4 Most Beautiful Luberon Villages to Visit in 2024

The hilltop villages of Provence are legendary: cobbled streets, colorfully-painted doors and window shutters, plants growing in a tangle of vines all throughout the village.

But the Provence region is massive: when you talk about Provence, you’re talking about the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France, which could mean anything from Marseille to Cannes to Aix-en-Provence to Avignon.

Though really, when you think of Provence, you probably think of a particular landscape: hilly with sprawling lavender fields and sunflower fields, interspersed with tiny villages with narrow streets and cafés spilling out the sidewalks.

Allison Green in a lavender field in Provence
Lavender fields in the Luberon <3

And there’s nowhere in France better to find that than in the Luberon region of France!

The villages of the Luberon Valley are spectacular: there’s a reason the writer Peter Mayle found himself so enraptured with this region that he settled down in Ménerbes and wrote A Year in Provence, a memoir of his first year living there.

Here, we’ll go into my favorite Luberon villages and also where to stay in each!


Allison Green enjoying the views in Gordes in Provence
Visiting Gordes on my first trip to Provence

Quintessentially Provençal, the hilltop town of Gordes deserves its laurels as one of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France — an association of France’s most beautiful villages.

In this charming town, a labyrinth of cobbled lanes weave their way up to the top of the hill, where Le Château de Gordes — first completed in 1031 — towers above the town.

Below the castle and under the feet of the tourist crowds of Gordes, the Caves of Palais Saint Firmin offer an intriguing peek into the town’s history, with its subterranean world of ancient cellars and olive presses.

Another Gordes landmark, the L’Eglise Saint Firmin is absolutely worth seeing while in town. Constructed atop a 12th-century church and later refurbished in the 18th century, the church strikes an impressive balance of old and new.

Provence Villages - abbaye de senanque
The lovely Abbaye de Senanque in the summer

Just outside of town, the postcard-famous Abbey de Sénanque grows its lavender fields each year, tended to by the monks who still live there. A visit there is a must.

Tip: Gordes has its weekly market on Tuesday — that’s when this already-busy town becomes positively heaving with crowds, but it may be worth it to experience the Provencal experience of perusing fresh produce and finding special local products to bring home.


The town of Roussillon in the late afternoon sunlight
Late afternoon light in Roussillon’s center

So-named because of its rust-red ochre cliffs, Roussillon is another one of the most beautiful villages in Provence’s Luberon Valley.

Rousillon is a wonderful place to while away a few hours in the center, with its cheery, mustard yellow Church of St.-Michel and Place de la Mairie, the square where you’ll find the picturesque town hall.

Another cool part of the village to explore is Castrum, which is its old fortified center, demonstrating the old historical importance of this Provence village.

View of the Ochre cliffs of Rousillon
The stunning ochre cliffs of Roussillon

If you’re looking to incorporate a little hiking into your Provence trip, the Ochre Trail (Sentier des Ocres) is a beautiful place for a stroll along an orange, red, and white almost-otherworldly landscape. 

There are two ways you can walk the trail, one taking about 60 minutes and the other about 40 minutes… or you can take both, as they both loop to the same start and finish point.

It is a little crowded here as this is one of the most famous of the Luberon villages due to its panoramic views and unique rust-red landscape, but it’s still worth it to pop by for a visit.


Villages of Provence - Goult
The beautiful town of Goult

My personal favorite of the Luberon villages, Goult doesn’t have anything that these other villages don’t… but that’s part of why I like it.

Goult exudes a tranquility and serenity unmatched by its other Luberon villages. Despite its undeniable charm, the hordes of tourists you’ll encounter elsewhere in Provence aren’t as present here.

Goult remains delightfully immune to the influx of day-trippers and tour buses, a town built for its people rather than for tourism.

The town itself caters to all the needs you’d have as a local — a butcher, a boulangerie and patisserie, a greengrocer, an épicerie, and a charming bistro — making it a great place to stay on a self-catered Provence trip.

Goult Provence at sunset with stone houses and a light pink sky turning to night
Goult at sunset

The architectural beauty of Goult is breathtaking in its subtlety, with its limestone brick architecture punctuated with pops of color in its painted doors and window shutters.

If you’re looking to experience a market day, the Thursday market in Goult is perfect, as the town isn’t generally too busy, so the market is a little more sedate (this is a good thing).

The stalls burst with fragrant lavender sachets, soft cheeses, gauzy linens, and the ripest strawberries you’ll ever eat: all the hallmarks of a Provence summer.


Fountaine de Vaucluse - Villages in Provence
The town of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

Among all the charming villages dotting Provence, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse has perhaps the most beautiful natural scenery. Nestled on the banks of the Sorgue River, this town is home to the river’s source.

The water flows nonstop from the karst spring, the largest in France (and fifth largest in the world!).

Its depth is almost unfathomable (pardon the pun) — it was the subject of speculation amongst technical divers for decades.

The spring even brought the likes of the father of scuba diving himself, Jacques Cousteau, to investigate its depths, who maxed out at 243 feet without reaching the bottom.

Later attempts with divers using trimix reached a maximum depth of 673 feet — and still never reached the bottom. Finally, a robot settled the score when it reached the bottom at 1,010 feet. Sorry for the tangent — I’m a huge dive geek.

Allison Green enjoying the cold water of the Sorgue River
Allison in the River Sorgue in Provence

Moving on: the river it creates is simply beautiful, a pure kaleidoscope of all shades of green and blue possible.

The town built along the river is extremely charming, but gets rather busy with crowds of tourists and lots of boutiques catering to them.

To get away from it all, you can rent a kayak and explore the River Sorgue, even taking the kayak all the way down to L’Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue!

7 Things to Do in Peso da Régua, Portugal: A Lovely Alto Douro Town [2024]

Two bridges spanning the Douro River in the town of Peso da Regua, a charming winemaking town in the region of Douro valley

While all of the Douro Valley is picturesque and stunning, special recognition goes to the lovely town of Peso da Régua in the Alto Douro (‘high Douro’).

This lovely winemaking town is a key stop on any Douro Valley visit, whether you’re taking an extended road trip around the region or just popping over for a quick day trip from Porto.

I made a side trip to visit the charming town of Peso da Régua on one of my many trips to Porto and Northern Portugal, and I absolutely loved it! 

Despite its small size, there’s an outsized amount of things to do: its home to the main museum in the region, as well as several incredible quintas (wineries) and local tascas, or Portuguese restaurants.

In this short guide, I’ll share my favorite things to do in Peso da Régua — but before getting into the main sights and activities, let me give you a few tips!

Tips for Visiting Peso da Régua

wooden walkway on a bridge crossing the douro in the town of peso da regua in portugal's douro valley on a sunny day in the wine making region

First of all, you’ll need to consider what time of year you’ll be visiting. 

Summer is the most popular season to visit… but it’s not without its drawbacks that are key to consider.

Of course, the main advantage is that you can enjoy the beautiful weather and try lots of activities… but it comes with a price, literally, as well with more crowds.

Alternately, if you visit in the winter or early spring, the crowds will be smaller… but some key activities may not be running, like taking the historical train or even joining a Douro cruise.

On top of that, it can be rainy and cold, which can really put a damper (pardon the pun) on your enjoyment — after all, Porto is rainier than London, yes really! 

With all of that in mind, the best time to visit is likely the late spring and early fall.

Vineyards in the town of Peso da Regua overlooking church as seen from one of the viewpoints in town

You can include Peso da Régua in your Douro Valley road trip itinerary. This is a great spot to spend a night and enjoy the surroundings. 

Or you can visit the town on a day trip from Porto. Several trains connect Porto to Peso da Régua all year round so if you’ve decided against renting a car in Portugal, this is a great option.

One day in Peso da Régua should be sufficient to explore the town, unless you plan on joining a full-day cruise or guided tour to the wineries.

In that case, I’d recommend spending at least a day and a half in order to properly do the town justice — you can even spend the night in a nearby Douro winery hotel if you want to have a unique stay!

Things to Do in Peso da Régua

The river Douro with three bridges spanning across it and clouds in the background

While on the surface, Peso da Régua doesn’t have a lot of attractions, there’s more to do than first meets the eye, from museums to wine tastings and river cruises. 

You can easily fill your schedule for a full day or even two if you opt for a full-day cruise.

Keep reading to learn the must-see sights and best activities in Peso da Régua!

Visit Museu do Douro.

Photo Credit: Michael Gaylard from Horsham, UK, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Hands down, visiting the Museu do Douro should absolutely be your top priority when traveling to Peso da Regua.

If you’re at all curious about the history and development of the Douro wine region and production of DOC Port wine, this is the place to learn!

The museum provides a comprehensive (and fascinating!) overview of all aspects of Port wine production — all without being overwhelming or too technical, which is great if you’re a beginner to wine lingo.

You can read about the region’s history and production processes, discover the main quintas (winemaking houses), learn about various wine types, and of course, you’ll want to be sure to sample a local Port wine…

… because we all know learning is best when it’s hands on!

You can visit the museum daily, except for a few holidays like Christmas Day, January 1st, and May 1st. 

When I visited the museum in March, there were barely any other people, so it was a pleasant and crowd-free experience.

That said, it might be a bit more crowded in the peak summer months, so maybe plan to go in the morning if you are visiting in the high season. 

A regular ticket is only 7€, including the wine tasting — a great deal!

Check out the azulejos depicting the region’s history.

Yellow and blue azulejo tiles on the railway station in Peso da Regua

A nice (and free!) thing to do in Peso da Régua is to admire the beautiful azulejos in the town, which showcase in tile form the history of the region and its role in winemaking.

The beautiful azulejos are located close to the Peso da Régua train station — if you want to find them, look on Google Maps for Linha do Douro – Painel cerâmico de Manuel Casal Aguiar.

Done in the classic blue-and-white Portuguese style from which its name is derived (azulejo coming from ‘azul’ or ‘blue), these elegant tiles show scenes of the region’s Port wine production as well historical events related to the construction of the Linha do Douro railway.

Stroll along the Douro River.

Two bridges spanning the Douro River in the town of Peso da Regua, a charming winemaking town in the region of Douro valley

If you’re looking for more free things to do in town, you can simply enjoy a lovely walk along the river Douro.

Follow the Cais da Régua, a stunning riverside promenade that extends all along the town and beyond, with lovely panoramic views over the river and the opposite bank.

You can admire the terraced vineyards on the other side of the water — a dreamy sight.

If you walk east from the train station, there’s a pedestrian bridge you can cross to get a view from the other side.

Sample Port wine at a local winery.

Yellow quinta house with green vineyards around, with a view of the vines in the foreground and the house in the distance

As you ought to have guessed, a stay in Peso da Régua wouldn’t be complete without a proper wine tasting!

Many quintas and wineries in town offer a wide range tastings, including ones that also include activities like hiking, so there’s something for every budget and taste.

The lovely Quinta do Tedo (aka Atelier do Porto) offers different types of wine tastings, from a basic tasting of Douro DOC wines and/or Ports to more prestigious vintage tastings… including a single-harvest Tawny Port tasting straight from the barrel.

As an added bonus, if you visit in the first half of September, you’ll also have a chance to join the harvest and even partake in the grape-stomping part of the process!

If you want to keep perusing the wine scene, Vasques de Carvalho, Quinta do Vallado (pictured above), and Quinta de São Domingos are some other wineries worth checking out for wine tasting and shopping for a bottle (or several!) to bring home.

Two hands cheersing with some port wine or red wine in the douro valley with the douro river behind

Another way to taste some great wine is with a full-day wine tour — and doing it from Peso vs. taking a Douro tour from Porto means that you’ll skip about an hour of transport time each way. 

This Wine Tasting, River Cruise, and Lunch Tour is the most comprehensive tour with everything you’d want to see all included in one activity.

This tour includes visits to two locations for wine tasting, lunch at a local restaurant serving traditional Portuguese fare, a boat trip along the Douro, and a stop at a gorgeous viewpoint to cap it all off.

Plus, you’ll have an expert guide to tell you all about the region and the wines you’re tasting along the way.

Hop on the historical train.

The Douro Valley historical train with traditional wooden compartments of the train and powered by steam which you can see at the back of the train, people walking away from the train and hills and vineyards in the distance

One of the must-do activities in the Douro Valley is taking the historical steam locomotive, the beautifully-preserved Douro Historical Train.

This traditional train runs from the town Peso da Régua, ambling along the winding curves of the Douro River, before reaching the charming Douro towns of Pinhão and Tua.

From there, you can go the same way you came to return to Régua and continue your trip.

The scenic journey offers some of the best views of the Douro as well as stops in some charming towns… but best of all, a tour on the historical train also includes — what else — a Port wine tasting and entertainment along the way!

You’ll also be able to get off the train in Pinhão and Tua to admire the old train stations — definitely don’t miss the stunning azulejos at the Pinhão railway station, which are some of the best in the region.

Pinhao train station with its azulejos and old clock

However, like I mentioned above, the Douro Historical Train is seasonal and it only runs on specific days between July and October.

Since tickets are limited and it’s a popular activity, be sure to book your tickets in advance so that they don’t sell out

For more details and availability, check out the information on the Portuguese railway website

Join a Douro River cruise.

A boat cruising on the Douro River with views of green hills and vineyard terraces in the distance, with a beautiful blue sky

As the first town in the Alto Douro region, Peso da Régua is the departure point for several Douro cruises, both upstream and downstream.

If you don’t have time for the full-day cruise down the Douro that I mentioned above, you’ll find shorter options here.

Several companies offer cruises from Régua. Some are one-way, for instance, from Régua to Pinhão, so you’ll have to arrange the return trip separately. 

However, most cruises include the return to Régua. You can find several options, from simple boat tours to more elaborate affairs including lunch. 

Popular companies are Roteiro do Douro and Cruzeiros Douro, but you can also find tours directly when you arrive in Régua.

Enjoy the view from Miradouro de Santo António.

A sweeping panoramic view of the Douro Valley and the city of Regua in Portugal, taken at sunset in the late spring from viewpoint of St. Anthony miradouro

The Douro Valley is famous not only for the historic wineries but also for its many scenic viewpoints offering sweeping views of the stunning landscape. 

The closest viewpoint to Peso da Régua is known as St. Anthony’s, or Miradouro de Santo António in Portuguese.

If you’re traveling by car, you can easily reach the spot in just 15 minutes from Régua.

Getting there on foot is a bit trickier since it takes over an hour of walking uphill!

If you can make it there, you’ll enjoy a spectacular view of Peso da Régua, the Douro, and the terraced vineyards all around — it’s certainly worth the effort.

Try tasty Portuguese food.

Traditional portuguese sausaged called 'alheira' with fried egg, greens, and potatoes

Lastly, to complete your stay, you can’t leave without enjoying some delicious local food.

Most restaurants in Régua serve traditional Portuguese food, so you’ll have plenty of choices.

Tasca da Quinta is a charming little spot right next to the Douro Museum, serving typical Portuguese fare like Alheira (typical Portuguese sausage) and Bacalhau a Bras (codfish). 

Tio Manel serves generous portions of traditional, heartwarming food, while Castas e Pratos is the go-to place for fine dining.  

7 Things to Do in Varenna, Lake Como’s Pastel Charmer

view of the facade of villa monastero and some gardens in the varenna area of lake como

A scenic former fishing village, Varenna is one of the most charming spots along the eastern shore of Lake Como.

With its colorful houses, lakeside promenade, and gorgeous villas, Varenna is the perfect place to spend a couple of incredible days on the lake.

During one of my many trips around Northern Italy, I traveled to Varenna and spent three days exploring the small village and its surroundings.

Like many towns on Lake Como, it’s a popular tourist destination, especially in the summer, and it’s easy to see why!

White flowers in flower boxes on the edge of a passageway through Lake Como's lakeside walkways with a view to the colorful red, orange and yellow houses

Although it’s a small village, Varenna offers a wide variety of activities and places to visit.

You can explore the charming town, enjoy good food, visit delightful gardens and villas, or even just kick back to relax at the beach. 

Keep reading to find the best things to do in Varenna!

Tips for Visiting Varenna

Colorful town and houses in red and yellow colors with green and blue shutters surrounded by foliage and trees

Varenna is one of the absolutely must-see places on any road trip around Lake Como.

At the same time, the village is easy to reach by train from Milan, so it can also provide a perfect escape from the busy city.

One thing to think about when planning your trip is that Lake Como is a popular tourist destination virtually year-round.

Locals from nearby big cities, especially Milan, often head to the lake for a weekend getaway. 

Of course, the village is even more popular in summer when many people want to escape from the city and enjoy the nature surrounding the lake.

If you’re hoping to visit Varenna in the summer, be prepared to pay higher prices for your accommodations, and expect big crowds. You may also want to book your accommodation in advance, so you have more choices. 

Villa Monastero gardens in Italy with pink flowers and pillar and view fo the town in the distance as well as the lake

Bottom line, while Varenna is an incredible summer destination, if you can avoid the peak months, I’d recommend it.

Spring and fall are generally better seasons for visiting most of the highly popular tourist destinations around Italy, and Varenna is no exception.

With that said, given Varenna’s location in the north of Italy, you should also consider that temperatures in winter, early spring, and late fall will be considerably colder. 

Although you could just stop for a day in Varenna and check out most of the main sights, I strongly suggest spending at least a night there.

There’s plenty of things to see and do, and one day may not be enough. 

One last tip: given the cobblestone alleys and many stairways around the village, I recommend packing comfortable shoes.

Things to Do in Varenna

view onto lake como from the pillared archway open-air window style viewpoint at villa monastero

Now that you’ve figured out your travel arrangements, it’s time to ask the real question: what should you actually do in Varenna?

From strolling around and enjoying beautiful lake views to visiting a gorgeous villa or hiking in the nearby mountains, Varenna certainly doesn’t lack options! 

Here are my favorite ways to spend one or two days in this wonderful village.

Explore the town.

an archway in the central town of varenna with view down to the lake from a viewpoint up on a hill

First of all, you’ll want to get familiar with Varenna by wandering around and exploring the narrow cobblestone alleys, stairways, and little squares.

The village is spread out over the side of a hill, offering scenic views over the lake and delightful little alleyways lined with colorful houses.

Be sure to check out the main square, Piazza San Giorgio, pay a visit to the lovely Church of San Giorgio, and stroll along the charming Via XX Settembre.

From there, you’ll find several alleys and stairways leading to the lakeside street Riva dei Marmisti.

the church in the main town area of varenna with a belltower with a clock on it

To immerse yourself in the local culture, you can explore small art galleries, souvenir shops, and cafés.

Stop for a drink at the renowned Bar Il Molo or enjoy a coffee at Al Barilott for an even more local feel.

Lastly, you can spend a few hours relaxing on one of the beaches in Varenna, like the small one at Contrada del Molo di Sotto, near Villa Cipressi, or the one just north of the ferry station.

As an alternative, you can get a lounger at Olivedo Lido and soak in the sun while sipping a cocktail.

Visit Castello di Vezio.

castle vezio with its distinctive ghost sculptures

The lovely Castello di Vezio is an imposing 12th-century castle standing on a promontory overlooking Lake Como.

While getting there requires a moderately challenging uphill hike, this castle is the best spot in Varenna to enjoy a gorgeous panoramic view of the lake.

The incredible medieval castle is surrounded by lush greenery, providing a peaceful setting to enjoy the view.

This gorgeous scenery alone is a good reason to visit, but there’s still so much more to discover — including its unique sculpture ghost installations.

You can also visit the castle’s dungeons, the tower, and the botanical garden.

Depending when you time your visit, you can often find temporary art exhibitions.

The castle is open daily from March 1st to November 1st, but during the winter, it’s only open on weekends when the weather is good.

Admission is pretty affordable — only a 5€ entry fee.

Stroll around the gardens of Villa Monastero.

view of the facade of villa monastero and some gardens in the varenna area of lake como

If you have time to visit just one place in Varenna, make it the gardens of Villa Monastero.

The villa is among the most important historical landmarks in the area, looking out over the lake and offering beautiful views.

Villa Monastero has a long history, dating all the way back to the 12th century when a monastery was in its place – hence the name.

During the 17th century, the monastery was transformed into a gorgeous residence. 

The current villa was renovated in the 19th century but thankfully this preserved the layout of the earlier residence.

You can access the interior and check out the 19th-century decorations and furniture.

The gardens of the villa monastero with purple flowers and small miniature palm trees with pillars and looking out onto the lake

While the villa’s interior is nice, if you ask me, the best part is the garden!

With beautiful statues, fountains, and manicured flower beds, the gardens are a perfectly peaceful setting for a leisurely walk.

The villa is open to visitors from the beginning of March to early November.

You can choose between just visiting the botanical garden or getting a combo ticket for the garden and museum. 

Walk the Passeggiata degli Innamorati.

lakeside street with red tunnel with foliage growing on the tunnel and boats in the harbor and candy colored buildings

Varenna has a lovely lakeside promenade extending all along the village known as Passeggiata degli Innamorati, or Lovers’ Promenade.

This charming pedestrian path starts at the pier of Varenna and ends in the town center.

The path is short, but packed with many scenic spots to enjoy the view and take beautiful pictures.

You can admire the colorful buildings facing Molo Riva Grande and the mountains on the opposite lakeshore.

Go on a hike.

small pedestrian archway bridge and stream and stone architecture and beautiful green forest everywhere surrounding the hiking pathway

If you’re up for a bit of physical activity, Varenna has convenient access to one of the most popular hiking trails in the area, Sentiero del Viandante.

The trail covers roughly 45 kilometers (28 miles), starting in Abbadia Lariana and ending in Piantedo.

From Varenna, you can walk the shortest trail north to Bellano, which takes two to three hours one-way, or opt for a longer hike south to Lierna.

You can hike out and back or catch the train on your way back to Varenna.  

Join a cooking class or dining experience.

Person in a Sicily cooking class creating tiramisu with whipped mascarpone, lady finger cookies and espresso or cocoa powder

If you have a bit of extra time to spend in Varenna and want to have a local experience, you can join a fun activity like a cooking class or a dining experience.

During the three hours of this pasta and tiramisu cooking class, you can learn to make two pasta types and the iconic tiramisu, then eat everything in good company.

If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, you can attend a cooking demonstration and just focus on eating during this dining experience at a local’s house.

This is the perfect opportunity to connect with locals while enjoying a delicious, home-cooked lunch or dinner.

Hop on a ferry to other villages.

The lakefront view of the Menaggio, with a large belltower, pastel colored houses in yellow and green tones, and a boat in front of the town promenade

Last but not least, if you want to spend several days on the lake, Varenna has convenient ferry connections to other villages, including direct ferry rides to Bellagio, Griante, and Menaggio.

Hopping on a ferry is the perfect opportunity to enjoy views of Varenna from a few different perspectives.

Ferry tickets vary depending on the destination, but they’re fairly affordable, starting from just around 3€.

7 Lovely Things to Do in Lecco, Lake Como’s Underrated Gem

View of the town of Lecco in the country of italy near lake como with belltower, mountains, and boats in the harbor

Lecco is a true hidden gem on Lake Como’s southeastern branch.

The area’s city sits at the southeastern tip of Lake Como, where the lake narrows into the Adda River before expanding again to form Lake Garlate.

Even though it’s the largest city in the southeastern region of the lake, Lecco is actually one of the less popular places on Lake Como, often overshadowed by the more famous Como or smaller villages like Varenna and Bellagio. 

Despite this, it’s absolutely worth visiting if you travel to Lake Como and have a few days to explore.

Two pillars on a lakeside promenade with a view of the mountain in the distance and a belltower

On one of my most recent trips from Milan to Lake Como, I got to spend some time in Lecco and I really enjoyed exploring the quaint city!

While it may lack the picturesque and colorful vibes of the smaller villages, it more than makes up for it with beautiful lakeside promenades, museums, and hiking areas.

Tips for Visiting Lecco

Lecco's famous clock tower and some boats on the water in the winter season with trees with bare branches (no leaves)

You can enjoy a pleasant stay in Lecco any time of the year, but shoulder months provide the best balance of good weather, lower prices, and smaller crowds.

For that best blend, April to May and late September are the best periods for visiting Lecco.

Of course, you can also visit the city in the summer!

However, while Lecco may be among the lesser-visited places on the lake, it can still get crowded (and expensive!) in the peak tourist season from June to early September.

Winter, on the other hand, is the best season for a crowd-free visit — and it won’t be super cold either.

Thanks to the surrounding mountains forming a bit of a barrier, Lecco tends to have milder temperatures than, say, Milan in winter.

With that said, you can still expect rain and gray skies throughout most of the winter months.

As for the time necessary to see all of Lecco, I would say one day is enough to explore the city and check out the main landmarks.

Spend a night in Lecco if you want to visit the museums and hike in the mountains nearby.

Things to Do in Lecco, Italy

Lecco is perhaps best known as the setting of Alessandro Manzoni’s most famous novel, The Betrothed. As such, the city features various spots related to the novel, including an entire museum dedicated to the author.

While Italians are generally familiar with the novel, most foreigners are unlikely to have read it.

However, it can still be interesting to check out the museum and places mentioned in the novel to learn more about it, and you might even decide to give the novel a try! 

Not convinced? Don’t worry! If you’re not interested in literature, there is plenty to do in Lecco.

Wander around town and enjoy the view.

Views of the Lecco area with churches and mountains and belltowers and boats on the water

Lecco may be one of the largest cities on Lake Como, but you can easily walk around the historical center and to all the important landmarks.

While you’re wandering around, check out the lakefront Piazza XX Settembre, stroll along Via Roma, and look for the iconic Monument to Manzoni.

From Piazza XX Settembre, you can walk along the lakeshore on Lungolario Isonzo and stop off in the small lakefront park.

Two people walking on the lake promenade in the summer or shoulder season months wearing warm weather clothing

The area offers an iconic view of Lecco’s bell tower, Campanile di San Nicolò, against the stunning backdrop of the mountains.

North of the bell tower, you can continue walking along the pedestrian way Lungolago di Lecco while enjoying even more beautiful lake views.

Visit the Church of Saint Nicolò and climb the bell tower.

A close up of the clock on the bell tower in Lecco

The Neoclassical Church of Saint Nicolò has a gorgeous interior with pink marble columns and beautiful frescoes by Giotto.

While the striking tower often steals the show, it’s worth visiting the church interior too!  

At 96 meters (315 feet) in height, Campanile San Nicolò, also known as Campanile di Lecco (literally “Lecco’s Bell Tower”), is one of the tallest in Europe.

You can visit the bell tower on a guided tour, and climb the 396 steps to enjoy a spectacular 360°-view of Lecco, the lake, and the surrounding mountains.

Plan ahead before your trip, though, since online booking is necessary to climb the tower.

You can check the tower’s website and pick a date to book the guided tour. 

Opening days and times can vary depending on the season, so check all the details ahead of time. The entire guided tour lasts roughly one hour.

Explore the open-air museum of Pescarenico.

Boats on the water in the Pescarenico area of lecco

Pescarenico is a small district of Lecco, made famous as the only place explicitly mentioned in Manzoni’s The Betrothed.

In the 16th century, Pescarenico was a small fishing village centered around the main square in the village, Piazza Era.

The area has maintained the charm of an old-time village, with historical, colorful houses and a small port.

Even if you haven’t read Manzoni’s novel, you can enjoy wandering around this picturesque area along with the lovely lake view.

Check out the exhibitions at Palazzo delle Paure.

a white building with brown arched windows and details of the setting's architecture with mountains in the background

Palazzo delle Paure is a neo-medieval building from the early 20th century.

The name of the building literally translates to “Palace of Fears” and dates back to when the building housed the customs and finance offices (fearful indeed!).

Today, Palazzo delle Paure is home to one of the most important museums in Lecco.

The second floor houses a permanent contemporary art exhibition, while the ground floor is dedicated to temporary exhibitions.

Visit Villa Manzoni to see the city’s historical legacy.

a villa in italy with foliage surrounding it on a cloudy day
Photo Credit: By luca_s – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Villa Manzoni holds a significant place in both Lecco and the life and literary works of Alessandro Manzoni.

The villa belonged to the writer’s family and inspired him to write the very first lines of his masterpiece!

If you want to learn more about the celebrated author, Villa Manzoni is the best place to go.

The museum is entirely dedicated to the life and works of Manzoni, housing antique furniture and original artworks. 

You can get a ticket just for the Villa Manzoni or a combined ticket, which includes entry to Palazzo delle Paure.

Hike to Crocione San Martino.

People hiking on a pathway above Lake Como in the summer wearing shorts and using hiking walking sticks

Crocione San Martino is a large cross standing at the top of Monte San Martino, the iconic mountain that towers over Lecco.

The scenic viewpoint offers one of the best views over Lake Como, but the hike is actually quite challenging!

The loop trail is roughly 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) long and takes around four hours, but the trail isn’t for everyone, as it includes portions of actual rock climbing, but it’s a great workout for experienced hikers.

Don’t worry if you’re not feeling up for this intense hike, though! There are alternative trails to reach Crocione San Martino. 

Sentiero dei Pizzetti (starting from Via Stelvio) is the most difficult, while Sentiero da Rancio (starting from Via Paradiso) is still challenging but more accessible. 

Admire the view from Belvedere Parco Valentino.

A vantage point on a cliff with a view of the lake como alps and mountains around it

One scenic viewpoint close to Lecco that somehow beats the one from Crocione San Martino is Belvedere Parco Valentino. 

A viewing platform extends from the mountain toward the lake, offering a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. For my money, this is probably the most beautiful view in Lombardy.

The viewing platform is high up, so it’s important to go on a clear day. On a cloudy day, you may even find yourself above the clouds, which is admittedly a unique experience, but you won’t get to see much of the lake. 

As you might expect, sunset is a great time to visit, as the gorgeous light illuminates the entire region for a truly magical effect.

The only downside to this place is that it’s not very easy to reach, but there are a couple options! 

The easiest way is by car. You can drive about 40 minutes from Lecco, park in Piani Resinelli, and then walk for half an hour to the viewpoint. 

If you don’t have access to a car, you can also get there by bus number 7. The bus stops roughly 10 minutes away from the parking lot.

9 Things to Do in Ragusa, Sicily: A Baroque Gem

a view of ragusa sicily from above

Picture a gorgeous hilltop city tucked between the smaller foothills, standing out against the Sicilian landscape.

Better yet, it’s close to busier, popular tourist spots on the island like Siracusa (Syracuse) and Catania — yet it’s nice and quiet.

For those reasons (and more), I visited Ragusa on one of my trips around Sicily and never regretted a moment of it.

Quickly, I fell in love with its beautiful Baroque architecture, perhaps the most prominent feature of Ragusa.  

But there’s a tragic back story to Ragusa’s current layout and architecture, with a clear distinction between the historical center and the modern area.

Views of the old baroque town of Ragusa Ibla in Sicily, built in the historical style after an earthquake ruined much of the city

The city as you see it today is the result of a devastating earthquake back in 1693: it destroyed dozens of cities and towns over eastern Sicily, and even more tragically, it wiped out over half of Ragusa’s population.

But like a phoenix from the ashes — the city built itself back in a beautiful late Baroque style as part of its earthquake recovery efforts, and it emerged more beautiful than before.

This unique architectural story that earned Ragusa and other nearby towns one of tourism’s highest distinctions: UNESCO recognition, as a World Heritage Site known as Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto. 

When to Visit Ragusa

Narrow scenic street in Ragusa. The tattered facades of old townhouses line the street and you can see a  dome of a church visible at the end of the narrow lane. No one in the shot.

While Ragusa isn’t quite as busy as some Sicilian tourist hotspots, like Taormina and Agrigento, it’s still one of the most recommended spots in Sicily.

True, the crowds aren’t as overwhelming as some of the bigger tourist areas, but you can still expect the peak summer to be busy and pricy, especially as Sicily basks in its post-White Lotus glow.

As with virtually all of Sicily, late spring and early fall are the ideal times to visit.

Winter is, of course, also a possibility.

But frankly, Sicily — and in particular its smaller towns and cities like Ragusa — really shuts down over the winter.

While you’ll save money, it’s not the best time to enjoy the island.

Plus, due to its location being both more inland and at a higher altitude than most of the island, Ragusa tends to have slightly harsher winters than the rest of Sicily.

If you’re hoping to visit between December and February, be sure to pack warm clothes! On the brighter side, you’ll find much smaller crowds.

How Many Days to Spend in Ragusa?

The Baroque Saint George cathedral with its ornate facade in the Duomo Square area of Ragusa Sicily. Small palm and red flowers in foreground.

The city is quite small, but visitors can find many things to do in Ragusa if you want to enjoy it to its fullest.

If you can spend at least one night in Ragusa, you can take it slow and take your time checking out the lesser-known areas nearby.

However, if you’re driving around Sicily and have a packed itinerary, you can visit it in one day or less and still see the main sights.

Best Things to Do in Ragusa

Pink pastel cityscape of Ragusa town with Church of St Mary of the Stairs and belltower and clouds in the distance

First, a quick note to get you oriented.

The city of Ragusa is divided into two main areas: Superiore and Ibla.

Superiore is the modern area with organized streets and shopping areas, while Ibla is the historical core of Ragusa.

While most people tend to explore Ragusa Ibla for its Baroque beauty, the modern area is also lovely and offers spectacular views over the historical center.

Here is what you can do in both areas of charming Ragusa!

Wander around Ragusa Superiore.

View from Ragusa Superiore to Ragusa Ibla on a sunny day where you can see the entire city laid out beautifully on a clear day

Ragusa Superiore is the go-to place for shopping and eating, with a wide variety of restaurants and boutiques to peruse.

It’s also great to find scenic spots to admire the view over Ragusa Ibla. 

Despite being the more modern area, you’ll also find beautiful Baroque churches, palaces, and museums.

You can also stroll through the quaint Villa Margherita, admire ancient Greek and Roman artifacts at the archaeological museum, and enjoy delicious food. 

Stop off at Camiolo for pizza, or La Taverna Del Lupo for delicious Sicilian dishes. 

Stop by the stunning Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista.

Blue sky background behind the lovely Baroque structure called Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista (St. John Cathedral) in the UNESCO listed Baroque town of Ragusa

Located in Ragusa Superiore, the lavish Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista is a must-see stop.

Featuring elaborate Baroque architecture and a museum with religious arts and artifacts, this cathedral has a bit of everything you want in an Italian church.

There’s even a bell tower offering sweeping city views!

Explore Ragusa Ibla.

While Ragusa Superiore is worth some of your time, to be honest, you’ll probably want to spend more time exploring the smaller but more picturesque Ragusa Ibla.

The historical center of Ragusa is a compact gathering of houses with picturesque alleys and gorgeous churches.

Take some time to wander around the cobweb of narrow streets and stairways and check out the charming souvenir stores.

Be sure to stop and admire the beautiful Portale di San Giorgio, one of the few landmarks to survive the 1693 earthquake.  

Wander around Giardino Ibleo.

The famous gardens in Ragusa Ibla of Sicily with palm trees, fountain, and hedges

While in the Ibla area, be sure to enjoy a peaceful stroll around Giardino Ibleo.

This lovely public garden that offers a serene setting to escape the crowds, complete with palm trees, fountains, and benches to sit in the shade.

Bonus: you can also visit the beautiful Church of San Giacomo Apostolo in the heart of the garden!

Visit the city’s beautiful Baroque churches.

staircase leading up to baroque church in ragusa sicily on a sunny summer day with flowers and trees

You can visit spectacular Baroque churches in both Ragusa Superiore and Ragusa Ibla.

These striking buildings, built after the destructive 1693 earthquake, are the prime reason why Ragusa was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with eight other places, including Noto, Catania, Acireale, and Modica.

In addition to the cathedral in Ragusa Superiore which we mentioned above, you can visit many other gorgeous churches.

A few of those include: the stunning Duomo di San Giorgio; the Church of Saint Joseph; Chiesa delle Santissime Anime del Purgatorio; and the Church of St Mary of the Stairs (bonus: it also offers stunning views over Ragusa Ibla!)

Be stunned by the Palazzo Arezzo Di Trifiletti.

Flowers on the baroque balustrade of the Arezzo Palace in the main square of Ragusa Ibla aka the old part of the city

Palazzo Arezzo di Trifiletti is a historic building in Ragusa Ibla that has been in the aristocratic Arezzo family since its construction following the 1693 earthquake.

The beautiful building looks out over the Duomo of San Giorgio and preserves the furniture and decorations of the 1800s following its last renovation.

The coolest thing about this building is that you can join a guided in-person tour with the current owner of the house.

They will show you around and tell you fun facts about the palace and the Arezzo family heritage!

You can book the visit in advance by filling out the contact form on the official website.

Enjoy panoramic city views from its viewpoints.

The beautiful street scenes of Ragusa ibla with pink, white, and pale stone architecture

One of the best things to do in Ragusa is to look for vantage points to admire the stunning view over Ragusa Ibla and the surrounding valley.

You’ll find several incredible viewpoints around Ragusa Superiore as well as outside the city, in the hiking area east of Ragusa Ibla.

Check out the views from Mirador de Ragusa Ibla, the nearby Percorso delle Scale, the Panoramica su Ragusa Ibla on Corso Mazzini, and Panoramica su Ragusa e su Ibla at Ospedale Arezzo.

Of course, the whole area is full of beauty, so keep an eye out for other spots offering sweeping views.

Join a Sicilian cooking class.

sicily sardines with orange and stuffed with delicious filling

If you spend more time in Ragusa, this Private Cooking Class at a Local’s Home is a great way to connect with the locals and take home a special memory (and some recipes to relive those memories any time you want).

Learning from an experienced home cook and eating the delicious fruits of your labor is just one perk: perhaps better yet is that it offers you a unique way to get to know the locals and their way of living.

The activity lasts roughly three hours, during which you’ll prepare a starter, pasta, and dessert, all paired with delicious local Sicilian wines, of course.

You’ll leave with new cooking skills to show off at your next dinner party or date night!

Cross the bridges for beautiful views.

Ragusa is also known in Italy as Città dei Ponti or City of Bridges in English.

This nickname is due to the three main bridges over the Valley of Santa Domenica: Ponte Vecchio, Ponte Nuovo, and Ponte Papa Giovanni XXIII.

Fun fact: the bridge names are quite literal!

Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is the oldest, built in 1843 in Roman style. Inversely, Ponte Nuovo (New Bridge) was built in 1937.

Ponte Papa Giovanni XXIII, built in 1964, is also known as Ponte Nuovissimo, which means Brand New Bridge.

8 Things to Do in Peschiera del Garda, a Lovely Fortified City

View of the beach at Peschiera del Garda

Peschiera del Garda may just be the most impressive town on Lake Garda — and that’s saying something!

The town itself is developed on a set of small islands located at the River Mincio’s outlet from the lake.

But perhaps even more beautifully, it features incredibly well-preserved Venetian fortifications spread across these islets.

I visited Peschiera del Garda during one of my trips to Milan while living in Italy, since it’s an ideal day trip.

the town of Peschiera del faraday with colorful yellow, red, purple, etc buildings in the town center

The train station just outside the old town makes it easy to reach from several nearby cities, including Milan, Verona, and Venice.

You can easily explore Peschiera del Garda in just a few hours if you’re stopping by on a road trip around Lake Garda.

At the same time, there are plenty of things to do in Peschiera del Garda if you want to spend a couple of days in town.

In this quick guide, you’ll find a variety of attractions and activities to fill one or two days in Peschiera!

Tips for Visiting Peschiera del Garda

cute canal-style view of the lake garda town peschiera del garda with pastel colored architecture on a lakefront waterway

Peschiera del Garda is a popular destination both for Italians and foreigners, especially in the summertime.

People who live in the surrounding Northern Italian cities often head to Peschiera and other towns on Lake Garda to spend the weekend, so you can expect to find it busy almost any time of the year.

While summer is the best season for swimming in the lake, going on boat cruises, and escaping the heat of the bigger cities, it is also when Peschiera is at its most crowded and its most expensive!

Winters on the lake can still be enjoyable despite the cold, and you’ll certainly find fewer people around.

If you want to enjoy nice weather while avoiding the big crowds and saving on accommodation and activities, visit Peschiera in the spring or fall.

If you can only visit one town on Lake Garda on a day trip, Peschiera del Garda is a great choice.

The beautiful moat and bridge of Peschiera del Garda in the towns of Lake Garda

For one, it is one of the two towns served by a train station (alongside Desenzano del Garda).

It takes less than an hour to get there from Milan, under two hours from Venice, and fastest of all, it’s only 15 minutes from Verona!

However, the best thing is to rent a car and spend two or three days driving around the lake and visiting the most important towns.

Regardless of how you visit, here is a list of things to do in Peschiera del Garda to help you plan your stay!

Things to Do in Peschiera del Garda

Peschiera del Garda is small, as in, it takes roughly 10 minutes to walk from one gate to the other of Peschiera del Garda, so don’t expect countless landmarks and attractions!

Nevertheless, the town’s location makes it a perfect base for many activities, from swimming in the lake to visiting one of Italy’s main amusement parks.

Here is how to spend a day (or more) in Peschiera del Garda!

Explore the fortified city.

A serene water channel flanked by tall, fortified stone walls and lined with cypress trees under a clear blue sky. The tranquility of the scene is accentuated by the reflection of the trees in the calm water while visiting Peschiera del Garda town, a UNESCO site.

The fortified region of of Peschiera is basically one big open-air museum that is super cool to visit!

The massive fortified complex is actually part of a larger UNESCO World Heritage Site, one that includes several Venetian defense structures in the Garda region.

The top thing to do in Peschiera is to walk around and admire the impressive defense system that surrounds the small island that Peschiera is built on.

The fortifications date back to the Roman period in origin; however, they were modified during the 15th century, when the Republic of Venice controlled Peschiera.

It was during this time that the two main city gates, Porta Verona and Porta Brescia, were created — two must-sees while exploring this town!

An image of a historical stone gateway leading to a fortified structure, with a road passing through it, adorned with vibrant flowers along the balustrade next to a waterway under a clear blue sky.

The best spots to check out the city walls are the bridges that connect the islands: Ponte di Porta Brescia and the iconic Ponte dei Voltoni.

Given the size of the town, you can walk around in roughly half an hour, but you could definitely spend more time if you wanted.

Here is where a guide would be helpful, to show you things you would have missed on your own.

To learn more while you explore Peschiera, book a tour with with an expert guide who can share cool facts about the town’s history, like on this Peschiera Walking Tour.

Book this Peschiera walking tour here!

Stroll along the lake.

Lakeside promenade where a row of tall trees lines a paved walkway, following the gentle curve of a clear blue waters of Lake Garda, with a rocky shore.

Peschiera is small (especially the walled-in portion), and as a result, it can get very crowded in summer.

If you want a break from the crowds, you can leave the fortified town and enjoy a peaceful walk along the lakeshore for a breath of fresh air (literally!).

The main area to walk is Lungolago Mazzini.

This peaceful promenade starts from Piazza Maestro Luigi Battistoni and continues for roughly three kilometers along the lake.

Along the way, you’ll pass several beaches, restaurants, and cafés — all perfect spots to stop for a break and enjoy the view.

Check out the Madonna del Frassino Sanctuary.

The front facade of a classic stone church, the Sanctuary of Madonna del Frassino, with a large circular window and an arched entrance, flanked by tall, narrow cypress trees against a clear blue sky.

Just outside Peschiera, you can visit the beautiful Sanctuary of Madonna del Frassino.

The 16th-century sanctuary has a storied past, as it was said to be the location of apparition of the Virgin Mary.

According to the legend, the farmer was about to be bitten by a snake when he saw the Virgin near an ash tree (frassino in Italian, hence the sanctuary’s name).

A lovely cypress-lined street leads to the peaceful location of the sanctuary — also some great spots to get photos while in Peschiera.

Since it’s a little bit out of town, the best way to get there is by car or taxi. On foot, it takes roughly half an hour from the center of Peschiera, which can be hot in the summer.

The sanctuary features a convent, a series of chapels with decorated altars, and beautiful cloisters.

Best of all, admission is free (and there’s also ample free parking), making it a great addition to your Garda itinerary.

Visit the fishing museum.

Orange and yellow museum with red shutters and vespas in front
The fishing museum | Image Credit: Di Nicola221063 – Own Work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The lovely Museo della Pesca e delle Tradizioni Lacustri is actually the only museum in the small town of Peschiera.

That said, it’s still worth a visit; this small but interesting museum dedicated to the fishing tradition on Lake Garda, which is still ongoing despite the lake’s turn towards tourism.

This museum is rather small, so it only takes around half an hour to visit. That said, it’s definitely an interesting way to learn more bout the region.

The exhibit includes photographs and artifacts used in the Garda area, including fishing gear and traditional boats used in regattas.

The museum has free access, but you can make a donation and get an audio guide for a small fee.

Relax at the beach.

Paddle boats available to be rented at Lake Garda in Peschiera

If you visit Peschiera in summer, you definitely want to set aside a few hours for relaxing on a beach and enjoying the view of the beautiful lake!

Some of the most popular beaches are Braccobaldo Beach and Lido Cappuccini on the southern lakeshore.

There’s also Spiaggia Lido ai Pioppi on the eastern one.

You can rent a sunbed to spend a few hours relaxing, swim in the lake, or maybe even rent a paddle boat and go for a ride.

You’ll find boat rental services in several spots along the lakeshore, another great way to enjoy the summer lake scene.

However, you definitely ought to book ahead in the peak summer months, especially for weekend travels.

Have lunch at a traditional restaurant.

pizza on lake garda with a view of the lake in the background while enjoying a lunchtime meal

A trip to Peschiera del Garda wouldn’t be complete without savoring some delicious Italian food… particularly its seafood, if you eat it!

Peschiera may be small, but it has several great restaurants packed into its tight quarters.

You’re spoiled for choices here: I suggest that you head to Raffilù for delicious fish dishes, or try Osteria Rivelin for tasty pasta and meat dishes.

If you’re looking for a quick bite in a laid-back spot, grab a quick plate of pasta or some cold cuts at Pasta Salame — it’s a great choice for an easy meal.

Spend a fun day at Gardaland.

Roller coaster near Lake Garda with beautiful views from the top of the ride which will show you the whole garda area

Many people choose Peschiera del Garda as their base for visiting Gardaland, one of Italy’s largest and most popular amusement parks.

If you can spend at least one night in Peschiera, (given that you like amusement parks), I think it’s worth planning one day at Gardaland.

The amusement park consistently ranks among the best in all of Europe, with dozens of rides, including several roller coasters and water slides and other water features perfect for a hot summer day.

The prices aren’t bad either, starting at just 25€ for a day pass — a true bargain compared to other major amusement parks.

Check availability for Gardaland tickets here

Join a self-guided scooter tour.

view of the Malcesine castle near lake garda one of the sights you can see while scootering around the lake

Another unique and fun way to explore Peschiera and Lake Garda is on a Self-Guided Scooter Tour!

This activity can be booked online before you go, and it includes the scooter rental and a digital guide.

This e-guide will allow you to discover some of the most scenic spots around the lake at your own pace (great if you don’t like to follow the rushed itinerary of typical day trips).

On this scooter tour, you can make the choice to stop by several important spots along the lake, like Torri del Benaco, Pieve di Tremosine, Limone sul Garda, and Malcesine, among others.

The activity also includes a ferry trip, and the digital guide will also help you narrow down the best places to eat and buy local goods while you’re visiting the towns in the area.

Book your Lake Garda scooter tour here

Where to Stay in Peschiera del Garda

Yellow, pink and other pastel colored buildings in the colorful town of Peschiera del Garda

Best Budget Option: SEI Garda Apartments

SEI Garda Apartments offer self-catering apartments with modern contemporary design.

The apartments are compact but have all that you need, including a kitchenette and seating/eating areas.

This is not your typical hotel, but rather a modern and stylish apartment complex you can stay at: somewhere between an Airbnb and a hotel.

The apartments are great for families, with bunk beds for the kids — and it’s also close to Gardaland!

Check availability, prices, and reviews here!

Best Mid-Range Option: Ziba Hotel & Spa

For a spa hotel in Peschiera that won’t drain your entire budget, consider the Ziba Hotel & Spa.

It is located in a 19th-century building just outside the town center, still with its original detailing but updated rooms for a modern touch.

With an outdoor pool and spa that includes a Finnish sauna, Turkish bath, and a hot tub, this hotel is the perfect spot for relaxing in Peschiera without breaking the bank.

Check availability, prices, and reviews here!

Best Luxury Option: Le Ali de Frassino

Le Ali Del Frassino is a luxury hotel: think multiple outdoor pools, including a larger family pool and a peaceful infinity pool overlooking the water.

The sizeable rooms are minimalist and rustic, with exposed beams adding a touch of farm-style charm.

The hotel also has a top-notch spa: it even has its own indoor heated plunge pool and sauna, plus a fantastic fitness center.

Check availability, prices, and reviews here!

Eguisheim in Winter: 5 Enchanting Things to Do

A charming cobblestone street in a European town, lined with half-timbered houses exhibiting a mix of colors like blues, pinks, and whites. The houses are adorned with festive decorations including wreaths, garlands, and Christmas ornaments. Each dwelling has unique architectural details like overhanging balconies, wooden shutters, and decorative moldings. A prominent feature is a covered passage with a conical, shingled roof, supported by stone pillars

A salmon-pink castle, a charming castle, a city literally built in circles around it: what’s not to love about Eguisheim?

Add on the fact that it’s part of the Alsace Wine Route, has some of the region’s most adorable half-timbered houses, and has its very own Christmas market with 30-odd stalls selling unique wares… yup, Eguisheim is even more perfect in winter!

While more often visited as a day trip from nearby Colmar, a quick drive, taxi, or even shuttle away, there’s plenty to do in Eguisheim to take up some time if you have it to spare while visiting Alsace.

It’s worth it to come see for yourself why Eguisheim one of the best French destinations in winter in Alsace (and one of its most beautiful villages year-round)

Here are just five things to get you started!

5 Things to Do in Eguisheim in Winter

Admire Eguisheim’s Château and Chapel.

A picturesque European town square during the daytime, showcasing historic and architecturally distinct buildings. To the left, a peach-colored building with a whimsically pointed roof and a small balcony contrasts with the gothic spire of a tower behind it. Adjacent to these, a majestic red-brick church with ornate details and a prominent bell tower rises against the clear sky. A stone wall, adorned with white star decorations and flanked by tall evergreen trees with red ornaments, forms the foreground.

Right at the heart of the town of Eguisheim stands Château Saint-LéonPfalz.

Named for a Pope St. Leo IX (born in Eguisheim well over a millennia ago, in 1002), this humble castle is still worth a visit when visiting Eguisheim.

From château to religious site to historical monument, this spot in the heart of Eguisheim is a can’t-miss, especially in winter, when the general area around the castle is home to the town’s Christmas market!

You’ll find quite an array of little stalls selling everything from mulled wine to Alsatian street food to handcrafted souvenirs and gifts.

It’s a great central place to start your winter explorations in Eguisheim, since the town is quite literally bit in a spiral formation out from the castle!

While you can’t visit the castle itself, you can visit its adjoining chapel, Château Saint-Léon IX, which is free to enter and has beautifully painted ceilings!

Explore the decked-out central square and fountain.

A picturesque town square adorned with festive decorations. Prominent features include a historical fountain surrounded by greenery and holiday ornaments, traditional half-timbered buildings with vibrant facades, and a church with intricate architectural details. The atmosphere is imbued with the spirit of the holiday season, complemented by benches, wooden setups, and hanging Christmas stockings on building windows.

Just outside the walls of the central castle area, you’ll find the Place de Saint-Léon as well as the fountain of the same namesake, the Fontaine de Saint-Léon.

In the winter in Eguisheim, this humble little fountain takes on a more ornate vibe, adorned with festive foliage, cut-out gingerbread men, and just generally all things Christmas.

Many little pop-up chalets also put out some outdoor seating so you can enjoy a hot beverage in this central, scenic part of Eguisheim.

I recommend grabbing lunch or a glass of Alsatian wine at Caveau d’Eguisheim right in the square area.

For some pastries, head to Maison Alsacienne de Biscuiterie — it’s exquisite!

Wander around the festive streets of the Old Town.

A quaint courtyard surrounded by traditional half-timbered houses with richly colored facades. Features include a cobblestone pavement, an empty white signboard, a decorative cone-shaped structure atop a wooden barrel, and seating arrangements.

Like many towns and cities of Alsace, from Colmar to Strasbourg, Eguisheim’s compact Old Town is home to lots of beautiful half-timbered architecture that gives it that classic fairytale aesthetic.

This represents the blend of French and German history showcased in Alsatian design: the German detailing of half-timbered houses mixed with a French idea of how a city should be laid out and its central places.

Something unique about Eguisheim is the fact that the town is designed quite literally in circles around the Château, making for an unusual walking path!

The Old Town is a great spot to stop for a coffee, pastry, or bite to eat as well: many of these cute half-timbered houses are actually small shops and restaurants!

See Eguisheim’s most iconic street in festive decor.

A charming cobblestone street in a European town, lined with half-timbered houses exhibiting a mix of colors like blues, pinks, and whites. The houses are adorned with festive decorations including wreaths, garlands, and Christmas ornaments. Each dwelling has unique architectural details like overhanging balconies, wooden shutters, and decorative moldings.

You’ve probably seen this photo any time you’ve seen Eguisheim before (if you ever have that is — this town is still a little off-the-beaten path!).

During the Christmas season, Eguisheim’s most charming street of Rue de Rempart — an already narrow street that bifurcates into two narrower paths when split by this narrow little building — is even more charming with its festive decor!

But what exactly is this narrow little building? It’s called Le Pigeonnier, and yes, like the name suggests, it used to a be a pigeon house!

The good this is that you simply can’t miss seeing this beautiful little street scene, as if you walk the entirety of the Rue de Rempart (the central circular street around Eguisheim’s Old Town) you will certainly pass it.

A few places to stop along the way also include Bar St. Léon if you’d like to grab something to drink or L’Authentique Pain d’Épices Alsacien for some uniquely Alsatian gingerbread!

Stay for nightfall to see the holiday lights and lit-up Christmas Markets.

A magical nighttime scene in a European alleyway, illuminated by twinkling blue lights strung overhead. Traditional buildings, with features such as wooden beams and rustic stonework, line the cobbled street. The facades of the buildings are decorated with festive garlands, wreaths, and ambient lighting from windows

Speaking of night, any day trip to Eguisheim should include a little bit of time in the evening so you can see all the town’s festive lights come on!

Luckily, since the sun sets between 4:30 and 5:00 PM in the winter, it’s pretty easy to stay ’til dark!

This is when the lights twinkle on on the town’s Christmas markets in Place du Marché aux Saules and Place Monseigneur Stumpf, making them even prettier.

For the 2023 season, the Christmas markets will be open from 24 November to 23 December and then again from 27 December to 30 December.

17 Cozy Things to Do in Colmar in Winter: An Alsatian Fairytale Town

Colmar, Alsace, France, medieval half-timbered houses in historical Old town colorful illuminated for Christmas celebrations

Colmar is possibly the most picturesque town in Alsace — a high distinction in a region that counts Riquewihr, Strasbourg, Kayserberg, Obernai, and Eguisheim amongst its neighbors.

With its half-timbered colorful houses, its labyrinth of alleyways, its canal, its artisan shops, not to mention its cute cafés and rustic eateries, Colmar really looks like a fairy-tale village straight out of a Disney movie!

For full transparency, visiting Colmar in winter is not warm — but that’s probably no surprise here. 

⌛ Planning your Colmar trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

❄️ Best Colmar Winter Experiences
1. Colmar Half-Day Winter Wine Tour (with Hunawihr & Riquewihr)
2. 3-Country Christmas Market Tour (with Germany & Switzerland)
3. 45-Minute Chocolate Making Workshop at Choco Story

🛏️ Best Colmar Hotels
1. Hotel Le Maréchal (4-star hotel in Little Venice, part of the city walls)
2. Mercure Colmar (boutique design hotel near Unterlinden Museum)
3. Hôtel Turenne (conveniently located budget option)

Not sure how to get to Colmar? Fly into Strasbourg and then take a train or an airport taxi with Welcome Pickups to avoid any headaches or scams. Alternately, renting a car may be helpful if you want to visit smaller villages in Alsace (I always use Discover Cars for the best price search functions!).
Christmas market in Colmar, the streets of the village

However, there is just something about Colmar that feels like a warm, cozy, comforting embrace — they’ve got the concept of hygge down, the same way Nordic capitals like Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Helsinki do.

And don’t underestimate this town! There are actually a lot of things to do in Colmar in the winter, beyond just its Christmas market.

Sophisticated art galleries, delicious cuisine, culture, history, shopping, the Statue of Liberty … Wait, what ? 

Read on to discover all the best activities to do in Colmar in winter!

Colmar in Winter: 17 of the Coziest Things to Do!

Explore the unique architecture (and the story it tells) in the Old Town.

the wintry display of christmas themed decorations in colmar france part of alsace region, three buildings with festive decorations

One reason that the look of Colmar and the Alsace region is so unique compared to the rest of France is that it has been subject to numerous territorial disputes between France and Germany.

The history of Alsace (and Lorraine as well) is a tumultuous one, marked by an ever-changing ruling and a struggle for identity. 

Today, Alsace, and especially Colmar, boasts a unique fusion of German and French influences, with many locals speaking both languages.

The power struggles in Colmar’s history have forged a prominent impact on the architecture, the cuisine, and the culture. 

As you’ll explore the Old Town of Colmar, called La Vieille Ville in French, you’ll quickly notice the German influence in the structure of the many timber-framed houses and buildings.

But it’s not all Germanic vibes: on the other hand, the squares and the overall layout carry that very distinctive French touch.

The half-timbered structures retrace their history all the way back to the medieval times, creating that dreamy fairytale mood that Colmar is famous for. 

The Old Town features a variety of lively market squares, most prominently the Place de l’Ancienne Douane and Place de la Cathédrale

Try the best of Alsatian cuisine.

A delicious type of Alsatian flatbread similar to pizza called flamkuchen with cheese, bacon, onion

Arguably, the best thing to do in Colmar on a cold winter day is to indulge in some delicious Alsatian cuisine… all in the name of research, of course. 

Just like its culture, traditions, and architecture, the cuisine in Alsace is a fusion of its influences: a mixture of pared-back, sophisticated French flavors and more hearty, rib-sticking German dishes. 

Flammkuchen is probably the most famous dish in Alsace, and definitely worth a try when you’re visiting Colmar (in any season, but it’s especially satisfying in winter).

Called Tarte Flambée in French, it is similar to a pizza, with a thin, crispy dough and crust, topped with bacon, onions, and crème fraîche in its original version.

Want a spin on the classic? It also comes in delicious variations with mushrooms and different cheeses. 

Different kind of meats served atop a bed of fermented cabbage

Sauerkraut, which is written as Choucroute in French, is widely used in Alsace and neighboring Germany.

It’s basically a salty, fermented cabbage, which can be accompanied by all sorts of meat (sausage shines especially bright here) and is typically also served with potatoes. 

Another thing you may want to try in Alsace that is lesser-known is Baeckeoffe, a traditional casserole with slow-cooked meat, marinated in spices, onions, and potatoes. Perfect to warm up on a cold day! 

Eat some tasty Alsatian sweets.

Sugar-dusted small alsatian bundt cakes wtih raisins inside

Got a sweet tooth? Kugelhupf is a typical Alsatian cake, baked in a special bundt-like mold which gives the cake its name.

Similar to French brioche, it has a soft texture, sometimes prepared hearty with raisins, and sometimes spiced up a little with some lemon zest and dusted in sugar.

Another treat, Bredele, are specifically made for the festive season in Alsace, similar to traditions in Germany, where they’re called ‘Plätzchen’.

Bredele are sweet biscuits or cookies, shaped in various forms, usually involving a lot of butter and sugar (like all the best cookies do!).

For even more sweet action, you can visit Choco Story Colmar, where you can visit the chocolate museum or even take a 45-minute chocolate-making class!

Go shopping at the Colmar Covered Market. 

An elegant building, known as the Covered Market in Colmar, stands beside calm waters. Its beige facade is adorned with bright red shutters and large arched windows, topped by ornate stonework and decorative pediments. Overflowing flower boxes with vibrant red blooms and cascading greenery are positioned along a balustrade, adding a touch of nature to the urban setting. An arching stone bridge spans the waterway in the foreground, reflecting the city's blend of architectural charm and functional design.

The Covered Market or Le Marché Couvert de Colmar is the heart and soul of Colmar’s food scene. If you are a foodie, this is your paradise! 

The market should be high on your list when visiting Colmar, especially in winter!

Whatever the weather is like, you can shop here all year round since the market is entirely covered from the outside elements. 

The endless variety of vendors assemble the best of authentic Alsatian products, all locally sourced.

Curated by the artisanal traditions and expertise of the local farmers, this market is a great emblem of Colmar’s heritage and culture. 

Aside from the obvious shopping you can do, you can just as well come here to have breakfast, lunch, or a snack.

The market hall is lined with restaurants and bars, inviting locals and tourists to come for a drink or a meal. 

Soak in the lively atmosphere, watch the locals go about their day, enjoy a coffee, do some shopping, try some new food — honestly, Colmar’s market is always worth a pause. 

Visit the stunning St. Martin’s Church.

A detailed view of a Gothic cathedral showcases its intricate stonework, ornate arches, and a prominent spire with a green finish. The structure's historical significance is highlighted by its impressive facade and tall windows. Surrounding the cathedral, modern life is evident with a variety of parked cars lining the street and a lamppost.

The stunning La Cathédrale Saint-Martin was originally built in the 13th and 14th century in the typical Gothic architecture of the time.

But in the 16th century, a fire destroyed parts of its structure, forcing consequential renovations and decades of restoration — creating a unique hybrid situation.

As you can see, the original built is still apparent today. From the outside, you can easily spot the typical arches and the sculptures adorning the cathedral, and the interior is rather impressive. 

The Saint Martin Cathedral is well worth a quick visit, and lucky for your wallet, entry is free! 

Wander around picture-perfect Little Venice

Colmar Old Town in Alsace, France on a cloudy day in winter with traditional colorful half-timbered houses in little Venice quarter, decorated for Christmas

If you’ve ever Googled Colmar before, Little Venice is usually the top search result when it comes to images.

This is where all the typical features of Colmar are most prominent — and it’s what makes the town feature so high on many people’s list of the top French towns and villages

With the crisscrossing canals and the colorful houses that date back to the Middle Ages, exploring Little Venice almost feels like walking through Cinderella’s hometown!

You’ll find an array of cozy cafés, bistrots and restaurants in this area. If it gets too cold, you can easily find a cute little coffee shop to hide from the chill outside!

It’s also the most photogenic part of Colmar, so make sure to have your camera ready for an unstoppable number of Instagram snaps!

Get in the festive spirit at the Christmas Market.

A bustling Christmas market in Colmar comes alive as night falls. Traditional half-timbered houses, adorned with twinkling fairy lights, create a warm and festive ambiance. One prominent building, illuminated in a radiant purple hue, stands out amidst the surrounding structures.

One of the perks of the German influence in Alsace is the amazing Christmas Markets.

You’ve probably heard of Strasbourg’s Christmas Market (or read about in our guide to Strasbourg in winter), which is amongst the oldest and most important in Europe. 

Colmar’s actually has several Christmas markets, spread across mainly the Old Town and Little Venice areas.

This makes for a more intimate, authentic atmosphere, compared to the bigger markets in Alsace. 

Colmar loves Christmas. It’s a serious affair!

The Old Town is positively beaming (almost blinding) with festive lights and Christmas decorations, while a seemingly-infinite stream of vendors and chalets selling their wares line the streets. 

Aside from the typical Christmas market shopping, you’ll find delicious Alsatian street food specialities to warm your heart from the cold.

Don’t miss the cookies, aromatic roasted almonds, and, of course, mulled wine (vin chaud in French, glühwein in German). 

There is also usually an ice skating rink set up on Place Rapp at the end of November. Prices vary, but shouldn’t exceed more than a few euros. 

Explore more Christmas markets on a day tour (of three countries!).

The city of Freiburg in Germany with all its Christmas market decorations around dusk when the lights are just starting to twinkle on.

Not enough Christmas market action?

This international Christmas market tour will bring you to three different Christmas markets… in three different countries (great for country counters — I see you, I am you!)

Start by visiting the fortified town of Neuf-Brisach in France, also part of the Alsace region. It’s a UNESCO site, plus its Christmas market is adorable!

You’ll cross your first border of the day to head into Germany, where you’ll visit the excellent Christmas market of Freiburg, a sight definitely worth seeing.

And then there’s one final border to hop — Basel in Switzerland, where you’ll see its dazzling Christmas market all lit up at night when it’s at its most festive.

Three countries and three Christmas markets all in one easy day — that’s what I call convenience!

Check this Christmas market tour itinerary and inclusions here!

Learn about the origins of the Statue of Liberty.

An intricate bronze statue stands prominently in the courtyard of the Bartholdi Museum. Two figures, draped in flowing robes, work in unison to support a large, tarnished sphere. The patina on the globe and figures speaks of age, adding a historical resonance to the scene. The woman on the right reaches upwards, her delicate fingers grasping a piece of the globe, while the other figure appears to be guiding or steadying it from the side.
One of Bartholdi’s sculptures at the Bartholdi Museum

Did you know that New York’s Statue of Liberty has its roots in Colmar?

In fact, Colmar is the birthplace of French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi! 

Bartholdi grew up in Alsace before moving to Paris to study.

He traveled to Egypt and Yemen, notably to pitch ideas for grand monuments at Port Said, all of which were declined — but that would later lead to his greater feats of architecture later in his life.

Eventually, in 1871, Bartholdi arrived in America and was quickly inspired.

The idea for the now-iconic New York monument was allegedly presented by a French historian (whose identity isn’t really clear) as a celebration of the first 100 years of American Independence.

This was partly to serve as a symbol of French-American friendship (and let’s be honest, probably partly a thumbing of the nose at England!). 

Eventually, the copper statue was gifted to the United States by the people of France in 1886.

Bartholdi created the design of the statue, while Gustave Eiffel (who also designed the Eiffel Tower) built the structure. 

In Colmar, you can visit the Bartholdi Museum, which retraces the life and work of the sculptor from Alsace, including his famous work Les grands Soutiens du monde from 1902, meaning “The Great Supporters of the World” in English.

Note that the museum is closed in January, so if you’re visiting Colmar in January, it’s a no-go.

That said, It’s open from 1st February to 31st December. Entry is around €5. 

Check out the Quartier des Tanneurs. 

White painted half-timbered houses in the Tanners Quarter area of Colmar, with lots of wood beams and geometrical lines in the old-fashioned architecture

In past centuries, the town of Colmar, as well as Strasbourg, was an important hub for leather production and refinement. 

The Quartier des Tanneurs is named after the leather artisans (tanners) who worked and lived here, laboriously dying and tanning leather for all sorts of pieces. 

Today, the cobblestones and historic streets offer a glimpse into Colmar’s past, preserving all its charm!

As you walk along the timbered houses, it’s easy to imagine what life must have been like hundreds of years ago – minus the tourists, of course. 

Le Quartier des Tanneurs spreads from Rue des Tanneurs to Place de l’Ancienne Douane and makes a lovely winter walk.

Stop at Koïfhus on Place de l’Ancienne Douane. 

A grand historical building, known as the Koïfhus, stands majestically in the heart of Colmar. Its distinct green and red patterned tile roof captures immediate attention. A central bronze statue, mounted atop a sturdy stone pedestal, dominates the courtyard. The figure, adorned in period attire, extends an arm forward.

As you’ll reach the very lively Place de l’Ancienne Douane, one landmark is bound to catch your eye: the Koïfhus, otherwise known as l’Ancienne Douane

This area used to be the business center of Colmar, with this particular building serving as the Chamber of Commerce and Industry — well, up until 1930.

Prior to that, it was a meeting point for the deputies of Alsace, a warehouse, a bank, and home to the Magistrate. 

Amongst its many purposes, Koïfhus was also used to handle customs (hence the word ‘douane’, which you may have noticed means ‘customs’ from visiting French airports!) — particularly as it enjoyed an ideal location at the junction of two main commerce streets. 

Today, it is the oldest public building in Colmar and still used for various events and town meetings!

Its surrounding vibrant square is lined with cafés, restaurants, and shops, placing it at the center of Colmar’s culture, and it’s extra cozy in the wintertime.

Hide from the cold at Unterlinden Museum.

The Unterlinden Museum in Colmar emerges as a splendid blend of medieval architecture and modern surroundings. The building's defining feature is its green and red patterned tile roof, reminiscent of traditional Alsatian design. A sturdy, well-preserved tower, constructed from brown and beige bricks, anchors the corner, with Gothic windows

The Unterlinden Fine Art Museum is built within a beautiful Dominican convent in the heart of Colmar.

Important recent renovation words have included the addition of a secondary building, connected to the main entrance via a submarine gallery, that runs underneath the canal – which is pretty cool if I do say so myself!

This new gallery has three exhibition spaces, which means more room for the rather extensive permanent collection of the museum (a win win!). 

For architecture geeks, you won’t be disappointed: the museum combines Gothic and Renaissance styles, reflecting the structure’s 13th-century roots as well as the subsequent renovations and modernization. 

The Unterlinden features an impressive collection of art works from various eras. The most prominent piece is the Altarpiece of the Dominicans, an important work by the German artist Matthias Grünewald. 

Completed in the late 15th century, the altarpiece was originally made for the Dominican Church, depicting a series of images from the Passion of Christ.

Unterlinden is also home to a myriad of archaeological and historical artifacts.

Combined with the masterful paintings, the Fine Art Museum pays homage to Colmar and Alsace, showing its multifaceted history through the lens of art. 

Entry is €13 or €15 with an audio guide — it’s definitely worth the extra two euros to have an understanding of what you’re seeing, according to me. 

Visit the Dominican Church of Colmar.

The facade of the orange/sand-colored Dominican church of colmar on a partly cloudy day.

While the 15th century Altarpiece of the Dominicans is on display at the Unterlinden Museum, there’s more to the history of this church than just that!

Other works of Grünewald are also exhibited in the Dominican Church of Colmar, another place worth a visit. 

Besides that, it’s also just a charming historic church that has a very different vibe than the other churches in Colmar.

And since the entry fee is a mere 2€, it’ll hardly put a dent in your holiday spending.

Admire Little Venice from the river. 

A boat going down one of the canals of Colmar in the winter, surrounded by leafless trees showing the season, yellow and pastel colored half-timbered houses.

Little Venice would not be Little Venice without the obligatory canal cruises — after all, can you say you went to Venice if you didn’t ride a gondola?

Traditionally called barques, the small boats take you on a short 25-minute cruise of the canal for about €10. 

Don’t worry about it being winter; the cruises run all year round. In fact, as a winter traveler, you get to skip the crowds!

However, the service is more limited in winter, so you’ll have to check the schedules when you’re there.

Highlights of a canal cruise include the Quai de la Poissonnerie and the gorgeous Turenne Bridge

Rest assured, if it’s too cold for a cruise, contrary to ‘real Venice’, you don’t miss anything if you don’t go.

You can easily explore Little Venice on foot, but if it’s warm enough, this short ride is well worth the experience (just bundle up!). 

Have fun at the Toy Museum. 

Horses, other rideable figures at the toy museum in Colmar, a beautiful town in Alsace
Toy Museum in Colmar | Photo Credit: Vincent Desjardins, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How else do we say it? Le Musée du Jouet is pure joy!

This museum features an extensive collection of toys dating from the 19th century to modern times.

Housed in a former cinema, giving it extra cool points, the museum is a great interlude away from the cold for kids and grown-ups alike.

The collection includes a variety of dolls, trains, battle games, different generations of robotic and mechanical toys — all very well-preserved throughout the ages!

This is a fun, unconventional way to learn about kids’ lives in the past… and reminiscence about your own childhood with just the right amount of nostalgia!

Entry is around €6 for adults and free for young children. 

Explore other towns of the Alsatian Wine Route.

White wine in turkheim area of alsace wine region

As mentioned above, Colmar isn’t the only scenic town that’s part of the Alsatian Wine Route — which also doubles as an epic list of Christmas markets worth visiting in December!

You could rent a car and explore parts of the Alsatian wine route independently,but then you can’t sample the famous wines of the region so freely!

This tour brings you to two of the most beautiful towns in Alsace — Riquewihr and Hunawihr — as well as straight to a winemakers’ cellar, when you can taste some of the best wines of the region.

With the option to taste up to six wines and visit two unique towns, this small group tour capped at eight people offers a great value for those who want to see a bit outside of Colmar but are limited on time, don’t want to rent a car, or want to imbibe to their heart’s content!

Book your Alsatian Wine Route day trip here!

Take a day trip to the winter wonderland of Strasbourg.

the winter scenery of france strasbourg canal with some snow on the winter decorations and half-timbered houses along a canal at blue hour just after sunset

A mere 1-hour drive away from Colmar, Strasbourg is France’s most European city.

The city is home to the European Parliament and an overall mini-cosmos of modern Europe!

With its international institutions, Strasbourg attracts visitors from all corners of the globe and is home to a growing cosmopolitan community.

You could easily spend a couple of days here, especially in winter, but it’s also suitable as a day trip! 

If you are coming to Strasbourg in December, make sure to check out the famous Christmas Markets.

In the heart of Strasbourg, the historic Petite France district is a UNESCO Site and a must-visit for any first-time visitor. 

Strasbourg also has several museums, including the Fine Art Museum and the Contemporary Art Museum, which both rank amongst the best in France.

Similar to Colmar, Strasbourg’s districts are crisscrossed by a series of little rivers, and cruises are offered all year round.

If your time is limited, such as if you’re visiting from Colmar on a day trip, a river cruise is a great option to see all the major sites from the cozy comfort of the heated boat!

Where to Stay in Colmar in Winter

Maison Pfister, Traditional Alsatian half-timbered house Colmar

Luxury: Hotel Le Maréchal 

Part of the city’s original fortified walls, the 4-star Hotel Le Maréchal  stands the test of time.

Right in Little Venice — like, literally set right on the canal — it’s a short walk to the main Colmar Christmas Market in Place des Dominicains.

The tasty on-site restaurant, A l’Echevin, is a big hit for those seeking traditional Alsatian cuisine, too!

Check prices and availability here

Mid-Range: Mercure Colmar Centre Unterlinden

The ultra-trendy Mercure located a two-minute walk from the Unterlinden Musuem is a great choice for something design-focused on a budget.

There’s a daily breakfast available, a bar with Alsatian wines called Les Cepages, and you can also use their sauna.

It’s about a 15-minute walk from Little Venice, but it’s still in a convenient part of town with a lot of shops, restaurants, sights, and attractions.

Check prices and availability here

Budget: Hôtel Turenne

Conveniently located a 10-minute walk from the train station on the edge of the Old Town, Hôtel Turenne isn’t a bad option for those on a budget.

Its rooms are pretty spacious given the price and they’re also rather bright, letting in the little winter sunlight there is for a fresh-feeling room.

Overall, it’s not the most unique hotel you’ll find, but the combination of price, location, and comfort make it a great budget choice.

Check prices and availability here

7 Great Things to Do in Big Sky, MT in Winter: A Local’s Guide

Nestled amidst the snow-kissed peaks, churning rivers, and awe-inspiring vistas lies the enchanting town of Big Sky, Montana — a lovely escape from the crowds that promises unforgettable winter escapades.

The town of Big Sky in winter is recognized for its prime skiing, and in summer, it’s known for being a haven for fly fishing enthusiasts. Plus, it’s well-loved for being a portal to the wonders of Yellowstone.

But that’s not all it offers — Big Sky, Montana also harbors other delightful experiences that are sure to captivate you!

⌛ Planning your Big Sky trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

❄️ Best Big Sky Tours & Experiences
1. Big Sky Snowshoe Tour of Yellowstone
2. Ski Rental & Delivery
3. Private Yellowstone Day Tours

🛏️ Best Big Sky Hotels
1. Montage Big Sky (5-star mountain resort with spa)
2. Big Sky Resort Village Center (cozy & budget-friendly)
3. Residence Inn by Marriott Big Sky (mid-range, in town)

Arriving in Big Sky by plane? Book your rental car here.
Lovely brilliant sky view of snow covered slopes at Big Sky Ski Resort as seen from the chairlift point of view while skiing on a sunny winter day

Plus, it’s still a bit of a hidden gem in the US, as most travelers end up flocking to Yellowstone, Glacier, or Jackson instead, leaving Big Sky blissfully free of mass tourism.

From delicious meals served on a snowy mountain-side and shopping in the Town Center to riding the slopes at Big Sky Resort and snowshoeing in the forest, Big Sky in winter has something for everyone to enjoy.

Things to Do in Big Sky in Winter

Hike to a frozen waterfall.

View of an icy snow covered landscape in the winter in Big Sky Montana

One of the most popular waterfall hikes in Big Sky transforms into a dazzling frozen wall of ice once the cold weather moves in.

The Ousel Falls Trailhead is minutes from the Big Sky Town Center and offers ample parking spaces.

From the parking area, follow the trail down toward the river.

In the wintertime, the snow can become packed down and slick, so shoe spikes (crampons) are a great idea to keep you from slipping and sliding down the trail!

The trail is 1.6 miles round trip and offers scenic views of the South and West Forks of the Gallatin River.

With only 400 ft of elevation gain, this trail is perfect for families and folks who are new to hiking!

Before the waterfall, you will pass tall cliffs that often support gorgeous ice caves.

Warning: Crossing the river to the caves is extremely dangerous, and staying on the maintained trail is encouraged!

Once you arrive at Ousel Falls, there is a picnic area and a couple of different viewpoints to observe the frozen falls from.

It’s not uncommon to spot ice climbers making their way up the ice and guides leading new climbers on their first outing.

If you’re interested in getting on the ice with a professional guide, Montana Alpine Guides can take you out for a safe and exhilarating day of climbing!

Go shopping in the town center.

Cabin views of Big Sky Montana covered in snow on a wintery day with the sun out

The shopping scene in Big Sky’s Town Center grows larger every year! B

egin your tour of the downtown stores in the Town Center Plaza and make your way down Town Center Ave. toward Fire Pit Park.

Along the way you’ll find a few shops great for shopping and escaping the cold! Here are a few of my favorites.

Sky Boutique

Shop Sky Boutique’s exquisite hand-selected apparel, fine jewelry, and accessories!

Need help putting a stylish outfit together for a night out in Big Sky? Look no further than Sky Boutique!

The Black Diamond Store

Head to Big Sky Resort (or the ski resorts in nearby Jackson Hole) in style!

The Black Diamond Store has everything from professional ski gear to comfortable everyday apparel.

East Slope Outdoors

Remember your trip to Big Sky with a commemorative T!

East Slope Outdoors has a wide selection of graphic shirts everyone will love as well as ski apparel to keep you warm on the slopes.

Montana Supply

You can always find the latest mountain town apparel and accessories at Montana Supply!

It’s also the perfect place to find a thoughtful gift for a loved one or a special something for yourself.

Rhinestone Cowgirl

From western style hats to funky cowgirl boots, Rhinestone Cowgirl is the perfect place to explore true Montana fashion.

If you’re looking for western apparel for men, Antlers Clothing Co, in Fire Pit Park, is your next stop!

Snowshoe or cross-country ski on Big Sky’s trails.

A river amidst a snowy landscape with snow-covered trees in Montana's Big Sky backcountry

The Big Sky Community Organization looks after Big Sky’s love of outdoor recreation and open space with trails and parks that all are welcome to enjoy!

Wintertime visitors can purchase a map of all of the town trails at the Big Sky and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Information Center or one of the many local retail stores.

A few trails you might enjoy on cross country skis or snowshoes are:

South Fork Loop

The easy 1-mile South Fork Loop is groomed in the wintertime and is a perfect place for beginners to learn on snowshoes and cross country skis.

The trail weaves through the forest and hugs the South Fork of the Gallatin River for soothing sounds of rushing water.

Uplands and Hummocks Trails

Just past the South Fork Loop Trailhead, there is a small parking area for the Uplands and Hummocks Trails.

Due to some steep hills, both of these trails care challenging on cross country skis, but they are great for a moderately challenging snowshoe outing.

The Uplands Loop travels up above the Big Sky Town Center for picturesque views of Lone Peak and the Madison Range.

The trail travels through the forest for about 2 miles before looping back to the parking area.

If you’re looking to add a little more mileage, continue onto the Hummocks Trail, which is 3 miles round trip with a couple of scenic viewpoints to stop at along the way.

Have a marvelous dinner experience.

Two festive lit up trees at Christmas time in the ski resort town of Big Sky Montana

A dinner experience in Big Sky reaches way beyond live music and dancing!

During the winter, a few venues host intimate and fun events that are perfect for romantic evenings or special occasions.

Reservations are required for both of these listed things, so plan ahead if visiting Big Sky in winter and you want to do one (or both!).

Montana Dinner Yurt

Meet your chariots, two big red snowcats named Rosie and Ginger.

Climb aboard while choosing to ride on the open deck up top or inside the cab.

Blankets are provided, but guests are encouraged to wear warm winter clothing!

Your snowcat will then bring you up the mountain at Big Sky Resort to a secluded yurt for the Montana Dinner Yurt experience, where you will spend the evening.

Greeted by live music and friendly staff, you will be seated family-style around the cozy dining room!

In addition to outstanding food and a soothing atmosphere, the Montana Dinner Yurt offers sledding and a bonfire.

When your bellies are full, you’ll head back down the mountain on the snowcats with your new friends and memories to last a lifetime.

Sleigh Ride Dinner at Lone Mountain Ranch

By horse-drawn sleigh, dinner guests are transported to a rustic cabin, which is illuminated by an oil lantern.

The magical ride takes you through the snowy forest under the big Montana night sky!

At the dinner cabin, live music and a western atmosphere set the tone for your family-style prime rib feast.

With a rich history and as an icon of Big Sky for over 100 years, Lone Mountain Ranch is a destination within a destination.

Locals and visitors alike enjoy coming to Lone Mountain Ranch to dine at Horn and Cantle, sip signature cocktails at The Saloon, and explore the beautifully groomed trails on cross country skis or snowshoes.

Learn more about the sleigh ride dinner at Lone Mountain Ranch here.

Spend a day at Big Sky Resort – even if you’re not a skier!

A person in a red coat and white snow pants on skis at Big Sky resort in Montana.

A winter trip to Big Sky isn’t complete without spending a day at Big Sky Resort for snow sports!

Boasting endless terrain for skiing and riding, Big Sky Resort is on every powder hound’s bucket list.

There are trails from beginner level to expert, with plenty of open space to learn and explore.

Ski the trails from The Tram or the famous high-speed Ramcharger 8, which seats eight passengers comfortably with a protective face shield and luxurious heated seats!

For the non-skiers visiting Big Sky Resort, there are lots of activities to choose from even if snow sports aren’t your thing.

The adventurous type might enjoy a snowy zip line excursion, while the puzzle whizzes will love the resort’s challenging escape rooms.

If you need a day to relax and unwind, book a soothing massage at Solace Spa.

After the last lift, skiers and non-skiers reunite for après-ski vibes in the Mountain Village.

Fuel up after a fun-filled day at one of the many dining options at Vista Hall, and then pop into Westward Social for a craft cocktail and live music!

If you’d prefer to head off-mountain for refreshments, Copper, inside the Wilson Hotel, has a phenomenal happy hour which runs from 4 PM to 6 PM daily!

Go ice skating in town

Woman with red gloves, gray pants, white jacket and white skates tying up her laces on the ice.

When the sun goes down, the lights come on over the Big Sky Town Center’s Skating Rink.

Locals and visitors lace up their skates and glide around the glistening ice.

A romantic activity paired well with a hot to-go drink or a fun night out with the family, the skating rink welcomes all to join during open skate hours!

Traveling without ice skates? That’s not a problem!

Ice skates are available for rent at East Slope Outdoors for a small fee.

Go for a snowmobile in Gallatin National Forest.

Landscape of the gallatin national forest with snow-covered trees in the backcountry of Montana

While you’re visiting Big Sky country in the wintertime, you have to get out and ride the powder on a snowmobile!

Big Sky is nestled right inside Gallatin National Forest, which offers an exciting variety of terrain to explore on sleds!

Guided tours aren’t just for first-timers!

Booking a snowmobile trip with a professional guide not only keeps you safe on the rugged mountain terrain.

It also allows you to experience the absolute best trails – that are often lesser-known.

Canyon Adventures, an outfitter in Big Sky, is famous for its witty and knowledgeable guides.

If you’d like to schedule a trip or rent snowmobiles, do so well in advance of your visit to assure availability. 

Where to Stay in Big Sky, MT

Ski lifts in the Big Sky Montana area with people waiting to go up the blue chairlift

Budget: Big Sky Resort Village Center

Part of the Big Sky Mountain Village ski resort, these studios offer excellent value for their size and proximity to the ski lifts.

Studios have their own kitchenettes, which can help you save on costs associated with dining out, and they’re very cozy, with touches like indoor fireplaces and cozy couches.

Check availability and prices here!

Mid-Range: Residence Inn by Marriott Big Sky

An elegantly updated Marriott classic, the Residence Inn in Big Sky is a great choice for those traveling on a mid-range budget.

From its modern public areas with comfy furniture and wood-accents to its minimalist updated rooms, it’s a perfect place to stay in the heart of Big Town’s village center.

Check availability and prices here!

Luxury: Montage Big Sky

The lovely 5-star Montage Big Sky is an excellent choice for those seeking a luxury winter escape.

From their lobby with soaring ceilings and an enormous floor-to-ceiling panoramic view of the mountains, to its spa-quality bathrooms in each room, to its literal world-class spa in the hotel itself, there’s no shortage of good things to say about this hotel — and its 9.8 review attests to that.

Check availability and prices here!