Europe » 10 Best European Winter City Breaks

10 Best European Winter City Breaks

Looking for winter city breaks in Europe? From Reykjavik and Vienna, to Bergen and Marbella, there are lots of gorgeous places to choose from!

One of the best things about living in the UK is that it’s so easy to get to a variety of beautiful places in Europe. They’re pretty much on the doorstep! While summer is a lovely time for a getaway, there’s a sprinkle of magic in winter. Twinkly lights, warming cups of gluhwein, Christmas trees and more make this a special season to explore Europe’s cities.

Strasbourg in winter
There are so many gorgeous European winter city breaks

Let’s face it, winter months can be long and dreary in the UK, especially once the clocks change and the dark nights roll in. I think just having a little break in your calendar gives you a bit of energy to get through the bleak days. Thankfully there are plenty of great winter city breaks in Europe, and most are just a short flight or train ride away.

If you’re trying to decide where to go, these recommendations will definitely help you plan your next adventure!

French ski resort in winter
Where would you love to visit in winter?

10 Best Winter Destinations in Europe

Coming up are a selection of beautiful and unique destinations for winter city breaks in Europe. Each one offers something special so you might have a tough time choosing where to go!

Reykjavik, Iceland

In recent years Iceland, and in particular its capital city Reykjavik, has become a very popular year-round destination. However, it’s particularly special in the winter months. A very cosmopolitan city, Reykjavik is known for its colourful houses, beautiful old town, burgeoning food scene and artistic vibe.

Beautiful views in Reykjavik, Iceland
Beautiful views in Reykjavik, Iceland

During the winter Iceland’s beautiful and rugged landscapes will have you reaching for your camera over and over again. Don’t miss a visit to the magnificent Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral. Both unusual and mystical, it’s a unique spot.

Reykjavik in winter
Reykjavik in winter

Plus, if you’re thinking of getting away for New Year, Reykjavik’s fantastic nightlife will have you partying until the early hours! The only problem? You might need deep pockets as a break in Reykjavik doesn’t come cheap.

If you’re looking for more information on visiting Iceland, don’t miss my guide to unique hotels in Iceland. These places are so amazing!

You could see the northern lights if you visit Reykjavik in winter
You could see the northern lights if you visit Reykjavik in winter

Vienna, Austria

Recently voted the best city in Europe, Vienna is a beautiful city to visit in winter. Plan your trip for the run up to Christmas and you’ll get to enjoy the city’s legendary Christmas markets. Oh, and don’t worry about the cold, once you’re feasting on tasty chocolate sachertorte and drinking hot chocolate or Glühwein, you’ll feel nice and toasty!

How about visiting the Belvedere Palace in Vienna in winter
How about visiting the Belvedere Palace in Vienna in winter

The Baroque buildings and bright lights of Vienna are captivating too. For some fun winter activities in winter, you could go ice skating in the city centre, or take a horse-drawn carriage ride. The concert halls have a busy schedule during the winter season, so if you fancy diving into Vienna’s cultural scene, that could add an extra dimension to your winter city break.

To help you plan your getaway, definitely check out my 2-day Vienna itinerary and read a few of my favourite unique places to visit in Vienna.

Vienna in winter
Vienna is magical in winter

Bergen, Norway

For something a little different, head north to the colourful city of Bergen in Norway. With UNESCO World Heritage status, this city features a charming mix of colourful wooden buildings, a scenic harbour, cobbled streets and quaint, narrow alleyways. As for the background, that’s on another scale with epic fjords all around!

winter in Bergen, Norway
How stunning is this for a European winter city break?

Bergen is easily explored on foot. It’s a cultural haven that boasts a number of fabulous museums and galleries. If you’re lucky, you might even get to experience Mother Nature’s greatest works of art – the Northern Lights.

You’ll need to wrap up warm as this is one of the coldest city breaks in Europe. The average winter temperature is a bone-chilling 0°C, and it drops below that frequently. However, its delightful old-quarter, filled with an eclectic mix of boutiques and cafes, will give you plenty of opportunities to warm up.

Bergen in winter
Colourful houses in Bergen in winter

For a really great view of the city in winter be sure to take the cable car up to the top of the 1,000ft Mount Fløyen, which you can ski or sledge down until 10pm each day.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

I always think Amsterdam is a city that works all year round. However, it won’t come as news to you that this is a place that struggles with over-tourism in the summer. If you visit in the colder months, you’ll find it much easier to appreciate the sights without the crowds.

Amsterdam in winter
Perfect snowy scenes in Amsterdam

There’s plenty to enjoy in Amsterdam including the picturesque canals, iconic Dutch architecture and quaint streets. The food and drink scene is top notch too, so you’ll always have something to do if the outside temperatures are a little painful.

For lots of tips to make your winter getaway extra special, read my guide for the ultimate weekend in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam in winter
Amsterdam is one of the best winter city breaks in Europe

Tallinn, Estonia

I’ll admit that I think Tallinn still feels like a bit of a secret. It’s an incredible place to visit, especially during the winter months, so it might not be a secret for much longer!

Tallinn in winter
How pretty is Tallinn in winter?

Boasting turreted castles and a fabulous location by the Baltic Sea, Tallin has multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Spend your days exploring stunning churches and merchant houses, learning about Estonian food and getting to grips with a new culture.

The Christmas markets in Tallinn are also unique, with traditional Estonian handcrafts for sale. Head on over to Toompea Castle for the most exquisite views of the old town square. Plus, don’t miss the opportunity to take a walk around the walls of the medieval city. It’s one of the most magical winter experiences in Tallinn.

Tallinn in winter
The capital of Estonia has lots to offer in the colder months

Paris, France

Paris is always a good idea, but in winter it feels like this city has even more elegance and sophistication. Plus, the romance levels go up a notch or two, so it’s an ideal choice if you’re travelling with your other half.

Imagine a winter stroll down the Champs-Elysées or seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkling with Christmas lights. How about taking in the fabulously over-the-top displays at Galeries Lafayette?

Paris in winter
Paris is one of the best European cities to visit in December

Wrap up warm and amble along the Seine, on pavements that twinkle under golden lamps. Or simply relax with a coffee or a glass of wine while enjoying the cosy surroundings of a traditional Parisian bistro.

Galleries Lafayette in Paris at Christmas
Galleries Lafayette in Paris at Christmas

Best of all, by swapping a summer break for a winter adventure you’ll find that queues for the city’s main attractions, including places like The Louvre are reduced significantly. You’ll be able to visit many of the city’s highlights without the crowds.

If you’re starting to plan your trip, check out my guide to visiting Paris in winter. It’s full of great tips to make the most of your winter city break.

Marbella, Spain

If the winter cold is getting you down, head on over to Marbella! This is the perfect European city break destination if you’re craving some winter sun. Average temperatures are a pleasant 18° during the day, even in December and January.

Beautiful scenery in Marbella, Spain
Beautiful scenery in Marbella, Spain

You might have some preconceptions about Marbella, but I promise you there’s plenty more to this sunny destination than “Marbs”, Essex style parties and nightclubs! This is a city rich in Spanish culture, with scenic landscapes, a stunning old town and a great food scene (don’t miss the paella!)

Even in winter Marbella's temperatures are warm
Even in winter Marbella’s temperatures are warm

Very different to most other places in Europe in the winter, its sunny climate means that while your friends back home are experiencing near freezing temperatures, you can relax on the beach or play golf on one of the beautiful courses in the area.

If you’re looking for other places to visit in Spain in winter, don’t miss my guide.

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent isn’t as popular for a winter city break as other Belgian cities such as Brussels and Bruges. However, after my recent trip I’m here to tell you that its somewhere you should add to your winter bucket list. With a medieval castle, river lined with stunning architecture and beautiful cathedrals and churches, this a city with bags of charm.

The architecture in Ghent is magical
The architecture in Ghent is magical

The city comes alive with Christmas festivities. Expect to see twinkly lights, a vibrant market and open your senses to the heady aroma of pine trees and mulled wine.

If you decide to stay a night or two (and you definitely should!) you can go ice skating, visit the castle or spend the evening checking out a few of the fabulous winter pop-up bars that open at this time of year.

I loved my time in Ghent and would love to go back in winter
I loved my time in Ghent and would love to go back in winter

Ljubljana, Slovenia

How about a trip to Slovenia for your winter break this year? Slovenia’s tiny capital Ljubljana is a young, vibrant city that boasts over 40,000 students. Collectively they give this place a warm, gregarious personality that you’ll see in its daily central market and bustling bars and restaurants. There’s a great nightlife scene too.

Ljubljana in winter
Ljubljana is one of my top European winter city breaks

Known for its magnificent castle, as well as Tivoli Park and the Triple Bridge, Ljubljana is also just 55km from Lake Bled, so is ideal if you fancy adding in a day trip. If you haven’t visited before, you’ll be amazed when you see the lake – it’s like something from a fairytale!

With its iconic island and snow-capped mountains behind, this is definitely a winter escape to remember.

Lake Bled is a short drive from the capital
Lake Bled is a short drive from the capital

Copenhagen, Denmark

Christmas in Copenhagen is all about the hygge! The Dane’s idea of getting into the Christmas spirit is all about sharing a warm cup of gløgg after a day of shopping or sightseeing.

How about Copenhagen for a winter city break in Europe
How about Copenhagen for a winter city break in Europe

Copenhagen embraces Christmas as much as any other city in Europe. For an extra fun day out, visit Tivoli Gardens where you’ll find Christmas markets, sparkling fairy lights and lots of themed fun rides and attractions.

The days might be short and the nights rather cold, but this is a city that brings the feel good vibes all year round.

Copenhagen is magical in winter
Copenhagen is magical in winter

I hope these awesome winter city breaks around Europe inspire you to plan a getaway soon. Wherever you go, I hope you have an amazing trip.

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Best Winter City Breaks in Europe

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