Best European Cities To Visit in the Winter

The picture-perfect town of Hallstatt in Austria
The picture-perfect town of Hallstatt in Austria | Source

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 quite in a tiny picture-perfect town.

Which type of winter destination do you prefer?

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Santa Claus Village in Lapland, FinlandRiisitunturi National ParkRovaniemi from Ounasvaara
The Santa Claus Village in Lapland, Finland
The Santa Claus Village in Lapland, Finland | Source
Riisitunturi National Park
Riisitunturi National Park | Source
Rovaniemi from Ounasvaara
Rovaniemi from Ounasvaara | Source

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 Rovaneimi (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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Gran CanlaSt. Mark's SquareThe Gran CanalThe Rialto Bridge
The Gran Canla
The Gran Canla | Source
St. Mark's Square
St. Mark's Square | Source
The Gran Canal
The Gran Canal | Source
The Rialto Bridge
The Rialto Bridge | Source

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 winter-time may be the perfect time for you to venture to 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 in the beginning of December and around New Year's Eve. Hotels offer lots of specials at this time of year as well.

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 then by taking a gondola ride on the Grand Canal, underneath the bridge.

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Skating over Keizersgracht canal
Skating over Keizersgracht canal
Skating over Keizersgracht canal | Source

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, 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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
St. Moritz on a winter evening. The St. Moriz lake is frozen.The town center of St. MorizThe Engadine Museum
St. Moritz on a winter evening. The St. Moriz lake is frozen.
St. Moritz on a winter evening. The St. Moriz lake is frozen. | Source
The town center of St. Moriz
The town center of St. Moriz | Source
The Engadine Museum
The Engadine Museum | Source

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, do mountain-biking, horse-back riding, hiking, or an assortment of other outdoor activities.

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

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Hallstatt during the winterHallstattA charming street in Hallstatt
Hallstatt during the winter
Hallstatt during the winter | Source
Hallstatt | Source
A charming street in Hallstatt
A charming street in Hallstatt | Source

Hallstatt in Austria

If you're looking for some peace and quite, 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 report.

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.

Which of these would be your ideal winter destination in Europe?

  • Lapland, Finland
  • Venice, Italy
  • Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • St. Moritz, Switzerland
  • Hallstatt, Austria
See results without voting

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

show route and directions
A markerLapland, Finland -
Lapland, Finland
[get directions]

B markerVenice, Italy -
Venice, Italy
[get directions]

C markerAmsterdam, the Netherlands -
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
[get directions]

D markerSt. Moritz, Switzerland -
St Moritz, Switzerland
[get directions]

E markerHallstatt, Austria -
Hallstatt, Austria
[get directions]

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Comments 20 comments

cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 4 years ago from Western NC

Can I please just win the lottery so I can go to ALL of these wonderful-looking places? I REALLY, REALLY want to go skiing in Austria, and Venice in winter? Ohmigosh! How romantic! I'd MUCH prefer that to the crowds in the summer. :) Beautiful hub!

cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan

I second Cyndi's comment, where are my lotto winnings???? I can only imagine what it would be like to visit Lapland. It looks so magical!

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

Awesome hub! Dreaming of my next winter vacation. I've been fortunate to have been to Amsterdam and Salzburg in the winter and I think Salzburg was breathtaking with sparkling snow and cobblestone streets.

K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California

I am with the my girls here, lotto winnings are going towards European vacation! This entire article had me drifting off to Hallstatt Austria for a quiet quaint winter get-away. Beautiful to look at, and lovely to read.


donnah75 profile image

donnah75 4 years ago from Upstate New York

I never thought about Venice in the winter. That would be awesome. Good profile of lovely places. Voted up.

europewalker profile image

europewalker 4 years ago

I've been to Amsterdam in the winter and I loved it! I want to go to Switzerland so bad but my budget isn't cooperating. Trying to save $ to travel back to Europe. Excellent hub:) Voted up and awesome.

theclevercat profile image

theclevercat 4 years ago from Massachusetts

For me, it would be Amsterdam in the winter. All those frozen canals! Although Hallstatt sounds enticing as well. Lovely hub and voted up and interesting!

nextstopjupiter profile image

nextstopjupiter 4 years ago from here, there and everywhere

I visited four of these places before but never in winter. Thanks for this hub!

Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

What beautiful winter vistas. All look like fantastic places to visit in any season. It is a great cost saving idea to visit these places in the off season and the scenery looks gorgeous covered in snow. GC excellent job and certainly voted up!

alissaroberts profile image

alissaroberts 4 years ago from Normandy, TN

Wow I am a sun and beach kind of girl but your descriptions and those amazing pictures are making me wish that I could visit one of these beautiful destinations in the winter. And how fun would it be to take my boys to Santa Claus Village in Lapland - they would go crazy with excitement! Fantastic tour and hub - voted up, awesome, and beautiful!

agus fanani 4 years ago

Very beautiful and for a person living in tropical country, having a holiday to those cities is something I dream of doing and would give a very special experience.

Shawn Scarborough profile image

Shawn Scarborough 4 years ago from The Lone Star State

Great hub with some really beautiful pictures. I have been to all the places you mention except for Lapland in the summer. Now I want to visit them in the winter as well.

Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco

I want to go to all of these places. They seem so romantic in the winter and being from California, I love to see the snow! Absolutely beautiful.

FrugalFatCouple profile image

FrugalFatCouple 4 years ago from California

We have been to Venice and Amsterdam....but never would have thought of going to these destinations in the winter! Great idea!! Plus the destination in Finland and Switzerland. More great destinations!

samnashy profile image

samnashy 4 years ago from Australia

I love Austria and Italy in the winter and summer. As a European I did tend to visit during the summer months due to the fact I was 'sun starved'. However, a nice cold break would suit me down to the ground.

A great hub, thanks.

Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 3 years ago from South of France

Great hub, and how I'm dying to visit Venice...and most definitely in winter. Europe can often have lots more character then, and places feel more 'real' because they're occupied by locals and not tourists. I live in the south of France and FAR prefer the winter months, when it's quieter but the sun still shines :)

Glass-Jewelry profile image

Glass-Jewelry 3 years ago from Presezzo, Italy

One of the most fascinating places to spend a few days in the winter, especially for those who love the mountains, are the Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Dolomites are a limited area in northern Italy, the Interior region of South Tyrol, a paradise for skiers and hikers in the mountains.

Unlike other places in the Alps, equally famous from the point of view of tourism and sports, landscapes of the Dolomites are a variety of beautiful and unmistakably original.

Each of the admiring views taken from anywhere in the Dolomites is absolutely breathtaking and unique, raises large breaths and theatrical gestures of satisfaction!

Mike Robbers profile image

Mike Robbers 3 years ago from London

Winter vacations have their own charm especially in such beautiful places like these suggested in you hub. Great destinations!

greeneyedblondie profile image

greeneyedblondie 2 years ago

People I know would never travel during winter unless it was to Florida. I love the idea of traveling to Europe in the winter but wherever I look I hear people say, "It's rainier during that season" or "things aren't open as long," or "there isn't enough daylight to do anything." Thanks so much for a inspirering hub!

jcsteele profile image

jcsteele 16 months ago from Florida

I'm originally from Croatia and have to say winter in Europe is not only amazing but really beautiful. I defiantly want to go to some of these countries during the winter especially Switzerland. Really great job on your hub.

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