The Best Places To Travel In Europe In Winter
Holidays aren’t just for the warmer months
Winter time is the ideal time to travel. If the call of the snow-covered mountains doesn’t resonate deep within your bones, then a cosy city getaway certainly will. From exclusive ski resorts to European winter wonderlands, we put together a list of our favourite places to travel in Europe in winter, and found a few little treasures along the way.
To enjoy winter in all its glory, you couldn’t do better than a visit to the Finnish capital; the view alone is worth the 15 minute ferry ride to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. For a truly unique Scandinavian winter experience, take a dip in one of the outdoor pools at Allas Sea Pool: choose between the comfortably heated 27°, or the tempered sea water pool for a real adrenaline kick. Afterwards, defrost in one of the three saunas, or head back into the city and unwind in a spa in one of Helsinki’s enchanting boutique hotels. Finish up your Finnish getaway with a meal in one of Helsinki’s many excellent restaurants. Mixing international cuisines with a distinctly Nordic flair, Helsinki will leave a lasting impression on your palette for many seasons to come.
Once an “in-the-know” treasure, Tbilisi is quickly becoming a popular travel destination, making an off-peak winter trip an ideal time to visit and avoid the masses. The Georgian capital sits on a network of thermal springs, perfect for melting away those winter blues. Once you’ve dried off and explored the delightful Old Town, hop on the aerial tramway to visit the spectacular Narikala Fortress and take in some incredible views over the city along the way. As the sun sets, pair a glass of regional wine – made using traditional processes dating back 8,000 years – with a plate of Georgia’s famous Khinkali dumplings for the perfect cosy winter evening.
If anyone knows how to deal with a harsh winter, it’s the Scots. Beautiful on the outside, Edinburgh has even more to offer on the inside, with great indoor activities to get out of the bitter northern cold. By day you can take refuge from the sub-zero temperatures in Edinburgh’s remarkable 1,000-year-old castle, and by night you can head into the UNESCO world heritage-listed New Town to sample some of the city’s finest culinary delights (try the haggis!). Day or night, warm your insides at a whisky tasting; the Scotch Whisky Experience is our favourite.
Norway’s second largest city, Bergen is surrounded by a stunning medley of mountains and fjords, giving it a distinctly ethereal atmosphere – especially during the winter months. The story-book Bryggen Wharf, with its iconic red, blue and yellow wooden houses, is a feast for the eyes, not to mention the city’s many galleries and museums. The city also has a proud artistic and musical heritage, the jewel in the crown being the Kode Art Museums and Composer Homes, home to over 50,000 artefacts. We also recommend checking out the 1500-seat concert hall Grieg Hall, named for Norway’s most influential composer, Edvard Grieg, if not for a concert then for the beautiful architecture by star Danish architect Knud Munk. What’s more, with its strong coffee culture, Bergen proves that sometimes the best way to enjoy the picturesque, snow-capped mountains is from the inside of a coffee shop.
Copenhagen is worth a visit at any time of the year, but we prefer going in winter to take full advantage of Hygge – that special Danish version of cosiness and conviviality you get when its freezing outside, but you’ve got good company inside. Though we also recommend bracing the cold to walk around the picturesque Nyhavn harbour or visit the lovingly designed Tivoli Gardens; one of the oldest amusement parks in the world and the inspiration for another, lesser-known amusement park: Disney World.
Courchevel (Formerly Courchevel 1850),France
Located in the heart of the Les Trois Vallées, Courchevel is one of Europe’s most chic ski resorts, boasting over 150km of pistes connected by an outstanding ski lift network. Courchevel’s slopes – and its skiers and snowbarders – benefit from their northern aspect, which brings soft, powdery snow; the stuff of winter dreams. Couple this with its stunning boutique chalets and spas offering everything from chocolate massages to saltwater caves, it’s easy to see why Courchevel is so popular with the royals and the jet set alike. The cherry on the cake? Courchevel has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other ski resort in the world, so you can eat at a different world-class establishment every night of the week.
Winter in Budapest means warming up in one of the city's 15 thermal baths. But there is so much more to discover beyond these luxurious spas, such as the enchanting Fisherman’s Bastion on the banks of the Danube. Rug up and take a stroll along this neo-gothic terrace, then head up one of the old 19th century lookout towers for the city’s best view of the snow-covered winter wonderland. Once you’re back on street level, warm your insides with lángos, our new favourite street food: a traditional Hungarian snack of deep-fried, disc-shaped bread covered in everything from cream cheese and garlic to Bolognese sauce or herbs and salt.