Winter season adds a different layer of magic to some European cities. These destinations turn into a winter wonderland and are perfect to visit especially during Christmas.
Must-See Places in Europe in Winter
1. Rovaniemi, Finland
One of the coldest places you can visit in winter, but definitely the most unique as well. What better way to spend the holiday season than meeting Santa himself? Rovaniemi is the famous hometown of our favorite jolly old man: Santa Claus. You can visit his post office to meet his elves and send postcards to your friends around the world or even have a seat on his lap and ask for your Christmas presents.
This is not even the best part of visiting Rovaniemi. You will have close encounters with reindeer (maybe even find Rudolph) and go on dog sled rides with huskies. If you’re lucky you can even catch a glimpse of the famous Northern Lights.
Recommended hotels in Rovaniemi: Arctic Treehouse Hotel or Santa Claus Holiday Village.
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
Head to the Danish capital to enjoy the snow falling from one of the many cozy cafes and restaurants. Copenhagen is famous for its delicious cuisine and also home to some of the top restaurants in the world. Head to 2 Michelin starred Noma and try the chef’s menu (around $250 per person, but well worth it). To secure a table at the fancy restaurants, book way ahead especially during the holiday season. To feel the true spirit of winter holidays, visit Tivoli amusement park to enjoy the fun games, holiday markets and mulled wine.
Other top sites not to miss are: a) Nyhavn – a 17th-century colorful district along a water canal. b) Freetown Christiania – also known as the hippy town and definitely a very interesting place to visit. It’s a fully autonomous area where citizens live by their own rules and the sale of Cannabis is actually legal. c) Hop on a train and cross the Oresund Bridge into a cute little town called Malmo in Sweden (only 35 minutes away), which is also a great place for shopping.
Recommended Hotel in Copenhagen: Bertrams Guldsmeden, which is a boutique hotel with a cozy interior and organic toiletries.
3. Budapest, Hungary
This hip city is famous for amazing food and a great nightlife. Winter activities include skating and relaxing in warm thermal baths. For the best views pay a visit to Castle Hill to enjoy panoramic scenes of the whole city and the Chain Bridge over the Danube River which separates Buda and Pest. My favorite hangout spots at night-time were the ruin pubs located in run-down buildings and made fully of junk!
For some fine dining and classical Hungarian music, head to Michelin recommended restaurant Gundel and try the 5-course chef’s menu. I can safely say it was the best food I had ever tasted in my life (prices start from $120 per person).
Recommended Hotel in Budapest: Stay in the Boscolo Budapest to enjoy your daily breakfast in the “New York Cafe” which is considered the most beautiful cafe in the world.
4. Innsbruck, Austria
Skiing in the Austrian Alps is an unforgettable experience and Innsbruck in Tyrol is one of the best places to do that. Stay in one of the many luxury lodges surrounded by snow while enjoying some warm drinks next to the fireplace.
Related Article: A Digital Detox in Vienna, Austria
Take this fun Europe Map Quiz to test your geography knowledge.
Andorra is a small country with a unique location among the Pyrenees Mountains. This makes it the perfect place for winter sports. You can also enjoy the more extravagant activities such as helicopter rides and hot air balloons, which are available year-round even in winter.
Read more about another great winter destination: 3 Days in Riga – A Travel Guide to Latvia’s Capital