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Best European Cities to Visit in the Winter

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Anna is a New Yorker writing about her globe-trotting, culinary, and healthy living adventures.

The picture-perfect town of Hallstatt in Austria

The picture-perfect town of Hallstatt in Austria

European Cities to Visit From December to Mid-February

Who said that vacations need to involve beach and sun? Some European destinations are best explored in the chill of winter.

Winters in Europe can be magical. Snow-covered monuments have their own charm. It's less crowded and not as expensive.

With the five destinations listed below, you'll find exactly what you're looking for, whether it's Northern Lights, reindeer sledding, a Santa village, major landmarks, fun, skiing, or just some peace and quiet in a tiny picture-perfect town.

Which type of winter destination do you prefer?

Lapland in the Winter

Did you know that many children in Europe believe that Santa lives in snowy Lapland, Finland? Yes, he has an actual hometown and it's a real winter wonderland, with reindeer and all.

Lapland is located in the Arctic. It's the northern-most region in Europe but that shouldn't stop you from traveling there in the winter, it's actually its main draw!

In Lapland, you can go reindeer or dog sledding to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), relax at the steamy saunas, and of course see Santa at the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi (the capital of Lapland). Santa's village includes his house, workshop, a post office, shops and restaurants.

Winter in Lapland begins in the middle of October and lasts a whopping 200 days. There are days when the sun doesn't even rise above the horizon, adding to the allure of Lapland.

Venice in the Winter

Have you been dreaming of vising Venice but cringe at the thought of all those crowds of people and sky-high costs? Then wintertime may be the perfect time for you to venture into this incredibly romantic city!

Christmas and New Year are popular times of year for Italians visiting Venice but if you want to explore the beautiful city sans tourists with their cameras, come between early January and St. Valentine's Day. And if you're looking to save on airfare, prices are at their lowest at the beginning of December and around New Year's Eve. Hotels offer lots of specials at this time of year as well.

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Major landmarks to check out include St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco), the Bell Tower (Campanile), St. Mark's Basilica (Basilica San Marco) and the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale). However, as we all know, Venice's main attractions are all the canals making this city extremely romantic. And there's no better way to see the famous Rialto Bridge than by taking a gondola ride on the Grand Canal, underneath the bridge.

Amsterdam in the Winter

Amsterdam is often referred to as the "Venice of the North," and rightfully so since there are over 60 miles (1000 kilometers) of canals. Now imagine those canals frozen over and people ice-skating on the Keizersgracht canal right in the center of Amsterdam! That's Amsterdam in the winter.

Amsterdam seeps fun. It's a party town all year round. While there, you can visit the Heineken brew­ery, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Anne Frank house, eat delicious pancakes, stop by the coffee shops (which don't just sell coffee), and walk through the Red Light District.

St. Moritz Winter

St. Moritz, located high in the Swiss Alps is a very popular mountainside vacation spot, especially during the winter. It is actually considered the very first winter resort in the world.

St. Moritz is known for breathtaking scenery, outdoor activities like skiing, and wonderful Swiss hospitality. There are four ski regions in and around St. Moritz: Corviglia, Corvatsch, Diavolezza, and Zuoz. And if you're not into skiing, you can snowboard, go mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, or an assortment of other outdoor activities.

During winters, days in St. Moritz are clear and cold, and you can expect lots of fluffy snow. It's perfect!

Hallstatt in Austria

If you're looking for some peace and quiet, in a picture-perfect European location, Hallstatt is the ideal place for you. Hallstatt, with its population of under 1000 residents, is tucked away in the snowy mountains of Austria. The tiny town boasts some beautiful architecture, a bone house (Beinhaus) that dates back to the 12th century and includes over 1200 skulls, a World Heritage museum, the world's first known salt mine, ice caves and a nearby ski resort.

An overnight visit to Hallstatt is perfect and nearby towns of interest include Salzburg, Bad Ischl (a spa town), St. Wolfgang (a market town), and St. Gilgen (another quaint little town).

The town has such a hallmark small-town appeal that in 2011, China drew up plans to build a full-scale replica of the town in Huizhou, Guangdong province.

What to Bring When Traveling to Europe During the Winter

When heading to Europe for a winter vacation, it will be freezing cold so don't forget to bring the following items with you:

  • Thermal tops and leggings
  • Winter boots
  • A waterproof winter coat
  • Gloves

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