There’s something special about visiting best european destinations during winter. No other places experience it quite the same way and a visit in winter often feels like you’re seeing a certain destination for the first time again. Unlike other seasons, winter can completely transform a place and create a visiting experience that you just can’t get at other times of the year.

Keep in mind that not every destination is suited to winter, but for those that are, there’s unlikely to be a better time to visit. Look at the best european destinations for winter and what makes each of them so special.

The Best Winter Destinations in Europe

  • Rovaniemi, Finland. There is a lot of Christmas clichés that characterize Rovaniemi, which is considered the “official” residence of Santa Claus. Turns out that veryone’s favorite bearded man hangs out in an atmospheric Arctic Circle grotto, and it’s free to visit him, though photos are another story. Snow and reindeer add festive spirit, while the Arktikum museum gives insights into life at these latitudes.
  • Christmas markets in Germany & Austria. December sees these romantic historic markets pop up all over Germany, Austria, and other Central European nations. Expect some cute stalls selling everything – from gingerbread to sleigh bells and plenty of good cheer, toasted with a glass of warming glühwein.
  • Abisko, Sweden. Almost as far north as you can get in Europe on a train, this place in Lapland is for lovers of serious winter. The sun doesn’t rise for several weeks in December and January but that darkness makes it one of the world’s best places to view the majestic aurora borealis. Other attractions include cross-country skiing along national park trails and husky mushing.
  • Athens, Greece. It’s a real downer to try to Photoshop 500 people out of your would-be-prizewinning Parthenon photo, but in winter in Athens it’s not an issue. All summer stresses – crowding, tourist pricing, intense heat, queues, and air pollution – more or less disappear. It’s the best time to explore the country’s ancient heritage and get to experience its local culture.
  • Venice, Italy. Hauntingly beautiful and rather weird, Venice’s Carnevale in February is a European highlight. Elaborate costumes and spooky masks bring the canal city’s colorful history to life. Costumed dances are pricey affairs, but you can have a ball enjoying the free events with a mask bought on the street, but be prepared for epic crowding.