Best Winter Vacations in Europe
Just about every European city becomes chock full of tourists during the summer months. However, those crowds are avoidable if you're willing to embrace cooler temperatures. Not only will you run into fewer travelers during this time you're also likely to score travel deals, especially on cruises. To guide you through the continent's wintry choices, U.S. News combined reader votes and expert analysis to rank the best winter vacations in Europe. Start planning your next trip using these ideas, and help us decide next year's list by voting for your favorite destinations.
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A winter visit to Rome may have you bundling up to see iconic sights like the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain, but you'll have ample opportunities to warm up, too. Head indoors to admire Michelangelo's famous Sistine Chapel before sampling some of the city's world-renowned pizza and wine. Prices for accommodations drop dramatically, and deals on Italian products are abundant during the offseason.
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The charms of Paris are alive and well in winter. Warm up while sipping coffee in romantic cafes, and spend time visiting heated indoor museums like the Musée du Louvre, the Musée Rodin and the Musée d'Orsay while the crowds are away. If you don’t mind the cold, walk down the Champs-Elysées at Christmastime and enjoy the illuminated trees that line the boulevard.
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Winters in Amsterdam can be chilly, but those willing to endure the cold will enjoy significantly discounted hotel rooms and flights. Most of Amsterdam's attractions are open year-round, and, during the winter months, the city offers holiday festivities and many places to ice skate. What's more, the Amsterdam Light Festival is a bright display of international artwork from November to mid-January.
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Budapest gets pretty cold in winter and snowfall is frequent. But, you can snag inexpensive hotel stays and plan your trip around indoor activities like the Hungarian National Gallery. Christmas markets also offer delicious food and unique treasures to buy as gifts. If you're feeling adventurous, warm up with a dip in the city's outdoor thermal baths.
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Although you'll still find some visitors in Venice during winter, you can expect airfare and hotel rates to be cheaper. Crowds in St. Mark's Square will also thin out as a mist falls over the island, providing stunning photo-ops for those willing to endure temperatures in the high 30s. If you visit in February or March, you'll witness the exciting festivities of Carnevale.
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Prague's castles and underground restaurants are perfect spots to seek refuge from the city's winter weather and enjoy a Czech beer. Travelers will also encounter fewer crowds at the city's museums, which are open year-round. For those willing to brave the cold, there are festive options like Prague's beloved Christmas markets and outdoor ice skating rinks.
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If you like the idea of beautiful castles, cathedrals and other Baroque buildings covered in snow, one look at Salzburg, Austria, might be enough to lure you in. Add in Christmas bazaars in the town square and easy access to some of the finest ski areas in the Alps nearby, and you'll be sold on vacationing in this charming city during the winter.
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Vienna welcomes winter with advent markets, public ice skating rinks and plenty of lavish parties. Add wintry touches like snow-covered rooftops and nearby ski slopes into the mix and you'll find yourself in a European winter wonderland. Classical music concerts in extravagant music halls and a world-famous New Year's celebration are marquee events unique to this city.
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The Austrian Alps peek through the skyline of this charming city, home to the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics. Innsbruck, with its abundance of ski resorts and winter attractions, offers all-inclusive packages through the region's ski organization, Olympia SkiWorld Innsbruck. For less sporty travelers, the medieval streets with snow-capped rooftops, tolling cathedral bells and romantic coffee shops are perfect for strolling.
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Lucerne#10 in Best Winter Vacations in Europe
Set in the shadow of the Swiss Alps and nestled next to Lake Lucerne, this German-speaking town is about as picturesque as it gets in the winter. Visitors can enjoy sports like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and winter hiking at a number of resorts and trails that surround the medieval town. Or, journey to the summit of Mount Pilatus for an unforgettable meal in the clouds.
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