I must admit I’m a sucker for city breaks and I would jump to the occasion whenever it occurs. And the fact that I’ve lived in Europe, with extremely low-cost flights, made things even “worse” because I used to be in a new place every month. And because I strongly believe we’ll still love to explore, I’ve asked other travel bloggers to share their favorite winter city breaks in Europe.
From gorgeous Christmas Markets to alluring natural landscapes or grand iconic landmarks, you’ll find it all here! All you’ll have to do next is to choose your next winter escape and enjoy every moment of it.
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Helpful tools I use to find the best combination of flights and accommodation:
- Booking.com for great accommodation prices when you book in advance and for a minimum of 2 stays;
- Skyscanner.com for finding the cheapest flight prices and car rentals;
- TourRadar for organized trips to most of the places mentioned on this list;
- Airbnb when you want to live the local life and are looking for hidden gems;
- Check out this useful post on how to save money for and on travel for more tips and tricks and useful tools!
The winter city breaks in Europe list you’ll need!
Annecy, France by Leyla at Offbeat France
Annecy, in the foothills of the Savoy Alps in southeastern France, has often been called France’s prettiest town.
In summer, a crystal lake surrounded by mountains is the perfect backdrop for the boaters, cyclists, and hikers who revel in its beauty. But in winter, the city is, if possible, even more fun and attractive.
There’s a Christmas market, of course, but the French brave the cold to sit at outside terraces the second the sun peeks through the clouds – and here, it does so often. Some restaurants even have outdoor heaters and blankets, just in case.
Annecy is the perfect strolling city, with little snow but plenty of attractions. Within a 45 minute drive, you’ll reach some world-class ski resorts, easy to drive up for the day and back.
Once in Annecy, a string of popular restaurants cap the day with the perfect winter food: cheese, in all its forms, the best-know which include fondue, raclette (slices of melted cheese), or tartiflette, an unctuous oven-baked mix of cheese, potatoes, bacon, and onions.
Annecy is easy to reach – it is an hour by train from Lyon, or a half-hour drive from Geneva, in nearby Switzerland. Check out train timetables and prices here!
Sierra Nevada National Park, Spain by Joanna at The World in My Pocket
Sierra Nevada National Park, located in Andalucia – South of Spain, is a fantastic destination to visit in winter because it offers so many opportunities for tourists.
Firstly, Sierra Nevada is a popular place for winter sports lovers, with a ski resort on the third highest peak (3400 meters high) in peninsular Spain. Fun fact, Sierra Nevada Ski Station is the most southern European ski resort.
The ski season in the Sierra Nevada starts in November and lasts until May. There are 105 kilometers of pistes, including an ice rink, toboggans, and ski bikes.
What makes Sierra Nevada special though is the proximity to Granada and to the sea. Practically, one can ski in the morning, have lunch, drive for one hour and spend the afternoon on the beach, in one of the towns on Costa Tropical.
The average temperature on Costa Tropical in winter are around 12-15 degrees, mostly sunny.
Another great activity that you can do in winter is go hiking on the lower altitude trails of Sierra Nevada. Hikes such as Ruta de los Cahorros are so much pleasure in winter when it is still sunny, but the temperatures don’t go 30+ degrees crazy, like in summer.
Granada is another great city to visit whilst on a ski trip to the Sierra Nevada. Located only 27 kilometers away from the ski resort, Granada is much less popular with tourists during the winter months.
Zagreb, Croatia by Mayuri at ToSomePlaceNew
Zagreb is one of the underrated capital cities in Europe. Often overlooked by the fantastic Dalmatian coast, you must add Zagreb to your itinerary in the winters. It is also one of the most affordable and historically rich cities in Europe to spend your winters in.
Winters kick in the city in December, and it snows and gets chilly. And when that happens, bundle up and warm up with a cup of mulled wine and enjoy true Christmas spirit in the capital of Croatia.
Zagreb Advent is the prime festive event in Croatia and it is slowly taking over the Christmas markets from popular destinations like Prague and Vienna. Advent event runs for a full month (December).
You can expect plenty of fun and unique events, plus tons of excellent Balkan food and drinks.
Almost all of the sightseeing attractions are open in the winter, with festive decorations and seasonal offerings.
As part of your Zagreb itinerary, don’t forget to visit the iconic landmarks like the St Mark’s Church, Zagreb Cathedral, Dolac markets, and Ban Jelačić Square.
Ban Jelačić Square is the central square in Zagreb, and a huge Christmas tree is set up by the fountain. The tree is transformed into a light display, with a cozy, heated space serving food and drinks. Exploring the square is completely free.
Both St Mark’s Church and Zagreb Cathedral showcase seasonal choirs and mass. Dolac market lives to its tradition, with tons of locally made Christmas decorations and food to take back home!
Short tour options including Zagreb you might want to check out:
Balkan Experience – Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes National Park Ljubljana and Lake Bled
Kiruna, Sweden by Kat at Wandering Bird
If you’re looking for an amazing winter city break or wondering where you can see the Northern Lights in Europe, consider Kiruna in Sweden.
This beautiful town has everything you are looking for- snow, views and it’s officially one of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis during the winter months.
Despite the snowfall, Kiruna has a surprisingly high number of clear nights. This means you have a great chance of seeing the Northern lights should they appear during your stay.
While you’re waiting for the Aurora, there’s plenty of other things to do in Kiruna. Heard of the world-famous Ice hotel? Yep, an entire hotel built completely from ice-walls, reception, beds – everything. Kiruna is the closest town to the Ice Hotel. It’s built differently each year and you can visit just for a drink in the bar and experience it for yourself- even if you don’t like the idea of staying overnight!
You can also go dog-sledding with a team of huskies, hiking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, take part in wildlife viewing and photography tours or just relax and enjoy the incredible views across the mountains and winter landscape. If you’ve chosen a good hotel, you could even relax in your very own hot tub!
One of our favorite activities is a trip to the nearby Sky Station, where a cable car will take you up a (very high!) mountain to a restaurant at the top, where you can relax and enjoy the fabulous views.
Check out the Northern Lights and wildlife in Sweden Lapland tour!
Helsinki, Finland by Cath at Passports and Adventures
One of the best destinations in Europe for a winter city break is Helsinki.
The Finnish capital has so much on offer, your trouble will be narrowing it all down in one visit.
Winter in Finland is cold, and Helsinki is often blanketed in a layer of snow, especially in December and January but that only adds to the magic of the city.
We visited Helsinki with kids after a visit to see Santa in Lapland and we had (mistakenly) been told there wasn’t much to the city. Well, I can safely say we were proved wrong. We spent two full days in the city and didn’t touch the surface.
In December, you will find Christmas markets dotted around the city. Enjoy a warm glass of glogi (mulled wine), local foods, and pick up a souvenir or two.
A must-visit in Helsinki is the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. Accessible by ferry, this inhabited sea fortress as built as a navy base and maritime fortress and is an amazing place to visit. As well as wandering around the main island, you can visit the six museums located on the island.
The Suomenlinna museum details the history of the sea fortress and should be visited along with the Military Museum and the Toy Museum. Enjoy a glass of glogi and ginger biscuits in the little café inside the Toy Museum.
There is a wealth of other museums and art galleries to visit in the city, as well as the ice-skating rink in the center of the city beside the main train station.
And if time allows, why not take a day trip to discover the Christmas markets in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. You can get a ferry across which takes less than two hours and it is another great place to visit while enjoying Helsinki.
Short tour options including Helsinki you might want to check out:
New Year on the Baltic Sea – 4 days in Stockholm and Helsinki
Oslo, Norway by Aga at Worldering Around
Thinking of visiting Norway next winter? Don’t miss the capital. There are a ton of cool (literally) things to do in Oslo in winter. From trying the variety of winter sports to chilling in the sauna to getting cozy in a pub, there is something for everyone.
If you like to spend your time in an active way, you can try the kilometers of cross country skiing tracks around the city. There are also 14 slopes in Oslo winter park to test your alpine skills.
For the ones without the skis, there is an option to sled down on the 2-kilometre sledge run. You won’t even get too tired, as instead of climbing the hill, you can go up with the metro.
Other fun activities involve skating on the lakes or walking on the frozen sea (yes, really, but follow the rules and be careful). One of my favorite things to do is to chill in the sauna and then swim in the cold waters of Oslofjord. Nothing wakes you up better than this!
When you come to Oslo around Christmas time, you’d also have the opportunity to check out all the magical Christmas markets. Norwegians really know how to do “cozy”. They even have a special word for it.
In winter, despite the dark days and lower temperatures, the towns and cities in Norway are full of light. Fairy lights shine bright, the crackling fire dances in the wooden cabins.
It’s also a perfect time to try some of the traditional Norwegian comfort food. Waffles with brown cheese and mulled wine in front of the fire after the skiing trip? Yes, please.
Short tour options including Oslo you might want to check out:
Pearls of Northern Europe – 4 days in Stockholm and Oslo
Vienna, Austria by Lyubomira at Bulgarian On The Go
Vienna is one of the most magical cities in Europe to visit during the wintertime. The city is known as the ‘capital of music’, and for its rich history and culture, impressive architecture, beautiful landmarks, and high quality of life. But there is more to it than you might think.
The Austrian capital turns into a winter wonderland in the colder months, quite literally. The outdoor ice skating rinks open (the biggest and most magical of which in front of the city hall), fairy lights light up the trees, decorations and ornaments hang over the central streets and buildings.
Apart from the fairytale atmosphere, Vienna offers so many things to do in the winter – from doing a Christmas Market marathon and drinking some punch on one of the punch terraces to seeing a classical concert or going ice skating. This is the type of city you could never get bored in because it has so much to offer!
At the end of November, Christmas markets start popping up around every corner, like literally. There are over 20 ‘Christkindlmärkte’ here, each being prettier and prettier. The biggest and most popular ones are located at the City Hall, in front of the Schönbrunn Palace and at Karlsplatz.
Make sure to try some local mulled wine, and beware that you always need to pay a few euros as a deposit for the cup, which you’d then get back when returning it.
These cups are different at every market and actually make for an amazing souvenir you can take home, so you can always keep it for yourself as a memory of your wintertime in Vienna.
Short tour options including Vienna you might want to check out:
Krakow, Poland by Jaquie at Flashpacking Family
Krakow is a beautiful medieval city in the south of Poland and is a lovely place to visit at any time of year. It can get very cold in winter but don’t let that put you off. You really can’t beat visiting Krakow during the winter months, particularly around Christmas.
The Krakow Christmas market is one of Europe’s best Christmas markets and in our personal opinion it’s worth coming to Krakow just to experience it.
From the end of November into January, the Main Square (the largest medieval square in Europe) transforms into a Christmas wonderland, made all the more special if there’s been a dusting of snow.
Make sure to fill up on the traditional, hearty Polish food from the market and a hot mulled wine (Grzaniec).
But there is so much more to Krakow than just the Christmas market. It’s a relatively small city and it’s easy to get around on foot.
Before you head off on a walking tour, head to Bistro Charlotte just off the Main Square for one of the best breakfast experiences in town.
The highlights for us were the iconic St Mary’s Basilica (make sure to pop inside), the Cloth Hall on the main square and Wawel Royal Castle. If you don’t want to walk, there’s an excellent tram system or you could even snuggle up under a blanket on a horse and cart tour.
The other reason it’s a great place to visit in winter is that it’s very close to one of the most budget-friendly ski resorts in Europe. If you have a little longer than a weekend, you could combine your city break with a quick ski break in Zakopane, around 110 km south of Krakow.
Budapest, Hungary by Marie at A life without borders
With a relatively mild winter climate and lack of tourist crowds, Budapest in winter is one of my favorite times of the year.
From strolls along the river Danube, soaking in the hot waters of a healing thermal spring, to skating outdoors with a fairytale castle as a backdrop, Budapest is always enchanting.
Gaze at the stunning winter views over Hungary’s capital by heading to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Fisherman’s Bastion or the Citadel on top of Gellert Hill.
Stroll along the beautiful Andrassy Avenue or Vaci Utca in the city center before warming up in one of Budapest’s many historic cafes. With no shortage of coffee houses, you can’t go wrong at Ruswurm, Gerbaud, or the opulent New York Café.
Keep the cold at bay by luxuriating in one of Budapest’s famous hot thermal baths. I recommend Szechenyi Bath for its central location and large outdoor space, while Rudas Bath is hard to beat for its rooftop jacuzzi with amazing views overlooking the Danube.
Hop on tram number two for a scenic ride along the Danube River where you can enjoy gorgeous views of the river and city center.
Ice-skate in City Park with stunning fairy-tale architecture all around, before hitting up one of Budapest’s quirky ruin pubs.
If you’re traveling to Budapest from late November until early January, make sure to visit one of the charming Budapest Christmas markets.
Internationally acclaimed, try the Vorosmarty Square Christmas Market or the Advent Market at St Stephen’s Basilica, for hot mulled wine and a hearty Hungarian meal. You won’t be disappointed!
Short tour options including Budapest you might want to check out:
Colmar, France by Lily at Imperfect idealist
Colmar is a fairytale village in France, near the German border in the Alsace region.
The town is best known for its colorful houses, picturesque canals, and its festive Christmas market (though its spring flowers are also stunning).
The Christmas Market is held annually from the end of November until New Year’s Eve. During this time, nearly every building in the old town is covered in decorations, making you feel as if you’re in a gingerbread village.
At the Christmas market, you’ll find artisanal goods and crafts, such as local wines, jewelry, art, candy, and hot foods. A traditional holiday drink is vin chaud, or mulled wine, which is spiced red wine served hot (to keep you warm in the cold winter temperatures).
All hot drinks are served in reusable plastic souvenir cups, which you can rent for a 1 euro deposit that will be returned when you bring the cup back (you can also keep the cup if you want). This is part of a nationwide initiative to reduce waste at large events in France.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, there are also food options for you.
While you’re in Colmar, be sure to visit La Petite Venise and Au Vieux Pignon for the best photo spots.
La Petite Venise (Little Venice) has the prettiest colorful houses along the canal, and Au Vieux Pignon is located along a particularly picturesque cobblestone street lined with local vendors, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
Another popular thing to do is to visit the surrounding fairytale villages in Alsace, such as Eguisheim, Riquewihr, and Ribeauvillé. These villages are known for inspiring the town in Beauty and the Beast and are especially quaint.
Short tour options including Colmar you might want to check out:
Lucerne, Switzerland by Alyse at The Invisible Tourist
With legends of mountain dragons, medieval architecture lining cobbled streets, and gorgeous natural scenery, a visit to Lucerne is the perfect Europe winter city break and a must to add to any Switzerland itinerary.
While summer is a popular time to visit Lucerne, the colder months should not be overlooked as they create their own unique magic. One of the top benefits of a winter trip is there are fewer tourists in the Old Town – most of the city’s visitors are up in the ski fields allowing you to leisurely discover the countless boutiques, cafes, and even some stunning painted façades that date back to the Middle Ages.
As an Australian (where snow is pretty much non-existent), one of my favorite reasons to explore Lucerne in winter is to pay a visit to nearby Mt Pilatus. It’s unforgettable to watch the hillside greenery transform into a greyscale landscape during the cable car ride to the summit.
The weather can change very rapidly at the summit so don’t let grey cloudy skies at ground level stop you making the trip up.
Despite the moody clouds and snowfall when I first arrived, I was treated to an exquisite view of snowcapped mountains to the horizon as the sun decided to peek out from behind the wintery haze. Witnessing their icy coats glisten in the sunlight was such a spectacular reward!
During the medieval times, it was believed dragons with special healing powers resided in the crevices of Mt Pilatus, and today Pilu the dragon is an unofficial mascot of the city.
With so much fascinating history to uncover, you won’t be bored a moment in Lucerne.
Prague, the Czech Republic by Amanda at Under Dutch Sky
Prague is one of the top cities for winter break in Europe, especially for Christmas and New Year celebrations. In December, Prague is full of Christmas vibes, Christmas markets, and choir singing, it is difficult not to realize that Christmas is just around the corner!
There are at least 4 Christmas markets in Prague city center.
I grew up in Asia and always wanted to enjoy Christmas in Europe. I have visited Christmas Markets in Germany, The Netherlands, and Belgium; Prague is by far my favorite European city for Christmas Market.
Apart from that, Prague is a very affordable city to travel to whether you are a student or a young couple. Accommodation is cheap and you have a wide range of options to choose from. The food there is tasty and comes with a good price.
I love Czech Chimney Roll the most and will be great if you also enjoy Czech beer! Most importantly, you cannot miss the world-famous Prague Castle and Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square.
In addition, the attractions in Prague are very close to each other so you don’t need to rush from one attraction to another during your stay here. You can totally enjoy your time in Prague without any stress or worries.
Prague is a city with good food, great attractions, and beautiful city views; anyone can find at least one good reason to enjoy this city!
Short tour options including Helsinki you might want to check out:
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany by Izzy at The Gap Decaders
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a captivating historic town in Bavaria, the most southerly state of Germany.
With its amazing location and stunning medieval architecture, Rothenburg is a highlight of any campervan road trip in Germany This superbly preserved medieval gem, full of cobbled streets and colorful half-timbered houses are perfect for strolling.
You’ll find pretty corners and charming squares which just beg to be photographed. Take a walk along the turreted and covered city walls for a glimpse of what life might have been like when this was a thriving local market town centuries ago.
Visit in winter for the fairytale-like Christmas Market, a highlight of Rothenburg’s year since the 15th century. With traditional music, gluhwein, and roasting nuts, it’s impossible to imagine a more evocative place to be in the run-up to the festive season.
There is often snow here at this time of year, which just adds to the atmosphere and festive cheer. Wooden huts draped with twinkling lights line the cobbled streets and squares, with crafts, home-made treats, and trinkets on sale, its an ideal place for a spot of Christmas gift shopping.
Head for one of the many restaurants to warm up and try some of Germany’s delicious hearty food. Bratwurst is a traditional German sausage, often served with sauerkraut (pickled cabbage, much tastier than it sounds!) and creamy potatoes, washed down with a smooth German beer.
For a lighter bite, try the local specialty of schneeball, the aptly named snowball. Strips of dough are formed into a ball and deep-fried, then dusted with sugar or coated in chocolate, or cinnamon sugar to make a treat a bit like a doughnut or Spanish churro and pretty yummy.
Just another reason to visit the town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber!
Short tour options including Rothenburg ob der Tauber you might want to check out:
Classic Christmas Markets – a longer trip taking you through the most beautiful Christmas Markets in Germany
Tbilisi, Georgia by Emily at Wander-Lush
Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, is one of the loveliest winter city break destinations in Europe.
The entire Caucasus region is brimming with fascinating history and culture, incredible cuisine and natural beauty, and the winter months – low season – is the perfect time to experience this part of the world without the summer crowds.
Georgia’s relatively mild climate (the temperature very rarely falls below 0° Celsius and usually sits around 5-10° Celsius during the day) makes it a great place to escape from the bitter cold.
When it’s chilly in Tbilisi, there are plenty of places to warm up – most notably the sulfur baths, built over the city’s natural hot springs.
Hire a private room by the hour and relax in the warm waters, cooling off in the icy cold plunge pool every now and then.
A highlight of any trip to Georgia is eating local cuisine. There are hundreds of restaurants in Tbilisi that serve heart-warming, home-style food such as khinkali ‘soup dumplings’ and khachapuri ‘cheese bread’, the country’s two most iconic dishes. Rich soups and stews with a side of traditional puri bread are perfect winter fare.
Wine tastings are another must-do in winter. Georgia is the global birthplace of wine, and the country boasts an incredible array of world-class semi-sweet reds and amber wines, some made in a clay qvevri according to ancient techniques. There are dozens of wine bars in Tbilisi that offer tastings and pairings.
The winter weather shouldn’t limit your time outdoors.
Take a guided walk through Tbilisi’s historic Sololaki or Marjanishvili neighborhoods, or perhaps a tour of the inner city’s impressive architecture.
In the evening when the temperature drops, head indoors for a cultural performance. Rezo Gabriadz Theatre hosts a marionette show, the Opera Theater is the place for recitals and ballet, or book a table at Ethno Tsiskvili to watch a Georgian dance performance over dinner.
Copenhagen, Denmark by Anna at Ethical Adventure Blogger
Nowhere does winter quite like Denmark. With hygge bringing warmth and coziness even in the coldest of months, there’s nowhere better to experience it than the country’s capital, Copenhagen.
I won’t lie to you and say it’s not cold – the temperatures barely get above freezing – so you’ll need to pack warm clothes and wear lots of layers to keep you toasty.
Despite the crisp winter weather outside, the city’s restaurants and hotels are truly inviting. Their roaring fires and hearty food will keep you warm until you’re ready to brave the outside.
There’s plenty of reasons to visit Copenhagen in winter, but none more so than at Christmas. If you’re lucky enough to visit during the festive period, you can’t help but feel jolly.
The city’s famous Tivoli Gardens are part fairground, part park, and they come alive in December. Christmas market stalls serve hot mulled wine and gingerbread, while the twinkling lights and decorations illuminate the park. It’s a wonderful place to stroll while searching for unique gifts and crafts.
Even outside of Christmas, the fascinating museums, art galleries, and bustling Nyhavn harbor will keep you busy.
Opt for a walking tour or a trip along the canals to explore historic neighborhoods. Though a little out of the way, a visit to the famous Little Mermaid statue is worth the walk, and with fewer tourists in wintertime, you won’t have to wait long to get a decent photo!
All in all, Copenhagen makes for a wonderful European winter break that you’ll remember for years to come.
Berlin, Germany by Stephanie at History Fangirl
I absolutely adore Berlin in winter. The city is a perfect place to visit in cold weather because so many of the best things to do in the city are indoor activities.
You can visit Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of five world-class art museums, which will keep you out of the cold weather for hours or even days. There’s also the great bars and cafes in Berlin, so you can grab a drink and people watch while staying warm.
If you come in December, you can visit the dozens of fabulous Christmas Markets that pop up in the city. You can warm up on mulled wine (gluhwein) and munch on bratwurst. Though some of the Christmas Markets get very fancy with complete restaurants brought onsite.
This is also a great place to shop for Berlin souvenirs since there are booths with all kinds of locally made items, from textiles to ornaments to packaged food.
You can use the city to get out and explore since there are some great day trips from Berlin reachable in just a few hours. You can visit Dresden, Rakotzbrücke Devil’s Bridge, or even Gorlitz, which is where Wes Anderson filmed the Grand Budapest Hotel.
Of course, Berlin has some heavy history that you’ll want to delve into as well. You can go on tours that teach the history of East Berlin, tour Tempelhof airport and learn about its use as an Airraid Shelter, and, of course, you can’t skip a visit to the Berlin Wall.
Dublin, Ireland by Nils from Let’s Go Ireland
Ireland’s capital, Dublin, is an amazing city that has a lot of truly special things to offer. It does not matter whether it rains or shines or is summer or winter, you definitely won’t be bored with what this city has to offer.
To put it simply there is no best time to visit Dublin, the friendly atmosphere of Dubliners, the great attractions, and the lively pub scene means that you will most likely always have a great time!
If you chose to visit Dublin during winter, then make sure to wander through Grafton street. Particularly during Christmas time, the display in the windows of the shops and the street decorations are magical.
Make sure to explore many of the excellent museums, such as the Archaeological Museum of the National Museum of Ireland (free of charge!), the National Gallery of Ireland, the Chester Beatty Library (both also free of charge) or the Guinness Storehouse Experience (not free, but absolutely worth it!).
Try to squeeze in a visit to the Book of Kells in Trinity College Dublin, arguably one of the most stunning medieval manuscripts in the world. With these choices you will have made sure to have ‘skimmed’ the best parts of Dublin.
The only thing missing is to experience a good pub session. If you like it lively (although a bit touristy), then visit the Temple Bar District. Here your chances are high to also encounter a live music session in one of the pubs and bars.
If you want a slightly more ‘authentic’ experience, then just head out of the inner city. My favorites are the Bernard Shaw and the Gingerman Pub.
Short tour options including Dublin you might want to check out:
2020 Taste of Ireland – 4 days exploring Dublin, Blarney Castle, Ring of Kerry, and Cliffs of Moher
Discover the South East – 3 days in Dublin, Kilkenny, Waterford
Stuttgart, Germany by Diana from Travels in Poland
As a major city in southern Germany, Stuttgart is a great destination for a winter break. One of the most popular things to do in Stuttgart in the winter is to attend the annual Christmas festival in December.
The Weihnachtsmarkt as it is known locally, runs for approximately three weeks from late November to the end of December, closing right before Christmas.
Just like most other German Christmas markets, the Stuttgart market has dozens of food vendors, local and regional artisans, rides for children, and usually music as well. However, there are several unique things about Weihnachtsmarkt. The market is spread out over different areas of the city, encompassing several squares near the center.
There is also a building whose windows are turned into an Advent calendar and lighted up at night and finally, there is a Finnish market with Finnish food and products that runs for a few days during the main festival.
Apart from the Weihnachtsmarkt, Stuttgart is home to the auto industry and one of the largest zoo/botanical gardens in Europe.
The Mercedes Benz museum is a big tourist draw for people as it spreads out over several levels and dives in-depth into the history of the automobile.
The botanical garden/zoo Wilhelma is open in the winter and is a very pleasant escape from the city. There are numerous indoor exhibits including exhibits where the temperature is quite warm, which provides for a beautiful way to spend the day.
If you have children, Stuttgart is also home to Germany’s largest indoor playground, Sensapolis. The playground features an indoor spacecraft, treehouse climbing structure, zip line, castle, dozens of slides, and much more including an indoor race track.
Stuttgart is a must-see city for a short winter break or even as part of a longer tour taking you to see the most beautiful Christmas Markets in Europe.
Ghent, Belgium by Babs from Next stop Belgium
A weekend getaway to Ghent, Belgium is the perfect choice in every season of the year. While visiting in spring and summer offers sunny boat rides, the famous street festival the ‘Gentse Feesten’ and lazy strolls along the Gras- and Korenlei, winter makes the city stunning in its own special way.
Ghent has lots of sights and many of them can be enjoyed inside. The most noteworthy of them is the Belfry, the Saint Bavo’s Cathedral with the famous painting the Mystic Lamb (including the most noteworthy theft of artwork in Belgian history ever – it’s still a mystery, even after more than 85 years!) and the House of Alijn – a folklore museum with an awesome location that’s great to visit with kids too!
When you’re good to go outside, the city has plenty to offer as well. Walk across the beautiful Saint Michaels bridge, stroll along the banks of the Graslei and discover the medieval castle Gravensteen that’s situated in the middle of the city center. And when you need some time to defrost, step inside one of Ghent’s awesome coffee bars, waffle shops, or trendy restaurants.
Visiting in December will allow you to partake in the Ghent Winter Festival – a Christmas market and ice skating rank but also so much more.
If you’re planning to visit in January, try to plan your stay during the Ghent Light Festival. During those days there’s an entire light show on a 6,5 km walk where you get to enjoy the city in a way you’ve never seen it before.
Stockholm, Sweden by Mal at Raw Mal Roams
Stockholm is famous for its picturesque old town – Gamla Stan with colorful buildings and cobbled streets and the iconic Abba Museum. But there is so much more to do and see.
Head to the Royal Palace one of Europe’s oldest palaces and explore the splendor of the royal apartments. Make sure you’re there for the change of the royal guards, which is a whole spectacle!
The city has some of the most excellent and most fun museums I have visited. Skansen is the largest outdoor museum of this kind. It’s like a medieval village built on one of the islands in Stockholm including different houses, churches, and windmills.
Fotografiska museum showcases 35 different exhibitions a year which are often gripping and thought-provoking. And Vasa Museum showcases a 17th-century ship that was salvaged from the sea!
Stockholm is perfect for visiting in the winter. From the end of November Christmas Market opens at Gamla Stan. Various stools sell high quality traditional Swedish souvenirs and crafts.
Also, in the winter, the city opens a massive ice ring in Kungstradgarden, which is free! And the best part of visiting in the winter is that after a day of sightseeing you can relax in a sauna! Swedes love saunas, and a lot of hotels in Stockholm are equipped with one.
Short tour options including Stockholm you might want to check out:
Pearls of Northern Europe – 4 days in Stockholm and Oslo
New Year on the Baltic Sea – 4 days in Stockholm and Helsinki
New Years in the Baltics – 4 days in Stockholm and Tallinn
Amsterdam, The Netherlands by Two Plus Dogs
Amsterdam during the winter months is magical and so romantic. I had the pleasure of visiting this vibrant and diverse city last winter to enjoy its food and culture and fell in love with the beautifully lit historic buildings set in front of the pretty canals. If you are lucky you may even catch the city with snow or during the light festival at this time of year. Just spectacular.
Visiting Amsterdam in the winter months gives you the freedom to wander the sights more freely as there are fewer other tourists. The tram system in the city makes everything accessible, but you can easily hire a cycle or enjoy sightseeing on foot for a gentler pace and plenty of fresh air.
We loved snuggling up and meandering the Nine Streets, or De Negen Straatjes. Peacefully situated along the canals, this is where you will find hidden gems, for example, cool cafes and local brands and shops- perfect for finding those interesting items and for some relaxed and original Christmas shopping ideas.
Find time to immerse yourself in the vast array of museums and galleries while you are there. We loved, and were blown away by, the Anne Frank House. We were also fascinated by the Body Worlds museum- an education of the human body through plastination. There is so much choice for lovers of art, architecture, and culture so plan ahead and take your pick.
You are spoilt for choice for great food and restaurants in the city. Make time to buy a box of Van Stapele cookies as you wander the narrow streets. These rich, chocolatey delights are popular so arrive early, prepare to wait, and buy plenty- it is completely worth it and you will want more of them. Eat at one of the Ron Gastrobar restaurants. We loved the Ron Gastrobar Oriental where we enjoyed the most delicious crispy duck we have ever eaten. For a real treat, also try Michelin starred Spectrum and delight in their 7-course tasting menu.
We loved the sense of peace and ease while in Amsterdam in Winter, this is a rare feeling to achieve in a thriving city. There is so much to do and see and it really is an exciting place to be, but equally, it has a sense of peace. Be busy or just wander and be- suit yourself. A perfect winter break.