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, you will save a fortune!
Take YOUR chance.
Update: find 25 more European Winter Destinations, including map, packing list and budget estimation.
Traveling in summer?
This list includes water sport, diving, van life and amazing beaches.
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…)
- 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 everything you need with the smartest travel packing list.
We recommend following guides:
Update July, 2018: 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: Here is our full review of Kiwi as a flight booking engine.
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.
We enjoyed it 100%, and so will you. Whether you come here during Winter or Summer, you can join endless adrenaline-filled activities.
Things to do in Interlaken:
Action packed and beautiful nature to soak in. We enjoyed hiking, paragliding, kayaking on the lake. That’s more something for the warmer months. We even went up the famous Schilthorn, known from a James Bond movie.
Here is a list on top things to do:
- Balancer slope glider
- Bungee Jumping (even in winter!)
Find a list of all activities here.
How to get to Interlaken:
Book a flight to Zürich, Geneva, Bern or Milan.
With Kiwi.com you can draw a circle around Interlaken. It will show you the cheapest air fare in the area.
From there you have to take the train or rent a car directly. You can also come easily to Interlaken by car.
If you are here for the sports activities, you may not need a car. Many of the tour providers offer pick-up service.
Accommodation in Interlaken:
In Interlaken, we highlight Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof (here is our review). It is the only 5 Star Hostel in town.
We got you a 5% discount at the Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof – no promo code needed!
This discount comes in pretty handy, right?
How to apply the discount?
All you need to do is booking directly through this provided link. The discount will be applied directly.
Download the Kiwi app here.
2. Prague (romantic + nightlife)
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 and only saw 8 more tourists around. It looked even more stunning.
Not into Castles? There is a lot more to it.
Things to do:
- Castle Tour
- Ghost Tours with Pub Crawl
- Dinner Cruise on the river
- Visit the Jewish Quarter
- Get lost in the old town
- wander the Charles Bridge
- Take a selfie with the John Lennon wall
Find all activities and tours here.
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!
For secrets to Prague, download the 5 Secret Tips to Prague for free. (we included a few bars and cafés.
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!
How to get here:
Prague has its own airport. Many airlines offer this destination. It is also well connected by train. Hence, it is easy to get here! I would not come with a car to Prague, it’s not easy to park downtown and you don’t need a car here.
Kiwi.com is especially amazing. You can select a date-range. Let’s say the full month of February.
It will show you all best options.
Where to stay:
The prices for hostels and hotels 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.
It is the only 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.
Here you can find all hostels in Prague.
Have a romantic city break. Find all accommodations for couples here.
- Family + Friends:
An apartment is your best bet. We love Airbnb for this. Here you can get a 35€ discount on your first stay.
You can also book with Booking.com This is recommend since you can cancel for free.
Find all apartments here.
- Luxury Option
The #1 luxury option is Alchymist Prague Castle Suites. It lets you travel back in time, just look at the photos!
It is cozy and very affordable, making Prague a top European winter destination.
Looks cold, right?! This winter photo of Prague was taken by us back in 2011.
3. Budapest (Romantic City Break)
Party and Fiesta! But also perfect for a romantic city break.
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!
Things to do
We even went to Szechenyi Spa, 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.
You can even get a skip-the-line ticket for the spa.
We visited the Museum of Terror, had a drink at rural bars and got lost in the famous nightlife.
Make sure you join a pub crawl as well! It’s only 15€.
How to get to Budapest
The airport is very well-connected. You can come here fast and easy from all major cities like Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris.
The train connection is also very popular. The train takes you around the country. Especially a train ride from Vienna is quite scenic.
Where to stay
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.
Compare all hostels in Budapest.
Budapest is great for couples. Relax in a spa, dine in fine restaurants and have a good time in one of the many bars out there.
As for accommodation, here you can find the top hotels to choose from.
- Family + Friends
An apartment is a great option for families and friends. There are plenty to choose from. Get one located around the parliament. This is the main area, and you can easily get around.
Find all apartments in Budapest here.
Airbnb fan? Here is a 35€ discount on your first Airbnb stay.
- Luxury Option
Get wow-ed at the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus, the 5 Star Hotel in the city center.
Find all prices of Hotels and Hostels in Budapest here.
4. Hamburg (totally underrated!)
Everybody in the world knows this city by name. But it’s yet in the shadow of big, famous Berlin.
Let me tell, Hamburg is a true hidden gem!
We have been several times to Hamburg now.
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.
Things to do
Hamburg is one of the coolest cities in Germany and is super popular amongst Germans. Here is what you can do:
- Visit the Christmas market
- Visit the Elbphilharmonie (majestic concert hall)
- Take a river cruise
- Take photos in beautiful Speicherstadt neighborhood
- Mingle in the nightlife of world-famous Sankt Pauli
- admire the Beatles monument
- have a fish-sandwich at the The Landungsbrücken Piers
How to get here
Easy. Hamburg has a big airport, it is Germany’s door to the world. You can also come via train from Amsterdam or Berlin. It’s only a short ride away from Berlin, and the connections are frequent.
You can also rent a car and go on a trip from Amsterdam to Hamburg and Berlin. Later in this article I introduce you to renting a car in Europe the right way.
Where to stay?
Super stylish, check ’em out!
If you are looking for more backpacker lifestyle and budget accommodation, find all hostels in Hamburg here.
5. Berlin (Christmas and Snow)
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
Things to do
In our travel guide to Berlin we show you also 5 Insider tips Berlin you cannot miss!
Also, there are many activities and tours around the city, like history walking tours, food tours and museums.
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.
How to get to Berlin
As mentioned before, you can get here from Prague and Hamburg easily via train.
Where to stay
The best hostel in Berlin: Wallyard Concept Hostel
It 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!
Here you can find all hostels in Berlin.
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!
6. Venice (Romantic City Break)
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.”
At the same time, Venice is gorgeous all year long.
Things to do in Venice
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! Get our guide to hidden Venice here.
Update: Our brand new article to where to eat in Venice? 22 restaurants recommended by actual locals
Where to stay:
You would enjoy a romantic hotel? Then go with the Gritti Palace, A Luxury Collection Hotel.
Staying on a budget?
I visited We Crociferi in Venice, the best hostel in the city. This 5 Star Hostel is a former monastery and the rooms even come with a canal view.
Here you can read our full review of the best hostel in Venice.
Seriously, this hostel blows your mind!
How about I show you the hostel…
7. Amsterdam (nightlife)
Amsterdam is a classic destination. It is awesome, all year around.
If you are coming the first time over, make sure you add this one to the list.
Things to do
Rent a bike and visit museums. This is the absolute must do. Other than that, here is my detailed article on 29 fun things to do in Amsterdam.
Here we cover ALL the fun stuff this city has to offer. From Day trips to quirky events.
For instance, the epic Amsterdam Look Out platform and the fun escape room game Locked.Amsterdam.
Smart tip: You have to book your ticket to Amsterdam Lookout beforehand either with Get Your Guide.
Read more details on my full article.
Where to stay
Both are recommended for solo-travelers and couples.
As for families, I would opt for an Airbnb. You can get our 25$ discount for your first stay here.
You can always find great hotel deals as well with Booking.com.
How to get to Amsterdam
As a main tourist spot, it is very well connected with the world and rest of Europe.
Just check out Kiwi.com to find your best flights.
Here is our full review of Kiwi as a flight booking engine.
8. Andorra (for winter sport and hiking)
This one is quite obvious? Okay, for Europeans maybe.
Andorra is one of the smallest countries in Europe, and the location is unique.
Hiding on top of the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, this makes it THE top location in winter to go snowboarding and skiing.
How to get to Andorra
Where to stay
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.
Here is our video from Mountain Hostel Tarter:
9. Bologna (Foodie-paradise and hidden gem)
We loooooove Bologna, and we cannot express this enough. It’s a serious hidden gem, and culinary capital of Italy.
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.
Bologna is a hub for the cheap flights from Ryanair. We scored flights here for less than 10€!
This tip is especially great since you can travel to Florence, Venice and Verona for a day trip.
BTW: We paid 12€ for a train from Bologna to Venice.
10. Bergen in Norway (landscape and culture)
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)
Related: best hostels in Stockholm.
11. Zagreb in Croatia (landscape and cheap!)
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.
Here you can find details on Christmas time in Zagreb.
You can experience a more local Zagreb than you would during summer. These 5 Local Tips for Zagreb will be helpful for you.
For summer, I highly recommend visiting Hvar and Korcula Island. JUST LOVE THEM!
Where to stay?
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.
Here is our full review of Swanky Mint Hostel.
For hotels and apartments, check out Booking.com
12. Munich (Taverns and Castles)
Same goes for Munich! Sure, those beer gardens have their charm, but winter is part of the culture. The prices for accommodation are lower than in summer and there is still a lot to see and to do during the winter period.
The prices for accommodation are lower than in summer and there is still a lot to see and to do during the winter period.
Beer tours and royal castles are some of the cool tours in Munich.
Also near Munich, you can visit the famous Neuschwanstein Castle (Disney’s Castle inspiration).
Where to stay?
Staying on a budget?
Find the 3 best hostels in Munich in our guide.
Our hand-picked hostels include:
We put all hostels on a map with all major sights to visit.
For all other hotels and deals, check with Booking.com
13. Barcelona (warm during the day, Romantic)
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.
Even our favorite super local hidden-gem winery is now packed with tourists.
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.
To give you an idea:
- Summer: A bed in a regular hostel is about 25€
- Winter: A bed in a good hostel is about 10€
Also, we know some discounts so you can enjoy the city in a cheaper way:
- 15% discount for a Vespa rental: book directly at www.viavespa.com
- Cooking Classes: Check out a 5% discount to BCN Kitchen
Sure, during the night you will have to wear your jacket, but the welcome winter sun keeps you warm during the day.
Where to stay in Barcelona?
We collected the 3 best hostels in Barcelona here.
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.
The Smartest Packing List 2018
Okay, after finding all these super cool places, it’s time to see what you should pack in your backpack or suitcase.
Here is our ultimate travel packing list. It features 23 items you need to pack.
The main things to pack are:
- eye mask
- key chain flashlight
- the right backpack, the Lowe Alpine Lightflite 40 Pack
- packing cubes
- generic padlock
- quick-dry travel towel
- universal power adapter
- travel-sized toiletries
- The accommodation address – written down
Read the full packing list here.
14. Ghent, Belgium (Hipster Capital)
The new hipster paradise Ghent is a travel destination for the smart traveler. Winter can be tough in Ghent, and it is part of the culture in Belgium.
It is the perfect excuse to visit Ghent and Belgium, and to warm up with delicious Belgium beers at the different bars within the city and across the country.
For some Secret Tips Ghent, check out our Geeky Guides!
Ghent also has many design Cafés on offer that you should not miss.
Where to stay?
There are also many lovely Airbnb rooms and apartments in this city. Don’t forget to use this code to get a 35€ discount for your first Airbnb stay.
15. Rhodes, Greece (avoid 2 million tourists!)
Comparing to summer, where 2 million tourist arrive in Rhodes, the winter is a much more relaxed time of the year.
Rhodes is not a very known winter destination even though the weather is much better than in other destination known for winter tourism like Mallorca, Menorca, or the Canary islands.
With an average of 300 sunny days, even in winter it is sunny most of the time.
Temperatures vary between 10°C and 20°C.
The water is warm until middle of December. December is actually more of a swimming season than May, because the water is much warmer in December.
Besides the wonderful climate and the awesome STAY Hostel Rhodes, the 5 Star Hostel in Rhodes, you really get a chance to see Rhodian Life.
Locals go out to traditional taverns and small live-music events in cafes and restaurants are spontaneously organized. Due to the fact that Rhodes has a big university nightlife is happening every evening summers as winters.
Read our huge guide to things to do in Rhodes.
Same goes for Santorini. IT IS AWESOME – all year long!
Here are our 27 fun things to do in Santorini.
The old town, the ancient stadium and the acropolis of Lindos are examples of spectacular sites that can be enjoyed likewise summer and winter.
Going for a run by the sea, bicycling, climbing and hiking and any other outdoor activity is great in the winter time, as summers can get quite hot.
And here it gets really juicy: Getting to Rhodes is easy and cheap in the wintertime.
16. Marrakesh and Taghazout – is that Europe?!
Fair enough: Morocco is located in Africa…
but it is close to Spain and very easy and cheap to get to.
During the European winter, Marrakesh is still warm. The city is cheap and a paradise for the budget traveler.
If you cannot stay in Marrakesh for longer than 1-2 days, well, there is always Taghazout and Essaouira. Essaouira is located right next to the beach. It is a tiny town, surrounded by thick walls. It is really beautiful to visit, very safe and great to wander and unwind. Other than Marrakesh which can be stressful.
How to get here?
Fly here! Compare all flights with Ryanair and Vueling and other airlines. They usually have the best rates.
How about surfing?
Talking about Taghazout, how about surfing in Winter? Here is a full review of Amayour Surf Hostel on what to expect.
Check out the website of Amayour Hostel for more info on yoga classes and surf classes.
Morocco is a great choice for staying close to Europe, whilst still escaping the European winter.
And hey, here you can 5 Secret Things to do Marrakesh outside the tourist box!
17. Edinburgh (Nessy and Game of Thrones)
Winter is coming! Edinburgh is still a popular tourist destination during the colder season.
The taverns will keep you warm, and when the sun comes out during winter you can take really stunning photos: Edinburgh under white snow is just beautiful!
Things to do
The stories about ghosts and castles seem to become real in winter time. Ghost tour anyone?
Or maybe you would prefer a day tour to Loch Ness to chase Nessy?
Where to stay:
And sorry, but we have to say it: With the castle covered in snow, it may remind you of Game of Thrones. Also, there is the yearly festival of Hogmanay taking place!
18. Rotterdam in The Netherlands (hidden gem)
Architecture, Art, and cosy local vibes. Rotterdam is still a beautiful, less-known city to check out.
With the biggest port across Europe, Rotterdam has a lot to offer, especially in Architecture.
3 more cool winter destinations on page 2