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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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