We love winter! Every year when summer is gone, we start fantasising about snow. Usually it doesn’t go much further than fantasising as we rarely get good, cold winters in the Netherlands anymore, but we can dream right? Instead, we’ll start looking for book a winter trip to someplace nice and cold, like Iceland last year. This year things are a bit different, but we can still be inspired for next year!
We put together a small list of our most favorite, European bucketlist winter destinations, let us know yours in the comments!
How do thick inches of snow, the Northern lights, reindeer and wood fires sound to you? Lapland is not just the place where Santa lives! Lapland is the northern part of Finland, where the first snow falls as early as October and the temperatures drop to -20 (-4F). Winter can last as long as 7 months, but it will guarantee you snow and a wild array of winter activities to choose from.
Here is your chance to spot the Northern lights, drive a reindeer or dog sled and go ice fishing. For the ultimate romantic night, you can book a night in a glass igloo and watch the stars. Lapland truly is unique and should definitely be an experience.
Connecting through Helsinki to Rovaniemi is easy, and a lot of organised tours will leave from here. If you’re traveling further up north, we’d recommend finding an agent to help you plan. Check Get Your Guide for options.
Utrecht, the Netherlands
You may have considered visiting Amsterdam, but the Netherlands has more to offer than our capital city!. Just half an hour from Amsterdam you will find Utrecht, one of the largest cities in the country. It is often overlooked, even though Lonely Planet named it an ‘unsung place’ in 2012. Utrecht is a student city, and with that comes the livelihood of a great nightlife and cosy bars with reasonable prices.
Like Amsterdam, it has a historic city centre as well as canals. The difference is that the canals in Utrecht are below street level and in a lot of places, have terraces on the wharf and in the wharf cellars. The canals are lined with trees and following them around the city centre, you’re bound to bump into a church or two.
Utrecht is great for vintage shopping, having drinks in a cute wine bar or just wandering the city. It’s much less busy than Amsterdam, and feels less ‘touristy’ with a more laidback vibe.
There is just so much to do and see in this Eastern European city! Old and lavishly decorated buildings on every street, city squares with food markets, castles, museums and a lot of history. You can visit the jewish ghetto and Oskar Schindler’s factory, eat pierogi’s in the street or find a wodka bar for an evening of tasting. We recommend Wodka Bar Kraków!
Visit the Wawel Castle on top of the hill with beautiful views, don’t skip the jewish cemetery in the ghetto and for a night out, check out Tytano area. These are old cigarette factories that have been transformed into cafe’s, restaurants and clubs and have a very cool industrial vibe.
Kraków is easy to fly to, and hotels and the overall city are cheap!
Bruges is known as the most beautiful city in Belgium and we’d have to agree. Stunning old churches, pretty canals, cozy cafe’s and historic buildings everywhere. It’s listed as a UNESCO site, and it’s easy to see why, but Bruges is more than its pretty squares and buildings.
If you’re a chocolate fan, Bruges is a must visit! There are more than 50 local chocolatiers here and you’ll regret not taking any home. Lovers of beer will have found their walhalla, Belgian beer is some of the best around. Visit a local brewery and drop by the Beerwall, where they have 1200 beers on display.
Take a romantic picture at the famous Rozenhoedkaai and enjoy a candlelight dinner in one of Bruges’ many excellent restaurants. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, Bruges should definitely be on your winter bucketlist.
While Stockholm doesn’t feel it, it is actually the largest city in Scandinavia. Stockholm is made up of 14 islands, and a variety of neighborhoods, all offering a different experience. For the old historic centre, head to the cobbled streets of Gamla Stan and visit the Royal Palace and the Parliament building.
Södermalm is the place to be for designer shopping and hipster bars and restaurants, Östermalm for a little more low key shopping and going out. Visit the Vasa (maritime) museum on Djurgården island and the Östermalm food market hall will surely keep you busy for a while.
We found Stockholm especially pretty in winter. Views over snowy neighborhoods, warm Kanelbullar, (cinnamon buns) and the city is very walkable!
Pointing out a single town in Austria doesn’t do it justice, the entire country is a winter wonderland (I mean, look at it!). Whether you spend some time in Vienna with its majestic palaces, the Spanish Riding school or enjoy the opera or stay in any of the mountain villages, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself.
Hallstatt might be the most famous Austrian town, but check out Zell am See, Salzburg and St. Wolfgang im Salzkammergut as well. Even if you don’t ski (one can always après-ski) you will enjoy the mountains, the fresh air and Austrian hospitality.
Did you know Austria is super easy to travel to? You can fly or take a train from quite a few places in Europe, and Austria itself is well connected by trains.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and it’s another one on the UNESCO Heritage list. Colorful buildings dominate the riverbanks of the Moldau and breathe grandeur. Prague is a fine combination of a history, hipster and cultural blend. It’s also a very compact city, which makes getting around on foot super easy.
Visit the famous Charles Bridge (but do it before 7am), wander the streets of Old Town, drink plenty of beer and especially in winter, spend some time on the city square with its large Christmas market. And, not unimportant, eat your heart out with pickled sausages, goulash and buchty (sweet buns).
Our absolute favourite winter destination. Certainly not the cheapest on the list, but it makes up for it. Reykjavík, with its colorful houses always makes us happy. Spend some time exploring the city, take a drive along the Golden Circle or if you have some time to explore further, you’ll find spectacular scenery.
Iceland is another opportunity to spot the Northern Lights, even in Reykjavík. If you’re lucky, you might even spot them from the Blue Lagoon!
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