Amazing things to do in Europe in winter
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Don’t let shorter days and duller skies put you off making the most of the winter months. There’s plenty of amazing things to do in Europe in winter. From family breaks and weekend getaways to festive events close to home, here’s inspiration for wintery adventures all within a few hours of the UK or your own front door.
Winter activities in Europe
Now is the time to embrace the cold weather and take your kids on an activity holiday in the snow. We’re spoilt for choice for ski resorts in Europe with so many within two hours flying time from London. Even with young children there’s plenty to do on and off the slopes including tobogganing, exploring ice caves and ice skating. Many resorts also offer excellent childcare so children can make friends, build snowmen and go to ski school while you tackle trickier slopes.
Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France are all great destinations for family ski holidays in Europe.
European Christmas markets
High on my winter holiday bucket list is a trip to a European Christmas market. There are some wonderful markets in the UK with log cabins selling unique, handmade gifts, pretzels and gluhwein. The Christmas Market at Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire is one of our favourites. But to experience this atmosphere in the cobbled streets of Cologne or Wenceslas Square in Prague would be epic.
Best Christmas days out in the UK
One of our favourite things to do in winter is take advantage of the festive-themed days out in the UK. Across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales there are so many special events happening to put you in the Christmas spirit. Whether you want to walk through Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, take a cruise with Santa in Dorset or see illuminations in York use my UK Christmas days out post to plan where to take the kids next December.
Best cities in Europe for winter breaks
Get to know some of Europe’s top city break destinations outside of the busy summer season and benefit from smaller crowds plus more festivities. Here are cities in Europe that we love and think would make great places to see in winter:
In March 2018 I spent a long weekend in Tuscany and can recommend visiting Florence and Siena in Italy out of season. Flights from the UK to Pisa Airport are cheaper at this time of year and the weather is usually mild.
We were unlucky to visit during an unseasonably wet March but the crowds were definitely smaller than during my previous visit to Florence with the girls and Mr Tin Box in June 2016. It’s still important to book entry to gain entry to the main tourist attractions – like the Uffizi and Duomo in Florence – to avoid queuing.
The girls and I spent a day in Lisbon in the summer. It’s a European destination that’s been on my bucket list for some time. While it was wonderful to experience it for a day as part of our Royal Caribbean cruise, I’m now longing to return to see more. And after following the Travelynn Family’s recent winter city break in Lisbon I’d definitely consider going at this time of year.
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I’m a huge fan of Barcelona and the surrounding Catalan countryside. In the past few years I have visited just before the summer season on two occasions. Apart from being a wonderful cultural and sightseeing experience, it was busy and hot – not ideal for exploring with young children.
Winter and Christmas in particular sound like excellent times to go to Barcelona as the city comes alive with markets and quirky Catalan traditions. I’m sure my girls would be delighted by all the ‘poo’ themed festivities, like the Tió de Nadal Christmas log, which plays the role of Father Christmas, and the El Caganer figure having a poo in nativity scenes – I kid you not! Take a look at this.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is a city I visited before kids and I think winter would be a wonderful time to return as a family. Seeing the gothic architecture white with snow and strolling around the Christmas market in the Old Town Square would be magical. The least expensive months for hotels in Prague* are January to March. You’ll also benefit from cheaper flights at this time of year.
UK city breaks with kids
If saving for flights in the run up to Christmas is a no-no you don’t have to dismiss the idea of a winter city break. There are some fantastic UK destinations for winter travel too. Edinburgh is a great city to visit with wonderful Christmas lights and markets. And who wouldn’t want to celebrate Hogmanay there?!
We can also recommend spending time in Portsmouth in weeks before Christmas. The Historic Dockyard puts on a wonderful Victorian Christmas Festival at the end of November/start of December each year.
Find out the other places we suggest for UK city breaks with kids whatever the season.
Where to see the Northern Lights
Lapland in Norway is the definitive place to see Northern Lights in Europe. However, aurora activity is unpredictable and winter tends to be the cloudiest time of year. The lights evaded Mr Tin Box on his most recent trip to northern Europe, which included 24 hours in Iceland. So maybe combine your hunt to see the northern lights with a family cruise in the Norwegian Fjords or a trip to meet the real Father Christmas. I know my girls would love these experiences and if we got to see the lights too then we’d all be winning.
Where to find winter sun in Europe
In you went to avoid the cold weather all together then why not head to the Canary Islands. Tenerife is an ideal location for winter sun in Europe and can experience temperatures of 17 ºC while Northern Europe is knee deep in snow.
Other winter sun destinations in Europe include Portugal, Cyprus and Sicily, where you can enjoy seeing the sights of Palermo without the crowds and ski on Mount Etna if the urge for snow gets the better of you.
Have you travelled in Europe in winter? What places are must see or where would you recommend for a Christmas city break?
Disclosure: This post may contain compensated links. Pictures sourced from Pixabay and Shutterstock. This post also contains affiliate links marked with *. If you click on one of these links and make a purchase I may make some commission. This does not affect the price you pay.
Planning a winter adventure? Why not pin this post about things to do in Europe in winter: