Winter in Europe has many facets: near the North Pole, a thick white coat covers the landscapes, and weeks without sun follow one another throughout the season; the sun and mildness linger in the Mediterranean; and in the center of the continent, we warm up comfortably in cafes and enjoy the Christmas atmosphere.
Winter is an excellent season to visit large cities as well as charming small villages: the queues are shorter, so you can expand the journey with more sites. In addition, we benefit from the rates of the low season. Thanks to the European rail network, countries can be visited at a very leisurely pace. It also allows you to meet the inhabitants going about their daily activities away from the tourist frenzy of summer.
Rovaniemi, the ultimate Christmas city
Rovaniemi, Finland, seems to concentrate all the clichés associated with Christmas celebrations, and for good reason: it is the "official" earthly residence of Santa Claus. The latter is found dressed in his red coat and his famous white beard in a picturesque cave of the Arctic Circle. Visiting him costs nothing (having your picture taken with him, on the other hand...). Snow and reindeer add to the festive atmosphere. The Arktikum Museum, it offers a glimpse into life in these latitudes.
Finnish thermometers have more figures below 0°C than above. Bring something to dress very warmly.
The most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe
In December, these charming Christmas markets, with an ancient tradition, flourish all over Germany and other Central European countries. Their lovely stalls sell everything from gingerbread to sleigh bells. The atmosphere is festive and cheerful, and warm up with a glass of glühwein (mulled wine).
The famous markets of Cologne, Vienna, and Munich attract crowds of tourists, but many others located in smaller cities are just as interesting.
Abisko, in the heart of Lapland in Sweden
It is practically the northernmost place in Europe accessible by train. Abisko, in Lapland, Sweden, will appeal to those who love harsh winters. The sun remains hidden for several weeks in December and January, darkness that makes it the perfect place to admire majestic northern lights. You can also cross-country ski on the trails of national parks and ride a sleigh pulled by huskies.
Make a stop not far away, in Kiruna, to see the famous Icehotel.
A quiet winter in Athens
There's nothing more depressing than Photoshopping the 500 people who clutter the view in your stunning photo of the Parthenon in Athens. A problem that does not arise in winter. All the stressful inconveniences of summer in Greece – the crowds, the prohibitive prices, the scorching heat, the queues, the polluted air – more or less disappear at this season. This is the best time to discover the ancient heritage of the country, as well as its culture.
Do not hesitate to walk from island to island, not forgetting that most accommodations are closed in winter.
A cozy winter holiday in Copenhagen
For a fairytale European winter, it's hard to do better than Hans Christian Andersen's city in Denmark. However, forget the Little Mermaid, much too overused nowadays, and prefer the cozy bars and cafes from which you can watch the snow fall on the Danish capital. In the heart of Copenhagen, the Tivoli amusement park, dating from the nineteenth century, is deliciously romantic and kitsch during Christmas time.
Treat yourself without counting by eating at Noma, one of the best restaurants in the world. Try to book several months in advance because it is quickly full.
A typical winter in Budapest
Couples skating hand in hand, their breath forming small clouds of mist in the icy air... For such a show, there is no better place than Városligeti Műjégpálya, a park in the center of the Hungarian capital with a huge ice rink. After which, warm up in the stunning thermal baths for which Budapest is famous.
in the evening, find a "ruin pub", that is to say, a pub artistically arranged in buildings formerly abandoned.
Winter holidays in Jasná, Slovakia
Slovakia offers great skiing opportunities at affordable prices. Accommodation and food are also reasonably rated, and Slovak ski resorts bathe in a welcoming and warm atmosphere that is lacking in some other more snobbish European resorts. Jasná, the best resort in the country, has long tracks flanked by spruce trees with snowy branches. It nestles in the beautiful mountain landscapes of the Tatras.
direct flights to Slovakia are expensive, so tourists from other continents will not make it their destination for entry into Europe.
A mild winter in Andalusia
As some parts of Andalusia are further south than the African coast, very mild temperatures can be expected in winter. Accommodation is cheap and the crowds are less dense in tourist hotspots like the Alhambra in Granada, or Seville Cathedral. But above all, the tapas and nightlife are at the rendezvous as in summer and are almost all the more attractive.
to find snowy slopes, go to the Sierra Nevada, near Granada.
Atypical trip to Transylvania
It's hard to imagine visiting Dracula's lair on a beautiful sunny day, while the lamb bleat in the fields, right? That's why the low and leaden skies of winter, trees with bare branches, and a few snowflakes make up an ideal setting. The charming medieval towns of Braşov and Sighişoara, a 2-hour train ride from each other, each has several connections to Vlad Ţepeş Castle. It is unlikely that this historical figure, who inspired Dracula, has ever set foot there, but no matter...
Bram Stoker has never visited Romania, and comparisons with his book or the films inspired by it remain limited.
A romantic winter in Venice
Marrying the beautiful and the strange, the Venice Carnival, in February, is the highlight par excellence of the European calendar. Elaborate costumes and frightening masks plunge the colorful streets of the Serenissima back into the past. Costume balls are very expensive, but you can just as easily enjoy dancing in the street by hiding your face behind a simple mask. In this case, agoraphobics, abstain!
remember to book your accommodation. Coming to Venice by train excursion from a nearby city will save you substantial money.