Who said that the best time to travel is in summer? We say that winter is far more magical – cities covered in snow, holidays, delicious winter food and hot beverages to warm you up. Whether you like the cold or not, some of the cities on this list will surely amaze you. Get ready for top 10 best European cities for winter break!
1) Rovaniemi, Finland
Is there a better place to spend your winter holidays than the hometown of Santa Claus? Located close to the Arctic Circle, the capital of Lapland in Finland is one of the most attractive winter destinations in Europe. Only 8 kilometres from Rovaniemi centre is located Santa Claus Village where Santa meets people and you can even send postcard to your family and friends from Santa Claus Post Office. Apart from visiting Santa’s residence, you can ride reindeer and husky sleighs and go on a riverboat cruise on the rivers Kemijoki and Ounasjoki. Also, don’t forget to get the taste of leipäjuusto, traditional dessert made from soft fried cheese with cloudberry jam (also known as nordic blackberry). And did we mention that you can see magical Northern Lights in Rovaniemi? They are visible almost every day during winter period and the best place to watch them “dance” is the park near the Arktikum Museum.
2) Vienna, Austria
Vienna has been one of the favourite winter destination for decades and its popularity is definitely not falling down. Visit Vienna Christmas Market with more than 10 different Christmas markets on different city locations and the main being the one on Rathausplatz (the square in front of the City Hall). Whether you want to try local food or buy handcraft souvenirs, the Naschmarkt in Vienna is the place which has it all.
3) Zagreb, Croatia
Zagreb is a perfect destination if you are looking for the city with the best Christmas atmosphere. For the past two years Zagreb has been leading city in Europe when it comes to Christmas markets. Entire city is overflown with food and souvenir stands, open-air stages and ice rink on King Tomislav square. If you are up for skiing, visit ski resort Sljeme on Medvednica mountain. This ski resort is ideal for everyone since you will find ski slopes ranging from easy to hard level, of which two are also suitable for night skiing.
4) Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn may not be among the most popular travel destination throughout the year, but in winter it surely gets visited more times than other, bigger European cities. A medieval city covered in snow which looks like it popped out straight from a fairytale, what more could you ask for? Yes, the temperatures get quite low, sometimes even up to -20°C but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy in this winter beauty – just get yourself a cup of warm mulled wine and typical Estonian blood sausage to fill your batteries. Don’t miss visiting Lauluväljak (Tallinn Song Festival Grounds) which during winter becomes perfect place for sledding!
5) Venice, Italy
Venice is a destination which cannot be a bad pick at any time of the year. Whether it is summer or winter, Venice is truly amazing place to visit. Once the all the Christmas madness finishes, the Carnival madness begins – the entire city is under the masks of all kinds (leather, porcelain or glass) and they are always glamorous. One of the most interesting parts of Venice Carnival is definitely “Festa veneziana on the water” where dozens of gondolas sail along the Canal Grande and offer typical venetian delicacies. Also, make sure you have interesting and innovative costume and mask because you might just get a prize for it!
6) Copenhagen, Denmark
Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen during winter months turn into a fairytale park which you won’t see anywhere else. The lights decoration through the gardens is absolutely magical and there are over 60 different stalls with food, sweets and various hot beverages to keep you warm in cold winter. Even something as basic as the walk by the canals in Nyhavn can turn into a magical experience – it is a perfect way of feeling the true “hygge” (a Danish expression for happy, carefree life). Until the very end of February, you have the opportunity to ice skate in Frederiksberg Runddel and what’s best, the entrance is free (you only pay for renting skates, or you can bring your own).
7) Dublin, Ireland
The weather in Dublin may not be the weather someone would want during their vacation, but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting the capital of Ireland. Dubliners will always find a way to entertain themselves, so when the unexpected storm kicks in, find a hideout in the nearest pub. We guarantee you will have a blast! Use those precious moments when the weather is nice and take a stroll through Henry and Grafton Street which are beautifully decorated during winter. The city is full of street performers which will definitely warm you up with their cheerful tunes. Also, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to celebrate New Year in Dublin since the whole city gets packed with people and the atmosphere will definitely put a smile even on those always-frowned faces!
8) Tromso, Norway
If you are comfortable with being on temperatures which rarely go over 0°C during winter, then Tromso is a must-visit for you. A charming city in northern Norway is just as amazing in winter as it is in summer. Why do we point this out? Well, as you may know, from October to March the Arctic Circle (and the area around it) experinces the polar night phenomenon. To be more specific, if you come to Tromso let’s say in January, you will be surrounded by darkness 24/7. But that doesn’t have to stop you from doing unique activities such as reindeer sledding, hunting for nothern lights or visiting polar aquarium. Whatever you choose, Tromso won’t disappoint you!
9) Colmar, France
Those who prefer more intimate atmosphere should definitely visit Colmar in France. This amazing town in north-eastern France will sweep you off your feet with its hospitality and overall cozy, home-like atmosphere. Colmar is also quite successful in gastronomy which proves the fact that it has 8(!) restaurants with Michelin stars (which even some of the European capitals don’t have). If you want to visit other, bigger cities, Colmar is ideal because it makes a great starting point – it’s only few hours from cities like Strasbourg, Basel in Switzerland and Freiburg in Germany.
10) Prague, Czechia
And the best for last – Prague! Its popularity doesn’t get any lower over the years, in fact, people seem to come back to Prague during winter season year after year. Winter is perfect season to try special (and spicy) Czech specialties such as zelňačka and guláš to warm you up or spicy václavská klobása which you can try on one of many stalls on Wenceslas Square.Visiting Prague during winter can save you a lot of money, especially because the prices of accommodation are significantly lower during off-season and it is not that crowded in winter (except for the Christmas holidays) which means shorter queues in front of museums and other attractions.