Europe is a varied and culture-rich continent that has something to offer to travellers all year round. International visitors who want to avoid the crowds and heat of the summer season may choose to travel to Europe during the winter instead.
Some of the experiences tourists can expect to have in Europe during the winter include:
- Visiting some of the world’s best museums and art galleries
- Exploring historical cities and shopping in the most famous fashion boutiques
- Taking part in winter sports such as skiing and ice skating
This page includes travel advice for the most renowned European winter destinations.
Remember that if you’re a non-EU citizen, you will need a visa or travel authorization before entering Europe. However, the ETIAS program — expected to be implemented by 2021 — will make it quick and easy to get your travel documents in order.
Winter in Germany: nature, art, and Christmas markets
There is plenty to do in Germany during the winter months. Art lovers and party-goers alike will find Berlin an ideal destination. The German capital is a creativity hub, where you’ll be able to visit modern and contemporary art exhibitions and experience world-class music festivals and concerts.
Almost every German town has a traditional Christmas market during the winter period. These are filled with hand-made arts and crafts, artisanal products as well as delicious seasonal food and drink. An afternoon at the local Christmas market is likely to be both an enthralling and appetizing experience.
For nature lovers, however, the country boasts the picturesque Black Forest. This is if filled with scenic routes and treks as well as slopes and rinks for skiing and snowboarding.
Italy: Culture, food, and winter sports
Topping the global list for the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Italy is dense with art cities, romantic destinations, and fine dining. A winter holiday in Venice, Rome, or Florence will likely create memories that will last a lifetime.
No matter the Italian region, foreigners can expect to find tasty meals at local restaurants and trattorie. It’s, therefore, no surprise that Italian food is known internationally as one of the best cuisines in the world.
The Northern regions (like Valle d’Aosta, Trentino, and Piemonte) will also give winter sports aficionados the chance to ski on the slopes of the Italian Alps.
Visiting Hungary during the winter
Hungary has become one of the most popular destinations for a winter vacation in Europe. A stroll around the streets of the capital Budapest allows you to admire the finest examples of a variety of architectonic styles: from gothic to imperial, renaissance, and ottoman architecture, the historical buildings in Budapest amaze visitors at every corner.
The city is lit up with festive decorations around Christmas and tourists from other regions and abroad flock to the capital to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the public squares and picturesque local pubs. Since the Hungarian temperatures can become quite cold during the winter, tourists and locals alike often decide to warm up and relax in one of the famous Budapest spas and pubic baths.
Budapest is not the only reason why Hungary merits applying for an EU visa waiver. It’s also worth taking some time away from the capital to soak up the warm sun on Lake Balaton during the day and admiring the volcanic hills surrounding the town. Ice skating and ice fishing are also popular winter activities among locals.
Finally, a trip to Aggtelek National Park to visit the Aggtelek Karst cave is a must to get a sense of the Hungarian limestone landscape. These caves hide plenty of stalagmites and stalactites, offering a fun spectacle for the whole family.
Sweden: Beyond Stockholm
It’s hard to think of a more spectacular sight that the northern lights in Sweden. To maximize your chances to catch the natural phenomenon, make sure to include a trip to Swedish Lapland in your itinerary. The village of Abisko, for example, sits north of the Arctic Circle — the closer you are to the poles, the better the atmospheric conditions for the Aurora Borealis.
In the Lapland, you can also decide to take part in a local ‘winter safari’. Travellers can use this experience to spot common wildlife like moose, wolverines, wolves, brown bears, lynxes and musk oxen, and drive your own dog slide.
Of course, a trip to Sweden isn’t complete without a visit to its capital Stockholm. This charming city is known as ‘the Venice of the North’ for its canals. The municipality is made of 14 islands and over 30,000 more islands surround it in the Stockholm Archipelago.
In the Swedish capital, you will also be able to enjoy art galleries, a strong coffee culture, and safe and multicultural streets.
Europe has many sights to offer any intrepid tourist. However, before travelling, be sure to keep up to date with the latest development surrounding ETIAS for Canadian visitors to ensure you have the correct permission to travel.