For Christmas and outdoor enthusiasts, winter is always a magical season and what better continent to experience it than Europe? From charming Christmas markets, top-notch ski resorts, delicious mulled wine and reindeer sledding, this continent definitely takes winter to another level. Check out 15 best winter destinations in Europe, as picked by our editorial team:
1. Kitzbühel, Austria
This small alpine town east of Innsbruck is one of the most popular ski resorts in the world not only for its excellent ski conditions, but also for its stunning scenery and multitude of upscale shops that cover the streets of its town center.
Aside from skiing, there’s a wide range of outdoor winter activities you can engage in while you’re here, such as tobogganing,snowshoeing in the mountains or even going on a horse-drawn carriage ride.
Nearest airport: Salzburg Airport (SZG)
Average temperature: December – February: 5-6°C
2. Rovaniemi, Finland
It’ll be hard to find another destination that screams Christmas more than Rovaniemi, which lies right on the Arctic Circle. Named the official hometown of Santa Claus, this city will give you all the festive vibes! From reindeer sleigh rides, husky long trail adventures to an entire Santa Claus Village, this place is a joy to experience no matter how old you are.
It’s also one of the few destinations from where you can see the Northern Lights (also known as Aurora Borealis), which can be witnessed anywhere from August until April.
Nearest airport: Rovaniemi Airport
Average temperature December – February: -5°C
3. Vienna, Austria
Is there a better winter destination than Vienna? Not only in Europe, but the entire world. Elegant and opulent, this Austrian capital captivates millions of tourists each year with its world-class concerts at Vienna’s State Opera House, top of the notch restaurants, guaranteed snow, and self-assured Baroque architecture.
Nearest airport: Vienna International Airport
Average temperature December – February: 5-6°C
4. Prague, Czech Republic
Ah…winter in Prague! Christmas markets in the Old Town Square, beautiful snow-capped rooftops seen from the watch tower, a mug of gluhwein (mulled wine) and a medieval stone arch bridge crossing Vltava river. What better way to experience the Christmas magic?
Book your visit around the 20th of December and watch the entire city come alive with thousands of Christmas lights, music and festivities.
Nearest airport: Prague Airport (PRG)
Average temperature December – February: 3-5°C
5. Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn is one of those European capitals that you might not initially consider, but once you include it on your itinerary, you’ll be happy you did.
Its cobbled streets and gothic architecture are magical during winter time. A day trip here can include anything from ice skating, enjoying a cup of coffee at a charming little cafe, and visiting the Estonian History Museum.
Nearest airport: Tallinn Airport
Average temperature December – February: -2-1°C
6. Bruges, Belgium
Like many other cities on this list, Bruges is beautiful all year round, however during winter time it brings together a sort of magic that cannot be replicated throughout the other seasons. From romantic carriage rides to delicious chocolates, beautiful Christmas markets and 3-month long festivals, this city has a little something for everyone, which makes it one of the best winter destinations in Europe.
Nearest airport: Brussels Airport
Average temperature December – February: 6-7°C
7. Budapest, Hungary
Budapest is one of the cheapest destinations you can visit in Europe in winter, and one of prettiest too. Take advantage of the limited crowds to appreciate the light show at St. Stephen’s Basilica. Go ice skating, grab a bag of roasted chestnuts or queue up for a delicious Chimney Cake (Kürtőskalács) – a traditional dessert which you’ll soon start craving after you’ve tried just one!
If you’re a fan of thermal baths, you HAVE to visit the neo-baroque Szechenyi Baths complex. It sits right in the City Park and is one of the main winter tourist attractions in Budapest.
Nearest airport: Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD)
Average temperature December – February: 4-6°C
8. Edinburgh, Scotland
Charming Edinburgh has so many treats to lure you in through the winter months. The Christmas market in Princes Street Gardens opens as early as November, giving you plenty of time to try out all the hot snacks, mulled wines and to pick beautiful gifts for your loved ones. And Christmas at the Botanics is one event you won’t want to miss when the whole garden turns into an enchanted forest with beautiful light displays.
On the 25th of January, the Scots come together for Burns Night to celebrate the life and works of poet Robert Burns, feasting on a traditional supper of haggis with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes).
Nearest airport: Edinburgh Airport
Average temperature December – February: 6-7°C
9. Ljubljana, Slovenia
On our list of top winter destinations in Europe is Slovenia’s beautiful capital Ljubljana. Spend a couple of days here in the run up to Christmas and experience the Festive Fair that really makes the city come alive – think glistening trees, seasonal food, and local handicraft.
By visiting in the quieter winter months you’ll have a chance to explore its narrow streets with less people, and discover the diverse architectural style of its city centre – marvel at the beautiful combination of baroque (like the Town Hall) and modern buildings designed by world-famous architect Jože Plečnik.
Nearest airport: Ljubljana Airport (LJU)
Average temperature December – February: 4-5°C
10. Malaga, Costa del Sol, Spain
If you want to escape the traditional European winter and travel somewhere warmer, Malaga is one of the best spots for some winter sun.
A port city on southern Spain’s Costa del Sol, Malaga is famous for its superb yellow-sand beaches, excellent weather all year round, and vibrant nightlife, with dozens of music bars, cafes and nightclubs to keep you partying till the wee hours of the morning.
Nearest airport: Málaga–Costa del Sol Airport
Average temperature December – February: 17-18°C
11. Moscow, Russia
A kaleidoscope of colors, Russia’s capital is an absolute delight for winter travel enthusiasts everywhere. There’s nothing like seeing their grandiose cathedrals, majestic palatial buildings and colorful Christmas markets all carpeted in snow, while indulging in a hot bowl of borsch or ice skating in the famous Red Square.
Nearest airport: Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO / UUEE)
Average temperature December – February: -3°C
12. Val Thorens, France
Located at an altitude of 2300m, Val Thorens is one of the highest ski towns in Europe, which makes it a great resort for beginners as well as another great winter destination.
While the majority of the local slopes around Val Thorens are for first-time and intermediate users, advanced skiers will also find eight black runs suitable for their level or the option of heading off piste with a guide, the most exciting run being Lac de Lou, which has a 1400m vertical descent.
Nearest airport: Chambéry Airport
Average temperature December – February: -6°C
13. Zermatt, Switzerland
Ski lovers everywhere will rejoice in a long weekend spent on the ski slopes of Zermatt, located in southern Switzerland’s Valais canton. It has the highest and largest high-altitude ski area, sitting at an elevation of 1,608m and some of the most breathtaking views in the world.
Nearest airport: Zurich Airport (ZRH)
Average temperature December – February: 1-2°C
14. Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
Dubbed the ‘Queen of the Dolomites’, Cortina d’Ampezzo is easily the most fashionable ski resort in Italy and worth visiting at least once. Surrounded by the gorgeous peaks of the Dolomite Mountains, this European winter destination boasts not just excellent ski conditions, but also top of the notch accommodation, bars and restaurants.
In February 2021 it will host the Ski World Championships and in 2026 the Winter Olympics.
Nearest airport: Airport Bolzano (BZO) and Airport Venezia (VCE)
Average temperature December – February: 0°C
15. Tenerife, Canary Islands
If you’re looking to escape the cold and relax in an unbelievably serene setting in Europe, there’s no better choice than Tenerife. The golden sands, crystal clear waters and warm temperatures all year round are the main reasons why people come here during winter time. Plus, there’s one extra perk: its close proximity to the equator and low pollution levels means it’s one of the best destinations for stargazing. In fact, Teide National Park is widely recognized as one of the top stargazing sites on the planet.
And for the foodies out there, let’s not forget that Tenerife is a Spanish island. So, if you do decide to come here, you’ll not be disappointed by the huge variety of traditional Spanish and Catalan dishes to feast on!
Nearest airport: Tenerife-North Airport (TFN)
Average temperature December – February: 18-22°C
Where is the warmest place in Europe in winter?
The warmest place in Europe in winter is definitely The Canary Islands – our top picks being Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Of all the eight main islands, Tenerife is the warmest, with temperatures ranging between 18-22°C in December and January and a pleasant climate all year round, which makes it one of the best winter destinations in Europe. Fact!
Is it worth going to Europe in winter?
Yes, definitely! Not only because of the multitude of Christmas markets, ski slopes, and fun winter activities you can explore, but also because of the ticket prices, which are usually much cheaper than during the summer months.
Where can I see snow in Europe?
The best places to see snow in Europe are:
- Alpe d’Huez, France
- Val Thorens, France
- Innsbruck, Austria
- Zermatt, Switzerland
- Lapland, Finland