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11 Best Winter City Breaks Europe Has To Offer

By Alice Teacake

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What are the 11 best Winter city breaks Europe has to offer? Regardless of whether you’re looking for some top notch weekend breaks or to breakaway for a week or more, European city breaks are ready and waiting for you in the Winter months!

The city breaks Europe has are full to the brim with history, adventure, delightful gastronomy, breathtaking architecture and hidden moments waiting to be discovered. And with so many exciting destinations next door to each other, why not extend your European Winter for a couple of weeks? Cheap weekend getaways are possible at this time as you’ll be travelling off season.

Photos of Tallinn, Estonia Old Town covered in a blanket of snow

An honorable mention to the picturesque Tallinn, Estonia

Is December a good time to visit Europe? Yes! Don’t let the cold put you off. Short breaks in Europe throughout Winter are particularly great for Christmas markets, special light shows, hot mulled wine and many winter sports. If you’re looking for last minute city breaks and a quick weekend away, here’s a list of my top 11 best city breaks in Europe for Winter time.

11 best Winter city breaks Europe has to offer

What are some great winter destinations in Europe? In no particular order, my top 12 Europe in Winter destinations are:

  • Athens, Greece
  • Bergen, Norway
  • Porto, Portugal
  • Venice, Italy
  • Brno, Czechia
  • Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Salzburg, Austria
  • Palermo, Italy
  • Sofia, Bulgaria
  • Seville, Spain
  • Edinburgh, Scotland

Read on to find out why!

Athens, Greece

With its rich historical past of Greek and Roman ruins, Athens in Greece is a great mini breaks choice. It has first class museums, a wonderful al fresco dining culture, friendly locals, buzzing nightlife, cheap prices and fantastic shopping too.

Photo of the ancient Acropolis of Athens featuring the ruins of 6 Doric columns in the forefront.

Athens has a strong bar and coffee culture particularly, so sit in one of the many watering holes the city has to offer, from trendy rooftop bars, cosy cafes and everything in between.

Check out the souvlaki shops for some succulent and cheap grilled meats and other delights stuffed in a freshly baked pitta too. Nom nom!

Things to do in Athens

  • Visit the Acropolis and check out all the other ancient historical sites like the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Theatre of Herodes Atticus, Ancient Agora, Temple of Sounion, the Panathenaic Stadium and many more.
  • Take a walking tour or bus tour to get the best out of the city.
  • Visit some of the amazing museums this city has to offer including The National Archaeology Museum, The Museum of Cycladic Art and The Acropolis Museum.
  • Go to the hillside village of Anafiotika if you have extra time and browse the flea market where you might find some quirky and unique gems to take home.

Top Activities in Athens Greece

Here are some of the top activities and tours to get up to here!

Best places to stay in Athens Greece

Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.

How to get to Athens

Being one of the most popular destinations in Europe, Athens is very well connected for your city escape.

Find the best routes and times to Athens here

Many budget airlines serve the city as well as ferries to other Greek Islands and cruises from various European cities. BA, Easyjet, Ryanair and Aegean Airlines are all good choices to get here.

Find the best flight times and prices with Skyscanner

Bergen, Norway

Why not take one of your European weekend breaks in Bergen Norway? Sandwiched between breathtaking mountains and magical fjords, Bergen offers many stunning views and nature walks for your short getaway. Bergen is a city with plenty of character with its charming historical area of Bryggen. There’s many fairytale buildings, art galleries and museums too. Bergen is a perfect city break destination if you’re looking for outdoor adventures and cultural experiences combined!

Photo of a blonde woman in a blue jacket looking out at a viewpoint atop Løvstakken in Bergen, Norway

Spend your winter break seeking epic views at the top of Løvstakken

Things to do in Bergen

  • Go on a fjord cruise
  • Take the Fløibanen funicular up Fløyen, one of Bergen’s seven mountains, for fantastic views over the area. From here you can either take the funicular back down, walk down or hike further into the mountains.
  • Visit the Fantoft Stave Church, Bergenhus Fortress and the fish market
  • Take a stroll around the iconic world heritage site Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf and the city’s colourful streets, not forgetting to look out for the many sculptures and statues that are dotted around the city
  • If you’re in town around the Christmas season, make sure to check out the world’s largest gingerbread town – Pepperkakebyen
  • Is it raining? Check out one of the many art galleries and museums Bergen has to offer

Top Activities in Bergen

Here are some of the top activities and tours to get up to here!

Best places to stay in Bergen Norway

Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.

How to get to Bergen Norway

Bergen is well connected via train to Oslo. There are also ferries connecting to Stavanger, Norway, and also services to Denmark.

Find the best routes and times to Bergen here

Many direct flights from European cities come here. BA, Norwegian Air and Ryannair are all good choices to fly with.

Find the best flight times and prices with Skyscanner

Porto, Portugal

Looking for cheap city breaks in Winter? Porto is undoubtedly one of Europe’s most affordable city break destinations. Here you can enjoy fantastic food and drink without breaking the bank during your holiday weekend.

Photo taken from a window looking out the city of Portugal with an old cathedral in the foreground. Photo taken from a window looking out the city of Portugal with an old cathedral in the foreground.

Photo of azulejo tiles in Porto, Portugal Photo of azulejo tiles in Porto, Portugal

This historic mercantile city offers visitors many attractions such as awe inspiring ancient buildings from Baroque churches to medieval walls. There’s also quirky cobbled street neighbourhoods and beautiful beaches. Not bad at all for one of your cheap weekend breaks!

Things to do in Porto Portugal

  • Check out the amazing historical buildings of Porto Cathedral, Clérigos Church, Palácio da Bolsa and the Church of São Francisco
  • Porto has a 14th century wall: Muralha Fernandina
  • Visit the Church of Santa Clara and Igreja do Carmo
  • Take a trip down the Douro river
  • Check out the iconic Luís I Bridge
  • Take a stroll around the riverside area of Cais da Ribeira and Foz do Douro
  • Visit some of the fascinating museums, such as Soares dos Reis National Museum, Museu Romântico da Quinta da Macieirinha and FC Porto Museum.
  • Tour a port cellar or two. Real Companhia Velha, Caves Sandeman and Taylor’s Port have been around for hundreds of years!
  • Pay a visit to the enchanting book store Livraria Lello: it’s where J.K. Rowling got her inspiration for Hogwarts!

Top activities to do in Porto Portugal

Here are some of the top activities and tours to get up to here!

Best places to stay in Porto Portugal

Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.

How to get to Porto

There’s a high speed train connecting Porto to Lisbon.

Find the best routes and times to Porto here

There are many low cost and regular flights from cities all over Europe. Porto’s main airport is Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport. Both budget and regular airlines fly there.

I recommend checking the best deals and routes on Skyscanner

Venice, Italy

Venice is truly a one of a kind city. Built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic sea, there’s nowhere in the world quite like it.

Photo of a gondola pulling into the docks in Venice

While it’s known for its main attractions such as St Mark’s Square and Basilica, Venice is a fantastic place to get lost in. Let the myriad of narrow alleyways and canals take you away from the touristy areas and see what you stumble upon.

Venice is a great city for art lovers, with galleries displaying both modern and classical artworks

Things to do in Venice, Italy

  • If you visit during February, a must see is the famous Venice Carnival
  • Take a hauntingly beautiful gondola ride through the foggy canals
  • On a budget? Ride a vaporetto, a waterbus used by locals to get about town instead.
  • Indulge in a Venetian hot chocolate
  • Go to Murano and see the artisans blowing glass
  • Hop over to Burano to see the colourful buildings
  • Visit Doge’s Palace and The Bridge of Sighs
  • Go to Venice’s historic theatre Teatro La Fenice and see Saint Mark’s Square and the Basilica
  • Explore the Rialto Bridge area

Top activities to do in Venice Italy

Here are some of the top activities and tours to get up to here!

Best places to stay in Venice Italy

Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.

How to get to Venice Italy

The main airport is Venice Marco Polo airport which is nearby Treviso. Treviso is used by the budget airline Ryannair. BA and Easyjet will get you here.

Discover the best flight deals and routes on Skyscanner

Venice is also connected by high speed, regional and local trains. 

Find the best routes and times to Venice here

Brno, Czechia

Dating back to 1030, Brno is a city rich in historic architecture. It’s got a fantastic coffee culture and given that it’s a university town (there are 6 in total), it has a vibrant atmosphere. This means lots of affordable places to eat, drink and party the night away.

Phorto of a white domed building corner in the city of Brno, Czech Republic

Things to do in Brno, Czechia

  • Visit Freedom Square – Náměstí Svobody
  • Špilberk Castle is worth a visit and offers great views over the city
  • Walk around Moravian Square (Moravské náměstí)
  • Climb to the top of the Old Town Hall, which dates back to 1240
  • Check out the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul and the Brno Ossuary
  • Visit Capuchin Church and Crypt
  • Take a walking tour to see all the historical sites
  • 25Km out of town are the stunning Moravian Karst and Caves which are well worth a visit.
  • Visit the Baroque Dietrichstein Palace (Dietrichstinsky Palace)
  • Head underground and see the mesmerizing Labyrinth under Zelný trh square (Labyrint pod Zelným trhem). Here you can do a tour of the medieval tunnels that lie beneath the city’s old Cabbage Market

Top Activities to do in Brno Czechia

Here are some of the top activities and tours to get up to here!

The best places to stay in Brno

Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.

How to get to Brno in Czechia

Fly directly to Brno-Tuřany airport or take a flight to neighbouring Prague or Vienna, then take the train the rest of the way. Ryanair will get you here!

Discover the best flight deals and routes on Skyscanner

Discover train and bus options to Brno here

Why not consider the Beskydy mountains too?

Here’s 12 reasons why you should visit the Beskydy Mountains

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

With its romantic canals (which you can skate on if it’s chilly enough), fantastic art galleries and buzzing nightlife, Amsterdam is the perfect destination for a winter city break.

Photo of the Amsterdam Centraal Station from across the IJ

You might be thinking, isn’t it a bit cold and dark? Fear not as the city hosts the magical Amsterdam Light Festival, with lights adorning the canals and streets between November and January.

Things to do in Amsterdam

  • If you are in Amsterdam in the run up to Christmas, you can shop until you drop at one of the fantastic winter markets
  • Not to be missed are the Van Gogh Museum, Rembrandt House Museum, Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk, a must stop for modern art lovers
  • Take a stroll around the canals,which span more than 60 miles or rent a bike and travel the city like the locals do
  • For all you history buffs, visit Anne Frank’s house, Dam Square, the Royal Palace and Westerkerk, the resting place of Rembrandt
  • Climb the spire for breathtaking views of the city
  • Wonder around Albert Cuyp Market, which has been around since 1905 and is perfect for sampling tasty Dutch snacks

Top Amsterdam Activities

Here are some of the top activities and tours to get up to here!

Best places to stay in Amsterdam

Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.

How to get to Amsterdam

There is a direct London to Amsterdam Eurostar train. Trains also go from Paris to Amsterdam, Brussels to Amsterdam, Cologne to Amsterdam and several other routes. The main train station is Amsterdam Centraal station.

Find the best train times and prices with Omio here

Many flights serve Amsterdam daily from around Europe and beyond. KLM, BA and budget airlines are all good ones to check depending on your point of departure. 

Check Skyscanner for the best flight deals and routes

Salzburg, Austria

It goes without saying that Salzburg, the birth city of Mozart, is a mecca for classical music lovers. But this romantic city on the Salzach river at the foot of the Alps is wonderful for many other reasons!

The stark white fortress, Festung Hohensalzburg in Austria with a single mountain behind it in the distance.

The Old Town has fine medieval and baroque buildings and museums with its streets filled with buskers and classical performers.

The cafes have many delicious cakes and coffee and the city hosts over 4000 cultural events a year!

Things to do in Salzburg Austria

  • Check out Hohensalzburg Fortress
  • Stroll through the Altstadt (old town)
  • Check out Mozart’s birthplace and Museum
  • Go to Salzburg Cathedral
  • Take a walk along Getreidegasse street, Salzburg’s iconic shopping street
  • St Peter’s Abbey is worth a look!
  • Salzburg has several fantastic squares to walk around, such as Kapitelplatz and Residenzplatz, which is the main square and the one that features in The Sound of Music
  • Go to Mirabelle Palace and Gardens
  • Shop, eat and drink at the Christmas markets, the largest of which is the Christkindlmarkt in Dom Square
  • Go ice skating in Mozart Square and visit the Salzburg Christmas museum!
  • For the adventure sports enthusiasts, head to the nearby slopes for some skiing or snowboarding action

Top Salzburg Activities

Here are some of the top activities and tours to get up to here!

Best places to stay in Salzburg Austria

Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.

How to get to Salzburg Austria

Salzburg is easily accessible from Vienna, London, Munich and many other European destinations by train, plane and bus. Salzburg’s airport leads directly to the city centre of Salzburg via bus and is incredibly well-connected to other destinations across Europe.

Check the best train and bus times and prices here

Find the best flight for you with Skyscanner here

Palermo, Italy

With influences from the Moors, the Ancient Greeks, the Romans and the Normans to name a few, Palermo is a very exciting place to be! Palermo’s people, food, customs and architecture are a true melting pot of cultures and traditions.

Photo of the harbour, Porto di Palermo, basking in daylight in Palermo, Italy

Being the cultural centre of Sicily, there are historic treasures galore; from ancient artefacts to art deco buildings, fantastic food markets and Italy’s largest botanical gardens, which includes a Winter Garden yay!

Things to do in Palermo Italy

  • Explore the city by foot and discover its historical buildings and squares: Palermo Cathedral, Capella Palatina, (Palatine Chapel), Palazzo dei Normanni, La Martorana, the Capuchin Abbey and Catacombs are great
  • Visit St. John of the Hermits
  • Tuck into the specialties of this region: from mouthwatering cannolis to delicious pasta con sarde
  • Wander around the food markets, one of the best being Ballaro market
  • Check out some fantastic frescos and sculptures at the Sicilian Regional Gallery, housed in the Catalan Gothic Abatellin Palace
  • Visit the Palermo Regional Archeological Museum
  • See Italy’s largest Opera house, called the Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele
  • Walk around the Quattro Canti intersection

Top Palermo Activities

Here are some of the top activities and tours to get up to here!

Best places to stay in Palermo Italy

Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.

How to get to Palermo Italy

Palermo is well connected by domestic flights to and European flights. BA, Ryanair and Easyjet will get you here.

Find the best flight for you with Skyscanner here

You can also get a train from between Palermo and other Italian cities, such as Messina, Naples and Rome. Buses connect to other Sicilian cities such as Catania and Agrigento. 

Check train and bus prices to Palermo here

Sofia, Bulgaria

If you’re looking for a bargain city break, look no further than Sofia. From cheap accommodation and food, to free cycling and walking tours, and even free food tours, this is the destination for those on a budget!

Photo of some of the golden domes atop the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral famous Sofia Bul Photo of some of the golden domes atop the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral famous Sofia Bul

Photo of a modest restaurant entrance at night featuring two illuminated red lanterns in Sofia, Bulgaria. Photo of a modest restaurant entrance at night featuring two illuminated red lanterns in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Things to do in Sofia

  • Walk around to see the main historical buildings, which have influences of the many invaders, from Roman, Greek, Ottoman and Soviet era occupiers
  • Check out the church of St George, which dates back to the 4th century
  • See the ruins of the Amphitheatre of Serdica
  • Visit St. Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral
  • Go to Ivan Vazov National Theatre
  • Look out for the quirky street art, from murals to statues and mosaics
  • If you have more time, you must visit the 7 Rila Lakes!

Top Sofia Activities

Here are some of the top activities and tours to get up to here!

Best places to stay in Sofia Bulgaria

Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.

How to get to Sofia

There are train connections to Turkey, Romania and Serbia and you can also get a bus here from various European destinations. 

Check train and bus prices to Sofia here

There’s plenty of flight routes too! Ryanair and Easyjet can get you here.

Check flight times and prices to Sofia with Skyscanner here

Seville, Spain

With its relatively warm and sunny climate, even in Winter, Seville is the perfect city break destination for those wanting to escape the colder, greyer, damper climes of northern Europe.

Photo of the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See in Seville, Spain

The cooler Winter climate is a great time to wander around the city on foot and admire the stunning Moorish architecture that characterises this city, without melting under the scorching Spanish sun of the Summer! Lines will be much shorter and prices a bit cheaper.

Things to do in Seville Spain

  • Eat! Seville is awash with fantastic eateries, from markets to excellent restaurants, so tuck into the many delights this city has to offer
  • For some modern architecture, check  out the impressive Metropol Parasol
  • Walk around Plaza de España
  • Visit the awe inspiring Unesco listed palace Real Alcázar
  • Seville Cathedral and Torre del Oro are worth a visit, both of which offer spectacular views over the city from their summits
  • See a Flamenco show at the Tablao Flamenco El Arenal

Top Seville Activities

Here are some of the top activities and tours to get up to here!

Best places to stay in Seville Spain

Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.

How to get to Seville Spain

There are trains to Seville from Madrid and Barcelona, Granada and Cordoba. Buses are also very much available on these routes. 

Check train and bus prices to Seville here

There are daily flights from many European cities. There are currently no direct flights from the US to Seville but United wants to launch a direct flight in 2020, possibly from Newark to Seville!

Search for the best flight time and prices with Skyscanner

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is one of my top best European city breaks, whatever season it is! I’ve visited twice now; once in Summer, once during the Edinburgh Festivals and my next goal is to experience Edinburgh during Hogmanay! From the 30th December to the 1st January, you can see in the New Year within what is arguably the World’s best street party!

Photo of Edinburgh Castle with blue skies and white fluffy clouds in the background

CC image courtesy of Erin Stevenson O’Connor on Flickr

There’s a torch procession, a really fun celidh (Scottish dance) happening under Edinburgh Castle and many other spectacles and activities to keep you entertained. The Scots certainly know how to have a good time. Why not bring in the New Year with the ultimate celebrators?

Things to do in Edinburgh Scotland

Apart from the particular Hogmanay activities listed above, these are my firm favourite things to do in Edinburgh:

  • Visit Edinburgh Castle
  • Sample some delicious Scottish whisky at the Scottish Whisky Experience
  • Climb up to Arthur’s Seat for epic views of the city
  • Seek out the spots which inspired J.K. Rowling in her Harry Potter books
  • Hang out late at night in the comedy clubs and bars
  • Go underground in the vaults and hear (and feel?) genuine ghost stories
  • If you have more time, make sure to head to Gilmerton Cove on the outskirts of the city. It’s weird and mysterious!

Top Edinburgh Activities

Here are some of the top activities and tours to get up to here!

The best places to stay in Edinburgh Scotland

Here are the top 3 options for budget, midrange and luxury travellers.

How to get to Edinburgh Scotland

You can easily get to Edinburgh from London, Manchester and many other cities throughout the UK via bus or train.

Find the best times and prices with Omio here

You can also fly to Edinburgh!

Get the best deals with Skyscanner here

What is your favourite out of the best Winter city breaks Europe has to offer?

Are you yearning to spend the holidays gazing out at the Adriatic Sea in Italy or hiking to epic mountain peaks in Norway? Maybe you prefer the metropolises of Amsterdam and Brno or dream of castle hopping in Scotland and Austria. Regardless of the type of traveller that you are, there is magical winter destination in Europe waiting for you!

Related Reading

2020 Best Solo Female Travel Destinations

7 Best Cities To Visit in Eastern Europe Before They Become Popular

Ultimate Guide to Exploring Skopje in North Macedonia

5 Awesome Things to do in Mostar Bosnia

12 Reasons To Visit The Beskydy Mountains Czech Republic

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These are 11 of the coziest destinations in Europe to spend your winter break but we have many more “bests” lists to inspire your travels.

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11 Best Winter City Breaks Europe Has To Offer

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About Alice Teacake

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I'm a feminist British kickass solo female traveller who believes in women facing their fears, pushing their boundaries and reaching their full potential through solo adventure travel! I have been featured in Nat Geo Traveller UK, Lonely Planet, the Daily Mail and Buzzfeed and spoken about solo female travel safety on BBC One, whilst working with a bunch of awesome brands. Follow me for travel advice and inspiration, so you can go forth and challenge yourself to reach your own personal goals!

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