Are you looking for winter city breaks in Europe? This list has some of the best European cities to visit in the cooler months, whether you’re seeking a great festive atmosphere, some winter sun, snowy magic or just plenty of indoor attractions.
There are so many reasons to take a European winter city break. Perhaps you want to go somewhere where the festive atmosphere is strong through Christmas markets and seasonal lights.
Or perhaps you want to escape the freezing weather in Northern Europe or the USA and head to warmer countries.
Whatever your reason, you’ll find the perfect city on this list!
Let’s take a look at Europe in Winter’s favourite winter city breaks; feel free to click through for more information on any of them!
Gorgeous festive cities
One of the top reasons to visit Europe in winter is for the amazing festive cities. Some of these cities have beautiful Christmas markets and others are decked out in incredible lights!
The charming city of Munich comes alive in the festive period.
With beautiful Christmas markets and the charming old city, the beautiful Marienplatz glinting in a soft winter glow and plenty of indoor attractions, winter in Munich – and the whole of Bavaria – has a certain charm about it.
Munich has a glorious Christmas market, one of the best in Germany, and you could easily spend an entire Christmassy trip just walking around!
The capital of Austria, Vienna is one of the best cities to visit during winter. Charming Christmas markets span across the city, and the entire architecture is decked out in a soft glow from all the lights.
All of the city’s museums are open throughout the year, as are attractions like Belvedere Palace and the Hofburg. And of course, you can enjoy performances like Vienna Opera throughout the winter months!
Poland’s top tourist destination and its ex-capital, Krakow has a lot to offer. The city centre is incredibly welcoming during the winter and has a stunning Christmas market that will really get you into the festive spirit.
Poland has great festive vibes every December, so whether you’re purchasing gifts for your loved ones or just enjoying some mulled wine as you gaze at the twinkling lights, you’ll love the magic of Krakow in winter.
Beautiful Basel sits snugly in the northwestern corner of Switzerland, close to the borders of France and Germany. Its unique position means that it has cultural influences from all three countries, and this flavour is just one of the things that makes it such a great country to visit any time of year.
It’s a bit chilly in Basel in the winter – although it’s not as cold as many other Swiss cities, thanks to its low altitude. Snow is a possibility, but that only adds to the magic of Basel’s historic architecture.
In fact, the weather matches its festive atmosphere perfectly. In fact, December is the perfect time to visit this Swiss city – its Christmas markets are widely regarded as some of the best in Europe and, of course, there are plenty of all-season attractions.
Portugal isn’t necessarily the first place that comes to mind when you think of the most festive places in Europe, and I’m cheating a little here as Cabeça is actually a very tiny village.
However, in the last few years, it has developed prestige as “the Christmas village”, hosting a glorious festive market, shops selling seasonal products, carol singers and glorious decorations and lights.
For two weeks in December, Cabeça – otherwise a very sleepy place year-round – becomes a winter wonderland, and one of the most Christmassy places in not only Europe, but the entire world.
You can get to Cabeça from Porto or Lisbon (you’ll need to take a bus to Seia and then change to a taxi for the last 20 minutes to Cabeça), and it’s worth visiting one of those cities while you’re here too – see below for my Lisbon entry!
Porto in winter is fairly cold, but you can still enjoy most of its attractions, including the Liveria Lello which inspired Harry Potter, the X bridge and, of course, port tasting.
The storybook city of Wroclaw in Poland is a magical city any time of year, but Christmas cheer just gives it that extra appeal. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, with gorgeous coloured buildings lining historic streets and church spires protruding over the horizon.
It also has one of the best Christmas markets in Poland; a really busy affair full of charming stalls selling locally made Polish products, traditional seasonal food and of course, plenty of mulled wine.
Prague, with its colourful buildings and charming atmosphere, is an ideal city to visit in the colder months.
Home to delicious food and fascinating history, this city is popular for Prague Castle, Charles Bridge and Wenceslas Square, which is home to a charming Christmas market. The city is absolutely stunning, and if it snows, it looks even more aesthetic.
Brussels is Belgium’s capital, and it’s one of the most popular cities to visit in winter thanks to its huge market, Winter Wonders.
This is more than just a Christmas market; it has Christmas-themed rides and experiences, tailored specifically to create the most festive atmosphere possible!
All-weather attractions in Brussels include the Brussels City Museum, the Museum of Natural Sciences and the Choco-Story Brussels. Plus, the city’s streets are wonderful for exploring in cool, crisp winter weather.
France’s Strasbourg is a beautiful Medieval city that’s fantastic all year round. It has a few great attractions, including a gothic cathedral and amazing local wine. Of course, you can enjoy this throughout the year – but it’s the perfect winter city break for another reason.
Its Christmas market is largely considered to be one of the best in the world. In fact, it’s not so much a market, but an explosion of festivities, a concerted citywide effort to decorate the entire city and offer countless outlets to purchase gifts and festive food and drink.
Nuremberg is definitely one of the most festive cities in Europe; it’s home to the Christkindlesmarkt which is one of the oldest festive markets in the world. Learn about its unique history as you enter this winter wonderland, the ideal place to go Christmas shopping or try some festive food and drink.
If you can drag yourself away from the market, Nuremberg offers a Medieval castle, city walls and plenty of WW2 history.
Popular cities with indoor attractions (& less crowds!)
London is a city that does winter very well. The truth is, in London the weather is never really reliable, which means that virtually all attractions are all-season.
With centuries of fascinating history, on a winter trip to London you can enjoy the Gothic Westminster Abbey, the giant dome of St Paul’s Cathedral and London’s countless museums (many of which is free).
Plus, it comes alive at Christmas. Expect festive markets, ice skating rinks, Christmas lights and pantomimes (a comic retelling of popular fairy tales, which is a UK Christmas tradition!).
And, London is perfectly positioned for a day trip to other UK cities and regions, like Bath, the Cotswolds, Oxford and Brighton.
La Belle Paris! France’s capital city is a beauty any time of year. Summit up to the top of the Eiffel Tower and see winter lights twinkling below you, pull your coat on and stroll around the Seine, stopping off to warm up at French bakeries or wine bars as you go.
There are plenty of indoor attractions in Paris, including the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Panthéon. Or, if you want to take in a slightly eerier Paris attraction, you could always descend into the catacombs!
Of course, in the festive season, there are plenty of Christmassy markets and a whole host of seasonal attractions.
Venice can be cold in winter, but its canals and wonderful history are beautiful year-round!
Explore St Mark’s Square, cosy up on a gondola or see the colorful Burano Island. One of the main draws of visiting Venice in winter is that there will be barely any tourists, so you can enjoy the attractions crowd-free!
This is also one of the most responsible ways to visit Venice, as it has big problems with overtourism.
Venice Carnival takes place on the day before Lent, in February each year. It’s well worth being in town for the Carnival, although be mindful that it can be very busy during this time!
Germany’s funky capital, Berlin is a perfect destination for fans of the alternative year-round.
It’s hard to think of a city that’s more historic than Berlin. Every street of the German capital could tell thousands of stories. Many of these are tragic, dating back to the Nazi occupation and the time when Berlin was divided. Its many museums (Berlin has over 170) tell the stories of its past.
Some of the most touching are the DDR Museum, Topography of Terror, Stasi Museum, Jewish Memorial and the Berlin Story Bunker. It’s also worth visiting Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall at East Side Gallery.
While Berlin has a lot of very sombre tales from its past, it’s a city that’s rapidly moving into the future. You’ll find this in its funky clubs (some of which go on until 6:00 am), diverse culinary scene (plenty for veggies and vegans, and dishes from all over the world) and the alternative vibe of many of its neighbourhoods, in particular Kreuzberg.
Berlin’s a city of contrasts, and a little cold weather doesn’t dampen its spirit at all.
A city split in half by the snaking Danube River that winds down the middle, Budapest is the perfect winter destination. Why? Two words: warm spas.
That’s right, when it’s freezing outside, you can enter into their spa baths and instantly warm up, relax and rejuvenate. There are so many spas to choose from; Szemcyi is the most popular and hosts “spartys” at the weekend, Rudas has a giant hot tub on the roof and Luckas is a more local spa with chilled out vibes.
When you’ve finished your spa session, Budapest has a wealth of other attractions that will please any traveller. Learn about its fascinating history at Buda Castle, visit museums like the Hospital in the Rock and test your logic skills at one of the city’s many escape rooms.
Budapest is famous for its nightlife, which is lively all year round, and there are also tonnes of restaurants to enjoy, whether you want to sample local Hungarian cuisine or international fare.
With a gorgeous castle, connections to Harry Potter and winding Medieval streets, Edinburgh in Scotland is an ideal winter destination. Edinburgh Castle is open year-round, which is a wonderful place to learn about the city’s history.
Also, you can warm up by sampling some Scottish whiskey or trying some classic wholesome Scottish food.
Edinburgh has a great vibe at Christmas, with markets and beautiful festive lights. But while it’s wonderful in December, it’s also worth visiting in January and February – it’s such a cosy city!
The capital city of Ireland is one of the merriest places in the world to visit – even in the coldest months of the year.
With attractions like Christmas at the castle which is a special market at Dublin Castle on for December (and plenty of history throughout the rest of winter, too), various museums including the National Museum of Ireland, Jamesons distillery and Guinness breweries and plenty of Ireland’s best pubs, there’s always something to do in Ireland’s capital.
Plus, much like the UK, you can never guarantee on good weather in Dublin even in the summer. This ensures that it’s an all-weather city, ready for any season!
Romania’s Bucharest isn’t necessarily a popular choice for a European winter city break, but it’s worth considering. The Romanian capital has affordable spas, plenty of attractions and great festive cheer. Plus, it’s not actually usually as cold as you may think – due to global warming, snow is becoming rarer and rarer.
Bucharest has plenty of Christmas markets and other festive activities right in the city centre. Other winter activities include learning about the city’s history by visiting the Presidential Palace and Ceaușescu’s Mansion, taking a free walking tour of the capital, warming up in coffee shops or board game cafes, going ice skating or museum-hopping.
Ljubljana is a small city, but it packs a punch with attractions and has a fantastic atmosphere! See Ljubljana Castle all lit up at night, explore the Christmas markets and hang out in its many bars.
Plus, from Ljubljana, you can travel to Lake Bled. Not only might you experience snowy scenes, but the summer crowds aren’t there and prices are a lot cheaper. It’s easy to get to Lake Bled by train or bus!
Snowy winter breaks
Winter days in these cities may be short, but they’re generally covered in a blanket of snow and subsequently, have a wonderful festive atmosphere!
Like all of Scandinavia, Stockholm freezes during winter. It’s also very dark, with as little as six daylight hours in December. But that doesn’t mean that it’s gloomy! Snow is very likely, so you’re almost guaranteed to have delightful scenes carpeted in white while you’re here.
Indoor attractions include the ABBA Museum, winter walking tours, winter-focused kayaking, boat trips (these still operate in winter!), countless other museums and of course, the festive markets.
Plus, Swedish saunas are the ideal place to warm up and relax after a long day of sightseeing!
Helsinki isn’t the obvious choice for a winter break in Europe – and, let’s not beat around the bush – it’s cold. But it’s also incredibly festive and has an array of attractions, perfect for any off season traveler.
Most enticing is Alexander Street, which has been dubbed the Christmas street of the city. Once the lights are on here, you know that the festive period is coming! Also, visit the plethora of museums and beautiful Helsinki Cathedral.
There’s another reason for visiting Finland in winter too – and that is saunas. Finnish saunas are among the best in the world, and a relaxing afternoon warming up after a day in the freezing Finnish winter climate is the ideal way to relax.
Many travellers visit Helsinki as a stop on a larger trip up north to Lapland and Santa Claus Village. It’s obvious why this region is one of the best places to visit in Europe in winter, but many people don’t know that instead of flying, you can take an enchanting overnight train that whizzes through the frozen Finnish countryside while on search of Santa. It’s the ideal festive break!
Like other Scandinavian cities, Oslo is cold in winter – as in, it can get to -25°C/ -13°F. The weather does not mess around here. But there are so many wholesome winter activities that it makes the freezing climate worthwhile.
For example, one of the best things to do in Oslo in the winter is to go cross country skiing – it’s so easy to access, you can actually take a metro there! Plus, there are walking and bike tours tailored for winter, more cosy cafes than you could visit in your lifetime, and an abundance of extraordinary museums and other indoor attractions.
Plus, the festive markets are in full swing in December, making this a magical time to be in Norway’s capital.
Iceland is famous as a bucket-list destination, with gorgeous waterfalls, incredible wildlife and unique experiences like swimming in between two continental plates. But why would you visit in winter, when you only have a few short hours a day?
I can think of two reasons. One of which is the Northern Lights – the darker Iceland is, the higher the chance you have of seeing the lights flash by. The other is the relentless cheer that Reykjavik seems to have, even when it’s one of the darkest places on earth.
There’s a certain magic to visiting Reykjavik at this freezing time of year. Not only will it be covered in snow, but you’ll really see how Iceland is one of the happiest places on earth, even in the depths of winter.
Attraction-wise, find a few museums, including the quirky Icelandic Phallological Museum – which is exactly what you think it is. Plus, enjoy the streets of the city, its many bars and restaurants, and do excursions like whale watching, which run in winter.
The Blue Lagoon and other hot springs stay open all year, so you could venture further afield, but Reykjavik is ideal for a slow paced winter break, with cosy mornings followed by lunchtime sunrises and hot spring soaks as you look on a mid afternoon darkening sky.
Home of hygee, Denmark is frosty during the winter period – but it’s anything but miserable. Hygee is the Danish concept of cosiness, and nowhere is it more apparent than in Copenhagen.
As well as the many Christmas markets – the best of which are in Tivoli Gardens – Copenhagen is lined with cosy cafes, places to try traditional Danish food and even the brisk Scandanavian coastline is right at your doorstep.
Generally, snow is highly possible in January and February. However, the winters are becoming warmer each year – visit soon if you want to see a magical Copenhagen winter wonderland!
When you’ve got a capital city that’s the birthplace of the Christmas tree, you know that it’s a must-visit during winter! Riga is great during the festive season, with a magical market and usually a blanket of snow over the wonderful cityscape.
But it’s worth visiting in January and February too. Wrap up warm, and you can see sights like House of the Blackheads and the Riga Dom Cathedral from the outside. Or, enter into its many cafes serving hot wine and hot chocolate (or Balsam, Riga’s favourite alcoholic beverage!).
There are museums for literally every taste, too. Whether you’re in to modern history, cars, chocolate, natural history or religion – you’ll find an indoor exhibition that’ll enthrall you in Latvia’s capital.
Lithuania’s capital city is still a bit of a hidden gem, but it’s well worth visiting if you want a snowy city and fun atmosphere.
Not only does it have one of the best Christmas markets in Europe, but the city is one of the snowiest capitals in Europe, with frequent snowfall from December to March each year. This makes the Christmas market especially festive!
Enjoy spas, take a look at snowy streets from rooftop bars and go back in time in Vilnius’s many historic attractions and museums.
Lithuanian Independence Day is February 16th, which is a great time to be in the city, with lots of celebrations and festivities.
Home to one of the best Christmas markets in Europe, Tallinn is another incredible snowy Euroepan capital. With fairy lights strung over every street corner, the city feels wonderfully festive throughout the year.
You’ll have to pull on a coat to properly see the city, but the architecture is so beautiful, and there are so many adorable cafes to grab a drink in, that the frosy weather is worth it!
The chilly capital of Poland has long been known as a snowy European destination, although it tends to be snowy for a lot less time each year.
Nonetheless, the gorgeous city centre makes it well worth visiting any time of year.
See attractions like the Royal Castle in Warsaw or venture into musems that range in topics, from the POLIN History of the Jews in Poland, to the Warsaw Uprising Museum, to the Neon Museum in the alternative neighbourhood of Praga.
Festive markets are popular, of course, and as Poland is typically a very Christmassy country, you won’t be short of seasonal cheer in its capital.
Tromsø is located in northern Norway, and. is somewhere to visit if you want an extreme winter city break, that’s covered under snow and has overwhelming festive cheer!
While Tromsø is substantially smaller than many cities on this list, it’s arguably one of the most worth visiting, thanks to guaranteed snow (this is the gateway to the Arctic, after all!), chances to see the Northern Lights and a plethora of wintery attractions that’ll warm any soul.
Try out dog-sledding, visit the Arctic Musem and Arctic Cathedral (and seee the Tromsø Cathedral, the northernmost protestant Cathedral in the world!), go on a wintery whale watching tour and learn about Sami culture. It’s freezing, but it may be the winter capital of the world – so definitely add Tromsø to your winter travel bucket list!
Warmer European city breaks
Beautiful Lisbon is a wonderful city to visit year-round. With incredible architecture, beautiful beaches close by, great nightlife and plenty of attractions, there’s so much to love about Lisbon.
And just wait until I tell you that the temperature hit 17°C (about 63°F) when I was there in January one year! It’s definitely one of the warmest capital cities in Europe. Personally, I’d much rather be in Lisbon in 17°C/ 63°F than the toasty 40°C/ 104°F it can get to in the summer months.
Of course, it can be colder and rain – but you’re much more likely to have some days of sunshine than in other countries in Europe!
Attraction-wise, you can enjoy virtually all of Lisbon’s highlights in the winter. Visit a range of museums, take a train to the beautiful Sintra, explore incredible churches and take in its epic coastline. There’s so much to enjoy in Lisbon in the winter months!
While Valletta is quite a small city, it boasts a few attractions worth visiting, such as St. John’s Co-Cathedral, the National Museum of Archaeology, Fort St Elmo and Casa Rocca Piccola. Its Mediterranean location gives it gorgeous weather throughout the year, with some of the warmest temperatures in all of Europe!
Plus, the fact that Malta is quite petite means that it’s easy to explore other sights from Valletta. Drive straight from the city and explore places like the Dingli Cliffs and Blue Grotto Viewpoint. While the weather isn’t quite as warm as the rest of the year, there’s still so much to see in Malta in winter!
Located on Turkey’s Mediterranean Coast, Antalya is mostly well-known for its all-inclusive hotels and gorgeous beaches, which can be jam-packed in the summer.
But did you also know that Antalya is a great city break destination any time of year? In fact, it’s one of the most historic cities in Turkey, with an incredible amount of ruins. It was part of the ancient Lycia region, which predated the Romans.
So there are tonnes of things to do in Antalya in the winter. Plus, hotel rooms and flights can be very cheap and if you fancy a stroll on the beach, you’ll virtually have it to yourself!
It’s definitely a bit chillier, but Antalya generally has plenty of winter sun as well.
If you’re exploring this area of Turkey, I’d recommend checking out Kas too, which is lovely in winter. Demre, a nearby town to Kas, is where Santa Claus is originally from – you can’t get more Christmassy than that!
Although Istanbul is considered to be one of the biggest cities on the continent, it’s actually partly in Europe and partly in Asia. In the winter season, it can have mild weather, although snow isn’t impossible either. However, winter in Istanbul is short, and there are plenty of attractions you can enjoy, whatever the weather!
Pull on your coat and gloves and take a walk along the Bosphorus, maybe even doing a cruise to see Istanbul’s sights from the water. Take in some of the city’s best museums, including the Museum of Innocence and Topkapi Palace. And of course, the city’s most famous mosque – the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia – are open year-round.
A cradle of civilization, Rome is one of the most historically important cities in the world. While it has long, hot summers, its winters can be notably chillier – snow isn’t unheard of.
However, it’s usually quite a bit warmer than destinations in the north, and the winters are relatively short. Plus, even if it is chilly while you visit, its history isn’t weather dependant!
Attractions like the colosseum, Trevi fountain and St Peter’s Basilica are open year-round. Plus, you can visit Vatican City and see a whole other country in a few hours!
If the weather is really bad while you’re in the Italian capital, there are 83 museums, and as you’d expect, incredible Italian restaurants are at every street corner.
Sitting in the south of Spain, Malaga rarely gets cold. In the winter, it’s definitely cooler, but many people prefer these climates to the scorching weather of the summertime!
There are plenty of beaches to enjoy – this is the Costa del Sol, after all – and while the sea is quite chilly this time of year, it’s perfect weather to hike along the beach.
Malaga has a gorgeous old town, with bucket-list attractions like the Alcazaba, Malaga Cathedral and the historic Roman Theatre.
Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Winter in Mallorca is definitely a lot cooler than the summertime, but that shouldn’t put you off visiting! It can be ideal weather to not only get out and about and enjoy the many activities of the island but also take in the sights of Palma de Mallorca itself.
One of the most underrated but beautiful cities in Spain, Palma de Mallorca is unassuming at first glance. But once you’re there and have a chance to walk down its winding streets, enjoy a cocktail in one of the plazas, or glance into the island’s distinct history by exploring its cathedral.
Sitting in the middle of the Mediterranean, it’s no surprise that Cyprus stays warm in the winter months. Paphos, in particular, usually sees highs of 16°C/ 61°F even in January, which is its coldest month.
Paphos is quite well known as a resort summer destination, but three are plenty of attractions to enjoy all year round. Check out Kato Paphos Archaeological Park and learn about the ancient civilisations of Cyprus, visit Pahpos Fort or just get lost in the old town.
You probably won’t want to swim or sunbathe during winter, but strolling around the beaches is lovely, and it’s often warm and sunny enough to enjoy lunch, dinner or a few drinks outside.
Of course, you can also use Paphos as a base to explore Cyprus, seeing attractions like Aphrodite’s Rock and Nicosia, the world’s only divided capital city.
Visit Dubrovnik in winter, and you’ll wonder “isn’t this one of the most touristy destinations in Europe”?.
In the winter months, Dubrovnik simply loses its crowds. No longer is it a hectic destination with swarms of tourists at every single photo spot, but instead it’s calm, managing to show off its historic buildings and incredible beauty in peace.
Most of Dubrovnik’s attractions, including the city walls and Fort Imperial stay open during the winter, and while the weather is certainly chillier, it’s still warmer than a lot of Northern European destinations, and lovely sunny days aren’t unheard of, even in January.
Ok, Lebanon’s technically not in Europe, but it’s a fairly quick flight from many European destinations, and it’s such a wonderful country that I couldn’t leave it off this list of winter city breaks!
Even in January, Beirut can have high temperatures of up to 18°C/ 64°F. The city has a certain charm, although it still retains many of the scars from its brutal Civil War and, more recently, the Beirut blast. I recommend doing the Alternative Beirut Walking Tour to learn more about it.
Also worth visiting in Beirut are Pigeon Rocks and the National Museum. Plus, there are tonnes of restaurants serving the most delicious Lebanese food – I recommend Le Chef, which was loved by Anthony Bordain and saved by Russell Crowe after the Beirut blast.
Skiing in Lebanon is popular in the winter; in fact, you can ski in the morning and be back down in relative warmth by the sea by the afternoon!
A short drive from Beirut, you’ll reach beach towns of Batroun and Byblos. These are some of the world’s oldest settlements and have incredible ruins, beautiful beaches and fun bars. There’s much more to Lebanon, too, but if you’re just in Beirut as a winter city break, that should be enough to sink your teeth into!
Europe winter city breaks FAQs
What is the best city break in the winter?
It depends what you’re looking for! If you want somewhere snowy and festive, head to Tromsø in Norway or Helsinki, where you can take a train up to Lapland.
For Christmas markets, check out Prague, Vienna or Nuremberg.
If you want to experience touristy cities without the crowds, Venice is well worth checking out off-season.
Fancy winter sun? Paphos in Cyprus and Malaga in Spain are winners.
Which European country is best for winter?
If it’s sun you want, head to Southern Spain or Mediterranean locations like Cyprus and Malta.
But for a great festive vibe, Scandinavian countries are wonderful for snow and Central European countries are excellent for Christmas markets!
Where is the best place to go in Europe in December?
It’s Christmas season, so I’d recommend somewhere festive, like Tromsø for snow and wintery attractions or Nuremberg for Christmas markets.
Where is a good city break in January?
You probably want to beat the January blues – head to Malaga in southern Spain!
Where is warm in Europe in February?
Places like Antalya in Turkey start warming up around this time, and you might even find that locations like Rome and Lisbon have good temperatures from February.
Is Europe worth visiting in winter?
YES! Lots of destinations have mild temperatures and clear skies, and while it’s not scorching hot, there’s still plenty to do!
Or, you can relish the cold and enjoy a festive atmosphere, indoor attractions and even the chance of snow.
What is the warmest place in Europe in winter?
That award goes to the Canary Islands. While they aren’t known for their cities (which is why they aren’t on this list!), they are very much worth visiting in the cooler months!
What is the cheapest city break in Europe?
It’s difficult to say as currencies change and it depends on your tastes, but the Baltic states, Bucharest and Istanbul are all very affordable.