Planning a winter getaway in Europe can be a tricky decision. Do you want to make the most of the snowy season and embrace the arctic temperatures while skiing down a mountain or snowshoeing through a forest? Oof, just typing that makes me want to fetch my winter gear from my storage boxes. Or do you desperately feel like escaping the cold and immersing yourself in a southern European climate with Mediterranean charms? I totally understand that too, we’ve all been there. The moody weather, lack of sunshine and long, dark nights don’t exactly do wonders for your mental health. Can’t decide? Keep on reading to find the right kind of inspiration from the best winter trips in Europe I’ve personally experienced.
1. Leave Footprints in the Snow in Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria
A layer of white, sparkly snow can immediately transform any landscape into a more enchanting version of itself. And out of all the places I’ve been lucky enough to see with my own eyes, there is no place whose metamorphosis is more stunning than Hohe Tauern National Park in winter. You’ll be knee-deep in the Austrian nature, where ice climbing is a treasured tradition and thousands of alpine animals leave their tracks in the snow. Skiers and snowboarders alike can head to the slopes, but snow shoeing through the woods in the Defereggen Valley might be even more magical. Basically, it’s a region where everyone’s winter fantasies can be 100% fulfilled.
2. Plan a Classic City trip to Romantic Paris
Sure, it’s arguably a tad cliché to head to Paris around Christmas, but I prefer to call it a ‘classic’ getaway. For our family, it has almost become a tradition to visit the French capital when that typical romantic, classy urban vibe reaches its peak. Is there really anything more dreamy than Paris in the winter months? Ok, I’ll be honest: Paris can get a bit grey and dreary in February and March, but anytime around Christmas (November, December and early January) is just perfect. Just think about the ice rinks, elaborate shop windows and festive Christmas markets where you can try a sip of vin chaud (hot wine). Read my detailed article about winter in Paris to note down the best tips for your trip.
3. Chase the Sunset on the Costa de la Luz in Andalusia
The Costa de la Luz in Andalusia isn’t called the “coast of light” for nothing. It might get a tad chilly at night, but the sun is never far away in this charming Spanish region. Enjoy the peaceful beaches while watching the spectacular sunsets, scout out excellent surfing spots, and explore rural villages along the coast. When you’re completely zen again, head out to Seville or Cádiz for a bonus city trip. The historic, Moorish architecture in both cities is a sight to behold. I planned a similar trip in February last year, and it was one of the best winter trips in Europe I’ve ever experienced.
4. Spend a Wonderful Weekend in Amsterdam
When winter arrives in Amsterdam, the Christmas decorations sparkle in the moonlight, the Amsterdam Light Festival lights up the famous canals, and the historic streets look cozier than ever. And if you’re exceptionally lucky, you might even experience the city covered in a layer of white powdery snow. The Dutch capital always reaches peak “gezelligheid” in December, an utterly untranslatable word for a cosy and fuzzy atmosphere. And trust me, you’ll want to see (and taste) that gezelligheid for yourself. Have a go on the ice skating rink at Rijksmuseum and make sure to gobble down your fair share of bitterballen en oliebollen in the streets and cafés. If you’re interested in more tips for a wonderful weekend in Amsterdam, check out this winter-themed city guide I wrote earlier.
5. Go on a Skiing Adventure in the French Alps
Most of us will think of France and imagine picturesque villages and eating croissants in a café in the morning. But don’t you dare forget about the incredible mountains! The French Alps are something you’re not going to want to miss out on. Sure, summer hiking is a fantastic way to explore the Alps. But the snowy months and enchanting winter wonderland landscapes are the absolute best. Skiing or snowboarding in the French Alps means you’ll experience some of the most incredible slopes in Europe, like those near Chamonix and Val Thorens. And if you’re lucky and adventurous enough, you’ll have be able to test the powdery snow in Les Trois Vallées: the largest interconnected ski area in the world. Read more about my adventure in the French Alps here.
6. Plan an Off-season City Break in Athens
If you’re not necessarily looking for those classic Christmas vibes and snowy slopes, then you might want to head a little bit more towards southern Europe. A personal favourite of mine is Athens. Most tourists skip the Greek capital and head to the touristy and Intagrammable islands. However, I much prefer exploring Athens in winter, while the typical crowds aren’t flocking the Acropolis. With over 3000 years of civilization, the eccentric city has the metropolitan character of a modern European capital. Yet, i’s mixed with dozens of ancient monuments that reveal fascinating stories. Besides, the temperatures are more than mild and visiting in the off-season means admission fees for monuments and museums will be lower than usual. If you’re curious, you can read all about my winter getaway in Athens over here.
7. Embrace Your Inner History Nerd in Vienna
Another capital city that’s practically perfect for a winter trip in Europe is Vienna. The Christmas markets in December are all you could ask for, the typical milk-cream strudels are a real treat, and there are countless of fascinating indoor places. My favourite spot is the Museum Quarter, a kind of cultural oasis right in the middle of town. When winter weather chills your bones, escape into the museums for your share of artsy inspiration. My absolute favourite museum in Vienna, by the way, is the Prunksaal of the National Austrian Library in the Hofburg Palace. This room used the be the imperial library and I dare say that it might be the most beautiful library I’ve ever visited. You’re not allowed to touch the historic books anymore, but the interior itself is a spectacular sight.
8. Explore the Mars-like Landscapes on Tenerife
If you’re an adventurous type of traveler, you should head to Tenerife. Especially if you feel like avoiding the winter chill all together. And I don’t mean you should go there to laze on the beaches. On Tenerife, there’s a legendary volcanic national park that gets swamped with bus tourists in summer. It’s in the top 10 most visited national parks in the world. In winter however, the volcanic beauty is no less impressive, yet the typical tour groups won’t be anywhere in sight. The special thing about El Teide National Park is the fact that scientists even go there to test space robots. Why? Since the conditions are so similar to those on Mars, even the Raman instrument (used on the ESA-NASA ExoMars expedition) was tested here.