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We get it, most people travel to Europe in summer. It’s prime backpacking season, the sun is shining, the Mediterranean is enticing, and there are PEOPLE everywhere! (Which is a good and bad thing). Most people don’t think about visiting Europe in the winter but actually it is a perfect time to visit. For starters it is a lot cheaper because there are less tourists and it is off season, so more bang for your buck. Also there is so much charm to European cities in the winter. Yes, it’s colder but that shouldn’t stop you from considering our top seven winter destinations in Europe!
This Greek island is a perfect winter destination. Mainly because it’s basically summer there all year round. You can swim through November, probably December if you really wanted to as well, and the beaches are completely empty. Yes, some places may be closed but since it is a big island there are so many Greeks there still so all the local places are open. Seriously, going places during the offseason is the best time to figure out where the locals go and you will get the most authentic food if you follow the locals!
In addition to beautiful empty beaches you will still be able to enjoy all the fun of Rhodes because the Greeks like to party too. There are plenty of bars open in new town and they are always busy. We really enjoyed Barra Tres and on Sunday’s they have Greek night where all they play is Greek music. Everyone comes out for it and the place is PACKED! Winter is the best time to explore Rhodes; the sunshine, beaches, the Mediterranean and nightlife all without the crowds 🙂
Rome should be on this list purely because it is ABSOLUTELY miserable in the summer. The relentless heat, humidity, crowds and high prices can make Rome absolutely draining in the summer. For us, Rome is much more pleasant in the winter and while not nearly as warm as Rhodes, it is still a generally mild winter destination. True, when it rains it pours in Rome but the festive atmosphere in Rome makes up for any inclement weather in the winter.
Rome is particularly a wonderful destination in the winter if you are Catholic as there are always special masses and events to honor the season. Winter is the perfect time to carbo-load in Rome too. All the pasta, pizza, and gelato (it is delicious in any season) you can eat without worrying about putting on a bikini at a swanky Italian beach! Plus think about being able to look up at the Sistine Chapel or the Pantheon without being suffocated by crowds!
We had never heard of Marmaris before we went there but we are so glad there is an hour long ferry that runs daily from Rhodes. Marmaris is also a resort town on the Mediterranean however about 90% of the town is closed up in winter. This isn’t a bad thing however as there are still plenty of locals for you to experience a more local side to Marmaris. Just as in Rhodes, there are empty beaches a plenty and we found the weather even more sunny and warm in Marmaris then in Rhodes.
With Turkey being on the lira it also is a VERY affordable winter destination as well. Plus if the weather does take a turn for the worse you can always fortify yourself with Turkish tea and of course, Raki!
Athens is lovely at all times of the year but if you really want to explore ruins, museums and sites with minimal crowds than winter is the time to visit. To be honest, the Acropolis is never going to be completely empty but when you can take your time, explore and not worry about heat exhaustion that’s alright by me!
When we visited in December the weather was a balmy 18•C with the sun shining bright. Add in all the festive Christmas lights, warm honey wine, and evenings outside eating dinner or drinking wine and you have the recipe for a perfect winter destination. Athens is simply an amazing city with a vibrant spirit that shines through even the dourest weather and situations.
Oh Budapest, how we love you! We were told that the ideal time to visit Budapest is in the spring but we found it perfectly charming in the winter. Budapest is a dream city filled with stunning architecture, a growing diverse and modern culinary scene and man, do they know how to party!
Enjoy a meal outside with blankets, mulled wine and heaters and explore their local markets and Christmas markets while snacking on a Trdelník, a delicious cinnamon pastry cooked over a fire, or Hungarian “pizza” known as langos. Warm up in one of their amazing baths and by dancing the night away at one of their ruin pubs. Don’t forget to fortify yourself with some good Hungarian wine and a hearty meal of goulash!
I had never thought of Portugal as a winter destination until we arrived there in December. We were in for a treat because the weather is lovely and they fully embrace the holiday spirit with Christmas lights galore and several different holiday markets as well. Lisbon has more to offer than just Christmas lights however. With the pale wintery light reflecting off the Tagus River, the city glitters and sparkles all on its own. Take a meandering walk through the Alfama, listen to the haunting singers of traditional Fado in the Barrio Alto at Tasca do Chico, and indulge in vinho verde and port to your heart’s content.
Take advantage of the lovely weather and rent bikes and head out to Belem for the famous Pasteis de Belem and take in the views of Belem Tower with a glass of wine. Lisbon is a city made for exploring during the winter and you won’t be disappointed while wandering up and down the picture perfect streets.
I think since watching “Love Actually” everyone wants to experience the holidays in London and why not? London more than makes up for its dour weather with cheery pubs, hidden speakeasies, a fabulous international food scene and their wealth of history and culture. London has everything you want out of an international city and you won’t walk away disappointed. The sun may set at 4pm but as the pubs start to fill up then and London nightlife gears up you won’t even miss the sunshine, unless you have an issue waking up before noon… (or 2pm….)
London is even more accessible in the winter because of the lower flight prices now available thanks to Norwegian. Seriously, if you need a winter getaway in the next couple of months check out the flight prices on skyscanner!
So these are our top seven winter destinations in Europe!
As you can tell we try to avoid the cold so we didn’t cover too many cold weather European destinations but we feel that these seven European cities are perfect places to escape the cold and soak in amazing culture and cuisines in the offseason! Offseason doesn’t have to be a bad thing and we think that when it comes to visiting Europe it is actually the ideal time to visit!
What do you guys think? Any European cities that we missed or should have included? What is your favorite winter destination?
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