Winter offers a fantastic chance to pack your bags and make for some of the Old World’s most appealing locales at a time when prices are lower, crowds thinner, and the scenery just as stunning. If you plan to make your way to the continent during the colder months, check out the following list of the best winter destinations in Europe.
Winter in Salzburg by: Viator.com (CC)
One of Europe’s most enduringly popular winter destinations, Salzburg is hard to beat on the continent in terms of sheer beauty. Laced with a fresh layer of snow, this Baroque town and its array of spires backed by the enchanting Hohensalzburg Fortress is the pride of Austria. Wander the World Heritage-listed old town’s historical streets, peeking into shops and famous homes, such as Schloss Hellbrunn or the birthplace of Mozart. Stroll through the city’s main square, and stop by the famous Salzburg Cathedral along the way. World-class skiing is just a short hop away thanks to the nearby Alps: take an easy day trip to Untersberg or Hintersee for a bit of exhilaration on the slopes.
Browsing this Salzburg itinerary can help you plan out your visit to the area’s other top attractions.
Windsurfer, Marsamxett Harbour, Sliema-Valletta, Malta by: Vicki Burton (CC)
Way out in the Mediterranean, Malta makes a solid winter haven for those fleeing the cold. The capital, Valletta, boasts the warmest winter weather in Europe, and much of the country stays relatively pleasant and dry throughout December, January, and February. On some days, you might even be able to kick back at Golden Bay. But there’s much to Malta than sunny skies: the capital’s 16th-century architecture is a feast for the eyes, where a stunning blue harbor juxtaposes the World Heritage-listed center, topped off by St. John’s Co-Cathedral. Alternatively, travel to Mdina to explore the old capital’s winding streets and incredible walls, or ferry to Gozo to indulge in crowd-free coastal scenery.
Peruse this Malta itinerary for other great ideas on where to go and what to do during your time on the islands.
Mujegpalya Ice Rink in Budapest’s City Park with Vajdahunyad Castle in the background by: Themightyquill (CC)
An imperial city without an empire, Budapest is about as stately as they come. Hiking up to Buda Castle and the Fisherman’s Bastion lets you marvel at the Parliament building, St. Stephen’s cathedral, and Pest rooftops across the river. Many traditional restaurants pack the streets, so duck in for a warming serving of goulash to keep you going. While Budapest can certainly get chilly in the winter, it’s hard to beat relaxing in the warm waters of the famed Szechenyi Furdo baths surrounded by falling snow. Bundle up at night to indulge in the city’s bumping nightlife centered on ruined, re-purposed buildings.
Castelul Bran iarna in Brasov by: Mennowijnen (CC)
Packed with magnificent fortified churches like Prejmer and Harman, Transylvania certainly makes braving the frigid conditions worth your while. Delve into the historical streets of Sighisoara’s hilltop old town and you’ll be rewarded with charming courtyards, colorful pastel houses, and even remnants of the city’s ancient wall. The cluster of spires and towers is the city’s best asset, and climbing your way up the clock tower grants you a sweeping view over often snow-covered rooftops. Alternatively, make for Brasov and its expansive Council Square and imposing Black Church. Of course, no Transylvania trip would be complete without a stop at Bran Castle; Dracula’s home of legend lends itself well to blizzard conditions.
Iceland by: Moyan Brenn (CC)
Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik is full of colorful buildings and Nordic charm, while the northern cities of Akureyri and Husavik also deserve a place on your itinerary. Heading out into Thingvellir National Park gives you spectacular views of the nation’s rugged heart. Depending on when you make landfall on the island, the Nordic nights can add an extra twist to your vacation: in the dead of winter, darkness can last for nearly 20 hours. However, this makes for perfect opportunities to glimpse the Northern Lights. Though the otherworldly phenomenon is visible from everywhere in Iceland during the winter, you’ll want to head out of Reykjavik if possible for even less light pollution. Jokulsarlon in particular offers a spectacular setting of a glacial lagoon.
Take a look at this Iceland itinerary to explore other sightseeing trails around the island nation.
Whether you’re escaping the cold or embracing it, Europe offers a range of fantastic places to visit that lend themselves well to a wintertime getaway. Try creating an itinerary with Inspirock covering Europe’s best winter destinations so you can make the most of your trip.