Winter is a fabulous time to explore Europe, with snow-covered slopes in the higher altitudes, reliable winter sun in the south of the continent, and lots of romantic, festive markets to discover in the center. See below for some of the must-try winter experiences on offer in Europe.
Get in on Some Winter Sports
Europe is the birthplace of the winter vacation, with the concept taking off in the mid to late 19th century in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Today, the Swiss Alps remain one of the most popular skiing and snowboarding destinations in Europe, though there are almost endless resorts to choose from across Austria, France, and Italy. Further north in Finland and Norway, alternative snowy adventures, such as husky sledding and reindeer sleigh rides, await.
Celebrate the Holidays
Europe is enchanting during the holidays, with the central European nations especially well-known for their magical Christmas markets. Admire the glittering festive lights, sip mulled wine (glühwein), and enjoy the festive spirit at the Christmas markets in Munich, Prague, Budapest, or Vienna. If you’re yearning for an encounter with Father Christmas, head north to the Arctic Circle. Kids can meet the man himself at the Santa Claus Village at Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland.
See the Northern Lights
One of nature’s greatest spectacles, the northern lights are visible in the far northern reaches of Europe for much of winter. The further north you travel, the more likely you are to spot the aurora borealis. Northern lights hunting tours depart from Reykjavik in Iceland, Tromso in Norway, and from various parts of Finnish and Swedish Lapland, such as Levi, Rovaniemi, and Abisko.
Get Some Winter Sun
If you’re after a fix of winter sun in Europe, you’ll find several literal hot spots. The Canary Islands, which belong to Spain but actually sit just a few hundred miles off the North African coast, are your best bet for sunshine in winter. Boat tours, swimming, snorkeling, and hiking are all possible throughout winter on the islands of Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, and La Gomera.