The Best Winter City Breaks in Europe: 14 Favourites

Revolut Contributor

 · 03/10/2020  · 03/10/2020

The very best winter city breaks in Europe all have a few things in common:

  • The streets are a little quieter.
  • The prices, a little cheaper.
  • And they offer a much-needed escape from those post-Christmas, New Year blues.

Plus, you get to make your friends foam with FOMO. While they’re clocking-in for work, you’re escaping blustery Blighty and checking-in somewhere special. But where should you go?

To help you decide, here are 14 of our favourite destinations for the best winter city breaks in Europe.

1. Vienna, Austria

Vienna is wonderful no matter the weather — but in the winter, it transforms into a veritable wonderland. There’s stunning, snow-dusted Baroque architecture at every turn, while the rich hot chocolate and decadent slices of Wiener Apfelstrudel (Viennese apple strudel) warm you from the inside out.

This infinitely Instagrammable city is a joy to explore, and its lively music scene offers an atmospheric escape from the cold evenings. Check out Porgy & Bess for a night of jazz you won’t soon forget.

2. Dublin, Ireland

If you fancy a cheap weekend break then Dublin could be just the ticket. Less than two hours from most UK airports, Ireland’s capital is a warm and welcoming destination — even when there’s a chill in the air.  Compact and walkable, you can wrap up and wander to your heart’s content, exploring the likes of Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, trendy Temple Bar, and Phoenix Park.

And when evening rolls around, you can get nice and toasty next to a roaring open fire (glass of Irish whiskey in hand) in one of the city’s many traditional pubs.

3. Tallinn, Estonia

Charming Tallinn sits on the Baltic Sea, meaning temperatures can dip below freezing between December and February. But if you don’t mind a few extra layers, this beautiful UNESCO-protected capital city is well worth the visit.

Trek Toompea hill to visit the castle and, once you’ve caught your breath, have it taken away again by the incredible views over the snow-covered medieval city centre.

4. Bruges, Belgium

Speaking of medieval cities, Bruges is easily Europe’s best-preserved. The jaw-dropping architecture, twisty cobblestone streets and twinkly light displays make this one of the continent’s best winter weekend breaks by far.

The Belfry Tower is a must-see, even if Colin Farrell disagrees, and a trip along the canal is easily the best way to sightsee. And when your stomach starts rumbling, there’s the popular Ribs ‘n Beer — no guesses as to what they serve!

5. Reykjavik, Iceland

If you’re looking to swap cold and wet Britain for a proper winter break in Europe, then Reykjavik should be high on your list. Iceland’s cosmopolitan capital city takes the chilliest season in its stride. Popping with colour and abuzz with activity, you’re bound to find something to do no matter your interests.

Browse the cool and quirky shops in Laugavegur, unwind in the many book stores and galleries, and dive headfirst into a creative food scene, where seafood reigns supreme.

6. Budapest, Hungary

Like many of the cities built on the Danube, there’s no bad time of year to visit Budapest. But there’s something magical about Hungary’s capital in the wintertime. Great ice drifts float along the river, while the Országház (Hungarian Parliament) is lit up in all its neo-Gothic glory against the dark night’s sky.

And if the nip in the air is too much, you can always retire to the Szechenyi Baths, the biggest and most popular of all the thermal baths in the city. Soak in the warm spring waters and feel your worries melt away.

7. Amsterdam, Netherlands

It’s easy to overlook Amsterdam as merely a stag and hen-do destination. But once you scratch the surface, you’ll realise there’s a lot more to this historic city than first meets the eye. Just a short flight or train journey from the UK, Europe’s most relaxed capital is awash with culture.

Visit the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum for a dose of world-class art, or stroll around the picturesque leafy streets and winding canals, stopping to indulge in the burgeoning cafe scene.

8. Brno, Czechia

If you’re planning on a winter break to the Czech Republic, skip Prague and head south. There you’ll find the beautiful city of Brno. By day, you’ll be rushed off your feet, taking in the art, history and UNESCO heritage sites — you can even venture underground, if you’re feeling brave. And by night, you’ll have your pick of some of the trendiest bars around to sample the local beers and Moravian wines. Definitely one of the best winter city breaks.

9. Copenhagen, Denmark

You’ve probably heard of hygge, the Danish concept of “cosiness”. So, what better way to spend a few wintery days than in its birthplace: Copenhagen. From the warm and inviting pastry shops to the 16 (count them) Michelin-starred restaurants, there’s plenty to keep you cosy indoors. And if you want to stretch your legs, Tivoli Gardens shines bright as part of the Copenhagen Light Festival.

10. Tenerife, Spain

“But what if we want some winter sunshine!?” we hear you cry. Well, with temperatures hovering around the  20°C mark in winter, Tenerife is the ideal place to escape the cold.

For culture vultures and sun-worshippers alike, Spain’s largest Canary Island ticks a lot of boxes. There’s the port city of Santa Cruz with its charming old town and fascinating museums, while the beaches are far less busy than during the summer. Take a book, pack your sunglasses, and forget about the wind and rain.

11. Sofia, Bulgaria

Although gradually increasing in popularity, you can still consider Sofia something of a hidden gem when it comes to the best city breaks in December. With the largest open-air ice rink in the Balkans and a bustling, traditional Christmas Market, Bulgaria’s capital city is just the place to get into the festive spirit.

The Byzantine-era architecture rests under a blanket of snow, while the many museums, cafes and restaurants offer respite from the cold. And if you love your winter sports, you’re in luck: Sofia’s 2,290 metres high Mount Vitosha is within the city limits and offers skiing and snowboarding.

12. Ljubljana, Slovenia

If you want to avoid the bleak British winter AND the hustle and bustle of traffic, then there’s only one place for it: Ljubljana. The Slovenian capital has banned vehicles from its historic centre, making for an altogether more pleasant and serene experience.

Browse the Central Market and sample some locally sourced and produced delicacies, before escaping the cold at the Gostilna Na gradu — a restaurant serving traditional Slovenian dishes, all prepared using novel culinary methods.

13. Bergen, Norway

If you were to ask Walt Disney to draw a magical winter fishing village, it would probably look a lot like Bergen. This Norwegian city shines during its Festival of Lights, and the colourful theme continues throughout winter, as row upon row of bright and wonderful cafes, shops and galleries leap from the snowy backdrop.

And for something extra special, make sure you’re around for Pepperkakebyen (The Gingerbread Town). The largest of its kind in the world, half of Bergen’s citizens contribute their own gingerbread buildings to this incredible, tasty town. It has to be seen to be believed.

14. Lisbon, Portugal

Perched on the edge of western Europe, Lisbon hits highs of around 15°C during wintertime. It’s not exactly scorching, but this milder weather is a welcome break from the 2-4°C we get at home.

However, you shouldn’t choose a trip to Portugal’s capital on the weather alone. It more than holds its own as a cultured and fascinating city, and it’s ripe for exploring. Start your day with a shot of Ginja, a warm, sweet cherry liqueur, before taking in the markets, museums, and monuments. And as the night draws in, check out the narrow streets and vibrant haunts of Bairro Alto.

Wherever you go, we’re with you

Your next winter city break should be all about care-free exploration. It’s not a time for worrying about transaction fees or insurance.

That’s why we let you spend abroad in over 150 currencies with the interbank exchange rate; give you £200 a month in international ATM withdrawals, and offer travel medical insurance from as little as £1.00 per day.

So, no matter where you end up this winter, you can travel with ease with Revolut.