Sure, there are certain places in Europe you will want to see during autumn because they are incredibly romantic. On the other hand, as soon as the cold sets in you’ll want to run to one of the best European destinations for winter sun. I’ve gathered here the warmest places in Europe in December, January, and February.
With that in mind, I’ve summed up a list of some of the sunniest places in Europe year-round. Fellow travel bloggers have helped me out with their experiences to provide you with the most competent advice.
On top of that, I’ll help you out with some options for great vacations to book for these destinations. They all come from an award-winning agency, which has partnered up with over 2500 operators to offer the best quality of tours possible. And I’ll handpick the tours best suited for each destination.
Where to go for Europe winter sun
Bari, Italy by Wendy Werneth of The Nomadic Vegan
The capital of the southern Italian region of Puglia, Bari is one of the most underrated destinations in Europe.
Of the relatively few tourists who visit the region of Puglia, most pass quickly through Bari on their way to Puglia’s beaches and smaller towns.
But Bari has plenty to explore for those who enjoy history, culture, and authentic interactions with locals.
Take a stroll through the Old Town, and you will see remarkably well-preserved medieval buildings, where life goes on much as it has for centuries.
Mothers and grandmothers sit at their kitchen tables rolling out dough to make orecchiette pasta, painstakingly shaping each little piece with a deft movement of their thumb. If you smile at them, they might even invite you inside their houses to show you how it’s done.
Orecchiette is just one of many vegetarian and vegan dishes in Puglian cuisine, and the food is quite different from anything you’ll find in an Italian restaurant back home. Known as “cucina povera”, or “poor people’s cuisine”, local dishes feature legumes, grains, and fresh, locally grown vegetables.
Of Bari’s many fine churches, two that you definitely don’t want to miss are the Cathedral with its rose window and the Basilica of Saint Nicholas. In the crypt below the latter are the mortal remains of the real-life Santa Claus.
Even though Saint Nicholas lived in Turkey, merchants from Bari brought his body here in the 11th century to protect it, fearing that it would be desecrated by the Turks.
Ever since then, the Basilica has become an important place of pilgrimage for Catholic and Orthodox Christians alike.
Barcelona, Spain by Vicki at Vicki Viaja
Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, regardless of the season you are traveling in. However, what many don’t know is that a visit in winter is absolutely worthwhile as well.
Because in Barcelona, it is sunny all year round. Even if there are usually no summer-like temperatures there in winter, it is still warmer than in many other cities in Europe at this time of year.
Even in winter, when the weather is nice and sunny, you can still sit outside in one of many restaurants or cafés and enjoy a refreshing beer or Sangria.
Even if the water of the Mediterranean sea is most likely too cold to swim in winter, you can still take an enjoyable walk at one of the beaches of the city. In winter, there are far fewer tourists traveling to the Catalan capital, which makes your walk much more pleasant and quiet.
Read next: The ultimate Europe bucket list
But it is not only on the beach where it becomes noticeable that there are significantly fewer tourists in the city than during the summer months. The city’s attractions are also visited on average significantly less, which makes the lines in front of them a lot shorter.
Even accommodations in Barcelona usually cost significantly less than during high season (unless you’re in town between Christmas and New Year).
In winter, there are also many delicious Catalan and Spanish specialties that you must try. While fresh churros with hot chocolate and the sweet pastries Turron are particularly popular during the Christmas season, you should definitely not miss the typical Catalan calçots at the beginning of the year.
Malaga, Spain by Darek at Darek and Gosia
South of Spain is one of the most suitable places for a weekend break in Europe. Due to the sun shining here about 320 days a year it is also one of the best places to visit in winter.
You can replenish your vitamin D supply and in addition enjoy the beautiful nature of Andalusia, its exciting history, and colorful culture. But where to go for the winter sun? Of course, to Malaga!
Malaga is a nice city. Worth seeing are the huge cathedral, the Mercado Central de Atarazanas city market, and the Picasso house.
The whole Centro Histórico is not particularly big and the best idea is to walk in narrow streets and try to discover some hidden spots.
It is also recommended to climb the restored ruins of the Gibralfaro and Alcazaba castles to admire the panorama of the city and stroll among exotic trees.
From the top, you can see the bullfight arena, a modern port, and a beautiful park. All of that can be done during winter months too!
If you plan to stay a bit longer in Malaga, it is worth going for a few day trips to see other attractions of Andalusia. Ronda, located a hundred kilometers away, is a must-see place while visiting Malaga.
This stunning town with beautiful buildings and the impressive Puente Nuevo bridge has some of the most breath-taking panoramas you have ever seen! The surrounding mountains are just amazing.
Malaga really is one of the best winter city breaks in Europe!
Lisbon, Portugal by Alya at Stingy Nomads
Lisbon is a great place in Europe for a winter city break.
Thanks to its geographical location even in winter the weather here is nice and sunny with occasional drizzling rain. Visitors still can enjoy walking around the city, go on a boat tour along the river, sit in a street cafe or do a day trip to one of the nearby beaches.
There are significantly fewer tourists in winter compared to summer, many city attractions can be visited without crowds; no waiting in the long lines to enter Sintra Palace, or to take a photo at Cabo da Roca.
Another advantage of visiting Lisbon in winter is accommodation prices, off-season rooms in hotels and apartments get significantly cheaper. You can stay in a very nice place in the city center for a very good price.
Winter is a great time for trying many traditional Portuguese dishes such as Cozido à Portuguesa, Açorda, feijoada, etc. They are too heavy to eat in summer but will be perfect on a chilly winter day.
There are plenty of activities in Lisbon that can keep you busy for days. Riding an old tram is a great way of getting to know the city.
These old-fashioned yellow trams climb up and down the steep and narrow cobbled streets of the old town. There are many attractions worth visiting in Lisbon such as Belem Tower, Ponte 25 de Abril, St.Jorge Castle, Jeronimos Monastery, Parque das Nações.
A trip to the coast is a nice way to spend a sunny winter day. There are several fantastic places not far from the city to enjoy a day out on the beach and to spend a couple of hours hiking along the coast.
Cagliari, Italy by Claudia at Strictly Sardinia
Cagliari is a lovely place for a winter break in Europe.
Well connected to mainland Italy and to a bunch of other cities in Europe thanks to many budget airlines, Cagliari is an extremely underrated destination.
Facing the Mediterranean Sea but perched on the hills, the city is blessed with a very mild winter, which means that you won’t have any trouble walking around to enjoy its many sights.
Among the things to do in Cagliari, make sure to visit its Roman Amphitheater. Located in the center of town, it’s a great testimony of an important past of Sardinian past, together with the many other Roman archeological sites you will find scattered around the city.
Not far from it, you will find the entrance to the historical Castello quarter. It will take you a while to explore this area, where you will be able to visit the well-curated Archeology Museum and the Cathedral.
It’s a pleasant area to walk around as it is closed to traffic, so make sure to walk the narrow alleys. For the best views, head to Via Santa Croce, from where you can admire Stampace, another of the historical neighborhood of the city.
Cagliari is a great destination for nature lovers too. Not far from the city center you will find the Poetto beach, which is perfect for a walk.
From there, you can access Molentargius Nature Park, a place to admire pink flamingoes and other species of birds. For breathtaking views, make sure to hike to Sella del Diavolo. The trail can be easily accessed from Calamosca beach, which is also at a short distance from the center of town.
Rome, Italy by Katy at Untold Travel
One of the best places to visit for winter sun in Italy is its capital Rome.
While the city certainly has a winter season you’ll find it not so gloomy as European destinations to the north. Rome in winter has cool, clear days that are perfect for seeing the major sights and walking the cobbled streets of the historic center.
Your photos of the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona will look amazing in the winter light.
Explore the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and ancient ruins around the city and build up your appetite. Of course, you’ll also want to try all the food in Rome – from spaghetti carbonara, to pizza and gelato. You can join an organized food tour for this experience or do it yourself, visiting bars and cafes in search of the best bites in Rome.
No visit to the Eternal City would be complete without a trip to the Vatican. In winter the museums are much less busy and hot than in the summer months, so it’s the perfect time to admire Michelangelo’s masterpiece the Sistine Chapel, and the beauty of St Peter’s basilica.
Take a break from art and culture with a stroll around Villa Borghese and to enjoy views of the city from the Terrazza del Pincio. Then stroll along the Tiber River for one of the best winter sunsets in the world. Make sure to pack your sunglasses. Italians know that the sun shines bright in Rome, even in winter.
Tenerife, the Canary Islands by Paulina at Paulina on the road
One of the best winter breaks in Europe is Tenerife on the Canary Islands, Spain.
Why? Because it boasts still warm temperatures while the rest of the European continent is freezing.
Another reason why Tenerife is such a great getaway in winter is that it will be less crowded. That means that you’ll get to enjoy its beautiful beaches almost all on your own.
So what is it that makes Tenerife so special?
Well, obviously first there are the gorgeous beaches in Tenerife North and Tenerife South such as Playa Fanabé, Benijo Beach, Los Gigantes Beach. But on top of that, you’ll find plenty of places that make this island heaven for outdoor lovers.
You may want to climb up the Mount Teide volcano, the highest mountain in Spain, or do legendary hiking trails such as Masca or Barranco del Infierno trail.
One of my favorite things to do in Tenerife is eating! The Canarian food is so delicious and the star dish is probably papas con mojo.
In order to get the ultimate relaxation, you’re seeking I recommend staying at one of Tenerife’s best all-inclusive Adults-Only Hotels.
One of the sunniest European destinations, Sicily has so much to offer for both nature and history lovers. An important location throughout the years, Sicily will blow you away with its rich culture, delicious food, and stunningly beautiful sights.
Visiting Sicily during winter could be the right choice if you want to experience carnivals and Christmas Markets, but also take advantage of the mild temperatures.
Spend one week in Sicily if you really want to experience it to the fullest, and drive yourself around the island.
Even though we chose to visit Malta in late September, the island is another perfect destination to consider as one of the warmest places in Europe in December, January, or February.
During these months, the average temperature fluctuates between 13-14 degrees (55-57 degrees), making your escape to the island more like a spring break.
Plan for the perfect Malta vacation with my comprehensive itinerary. It will take you to all of the best places to see on the island, but it will also help you choose the perfect place to stay in.
Go to the south of the island and you will be welcomed by blue waters, stunning sights, beautiful beaches, and sunny days throughout the year.
Choose Larnaca as your winter destination for Cyprus and you won’t regret it!
Check out my first-time traveler’s guide to Cyprus and you can get ready for a sunny winter vacation in Europe!
There is so much more to Puglia than just Bari, and no matter if you only spend one weekend in Puglia or a longer time, you will fall in love with its charm.
I can absolutely imagine myself living here for a few months during winter, especially because that’s when you can skip the crowds while taking advantage of the reasonable prices and mild temperatures.
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