22 best cities in Europe to visit in winter

Winter might just be the perfect time of the year for a European city trip. During this magical time of the year, some are covered in snow and most are decorated with fairylights and Christmas decorations. The cities in Europe are like from a fairytale world. To uncover the best winter city trips in Europe, we’ve asked some of the world’s leading travel bloggers to help create the ultimate bucket list with the best cities in Europe to visit in winter.

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Best cities in Europe to visit in winter

#1 Vienna in wintertime

by Jordan Adkins from Inspired by Maps

Gorgeous, lively, and oh-so-cosmopolitan, Austria’s capital Vienna is a by-word for hip and trendy — and for a good reason! It is always fashionable, cool, and 100% welcoming, and even more so in the depths of winter — making it such an excellent destination for a winter city break in Europe. Suppose you are planning a visit in winter, you’ll need at least a few days. There are just so many things you can do in Vienna

You can go skiing on the slopes just outside the city, twirl around a classic ice-skating rink, wander through the copious amount of Christmas Markets (there is over 15 of them) or just curl up inside a warm cafe with a mug of hot chocolate in an old world coffee house watch the world go by.

Tip: join a guided Christmas Markets Tour to really get into the holiday spirit.

You’d think the city would be a frozen, dark place at this time of year, but instead, Vienna in winter is full of twinklings lights, intimate restaurants, and gratifying sacher torte. Not to mention all the world-class museums and musical performances should you want to get out of the cold. From late November until Christmas, Vienna’s is at its winter best as the scent of mulled wine, and toasted almonds fill the air, but the snow typically doesn’t come until late January or into February. 

A city that is in touch with its past as it looks to the future, you can be assured that you’ll find something to love regarding Vienna and that you’ll come back again and again. To make your stay extra magical, book into the regal Hotel Sacher Wien.

#2 Reykjavik for a snowy city trip

by Victoria Yore from Iceland Trippers

Reykjavik is truly one of the best European cities to visit in Winter! Many people may be scared to visit Iceland in winter because they may think it is horribly cold, but this simply is not true! Reykjavik is no colder than other northern cities such as New York City and it is certainly milder than cities such as Moscow and Chicago.

Reykjavik in winter is home to so many fun things to do! If you happen to be in Iceland for Christmas and New Years, you are in for a real treat as New Years and fireworks are huge in Iceland. You will get to see some of the most spectacular displays in the world.

If you are visiting during the rest of winter, you will be treated to cheaper prices and the northern lights! You can even see the northern lights from parts of Reykjavik with less light pollution so you don’t even have to go far.

Reykjavik is a real treat any time of year, but especially in winter with the holiday festivities, cheaper prices, and northern lights!

Reykjavik Winter city trip

#3 The Christmas market in Strasbourg

by Pierre Guernier from French Moments

At first sight, winter may not seem the best season to visit the Alsace region. This is a cold season when the gloomy and rough weather is not conducive to discovering any town or village such as Strasbourg.

But against all odds, one event in particular has propelled the capital of Alsace to the forefront of the Yuletide season. Since 1994 Strasbourg has proclaimed itself the French ‘Capital of Christmas’. It had the right to do so. Indeed, the Christkindelsmärik (in English: the market of Child Jesus) is the oldest Christmas market in France, dating back to 1570.

During Advent, hundreds of little chalets are spread over the historic Grande Île, the Unesco-listed center of Strasbourg. At nightfall, the city sparkles with a thousand lights in a fairy-tale setting. The original market takes place in Place Broglie while another Christmas village occupies the square of the lofty Gothic cathedral.

The picturesque district of La Petite France is made up of fine half-timbered houses, beautifully decorated for the festive season. Finally the star of the Christmas market is the majestic Christmas tree on Place Kléber with different decorations each year, according to a specific theme.

Strasbourg is a good base to explore other Christmas markets in Alsace: Obernai, Haguenau, Sélestat and Colmar. They are all easily accessible by train from Strasbourg.

Tip: join a guided Alsace Villages Christmas Market Tour to see the best of all charming villages in the Alsace.

Although it has rarely snowed in Strasbourg in recent years, the nearby Vosges mountains welcome winter sports enthusiasts in popular ski resorts like Champ du Feu, La Bresse-Hohneck and Le Markstein.

Strasbourg Christmas Market

#4 Winter trip to Ranua in Lapland

by Fiona from Travelling Thirties

Laying in a nice warm, cozy bed whilst looking out of your igloo onto the snow and the stars above, hoping for a glimpse of the Northern Lights, is a winter wonderland dream come true. Ranua is located about an hour south of Rovaniemi and is the perfect place to hunt for the Northern Lights.

Don’t be fooled by the remote appearance of Ranua, there are many activities to keep you occupied for a night or even a week. From staying in an igloo and looking out on the frozen Lake Ranuanjärvi, surrounded by a snow-covered woodland forest, to participating in some dream winter activities. You can’t take a visit to Lapland without going on a reindeer sleigh ride, a husky adventure or taking snowmobiles out to hunt for the Northern Lights.

During your stay in Ranua you need to spend a few hours at the Ranua Arctic Zoo. Wander around the zoo as the snow gently tickles your nose while looking out for polar bears, wolverines (yes, they’re real) and of course, the arctic fox.

Tip: join one of the English guided tours to the Ranua Wildlife Park to learn more about the wildlife.

The arctic fox igloos were named after the arctic fox and many believe it is the arctic fox that causes the Northern Lights. If you would like to stay in an igloo but you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, I recommend booking one night at the Arctic Fox Igloos and the rest of your stay at Holiday Village Gulo Gulo, which is where all of the snow activities and the zoo are located. 

Ranua Lapland igloo in winter

#5 Gdansk city trip in winter

by Rose Monday from Where Goes Rose

Gdansk is a charming city in Poland peppered with colorful buildings and unusual architecture. Combine the hearty, warming cuisine, Christmas market and strong alcoholic beverages and you’ve got a perfect winter getaway. If you’re still wondering why to visit Gdansk, know that you can eat an entire meal, dessert and consume several beverages and pay less than $10!

Don’t miss Dlugi Targ, translating as Long Market, where you can explore churches, historical cobbled streets and even find a water fountain flanked by Neptune, cherubs and gargoyles. As well as having character, Gdansk is a must for history lovers. World War II was thought to have been triggered in Gdansk at The Old Post Office, a spot where the Germans attacked. Today, you can visit and soak up the history for just 5 zloty. You can also visit the European Solidarity Centre where the workers’ strike resulted in Poland becoming the first non-Communist country in the Eastern Bloc.

For a charming winter trip, climb the Town Hall Tower to see views of Gdansk sprinkled in snow. Between the 23rd of November and the 1st of January, you can visit one of Europe’s prettiest and most charming markets in the old city. Sample traditional Polish food and drink to your heart’s content. For hearty winter cuisine, there are plenty of cafes to visit including Pyra Bar which serves exclusively potato-based dishes including potato cakes, gratins and famous pierogi dumplings.

#6 Tbilisi in wintertime

by Emily Lush from Wander Lush

Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, is a terrific alternative city break destination at any time of year. It’s particularly nice to visit in winter when it’s even less crowded.

Tbilisi has a mild climate compared to most other European cities so if you’re looking for a place to escape the bitter cold, this is it. Winter temperatures normally sit between 0 and 10 degrees Celsius, snow in the city is rare, and there are plenty of blue-sky days.

The best things to do in Tbilisi in winter include cozying up at a cute wine bar and sampling Georgia’s famous vino (this part of the world is known as the cradle of wine), and eating hearty Georgian cuisine. Normal activities such as roving the city’s flea and produce markets, taking short hikes to the many viewpoints in the hills and exploring the delightful Old Town are all accessible through the winter months.

The absolute best cold-day activity is to visit the sulfur baths. The steamy saunas and naturally warm healing waters that bubble up from a spring under the city are the perfect cure for winter chill.

Tip: the Borjomi sulfur pools are easily accessible with a guided tour.

Georgia is an Orthodox country, so Christmas and New Year are both celebrated a week later than in the Roman Catholic calendar. Tbilisi gets into the festive spirit with light displays and a small Christmas market in the city center. January 1st is also celebrated, so if you time your visit right, you can ring in the New Year in Tbilisi twice!

Tbilisi in Georgia winter city trip in Europe

#7 Geneva trip in winter

by Wendy Werneth of The Nomadic Vegan

In winter, Geneva makes a great base from which to explore the many nearby ski resorts and other winter sports activities, both in Switzerland and in neighboring France. Since many people fly into the Geneva airport from the UK and elsewhere in Europe for their ski holidays, there are lots of convenient shuttle buses that will take you from Geneva to Chamonix across the border. Thanks to these frequent ski shuttles, it’s actually easier to reach Chamonix from Geneva in winter than in summer.

Tip: join one of the guided day trips to Chamonix and Mont-Blanc

And to reach the many Swiss resorts, you have the very efficient Swiss train network at your disposal. Geneva sits right between two mountain ranges, the Jura and the Alps, so you have plenty of choices. If you’re a beginner skier, or if you prefer cross-country over alpine skiing, then take the narrow-gauge railway up to the gentler slopes of the Jura. For intermediate and advanced skiers, the Alps have more to offer.

If you’re lucky, you might catch one of the spectacular ice storms created by the cold wind known as “La Bise” that blows off Lake Geneva. Trees, park benches and even yachts moored in the harbor can be covered in ice. It’s quite a sight! And if you come in mid-December, you’ll see the local festival known as “L’Escalade”. Locals dress up in period costumes to commemorate the night in 1602 when the citizens of Geneva repelled an attack by the Savoy army. You can also enjoy the local Swiss specialty dishes, many of which are eaten only in winter. While most of these feature animal products, there are even some vegan restaurants in Geneva that offer plant-based versions.

Geneva boats winter | Best city in Europe to visit in winter

#8 Manchester winter city trip

by Pauline Vergnet from BeeLoved City

If you are looking for an awesome winter destination in the UK, Manchester will be perfect for you.

Located in Northern England, Manchester is home to not one but nine Christmas Markets! From November to Christmas eve, the city centre becomes a winter wonderland! The Christmas markets take over the entire city. Mulled wine, wursts, Christmas songs, lights and big santa, they are all here! 

The Christmas markets are located on: Albert Square, Cathedral Gardens, Market Street, Exchange Square, Corn Exchange, Exchange Street, New Cathedral Street, King Street, St. Ann’s Square and Brazennose Street.
They all offer a bit of a different experience. The one in Piccadilly is all about Christmas lights and pretty things. The one on Kings Street features amazing craft stands, perfect to get some unique presents! But the best one is on Albert Square. You will find Manchester Big Santa and the german village. That’s one of the best places in town to grab a bite or drink.
Manchester Christmas markets are a very important part of the local culture. Mancunians love their Christmas markets and spend a great deal of time there! 

Read more:  Staying overnight on the Southbank of London

As a visitor, Christmas time is also a good time to visit Manchester. The city centre is pretty small and it’s easy to explore on foot. Walking tours are an amazing way to learn more about the city and history. Most of the other sights are indoors so you can warm up! Make sure to check out John Rylands library, the Printworks and the Royal Exchange.

Manchester christmas market | Best city in Europe to visit in winter

#9 Amsterdam winter trip

by us

Amsterdam makes a great city trip in Europe any time of the year. The canals are great for boat rides in the summer and the summer terraces offer the perfect opportunity to mix with the locals. But it’s actually during the low season in winter, the capital of the Netherlands is most beautiful.

Like many Dutch cities, Amsterdam is decorated with lights from November on. As the sun already sets before 5 pm, the city turns into a fairytale town early in the evening.

One of the best things to do on an Amsterdam city trip during winter, is ice skating at the ice rink in front of the Rijksmuseum. When you’ll get too cold, finish with a hot chocolate milk of the Dutch brand Chocomel or with some traditional pea soup with a Unox sausage (‘erwtensoep’) like the locals do.

Amsterdam has plenty of good luxury and budget hotels to offer. But if you’re looking for something special, choose one of the bridge houses of Sweets hotel. This hotel exists of unique hotel rooms in old bridge houses at the Amsterdam canals.

Tip: Join the Christmas Lights and Festive Delights guided tour and follow the unique route of the Amsterdam Light Festival.

Amsterdam during winter city trip in Europe

#10 Bruges in winter

by Izzy from The Gap Decaders

Bruges is a beautiful city, packed with historic Flemish architecture, charming squares and small independent boutiques. It’s easy to get lost for a day as you explore the hidden corners and cobbled alleys of the atmospheric old town of Bruges. 

Visit Bruges in autumn for delightful colors and crisp, clear days. In December, head to Bruges for the traditional Christmas market where you can find home-made crafts and that perfect Christmas gift and sample gluhwein, a traditional spiced and mulled wine. There may even be a dusting of snow as you take a horse-drawn carriage ride along the canal-sides of this beautiful city.

Bruges is also a foodie destination, famous for the types of food which make winter so enjoyable! Belgian frites, fine chocolate and decadent waffles are the most famous offerings. There are takeaways in Bruges which only serve fries – crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside – with an enormous choice of different toppings to accompany them, mayonnaise being the most traditional. Never, ever compare Belgian frites with French fries, they are in a completely different class!  

Tip: for the real sweet tooths and great with kids, join a Belgian waffle workshop!

And as for the famous waffle, invented in Belgium, try one slathered in hot chocolate sauce and whipped cream to chase away any chills. The twinkling Christmas lights and clear frosty days give you licence to eat as many as you want!

Stay at the Canal Deluxe Bed and Breakfast. This tranquil canal-side pair of historic houses is a five-minute walk from the historic center of Bruges and offers historic, luxury decor with a modern twist. To continue the foodie theme, the breakfast here is legendary, with local and homemade produce being top of the list.

Bruges Belgium European city trip

#10 Dickens festival in Deventer

by Cosette from KarsTravels

Deventer is a perfect city to visit in winter time. This city with it’s medieval old town is one of the oldest cities of The Netherlands, situated in the eastern part of the country in the province of Overijssel. Although Deventer is worth your time all year long, it’s especially so in winter time. Since Deventer hosts the Dickens festival, a 2 day event which revolves around the stories of Charles Dickens.

For two days Deventer turns into a 19th-century town from the novels of Charles Dickens. On the weekend before Christmas, the Bergkwartier (medieval part of town) is filled with 950 Dickens characters from Scrooge to Nicholas Nicklebey. The characters are being played by actors and residents of the city. There’s a route to follow through several streets and you can see sketches, choirs singing and stories being portrayed. The crowd is being involved in the sketches and plays, and it takes several hours to see the whole festival.

Next to the festival there are two Christmas markets in the same weekend, one on Sunday outside on the Brink (a square). The other one is from Thursday till Sunday in the ‘Grote of Lebuinus’ church. Furthermore there are free concerts in churches on Sunday.

Other worthwhile things to visit are the Deventer Koekwinkel and the Toys museum.

Great places to stay are Hotel Finch, just several meters from the festival. Or in a cabin on campsite Stuurmanskolk in the village of Welsum, 20 minutes driving from Deventer.

#11 Belfast winter city trip

by Allan Wilson from Belgorni

Belfast has often been overlooked as one of Europe’s most desirable cities to visit as a tourist, partly due to its somewhat sketchy past. But this only works to its advantage now as the city has really progressed through the millennial years and Belfast is now one of the most exciting destinations to explore on a short getaway or city break in Europe. And this goes more so during the winter months when the city centre is all dressed up with festive baubles and the traditional pubs and bars come alive with local craic (banter) and lots of Christmas cheer.

A visit would otherwise be centred round the Belfast Christmas Market located on the grounds of Belfast City Hall (Donegall Square) and beneath the backdrop of the city centre’s most prestigious buildings. Then just next door (Donegall Place) is the main shopping streets that connect to the open air-mall of Victoria Square where there is a free to visit viewing dome for panoramic views across the city.

Otherwise the city is simple to explore by foot and there’s barely a mile between the main tourist destinations including Belfast’s Botanic Gardens and the Cathedral Quarter which are the city’s better hubs for entertainment and nightlife. So no matter where you stay in the city it will always be an easy walk to any place of interest, although a good start would be the Europa Hotel which is found right next to the main central transit hub at Great Victoria Street. 

Belfast - Best Winter Cities in Europe

#12 Salzburg in the snow

by Nadine Maffre from Le Long Weekend

Salzburg is a beautiful Austrian city full of old-world charm and fascinating sights. It’s a joy to visit at any time of the year, but winter in Salzburg is an absolutely magical season.

It starts in late November when the famed Christmas markets start popping up around the city. And continues into December with the Krampus parades where terrifying half-goat half-demon characters parade through the streets and frighten all the children in their wake. Xmas workshops, seasonal delicacies and mulled wine on heated patios complete the festive scene until the New Year.

Come January you’re more likely to find the city dusted with snow, and it’s a fabulous time to take to the quieter streets of the old town. Here you’ll find boutique shopping, Mozart museums (Salzburg is the birthplace and childhood home of the late composer), and art galleries to peruse.

Tip: during the holiday season, Salzburg is home to many beautiful concerts like the magical Advent & Christmas Concert at Mirabell Palace.

And if you’re a fan of The Sound of Music, don’t forget to visit some of the famous locations from the movie! At the top of the city, you’ll find the Salzburg Fortress dominating the hill it resides on. Wander up (or take the funicular) and explore the expansive castle and the grounds that surround it. Come February, snow still settles and it’s an excellent time to take a day trip to one of the neighboring ski fields. 

Staying central is the key to enjoying Salzburg in winter, so book a room at the cosy and authentically decorated Hotel Goldener Hirsch for a stay in Austrian luxury.

#13 Winter in Saint Petersburg

by us

Russia offers plenty of option to experience winter to its fullest. A European city trip to Saint Petersburg in winter will make you want to skip all other seasons the next years.

Russia and Saint Petersburg can get very cold during winter, offering you the guarantee of snowy streets. Saint Petersburg is known for its charming canals, unique churches and stunning architecture. Imagine all of that covered in snow and you’ll understand get why Saint Petersburg during winter is like entering a fairytale world.

Tip: make your visit to Saint Petersburg even more magical by joining a ‘winter’ guided tour by horse or on foot.

If the cold is too much for you, the city has many indoor activities as well. One of your must-visits in Saint-Petersburg should be the famous Hermitage museum. The main collection of this world-class museum is located in the old Romanov palace in the city center, the beautiful Winter Palace. You could easily spend days in the museum.

Saint Petersburg has many hotels for any budget, but we’d recommend you stay in heart of the city center, so around the Novsky Prospect avenue. All sights will be within walking distance, which is great as there aren’t many daylight hours in Saint Petersburg in winter. Read our blog post about budget and luxury hotels in Saint Petersburg for our recommendations.

Make sure to plan your trip ahead, as you need to file for your Russian visa well in advance. It’s not that difficult to get a Russian visa as people might think though.

Saint Petersburg city trip in winter

#14 Helsinki in wintertime

by Katalin Waga from Our Life Our Travel

The Finnish capital, Helsinki, is a perfect destination for those who seek a real winter vacation. The city itself is relatively small compared to other capitals, but it gives the possibility to cover all the essential sights even on one weekend. The city is walkable, you can do the majority of the sightseeing on foot on the snowy streets. The Senate Square and the Lutheran Cathedral, Eastern Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral and the Esplanadi park and the Market Square are all close to each other. On the Christmas market in front of the Cathedral, you will find plenty of stalls selling crafts and delicious Finnish food and snacks in the beautiful winter scenery. 

One of the few places that require public transport is the Suomenlinna Fortress. This old military fort in a world heritage site, and you can access it by the public ferry that frequently runs even in winter. 

In the evening, make sure you visit a real Finnish sauna. There is no better time for it than winter. If you chose the Löyly public sauna, you can even hop into the icy water of the Baltic Sea, or just warm up after the chilly sightseeing in the sauna, for example, in Hotel Marski, which is one of the best hotels in the city

Tip: join one of the guided tours to Porvoo.

If you feel like you saw everything in the capital, hop on a bus and have a day trip to a nearby town, Porvoo, where you can stroll between the charming wooden buildings and visit the Museum of the national poet, Johan Ludvig Runeberg or head to the close-by national park to walk between the stunning snow-covered trees.

Helsinki | best city in Europe to visit in winter

#15 Copenhagen city trip in winter

by Madeline Robson from Madeline Rae Away

Copenhagen might as well be nicknamed Europe’s capital of cosy, which makes it the perfect destination for a winter getaway. Danes are really good at embracing winter and the cold, dark days that come along with it. After all, they did invent the word “hygge.”

The best months to plan a winter trip to Copenhagen are in late November or December, when you can visit the cities Christmas markets. You’ll find a few markets around the city, including in iconic Nyhavn. But the most popular one is the Christmas Market at Tivoli Gardens, which is the second-oldest amusement park in the world.

Tip: fully enjoy the Danish Christmas Wonderland by joining the Christmas Spirits guided tour.

A visit to The Round Tower is also a unique experience and at the top you’ll be welcomed with beautiful views of the city. And a visit to CopenHot for the ultimate Scandinavian sauna and hot tub experience, with beautiful views of the waterfront.

If you’re keen on staying cosy indoors, Copenhagen is home to many world-class restaurants. For an amazing Nordic dining experience, check out 108. Or if you’re in the mood for some international eats, you’ll have many to choose from in the trendy Nørrebro and Vesterbro neighbourhoods. La Neta is a must-visit for tacos!

Read more:  Geversduin: unique dune cabins near the beach

At night, you can rest easy at the trendy Bali-inspired Axel Guldsmeden Hotel in Vesterbro, which is also conveniently located close to the Central Station.

#16 Snowy city trip to Oslo

by Megan Starr from MeganStarr.com

One of the most magical places to visit in Europe during the winter is Oslo, Norway.  The Norwegian capital city transforms into a fairytale during the winter months and despite the lack of daylight, it definitely is a fantastic winter weekend getaway if you’re in Europe.  

Something that travelers do need to be aware of if they are planning a trip to Oslo in winter is that the daylight situation is not very desirable.  In the middle of winter and around winter solstice, you should expect the sun to rise somewhere between 9-10am and the sun to go down at around 3-4pm.  The sun never edges too far over the horizon, but there is plenty going on in Oslo after the sun goes down and you will easily keep occupied.

During the Oslo winters, it is best to head to nature and go cross-country skiing like the locals do!  You can venture up the t-bane (metro) to Frognerseteren and be welcomed with outstanding views over the city, lush forests, and many skiing trails.  It will take you toward Holmenkollen, one of the most famous (if not THE most famous) ski jumps in the world.  There is a skiing museum there and it is worth a stop into to learn about Norway’s most popular export.

If you find yourself in Oslo in December, there is a cozy Christmas market along Karl Johans Gate in between Stortinget and National Theater.  You can find everything from warm knitwear to elk burgers and more.  It will also take you near the Palace, one of the most prolific sights in Oslo.  Oslo is such a fantastic city at all times of the year but it definitely is a festive and wonderful place during the winter and is worth the trip.

Tip: join the guided Christmas Markets walking tour.

Oslo in winter | Best city in Europe to visit in winter

#17 Visit Dublin in winter

by Emer and Nils from Let’s Go Ireland

As the capital city of Ireland, Dublin has many must-see attractions, museums and events that will be the highlight of any winter break itinerary. The long winter evenings are a fantastic time to explore the great Irish pub and live music scene.

Temple Bar is one of the best-known nightlife areas of Dublin city, but there are lots of other highly recommendable pubs that have a more authentic feel such as The Ginger Man, Kennedy’s and John Kavanagh (“The Gravedigger”) in Glasnevin.

In the lead up to Christmas, several charming Christmas markets are held in and around the city. Located in the grounds of Dublin Castle, the Christmas at the Castle market is definitely one of the best, not only because of the unique atmosphere of the location, but also the live carol singing, vintage carousel, handmade gifts and delicious food and drink.

Tip: explore the Christmas magic in Dublin like a local by joining this guided tour.

During the evenings it is even possible for visitors of the market to view the State Apartments of Dublin Castle itself. After darkness falls, Dublin Zoo is transformed, with the help of colorful lanterns, into a magical wonderland as part of the Wild Lights event that will delight children and adults alike.

If the weather is a little unfavorable, why not check out the very centrally located Irish Film Institute in Temple Bar. In addition to normal cinema screenings, the Irish Film Archive is also housed here and there regular events, talks and exhibitions.

The Shelbourne Hotel and Iveagh Garden Hotel are two great centrally located accommodation options that will allow you to maximise your stay in Dublin.

#18 Budapest city trip in winter

by Krisztina Harsanyi from She Wanders Abroad

Visiting Budapest in winter is a great idea, not only because the city looks really romantic when it snows, but because you will also find plenty of unique things to do in the winter months.

Although you can relax in one of the famous thermal baths all year round, it’s especially amazing to take a dip in the hot thermal waters when the weather is already chilly outside. Széchényi Thermal Bath is the most popular choice among tourists but Gellért Thermal Bath and Rudas Baths are good alternatives as well. You can buy your tickets for Széchényi and Rudas online in advance.

One of the most unique things to do in winter is to go ice-skating in Europe’s largest ice-skating rink. There is a huge lake located near Vajdahunyad Castle in City Park (only a few minutes walk from Heroes Square) which gets transformed to an ice-skating rink in the winter period.

A winter visit to the Hungarian capital wouldn’t be complete without exploring at least one of the best Christmas markets in Budapest. The most popular Christmas market is the one that takes place in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica. Apart from the little wooden chalets you can also find a small ice-skating rink in the middle of the square, but what makes this Christmas market really special is the custom light-show that’s projected on the Basilica.

Tip: join a guided Christmas markets tour in Budapest.

If you’re looking for the best Christmas lights in the city, head over to Deák Ferenc street, or otherwise known as Fashion Street. The street is packed with famous designer shops and restaurants and it’s always beautifully lit up in the night.

#19 Christmas markets in Brussels

by Eden from Rock a Little Travel

Brussels is one of the best winter destinations in Europe.  The city comes alive during the winter months with decorations, festivities, and one of Europe’s largest annual Christmas markets.  

Beginning each year at the end of November, visitors can enjoy the city’s Winter Wonder festival and Christmas market. This festive event features over 200 chalets, live music, carnival rides, an ice skating rink, food and drinks featuring many local favorites, a Christmas tree lighting, and an exciting music and light show in Grand Place. 

In addition to enjoying the Winter Wonder holiday celebration, I recommend visitors to Brussels in winter to take time to enjoy the city’s many other unique attractions as well. 

A few of my favorites are the Manneken Pis statue in his Santa costume, Mont des Arts, Galeries Royales, the Royal Palace, and the Atomium. You also don’t want to miss sampling the city’s best Belgium waffles. You’ll find shops selling hot and fresh waffles all over town. 

Tip: during the holiday season you can join a local guide the fully experience the Brussels Chrismas feeling.

In the evenings, head out to enjoy the city’s nightlife by visiting some of the local bars and pubs. While it is a bit touristy, don’t miss your opportunity to stop into the city’s famous Delirium Cafe. They serve over 2000 beers from around the world and even have live music in the evenings. 

Visitors to Brussels during the winter months should consider staying in the historic center near Grand Place. From here, nearly all the main attractions in Brussels will be within walking distance. Plus, you’ll have the Winter Wonder celebration right on your doorstep.

Brussels in winter | Best city in Europe to visit in winter

#20 Winter paradise of Zakopane

by Anna Ambroszkiewicz from Liquid Traveling

Zakopane is the Polish winter paradise. Its name actually means “buried in the snow”. Located in the Tatras, the highest mountains in this part of Europe, it’s a perfect spot for winter sports lovers – alpine or cross country skiing, snowboarding, sledding, ski touring – you name it.

Tip: from Krakow you can easily arrange a transfer or day trip to Zakopane.

If you’re not into sports, no worries, the town is also famous for its nightlife centered around the main street Krupówki and delicious food. The Polish Highlander cuisine is rich and tasty, the most famous thing to try being “oscypek” – smoked sheep cheese served with cranberry, “placek zbójnicki” – a potato pancake with meat and sauce and “kwaśnica” – a sauer kraut soup. 

The coolest activity you can try in winter in Zakopane is “kulig” – a sleigh ride, best at night with torches and finished with a bonfire with fried sausages and mulled wine with spices. It’s definitely something to remember. If the weather is good you can also go up to see Morskie Oko lake. It literally means the Eye of the Sea and the view is splendid both in summer and winter. 

Zakopane also hosts international ski jumping contests every year, which is quite an event, given the national enthusiasm for this sport. And usually, there’s an open-air concert on New Year’s Eve. While Zakopane is a perfect place to spend Christmas and the New Year holidays, it is also when it’s the most crowded so I advise choosing a more off-season date.

Zakopane city trip in Poland Europe

#21 Porto in winter

by Alexandrina Nikolova from Earthosee

Porto is probably the most authentic Portuguese city and it definitely draws everybody’s attention to it. That is no surprise, as the city has a very unique vibe, lots of colourful buildings to make you smile and stunning views. In addition to that, the weather during that period is pretty warm and sunny, so you might not feel so winterish after all.

During the winter season and especially in December there are lots of events in Porto, as well as lots of activities you can take part in. Most of the events organized in the city are free for everyone and are suitable for both adults and children. Some of the best events you can participate are the Christmas concerts that are held mostly in front of Porto’s churches and at Torre dos Clerigos. Another amazing event is the King’s Day one where 9 folk groups parade through the streets of Porto while singing. This event is held on the 5th of January at Aliados Avenue.

Christmas markets are no exception during the winter season in Porto. Actually, Portuguese people cherish their traditions a lot and Christmas markets are a huge proof to that. There are a couple of Christmas markets in December that one can visit. Some of them are the Artesanatus, Christmas Flea Market, Mercado da Alegria and the Urban Market.

If you want to do some winterish activities, you are more than welcome to do so at the ice ring at Rotunda da Boavista. It is also suitable for children and costs 6 euros for an hour. You can also have lots of fun at Rua Miguel Bombarda where you can witness lots of traditional dances, singing and participate in workshops. Last but not least, you can check out the Coliseu Porto Circus, which is working with troupes from all over the world and no animals. Honestly, it is the most spectacular event you will witness!

One of the best places to stay at is the Vincci Porto hotel, which offers a beautiful view of the Dom Luis Bridge. It is also perfect for New Year’s Eve, as it will be easier for you to witness the great fireworks over the city.

Porto in december | Best city in Europe to visit in december

#22 Paris for a romantic winter trip

by us

If there’s one place in Europe that works best for a romantic winter city trip, it’s definitely Paris. The City of Love and the City of Lights is most charming during the cold winter days, especially if you’re looking to have some snow during your trip.

Though Paris is most-visited during summer because of the lovely warm days, a city like Paris is most beautiful during winter. As the skies get dark already in the afternoon, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to enjoy the City of Lights after dark. Climb the Eiffel Tower after sunset for the most romantic aerial views of Paris at night.

The city will be filled with big Christmas trees in December. Make sure to especially pay a visit to Galeries Lafayette for the most beautiful Christmas tree and decorations you’ll ever see. The Christmas markets at Montmartre should be another highlight of your winter trip to Paris.

Tip: join a guided Christmas in Paris tour to fully enjoy the magic of the city.

If you happen to visit Paris at the end of the year, you must visit the winter wonderland of Le Festival de Merveilleux. The Musée des Arts Forains opens it doors only during the last ten days of the year for this festival.