami culture.
Read more: Foods to Try in Sweden
16 – Nuremberg, Germany
Almost any city in Germany is a great idea during winter, but Nuremberg is without a doubt one of the most special to visit. Housing one of the biggest and prettiest Christmas markets in Germany – and Europe – Nuremberg deserves a visit even just for this reason.
Stay warm with traditional Glühwein (and keep the mug), eat the original Nuremberg grilled sausages, and try the sweet gingerbread. Aside from spending time at the Christmas markets, you can visit Nuremberg Castle, walk the city walls, visit the Gothic Frauenkirche, and explore the lovely Altstadt (Old Town).
Read more: Desserts to Try in Germany
17 – Strasbourg, France
The location of this French city at the border with Germany explains why its architecture reminds many German towns, with the timber-framed buildings typical of the Rhineland area. The main sight in the city is the sandstone Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady, a must-see during any season.
If you visit in December, you can’t miss the Christmas markets in Place Broglie, Place de la Cathédrale, and Place Grimmeisen, to mention a few. And don’t forget to check out the Christmas tree in Place Kléber, the largest square in Strasbourg.
18 – Tallinn, Estonia
With a snowy season that often starts in late October and ends in April, Tallinn is a gorgeous city to visit if you enjoy the snow. Be sure to pack warm clothes and shoes to explore the lovely, snow-covered city on foot and discover plenty of its gems and secrets.
Enjoy a view of Tallinn’s rooftops from Kohtuotsa, shop local products at Balti Jaam Market, go ice skating at the pop-up ice rink near St. Nicholas Church, and check out the Christmas markets.
To escape the cold, have a hearty meal in a traditional Estonian restaurant and visit the beautiful Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
Read more: Foods to Try in Estonia
19 – Salzburg, Austria
If you happen to visit Salzburg around the 6th of December, you can witness an ancient pagan festival. Traditional Krampus and Perchten parades take place in Salzburg on this date, with locals dressed in pelts and wearing wooden masks representing wild figures meant to drive away the dark spirits of winter.
Starting from late November, you can also explore the lovely Christmas markets and see the city in its festive atmosphere. The city also has a Christmas Museum open year-round, though visiting it in winter will make you appreciate the festive atmosphere more.
20 – Berlin, Germany
Gracing the lively capital of Germany is always a good idea, but winter brings out a side of the city that you definitely shouldn’t miss. While it no longer snows as often as it used to, when it does, the city is simply amazing.
Like in every German city, Christmas markets pop up throughout Berlin in late November, initiating the holiday season. Collect the traditional, decorated Glühwein mugs from the different markets, check out the Christmas lights at Berlin Botanical Garden, discover the city’s landmarks and museums with fewer crowds, and go Christmas shopping at KaDeWe.
21 – Riga, Latvia
If you wish to escape the crowded big Western European cities, the capital of Latvia is a great place to go. In Riga, you can visit a beautiful Art Nouveau district, explore the lovely Old Town, and warm up with a hot chocolate or coffee at one of the many cozy cafés.
Riga also has a few Christmas markets, including the main one in Doma Laukums and the one at Esplanade Park, housing the cutest rabbit village.
In front of the iconic House of the Blackheads, you’ll find the main Christmas tree in the city. Latvians claim that the first Christmas tree in the world was decorated right in this square in 1510 by the Brotherhood of Blackheads.
Read more: Foods to Try in Latvia
22 – Prague, Czech Republic
Featuring one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe, Prague is a lovely place to visit in winter. The market in the Old Town Square starts in late November and ends at the beginning of January. However, there are several other Christmas markets in the city, like the one at Prague Castle or in Wenceslas Square.
During wintertime, you can also ride the adorable Christmas trams, covered in fairy lights and decorations. Remember to try the traditional trdelnik, an old Bohemian sweet pastry also known as chimney cake in English, and sample traditional Czech dishes like hearty soups and stews.
Read more: Foods to Try in the Czech Republic
23 – Hallstatt, Austria
A true winter wanderlust destination, the small village of Hallstatt is gorgeous year-round, but it’s even more magical in winter. With the snow covering the houses and the surrounding mountains, the Austrian village is as charming as they get.
Wander around the lovely town to see the Christmas decorations, markets, and nativity displays, hike one of the many trails around town, and visit the Altaussee Salt Mine. If you’re up for some winter sports, there are three ski areas within easy reach, Dachstein-West, Dachstein Krippenstein, and Loser.
Read more: Desserts to Try in Austria
24 – Budapest, Hungary
Budapest is one of the best European capitals to visit during winter. The main landmarks, like the Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion, are even more beautiful when covered in snow. Furthermore, you get to see Christmas decorations everywhere, including on trams.
On your to-do list, add a visit to the St. Stephen Basilica light show, ice skating at the City Park Ice Rink in front of Vajdahunyad Castle, and relaxing in the thermal baths at Széchenyi Baths or Gellért Baths. In the evening, warm up with traditional Goulash and go out at one of the ruin bars in the Jewish Quarter.
Read more: Foods to Try in Hungary
You Might Also Like to Read: Beautiful Hungarian Cities and Places to Visit
25 – Vienna, Austria
Finally, the charming capital of Austria couldn’t be left off this list of European places to visit in winter. You could easily spend your entire trip to Vienna just checking out all the Christmas markets. The best ones are in Rathausplatz, Spittelberg, Karlsplatz, Maria Theresian Platz, and Stephansplatz.
While you’re at it, you must try Kaiserschmarrn (chopped pancake) and Bratkartoffel (roasted potatoes) and drink some Glühwein.
If you have any time left, climb to the top of St. Stephen’s Cathedral to see the snow-covered rooftops, go ice skating at the rink in Rathausplatz, listen to the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra, and drink Viennese coffee at Café Central.
Places to Visit in Europe in Winter Summary
Staggeringly beautiful views, festive activities, thrill-seeking winter sports, and memories that will last a lifetime all await when you let your wanderlust take over and visit Europe from the start of November through to the end of February.
While winter does come with longer nights and colder weather, that doesn’t mean you still can’t enjoy a vacation full of boundless joy, sights for sore eyes, and intrepid adventures in the snow.
Winter breaks in Europe offer something for everyone, whether you’re traveling solo, on the road with a best friend or loved one, or bringing the whole family along for the ride.
Europe, to this day, is one of the world’s most diverse, intriguing, and staggeringly beautiful continents, and all are taken to a whole new level when winter sets in. The snow caps everything from the dainty villages to the towering peaks, and that infectious festive spirit spreads love and energy throughout the villages, towns, and cities. You truly are in for a winter wonderland quite like nothing else!
You Might Also Like to Read
- Most Romantic Destinations in Europe You Have to Visit with Your Loved One
- European Foods You Need to Try
- How to Rent a Car in Europe
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Contributor: Roxana Fanaru is a Romanian content writer and journalist who has written for various publications in the lifestyle and travel niches and has traveled extensively through many different countries across Europe.