The winter season is nearly here, and if you’re still considering traveling over the holidays, you may be looking for destinations. As it happens, there are several places in Europe that make for wonderful winter getaways, even if most of the continent is quite cold by this time of year. Between beautiful cities, ski destinations, and southern areas where you might still enjoy a touch of warmth if you’re interested, there are just a lot of options.
These are my picks for some of the very best European winter destinations though, as well as a few things to focus on at each one.
There might just not be any beating Vienna as a winter destination, not only in Europe but anywhere in the world. Certainly, it’s quite cold, but if you love the traditional winter aesthetic of bright lights, merry people bundled up in warm clothes, pretty surroundings and potentially snow on the ground, Vienna should be a dream come true. There was an interesting article written on 10 of the best winter destinations on the continent that pointed out Christmas markets as things to see this time of year. Correctly, the article mentioned that some smaller Central European towns have the most charming holiday markets. But Vienna’s is about as good as it gets, which only adds to the charm.
You may not have heard of Courchevel before, and that’s perfectly understandable. For much of the year, it’s not nearly as appealing as the larger and more famous French destinations. However, during the winter it might just be the best ski getaway in France (and therefore among the best in Europe). You’ll find higher and slightly more dramatic ski resorts in the Alps, but the combination of luxury accommodations, fine dining options, and ski trails makes Courchevel a breathtaking and enjoyable place to travel.
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Monte Carlo is known largely for two things: its harbor and its legendary casino. The harbor is a postcard image, usually filled with expensive yachts and populated by excited tourists and wealthy locals. The casino feels like an homage to an older time. These days, casino players all over the world can feel as if they’re inside a Las Vegas casino simply by logging online and selecting an immersive live dealer option. There’s no need to visit these venues anymore in person. But in Monte Carlo, there’s a want to. A rich, festive casino town makes for an excellent winter escape. The city is still beautiful when the weather cools, and indoor attractions from the casino itself to famous restaurants, to the striking Oceanographic Museum, there are a lot of things to enjoy indoors.
This is a destination meant for relaxation. It’s for those who would rather find a place that’s still warm during the winter months, and it might just be the best such option. It’s been written that Malta as a whole is often forgotten in winter, leaving the capital of Valletta largely free of tourist crowds (which can be fairly dense during the summer). This frees you up to stroll outside, do some sightseeing, sip coffee at outdoor cafés and generally enjoy yourself. The architecture of the town is gorgeous, hailing from multiple eras, and the surrounding waters and islands are among the most attractive in all of Europe.
If you want pure festivity, Amsterdam can rival Vienna. In some ways, it almost feels like a holiday season anytime you go to Amsterdam. It’s a colorful and cheerful city packed with creature comforts and entertainment. Nothing really changes during the winter except that it gets a little bit colder; you won’t see as many people cruising down the famous canals or renting bicycles to ride around town. But you will be able to enjoy a cool hotel (likely at a better price than any other time of year), excellent food, and a rich holiday atmosphere that seems to enhance the city’s best qualities.