European Cities that Get Better in Winter

White Christmas is one of the most exciting times in Europe. Christmas is not only absolutely magical, but in fact whole cities transform into fairytales during the winter months. There is so much to see and so much to do, despite the common belief that Europe slows down in winter.

We’ve put together a European cities’ winter guide for you to plan your merry travel.

1. Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon is also a fantastic choice during the winter months. Unlike many other European cities, Lisbon is soaked in the Mediterranean climate, which means less rain, more sun, and no snow or freezing temperatures. In fact, this is the warmest city in Europe in winter. Thankfully it isn’t too warm, given Lisbon’s hilly terrain. In summer months you can work up a decent sweat negotiating the hills when the mercury hits 30+ degrees C, whereas in winter, exploring is a treat!

In winter, you can enjoy the city at a slower pace. Crowds are smaller and prices are generally lower as it’s off season. Soak in the culture, and get lost in the culinary scene and nightlife. Get your Lisbon Card and explore over 23 interesting museums in the city. Definite musts include taking a gourmet tour and having a drink in a former brothel, the Pensão Amor.

One of the many awesome things in European countries during the winter months is the availability of freshly roasted chestnuts. At dusk, you’ll see the smoky haze from the roasted chestnut stalls wafting along the Rua Augusta. Yum.

2. Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck is known as the ski and snowboard capital of the world. However, it’s not all about conquering the gorgeous white puffy slopes. The beautiful Tyrollian city of Innsbruck comes alive with markets, lights and wintry attractions. Christmas and New Year’s Eve are definitely among the best times to visit Innsbruck.

Swarovski’s Kristallwelten world is one of the places we recommend you visit here, in Innsbruck. It’s not just a Swarovski’s exhibition – the space boasts a beautiful outdoor garden (which might be a little chilly in winter!), and inside, contains 14 hidden rooms with a number of fascinating paintings, sculptures and installations. It’s a glittery, magical place.

Make sure you save one day to climb up (via cable car and funicular) from Nordkette to Seegrube ski station, 2200 meters above sea level. What a stunning panorama of the city! Here, you can also grab a drink at a unique igloo bar called Cloud9.

3. Venice, Italy

In July and August, it can get unbearably hot in Venice. Being surrounded by water doesn’t help to cool one down during the scorching summer months. Winter, however, transforms this gorgeous Italian city.

Every winter, from the beginning of December until the end of Carnevale, Venice’s largest square, Campo San Polo, is turned into a gigantic ice-skating rink. After a few rounds on the ice, the plush red velvet banquettes and warm ambiance of the Italy’s oldest coffee house, iconic Caffè Florian (opened in 1720) is very enticing. A nice cup of hot chocolate with biscotti for dipping is all you need to continue your journey in Venice on these cooler days.

One for the diary, the next Venice Carnevale is taking place between 16 February 2019 and 5 March 2019, which is in itself is a great excuse to postpone your trip to Italy till then.

A gondola ride might not sound appealing in below-freezing temperatures, but winter is actually the most romantic time to hop on board. From December through February, the canals are hauntingly quiet, shrouded in mist and illuminated by soft, hazy winter light – like a scene straight out of a movie. Don’t believe us? Travel to Venice to check it out for yourself. You’ll be in awe.

4. Rovaniemi, Finland

As the ‘official’ terrestrial residence of Santa Claus, Rovaniemi absolutely had to make our list. This is an ultimate Christmas playground. If you start humming Christmas tunes as soon as Halloween is wrapped up, you might be interested in checking out Rovaniemi.

In Rovaniemi, you can visit reindeer farms all year and in the winter, go on sleigh rides pulled by reindeer. This is a truly unique experience! To top this off, you have got to try husky sleighing as well. Local tours with take you through snow-clad forests pulled by a team of dogs that are so eager to keep going that you need a driving lesson before you mount the sled.

Aw, the Northern Lights. Who hasn’t seen these futuristic images of glowing skies! In reality, not many people have actually seen the Aurora Borealis. That is because the Northern Lights might play across the sky every night for a week and then not show for another week. This is a true sky treasure hunt – it will test your patience (and your winter clothes) but it is so worth it to spy these natural wonders.

5. Bruges, Belgium

Bruges in winter is a romantic destination for couples, fairytale or adventure seekers and friends looking to celebrate White Christmas in style. For example, a carriage ride through Bruges in winter is an undeniably romantic way to spend some quality time cozied up with a significant other or a new friend.

You absolutely must try a Liege Waffle with sour cherries and whipped cream at one of the city’s Christmas markets. And of course Belgium chocolate! In winter in Belgium you need all those extra calories to keep warm – what a perfect excuse to taste all the chocolate you can here.

When it comes to beer, Bruges Zot is the one to try. It’s the city’s local brew and is considered one of Belgium’s best beers. One word of caution: be careful when asking for a large beer anywhere in the city, as you’ll mostly likely be brought a 2-litre stein, and charged 13€ for the pleasure!

6. Sofia, Bulgaria

Bulgaria is a great destination for those who want to experience a proper European winter while on a budget.

Sofia is home to the Three Trolls board games bar. Gather your friends (or make some there) and let the time fly having fun teasing your brain. The bar offers variety of craft beer and you can bring your own food.

Winter is the time to explore all of Sofia’s cultural elements, including the Opera and Ballet, Museums, Escape rooms, unique and exquisite Art House “Kuklite” (The Dolls) and so much more. This city will blow your mind!

Call our team of travel planners to discuss your next enchanting Winter Adventure: 1800 242 353.