Beyond the range of magical Christmas markets that light up the major cities, there is a wide range of enticing Europe winter activities to explore if visiting Europe in December, January or February. In order to enjoy a stay in any of the European Schengen countries in winter, previously-visa exempt citizens will soon be required to pre-register an ETIAS visa waiver for short stays before they travel. So start thinking up your Europe in winter packing list, and prepare to discover the best European attractions to visit during the colder months.
Why Visit Europe in Winter?
Those unsure whether to visit Europe in winter or summer should consider the advantages of visiting the continent during the colder months. Winter in Europe can have its drawbacks, such as fewer hours of daylight, cold temperatures in many places, snow-related airport delays, and some attractions being closed for the season.
However, there are many advantages that make winter a great time to visit Europe, including:
- Smaller crowds
- Lower fares
- Lower hotel rates
- Mild weather (in countries like Portugal, Greece, and Spain
On top of these, there are many specific destinations in Europe for which winter is the best time to visit.
Where to Visit in Europe in Winter
Many visitors to Europe in winter come to experience the magical atmosphere of the biggest Christmas markets in the world. However, there are a range of lesser-known attractions across the continent that are equally as festive and essential.
Rovaniemi, Finland at Christmas
One of the best places to visit in Europe in Christmas, Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland and a true winter wonderland in December. The Finnish widely believe this far northern town to be to be the official home of Father Christmas, and so accordingly there are a wide variety of Christmas-themed attractions to explore.
Visitors will want to check out the Ranua wildlife park, home to a wide variety of Arctic animals, and the Santa Claus Village theme park, located inside the Arctic Circle. It’s an ideal destination for families traveling to Europe in winter with toddlers, as children will love meeting Santa Claus and experiencing a sleigh ride with real reindeer across an icy snowscape.
Travel to Abisko, Sweden
Not too far away from the Finnish border, Abisko in Sweden is located inside the Arctic Circle and is the northernmost point in Europe you can reach by train. Although the sun doesn’t rise for much of December and January, the town has a different, altogether more special kind of illumination. If you’ve always wanted to experience the Aurora Borealis, Abisko is considered the best place to see the Northern lights in Europe in winter.
Lovers of snowsports will also be in heaven, as there is a wealth of opportunities for cross country skiing in the adjacent Abisko National Park, as well as snowshoeing and husky mushing.
Ski in Innsbruck, Austria
Thrillseekers looking for the best skiing and snowboarding in Europe in winter will want to head to Innsbruck in Austria, known as the snowsports capital of the world. Tourists can take to the slopes and test out the Olympic ski jump designed by world-famous architect Zaha Hadid, before enjoying a drink inside an igloo bar.
Apart from skiing, Innsbruck offers a host of stunning historical architecture that comes to life with the winter lights, as well as the factory and a museum dedicated to the world-famous Swarovski crystal brand, which is of local origin.
Visit Venice in February
There are numerous metropolitan centers ideal for Europe winter city breaks, such as Copenhagen and Prague. However, Venice in winter is an ideal time to visit what many consider to be the most romantic city in the world. To begin with, the famous gondolas and canals of Venice far less crowded in the winter months like December or January than in the Summer.
However, it’s best to visit Venice in February when the city celebrates its biggest and most colorful annual festival. The Venice carnival is a cornucopia of colorful masks and costumes that can’t be missed, and everyone should experience one of the elegant masked balls at least once.
In order to begin exploring the best places to visit in Europe in winter, don’t forget to first apply for an ETIAS visa waiver before traveling, once it comes into effect.