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10 European Cities to Visit During the Winter

From sleigh rides through the Swiss countryside and skiing the breathtaking Alps to lounging in outdoor thermal pools and raging at ice festivals, Europe has some of the best and most unique places to spend the winter. Whether you have just a weekend or a whole week to blow, there are an unlimited amount of places to explore. To help you narrow it down, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten cities to visit in the winter.

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1. Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck is known as the ski and snowboard capital of the world. As the two-time host of the Winter Olympics and covered in internationally recognized alpine resorts, Innsbruck does not disappoint. In addition to tearing up the slopes, visitors can tour the famous Olympic ski jump and other nearby athletic facilities.

Innsbruck was also a seat of power for centuries and history buffs will love visiting the royal Hapsburg home and soaking up the city’s beautiful architecture. As if you needed more of a reason to visit, Innsbruck is the home of Swarovski Crystals, and no visit to this city is complete without a tour of their bizarre but beautiful headquarters.

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These are the best cities to visit in Europe in the winter. Know the best places to go in Europe during the winter months that are beautiful and where the cold weather won't slow down your Europe trip.


winter destinations in Europe, where to go in Europe during study abroad when it's cold

2. Abisko, Sweden

If you’re a die-hard winter fan and cold temperatures don’t bother you, Abisko is going to give you some serious bragging rights. Located just about as far north as you can get in Europe (unless you’re a reindeer), this Swedish town is known for its incredible views of the Northern Lights. BUT – this region is not for the faint-hearted, as the sun doesn’t rise for weeks during its coldest time. Not totally a bad thing…it means it will always feel like Saturday night!

Besides gazing at the aurora borealis, visitors can ski, hike, ice skate, go dog sledding, and explore the national parks. Don’t forget to check out the world’s first and most famous ice hotel, conveniently named Icehotel, in nearby Kiruna to really top your visit off.


where to visit in the winter during study abroad

3. Copenhagen, Denmark

It is no surprise that the home of Hans Christian Andersen ended up on this list, as Copenhagen is one of the most fairytale-like cities in Europe, especially in the winter. The Danish concept of “hygge” (or “coziness”) is at its peak in winter, when locals spend their afternoons and evenings relaxing, drinking hot chocolate, and enjoying their beautiful surroundings. The idea of coziness not just being accepted, but promoted, is enough to make anyone stop here for a few days!

Top sights in Copenhagen include Tivoli Amusement Park, Christiansborg Slot, and Rosenborg Castle, which are all even more charming covered in snow. Don’t miss out on Copenhagen’s winter culture month, Wondercool, which occurs in February and includes concerts in unusual venues, art shows, and culinary events. Yum!


top destinations to visit in the winter in Europe

4. Prague, Czech Republic

With its snow-capped spires, cobblestone alleys, and the cozy hue from its old-fashioned street lamps, Prague just screams winter fairytale. It is relatively tourist-free in the winter, which is surprising because the city’s natural beauty really comes to life under a blanket of snow. Stroll through the Prague Castle at your own pace or hit up a local cafe to escape the cold, especially Choco Cafe, which has more than a dozen types of hot chocolate (check out our Prague guide for more cool things to do there, including where to party.)

If you’re in the Czech Republic long enough, be sure to take a day trip to Cesky Krumlov, which is a tiny medieval town known as the “Pearl of Bohemia”. Easy to get to by train and well worth the trip, especially for fans of the movie Hostel, which was filmed here. Nothing like adding a little spook to your winter!


where to go in italy when it's cold

5.  Venice, Italy

Hands down one of the top European tourist attractions in winter is the Carnival of Venice. Beautiful, exciting, and definitely a little bizarre, Venice’s February through March celebration is absolutely not to be missed. Be forewarned that costumed events can set you back a hefty penny, but those looking to save a few bucks can get the full effect of the festival by enjoying the many free events around the city – just with a mask purchased at a street market or local shop. Talk about an awesome souvenir!

Carnival aside, traveling to Venice in winter allows visitors to experience the city at a slower pace and really soak up the culture. The city’s canals, unique architecture, and old-fashioned atmosphere become magical in winter, and the lack of crowds don’t hurt, either. A stop in Venice during its colder months is a definite European highlight.


Rebecca’s plan to travel the world and learn as many languages as possible started when she was 12 years old and taking her first Spanish class. Now, 4 languages and 17 countries later, Rebecca fills her time writing about and marketing amazing places all over the world. When not convincing people to travel, she can be found eating hummus, belting out showtunes, and watching penguin videos. For more travel tips, baller cinnamon bun recipes, and pictures from her mountain home, follow her on Twitter (@heyrebeccabroad) and Instagram (@rebeccamoree).

32 thoughts on “10 European Cities to Visit During the Winter

  1. K

    Transylvania is not a city. There are plenty of worthwhile cities in the area- Brasov, Sibiu, etc., but this is a pretty gross error.

  2. Sudhi

    A good list of places…Why is there no “Swiss” cities in this list? I find basel and Zurich really good during the months of December and January.

  3. thea julia

    I wanted to know if you know of any places other than Lapland that we can get to from Rome for a Reindeer sleigh ride in early december! I have been having trouble finding an option for my Hubby’s 40th…

  4. barbara

    hi I think the best top 10 to visit is Austrian Vienna it the most beautiful of Europe history culture scenic and a lot more with nice and friendly people especially when you visit their
    Christmas market it was really stunning.

  5. Chris

    Great list! Don’t give too much on the “snowy” description of Edinburgh though, we’ve only had about 3 days of snow (like 1 inch) here this year and none last year, Scotland’s winter is nowhere as cold as its reputation 🙂

  6. Manuj Saxena

    I am looking to visit Swiss, Itay, France & UK during Feb, 16 for celebrating my 25th marriage anniversary.
    share your thoughts

  7. Anil Goyal

    I am looking to visit Swiss, Itay, France & UK or european best place to visit during Feb, 16 for celebrating my 25th marriage anniversary.
    share your thoughts

  8. Roxi

    Hi! I’m from Romania and I’m very happy to see that Transylvania is on your list (indeed, it’s not a city, but not this is important). The whole country is very beautiful and we have a lot of traditions.
    Congrats for this cute article! 😀

  9. Mike

    I’m planning a trip for the end of January. Which one of these cities on the list would you recommend for a 3-day trip? I’m scared that if we hit somewhere big I won’t be able to fit it all in 3 days. Places not on the list are also welcomed suggestions!

    Thank you.

  10. Velizara

    I would also add Vienne to your list! One of the most beautiful European capitals and it’s especially popular during the Christmas holidays. A must-go!

  11. Mery

    Madrid is beautiful in Winter! Specially during Christmas time and end of February as the weather starts getting ready for Spring. 🙂

  12. Aniil A Pamnani

    We r planning a Mediterranenan cruise for a week starting from Barcelona n covering places like Marseille, Genoa, Rome, Palermo and Valletta in Feb 2017. Its for our honeymoon. Is it a good idea to visit these places aroubd 1st n 2nd week of Feb?

  13. Ritu

    Which places would u recommend in early January in Europe for our 25th we’ve around two weeks vid us.

  14. Arpit

    Hi – Could you suggest top 2 cities/countries to visit in the 3rd week of Jan? I have a weeks time and I ll be travelling from india.

  15. Steven

    Hi, we are planning our family holiday for two weeks in mid to end of December 2018 in Europe. Any suggestion where is good places to visit.

  16. Sara

    We will be visiting Europe for 10 days in the last week of January for our15th anniversary. The only thing which might restrict us is that I am pregnant in my 25th week. What would be the best suitable destination based on your research?!


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