European cities are beautiful at every time of year, but there’s something about winter in Europe which brings a touch of magic. Snowy strolls through the parks, cosying up by a pub fire and ice skating around some of the most iconic sights across Europe’s greatest cities. Forget searching for winter sun and see the Old Towns and cobbles in all their winter glory. Here are 10 reasons why our favourite continent is even cooler in the winter.
The chance of snow
When we think of Europe in winter, we think snow-capped castles and fairytale views - well, if it does snow, this is exactly what you can expect. Head to cities like Prague, Bruges, Edinburgh, Budapest, Tallinn and many many more to witness the true magic of medieval European cities topped with a layer of snow. The further north you head, the more likely you’ll experience it, otherwise in cities more central to Europe there are higher chances of snow around February and March.
One of the best things about winter in Europe are the amazing traditional Christmas markets. Alpine-style huts take over the main city squares, dressed in wintry lights and selling festive trinkets with the smell of German sausages and hog roast wafting throughout. Pretty much every big European city will have a Christmas Market for the weeks leading up to the end of December, some more famous than others. If it’s a festive market you want to see on your winter city break, do your research before you go to make sure you don’t miss it.
Make the most of short queues for some of the biggest attractions in Europe. Winter tends to put people off travelling, but those who do make the journey (and they should) are rewarded with less tourists and a much more authentic trip. Whether it’s getting to walk straight into a city’s most famous museum, or being able to actually hear your guide on a walking tour, heading to Europe in winter just makes sense!
Ever heard of hygge? The Danish term refers to the feeling of cosiness and happiness - pretty much anything that might make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, whether that’s lighting candles in the evening, cosy socks or a relaxing night in. Hygge (pronounced ‘hoo-gah’) might’ve been inspired by the Danes, but you’ll find it in cities all over Europe. Sit in a cafe with a good book and a cup of coffee, and soak in the feeling of hygge!
European pubs and bars
Nowhere else in the world has pubs like the ones in Europe, and winter is the perfect time to make use of them. With an old wooden bar, beers on tap and a crackling fire lit up for the winter, pubs are the cosiest places to relax and unwind. It’s not just England that has all the cosy pubs, find them in Scandinavia, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands… Pub crawling your way through Europe would be easy!
Hearty food and hot drinks
European food is usually hearty, comforting and packed with big flavours that’ll warm you up on any cold day. Stews, pies, soups, strudels… the list of heartwarming traditional dishes go on, and you’ll always find them coming out of pub kitchens. Sit back and get warm with a piping hot meal, or order a mulled wine (or gluhwein), eggnog, or an Irish coffee to warm you through.
It’s all a lot cheaper
Travelling off-peak means you’ll have more money in your pocket to splash out with while you’re away. Train and air fares are cheaper, hostels and hotels are cheaper, and any other prices which are bumped up for peak season are dropped again. Get the most out of your money and opt for a city break in Europe during the winter.
Warming up in natural baths
Soaking in a warm, bubbly bath is one of the little luxuries in life. In Europe, you can do this outside in one of a number of the continent’s steaming thermal spas. Step into the water to escape the winter chill and enjoy the warm water and hot steam in your face. The Blue Lagoon in Iceland, the thermal spas in Budapest, the Thermae Bath Spa in Bath… the natural jacuzzis are all over Europe and a seriously luxurious way to spend time during a winter city break.
Glide along Amsterdam’s canals, beneath the Christmas tree at London’s Somerset House or amongst the grandeur of the Grand Palais in Paris. Ice rinks pop up in capital cities all over Europe for the Christmas season, getting everyone in the festive spirit. Most of them are put up in iconic locations, creating an even more romantic setting in the new city you’ll be visiting.
Is there anything cooler than snowsports? Yep, snowsports in Europe. The continent is home to some of the best slopes in the world with the Alps running from France all the way through Italy and Switzerland to the middle of Austria. Jump on skis or a snowboard and experience some amazing levels of snow, whether it’s your first time or you’ve been doing it your whole life. With snowsports come insane apres ski vibes from unreal mountain parties to chill chalet evenings with red wine and cheese fondue. Bliss.