Do you know when the cheapest time to travel on budget in Europe is? Winter is a great time to explore Europe on a shoestring budget. Sure, during summer the gardens are open, the parks are green, and the beaches are crowded.
But during a European winter you have the unique chance to see a more „local“ Europe as less tourists are on their way. The prices are down and the hostels are cheaper than ever before – even many of the 5 Star Hostels!
Combining this time of year with the 14 hacks for booking hostels like a pro, and cheap flights searchers (we use Skyscanner and Kiwi to find the best deals), you will save a fortune! Take YOUR chance.
Especially Kiwi.com is the perfect flight search engine.
You can add a radius to the map. Kiwi then searches for the cheapest rates in the area.
Colder weather, ok, BUT….
Sure, the weather is cold, it can be snowy, maybe even rainy. And still, there are many events happening during European winter you can enjoy. Christmas Markets, New years Eve (obviously…), carnival, music festivals.
We have created a list of 16 beautiful and cheap winter destinations we think you should check out plus you will find a list of activities and festivals during European Winter.
First, let’s check that you packed your backpacker with everything you need with the smartest hostel packing list.
Update July, 2017: Identifying Cheap Flights
Looking for cheap flights to, well, anywhere in the world?
Have a close look at Kiwi.com.
We just discovered this incredibly awesome search engine for flights. You can search with a date range and even with a radius search. This makes it incredible easy now to get an idea of cheap destinations to fly to.
And not just that.
You can even insert a radius for departing cities. I just love this new toy! Have a look yourself: Kiwi.com
Let us talk about the destinations we recommend…
1. Interlaken (Winter sports and 5% hostel discount!)
We LOVE Interlaken! It is the European sports capital, and we enjoyed it 100%, and so will you. Whether you come here during Winter or Summer, you can join endless adrenaline-filled activities.
In Interlaken, you can stay at Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof.
We got you a 5% discount at the Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof – no promo code needed!
This discount comes in pretty handy, right? All you need to do is booking directly through the provided link, and the discount will be applied directly – enjoy!
Prague in summer, or Prague in winter? Well, here is the thing: both! The city of Prague is obviously different depending on the time of year.
We had the chance to enjoy both seasonal times and in winter it was freezing cold, very romantic and less crowded. We visited the Prague Castle with Get your Guide and only saw 8 other people around. It looked even more stunning.
Not into Castles? You can find more activities and tours on Viator.
The prices for hostels in Prague are also lower than usual during the winter period.
As there are less tourists we recommend to stay at a place offering cool social events such as the Mosaic House in Prague, our 5 star hostel in the city. After a long day exploring the cold air of Prague, you will come back to the hostel for concerts, karaoke shows, and more exciting social events. Sounds good, right?!
When heading to Prague, make sure you check out first the 5 Things in Prague to avoid!
Another advantage of Prague in winter are the bars. When it is really, really cold, you can always jump into a bar or café, of which there are many cool ones to choose from!
It is cosy and very affordable, making Prague a top European winter destination. – Matt
For secrets to Prague, download the 5 Secret Tips to Prague for free.
Last but not least: We have a fantastic winter activity in Prague for you! Czech out the Escape Room Nuclear Bunker in Prague. A storytelling real-life game to solve puzzles and riddles.
Big plus: It is indoor so it will be warm!
Looks cold, right?! This winter photo of Prague was taken by us back in 2011.
Party and Fiesta! Budapest is known for its great nightlife, beautiful architecture, and the numerous spa’s across the city. The first time we visited Budapest was in February and we had the best time!
We even went to Szechenyi, the biggest outdoor spa in Budapest. Although there was snow everywhere, we had great fun jumping from one hot tub to another. You can get your tickets for the outdoor spa here.
The prices are even lower than in Summer, and as the city remains popular throughout the year, you will easily meet people in hostels as well as in the bars.
We love to think about Berlin in winter. Sure, most of the people prefer the summer sitting in a beer garden surrounded by green parks, but a white Berlin is beautiful as well.
Snow and winter is without doubt a significant part of the German culture. And hey, have you ever heard about German Christmas Markets? The Christmas Markets in Berlin are beautiful, so don’t miss out!
The Christmas Markets in Berlin are beautiful, so don’t miss out!- Anna
In our Geeky Guide we show you also 5 Insider tips Berlin you cannot miss!
Also, there are many activities and tours around the city. You can check the Viator website. Also, there are free things you can do in Berlin. Did you know that visiting the City Hall is free of charge? It only requires you to register in the Bundestag website.
The best hostel in Berlin: Wallyard Concept Hostel is the only 5 Star Hostel in the German capital! The location is great with being close to the main train station, the design is a loft-styled hipster vibe, and the atmosphere is super relaxing. It simply feels like coming home!
(Bear in mind, Berlin has several airports.)
We took this photo in a park in Berlin back in 2011. Make sure you pack your winter clothing when traveling to Berlin during winter!
We have been several times to Hamburg now, and the best time we have been there was during New Years Eve. It was cold, snowing, and people were celebrating all night long! The colder months do not scare people to stay indoors, and you can still enjoy all the 5 Secret Tips to Hamburg.
Instead, they go out to the bars, cafés and don’t let the cold weather put them off. Plus during Christmas you can enjoy the festive markets as well. To get an idea of what is going on in Hamburg during winter, simply check out the Instagram of Superbude Hostels.
6. Andorra (for winter sport and hiking)
This one is quite obvious? Andorra is one of the smallest countries in Europe, and the location is unique. Hiding among the Pyrenees mountains, this makes it THE top location in winter to go snowboarding and skiing.
The Mountain Hostel Tarter is located right there. However, it may be surprising to hear that Andorra is as well a great summer destination. The surrounding mountains offer endless opportunities to go for a hike and mountain biking.
Here you can find our photo gallery Andorra, hiking between the clouds of Andorra.
How to get here? The easiest way might be to fly to Gerona or Barcelona City. From there I would recommend renting a car.
Here is our video from Mountain Hostel Tarter:
7. Bologna (foodie-paradise)
We loooooove Bologna, and we cannot express this enough. It’s a serious hidden gem, and culinary capital of Italy. The good thing: As Bologna is half-way to Venice and Florence, nobody really stops here. We create a guide with secrets to Bologna.
What do you get?
- A gorgeous 5 Star Hostel, an oasis to slow down, called We Bologna Hostel
- Food, endless food for a locals price
- Lots of history, and monuments/ sights to visit
- An alternative students city with great nightlife
- Food…and again: Food!
Besides Bologna, we also admire Strasbourg, another gorgeous city without the tourist crowds. Our friend Dan wrote up his favorite hidden gems in Europe as well, give it a read to get truly inspired.
BTW: remember, we have a 5% discount for the best hostel in Venice: We Crociferi.
Bologna is a hub for the cheap flights from Ryanair. We scored flights here for less than 10€!
8. Venice (+5% discount)
It’s really unbelievable. I never thought I’d fall in love with such a touristy city. But Venice, well, Venice is different. Of course it is crowded all year long, don’t get me wrong.
“I never thought I’d fall in love with such a touristy city.” – Matt
Venice is gorgeous all year long. I would recommend to stay at least 2 nights here and if you can better 3. This way you have really the time to get lost, taste Venice, take photos and “get bored”. Get bored, meaning to just wander around, get lost, intent to find the way, get lost again and so on.
This is part of the charm of Venice!
I visited We Crociferi in Venice, the best hostel in the city. It is a former monastery and the rooms even come with a canal view.
The readers of Hostelgeeks get an extra 5% discount for We Crociferi. Just use the code “hostelgeeks2017” and it will save you a lovely 5%!
Here you can read our full review of the best hostel in Venice.
How about I show you the hostel…
8. Bergen in Norway
Same goes for Bergen! Bergen is known for its precious natural surroundings which can be enjoyed in particular during a long winter hike. Good, reliable winter clothing is a must of course.
The Marken Gjestehus in Bergen loves to enjoy the nature of Norway as well, so make sure you check out their website and recommendations before heading to Bergen.
(And yes, also the Swedish capital Stockholm is an absolute highlight for visiting in colder times)
9. Zagreb in Croatia
Are you surprised to read Zagreb here? As Zagreb is located in the inner part of Croatia it is the perfect city break during winter.
The bars, cafés, and restaurants are still open, the city is less crowded from the tourist point of view, but the student life is still vibrant and the Christmas Markets in Zagreb is super popular and gorgeous to visit.
You can experience a more local Zagreb than you would during summer. These 5 Local Tips for Zagreb will be helpful for you.
No doubt, the Swanky Mint Hostel Zagreb is the best hostel in Zagreb, and also during Winter a cosy place to mingle with locals and traveler, having a drink at the in-house bar.
For summer, I highly recommend visiting Hvar and Korcula Island. JUST LOVE THEM!
Have you been to Barcelona during July or August? If not: It is super crowded! The old town is chock with tourists, the prices are high and the sun is scorching hot.
If you have a chance to stop by during the colder months, do it. It also allows you to check out the 5+3 Local Tips for Barcelona even quieter!
The prices for Hostels are no comparison to the high season in Barcelona. You can save a lot of money, and it is surprisingly sunny for the time of year.
Also, we know some discounts so you can enjoy the city in a cheaper way:
- 15% discount for a red Vespa: book directly at www.viavespa.com
- cooking classes discounts: contact us and we will send them to you.
- 5% discount for cool hostels: send us a message, the hostels are top located!
Sure, during the night you will have to wear your jacket, but the welcome winter sun keeps you warm during the day.
Also, here is a useful guide to One Week In Barcelona.
Pro Tip: The hostel prices drop in winter! You can stay at hostels in Barcelona for less than 10€!
This photo shows Anna on a cold winter morning in Barcelona.
Find 8 more cool winter destinations on page 2 including
- Hipster-Capital of Europe
- a cheap destination slightly outside of Europe
- and and island