Autumn and Winter are on the horizon in the Northern Hemisphere. In most popular areas in Europe, the summer crowds will start to leave for home, and the locals will be getting ready for the winter cold. September to November brings a travel season known as ‘Shoulder Season’. It’s a combination of peak season and off-season travel that is perfect for travelers to experience milder weather in most of Europe.
Full-blown winter in Europe arrives in December and lasts until mid-March. Yes, in most of Europe winter is really cold, and you will find Jack Frost nipping at your nose! But winter in Europe is a celebration that greets you with the warmth of festive cheer. Imagine snow-covered rooftops, Christmas markets and cities decorated with a colorful display of lights. You are let in on the secrets of the European lifestyle without the rush and heat of summer that might steal from the experience.
If you’ve never considered a trip to Europe in winter, here are some of the top reasons why we are all for European winter getaways!
1. You can travel for less and get more for your buck.
Winter is the cheapest time to fly to Europe. Airfare prices drop after the silly season, and you get cheaper deals and better service at tourist centres, local restaurants and travel attractions.
2. You will have more of Europe to yourself.
Winter and autumn time in Europe means no summer crowds and, therefore, fewer queues. You can fit more into your itinerary every day and have a complete experience of each destination.
3. You get to see all of Europe (and not just the outside attractions).
Travelling in autumn and winter can include visits to museums, art galleries and places of worship. Unlike in the heat of summer, you would not mind being indoors.
4. You can find three seasons in one day.
There are 47 countries across the European continent spreading as far north as Norway and as far south as Greece. Prepare for any kind of weather from the most beautiful crisp sunny days to dark rainy cuddle weather . If you’re lucky you will experience a whole range of weather conditions in just one day.
5. If you are not much of a winter person, you can find summer in the midst of winter.
There are areas in Europe that have warmer weather all year round like Mediterranean Europe (Greece, Southern parts of France and Italy). The best time to go is in September to November, as it is not too hot. In Southern Spain, you can expect particularly balmy winters where you can still spend all your time on the beach to soak up some sun.
6. Or you can experience winter the European way!
If you are into cold winters and cuddle weather, travel to Great Britain, Ireland, Prague and Switzerland in deep winter where you are most likely to see snow. The real winter wonder world is to see cities dress up for winter, snow-covered rooftops and vibrant city streets at night. You can experience life in European cities – the way it really is.
7. You can pick and choose from exciting outdoor activities.
Travelling through Europe in winter means you get to do activities that you can’t do in summer. Ice-skating, sledding and skiing. Sports enthusiast can go skiing/sledding in the Swiss or French Alps . Bear in mind that Alpine regions in Europe like the Swiss Alps are in peak season during winter and you can find crowds and high prices even though the weather is miserable.
Ice-Skating. Europe is home to some of the best outdoor ice-skating rinks. When in London, Helsinki, Edinburgh or Budapest, throw on your beanie and skates for a fabulous ice-skating session. Travelling to Paris? Be sure to visit the Eiffel Tower ice rink that is 200ft in the air!
Wrap up and get up to some winter walking. Get fresh air in the Countryside in Scotland, France or Switzerland where the crisp air, freshly fallen snow and frozen lakes will make you want to melt. Cobbled streets in Belgium or any medieval European city will seduce you to stay outside even if the weather is miserable!
Grab your tripod and go take photos. There is also the mysterious effect of the low-slung sun that is perfect for photography enthusiasts.
8. Christmas Markets! Christmas Markets! Christmas Markets!
Christmas in Europe is not a day but a whole season. Towards the end of the year, European capitals have their city squares decked out in festive finery and European Christmas markets shoot up in almost every European city. On our Christmas tours, we visit beloved Christmas markets in Vienna, Munich, Nuremberg, Bruges & Berlin. Do some Christmas shopping, get your hands on real deal Glühwein and star-shaped donuts that are out of this world!
9. You can view major attractions with less heat-induced fatigue (and at a cheaper price)
The travel rush in summer can be a bit much in warmer regions like Italy, France and Greece, and you have to take extra care to plan carefully. In autumn and winter you can enjoy major attractions at your own pace (and actually get a good photo).
10. Culture Vultures can swoon.
In the European winter the cultural calendar swings into full action with late night exhibitions, heated indoor museums and busy schedules at opera houses and theaters.
11. The locals are in town.
Winter is the perfect season if you are out to meet people! The cafe & pub culture in Europe (especially in Great Britain and Ireland) is on fire over winter months and the locals are everywhere. Not only is it the best season to get cozy inside, but it’s also a rewarding experience and you can learn more about the history and culture – each pub or cafe has a story to tell!
12. You can ring in the new year in a different country.
What is better than festival food, fireworks and counting down in some foreign language? European capital cities like Rome, Dublin, Barcelona or Florence celebrate New Years like there really is no tomorrow. Millions of locals gather around major attractions like the Eiffel Tower in France, the Piazza in Florence, or Oosterdok in Amsterdam.
One of the most popular places to celebrate New years is in Scotland. The Scottish New Year’s Eve celebrations are called Hogmanay and was originally established by the Vikings. Edinburgh hosts the biggest party of all the Scottish cities an people come from literally all over the world come together to experience the interesting Scottish traditions, huge firework displays and music performances. The Great Britain New Year tour will take you to Edinburgh on New Years’ eve.
13. Food! Glorious Food!
Winter time in Europe is time to eat, drink and get cozy. Europe is the perfect place for winter warmers that are meant for the freezing winter months. Top winter treats not too miss are Belgian Waffles and Belgian hot chocolate, steaming Italian pasta and Swiss Fondue!
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Winter Packing Tips for Europe:
Should you consider visiting Europe in the winter? The answer is a resounding YES! Travelling to Europe ‘out of season’ makes absolute sense, especially if you are looking for a digital detox or just fully experience the nuances of Europe in winter. Read more about our tours to Europe on this page and if you have any questions feel free to pop them in the comment section below!