Summer may be wrapping to a close, but contrary to popular belief, that doesn’t mean that the holiday season is finishing. As the nights get darker and the days get colder, there are a number of European cities that turn into winter wonderlands. Get your passport at the ready, because these are the cities you’ll want to visit this winter.
1. Reykjavik, Iceland
The sun sits really low in Iceland through winter with small hours of daylight, meaning you can catch a stunning sunrise every day and watch the sunset in the early hours of the evening. If you visit any time between late September and March, you also have much higher chances of seeing the Northern Lights light up the sky. It might get quite chilly, but you can heat yourself up in Iceland’s natural geothermal waters, relaxing in the natural spas scattered across the country.
2. Innsbruck, Austria
Innsbruck’s Christmas markets are well worth a visit, cosy markets which see clusters of wooden stalls selling homemade food and trinkets. It’s also one of the best places for winter sports, and skiers often head to the Alps that surround the city. The mountains are home to some of the steepest runs in Europe, and some of the most popular ski resorts.
3. Grenada, Spain
The best time to book your trip to Grenada is following Christmas, anywhere from January to April, when the weather is at its best – when it’s at its least humid and driest. The end of January marks the beginning of Grenada’s festival season, and you can plan your visit to coincide with their annual sailing festival or the colourful Carriacou Carnival.
4. Copenhagen, Denmark
If you head to Copenhagen in winter, you’ll avoid the large numbers of tourists who flock to the city during summer. You can step out of the cold into a sauna or hot tub looking out over the city and the popular CopenHot, and the low winter sun means the whole city is basked in the ‘golden hour’ throughout the early evening.
5. Abisko, Sweden
Another stunning place to catch the Northern Lights, if you book your trip to Abisko you’re likely to see them light up the sky in greens and reds. There are a number of ski slopes and Sweden is the perfect place to head for some cross-country skiing, and you can easily book a snowmobile trip out to the nearby lake Torneträsk. The city is also a short trip from the world-famous ICEHOTEL if you’re a fan of the colder seasons.
6. Lisbon, Portugal
It might surprise you, but it turns out Lisbon is worth booking a winter trip to. Lisbon is actually one of the warmest European cities to visit in winter, and you’ll enjoy a comfortable temperature around the mid-teens if you head towards the end of the winter months. Heading in the colder season also means you avoid the large tourist numbers and are free to explore the city in the quieter months, without queues and packed streets ahead of each attraction.
7. Vienna, Austria
If you make your way to Vienna this winter, you’re highly likely to be greeted by a white Christmas; it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll get snow in the winter months. If you’re a fan of winter sports, there are a number of nearby ski resorts you can head to at the weekends, and Vienna is the perfect place to try a little bit of ice skating with a number of rinks throughout the city. As an impressively cultural city, winter is also often the best time to go for some of the city’s shows, whether you head to the world-famous Opera House or the more casual church concerts.
8. Budapest, Hungary
Budapest can get extremely cold over winter, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit. It’s home to Europe’s largest ice rink – the City Park’s frozen boating lake – which is one of the most popular things to do in the city. Budapest’s Christmas markets are also worth a trip through, where you can warm yourself up with some mulled wine and grab a bag of roasted chestnuts from a street vendor. In St Stephens Basilica, you can enjoy an impressive light show. When you start to get really cold walking through the city, head to the thermal spas to relax and heat yourself up.
9. Prague, Czech Republic
Temperatures often slip below freezing during the winter months in Prague, but the snowfall can turn the city into something magical. As with some of the other cities, heading in winter means you avoid the high tourist season – it’s still popular, but you won’t have to dodge past people on the streets. Its Christmas markets are typically European, and worth a visit, where you can pick up local food and hand-made gifts to take home with you.
10. Ljubljana, Slovenia
With a high chance of snow, Ljubljana turns into a captivating winter wonderland throughout the cold season. Twinkling fairy lights bring the whole city to life, you’ll find yourself with some stunning Instagram material, and the Christmas market that winds through the city fills the streets with the aroma of mulled wine. Heading to the mountains close to the city will reward you with postcard views of Lake Bled and fresh, mountain air, and the city offer plenty of day trips to nearby ski resorts. This is one of the best European cities to visit in winter!