Our top picks for winter city breaks in Europe
Just because the temperature is dropping doesn’t mean your appetite for adventure has to! Check out some of our favourite European destinations to explore this winter.
Berlin, Germany 🇩🇪
The German capital is an incredibly popular tourist destination. Its unique combination of sprawling urban jungle, vibrant art/social scene and historical significance makes it a truly inspiring place to visit.
You can find legendary nightlife, quirky attractions and affordable accommodation in Berlin at any time of year. However, over the winter months the city makes a remarkable transformation, particularly around the December holidays and into January when the winter festival season is on.
There are over 70 Christmas markets (Christkindlmarkts) that take place around Berlin, most of which begin in late November. You can find a variety of incredible food, warm up with some traditional mulled wine (Glühwein), check out some spectacular light displays and even go ice skating (though we recommend skating BEFORE you’ve had the wine 😁).
After the holiday season, Berlin keeps the momentum going with some important festivals and events taking place between January and the end of February. Some of these include the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) and the famous CTM music & art festival.
Keep in mind that the winters in Berlin are known to be quite cold, so make sure to pack some layers while you explore this gem of a city. ❄️
Lisbon, Portugal 🇵🇹
If you’re looking for sunshine and some much needed Vitamin D this winter, Lisbon could be the perfect place. It currently holds the title of Europe’s sunniest capital and temperatures in Lisbon over the winter average a high of 15°C and a low of 9°C. ☀️
Beyond the sunny skies, visiting Lisbon in the winter has some other great advantages. Firstly, as the ‘off-season’ you can enjoy the sights and sounds of Lisbon while avoiding the huge crowds that flock to the city during the high season. This also translates into cheaper and plentiful options when it comes to accommodation.
Lisbon oozes charm and character, there are a number of UNESCO world heritage sites including the stunning Torre de Belém, Jerónimos Monastery and Lisbon Baixa (old town). Besides the famous landmarks, we recommend seeking out a traditional pastel de nata (custard tart) which are famous in Lisbon. We’ve heard the most authentic ones can be found at Pastéis de Belém.
Lisbon clearly has a lot to offer, from the buzzing nightlife in Bairro Alto to the classic tour through the city you can take on the iconic number 28 tram line. You won’t regret a visit to this picturesque city! 📷
Budapest, Hungary 🇭🇺
When it comes to aesthetics, few places in Europe can compete with Budapest. Split down the middle by the famous Danube River, the city reinvents itself in the winter months into something out of a classic Christmas film. 🎄
The river is a great place to start your adventure, with boat cruises regularly running up and down the length of the city. Also, it wouldn’t be an authentic Budapest experience without a visit to the city’s famous thermal baths and a glass of whatever you like best at one of the many ruin bars you can find dotted around Budapest.
We talked about Christmas markets in Berlin being plentiful. In Budapest, the focus is on quality rather than quantity. The city boasts two of the most famous markets in Central Europe: the Vorosmarty Square Christmas market and the St. Stephen’s Basilica Christmas market. They both offer free admission and approximately 280 stalls filled with a wide variety of foods, gifts and other local delicacies.
Last but certainly not least, no trip to Hungary’s crown jewel would be complete without a trip to Buda Castle. In the winter the spectacular view from the top is made that little bit extra special with the winter conditions. After touring the city, warm up with a hearty meal of traditional Goulash for a real Budapest experience! 🤤
Bergen, Norway 🇳🇴
For a classic and magical winter getaway, look no further than Bergen. Nestled between sprawling Fjords and lofty mountain peaks, this small city in the south-west of Norway is a true winter wonderland. ⛄️
The iconic fjords are a fantastic starting point, and there are tours available which can suit any itinerary. The most famous of these is undoubtedly the Nærøyfjorden, which like some of the locations we mentioned in Lisbon has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Bergen is known as the ‘city of 7 mountains’ and if altitude is your thing, this region has a lot to offer. The Ulriken cable car will take you 643 meters in the air for some spectacular views of the snowy landscape below. In addition to the viewing platform there are restaurants serving local cuisine. Make sure you check the schedule beforehand as there are some scheduled maintenance which takes place at different times in December and January.
For people who are keen on skiing/snowboarding, there are some amazing resorts just outside of the city such as Voss which is reachable from Bergen by car, train and bus. ⛷
London, United Kingdom 🇬🇧
This one is for all you shop-aholics out there with holiday shopping lists as long as your arm. One thing is for sure, London is the place to be if you’re looking for some retail therapy this winter. 🛍
The always bustling streets of London light up spectacularly for the winter season, particularly in Trafalgar Square, which is considered the focal point of the holiday season in London. Oxford Street, Carnaby Street and Regent Street are some other concentrated areas of shops and seasonal light displays.
Beyond the shopping, London has a wide range of activities on offer for the winter season. All your favorite West End shows are on and it can be simpler and cheaper to get tickets after the busy summer season. Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is a popular place to visit and if markets are your thing, be sure to check out Christmas by the River with stalls set with the iconic Tower Bridge as a backdrop.
Whatever your tastes, London will have something for you to enjoy in the winter but like Berlin make sure you pack some warm layers! 🧥