13 destinations to visit in Europe for a snowy winter holiday

Dec 24, 2021

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Searching for a winter wonderland in Europe? Travellers in the market for snowy fun have endless types of European destinations to choose from, such as alpine ski slopes, snow-covered capital cities and charming villages that are picture-perfect beneath a layer of the white stuff.

It is worth noting that while there are still many places in this list that you can travel to, some of the included destinations are currently closed-off to British travellers — such as France and Germany, and Austria has also recently tightened restrictions to make booster jabs a mandatory requirement to enter. We have, however, kept them in this round-up as restrictions do have a habit of changing quickly at the moment, and there’s also no harm in dreaming big for when things do return to normality.

Swedish Lapland in winter. (Photo by Peter Unger/Getty)

From destinations as famous as the Alps to German castles, Slovenian lakes and quaint Nordic towns, here are some of the best spots in Europe to visit for a snowy winter holiday.

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1. Andorra

Andorra. (Photo by aleksle/Getty)

This principality perched in the Pyrenees between France and Spain is perfect for a snowy winter getaway — the nation sees over 70 days of snowfall each year. With snow lasting until around March, visitors can also dog sled, snowshoe, snowboard or even take a helicopter ride to cruise over the snowy peaks.

2. Hallstatt, Austria

Hallstatt, Austria in winter. (Photo by Sven Hansche / EyeEm / Getty)

No list of snowy getaways would be complete without one of Austria’s most magical towns, Hallstatt. Start by taking in the town’s powder-covered buildings, Hallstatt Lake and the towering snow-capped mountains beyond via the Hallstatt Skywalk. Reach the Skywalk by riding up the funicular or on foot — just be careful on the icy, slippery slopes.

3. Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy

View of the village of San Teodoro with Mount Etna in the background. (Photo by Blueplace/Getty)

Most ski buffs looking for an Italian winter getaway would head to the Dolomites or the Alps. But if you’re in search of a well-rounded winter holiday filled with delicious food, local wine, historic sites, sunshine and snow, Sicily is your spot, home to the snowy volcano Etna. Mount Etna has two ski resort areas, Nicolosi and Piano Provenzana, offering downhill and alpine slopes that are perfectly smooth thanks to the dried lava that sits beneath the snow.

4. Lake Annecy, France

Lake Annecy and mountainous backdrop. (Photo by fullempty/Getty)

Lake Annecy is backed by snow-topped mountains and hovering clouds each winter. With plenty of ski resorts and hiking trails for snowshoe treks nearby, visitors can partake in winter sports — even night sledding, too. But one of the best things to do in the winter in Lake Annecy is to simply stroll around the lake itself and admire the peaceful surroundings.

5. Bavaria, Germany

Bavaria, Germany. (Photo by Westend61/Getty)

Visitors should start in Munich to glide around the Ice Magic rink in Stachus Square. Many skiing areas are located just an hour or two away from the city, including Germany’s longest sled run in Wallberg. But one of the best attractions to enjoy beneath a layer of snow is the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle. Its snowcapped turrets rising from the pines are straight out of a fairy tale.

6. Iceland

An ice cave in Iceland. (Photo by Beerpixs/Getty)

While Iceland seems like a rather obvious choice for a winter trip, most travellers tend to head over during the summer months. Although days are short in winter, visitors can enjoy the Northern Lights, as well snowy activities like ice caving, visiting ice waterfalls and glaciers, snowmobiling, winter hiking, skiing, whale watching and more. True adventurists can even go heliskiing, where you arrive at the slopes via helicopter.

7. Joux Lake, Switzerland

Ice skating. (Photo by 100zax/Getty)

Switzerland has endless destinations optimal for a winter holiday, but Lake Joux is the spot to go for anyone hoping to ice skate on natural ice. In fact, the lake is one of the largest outdoor ice rinks in Europe that offers free skating. Visitors can bring their own skates or rent them in Le Pont. Nearby, travellers can enjoy cross country skiing in the Vallée de Joux and Risoud Forest or downhill skiing in the Jura Mountains.

8. Edinburgh, Scotland

A winter’s morning on Calton Hill. (Photo by bluefinart/Getty)

One of the most impressive European cityscapes in winter is the Edinburgh castle covered in snow. It’s best viewed from the hilltop Holyrood Park or UNESCO World Heritage Site Carlton Hill. Strolling the Scottish hub’s Royal Botanic Garden under a layer of powder makes for many picturesque photo opportunities.

9. Rovaniemi, Finland

Rovaniemi, Finland. (Photo by Tesa Kaban / EyeEm /Getty)

Most tourists visit Rovaniemi, the home of Santa Claus, before Christmas for obvious reasons. But visiting afterwards is the way to go — fewer tourists, lower prices, more daylight, and yes — more snow — there’s higher snowfall in January than December. And Santa Claus Village is open every day, year-round, so those wanting to enjoy the Christmas spirit in January, February, March or even July can do so.

10. Prague, Czech Republic

Prague in the snow. (Photo by borchee/Getty)

Prague feels decidedly romantic in winter. Couples can share a warming cup of mulled wine while admiring the Vltava River from the St. Charles Bridge, wander the Prague Castle, often bathed in a layer of snow and stroll the city streets with fewer tourists. Various ice rinks around the city are open, and you can see the city from up above by climbing the Old Town Hall Tower.

11. Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Lake Bohinj, Slovenia. (Photo by Vanesa Ruiz Iniesta/Getty)

If you’re in search of a winter getaway on a budget, Lake Bohinj is the spot. With affordable ski slopes nearby, visitors can enjoy the tranquillity of the lake during winter and ski through the Julian Alps without breaking the bank. In fact, a one-day ski pass at the nearby Vogel Ski Center is just €35. Snowshoe hikes also make up part of the winter fun, and travellers should plan to see the stunning Savica Waterfall surrounded by snow and ice.

12. Swedish Lapland, Sweden

A cottage in the Swedish Lapland. (Photo by Fredrik Sundvall/Getty)

Take in the Northern Lights, spot reindeer and moose, sleep in an ice hotel, dog sled, snowmobile and more in the Swedish Lapland, Sweden’s northern arctic region. Visitors can learn more about the indigenous Sami culture and its connection to reindeer. Those wanting to view the Northern Lights should visit the Aurora Sky Station, one of the most famous places in the Arctic Circle to enjoy the colourful magic.

13. Zakopane, Poland

Zakopane, Poland. (Photo by ewg3D/Getty)

This Polish town sits at the base of the Tatra Mountains. Budding (or seasoned) photographers take note:  Zakopane’s alpine wooden chalets are usually covered by a layer of snow for most of the winter months, making the town a prime location for picturesque winter shots. And the nearby mountains are at their best for skiing and snowboarding in January and February.

Bottom line

Prague in winter. (Photo by Kirill Rudenko/Getty)

Whether you love to ski or prefer to sip hot chocolate and admire a snowscape from your window, there are so many idyllic European destinations for a snowy holiday. The places on this list are ideal for travel after the busy Christmas season, meaning travellers will have something to look forward to as winter rolls into the new year.

(Featured image of Bavaria, Germany by fhm/Getty)

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