Are you looking for a great Winter city break? In this guide we round up the best winter city breaks Europe has on offer where you can find the best Christmas markets, festivities and overall awesomeness whatever winter month you are visiting in (not just December).
Why Amsterdam is one of the best Winter City breaks Has on offer
In my opinion if you are looking for a great Winter city break then look no further than Amsterdam. Amsterdam is my home city and I think Winter is one of the best times to visit the city. Yes Spring has the tulips and summer has the glorious weather perfect for cruising the canals but they also both have crowds of tourists. If you come to Amsterdam in Winter you will be rewarded with a much quieter city that is much easier to enjoy in the absence of throngs of tourists. It is much easier to get tickets to the Anne Frank house and easier to get up close to Rijsmuseum highlights like the Nights watchmen during Winter too.
And it is not only the lack of crowds that makes Amsterdam one of the best Winter city breaks Europe has on offer, it also has a wealth of festivities especially if you are doing your Winter city break in the run up to Christmas. Amsterdam does have a Christmas Market, and it is a great christmas market for kids but for adults does not compare to the extensive markets in Strasbourg and Heidelberg. However it is the other festivals and events that run alongside the Christmas Market that makes Amsterdam special as one of the best European city breaks to take in Winter. From the 28th November – 19th January 2020 is the Amsterdam Festival of Lights. The streets and and canals will be lit up beautifully and will have adults, kids and toddlers in Amsterdam mesmerised. For me it is one of the best times of year to cruise the canals.
Hotel Suggestion: Marriott Amsterdam
For more information on best places to travel in Europe in December with family check out this post.
Why Rome is a great European Winter City Break
Again for me like Amsterdam is a city that is much better to visit in Winter than in Summer. One because of the crowds in summer but more importantly because of the oppressive heat Rome gets during the summer months. In Winter you will find Rome pretty deserted of tourists and if travelling to Rome in December you will find the city full of festitivites. My favourite thing about visiting Rome in the Winter is to listen to carollers in all of the beautiful piazzas which are a must for any Rome bucket list.
Although not a city full of Christmas markets I think the lack of crowds, beautiful decorations and history make Rome the perfect European Winter City Break.
Hotel Suggestion: Westin Excelsior
Why London is a perfect Winter City Break in Europe
My other home town and a great one to visit in Winter. London knows how to do Winter. While London is never devoid of tourists it is certainly quieter in Winter than in other seasons. In the run up to Christmas London because a winter wonderland with Christmas spread across the city with some of my favourites being along the Southbank, Greenwich and of course the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland.
Ice rinks pop up all over the city, my personal favourite is the rink in front of the Natural History Museum and for me Christmas in London is not complete without a visit to this ice rink. And there are many festive activities that should be on your London Bucket List such as watching a traditional London Pantomime such as the one famously held at Wimbledon Theatre, seeing a carol service at St Martin in the Fields or joining in the annual Peter Pan Race in Hyde Park.
London really is the perfect winter city break in Europe.
Hotel Suggestion: Premier Inn County Hall
Why you should visit Stockholm in Winter
Stockholm was the first Winter city break we went on with our little girl and it did not disappoint. Again, not a city that has large expanses of Christmas markets but enough to satisfy. There is a Christmas market in the historic centre of Gamla Stad but my favourite is at the living history museum Skansen. Here you can see what traditional life in Sweden was like and walk into the reconstructed buildings and tour the Nordic zoo. The market here is stocked full of food and drink but also local artisanal crafts which makes it perfect for Christmas gift buying. If you can time your visit for mid December you will be able to celebrate the Scandinavian festival of St Lucia.
But even if you aren’t visiting Stockholm in December Winter is still a great time to visit. I have visited Stockholm in Summer and it was so busy as several Baltic cruises were docked in the city making it exceptionally busy. I also love the early dark nights and cold weather as it is visiting Sweden as I always imagined. The dark Winter days are the perfect time to partake in the Swedish tradition of fika (coffee breaks) while seeing some of Stockholm’s best attractions without the crowds.
Hotel Suggestion: Sheraton Stockholm
Visiting Budapest in Winter
Budapest is a great city to visit in Winter especially if you are in to Christmas Markets as Budapest is often voted in the best European Christmas markets list and actually have some of the most affordable markets on the continent. But there are lots of activities that make Budapest an attraction Winter destination on top of the markets.
One of the best things to do in Budapest is to visit the city’s thermal baths which are the perfect tonic to the cold winter weather in Budapest. The outdoor ones such as the one at Széchenyi are perhaps some of the most impressive and a great way to feel the temperature difference between the baths and the winter air. But there are indoor ones for those that don’t fancy getting out straight into the cold air.
Like Stockholm, Budapest also has a great coffee scene which is another great winter time activity in the city.
Also if you want to see snow during your European city break Budapest might be the best solution for you.
Visiting the Strasbourg Christmas Markets
If are a key competent of your European Winter City break is visiting Christmas Markets then you might want to consider visiting Strasbourg. The Strasbourg Christmas markets are always in and often top the best Christmas markets in Europe list! Strasbourg is also the oldest Christmas market in Europe being first held in 1570. There are actually eleven markets spread across the city of Strasbourg for Christmas markets lovers to partake in.
Visiting York in Winter
York is my favourite city in the UK and in my opinion a weekend in York is the perfect city break whatever the city. During the run up to Christmas the city is filled with special events such as a Christmas market and special illuminations int he York Museum Gardens. However my favourite time to visit York in Winter is actually to go in February. In February York has a huge ice sculpture festival which is a sight to behold on the old streets of the city. I particularly love walking the Shambles in Winter – the historic shopping street in the centre of the city which remains largely unchanged architecturally since the Medieval times.
Family Friendly Hotel: Premier Inn York
What is your favourite winter break in Europe?