Winter in Europe is just around the corner! The colder months from November to March in Europe brings travellers the unique opportunity to experience a different side of this dynamic continent.
Europe is a magical place to explore during the colder months for a winter escape. From historic cities blanketed in snow, majestic mountains for all kinds of winter sports, villages bursting with Christmas charm and even places to catch some winter sun and so much more.
In this post, we’re exploring 11 of the best, and most unexpected, winter holiday destinations in Europe. Even if winter is harsh and cold in Europe, these amazing winter escapes will have you counting down the days till winter begins!
There are so many countries in Europe, each with a distinct culture, climate and landscape. The countries further north in Europe have plenty of mountains and snow, while the countries further south experience a more mild winter with plenty of sunshine. The options for winter escapes in Europe are truly amazing!
Whether you’re looking for some adventure, snow, sun, culture or somewhere off the beaten winter travel track, this post will have a European winter destination for you.
Madeira is an island in the North Atlantic that is a part of Portugal. While it is technically a European country, geographically it is closer to Africa with Morocco and the Canary Islands being nearby. Because of its location, it is actually one of the warmest places you can visit in Europe during the winter. This is one of the best European winter escape destinations for those who adore warm weather and sunshine!
Madeira is a volcanic island and is very mountainous, it is nothing but mountains! This makes Madeira strikingly beautiful and perfect for those who love nature and adventure. It is also an epic country to go to for a winter road trip.
Places in Madeira to visit include Cabo Girao, Pico Do Arieiro & Pico RuivoMadeira has so much to offer, including beaches, vineyards, hiking, local culture and food, beautiful forests and other striking landscapes, waterfalls and so much more.
Plus Madeira has some beautiful spots to watch sunrise and sunset which can be comfortably enjoyed outside throughout winter.
St. Petersburg, Russia
St Petersburg is an excellent destination to make the effort to visit in winter, especially for the festive season! Some people don’t see Russia as a great tourist destination, which makes it such a great choice to visit this winter. Experience that harsh, freezing cold Russian winter and fully immerse yourself in a new culture.
This Russian city is the epitome of a winter destination with the extra charm of Christmas. St Petersburg is rich in culture and heritage with incredible buildings that will take your breath away. The city itself is blanketed in ice and snow all winter long. St Petersburg is truly a magical winter wonderland for anyone who is willing to experience the bite of a Russian winter. The country is built to thrive in cold temperatures, just don’t forget to pack suitable clothing.
Expect to see frozen canals lined with pastel-coloured palaces, which give the former Russian capital an air of elegance, luxury and royalty. The palace gardens and parks turn into ice skating rinks and sledging slopes.
Russians celebrate Christmas on January 7. This is an amazing day to be in St Petersburg because they celebrate Russian Christmas which is the biggest festival in the country. There are plenty of festivities happening around Christmas, the New Year and Maslenitsa (an Eastern Slavic religious and folk holiday on February 28 2022) bringing joyful fairs and markets throughout the city. This encourages everyone to brave the cold and get out and about during this magical time of year.
St Petersburg is a dynamic city with so much to offer for visitors in winter. Places to visit include the Hermitage Museum, Peterhof Palace, Church of the Savior on Blood and Winter Palace.
Andalucia in Spain is widely regarded as the most beautiful province in Spain. It is also the hottest place in Spain during winter, making this one of the most popular places to visit in Europe to escape the freezing temperatures in Northern Europe.
Andalusia takes up a large chunk on the southwest coast of Space, so being the furthest south and closest to Africa, it’s no wonder this suntrap is a favourite for those wanting some winter sun. Plus this region is scorching in the summer months, making winter here a more comfortable temperature for most.
Andalucia is a melting pot of Moorish, Western, Spanish and African cultures with so much to explore on the coast and inland. This province is home to some of the most iconic destinations in Spain including Seville, Granada, Cordoba, Marbella and Malaga. It has so much to offer for travellers who want to explore beautiful architecture, Spanish culture, beautiful beaches and national parks.
Cyprus is another tropical beach winter getaway destination with a mild Mediterranean winter. Many people in Europe associate Cyrus with affordable beach holiday package deals, but there is much more to Cyrus! Winter is an amazing time to visit with mild temperatures and fewer crowds. Plus you’re likely to score some great off-season bargains!
While the weather in the midst of winter may be a bit chilly to be lounging on the beach at 18 degrees, it is the perfect temperature to explore all of what the island has to offer. You can go sightseeing in Nicosia, explore the Kourion archaeological site, go hiking in the Troodos mountains and immerse yourself fully in the culture by visiting the towns and villages spread all over the island. If you’re lucky you may even get a hot enough day to sunbathe on the beach!
Venice is our top pick of cities to visit in Italy during the winter. Venice is an incredibly iconic city that is deeply entrenched in history, culture and art. Plus it is just as beautiful and picturesque in winter as it is in summer (with fewer crowds too!). Winter brings a mystical quality to the city with calm streets, misty mornings, dim alleyways and quiet canals.
In February, Venice hosts the Venice Carnival which can be traced back as far as 850 years. This event is of epic proportions and is an incredible reason to get to Venice in January. This festival lasts for a whole fortnight and offers travellers the opportunity to have a once in a lifetime cultural experience. The Venice carnival starts in late January and culminates forty days before Easter.
Venice Carnival is most famous for its colourful, elaborate and intricate masks, which are an iconic symbol of Venice. People flock to Venice during this festival to dress up and enjoy boat trips, balls and operas. Dates For Venice Carnival 2022: February 19 – March 1. Valentine’s day in this romantic city is also another big drawcard for visitors to Venice in winter!
While the crowds won’t be as bad as in summer, it’s still recommended to visit the most popular tourist attractions first thing in the morning such as St Mark’s Square. With the sun coming up later in winter, this means you can enjoy more of a sleep in before hitting the streets as the sun comes up.
Andorra is a tiny mountainous country wedged between France and Spain. It is a famous destination for skiing and snowboarding in the winter and is a highly sought after destination to experience winter sports in Europe. There are countless winter filled activities to keep you busy in this country that few people have even heard of! There is Caldea spa which is the highest natural spa in Europe, the world's longest toboggan in Naturlandia, ice skating, fun Apres ski bars, dog sledging and much more.
Andorra is also a tax haven, making it the best place in Europe to do some duty-free Christmas shopping! It is full of unique boutique stores and jewellers as well as incredible landscapes.
Why would you want to miss out on the one famous destination for skiing and snowboarding which is considered to be the highest point for Europeans during winters? Well, Andorra is not only that perfect spot but also provides a safe space for duty-free shopping!
Tallinn in Estonia is another incredible but unexpected European winter escape destination. This city has so many amazing things to do to keep busy and have fun during their freezing cold winters. Tallinn is well equipped for the ice and snow!
Tallinn is simply stunning, especially during Christmas. It is one of the best places in Europe to visit for Christmas with its wonderful markets and Christmas lights. If you are lucky enough to be there when it snows, you are in for a magical treat.
Tallinn is the epitome of historic and regal Europe but without the mass crowds and ridiculous prices. It is home to some of the best architecture that Europe has to offer!
Take a walk to the old town to experience the historic vibe and soak in the festivities of the Christmas markets in the Tallinn Town Hall Square. Expect music, mulled wine and of course some Estonian Glögg.
Tallinn is freezing at this time of year so you can expect to enjoy a real winter wonderland. While you’re in Tallinn make sure you visit Toompea, which is a famous hill that gives panoramic views of the city and the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Tallinn also has a number of historic museums that are well worth a visit.
Tromso in Norway is known as the gateway to the Arctic. This is a real north pole adventure and the peak experience of winter in Europe. Tromso is Norway's largest city that is located in the Arctic and also one of the most iconic winter locations you can visit in Europe.
Tromso meets the definition of winter wonderland like no other destination on this list. You can enjoy snowshoeing, whale watching, the northern lights and dog sledging. You can reach Tromso by plane or even by boat for more of an adventure.
There are several options for dog-sledging and northern light excursions in Tromso to make sure you have the best possible experience. You can also learn about the Sami people and their Nordic lifestyle in the Arctic which includes food traditions, chants known as joik and reindeer (of course!).
Being in the Arctic and very close to the North Pole, Tromso is also a magical place to visit for Christmas! Winter in Tromso is no joke, so make sure you pack appropriately.
You may associate Dubrovnik in Croatia with European summer and boat trips, but Dubrovnik is actually an epic place to visit in winter as well. This walled city is world-renowned for its stunning seaside medieval architecture and glorious crystal clear water. Winter gives you the opportunity to experience Dubrovnik in a different light away from cliff jumping, scorching heat and pumping nightlife.
This UNESCO world heritage site has so much to explore even in winter, from the endless alleyways, churches, a walk along the city walls and a gondola ride to the famous viewpoint. Plus everything in winter is so much cheaper, in an effort to attract more visitors!
Dubrovnik also has a great Christmas market and carnival in February that are well worth visiting.
Luxembourg is another beautiful destination for a winter escape in Europe. Luxembourg is a picture-perfect location to visit during the winter. This small country is wedged between France, Belgium and Germany and enjoys many of their influences in their distinct culture.
In the city centre, you’ll find cosy and welcoming restaurants to warm up in and enjoy the winter festivities. They also have a stunning ice skating rink in the city centre with live music.
Luxembourg also has many natural wonders to explore outside of the city, including the Mullerthal hiking trail, tobogganing in the hills and fields and historic castles in Vianden. Many places remain open for the winter season so there is plenty to do in Luxembourg in winter.
Public transport is free for everyone and the city knows how to handle ice and snow, making it a breeze to get around in winter.
If you’re lucky enough to be there when it snows you will be treated to a stunning European wonderland with white covered buildings and twinkling city lights.
The Alsace region in France is an epic winter escape destination in Europe and our top pick for winter in France. Alsace offers incredible food, world-class wine, picturesque French towns and villages and some of the best Christmas markets that Europe has to offer.
Some of the most popular spots to enjoy winter in the Alsace region are Strasbourg and Colmar, which are particularly popular at Christmas due to their Christmas markets. These markets are world famous and should be on your bucket list if you are a Christmas fan!
There are also small towns in Alsace that are more than worth your time. These include Ribeauville, Riquewihr and Kaysersburg. The best way to explore everything this region has to offer in winter is to hire a car and hop from town to town to experience the local delights and winter culture.
One of the most unique things to do in this region is to visit the local wine caves where people will always be more than happy to welcome you in to sample some of their wine. It is also an amazing opportunity to experience the local cuisine which is exquisite, and perfect for winter weather. There are also castles located high on the hills, overlooking the valleys which are incredible to explore. Chateau Koenigsbourg is the grandest of them all and well worth a visit.