Winter in Glacier National Park: 21 Things to Know Before You Go!

Towering peaks, lush meadows, alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife sightings await visitors in Glacier National Park no matter the time of year.

A well-known piece of the Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park is home to over 700 miles of hiking trails, making it a paradise for outdoor adventures!

In the summertime, grizzly bear can be spotted grazing in the meadows and the tall peaks of the Northern Rocky Mountains reflect in the icy blue waters of Lake McDonald. The highest peaks in Glacier can hold deep snow all summer long depending on the year, but many of the hiking trails are accessible without snowpack between June and September.

Glacier National Park quickly begins to transform into a winter wonderland come late fall. Although the backcountry in Glacier National Park is more accessible during the warm season, there is still much to explore and see once the snow begins to fall.

However, a winter vacation to Glacier National Park still requires some forethought and planning due to challenges that snow and closures present. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Glacier National Park in winter!

Glacier National Park Winter Road Conditions

Going to the Sun Mountain from the East Tunnel of the Going to the Sun Road, the sides of the mountain are covered in a light snow, road has been plowed before the road closes in Glacier National Park in winter.

Going-to-the-Sun Road

The stretch of road between the Lake McDonald Lodge and St. Mary Entrance is closed throughout the wintertime. When the road closes is entirely dependent on weather and road conditions.

The Going-to-the-Sun road reopens again once the national park operators can plow the alpine section of road clear of snow and it is deemed safe for private vehicle traffic. Due to the somewhat unpredictable mountain weather, there are no set opening or closing dates.

This road is considered one of the best scenic drives in the USA, but in the wintertime, it is socked in under many feet of snow with even deeper snowdrifts!

Once spring approaches, the road sees various stages of reopening. Be sure to call ahead for an accurate and updated road conditions report.

West Entrance to Lake McDonald Lodge

This is the only section of road that stays open year-round, weather permitting. This ten-mile stretch of road from the West Entrance to the Lake McDonald Lodge is plowed throughout the winter to allow for private vehicle traffic.

Just beyond the Lake McDonald Lodge, the road is gated to prevent further travel.

Many Glacier Road

The road to the Many Glacier Hotel is closed between November and April due to impassable winter road conditions. Folks who wish to explore this section of the park in the snow must either snowshoe or ski down the road.

Two Medicine Road

This road also goes unplowed during the wintertime and is considered closed once the snow is impassable. Call to talk to a ranger at Glacier National Park for current road conditions.

Inside North Fork Road

The Inside North Fork Road travels the western boundary of Glacier National Park leading travelers towards the Canadian Border. During the summer, the road is bumpy and is best taken at a leisurely pace. Once the snow begins to pile up, the road closes to private vehicle traffic.

Camas Road

The Camas Road, which connects West Glacier to Polebridge closes due to impassable snow conditions. However, it does transition into a fun scenic snowshoe trail once the snow is deep enough.

Winter Weather in Glacier National Park

An empty bench with footstep tracks next to it, looking out over Lake McDonald and all the snow-covered mountains surrounding it.

Winter in Glacier National Park can be summed up in a word: cold. I mean, the word ‘glacier’ in the name should be a hint!

Here is the average temperatures for winter months in Glacier National Park (which I’ll call November through March)

November: Average highs of 33° F and average lows of 21° F, with approximately 19 days of rain or snow.

December: Average highs of 27° F and average lows of 14° F, with approximately 19 days of rain or snow.

January: Average highs of 30° F and average lows of 17° F, with approximately 19 days of rain or snow.

February: Average highs of 32° F and average lows of 14° F, with approximately 16 days of rain or snow.

March: Average highs of 39° F and average lows of 20° F, with approximately 18 days of rain or snow.

Winter Hours of Operation and Facilities in Glacier NP

Snow-covered evergreen trees next to a lake, in front of a pyramid-shaped mountain covered in light snow.

Although recreation in Glacier National Park is technically open year-round, some of the facilities undergo reduced hours of operation or close completely come wintertime.

However, note that restrooms and potable water are available at the Apgar Visitor Center year-round.

If you are planning to visit Glacier National Park during the off-season, which is between late September and early May, you will want to be aware of these changes to facility operations:

Apgar Visitor Center: Closed during the winter. Outdoor informational exhibits are open year-round.

Logan Pass Visitor Center: Closed during the winter.

St. Mary Visitor Center: Closed during the winter.

Apgar Village Camp Store: Open intermittently throughout winter.

Backcountry Permit Offices: Call to assure staffing.

Note: All in-park lodging is closed during the wintertime, so you will want to stay in a nearby town, like West Glacier, Hungry Horse, or Whitefish.

Since Glacier National Park is home to such a rugged winter environment, it is a good idea to begin your trip by calling ahead to talk with a park ranger.

Where to Stay near Glacier National Park in Winter

Since you can’t actually stay in the park in the winter, you’ll have to stay nearby. Luckily, there are plenty of great options: these ones are all in Whitefish, which has the most options in terms of accommodations, but you can also look at West Glacier, Hungry Horse, or Kalispell.

Luxury

Lodge at Whitefish Lake: This cozy 4-star lodge boasts a beautiful location, an on-site spa, cozy rooms, and an award-winning restaurant — what else could you want when visiting Glacier in winter? The Spa is a great place to relax after a day recreating in Glacier National Park, with massages, facials, treatments, a steam room, a hot tub, a relaxation room, and more in their wellness center!
>> Book your stay the Lodge at Whitefish Lake here

Mid-Range

The Firebrand: This chic boutique hotel is one of Whitefish’s newest offerings, and it’s a great place with tons of personality. Amenities include a fitness center, ski storage and ski pass sales, and on-site restaurants and bars. Cozy robes and luxe en-suite bathrooms make each room feel spa-perfect.
>> Book a stay at the Firebrand here

Budget

Grouse Mountain Lodge: This cozy lodge is no-frills, but it’s a lovely place to stay in the winter when all you want is a roaring fireplace, lovely log cabin vibes, and snow-covered scenery! It has some great amenities including an outdoor firepit and hot tub as well as an indoor pool and a Finnish-style dry sauna.

Winter Camping in Glacier National Park

The unfrozen surface of Lake McDonald in early winter in Glacier National Park, reflecting the snow-covered mountains with a patch of fog on a sunny winter day.
Lake McDonald, where you’ll find the only winter Glacier campground at Apgar Campground

Many national park travelers like to camp during their outdoor adventures. Glacier National Park is home to thirteen front-country campgrounds, which are spread throughout the one million acre park!

During the busy season between May and most of September, many of the popular campgrounds are on an online reservation system and are full each night.

Out of the thirteen front-country campgrounds, Apgar Campground on Lake McDonald is the only one that stays open year-round.

The campground sees reduced site availability and primitive camping only during the cold season. Primitive camping in Glacier National Park means there are vault toilets open, but no potable water available.

Luckily, if you are unable to snag a site inside the park, there are plenty of camping opportunities and lodging accommodations ranging in levels of luxury nearby in West Glacier and Hungry Horse.

Winter Safety in Glacier National Park

A man wearing weather-appropriate clothing hiking through the snow, exhibiting winter safety guidelines in Glacier National Park in the snow.

Hypothermia

When your body temperature falls to dangerously cool levels, you begin to experience hypothermia. Wet clothes combined with freezing outside temperatures can create a high-risk environment.

To avoid hypothermia, the park service recommends wearing non-cotton clothing and doing everything possible to avoid submerging yourself in water.

According to the National Park Service, water is the number one cause of fatality in Glacier. If you are recreating near water, avoid walking on slippery rocks and crossing over moving water on thin snowbridges.

Staying Found

Trails covered in a fresh layer of snow can become difficult to follow. As you snowshoe, ski, or hike along, pay close attention to trail markers and junctions signs. Cell phone coverage is spotty to nonexistent in most areas of Glacier National Park. If you do become lost, stay where you are, and wait for rescue.

Always pack a map with navigation tools, and remember to tell someone where you are going before departing for the trail. If you are unsure of your abilities, always go with companions.

Avalanche

The deep powdery snow combined with the steep mountain terrain in Glacier National Park is the perfect formula for avalanches.

If you plan to recreate in the backcountry during the winter season, you should be professionally trained in avalanche safety and know how to use the appropriate safety gear.

Snowbridges

The thin layers of snow and ice covering water, crevasses, or massive snow caves can be difficult to detect. The fragile ice can give way to your body weight and leave you victim to the hazards below.

Before recreating on glaciers, in snowfields, or near bodies of water in the winter, be sure to talk to a park ranger about snowbridge safety.

Wildlife

Glacier National Park is home to diverse and magnificent wildlife. Although there will be many great opportunities to view wildlife, always make sure you are doing so safely. If it is a hoofed animal, such as moose, elk, sheep, and goats, keep back 75 feet. For grizzly and black bears, always try to maintain a distance of at least 300 feet.

Although bear hibernate in the wintertime, Glacier National Park is still grizzly country. Carry bear spray and follow appropriate bear aware protocol while recreating.

Things to Do in Glacier National Park in Winter

Go for a Scenic Drive

Icy surface of Lake McDonald as seen in winter, wth snow and ice on the banks of the lake, with snow-covered mountains in the distance.

As you have learned, many of the roads in Glacier National Park shut down due to impassable snow in the wintertime. However, there is still enough roadway open to private vehicle traffic for a fun drive through the snowy mountains!

The section of road between the West Entrance and the Lake McDonald Lodge remains open year-round due to the exceptional plow operators. The 10-mile stretch of road winds along the scenic and picturesque shore of Lake McDonald.

Although you may not get to see the lake’s colorful rock shores in the wintertime, you can still appreciate the towering peaks, such as Stanton Mountain, McPartland Mountain, and Heavens Peak, in the background.

This drive is perfect for photographers hoping to capture the beauty of Glacier National Park’s front country. As you drive along, use the frequent turnouts to access the lake’s shore and capture every accessible angle.

It is common to spot whitetail deer roaming along the roadway, but keep an eye out for other wildlife like moose, elk, fox, and coyote.

The bear may be fast asleep during your visit, but if you’re coming during the late fall or early spring, it is possible to spot bear grazing along the shore.

Go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing

Female hiker in snowshoes with trekking poles wearing a black jacket and baby blue pants, looking over a snow-covered mountainous landscape in Glacier National park in the winter time.

Winter is the dominant season in Glacier National Park and all of northern Montana, since all the other seasons are so short-lived!

To make the best of the snowy months and continue exploring, strap on a pair of snowshoes or cross country skis.

The Apgar Village has a variety of ski and snowshoe trails for everyone to enjoy. For a short 3-mile outing, consider exploring the Lower McDonald Creek Trail.

Those who are looking for something a little longer in the Apgar Village area might like the 6-mile round trip trail to Rocky Point, which offers multiple viewpoints featuring Lake McDonald and surrounding peaks!

Take a scenic snowmobile ride

Snowmobile tracks on the frozen lake at Whitefish Lake in Whitefish, MT with houses and lodges in the background.

For those looking for a little high-octane adventure, rent a snowmobile and explore the backcountry areas around Glacier National Park for yourself.

While snowmobiling is not permitted within the park itself, you can snowmobile just outside of the park’s limits. Snowmobiling is one of the most popular winter activities for visitors to Northern Montana, with snowmobile tours departing from common bases like Whitefish and West Glacier.

I recommend traveling with Action Rentals, who offer independent and guided snowmobile rentals departing from Whitefish, MT.

Book a snowmobile rental here!

Go ice climbing

A woman in a pink jacket and red pants climbing up the icicles of a frozen waterfall with climbing equipment and harness.

Winter’s answer to rock climbing is ice climbing!

This fun activity allows you to scale up beautiful, otherworldly landscapes like frozen waterfalls and icy, snow-covered cliff edges, equipped with little more than ice picks and a harness.

Ice climbing is dangerous to do solo, so make sure you go with a trusted guide like Whitefish Vertical Adventures.

What to Pack for Glacier National Park in Winter

Baby blue and pastel pink sky at sunrise over the trees and mountains of the Montana winter landscape in Glacier National Park

Waterproof Parka: In the snow of Glacier in winter, you’ll want a really warm winter jacket, like this ultra-insulated North Face parka. I admit it’s a bit pricy, but it comes with a guarantee that it’ll last a lifetime.. and I tested this guarantee by sending in a zipper to be fixed which got damaged after 4 years of abuse wearing it every winter day to cycle 15 miles — my jacket came back like new and better than ever.

I’ve had my North Face parka for literally 10 years, and it’s held up from winters biking through New York City to multiple trips north of the Arctic Circle in places like Tromso and Abisko. It’ll serve you well in Glacier in winter!

Get the exact jacket I have here! 

Waterproof Pants: If you’re cross-country skiing or snowboarding or doing some winter hiking, you’ll absolutely want waterproof pants. Jeans put you at risk of hypothermia if you get wet, so avoid at all costs.

Snow Boots: Since you’ll likely be trudging through quite deep snow both in Glacier National Park and wherever you set up your base, you’ll absolutely need proper snow boots for a trip to Glacier in winter. I love these stylish and warm Sorel boots for women, which are waterproof and warm but also have plenty of traction. For added steadiness on your feet, throw on some Yaktrax to the bottom for grip on icy surfaces and pathways. These are a godsend (they saved me from eating it many times when I was in Tromso!)

Warm Leggings: There are two choices when it comes to a cozy base layer for your bottom half: fleece-lined for people with sensitive skin like me, and merino wool for people who don’t find wool itchy like I do. I own several pairs of these fleece-lined leggings in a variety of colors (I have black, gray, and maroon). Be sure to wear waterproof layers over this if you’ll be out in the snow, though! For people who like wool, merino wool leggings are the way to go – the absolute warmest you can get. However, it’s too much wool for me to handle, but I have particularly sensitive skin.

Fleece-Lined Knit Hat: If you enjoy fashion, winter can be a bit of a drag because you basically commit to one jacket (typically in a neutral color) for an entire season. I absolutely live for livening up my look with tons of different colors of knit hats. I have one in virtually every color, but I love red and yellow best for the best ‘pop’ of color against the snow. Since I have so many hats, I don’t really have anything special: just a snug knit hat lined in fleece and with a pompom that does absolutely nothing to add warmth but I love them anyway.

Thermal Top Layer: Again, what kind of thermal you go for will definitely depend on whether or not you have any skin sensitivities and if you can handle wool. I hate wool on anything but socks, so instead, I go for thin performance thermals like this Heat Plus layer from 32 Degrees. However, if you’re a fan of wool, a merino wool base layer will keep you insanely warm. Better yet, wool doesn’t trap odors the same way other materials do, meaning you can re-wear it several times before your under-layers will need to be washed — great for people who pack light!

An Enormous Scarf: I go for big, warm, and infinite-style scarfs. I tend to opt for bright, bold colors to liven up my look. I love these ones — they’re cheap and feel cashmere-soft, but they aren’t pricy like it.

Touchscreen Friendly Gloves: You’ll likely want to have your hands out of your pockets at times when you’re navigating on Google Maps, looking up something you’ve bookmarked (maybe this blog?), etc.! Most gloves these days tend to be touchscreen-friendly, but check before you buy. These gloves are cute, smartphone-compatible, and inexpensive.

Waterproof Gloves: You’ll also want to layer waterproof gloves over your touchscreen gloves if you’re snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, or anything where you are out and about in the snow and need your hands out for balance or gripping poles, etc.

Headlamp (and Extra Batteries): Glacier National Park in winter can get dark early — and quickly! — due to the early sunset time that naturally occurs in winter… plus the mountains making it get dark long before that! Bring a headlamp in case any outdoor excursions take longer than expected. You don’t want to get lost after dark in the snow. This Petzl headlamp is highly-rated and affordable.

Waterproof Backpack: You’ll want to keep your belongings dry, especially if you’re doing long treks on cross-country skis or snowshoes in the snow or freezing rain. Bring a waterproof backpack — you won’t regret it, especially if you’re carrying pricy camera equipment.

Snowshoes (optional): Many trails in Glacier National Park in winter will require proper snowshoes (different than snow boots — these allow you to ‘float’ on top of snow instead of sinking through it!) as well as trekking poles if you want to do some winter exploring. You can also rent them, but they’re pretty cheap to buy and will last you for future winter trips, so I recommend investing in them if you are a fan of snow travel.

Camera: You’ll want a camera to capture all that Glacier National Park winter beauty. I use and love my Sony A6000! It’s mirrorless, so it’s lightweight and perfect for a high-quality camera that won’t weigh you down. Be sure to bring a handful of extra batteries! Trust me, I’ve learned from many an experience in the cold photographing the Northern Lights that batteries burn out sooo much faster in the cold.

Battery Pack: Going off of what I said above, extend that to your phone as well! Cold weather depletes cell phone batteries extra quickly, so if you’re using your cell phone as your primary camera and navigation device (and who doesn’t these days?) you’ll absolutely want the ability to power up without a wall outlet while you’re out enjoying nature. I rely on an Anker battery pack to keep all my devices charged in the cold — and as a blogger who takes frequent winter trips to the Arctic and beyond with way more gear than a normal person needs, it’s served me very well!

Your Complete Guide to Winter in Queenstown By a Local

When the Northern hemisphere begins to heat up, New Zealand becomes one of the very few ski locations around the world.

As the days shorten and the mercury drops, many head to New Zealand’s most idyllic town – Queenstown.

Located in the very south of New Zealand’s South Island, Queenstown is a winter lover’s paradise.

The surrounding mountains are dipped in snow, warm mulled wine is sold in every bar, and winter sport enthusiasts fill the town. It’s vibrant, fun, and a little bit cold!

Winter is the perfect time to explore Queenstown and there’s so much to see and do!

From festivals under lights, fireworks over the lake, and of course ski parties up in the mountains, you won’t get bored during winter in Queenstown.

So without further ado, here’s a guide to enjoying winter in Queenstown including events, things to do, and more!

About Winter in Queenstown

Winter in Queenstown officially runs from June to August; however, cold temperatures begin in early May and you can expect snowfall as late as November.

The ski fields around Queenstown also open in early June and stay open until the middle of October. Depending on the year, these dates can change (but only slightly.)

During the Australian and New Zealand school holidays which run at different times in late June and early July, Queenstown is at its busiest in winter.

At these times, hotels in Queenstown completely book up and those wanting to visit should be prepared by booking accommodation and tours well in advance.

Despite summer being Queenstown’s busy season, winter in Queenstown still draws a large crowd. With plenty of festivals and off-season prices on tours and attractions, winter is a surprisingly cheap time to visit Queenstown.

Winter Weather in Queenstown

Queenstown doesn’t get that cold when compared to other winter destinations around the world such as Canada.

In fact, winter temperatures throughout the season average highs of 9C and lows of 0C. With that said, it’s common to see temperatures drop to –5C in town and –10C in the mountains, even during the day.

For this reason, visitors should come prepared with winter clothing like warm jackets, beanies, and gloves.

Winter in Queenstown usually brings lots of sunshine with the odd snow shower. Throughout the winter, Queenstown sees around 3 to 4 snow days where heavy snow will cause issues such as road and business closures in town. Other than that, snowfall is limited to the mountains with light rain usually reaching Queenstown.

Road conditions in Queenstown are fine during the winter, but on surrounding mountain roads such as the route to Wanaka via Crown Range Road and those to the ski fields, can become icy and carrying snow chains are required! If you plan on driving in the winter months, allow time for delays during your visit.

Winter Events in Queenstown

LUMA

LUMA is a light festival held in the Queenstown Gardens that’s been running since 2015. During the event, organizers fill the Queenstown Gardens with impressive light displays that expand every year. Within the gardens, there are also pop-up bars and food stalls.

LUMA is an annual event that that runs on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend on the first weekend of June. Although a smaller event than the Queenstown Winter Festival, LUMA still draws a crowd and is a really fun event.

Queenstown Winter Festival

The Queenstown Winter Festival is one of the largest festivals in Queenstown. The yearly event is huge and usually runs for four days around the 3rd week of June. Dates do change every year so be sure to check the Queenstown Winter Festival website for official dates.

During the four-day event you can expect lots of entertainment including the Red Bull Rail Jam (where skiers and snowboarders perform tricks down a rail in the middle of town), live music from popular New Zealand bands, and even fireworks.

Winter Pride

Queenstown is a place known for its diversity, inclusion, and acceptance of everyone from all walks of life. It’s one of the reasons I love this place so much and why Winter Pride is such a huge event.

In 2021 Winter Pride will run from the 27th of August to 5th of September. Although some of the entertainment is free, there are also paid events such as dinners, private parties, even comedy nights.

During Winter Pride the streets of Queenstown are buzzing, and it’s a great time to visit!

10 Best Things to Do in Winter in Queenstown

Head up the mountain for skiing or snowboarding

It should come as no surprise that the best things to do in Queenstown in winter is hitting the slopes. There are three different ski fields all located within close proximity to Queenstown – so it’s safe to say you have plenty of choices!

The closest ski field to Queenstown is Coronet Peak but this ski field really struggles to get good snow. Instead, venture a little further and go to The Remarkables. This is my favorite ski field in Queenstown and my local recommendation.

The third ski field you can visit from Queenstown is Cardrona. Although I love it there, it’s over an hour drive away making it just a little far to go on a regular basis.

You can either drive yourself to the ski felids that all have ample parking, or take a shuttle from Queenstown centre for about $20 NZD per person.

Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll always have fun skiing or snowboarding from Queenstown!  

Enjoy a scenic cruise

The best thing about winter in Queenstown is how beautiful it is. There’s just something about snowcapped mountains that I love! One of the best ways to admire the views is on a scenic lake cruise.

There are a few scenic cruise options in Queenstown but they all more or less follow the same route on Lake Wakatipu. For budget travelers, the Spirit of Queenstown cruise is a good option as it starts at only $39 NZD per person. This cruise lasts for 90 minutes and has a bar on board that sells snack, tea, and coffee, as well as beer and wine.

Book your Spirit of Queenstown cruise online here

Another cruise, and the most popular, is the TSS Earnslaw.

Although more expensive, you’ll get to cruise Lake Wakatipu on a 1930’s steamship (and it includes a BBQ feast!)

Book your TSS Earnslaw cruise online here!

This lunch cruise with a BBQ feast lasts 3.5-4 hours with a lunch or dinner stop at Walter Peak High Country Farm. The views from out on Lake Wakatipu are unrivaled!

Go on an epic road trip

Winter road trips are the best. Not only are the road much quieter but the scenery is even more beautiful. From Queenstown you can go on quite a few including the road trip from Queenstown to Wanaka. However, my favorite is the drive to Glenorchy.

On this epic road trip, you’ll be able to take in views of Lake Wakatipu as you wind you’re way to Glenorchy. Along the way, you can stop at Moke Lake or enjoy hikes such as Bob’s Cove Track. It’s truly beautiful, and the best part? You get to enjoy all the best things to do in Glenorchy once you arrive.

Eat Fergburger

What better way to warm up than with Queenstown’s best burger. Fergburger is famous all around New Zealand and it’s easy to tell when you see the huge line out the door every day. During lunch and dinner hours you’ll need to wait over an hour to get your burger, but seriously it’s worth it!

Their “Classic Ferg” burger costs $12.95 NZD so it’s definitely one of the cheaper things to do in Queenstown. They also have lots of different burgers including venison, vegetarian, chicken, and pork. With that said, you can’t beat the classic with extra cheese!

Visit Milford Sound

A day trip to Milford Sound is easily one of the best things to do in Queenstown!

Every day thousands of people make the journey there to cruise through this stunning fiord and enjoy breathtaking views.

In winter, not only is Milford Sound more beautiful, but it’s much less busy. With fewer boats, fewer people, and less noise, you’ll actually get to enjoy the calm of Milford Sound.

Visiting Milford Sound is most commonly done on an organized tour from Queenstown. These include your transport, guide, and cruise for around $200 NZD.

Book a top-rated tour of Milford Sound online here – this tour even includes a picnic lunch, as well as a 2-hour Milford Sound cruise and photo stops at Te Anau, Eglinton Valley, and Mirror Lakes.

Drink mulled wine

Mulled wine wasn’t invented in New Zealand but during the winter it’s so common you’d think it was. For those who don’t know, mulled wine is just warm wine that’s flavored with spices… it’s delicious!

One of my favorite things to do in the winter months in Queenstown is to head into town and visit one of the rooftop bars to enjoy a mulled wine by the fire.

The best place in Queenstown for this is at The Sundeck. They have lots of heaters at every table and serve amazing mulled wine!

Relax at the Onsen Hot Pools

Onsen Hot Pools are the most famous hot pools in New Zealand. Seriously, if you want to enjoy Onsen Hot Pools you’d better book soon as this place often books up months in advance for the entire winter!

Of course, if you are one of the lucky ones who secure a booking, you’ll get to enjoy a steaming hot private pool overlooking the Shotover Canyon.

The pools are large enough for up to four people (but two is most comfortable in my opinion.)

For two people it cost $126 NZD for an hour soak and there are both semi-indoor and outdoor tubs – but all have breathtaking views!

Go on a hike

Hiking in winter is not only more fun, but the lack of people makes it even more peaceful.

There are a few easy trails in Queenstown for those without winter hiking experience including Mt Crichton Loop Track and the famous Queenstown Hill. Both are relatively easy and although icy conditions can occur, most of the time the trail is fine without crampons.

If you’re more experienced then you could tackle one of the best hikes on the South Island – Ben Lomond Track. This grueling hike is even harder in winter and involves a 1,400-meter elevation gain over 7 kilometers one way.

All up, it’ll take you 7 to 8 hours in winter and you’ll need alpine equipment and experience to summit Ben Lomond.

Visit an ice bar

It’s already cold outside, so why not head to one of Queenstown’s ice bars? In fact, depending on the day it may be warmer inside!

With a warm jacket on you’ll get to sip cocktails or mocktails in a bar completely made of ice out of a glass made of ice. Cool, huh?

Queenstown is home to two ice bars called Minus 5 Ice Bar and Below Zero Ice Bar. Both are much the same and prices are almost identical so it doesn’t matter which one you go to.

Entrance to both is $32 NZD for adults and includes one cocktail. It’s a unique experience that you have to do once!

Taste wine in the Gibbston Valley

The best part about wine is that you can drink it at any time of the year. In Queenstown, the closest and best wine region is the Gibbston Valley. This region is famous for producing some of the best Pinot Noir in the world. It’s seriously good!

From Queenstown, you can either do a self-drive tour, hop-on-hop-off tour, or full guided tour with lunch!

I’ve done all three and prefer either the self-drive option or a full guided tour. On a guided tour you can sit back and relax while your guide does all the work for you.

All you have to do is taste wine and eat great food! Who wouldn’t want to do that?!

Book your guided wine tour online here – this tour includes 18+ wine tastings across 4 unique wineries and a tour of New Zealand’s largest underground wine cave!

Where to Stay in Queenstown

When it comes to picking a great place to stay in Queenstown during the winter it’s important you know exactly what you’re coming for.

That’s why below you’ll see recommendations based on winter specific attractions.

You can also check out different family-friendly accommodations in Queenstown if you’re traveling with kids.

JUCY Snooze Queenstown: For budget travelers, there are a few great options in Queenstown but my favorite is JUCY Snooze. This hostel is clean, comfortable and they have a rooftop bar and restaurant that serves amazing pizza. They have both dorm rooms and privates for guests and it’s located in the heart of town!
>> Check photos, reviews, and availability here

Hilton Queenstown Resort and Spa: If you plan on skiing up at The Remarkables Ski Area then the Hilton is the closest hotel to the ski field. In fact, you’ll actually save yourself around 5 minutes each way! The Hilton is also beautiful inside and out and with a free shuttle to town it’s convenient too!
>> Check photos, reviews, and availability here

Swiss-Belresort Coronet Peak: If Coronet Peak is your chosen ski field then Swiss-Belresort is a top choice. It’s actually located just below the ski field access road so you can be at the chairlift in 10 minutes! The hotel also has a free shuttle to town.
>> Check photos, reviews, and availability here

Crown Plaza Queenstown: For those who love to stay close to town Crown Plaza Queenstown is perfect. It’s conveniently located in the heart of town along St Omar Park. They even have rooms with lake views!
>> Check photos, reviews, and availability here

Conclusion

Winter in Queenstown is a magical time to visit this remote mountain town. From fun in the mountains to fun in town, there’s no shortage of amazing things to see and do in Queenstown in winter!

The best part is you’ll avoid the crowds at many of the best attractions as well as enjoy cheaper prices on tours and excursions in winter in Queenstown. It’s a win-win if you ask me!

Author Bio

Bailey is a full-time travel blogger who visited Queenstown on a working holiday. However, after spending a year there, Queenstown stole her heart and she has since decided to make the move there permanently. Her blog, My Queenstown Diary, documents her love for Queenstown in the form of travel guides. If you liked this article be sure to follow along here for more!

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Yellowstone in Winter: 30 Useful Things to Know Before Visiting

Yellowstone National Park becomes a wintery wonderland by mid-fall. The peaks are heavy with snowpack, bear hunker down with their full bellies, and the rivers steam at the touch of the frosty air.

As the temperatures begin to drop, the summer crowds disperse and Yellowstone in winter quiets down.

While normally you have to go back-country to get away from the crowds, in winter, Yellowstone front-country becomes a place to seek solitude and silence.

Yellowstone in Winter FAQs

View of Mammoth Hot Springs in sunrise light with lots of mist and steam and pastel colors from morning sun.
What is there to do in Yellowstone in winter?

Quite a lot! While most of the park is closed to private vehicles, snowmobiles and snowcoaches will take you to many of the most scenic parts of Yellowstone without the crowds. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are two of the most popular winter activities in Yellowstone, as well as wildlife spotting and wildlife photography.

Where should I stay in Yellowstone in winter?

Many of the lodges in the park itself are closed, with the exception of the Old Faithful Lodge.

Instead, I recommend staying in Jackson Hole or West Yellowstone.

For Jackson Hole, I suggest Wyoming Inn. This cozy inn features Western-style decor complete with a roaring fireplace, warm woodsy colors, rustic design touches, and large, modern rooms. Check photos and reviews here.

For West Yellowstone, I suggest the hip The Adventure Inn. This stylish spot has a minimalist style, with a Scandinavian sensibility mashed up against a woodsy edge. It’s like a Brooklyn loft and a mountain cabin had a baby: it’s beautiful. Check photos and reviews here.

Can I drive through Yellowstone in winter?

Only through the North Entrance in Gardiner, MT leading to the Northeast Entrance — otherwise a snowcoach or snowmobile transit must be booked. More on that below.

Road Conditions and Seasonal Closures in Yellowstone in Winter

Road leading into Yosemite National Park in winter

As Yellowstone National Park transitions into winter season activities, there are some important dates to keep in mind!

While certain roads close to private vehicles, others begin to open to over-snow transportation such as snowmobile and snowcoach – We’ll talk about these more in a bit.

Yellowstone Entry Price in Winter

Sun low on the horizon showing through a puff of steam from hydrothermal area of boardwalk

The price to enter Yellowstone National Park in winter is the same as at any other time of year: $35 for private vehicles and $30 for snowmobiles, each granting 7 days of admission.

However, if you like National Parks, I highly recommend investing in an America the Beautiful pass! It gives you one year of free entry to all National Parks and other federally-administered protected areas (National Forests, National Seashores, etc. — over 2,000 sites!) for the low price of $79.99.

Plus, 10% of that goes back into the National Park Foundation to keep the land pure, beautiful, and accessible for all.

>> Buy your America the Beautiful annual pass online here! <<

Yellowstone Winter Opening Dates

Paved road with snow covered trees in Yellowstone National Park

These opening dates apply to over-snow travel only. Over-snow travel includes snowmobiling, cross country skiing, snowcoach tours, and snowshoeing. It does not include personal private vehicles.

If you would like to drive your own vehicle into the park, you will need to use the North Entrance in Gardiner, MT — the only open road.

The road between the North Entrance and the Northeast Entrance remains open for private vehicles all year.

The following sections of road open mid-December for over-snow travel:

  • West Entrance to Old Faithful
  • Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful
  • Canyon Village to Norris
  • Canyon Village to Yellowstone Lake
  • Old Faithful to West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake
  • South Entrance to Yellowstone Lake
  • Yellowstone Lake to Lake Butte Overlook

Yellowstone Winter Closing Dates

Yellowstone geyser in winter showing blue turquoise water with orange rim in white snow

If you are planning to make a late winter trip to Yellowstone National Park, you will want to be aware of the winter closing dates for over-snow use.

The following roads close to over-snow travel in early March:

  • Sylvan Pass
  • Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris
  • Norris to Madison Junction
  • Norris to Canyon Village

All remaining roads close for over-snow travel, with the exception of the road between the North Entrance and Northeast Entrance, in mid-March.

Winter Road Conditions in Yellowstone

Curving paved road leading to Yellowstone in winter with snow-covered trees.

Always check on Yellowstone National Park’s official website for updated road conditions before traveling to the park. The weather can change quickly, and you’ll want to be prepared.

That means snow chains if you are driving the North-Northeast Entrance route, safety flares or triangles in case of a breakdown, and warm clothing / emergency blankets in case you are stranded for a while waiting for a tow.

When to Visit Yellowstone in Winter

Frozen Lower Yellowstone falls with trees on the landscape.

The best time to visit Yellowstone National Park for winter activities is between the end of December and the end of February. It’s one of my favorite National Parks to visit in December for good reason!

This is because it falls into the over-snow travel period but before the period ends, and it has the fewest crowds while also having some of the most stunning snow-covered landscapes you can imagine: white snow broken only by the beautiful kaleidoscope of the rainbow-hued geothermal pools in the ground!

Weather in Yellowstone in Winter

Misty foggy landscape of Yellowstone in winter with trees and mountains.

Yellowstone in winter can be summed up in one word: FREEZING.

Fun fact: The West Entrance recorded the park’s record low of -66°F in 1933. BRRR!

Here are the breakdowns for winter weather in Yellowstone and what to expect on a month-by-month basis from November through February.

November: Average high of 34° F and an average low of 13° F, with 12 days of rain/snow

December: Average high of 26° F and an average low of 4° F, with 13 days of rain/snow.

January: Average high of 28° F and an average low of 3° F, with 13 days of snow/rain.

February: Average high of 31° F and an average low of 4° F, with 11 days of snow/rain.

Getting Around Yellowstone in Winter

View from behind of a man on snowmobile with another snowmobile ahead on a sunny winter day.

Traveling in Yellowstone National Park is a little different in the wintertime.

Some pre-trip planning is in order if you plan to visit Old Faithful, Canyon Village, Yellowstone Lake, or any other area of the park that is inaccessible by private vehicle.

If you want to explore these areas of the park during the wintertime, you will want to schedule a snowcoach or snowmobile tour well in advance of your trip date! These excursions are popular among wintertime visitors!

Booking an Over-Snow Tour

A yellow snowcoach plowing through snow in Yellowstone National Park

You have two options for over-snow travel in Yellowstone in winter: snowcoach and snowmobile. And they are very different!

A snowcoach is an enclosed vehicle with large tires capable of driving on the park’s snow-covered roads with ease. They have comfortable seats and large windows for viewing the snowy landscape.

Snowcoach tours are great for families or visitors who want to sit back and relax while exploring the park with a knowledgeable professional.

For those with an adventurous spirit, a snowmobile tour will offer a thrilling Yellowstone winter experience!

Although driving speeds are limited to 25 mph in the park, riding a snowmobile past herds of bison and elk is exhilarating and unlike any other scenic tour. The best part is, the professional outfitters will make sure you are geared up to stay warm throughout the entire ride!

Now, let’s talk about what kind of fun winter activities there are in Yellowstone!

Overwhelmed by Visiting Yellowstone National Park in Winter?

Pack of elk with horns with one standing in the river and others in background

Admittedly, Yellowstone is not the easiest national park to visit in the winter if you are used to being able to drive to different points and not have to worry about over-snow transportation.

If reading this far into the post has gotten you feeling a bit anxious and overwhelmed by all the planning that needs to go into a successful Yellowstone winter trip, I strongly recommend opting for a 4- or 5-day guided tour which will handle all the logistics.

This 4-day tour includes transportation from Jackson, Wyoming on the beginning and end of the tour as well as 3 nights of accommodation in West Yellowstone, ending in Jackson Hole.

It includes the following: wildlife sighting opportunities in Grand Teton National Park (keeping an eye out for wolves, elk, bison, moose, elk, bison, foxes, eagles, deer and more!), a snowcoach trip to see Old Faithful and other hydrothermal areas in Yellowstone National Park, a horse-drawn sleigh ride into the National Elk Refuge, boardwalk hikes through Fountain Paint-Pots and Mud-Pots, and lots of stops for beautiful winter photography opportunities.

Check the itinerary and more details of this 4-day Yellowstone and Grand Teton winter trip!

Pack of four wolves walking through snow in Yellowstone National Park in winter

Another option is this 5-day wildlife-focused tour which covers Yellowstone extensively. It starts in Bozeman, Montana (a wonderful place to stay in winter!) and includes 4 nights of accommodation, dropping you off in Bozeman on the return.

It includes the following winter activities: a day of wildlife sightings (keeping an eye out for both bald and golden eagles, white-tailed deer, coyotes, elk, bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, and more), visiting Old Faithful via chartered snowcoach and also seeing Fountain Paint Pots along the way, Cooke City for the best place on earth to see wolves (located in the northern range of Yellowstone), and wolf winter safaris in Lamar Canyon with experienced wildlife guides and wolf researchers.

Check the itinerary and read more details about this 5-day Yellowstone wolf and wildlife focused tour!

Cross Country Skiing in Yellowstone

A white woman smiling and going cross-country skiing in Yellowstone national park

Yellowstone National Park is full of wonderful ski trails from groomed front country loops for beginners to remote backcountry routes for seasoned and highly-experienced skiers!

If you’re interested in getting out into nature on some cross country skis, these are our favorite beginner-friendly trail options for getting out into the nature of Yellowstone National Park in winter!

Upper Terrace Loop Ski Trail

View of Mammoth Hot Springs with orangey-pink sunrise sky and mist floating up from geyser.

A little spontaneous? This trail is great for last-minute trips into Yellowstone National Park in winter.

Since you can drive to the trailhead in your personal vehicle without booking over-snow transportation in advance, there’s often minimal planning involved.

The 1.5-mile loop is routinely groomed, but it can be considered difficult for beginners due to the few steep sections.

Enjoy this scenic trail around the upper terrace geysers and hot pots in Mammoth’s hydrothermal area. It takes about 1-hour to complete this loop, but leave time to take photos with the geysers, including Mammoth Hot Springs, Canary Spring, and Orange Spring Mound!

Black Sand Basin Trail

Steam rising from a geothermal feature with flowing river and snow on each side

The Black Sand Basin Trail is a great option for beginners or experienced cross country skiers!

This groomed ski trail begins at the Old Faithful Visitor Center and heads to the Upper Geyser Basin Trail. The 4-mile trail will take about 3-hours to complete as you glide past the many steaming hydrothermal features.

This ski trail is located near Old Faithful and is inaccessible to private vehicles during the wintertime.

Advanced planning is needed to accommodate for over-snow transportation.

Blacktail Plateau Ski Trail

Pack of elk with horns eating in the snow

Were you hoping to encounter some wildlife while skiing in Yellowstone in winter? Cover some ground on the Blacktail Plateau Ski Trail to spot bison, elk, and maybe a wolf pack in the distance!

This trail has a few challenging sections and stretches 8-miles with a trailhead on both ends.

It is common for skiers to park one vehicle on both ends of the tail or only ski in a few miles before turning around toward the trailhead. Either way, know your experience level and make a plan before hitting the trail.

Cross Country Ski Rental

A man on cross country skis with back turned heading towards a geothermal feature in Yellowstone in winter

Forgot to pack your cross country skis, or don’t know if you want to make the investment in your own pair just yet?

There are plenty of rental shops located in the towns of West Yellowstone, Gardiner, Big Sky, and Bozeman.

Stop by a rental shop or call ahead and they can outfit you with everything you need to experience Yellowstone National Park’s groomed cross country ski trails!

Snowshoeing in Yellowstone

A man with a red jacket and backpack snowshoeing on a misty day with snow

For those looking to take the trails a little slower, snowshoeing is a great option!

Snowshoes and trekking poles can be rented at many of the same outfitters offering cross country ski rentals, so no worries if you couldn’t bring your own along.

Many ski trails in the park are also snowshoe-friendly. Just avoid walking on top of ski tracks whenever possible, as this makes it difficult for cross-country skiers to return (as they trace their tracks!).

Here are a couple of trails to try out.

Observation Point Loop Snowshoe Trail

A blue sky day with snow on the ground and a view of Old Faithful geyser erupting steam high into the air

This trail is a must-do for anyone staying at the Old Faithful Lodge!

Conveniently located just past the Old Faithful Visitor Center, the Observation Point Loop Trail is a great way to watch the timely eruption of the world-famous geyser, Old Faithful!

Strap on your snowshoes because this 2 mile loop trail is closed to skiing. Along the way, you’ll catch views of other area geysers and maybe even some wildlife.

Tower Fall Ski Trail

For those looking for a longer snowshoe outing, the Tower Fall Ski Trail is a great choice.

Along this 5 mile trail, snowshoers will be rewarded with wintry views of Tower Fall and the Yellowstone River Canyon. Keep your eyes peeled, bison and wintering elk frequent these areas!

Winter users can park their personal vehicles in the parking area nearby Tower Junction and follow the unplowed road behind the gate.

The trail begins with a gradual uphill, which is great for warming up on chilly days! This trail is also popular for cross country skiing.

Winter Yellowstone Wildlife Viewing

A red fox looking towards the camera in the snow

A lot of Yellowstone National Park’s wildlife remains active throughout the winter season.

Although bear hibernate in their cozy dens during the snowy months, wildlife such as elk, bison, wolves, fox, coyote and bald eagle can still be spotted!

If you are taking a private tour in a snowcoach or on snowmobiles, your guide will be sure to point out any wildlife in view.

Wildlife Spotting Without a Tour

A grey wolf looking directly at the camera with snow-covered trees behind him

For those who are planning to take their own vehicles into Yellowstone, we have a few tips!

  1. Drive out toward the Lamar Valley with binoculars, hot beverages, and warm blankets. Find a nice spot where you can look out over the valley and start scanning! The Lamar Valley is famous for wolf sightings and a fresh blanket of snow often makes them easier to spot.
  2. In the wintertime, Mammoth Hot Springs becomes a popular spot for wintering elk to settle in. Spend some time in this area and count how many elk you can find!
  3. Bison can often be viewed along the drive to the Lamar Valley. If you see Bison as you drive along, be sure to only stop in designated pullouts for safety.

What to Pack for Yellowstone in Winter

A woman in a pink hooded parka with a camera photographing snow-covered trees

Waterproof Parka: In the snowy weather and freezing temperatures of Yellowstone in winter, you’ll want something like this wonderful North Face parka. It’s pricy to be sure, but it comes with a lifetime guarantee (which I’ve tested by sending in my zipper to be fixed after four years of use and abuse cycling in it all winter long – my jacket came back looking like new!).

I’ve had this one for ten years and it’s held up beautifully from everything to biking in NYC in winter to visiting north of the Arctic circle in Tromso and Abisko. It’ll certainly do you just fine in Yellowstone National Park in winter!

>>> Get yours here! <<<

Waterproof Pants: If you’re doing any winter hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, etc. (basically, anything more intense than just a stroll around town) you’ll want waterproof pants: trust me, jeans just won’t do when you’re dealing with snow this deep.

Snow Boots: For snow boots for walking around Yellowstone National Park as well as whatever town you’re using as your base, I suggest these cute and cozy Sorel boots for women, which are waterproof and warm but also have plenty of traction. Add some Yaktrax to the bottom for grip on icy surfaces and pathways. These are a godsend!

Warm Leggings: You have two options for ultra-warm leggings in winter – fleece-lined for people with sensitive skin like me, and merino wool for people who don’t find wool itchy like I do. I own several pairs of these fleece-lined leggings in a variety of colors (I have black, gray, and maroon). I wear these underneath my waterproof pants in the snow. For people who like wool, merino wool leggings are the way to go – the absolute warmest you can get!

Fleece-Lined Knit Hat: I live in several different colors of knit hats in the winter. Since your jacket is likely a dark or neutral color, it’s fun to liven up your look (and photos) with a selection of colorful beanies. I like a snug knit hat lined in fleece and with a pom pom that does absolutely nothing to add warmth but tons to add cuteness!

Thermal Top Layer: Again, this’ll depend on if you like wool or not. I don’t, so I go for thin performance thermals like this Heat Plus layer from 32 Degrees. However, if you’re a fan of wool, a merino wool base layer will keep you insanely warm and it won’t trap odors, meaning you can re-wear it several times before it needing a wash — great if you like to pack light.

An Enormous Scarf: The bigger and thicker and more wrappable the scarf, the better. I tend to opt for bright, bold colors to liven up my look. I love these ones — they’re cheap and feel soft like cashmere but aren’t pricy (or in my opinion, itchy!) like it!

Touchscreen Friendly Gloves: Taking off your gloves to use your phone when navigating on GPS, looking up something you’ve bookmarked, etc. is so annoying. Most gloves these days tend to be touchscreen friendly, but check before you buy. These gloves are adorable, touchscreen-compatible, and affordable.

Waterproof Gloves: You’ll also want to layer waterproof gloves over your touchscreen gloves if you’re snowshoeing or cross-country skiing and generally out and about a lot in the snow when you can’t put your hands in your pockets.

Headlamp (and Extra Batteries): Yellowstone National Park in winter can get dark early — and quickly — due to the early sunset time plus the mountains making it get darker even before that. Bring a headlamp in case any hikes take longer than expected! This Petzl headlamp is highly-rated and affordable.

Waterproof Backpack: You’ll want to keep your belongings dry, especially if you’re doing long hikes in the snow or freezing rain. Bring a waterproof backpack — you won’t regret it, especially if you’re carrying pricy camera equipment.

Snowshoes (optional): Many trails in Yellowstone in winter will require proper snowshoes (different than snow boots!) and poles if you want to do some winter trekking. You can also rent them, but they’re pretty cheap to buy and will last you for future winter trips!

Camera: You’ll want a camera to capture all that Yellowstone winter beauty. I use and love my Sony A6000! It’s mirrorless, so it’s lightweight and perfect for a high-quality camera that won’t weigh your pack down. Bring extra batteries as they burn out faster in the cold.

Battery Pack: Cold weather depletes cell phone batteries insanely quickly, so if you’re using your cell phone as your primary camera and navigation device (and who doesn’t these days?) you’ll absolutely want the ability to power up without a wall outlet while you’re out enjoying nature. I rely on an Anker battery pack to keep all my devices charged in the cold — and as a blogger who takes frequent winter trips to the Arctic and beyond with way more gear than a normal person needs, it’s served me very well!

Cooke City Excursions

A misty close up view of the peaks near Cooke City

Cooke City is a fun destination for self-guided winter trips into Yellowstone National Park. Here, winter is the primary season!

It’s not uncommon for folks to be snowmobiling in the surrounding national forest area into late June or even July!

If you’re planning on spending the morning searching for wildlife in the Lamar Valley, Cooke City makes a great place to enjoy a hot meal around lunchtime.

***

Bundle up and enjoy your winter adventure into Yellowstone National Park!

Pin This Guide to Yellowstone in Winter

50 Best Places to Visit in Europe in Winter

Europe in winter is a magical place!

While you certainly can find several places for winter sun in Europe, this post is all about enjoying the festive side to Europe in December and the rest of winter!

From traditional Christmas markets in Germany to dog sledding and Northern lights chasing in the Arctic, here are all the best places to go in Europe in winter!

Rome, Italy

Contributed by Kate of Our Escape Clause

The Eternal City is a delight at any time of year, but visiting Rome in winter means being treated to mild weather, very few crowds, and the chance to have some of Rome’s most iconic sights (almost) all to yourself.

With plenty of Christmas decor to see in the city in December and a truly endless list of things to do, you can’t go wrong with a winter trip in Rome.

While you’re there, be sure to:

  • See the nativity scene in front of St Peter’s Basilica. Not only does St. Peter’s Square boast a beautiful Christmas tree during the holiday season, it is also home to an absolutely stunning nativity each year that is carved out of sand!
  • Watch the sunrise over the Colosseum. There’s never a better time of year to get up for sunrise and stay out for sunset–the short winter days make it easy to see the city in its best light.
  • Stroll down Via Condotti. This avenue near the Spanish Steps is home to some of the best holiday decor in the city.
  • Eat all the artichokes. Rome is known for its artichokes! They start coming into season in November and really pick up steam in February, making them the perfect dish to try in late winter.
  • Wander Centro Storico and Trastevere. These two popular neighborhoods in Rome are at their best in winter, when the crowds clear out and Rome’s infamous heat dies off. Just be prepared for gray skies!

In addition, December visitors to Rome can enjoy a handful of Christmas markets in the city–but there are much better places to head in Europe in winter for markets! Rome’s charms in winter lie outside that classic holiday escape.

Trento, Italy

Contributed by Emily of London City Calling

The pretty little Alpine town of Trento sits quietly nestled within the Brenta Dolomites in the Trentino–Alto Adige region of northern Italy. While it may not be as well known as other cities in Italy, Trento is one of the countries real hidden gems, especially during the winter months.

There are so many reason’s you should visit Trento during the winter, from wandering down the quaint cobblestone streets looking up at the snow-covered mountains which peek out from behind the city’s Italian Renaissance architecture, to indulging on Tortel di Patate washed down with a warm mug of mulled wine at Trento’s traditional Christmas markets.

Here are a few things you have to do in Trento in winter:

  • Visit the main Trento Christmas Market in Piazza Fiera, a real-life winter wonderland with plenty of food and drinks traders, as well as stalls selling artisan products, Christmas decorations, gifts, and more.
  • Stop by Santa’s Grotto and write a letter to ‘Babbo Natal’ in Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore.
  • See the giant illuminated Christmas tree in Piazza Duomo.
  • Hop on the ‘Christmas train’ and take a ride around Trento’s historical center
  • Take a day trip into the Trentino region for outdoor winter activities such as skiing and tobogganing.

Lake Como, Italy

Contributed by Paula of Paula Pins the Planet

Lake Como near Milan is one of the most scenic destinations in Italy all year-round, but it’s during winter that the magic happens. The view of the lake nestled amongst the Alps covered in snow is an awe-inspiring sight.

It is not just the beauty of Lake Como in winter that makes it so special. Wintertime is considered low season, which means the prices are lower and it is less crowded.  

Just a short trip by train from Milan, Lake Como draws travelers from all over the world to enjoy the stunning lakeside villas with their colorful houses surrounded by the mountains. The diverse landscape gives ample choices for winter activities, and some that you cannot miss are: 

  • A ferry tour to visit the other amazing villages of Bellagio, Varena, and Menaggio 
  • Enjoy the breath-taking Christmas lights in the city of Como, giving the opportunity for a charming Christmas atmosphere. 
  • Christmas Markets can be found around the city of Como, and the opportunity to taste the local delicacies, like local cheese and wine. 
  • Enjoy the ski resorts: some of the most popular ones are Piani di Bobbio, Monte Sighinola, and Valchiavenna. 
  • Spoil yourself at a spa. Como offers many incredible options of luxury spas where you can warm up with a hot stone massage, followed by a jacuzzi overlooking the lake. 

Bolzano, Italy

Contributed by Linda of La Dolce Fit Vita

There is no better place in Europe during winter than to be right in the middle of the Dolomites. Surrounded by some of the most beautiful snowcapped mountains in the world, Bolzano is that perfect little Italian town that encompasses that all around fuzzy feeling you might be yearning for during Christmas.

Besides its adorable little Christmas Market, if you’re a fan of chocolate and wine then this is hands down the place for you… and I mean who isn’t a chocolate and wine fan?

Bolzano is home to the largest Loacker production facility- meaning you will see wafers and hot cocoa pretty much everywhere. Also, the town is right on ‘La Strada del Vino dell’Alto Adige.’ Translated, the Wine Road of South Tyrol. That means there are dozens of vineyards to explore. And guess what? Wine-tasting, even in winter, is a thing!

There are also a handful of outdoor activities to indulge in – skiing and snowboarding being the most popular. There are so many different ski slopes to pick from, each with different scenery or level of difficulty. Not a fan of winter sports? No sweat, you can head to QC Terme Dolomiti, one of the most luxurious spas in the entire region. And guess what, it’s three floors of relaxation and pools and only 45 euros for a day pass… gasp!

As you wander around the town you will find mulled wine on every corner and roasted chestnuts waiting for you every hundred meters or so. In being smaller than other European Christmas Markets, the overall feeling is much cozier. The area surrounding Bolzano is known for its wooden carvings so make sure to not leave without a handmade wooden Christmas ornament!

 As a recap:

  •  Go wine tasting on the Wine Road of South Tryol
  • Treat yourself to a chocolate tasting tour of Loacker products
  • Hit the slopes to ski or snowboard in the Dolomite mountains
  • Go to the spa at QC Terme Dolomiti
  • Wander the Christmas Market and shop for wood-carved souvenirs

 Can winter in Europe get better? Wine, chocolate, spas, snow, and Christmas… I think not!

Colmar, France

Contributed by Maartje of The Orange Backpack

Colmar in France is one of the best cities in Europe to visit in winter, especially during the holiday season.

This charming town in the Alsace in northeastern France is at its most beautiful during the winter months of the year.

The picturesque streets with monumental houses will be decorated with lights and Christmas trees.

The medieval setting with half-timbered houses the Alsace is known for will definitely get you in the holiday mood.

There will be many Christmas markets to buy souvenirs or get some wintery food!

The best things to do in Colmar:

  • Wander around the charming streets and spot the most colorful traditional houses, especially around the area of Petit Venise.
  • Visit one of the Christmas markets around town.
  •  Visit the Unterlinden Museum for medieval art or the Toy Museum to see the history of toys.
  •  Make some day trips to other Christmas markets in picturesque towns like Riquewirh and Ribeauvillé.

The best way to visit Colmar? Combine your visit with some other charming medieval towns for the perfect road trip in the Alsace. Especially Riquewirh, Ribeauvillé and Kaysersberg are definitely worth a visit and have the same colorful half-timbered house. 

Paris, France

Editor’s Choice

Paris is always a good idea: and in winter, that goes even more so!

From charming Seine-side strolls with views of the iconic Parisian art nouveau architecture to ice rinks in front of the Eiffel tower to Christmas Markets and festive lights everywhere you look, winter in Paris is a dream.

Here are the highlights of winter in Paris:

  • Visiting the massive La Defense Christmas Market, the largest in Paris
  • Shopping for books at the adorable and historic Shakespeare & Company – and heading up to the second floor to relax in the reading room
  • Visit the Galeries Lafayette department store for all sorts of Christmas pics
  • Stroll through the cities iconic covered passageways
  • Spend time in iconic museums like The Louvre and Musee D’Orsay

Strasbourg, France

Contributed by Elisa from France Bucket List

Strasbourg is one of the most beautiful cities to visit in France and a good destination to visit all year round, also in wintertime.

Strasbourg, in eastern France, is the capital city of the historical region of Alsace and also the capital city of the French region of Grand Est.

Strasbourg hosts one of the most famous Christmas markets in France, and also the oldest.

It is also a good destination for sightseeing or a gastronomic trip so if you cannot make it to Strasbourg during the Christmas holidays there are still plenty of things to do around.

We recommend spending at least 2 days in Strasbourg – check out this Strasbourg itinerary to see the main sights. If you have more days available, consider a day trip to visit an Alsatian village or doing part of the Alsace wine route.

If you are visiting the city before or after the Christmas holidays, these are the top things to do in Strasbourg in the winter:

  • Visit Notre Dame de Strasbourg, one of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in France
  • Explore La Petite France (the tanneries neighborhood) the most picturesque area of Old Strasbourg
  • Visit the European neighborhood, home of European institutions like the European Court of Human Rights
  • Learn about the Alsatian wines, perhaps with a wine tasting tour
  • Try at least one of the popular winstubs – a type of traditional wine bar and restaurant-specific to Alsace. With a warm and rustic atmosphere and good local food, they are super cozy in the wintertime.

Lyon, France

Contributed by Stefan of Nomadic Boys

Lyon is our favorite place in France. It’s a city famous for being the gastronomic capital of France, it has a really picturesque old town and a gorgeous backdrop across the Presqu’île where the Rhône and Saône rivers converge. We also love Lyon’s gay scene, which is mainly spread across the northern side of the Presqu’île.

Lyon is also particularly special during the winter months when the city is bustling with Christmas markets and the iconic “Fête des Lumières” (Festival of Lights) takes place. The famous festival takes place over 4 nights in early December. As well as being one of the most exciting festivals in Lyon, it is the best light show in France.

During the days of the Light Festival, the entire city traditionally places a candle on their windowsill as a thank you to Mary (mother of Jesus) who was said to have spared the city from the plague when it was spreading across the country back in 1643.

During this time, an impressive light show also takes place every evening across the main sights in the Old Town and the Presqui’île as a nod to the Lumière Brothers who invented the early motion-picture camera and projector in Lyon, called the Cinématographe, or simply, the cinema!

The winter months are also super cozy in Lyon when people gather to dine out at the city’s renowned “bouchons” (restaurants) and drink lots of vin chaud (mulled wine) at the many Christmas markets.

  • Explore the Vieux Lyon (Old Town) and its unique Renaissance passageways called “traboules”
  • Climb up to the Fourvière Basilica for the best views of Lyon
  • Visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon: the largest fine art museum in France after the Louvr
  • Discover Lyon’s murals: there are around 100 large paintings around the city to spot
  • Pay homage to the Lumière brothers at the Institut Lumière

Andorra La Vella, Andorra

Contributed by Stephanie Craig of History Fangirl

Andorra La Vella, the tiny mountain capital of the micronation of Andorra, makes for a great day trip from Barcelona or as a point of entry to a fabulous Andorra winter getaway.

The country is a popular winter destination since there are so many specific winter activities in Andorra, from dog sledding to skiing in the fabled Pyrenees to winter mountaineering.

However, don’t skip spending some time in the capital, since there is at least enough to fill a day or two just in town. 

Andorra is also famous for its hearty, winter cuisine, so enjoy some fabulous local Catalonian dishes that will keep you fueled up while you explore. Make sure to spend time on the following:

  • Visit the December Christmas Market
  • Exploring the city’s Barri Antic (Old Quarter) on foot
  • See the famous Dali statue La Noblesse du temps (The Nobility of Time)
  • Shop for tax-free luxury goods
  • Warm-up at Caldea, Andorra la Vella’s mountain spa

Innsbruck, Austria

Contributed by Nadine of Le Long Weekend

An alpine city brimming with historical attractions, Innsbruck is much more than your usual ski town.

Spend the day on the slopes before sinking into a cosy restaurant to feast on Tyrolean dumplings, or skip the fields altogether and browse the charming streets of the old town instead.

You’ll find plenty of attractions to amuse both young and old, including the Swarovski Museum, Austrian Christmas markets, and the Imperial Palace. Here are a few of the best things to do in Innsbruck in Winter:

  • Take the Nordkette Cable Car for the best views in town. Even if you’re not skiing, you can ride the cable car to the top of the mountain where you’ll find sled rides for kids and a bar with a view for the adults.
  • Visit the Swarovski Crystal Worlds for an immersive experience into the world of these iconic crystals.
  • Shop at the Christmas markets. Austria really knows how to do Xmas in style, and the markets in Innsbruck are among the best. Fill up on punch and warming treats as you browse the stalls selling trinkets and winter woolies. The markets start in late November and run right through to early January in Innsbruck.
  • See the Golden Roof – completed in 1500 to mark the marriage between Emperor Maximilian I and Bianca Maria Sforza. The roof is adorned with over 2600 copper tiles, giving it a beautiful golden shimmer.
  • Wander the colorful Old Town with its curious buildings, gorgeous boutiques, and intricate architecture.

Vienna, Austria

Editor’s Choice

Emanating wintry charm from everywhere you look, Vienna in winter shines brighter than you could imagine.

From the Christmas markets and festive lighting scattered all around the city to the shops beautifully decorated and enticing you to enter, Christmas in Vienna is simply a magical time.

There’s no denying it’s one of the best cities to visit in Europe in winter! A few of the best things to do on a winter trip to Vienna include:

  • Visiting the Christmas Market in front of Schönbrunn Palace for its delicious spaetzle and garlic soup
  • See a show at the Spanish Riding School, where equestrians perform beautiful dressage shows
  • Window shop on the pricy yet beautiful Der Graben boulevard and take in all the beautiful Christmas lights
  • Take a fiaker (traditional horse and carriage ride) around Vienna’s historic city center
  • Eat all the lebkuchen (gingerbread) your stomach can take!

Salzburg, Austria

Contributed by Samantha from The Wandering Wanderluster

Salzburg is Austria’s fourth largest city. Located just 10km from the German border, Salzburg which literally means “Salt-Fortress”, is one of the country’s most beautiful cities and the second most visited. While the city is a delight to visit anytime of the year, a trip to Salzburg during the winter is especially magical and some may say it is the best time of year to go. 

Visitors are spoilt for choice for things to do during winter. With nature on the city’s doorstop there is a plethora of outdoor activities available, including a range of skiing options within a short distance of the city. 

The Altstadt (Old Town) district sparkles with fairy lights and glitzy trees in the month of December, and if it snows, you can take in the snow-covered roofs, Christmas lights and mountain views from one of Salzburg’s best viewpoints

Those staying within the city limits can enjoy multiple seasonal activities in the month of December including:

  • Visiting the Christmas Markets in the Altstadt 
  • Going ice-skating on Mozart Square
  • Listening to seasonal classical music concerts inside the Mirabell Palace
  • Checking out the Christmas Market at Hellbrunn Palace just outside Salzburg
  • Taking a magical trip to the birthplace of the Christmas Carol “Silent Night” in Oberndorf

If you would prefer to keep warm, Salzburg has many cozy cafes to enjoy a sweet treat and a hot chocolate, and a fair few churches and museums that are worth visiting, many of them linked to the famous Composer Mozart, who was born in Salzburg. In fact, you can even tour his birthplace, located in the Altstadt. 

Berlin, Germany

Editor’s Choice

Berlin in winter is a fabulous choice!

Incredible Christmas markets, crisp winter weather, German and international food restaurants that are truly world-class, excellent museums: Berlin has everything you want in winter.

You could easily spend a week enjoying all the best things to do in Berlin in winter, but my favorite winter highlights are:

  • Take a wintry stroll through Tiergarten up to the decorated tree at the Brandenburg Gate
  • Warm up checking out the museums of Museuminsel
  • Shop ’til you drop on Ku’damm and at KaDaWe
  • See the decorations at the Reichstag
  • Visit the adorable Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt

Frankfurt, Germany

Editor’s Choice

Frankfurt is thought of more as a layover city than as one of the most interesting cities to visit in Germany… but I beg to differ!

Frankfurt has an amazing international food scene, a beautifully reconstructed Old Town, excellent Christmas markets, phenomenal coffee shops, and so much more to enjoy in winter.

Here are a few highlights in Frankfurt in winter:

  • Have delicious ramen at Takumi which specializes in chicken-based broths
  • Warm up with spicy Ethiopian-Eritrean food at African Queen
  • Visit the enormous Frankfurt Christmas Market and drink Gluhwein and Dampfnudel until your heart can take no more — be sure to have fun Christmas nail colors for all those Christmas market pics!
  • Hear a concert at the beautiful Frankfurter Dom
  • Check out the Gay Christmas Market (Pink Market) for an alternative festive market experience

Dresden, Germany

Contributed by Chris from Punta Cana Travel Blog

Dresden is a beautiful city in the German state of Saxony, located mid-way between Berlin and Prague.

While it is well-known and has its fair share of tourists, it’s usually not mentioned in the first place when talking about the German cities to visit. However, Dresden is absolutely worth visiting as it has one of the most beautiful and historic old towns and amazing scenery along the river Elbe. 

When visiting Dresden in winter, it’s a must to explore the famous Christmas market of the city, the Striezelmarkt. It’s one of the oldest Christmas markets in the world – dating back to 1434 – and features an abundance of local Christmas decorations (such as Schwibbogen, smoking men or nutcrackers) as well as various typical foods and drinks from Saxony, for example, gingerbread from nearby Pulsnitz or the famous Stollen, which is home to Dresden and has one of its origins in Saxony.

Besides the famous Striezelmarkt, there are numerous further Christmas markets in Dresden. While most of them are not worth mentioning, you should have a look at the medieval Christmas Market at Stallhof, a part of the former Royal Palace. It’s always an interesting spectacle to see and experience the various traditional costumes, individual decoration and charming atmosphere, all focusing on the medieval theme. This place is so much different than most Christmas markets in Germany.

As you should not come to Dresden just to visit the Christmas markets only, the following are my Top 5 for further activities in Dresden:

  • Walk through the historic Old Town and admire the beauty of the historic buildings
  • Visit the New Town with its art cafés, alternative bars, and international restaurants
  • Visit Panometer Dresden, a former gasometer with impressive 360-degree panorama installations, usually about Dresden’s history (perfect for a rainy day)
  • Take one of the two funiculars of Dresden to reach the best viewpoints of the city 
  • Take a day trip to Saxon Switzerland, an area with picturesque rock formations and stunning scenery 

Nuremberg, Germany

Editor’s Choice

If you’re looking for one of the best Christmas markets in Germany, you can’t miss Nuremberg! It’s one of Germany’s oldest and most traditional Christmas markets.

Besides the market, you can enjoy Bavarian cuisine, stroll along its charming bridges and waterways, admire half-timber and traditional architecture, and feel like you’ve stepped into a true winter wonderland.

  • Visit the Altstadt (Old Town) with its historic walls
  • See a show at the Staatstheater
  • Visit the amazing museum at the Albrecht-Dürer-Haus
  • Learn about Nuremberg’s dark role in the Holocaust at the Nuremberg Trial Courthouse and the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds 

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Editor’s Choice

Canals, Christmas Markets, and stroopwaffels: these are what my EUrope in winter dreams are made of.

Any time in Amsterdam is guaranteed to be a good time, as long as you leave the touristy center, but Amsterdam in winter has even more charm.

While of course you have to see the scenic Canal Ring (Grachtengordel) area, there’s much more to Amsterdam than you’d think, so be sure to leave the center a bit and explore!

  • See the canals all lit up and twinkling during the Amsterdam Light Festival — even better on a boat tour!
  • Visit the Netherlands’ best art museum, the Rijksmuseum
  • Wander around the hip 9 Straatjes (9 Streets) neighborhood with its boutiques and cafes
  • Visit the Christmas market on Rembrandtplein
  • Try spicy Surinamese and Indonesian food in East Amsterdam (Oud-Oost) – I recommend Lalla Rookh for Surimnamese and Warung Sranang Makmur for Indonesian

Utrecht, Netherlands

Contributed by Lotte from Beste voor Kids 

Utrecht is the 4th largest city in the Netherlands and is located in the identically named province of Utrecht. It’s a great city to visit any time of year but winter is especially enchanting in this charming Dutch city. 

Utrecht was granted city rights in 1122 and has a beautiful medieval center with pretty canals, gorgeous old houses, and plenty of cozy cafes, restaurants, and bars.

As a Utrecht local it’s hard for me to narrow down the list of things to do as there are so many worthwhile places to visit in Utrecht… However, below you can find some of my favorite Utrecht highlights: 

  • The Old City Center: stroll around the lovely city center with Neude, St. Janskerkhof, and the pretty canals around de Oude Gracht.  
  • Visit the Miffy Museum: if you’re visiting Utrecht with kids this is a must-do in any season but in winter there is a special Christmas Theme so it’s even more fun to visit with your little ones.  
  • Ice skating at the Spoorwegmuseum: the Spoorwegmuseum is another great place to visit with kids or for anyone interested in the history of train travel in the Netherlands. During the Christmas Holiday, there is a special theme called Winter Station during which you can go ice-skating at the temporary ice rink! 
  • Climb the Dom Tower: enjoy a bird’s eye view from the tallest church tower in the Netherlands. This 112-meter-tall tower is a city icon and offers beautiful views of Utrecht city all the way to Amsterdam and Rotterdam! 
  • Go shopping at Hoog Catharijne: revamped Hoog Catharijne is an indoor shopping mall connecting Utrecht Central Station to Utrecht city center and is transformed into a winter wonderland during winter. Admire the Christmas decorations, shop for souvenirs or a Christmas outfit, or have a drink or lunch at one of the restaurants in the mall.  

Brussels, Belgium

Contributed by Sarah of CosmopoliClan

Right in the heart of Brussels, you’ll find its most eye-catching landmark: Grand Place. The interesting gothic City Hall, grand King’s House and stately guild houses adorned with the most intricate gold leaf details are a feast to the eyes any time of the year.

During the festive season, this magnificent place comes to life under a twinkling Christmas blanket. A trail of lights and wooden chalets connects this wonderful location with other enchanting sites that are part of the Brussels Christmas market.

And the wintry fun doesn’t have to end there: Around mid-February, the city hosts a spectacular light festival called Bright Brussels. It’s the perfect occasion to see some of the city’s classic sights with an interesting twist. 

Visiting Belgian’s capital in winter comes with an added bonus: Brussels’ central location also makes it the perfect starting point for winter escapes to other European cities.

  • Watch the captivating Sound and Light show at the Grand Place that takes place every night during the Christmas festivities.
  • Indulge in a fluffy waffle topped with Belgian’s legendary chocolate.
  • Let the Ferris wheel whisk you up for an unforgettable view over the twinkling city. You’ll find it at Vismet during the Brussels Christmas market.
  • Explore the city in a different light during the Bright Brussels Light Festival.
  • Visit the Royal Galleries and enjoy a hot chocolate at one of the city’s most enchanting locations.

Haarlem, Netherlands

Contributed by Manon of Visiting The Dutch Countryside

Haarlem is one of those Dutch cities that is charming, and when you add winter to the mix, you get a magical combination.

Admire its picturesque streets, explore the incredible museums, visit a Christmas market and so much more. Haarlem has everything you could wish for when visiting Europe in winter.

  • Visit the Christmas market in Haarlem: One of the Netherlands’ biggest Christmas markets takes place here. And not only will you find many tasty Dutch treats here, but there are more than 300 stalls to find your perfect Christmas presents. There are also performances, and there’s even a Christmas sing-a-long.
  • Go ice skating at Ijsbaan Haarlem: When you’re visiting The Netherlands in winter, ice skating is part of the deal. We love it. The ice rink is opened from September until March, and you can rent ice skates here.
  • Get cozy at the Jopenkerk brewery: This Dutch beer brewery is found in a beautiful church. So, not only can you taste some amazing Dutch craft beer here, but it’s also found in a beautiful surrounding.
  • Sit in front of the fireplace at Het Veerkwartier: Dutch winters can often be very windy, rainy, and chilly. This is the perfect place in Haarlem to visit when you want to warm up in front of the fireplace.
  • Admire incredible museums in Haarlem: Haarlem is filled with fantastic museums, think of the Teylers Museum, Frans Hals Museum, Corrie Ten Boom, Museum Haarlem and Museum van de Geest.

Zurich, Switzerland

Contributed by Smita of My Faulty Compass

Rich in culture and history, Zurich is a centuries-old city dripping with charm and beauty. A stunning lake and a lovely river along with snow-covered mountains surrounding it add to its stupendous charm.

Zurich in the winter is magical and beautiful with the holiday season transforming the city into an even more spectacular place!

Twinkling fairy lights adorning the streets, unique Christmas trees and markets, a multitude of Advent events and the enticing aromas of hot chocolate or fondue make it an unforgettable experience to spend winter in Zurich.

Here are some of the best things to do in Zurich in the winter,

  • Take a stroll around the old town of Zurich – Start at the famous shopping boulevard of Bahnhofstrasse and make your way to Niederdorf, the old town district situated next to the river.
  • Visit the Christmas markets – Zurich has many many Christmas markets and some of the best of them are at the train station (the largest covered market in Europe!), at Sechseläutenplatz and at Bahnhofstrasse (boasting a singing Christmas tree!).
  • Check out some Christmas events – Several popular events take place around the holiday season including the Lichterschwimmen floating candle event (candles placed into the river make for a beautiful sight) and the Samichlausschwimmen tradition (Santa’s swimming across the freezing cold river!).
  • Enjoy winter sports – Several ski slopes are located a very short distance from Zurich where you can enjoy skiing, tobogganing, or snowboarding.
  • Enjoy the Zurich lake – Take a stroll along the lake promenade or a ferry ride on the beautiful lake

London, England

Editor’s Choice

London in winter is a European dream: it’s gorgeous and festive, yet not so cold that you don’t want to do some sightseeing.

There are plenty of day trips to take to explore castles and other scenic English towns and cities in the area, but there’s also so much to do in London in winter that you can easily spend the entirety of your trip just exploring London.

After all, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life,” according to Samuel Johnson!

Here are my favorite winter things to do in London:

  • Check out the hip neighborhood of Shoreditch for its street art, cute cafes, and tasty food
  • Shop at the beautifully decorated Borough Market for Christmassy souvenirs
  • Have a tasty afternoon tea to escape from the cold and recharge for evening sightseeing
  • Check out the numerous Christmas Markets throughout the city
  • Have a traditional Sunday roast dinner at a local pub

Galway, Ireland

Contributed by Bruna of Maps ‘n Bags

Galway is the perfect place to visit in Europe winter to get into the Chrismas spirit!

As one of the world’s friendliest cities, Galway has a combo of Irish attractions and a relaxed atmosphere that you can’t afford to miss!

  • Walk down Quay Street to spot a wide variety of shops and venues, from vintage bookshops to traditional Irish pubs to colorful storefronts.
  • Visit the Christmas Market. Boasting over 50 wooden stalls that sprawl through the city center, which is one of the best places to stay in Galway, it’s a must-do. There you can watch the choirs or carol singing, indulge in European food, and feel slightly adventurous in the Big Wheel.
  • Breathe the fresh breeze of the sea and stroll along the Salthill promenade. It’s a 2km long path with peaceful views and, of course, many spots to savor some local seafood along the way.
  • Have a pint of Guinness (or a few) at Busker Browne’s Pub, a venue housed in a historic building in the Latin Quarter dating back to the 17th-century. This building used to be a meeting point for the tribes of Galway, a Dominican convent, and more.
  • Pay a visit to arguably the most important structure in Galway, the Spanish Arch. It’s the last surviving arch from the defenses of the city.

Kyiv, Ukraine

Contributed by Megan Starr of Megan & Aram

Kyiv is a gorgeous city to visit in winter and it has so much to offer during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season. Do note that Ukraine celebrates the Ukrainian Orthodox Christmas in early January, and not in December if you are traveling there for the holidays.

The Ukrainian capital is teeming with lights and festive Christmas decorations and you’ll find small stalls throughout the city where you can purchase small trinkets or traditional food.

Here are some exciting (and cozy) things to do in Kyiv during winter:

  • Eat Varenyky: While you can indulge in this Ukrainian dumpling at any time of the year, it definitely tastes best during the colder months! While you can find varenyky almost everywhere throughout the city, SHO and O’Pana’s have some of the best and both restaurants are located in the city center.
  • Get Acquainted with Kyiv’s coffee scene: Kyiv has some incredible cafes and you will find some of Europe’s best third-wave coffee in the city. While Kyiv may be enduring sub-zero temperatures outside, the cafes are always cozy and warm. You can find several cafes worth visiting in Podil or you can opt for The Journalist right on Khreschatyk.
  • Head to the Opera: Kyiv is home to the Taras Shevchenko National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Ukraine and nothing is quite as festive and seasonal as enjoying a night at the opera during winter. The remarkable building dates back to 1901.
  • Hunt for Soviet Architecture: Kyiv is a city with an endangered Soviet architecture scene. And tracking down some of the obscure buildings is definitely one of the best things to do during winter while they look mysterious under the foggy, grey skies. Don’t miss the Salyut Hotel and Kyiv Crematorium, two masterpieces by Abraham Miletsky.
  • Take a day trip out of Kyiv: The city can be cold and alluring, but there are some fantastic day trips from Kyiv. Opt to head to Slavutych if you already have Chernobyl on your itinerary. The purpose-built city was constructed in 1988 by the Soviets for those who suffered tragedy at Chernobyl. Every neighborhood of Slavutych is different and was built by an architect from a different Soviet republic.

Visting Kyiv in winter is a great choice of travel plans and it is one of Europe’s best winter destinations if you love large cities with a lot to do.

Budapest, Hungary

Editor’s Choice

Budapest in winter is a dream — beautiful architecture bedecked in snow, Christmas Markets on seemingly ever corner, hearty food that matches the wintry weather, and tasty wines to indulge in when the sun goes down early.

Bathhouses offer a great escape from the cold, but outdoor activities like ice skating, Danube river cruises, and even caving under Budapest are all great winter activities as well.

Don’t miss beautiful sights like Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Castle, the sights from Citadella, and Vajdahunyad Castle while you’re visiting Budapest in winter!

  • Take a steamy soak on a winter day in one of the thermal baths around Budapest — my favorite is Gellért, but I also love the outdoor baths at Széchenyi
  • Try a tasty kürtőskalács (chimney cake) at one of the many Christmas Markets around the city
  • Grab an espresso and a tasty slice of cake at one of third wave coffee shops like Espresso Embassy or at one of the pricy yet beautiful traditional coffee houses like New York Café and Central Café
  • Wander through the beautiful Central Market Hall, loading up on strudel and souvenirs
  • Do an incredible wine tasting experience with Taste Hungary

Prague, Czechia

Editor’s Choice

One of the most traditional choices for celebrating the winter in Europe is visiting Prague with its beautiful Central European architecture and adorable Christmas Markets.

The Old Town Square can get really crowded in the winter, with crowds moving slowly through the tiny winding roads, but if you veer off the beaten path a bit, you’ll find plenty of wonderful places to celebrate winter in Prague sans crowds.

Jiřího z Poděbrad, Náměstí Míru, the markets just to the left when you cross the Charles Bridge in Malá Strana, and the area around Palladium Shopping Mall are 4 of my favorite markets in the city: none are totally “offbeat” and unknown, but they won’t be nearly as crowded as the Old Town.

Of course, you can’t miss a winter visit to Prague Castle and its gorgeous St. Vitus Cathedral, a stroll down the dreamy Golden Lane, and just wandering the castle district of Prague and the beautiful architecture which marks every street.

Here are a few of my best recommendations for Prague — from someone who used to live there!

  • Have a tasty beer at the place where the first Pilsner Urquell was tapped at U Pinkasu — don’t miss their tasty food, either!
  • Eat tasty, heart-warming Czech food. My favorites are guláš s knedlíky (Czech-style goulash stew with handmade sliced bread dumplings), vepřo-knedlo–zelo (roast pork with cabbage and bread dumplings), and česnečka, a delicious garlicky broth laced with caraway seeds and topped with rye bread croutons.
  • Go ice skating in the cute square at Ovocný  Trh
  • Take a short cruise down an icy Vltava River
  • Take a sauna on the river in the pop-up Lázně na Lodi

Cesky Krumlov, Czechia

Contributed by Riana of Teaspoon of Adventure

Cesky Krumlov is one of the best places in Europe to visit in the winter. Cesky Krumlov is a small medieval town just a few hours south of Prague in the Czech Republic.

The entire town is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so you know it’s going to be beautiful! Many people visit Cesky Krumlov on a day trip but I suggest you spend a night or two to really appreciate the charm of the town and discover all it has to offer.

In the summer, Cesky Krumlov can get very crowded. It’s the most popular day trip from Prague! So one of the best reasons to come in the winter is that you can have the entire place to yourself. Visiting in the winter also ups the fairytale factor of this cobblestone covered little city when it’s blanketed in snow. 

5 things to do in Cesky Krumlov in the winter

  • Go on a free walking tour of the city and learn about its royal history
  • Visit the Cesky Krumlov Castle Tower complete with views over the entire city
  • Warm up in one of the many adorable cafes throughout town (Ideal Coffee comes recommended)
  • Stroll through the Castle Gardens that will hopefully be covered in snow
  • Shop at the charming Christmas Markets in the town square

Bratislava, Slovakia

Editor’s Choice

If you’re planning a winter trip through Central Europe, don’t miss the magic of Bratislava in winter. I’m sure this city is charming at any time of year, but in the winter, Bratislava just shimmers.

Compared with its more popular Central European neighboring capital cities – Prague, Vienna (just an hour away and a world apart), and Budapest, to name a few – Bratislava is an oasis of calm. Even the beloved Bratislava Christmas markets don’t do much to add chaos to Old Town, dispersing the tourists in smaller, more manageable numbers.

Whatever the reason, if you make Bratislava a priority – and you should – you’ll be delighted that you included this gorgeous Central European city to your winter in Europe itinerary

Here are the highlights of Bratislava in winter:

  • Admire the (hopefully) snow-capped Bratislava Castle grounds
  • Stroll the Danube and check out the quirky UFO Bridge
  • Warm up from the Bratislava winter with some comforting Slovak food at Bratislavský Meštiansky Pivovar.
  • Marvel at the baby blue Church of St. Elisabeth
  • Cozy up in an adorable café — I love St. Germain

Krakow, Poland

Contributed by Vanessa of Wanders Miles

As the second-largest city in Poland, Krakow has a fascinating history, unique architecture, hip art scene, delicious food, craft beer, and is great value for the money. This is the perfect recipe for a fabulous European city break.  

Krakow is a true delight for history buffs. Krakow Old Town one of the first-ever urban UNESCO World Heritage Sites dating back to the Middle Ages. Wawel Royal Castle located on the Vistula River majestically overlooks the city. Learn about the harrowing story of the Jewish population in WWII within the city or by taking a day trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau.  


One of the main highlights of visiting Krakow in December is feeling the festive vibes in the main market square, Rynek Glowny. The elegant horse-drawn carriage is a win for tourists and the huge Christmas tree displayed in front of St. Mary’s Basilica is a stunning sight to see. Visitors to the traditional Polish market will hear Christmas carols sung by performers and see the display of elaborate cribs (szopki) submitted for the contest which has been held at the start of December since the 19th century. 

You can’t visit without sampling traditional Polish dishes from smoked cheeses, grilled meats, and sweet gingerbreads. Christmas souvenirs, Polish pottery and jewellery from the folklore handicraft stalls are a great memory from your trip. If you fancy a sip of the good stuff, try the mulled wine (Grzaniec Galicyjski) or craft beers poured from the wooden barrels. 

You will also find beautiful classical performances at St. Peter and Paul’s Church and St. Mary’s Basilica, both fine examples of Polish Baroque architecture. 

  • Take a tour of Wawel Royal Castle 
  • Attend a concert at St. Joseph’s Church  
  • Walk over the Vistula River on the Bernatek Footbridge 
  • Learn about the Nazi occupation in Oskar Schindler Museum
  • Get creative in MOCAK (Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow

Warsaw, Poland

Contributed by Bec of Poland Travel Expert

Poland is fast becoming a hot destination for travellers and there is no better city to visit than Warsaw. It is a city that has a proud and extremely sad past but it is also one that is looking to the future.

Warsaw is a city that feels like home when you arrive and Warsaw in winter is a beautiful time to visit. If you are a family, a solo traveler or a couple there is so much to do in Warsaw.

Polish food is absolutely amazing and very filling. From zapikanka to pierogi there is something for everyone and all tastes. You can find so many little street stalls (you will find a favorite) or you can find a restaurant that has been around for years to enjoy a meal. 

If you love history, a visit to Warsaw is a must. There is so much to learn in the city about WWII and how the city was rebuilt after being nearly totally destroyed. From museums to wandering the Old Town the scars are everywhere. 

Here are a few things to do in Warsaw in winter.

  • Visit the traditional Christmas Markets in the Old Town
  • See the amazing Christmas light displays through the city
  • Try some Grzane Piwo (mulled beer)
  • Visit the Palace of Science and Culture (in the basement there is a ‘milkbar’, a traditional Polish kitchen)!
  • See a Chopin performance

Zagreb, Croatia

Contributed by Ciara from Wellness Travel Diaries

Zagreb, the beautiful capital of Croatia, is filled with stunning architecture influenced by Gothic and Austro-Hungarian styles.

During winter, this magnificent city hosts a spectacular Advent Christmas market throughout the entire town. This sensational market has been voted one of the best markets in Europe for three consecutive years according to European Best Destinations.  

With numerous holiday activities for families, couples, and solo excursions, it’s no wonder this winter destination is a traveler’s favorite city.

This magical market starts in late October and ends in January with a bustling list of winter activities to do.  Some of the best activities include:

  • Exploring the Christmassy wonderland at Ban Josip Jelačić Square
  • Taking a stroll at Zrinjevac Park
  • Walking through the semi-underground Advent Christmas tunnel
  • Visiting the Christmas market at European Square
  • Ice skating at Tomislav Square

These activities merely scratch the surface of all the things to do when visiting the Christmas markets in Zagreb, Croatia. The mood is set with festive wooden stalls charmingly decorated with fresh trimmings, and cheerful lights.

These stalls sell an abundance of goodies including mulled wine, traditional Croatian foods, and artisanal handcrafted items ranging from ornaments, scarfs, teas, and more.

On top of the breathtaking Christmas festivities, Zagreb does get cold during the winter months so I highly recommend packing layers and a winter coat for enjoying your strolls through the impressive holiday market.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Editor’s Choice

For a wintry Europe destination that will impress you with its beauty, you can’t miss a trip to Copenhagen

Whether it’s traversing its historic Danish Castles and Roskilde Cathedral, learning about the country’s Viking history, or walking around the charming streets of Copenhagen’s neighborhoods, there’s no denying Denmark is a charming place to spend winter.

This is the country that introduced hygge to the world, after all!

Here are a few choice things to do in Copenhagen in winter:

  • Stroll the charming grounds and Christmas Markets of Tivoli Gardens amusement park, all lit up for the holiday season
  • Grab delicious Danish and international foods at Torvehallerne — grab some Mikkeler craft beer at the bottle shop here as well!
  • Snap fairytale-esque photos from the home neighborhood of Torvehallerne, Nyhavn, with its colorful houses on the canal
  • Take in the view from the Rundetaarn
  • Walk around the trendy and diverse Nørrebro neighborhood and stop for ramen at Ramen to Biiru

Aarhus, Denmark

Editor’s Choice

Denmark’s little-known second-city is rarely visited by tourists, but it’s a charming well-kept secret that more travelers should know!

Winter in Aarhus is a great time to come and explore the city as its easily accessible from Copenhagen by train yet it offers a totally different side to the country than Copenhagen does.

Here are a few things I recommend doing in Aarhus in winter:

  • Check out great works of art at ARoS Aarhus Art Museum
  • Walk around the Aarhus Ø district and see its most iconic buildings like The Iceberg: an emblem of Danish design
  • Learn about Danish history and culture at the Old Town Open Air Museum
  • Instagram your way through Aarhus’s most scenic street, Møllestien, as well as the photogenic Latin Quarter
  • Dine til you drop at Aarhus Street Food, a permanent indoor/outdoor street food market

Reykjavik, Iceland

Contributed by Amanda from A Dangerous Business

When it comes to winter destinations in Europe, a lot of people will immediately think of mulled wine and Christmas markets. But there’s another city removed from mainland Europe that you don’t want to forget: Reykjavik, Iceland.

Iceland is most popular during the summer months, when long days leave ample time for road trips and outdoor adventures. But winter in Iceland – and in Iceland’s capital city – can be just as great.

Reykjavik is the heart of Iceland. Not only is it the country’s capital, but it’s also where the majority of Iceland’s population lives. Even in the dark days of winter, Reykjavik is lively and makes for a great long weekend escape.

The top things to do in and around Reykjavik in winter include:

  • Cozy up with a coffee in one of Reykjavik’s trendy cafes.
  • Take the elevator to the top of Hallgrimskirkja to enjoy snowy views of Reykjavik and the surrounding landscape.
  • Spend a morning soaking at the Blue Lagoon. Yes, you can visit these thermal pools even in the winter time!
  • Go on a Northern Lights chasing tour to try to spot the aurora borealis dancing in the sky. The Lights are sometimes bright enough to see right in downtown Reykjavik.
  • Stay in Reykjavik for the city’s famous New Year’s Eve party, which includes bonfires and a massive fireworks display.

Reykjavik is also a great base for exploring Iceland’s natural wonders during the winter months. Day trips to see the geysers of the Golden Circle and the waterfalls along the South Coast run year-round, or you could get even more adventurous and go hiking on a glacier, or horseback riding in the snowy volcanic landscape.

Oslo, Norway

Contributed by Ella from Many More Maps

Oslo, the capital of Norway, is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Europe in winter. Known for its stunning setting overlooking the Oslo Fjord, you’ll be treated to spectacular winter scenery and scenic cruises during your trip here. 

For a great introduction to the city, plan to stay at least 2 days in Oslo. This will be enough time to hit up all its highlights, soak up its unique vibe and try some of Oslo’s totally unique and completely delicious food.

As one of the safest cities in Europe, you won’t need to worry about walking alone after dark in Oslo (and it gets dark very early in winter!).

What’s more, contrary to what you’ve probably heard, with a bit of advanced planning Oslo can easily be seen on a budget.

Purchase the Oslo pass to cover your transportation and museum entry tickets, and stay at the Smarthotel Oslo, where you can score a room for as cheap as €55 per night!

  • Sample the famous Norweigan meatballs at Kaffistova
  • Walk up to the roof of the Oslo Opera House for a free, only-in-Oslo experience.
  • Take a sauna right on the Oslo Fjord for one of the best sunset views in the city.
  • Marvel at the bizarre sculptures at the Vigeland Park.
  • Head to the Viking Ship Museum to see three reconstructed Viking ships that were found buried near Oslo.

Tromso, Norway

Editor’s Choice

How does going north of the Arctic Circle sound for winter in Europe?

With some days where the sun never rises above the horizon and freezing temperatures and snow nearly every day, it may sound a bit crazy. But trust me on this: Tromso doesn’t need sun to be beautiful in winter!

While you won’t find the traditional Europe in winter staples of Christmas markets and lit-up trees, you will find plenty of active adventure to get you out and about in Norway’s gorgeous arctic nature.

Here are a few incredible things to do in Tromso in winter:

  • Take a self-driving dog sled red with a team of enthusiastic huskies
  • Visit the Tromso Ice Domes, a scenic ice hotel rebuilt each year located about 90 minutes from Tromso city.
  • Go whale watching for orcas and other whales during whale season (November through January) if conditions permit
  • Visit a Sami reindeer camp and learn about the customs and lifestyles of the indigenous people of Sapmi (which settlers named Lapland)
  • Take an aurora minibus tour and chase the Northern lights — sometimes all the way into Finland!

Gothenburg, Sweden

Contributed by Roshni of The Wanderlust Within

As the second largest city in Sweden, Gothenburg, is perfect for a winter break. There are four amazing Christmas markets in Gothenburg all scattered across the city, and focusing on different themes.

The most traditional is at Kronhuset, the most modern one, that sells local designer goods is at Roda Sten Art centre, and the foodie focused Christmas market is in Haga.

However the most popular and largest Christmas market in Sweden is at Liseberg amusement park. Running for most of December, the attraction combines roller coasters with festive ice skating shows, over 80 Christmas stalls and Santa’s grotto.

The Christmas Markets sells everything from hand decorated baubles to traditional Swedish gingerbread, called Pepparkaka.

There is also a wonderful Swedish Christmas buffet dinner available (book well in advance), that serves all the local festive favorites such as pickled herring, saffron buns, cured salmon, and a long table full of chocolates and sweets known as a ‘gottebord’.

Top things to do in Gothenburg in winter include:

  • Explore the city on a Paddan canal cruise
  • Try the largest cinnamon rolls in Sweden at Cafe Husaren in Haga
  • Visit the free palm tree house and explore the tropical botanical gardens
  • Go ice skating at Liseberg theme park
  • Check out the singing Christmas tree, a choir arranged on a platform in the shape of a Christmas tree, performing all your favorites

Stockholm, Sweden

Editor’s Choice

From exploring the museums, stopping for coffee breaks and Swedish pastries, visiting Christmas markets, and enjoying scenic boat rides through canals, there are countless things to do in Stockholm during the winter season.

If you visit Stockholm in November or December, try to time your vacation around the Christmas markets. The Christmas lights and cheer somehow make the snowy, dark days feel a little brighter.

Here are the best things to do in Stockholm in winter:

  • Experience a genuine Stockholm winter by visiting the Christmas Market in the heart of the Old Town, Gamla Stan.
  • See an expertly preserved ship 17th century ship at the Vasa Museum
  • Eat your heart out at the indoor marketplaces: Hotorgshallen and Östermalms Saluhall
  • Spend a day at Centralbadet (Central Bath), a beautiful bathhouse with Art Nouveau décor, plenty of saunas, and several heated swimming pools to choose from.
  • Take a boat tour around Stockholm’s 14 islands

Abisko, Sweden

Editors Choice

While I’m sure Abisko, Sweden is a lovely place to visit at any time of year, it truly shines in winter.

You can see Northern lights dancing overhead almost literally every night, walk amongst frozen waterfalls in the national park, snowshoe across epic landscapes, and experience all the wonder of Lapland.

Here are my top picks for what to do in Abisko in winter:

  • Go Northern lights spotting with a guided tour or independently out on the frozen-over Torneträsk lake
  • Go dog sledding and cuddle some husky pups
  • Chase (frozen) waterfalls in Abisko National Park
  • Learn about the indigenous Sámi culture on a day tour
  • Visit the ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi

Helsinki, Finland

Editor’s Choice

Helsinki in winter may not be the first choice that comes to mind for a winter in Europe, but keep an open mind and you’re sure to love the Finnish capital city in winter, even when the sun sets just after 2 PM!

From Christmas Markets in December to festivals all winter long, winter in Finland is all about getting cozy at cute cafes, sweating it out in saunas, enjoying tasty Nordic cuisine at trendy restaurants, and enjoying Helsinki’s architecture on strolls through the city.

Here are a few can’t-miss winter activities in Helsinki:

  • Drink some glögi (mulled wine) at one of the Christmas Markets in the city — the cutest is at Senate Square
  • Visit the snowy island fortress of Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which you can access by a quick ferry from Helsinki
  • Visit during the Lux Festival in January to see Helsinki Cathedral all lit up beautifully
  • Take a traditional Finnish sauna at a public sauna house like the trendy Löyly — and jump into the icy Baltic Sea after, if you dare, like a true Finn!
  • Warm up indoors at the Old Market Hall and snack on all sorts of traditional treats

Rovaniemi, Finland

Contributed by Jordan of Inspired by Maps

Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland, in northern Finland, is one of the best cities to visit in Europe in winter.

Not only is it renowned for being the home of the ‘real’ Santa Claus’, but there is husky-sled ridding, incredible museums, sauna’s and it is one of the best spots to see the Northern Lights from.

Rovaniemi is also surrounded by spectacular picturesque photography locations — including virtually infinite stretches of pristine Nordic forests and wilderness — all of which are even more stunning when blanketed in the winter snow. The Northern Lights perform in Lapland roughly 200 nights of the year-and can be observed from Rovaniemi every third night during the winter. 

While in Rovaniemi in winter, you should download the Aurora prediction app and head down to the Arktikum Park and Lake for an adequate chance to see the action when the app tells you. There is a little light pollution here, however, so a more reliable way to see the phenomena is to go out on a Northern Lights tour with expert guides who know how to expose Lapland’s beauty to tourists. 

Other than Northern Lights viewing, there are so many other things to do in Rovaniemi  on a European winter escape including:

  • Learn more about the nature, community and history of Lapland at the prestigious Arktikum Museum of Science.
  • Appreciate a genuine Finnish sauna experience, both in your hotel or one of the public saunas in the city.
  • Head out to the Santa Claus Village and cross over in the Arctic circle. 
  • Get your artistic fix at the Museum of Art in Rovaniemi or by exploring the modernist Rovaniemi Library, designed by the famous architect Alvar Aalto.
  • Feel the wind racing and get your heart pounding while embracing the chill of the wilderness on a husky sledding tour in the Lappish wilderness. 

Tallinn, Estonia

Editor’s Choice

Tallinn is one of my favorite places to be in Europe in winter, hands down! I have a huge crush on all things Estonia, and I think it’s one of the most underrated countries in Europe.

With a thriving hip scene in the trendy area of Kalamaja, trendy restaurants serving up beer pairings with new takes on Estonian cuisine, and tons of historic charm to add a refreshing context to the forward-focused city, Tallinn is Europe’s best kept winter secret.

Here are a few great things to do in Tallinn in winter:

  • Grab coffee at a cute local cafe — I like Kohvik August in the city center and pretty much anywhere in the Telliskivi Creative City area
  • Spend the dark afternoons in one of Tallinn’s many cool museums: my preferences are the KGB Museum, KUMU (art museum), and Seaplane Harbor Museum.
  • Eat tasty food and sip on local beer at the redesigned Balti Jaam market
  • Drink mulled wine and shop for hand-crafted souvenirs at Tallinn Christmas Market
  • Take in views of Tallinn from its three best viewpoints: Toompea Hill, Kohtuotsa, and Piiskopi.

Riga, Latvia

Editor’s Choice

Another little-traveled Baltic gem, Riga in Latvia doesn’t usually come to the forefront of people’s minds when thinking of where to spend winter in Europe, but I think that’s a huge mistake!

While yes, Riga is often frigid and dark in the winter, that just means that you have more excuses to indulge in delicious Latvian food and beer and check out cool museums around the city.

Here are a few picks of what to do in Riga in winter:

  • Stop for a cake and Instagrammable surroundings in the charming Café Parunasi in Riga’s Old Town
  • Climb to the top of St Peter’s Church for epic views of the Old Town
  • Visit Riga’s most iconic piece of architecture, House of the Blackheads
  • Take in sweeping views with a delicious drink at Skyline Bar
  • Warm up from the inside out by trying Riga’s signature liquor, black balsam, at any local bar

Moscow, Russia

Contributed by Lindsey Puls of Have Clothes, Will Travel 

Moscow in winter is simply magical and looks as though the city were plucked straight from a fairytale. There are many beautiful Christmas lights displays, as well as Christmas markets that begin in late November and run to the end of February.

The most famous Christmas market is held in Red Square. Here you can shop and marvel at the snow-covered St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin, with a mulled wine in hand.

Some more of the best things to do in Moscow, especially in winter, are:

  • Visiting a traditional Russian banya! In short, a banya is similar to a sauna. In the winter, you can cool off in between sessions by jumping in a snowbank or even a frozen lake!
  • Enjoying a show at the Bolshoi Theatre. This historic theatre holds some of the world’s best ballet and opera performances. If possible, I highly recommend seeing a ballet performance on the Historic Stage. And if you’re visiting at Christmastime – The Nutcracker ballet performance is, hands down, the best performance I’ve seen in my life.
  • Shopping at Izmailovksy Market: Izmailovsky Market is a year-round market that has the best prices on Russian souvenirs.
  • Touring the Moscow Metro. Moscow’s metro is considered one of the most beautiful in the world!
  • Exploring the Kremlin Armory. This is Moscow’s most famous museum and houses more than 4,000 exhibits – the collection of rare, ancient carriages of Russian rulers is not to be missed!

Tbilisi, Georgia

Contributed by Baia of Red Fedora Diary

Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, is one of the best cities to visit in Europe in winter because of its mild weather. It rarely snows here, so it’s perfect for those who’d like to explore warm places during winter break. Moreover, prices for accommodation drop during winter months, so you can easily find a cute Airbnb or a hotel room. 

The city is rich in history and shows the trace of Russian and Persian rulers in its narrow cobblestone streets. Therefore, it’s a perfect juxtaposition of old and new, with modern architecture backdropped with ancient fortresses, churches, Soviet brutalist architecture, and Art-Nouveau buildings. 

There are plenty of things to do in Tbilisi, so everyone can find something that suits their taste. However, the top experiences to have here are as follows: 

  • Climb the 4th-century Narikala Fortress for amazing views of the old town
  • Take a sulfur bath in Abanotubani to relax after a long day of exploration 
  • Learn more about the country in the National Museum and its Soviet occupation hall
  • Pay a visit to Jumah Mosque where Sunni and Shia Muslims pray together
  • Indulge in comfort food and taste Georgian cuisine

If you come here during Christmas or New Year, beautiful lights and decorations do adorn the city, while small Christmas Markets are scattered in the central parts of the city. Find them at Rose Relovultion Square and Orbeliani Street. 

Pin This Guide to Winter in Europe

What to Wear in London in Winter: Your Easy London Packing List

London in winter is lovely, especially in the period right before Christmas.

The Atlantic jet stream keeps the winter weather rather mild compared to the rest of Europe which regularly drops below freezing, yet it’s still cold and crisp enough that you want to bundle up in all of your coziest clothing.

If you’re planning an upcoming wintry UK trip, you’re probably wearing what to wear in London in winter – I’ve been to London in winter twice and early spring once, and each time I’ve been able to refine my London packing list bit by bit.

Whether you’re planning to spend 4 days in London this winter or even longer exploring the UK in the cold, this wintry London packing list will keep you warm and toasty through all of it.

Since shopping in London is so expensive thanks to that dastardly strong British pound, I recommend you buy what you need to pack for London in winter beforehand, as it’ll save you money and time on your London trip.

How to Dress in London in Winter

I lived in New York for nearly a decade. When I first arrived in New York from California, I remember feeling a weird sort of pressure to look ridiculously fashionable all year round, even when the temperatures were low. I tried and failed to look cute in wool pea coats before realizing that those were made for people with warmer blood than mine.

You don’t need the warmest ever clothing for London in winter, since the average winter temperatures range between 2 °C and 10 °C (that’ll be 35 °F and 50 °F, for my fellow Americans out there who are confused by the metric system). It rarely snows, though it is possible.

However, I do find London winter to be colder-feeling than the temperature suggests because of all the humidity in the air from the Atlantic jet stream, so you may want to take the actual temperature reading with a grain of salt.

If you’re planning on walking around London a lot, you will want to dress warmly so that you stay comfortable and motivated to see as much of this beautiful city as you can, especially around Christmastime in London when the city is at its prettiest!

You also don’t need to dress impossibly posh. Newsflash: not everyone in London is as stylishly dressed as Kate Middleton. Dress neatly but comfortably and you will fit in fine in London.

Generally, Londoners don’t wear extremely bright colors in the winter: think mostly shades of tan, gray, and black, with a few stylishly colorful accessories.

That said, if you want to punch up your wintry London outfits with your usual colorful clothing, no one will bat an eye – London is a city where locals frequently express themselves and their personalities through their clothing.

Warm coats everywhere! You don’t have to dress like a street style model to look appropriate for winter in London.

London in Winter Packing Basics

There’s no need to buy an entirely new wardrobe to pack for a winter trip to London, especially if you come from a place that already has cold winters.

This list may seem silly for people who live in, say, New York or Central Europe who are used to cold winters. But for me, I needed help to understand what to pack for London in the winter.

I’ve outlined a few of my favorite London winter clothing necessities below, in case you need some cold weather clothing recommendations coming from a warmer climate.

However, if you already have all the cold weather gear you need, feel free to skip below, where you’ll find a more general London winter packing list.

Best Outerwear for London in Winter

What coat to pack for London in winter depends on how warm you like to be. I personally run cold and come from a place where winter barely exists: where people freak out and pull on the Uggs and jackets as soon as temperatures drop below 50 °F/10 °C.

Two years after I moved to New York, I finally invested in a North Face down jacket and it made my quality infinitely better than when I arrived and kept trying make flimsy wool pea coats work. This is the North Face parka that I bought. I love that it comes down to mid-thigh, which makes a world of difference over a jacket that ends at the hip. You have no idea how much heat you lose in that area!

Me and my beloved North Face on a winter trip to Istanbul, which has similar winter weather to London

However, I do think that jacket may be a bit overkill if you’re planning to just visit London in winter and nowhere colder. Instead, I’d probably recommend a version with inner layers that you can remove, like this 3-in-1 Thermoball Triclimate jacket from North Face which includes a small down layer, a waterproof shell, and the ability to combine them both into one.

While North Face gear is pricy, it will last you a lifetime, as North Face quite literally has a lifetime guarantee (hold onto your receipt though just in case). This isn’t sponsored – I’ve paid out of pocket for every piece of North Face gear, just for the record! I tested this guarantee when my zipper came unstitched after two years of heavy use, wearing it every day including when I was biking to work in the winter. North Face promptly fixed it up and sent it back as good as new.

If you can’t afford to invest in a warmer jacket at the moment, I’ve also had success pairing a small down liner underneath a less-warm jacket or coat to create a ‘hack’ of the above jacket. I’ve used a small down jacket from UNIQLO – the Ultralight Down. (You can buy a knock-off version here)

I do this when it’s not too cold (read: around 40°F / 5 °C  but no colder) and I want to get away with wearing a cute coat that isn’t exactly winter-approved, like my leather jacket. I simply add it as a layer between my sweater and my cute jacket. It’s not the most streamlined look, but it is good if you don’t want to spend a lot on a winter coat or are packing the light the way I was for this winter trip.

My typical London outfit: Black leather jacket + down liner, hat, jeans with leggings underneath, and ankle boots.

Best Shoes for London Winters

London gets very little snow in the winter, so there’s definitely no need to pack snow boots. What you do need, however, is something waterproof, as London is quite rainy all winter.

One of the most classic shoes to wear in London in winter are wellies, aka rain boots. I’ve worn my Hunter rain boots during New York rainy days quite often and they’ve always held up nicely, but I don’t typically travel with these as they’re hard to fit in a carry-on and uncomfortable to wear on the plane. However, if you’re traveling with a larger suitcase and you can fit a pair of rain boots, these would do quite nicely for London.

For me, the winter boot I can’t live without are my Blondo waterproof leather boots. I bought this pair in 2008… which means I’m celebrating my 10-year anniversary with them this year, which is longer than most of my friendships and definitely every relationship I’ve been in. In 10 years of heavy use, I’ve only had to get them resoled once, which set me back about $60 in NYC. However, for a pair of shoes I wear on average 3 months per year, it was 100% worth it. It’s no wonder it made the cut for my favorite travel shoes!

It’s been literally a decade since I bought these boots, so the exact original version I bought is no longer available, but these look exactly like the ones I have. 

One of precious few full-length photos I have of me wearing them – back in 2012! They’re still in fantastic shape.

However, sometimes I don’t want to pack heavy boots, and for those trips I’ve opted for my lovely Dansko ankle boots. They have a faux-wooden sole so they’re super stylish and the black nubuck leather is basically scuff-proof. They’re not technically waterproof, but I have waterproofed them and they now hold up great in all types of weather. They’re also super comfortable for long walks. You can see them in the photo of me in the staircase above.

One last not: Be sure to pair your winter boots with proper wool socks. No matter how insulated your shoe is, it won’t do much good if you are wearing thin, crappy cotton socks (another thing that took me several years to learn… why do I suck at winter so badly? Oh yeah, California). I invested in these Smartwool socks after much hemming and hawing about the price and I’m so glad I did. You don’t need that many pairs because you can actually re-wear them a few times before they get smelly because wool is so odor-absorbent and magical.

Accessories for London in Winter

This is really what makes or breaks whatever you decide to wear in London. As long as you have a hat, gloves, and scarf, you can almost get away with wearing whatever you want – as long as you have the right jacket and shoes.

In terms of a hat, I recommend wearing a tightly-knit hat that fits firmly on your head, covering your ears completely. Bonus points if it is lined with fleece! I lose my hats constantly so I go through several each winter, but I do recommend a beanie-style knit hat kind of like this one.

In winter, you can’t tear me away from a hat!

When it comes to gloves, you’re going to want something that is touchscreen compatible and warm, but you don’t need something waterproof or crazy high-tech. I recommend a simple pair of gloves like these ones. You’ll have your hands in your pockets most of the time anyway!

For scarves, I recommend the biggest, most wrappable scarf you can find. If you can tolerate wool (I can’t, except for socks, because of my ultra-sensitive skin), then get the wooliest monstrosity you can find. I tend to go for something huge, chunky, and made of acrylic which is easier on my skin. I prefer an infinity style knit scarf for winter that I can wear super tight around my neck to keep in as much warmth as possible.

Now, I’m going to let you in on my #1 secret weapon when it comes to what to wear in London in winter… fleece lined leggings. These leggings are magic when it comes to surviving just about any winter. If you can tolerate wool, you’ll probably be even warmer with something like these merino wool leggings. But since I can’t, I substitute fleece-lined leggings like these ones. On a cold day, I typically wear them underneath a pair of jeans and I am toasty warm all day long. I prefer the ones without feet because they sag less during the day, and then I can wear my own warm wool socks with them.

I think that’s pretty much it in terms of accessories. If you get cold really easily, you may want to throw in some thermal tops to wear as a base layer as well. 32 Degrees (my preference) and UNIQLO make good ones.

Clothes to Wear in London in Winter

If you’ve followed my advice up to this point — warm jacket preferably with down, fleece-lined leggings, all the winter accessories — you can actually get away with wearing pretty much whatever you want with them. I tend to choose a lot of sweater dresses because I am lazy when I travel and don’t like to pack a lot of different things that I have to mix and match. But you can also just wear jeans and sweaters on your trip so long as you have the appropriate winter accessories, shoes, and outerwear.

My cozy sweater dress in London (I obviously added layers before leaving!)

Here’s my basic London packing list, winter edition (enough for 1 week – feel free to add or subtract depending on the length of your trip!)

  • several pairs of fleece-lined leggings, such as these. 3 pairs should do you well for 1 week.
  • 1-2 base layer thermal tops (I run cold!)
  • 1-2 sweater dresses
  • 1-2 pairs of jeans or pants, to wear over leggings if especially cold
  • 2-4 warm sweaters, wool if you can tolerate it. 100% cashmere sweaters tend to be everyone’s favorite but I wear synthetic or acrylic sweaters with a base layer underneath.
  • 1 thick jacket (optional if you run cold!)
  • 1 thin down jacket (better for people who are used to the cold or don’t want to pack a lot) + other jacket to layer with, preferably waterproof
  • 3-5 pairs wool socks
  • 1 pair waterproof leather boots or similar
  • optional rain boots
  • 1-2 knit hats
  • 1 pair gloves that you can use with your smartphone
  • 1-2 enormous warm scarves, especially infinity style wrap scarves
  • 1 large-ish cross-body purse or backpack for day use

What Else Should Be On Your Winter in London List?

Once you’ve figured out what to wear in London in winter, you can focus on the details of your London packing list. Nothing is really that London specific but are related to how you’d normally travel, anyway. London has basically everything you need, so don’t be worried if you forget anything. There is a Boots or pound shop on nearly every other corner that should have what you need.

Toiletries

  • Lip balm: I tend to get dry lips in winter from the cold air and overheated buildings. Be sure to bring a good quality lip balm with you – I love this Aquaphor.
  • High-quality moisturizer: For the same reason as above – the combination of winter weather plus heat will do a number on your skin. I use Shiseido moisturizer on my face most of the winter.
  • Sunscreen: Don’t discount the need for sunscreen even in the winter! While London is cloudy, you can still get harmful UV rays on cloudy days. I like  Biore sunscreen for my face as my skin is quite sensitive and acne-prone and this is really gentle on my skin.
  • Hand sanitizer: Perfect to use after getting off the Tube or any place with less than sanitary conditions. I carry a mini bottle of Purell like this one.
  • Kleenex
  • Everyday make-up
  • Basics like shampoo, body wash, etc.
  • Deodorant (please)
  • Prescription medicine, if you need it

Electronics

  • High-powered portable battery pack: Your phone battery will get run down very quickly on a cold winter day in London, so be sure to pack a portable battery charger like an Anker battery pack (this is what I swear by as a blogger who needs fully charged electronics at all times!)
  • Camera: I personally use a Sony A6000 mirrorless camera, which is the perfect travel camera for producing professional-quality photos without taking up much space or weighing too much. I have several lenses for it but most people will be fine with the kit lens. Be sure to pack several extra batteries as well, for the same reason as above (winter weather = zapped electronics)
  • Adaptor, if visiting internationally: If you are visiting from continental Europe, North America, South America, most of Asia – basically, anywhere that doesn’t use UK plugs – you’ll want an international adaptor for sure.
  • Phone and charger
  • Laptop or tablet and charger
  • Kindle, if you use one
  • Noise-canceling headphones, if you have them

Random

  • Reusable water bottle: London tap water is good quality. Save money and the environment with a reusable metal water bottle. Pretty much any café or restaurant will be happy to refill yours as London is pretty zero-waste savvy.
  • Reusable bags: There is a 5 pence charge per plastic bag, which isn’t a lot money but you still should bring your own reusable tote bags anyway to do your part to reduce plastic use
  • Whatever else you’d normally pack for some time away from home!

What to Wear in Winter in Europe: Packing List

I remember my first time spending the winter in Europe. The year was 2009, and my semester living in Prague was coming to a close. The Christmas markets were in full swing, the snow coating the houses of the Old Town was straight out of a fairy-tale — and I was freezing my ass off, mostly because my California-addled brain had never learned to dress properly for the winter.

If it weren’t for the many cups of piping hot cups of svařák (Czech mulled wine) I was drinking at inappropriately early hours, I likely never would have survived.

Fast forward nearly a decade and several winter trips to Europe later, and I’ve finally mastered the art of packing for Europe in winter without wanting to die.

It’s a combination of not giving a crap if you look like a fat, fluffy dumpling and layering with actual winter-specific layers rather than what I was doing… which was piling some summery clothes on top of a pair of leggings and cute pea coat and wondering why I was still cold. California, guys. Growing up there does things to you.

After all that trial and error, here’s my full winter inn Europe packing list, detailing exactly what I recommend you wear for winter in Europe.

What to Pack for Europe in Winter

What to Pack Everything In

If you’re visiting Europe in winter, my number one recommendation is to travel with a backpack rather than a suitcase. While it is definitely possible to travel with a suitcase, and there are times when it is more convenient – I can also assure you that there will be times when you regret it hard, such as when you’re trying to lug your bag across snowy cobblestones and cursing your life. Take it from an idiot who brought a rolling suitcase to Finland in November.

I prefer to travel light with a backpack that fits carry-on restrictions because I hate paying for baggage fees and waiting at the airport. Even traveling Europe in winter, I’ve found that having a 44L backpack is perfectly fine, and there’s no need for a massive backpacker-style backpack unless you truly love clothes and want a jillion options. I’ve used and sworn by Tortuga Backpacks for the last three years – this is the one I’m carrying now. I’ve traveled around Europe in winter for the last few years and never truly needed a larger bag.

One thing that makes packing for winter in Europe so much easier is using packing cubes – having an organized system, especially with all the layers you need for winter travel – makes your life a lot easier, especially if you are traveling to more than one city or country. This packing list for Europe in winter includes a few of the things that I swear by all year round, not just winter, for helping me organize my clothes and belongings when I travel.

Abisko train station
How I packed vs. how my friend packed for winter in Europe. Trust  me – leave the rolling suitcase behind. She ended it dragging it more than rolling it!

Travel backpack (carry on size or check-in size)

While rolling suitcases can be great for in summer and fall weather, they aren’t a great idea for winter travel. For one, there will likely be snow or ice on the ground – meaning that you will have to drag, not roll, your suitcase… which kind of defeats the purpose of having a rolling suitcase.

Trust me, you’re way better off with a travel backpack that you can easily carry across snow, cobblestones, and other various obstacles that are the hallmarks of traveling Europe in winter. I am a light packer, so the Tortuga Backpack is the main backpack I need. I’ve spent two 5 month trips through Europe with it, including winter months, plus I take it on all my short term travels.

Why do I recommend Tortuga so much? Here’s why: this bag is 45L and has got three main compartments: one for a laptop and other flat objects, one giant rectangular compartment perfect for packing cubes stuffed with clothing, and one smaller compartment with pockets for passports, pens, odds and ends, etc. that I stash all my extras in – plus one small outer zipper pocket for anything you want quick access to.

It also has a water bottle holder on the outside as well as buckles so that you can strap something like a yoga mat to the outside. Plus, it’s quite comfortable to wear, with a padded hip belt and comfort-molding shoulder straps complete with a chest strap so that you can distribute weight perfectly across your body in the event that you need to wear your backpack for longer than usual. Check out more specs and details here.

Does it pass European budget airline requirements? I’ve never once had to check it in on a budget airline flight, and I’ve taken probably 50+ Ryanair and Wizzair flights at this point. I just buy priority boarding so that I have a guaranteed spot on board for my bag (plus a second personal item bag), which adds about $5 onto my total flight cost instead of the $20-40 or so that a heavy checked suitcase or backpack would. This adds up massively over time – with a bigger bag, I would have paid $1,000+ extra in baggage fees over the past few years. That’s massive savings.

Need a bigger backpack? Despite these long term trips, I haven’t personally used a bigger backpack (mostly because I have the back of a 90 year old woman). That said, I’ve heard great things about the Osprey system. If I ever were to upgrade my backpack capacity, that’s what I would choose. But I’m cheap and hate paying baggage fees, even at the expense of having less clothing options, which is why I prefer Tortuga. When flying budget airlines, I never check the bag, but I just purchase priority boarding for a few dollars (usually around $5) so I can have this bag on board with me, plus another personal item.

Packing cubes

Packing cubes will save your travel sanity. These easily zippable bags are wonderful when it comes time to pack and organize your clothing.  It keeps everything contained when you open your backpack, so if luggage clothing explosions drive you half as crazy as they drive me, investing in packing cubes will save you some serious therapy costs down the line.

I use these packing cubes and love them more than a logical person should love a simple zippable bag. Especially when packing for Europe in winter, when you have tons of accessories and layers to organize, this becomes extra essential.

Laundry bag

If you are traveling Europe in winter, your clothing will take a beating. Wet, dirty, covered in snow – basically, prepare to change your clothes at least once a day. I love having a laundry bag with me in addition to my packing cubes so I can keep dirty stuff separate and ready to go on laundry day.

You don’t need anything fancy – any bag will do – but I like having a cute one like this one from Kikkerland though, because I’m impractical and easily won over by a cute design. In a pinch, some plastic grocery bags will do as well.

Hanging toiletry bag

Packing for Europe in winter means you’ll need a few special toiletries (hint: bring ALL the moisturizer). After struggling to find a good way to organize my toiletries, I stumbled across this  hanging toiletry bag and purchased it on a whim to give it a try… and I promptly became a product evangelist.

It’s perfect for organizing your travel toiletries like shampoo, moisturizer, make-up, hairbrushes, tweezers, etc. It has a lot of organizers and seperators so you can really maximize your organization without taking up much excess space. It fits quite a bit – it’s like the Mary Poppins bag you always needed but never knew existed. It’s wonderful for girly girl travelers like myself who have a hard time leaving make-up behind when they travel.

It comes in a large size – I do just fine with the regular size, but those with lots of toiletries and odds and ends to organize will probably want to size up.

Cute travel daypack

I always use a daypack rather than a purse when I travel because it’s so much more comfortable, especially because I often carry lots of camera equipment with me. That said, I don’t want to look like an American bum (though I often do anyway) so I splurged on this adorable PacSafe Citysafe backpack

This bag is so amazing that I basically wrote a love letter to it here. My favorite feature about this travel backpack is that it has tons of awesome security features (locking zippers, slash-proof mesh on the inside of the bag, RFID blockers, etc.) but it looks adorable and not at all horrendous.

I use it pretty much every single day whether I am traveling or not. It’s one of the crucial things I bring with me on every trip, and it’s key when packing for a trip to Europe in winter because it’s the perfect size for squeezing in layer upon layer of cozy winter clothing.

5 Most Essential Things to Pack for Europe in Winter

When it comes to what to pack for winter in Europe, it’s best to bring all your essentials from home and try to minimize what you need to buy abroad. Most of the time, you won’t save any money by shopping in Europe. Prices tend to be a little higher than in, say, North America because 20% VAT is often rolled into the prices.

Also, depending on where you travel, in many countries the currency is currently quite strong compared to the US/Canada/Aussie dollar, so you won’t be at an advantage when it comes to shopping. For that reason, I recommend planning your winter in Europe packing list beforehand, and buying all your winter travel necessities before arriving in Europe.

A good, waterproof parka

While Europe’s weather can vary dramatically in the winter, it’s best to prepare for the worst and risk being overdressed than the alternative. I am a huge fan of The North Face because they guarantee all their products for life and will fix or replace literally anything you send to them — which I’ve tested by sending in a much used-and-abused down jacket that was returned looking like new.

Their jackets aren’t exactly budget-friendly, but they’re a great investment if you’re looking for a winter coat that will last a lifetime. This is the parka I own and I’ll use it for life (unless North Face cuts me off for how badly I abuse my clothing). If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on a new jacket but still want to ensure warmth in the winter, try buying a down jacket liner like this one and layer it between your warmest coat and winter layers.

Thermal layers

A good winter parka goes a long way, but unless you’re matching that down jacket with proper layers underneath, you won’t be maximizing your potential warmth. Everyone raves about wool’s warmth-retaining properties but I can’t tolerate it – it makes me so itchy that I want to tear off all my skin. If you can stand wool, something like these merino wool leggings paired with a cashmere sweater layer will serve you very well. Personally, I constantly wear these 32 Degrees thermal layers during European winters — I have about 5 tops that I rotate during the winter between laundry days. On bottom, I wear these fleece-lined leggings. I bring about 2-3 pairs of fleece-lined leggings on a winter trip since I can wear them several times before they start to feel gross. You’ll definitely want at least 2 pairs so you can change them out if they get wet from snow or bad weather. With thermal layers and a parka, you’re nearly set for any kind of weather in Europe.

Waterproof boots and warm socks

I’ve never really felt like snow boots are entirely necessary unless you really are planning on spending a lot of time in deep snow, like if you’re staying in a cabin in the woods or spending a significant amount of time in Lapland or ski resorts around Europe.

When it comes to packing for winter in Europe, if your trip is mostly in the cities, you just need two things in your boots: they need to be waterproof and have good traction. I first bought a pair of Blondo waterproof leather boots in 2008…  making this my longest-term relationship ever, eek, and one of my favorite travel shoes ever.

Despite many years of abuse and New York winters, I only had to get them resoled once in the last nearly 10 years. I’ve worn these in every European winter and they’ve always held up great – even in the Arctic Circle of Sweden.

If you plan on doing a lot of hiking in the snow, you may want a proper snow boot. The Elsa snow boot by KEEN is waterproof, insulated, and looks super cozy, and comes highly recommended as one of my friend’s favorite hiking boot brands.

Finally, no matter how insulated your boots are, you need proper socks to match –  sad, thin cotton socks won’t do the trick. I bought these excellent Smartwool socks after hesitating because of the price, but I’m glad I did. Although I generally hate wool, the skin on my feet is thick enough that I don’t mind wearing wool socks at all and can get all the lovely warm wool benefits without the itchiness. You don’t need that many pairs – two or three will do – because wool is really odor-absorbent and dry really fast, you can stretch out a few pairs whereas you’d need a fresh pair of cotton socks for each day.

Reusable water bottle

 The tap water in Europe is drinkable almost everywhere so make sure you bring a reusable water bottle. I’ve been to nearly every country in Europe and it’s super rare that I can’t drink the water, even in the Balkans. The only major city I can think of where I wasn’t able to drink the tap water was Kiev, Ukraine.

If you don’t already have one, try one from Klean Kanteen. If you drink a lot of hot beverages like tea or coffee, I recommend bringing a Thermos that will keep your drinks (and hands!) warm during the cold.

Moisturizer with SPF

If there’s one thing you don’t forget to pack for Europe in winter, let it be this. The cold in Europe is brutal on your skin, especially when combined with super-drying heating systems. Make sure you fight back with a heavy duty moisturizer. For the daytime, I use Aveeno moisturizer as I have sensitive skin but also want SPF protection.

Remember you need to use SPF even – if not especially – only cloudy days as UV rays are always lurking, even in the winter, ready to prematurely age your skin. (I’m super melanin-challenged, so perhaps I’m a bit paranoid). I don’t want to wear SPF at night, so I have a thick Olay night cream that I use while I sleep to put some moisture back into my dry skin.

Finally, travel insurance

Yes, I know this isn’t something that you physically pack for Europe – but it is just as essential to consider during the packing process.

Personally, I think it’s extra important to have travel insurance in winter. European winter weather is hard to predict, so it is best to be prepared and protected in case of trip cancellation/delays, lost luggage, illnesses, or accidents. I recommend buying travel insurance as far in advance as you can, as I’ve found it’s always cheaper that way than booking shortly before departure.

I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for years and use them to cover me when I travel. The contract is very clear as to what it covers, the prices are affordable, the excess/deductible is very low, and if you find yourself extending your trip it’s very easy to modify your insurance on the go.

What to Wear in Europe in Winter (Quick Checklist)

In a word (well, three): Layer, layer, layer!

I went into more detail above, but basically, here’s how I dress for winter in Europe. I start with a base layer – for me, that’s my fleece-lined leggings and thermal top, but many people prefer wool base layers. On top of my thermal layers, I usually wear just a simple acrylic sweater and jeans.

To seal in all the warmth, I add wool socks, waterproof leather boots, a scarf, a hat that covers my ears, gloves, and of course – my ridiculously warm parka. That will usually keep me warm enough for just about any winter situation in Europe.

Here’s a quick packing list plus a few product recommendations for what to wear for winter in Europe:

2-3 thermal tops

I use these 32 Degrees thermal layers  – I recommend having a few to swap between as they tend to get kind of sweaty during the day.

3 warm sweaters to layer on top

I love H&M for their non-itchy acrylic sweaters, but wool/wool blends also work great

2 pairs fleece-lined leggings

I am obsessed with my favorite fleece leggings – they are insanely warm!

2 pairs jeans

I wear these as an extra layer over my leggings. You can skip the leggings if it’s not that cold.

1 heavy jacket

Above, I recommended my North Face parka. While that’s my favorite, any warm jacket will do. What to look for: down or synthetic down lining, hood, waterproof, and windproof.

2 bras

 Or however many you want, you do you.

7+ pairs of underwear

This depends on how long your trip is, but I prefer to have a week’s worth of underwear and do laundry on the road.

Bathing suit

 If you plan to go to any thermal baths or saunas or the like while in Europe. If not, skip.

Flip flops

For walking around in your hotel/hostel when you don’t want to put on your boots.

1 or 2 knit hats

Since I’m addicted to fleece in the winter, this fleece-lined knit hats is a favorite

1 pair of gloves

I recommend a pair of touchscreen-friendly gloves so you don’t have to constantly take off your gloves to use your phone.

1 super-warm infinity scarf

I love infinity scarves like this one that you can wrap super close to your face and not have to worry about the wind with.

What to Pack for Backpacking Europe in Winter

There are a few special things you should bring if you are staying in a hostel or dorm in Europe in winter, which you can find below.

1 pair flip flops

I mentioned it above, but it goes double if you staying in a hostel!

1 travel towel

Most hostels in Europe don’t provide towels to guests and charge you to rent one. This can add up quickly if you are staying in multiple cities throughout Europe, so I recommend just bringing your own. Make sure you get the largest size or risk flashing everyone!

1 eye mask

I lived in hostels for the better part of a year and I swear by this contoured eye mask- it completely blocks out light, without putting annoying pressure on your eyes.

Some earplugs or good noise-canceling headphones

I love Hearos — they’re the gold standard for ear plugs. Alternately, if you listen to music to help you sleep, noise-canceling headphones can work wonders at drowning out inconsiderate roommates

Travel-sized toiletries

Most hostels don’t provide shampoo, body wash, etc. so make sure you bring your own. Instead of buying travel-sized toiletries, I recommend buying reusable GoToobs so you can pack your favorites from home.

Combination locks

I always check reviews of hostels to ensure that they have lockers available, as the risk of theft from fellow travelers is not something to take lightly. It’s really easy to just travel with a combination lock in case your hostel doesn’t offer their own locks so you can keep your valuables safe at all times.

Toiletries to Pack for Europe in Winter

Even though it is generally pretty easy for me to find all of my preferred brands in Europe, I do recommend bringing them from home if you can. For one, it’ll likely be cheaper. For another, it’s good to continue using the same products as back home as I find that travel and cold weather really stresses my skin and it’s nice to have continuity in the products that I use.

Here is a basic list of toiletries I typically pack:

When not seeing the Northern lights, dogsledding is a fun way to pass the time
Don’t forget the moisturizer!

ALL THE MOISTURIZER

 Again, winter in Europe will destroy your skin. Even if you think you have oily skin, you will want moisturizer – the cold plus the overzealous heating in many cities means dryness, dryness, dryness. For daytime, I use Aveeno with SPF on my sensitive skin and Olay night cream for replenishing moisture overnight.

Kleenex packets

 I seem to always get a cold when doing winter travel so it’s nice to have these on hand

LUSH solid shampoo

Great at reducing your liquid load when you travel and makes my hair feel amazing – just trust me. Buy online or in store from LUSH and you’ll save serious money over Amazon. As a bonus, it’s totally packaging free, so you reduce your plastic waste.

Menstrual cup or your favorite tampon/pad brand, if applicable

If you have a specific brand allegiance, you may not find it. I switched to a Diva Cup for travel and now I never have to think about stocking up on tampons, which is awesome.

Deodorant

I am not a huge fan of European deodorant. The options have gotten slightly better in the last decade, but I love Secret Clinical Strength and stash up on it every time I’m home… but then again, I am sweatier than most people are. Even in winter.

Basic medicine

You will be able to find all this in Europe, but trust me — you want to have the basics on hand in case you need them on the road.

I carry Pepto-Bismol for standard stomach troubles, Imodium as a nuclear option (i.e. riding the bus when I am sick), some sort of painkiller like ibuprofen for headaches and minor pains, and some sort of motion sickness tablets.

Cold medicine

If you’re prone to getting sick in the winter. be sure to buy some cough or cold medicine – especially if you are traveling to Scandinavia or Germany. I’ve found out firsthand that they are really stingy with some of the ingredients over the counter in Northern Europe. You’ll want to have some as backup if you are used to being able to take cold medicine, as that is not necessarily the case in, say, Germany.

Electronics to Pack for Europe in Winter

The most important thing to remember about traveling in winter is that batteries drain extra quickly. You will want to bring extra batteries for everything — especially your camera — and a portable battery charger for your phone and other electronics. Trust me on this!

If you are serious about your photography, I recommend bringing a tripod as well. Since there are fewer daylight hours in Europe in winter, you’ll likely want to do a bit of night photography (especially if you are visiting around Christmas-time and are around a lot of photogenic Christmas markets!). I travel with a cheap tripod and find it works well enough for most situations.

sweden in winter

Where it not for my tripod, I wouldn’t have been able to capture this!

Laptop, if necessary

I bring my 13″ MacBook Air everywhere but other people may prefer a tablet or an inexpensive netbook. I work on the road so a user-friendly, lightweight laptop is a must.

Kindle Paperwhite

In general, I’ve found that it’s not too hard to find English-langage bookstores in Europe (or at least an English-langauge section), but still – I love having a Kindle so that I can buy any book there is just via WiFi.

Travel camera

For all my photos when I travel, I use a Sony A6000 because it’s lightweight for a professional caliber camera, inexpensive, and a HUGE step up from a smartphone. I’m hoping to upgrade to the Sony A7 III soon, but it’s outrageously expensive so I am struggling with making the plunge. But a few of my friends have this camera and their photos are nothing short of magical!

Travel tripod

There are a few reasons why you might need a tripod for traveling in Europe in winter – if you are going somewhere where you may see the Northern lights or want to do night photography, such as lit-up Christmas decorations. I use a simple, cheap 50″ Amazon tripod and it works just fine and fits in my carry-on sized bag. If you plan to just take daytime photos, there’s no need for a travel tripod.

Portable charger

Your camera and phone lose battery like crazy when in the cold, so be sure you don’t forget a portable charger when you travel in winter.  Anker is a reliable brand and what I personally use. I make sure I buy something that can hold multiple charges, so that if I forget to charge it one night it won’t be a big deal.

Adaptor, if necessary

 The UK, Ireland, and Malta use a different plug than the rest of continental Europe, and Switzerland’s plug is slightly different than the standard European plug. So do a bit of research about where you are going before you get there. I recommend buying it in advance because while adaptors are easy to find everywhere, it can be annoying to try to find one on your first day.

Headphones

I use simple iPhone headphones typically but you may want noise-canceling headphones if you are noise-sensitive.

***

While this sounds like a lot of things on your winter in Europe packing list – and it is – I am typically able to fit it all in a carry-on sized bag by choosing thinner but warmer materials, wearing my heaviest stuff on the plane, and picking my daypack and backpack for travel carefully!

Is there anything I’ve forgotten to pack for Europe in winter? Is there anything else you’re wondering if you should bring? Let me know in the comments!

New York Packing List (Winter Edition): What to Wear in New York in Winter

My first trip ever to New York City was in the winter. I had just finished my college applications and was going to New York with my dad to check out New York University (which I’d later end up attending) and Columbia University (which, LOL that I ever thought I could get in).

There are a few things I remember from that trip: staying in the world’s tiniest hotel room that my dad confided still cost a whopping $300 a night, being awed at the Columbia campus, and oh yea, the bitter f#(*ing cold. 

Growing up in California, I had no idea what to wear in New York in winter. I became obsessed with pea coats I saw on style blogs (because I was convinced that upon moving to NYC, I’d somehow become a fashion maven, even though nothing style-related ever came to me even remotely naturally back in California) and bought one to prepare for my trip.

Two years later, I’d relegate my Gossip Girl-esque pea coats to a garbage bag in the back of my closet and give them to Goodwill, having finally accepted that the only appropriate answer to “what should I wear in New York in winter?” is: everything (and then add a layer).

Jokes aside, packing for New York in winter isn’t hard at all if you’re used to cold weather. If you come from a place where snow is both mesmerizing and terrifying, like I did growing up in California, you might need a little help.

After nine years of surviving brutal New York winters, I’ve prepared this New York packing list (winter edition) to help you get through the most ‘magical time of the year’ in the Big Apple.

Clothing That Should Be On Your New York Winter Packing List

There’s no need to buy an entirely new wardrobe to pack for a winter trip to New York, especially if you come from a place that already has harsh winters. This list may seem silly for people who live in, say, the Midwest or Canada. I’ve written this from the perspective of a Californian who was super taken aback by how cold New York winters could be.

I’ve outlined a few of my favorite NYC winter product necessities below, in case you are in need of cold weather clothing recommendations. If you already have all the cold weather gear you need, feel free to skip below, where you’ll find a more general New York packing list for winter.

Best Outerwear for New York in Winter

I told you my peacoat anecdote that started off this article for a reason: leave your cute jackets at home unless you check the weather right beforehand and are convinced you’ll be warm enough. Winter in New York varies greatly — I’ve seen December temperatures as high as 60°F / 16°C, and I’ve biked to work through polar vortexes in January as low as 2°F / -17°C. Climate change means that winter in New York – already capricious to being with – is volatile. So my biggest tip is to pack for the worst but hope for the best.

Realistically, a more average temperature range to help you with packing for New York in the winter months is around 32°F / 0°C, perhaps a few degrees warmer or colder.

I have two jackets that I recommend for New York winters: one thicker parka-style down jacket and one thin down jacket for layering.

My life in New York improved dramatically when I finally indulged in a proper winter jacket. I’m obsessed with this North Face parka and, while it’s pricy, it will last you a lifetime. North Face quite literally has a lifetime guarantee, which I tested when my zipper came unstitched after two years of heavy use, wearing it every day including when I was biking to work in the winter. North Face promptly fixed it up and sent it back as good as new.

I also use a small down jacket from UNIQLO – the Ultralight Down. (You can buy a knock-off version here). For me, it’s good for temperatures around  40°F / 5 °C and up. I also layer it underneath my North Face down parka on extremely cold winter days, or if I want to get away with wearing a cute coat that isn’t exactly winter-approved, like my leather jacket, I’ll wear it as a layer between my sweater and my cute jacket.

Best Shoes for New York Winters

Some people are really into snow boots and wear them all winter. Personally, I don’t really find snow boots necessary for New York. Yes, we get a few major snow storms in the winter, but they are few and far between. I find that having a proper pair of leather boots that are waterproof and have decent traction is perfectly fine for navigating New York sidewalks in the winter. I’ve occasionally used my Hunter rain boots on snowy winter days and while they are not the warmest, when they’re paired with some decent wool socks they do the trick as well.

I first bought a pair of Blondo waterproof leather boots in 2008… which means I’m celebrating my 10-year anniversary with them this year. (Is this my longest relationship?) I’ve only had to get them resoled once, which set me back about $60, but for a pair of shoes that I’m completely obsessed with and wear all the time, it was 100% worth it. It’s no wonder it made the cut for my favorite travel shoes.

It’s been literally a decade since I bought these boots, so I’m sure the original version I bought is no longer available, but these look exactly like the ones I have.  Even all these years later, they still make my list of favorite travel shoes!

Be sure to pair your winter boots with proper wool socks. No matter how insulated your shoe is, it won’t do much good if you are wearing thin, crappy cotton socks (another thing that took me several years to learn… why do I suck at winter so badly? Oh yeah, California). I invested in these Smartwool socks after much hemming and hawing about the price and I’m so glad I did. You don’t need that many pairs because you can actually re-wear them a few times before they get smelly because wool is so odor-absorbent and magical.

Accessories for New York in Winter

This is really what makes or breaks whatever you decide to wear in New York. As long as you have a hat, gloves, and scarf, you can almost get away with wearing whatever you want. (And with the right jacket, you kind of can).

In terms of a hat, I recommend wearing a tightly-knit hat that fits firmly on your head, covering your ears completely. Bonus points if it is lined with fleece! I lose my hats constantly so I go through several each winter, but I do recommend a beanie-style knit hat kind of like this one.

When it comes to gloves, you’re going to want something that is touchscreen compatible and warm, but you don’t need something waterproof or crazy high-tech. I recommend a simple pair of gloves like these ones. You’ll have your hands in your pockets most of the time anyway!

For scarves, I recommend the biggest, most wrappable scarf you can find. If you can tolerate wool (I can’t, except for socks, because of my ultra-sensitive skin), then get the wooliest monstrosity you can find. I tend to go for something huge, chunky, and made of acrylic which is easier on my skin. I prefer an infinity style knit scarf for winter that I can wear super tight around my neck to keep in as much warmth as possible.

Now, I’m going to let you in on my #1 secret weapon when it comes to what to wear in New York in winter… fleece lined leggings. These leggings are magic when it comes to surviving the New York winter. Again, if you can tolerate wool, you’ll probably be even warmer with something like these merino wool leggings. But since I can’t, I substitute fleece-lined leggings like these ones. On a cold day, I typically wear them underneath a pair of jeans and I am toasty warm all day long. I prefer the ones without feet because they sag less during the day.

I think that’s pretty much it in terms of accessories. If you get cold really easily, you may want to throw in some thermal tops to wear as a base layer as well. 32 Degrees (my preference) and UNIQLO make good ones.

Clothes to Wear in New York in Winter

If you’ve followed my advice up to this point — parka, fleece-lined leggings, all the winter accessories — you can actually get away with wearing pretty much whatever you want with them. I tend to choose a lot of sweater dresses because I am lazy when I travel and don’t like to pack a lot of different things that I have to mix and match. But you can also just wear jeans and sweaters on your trip so long as you have the appropriate winter accessories, shoes, and outerwear.

One big misconception about New York is that we wear all black all the time. While certainly you won’t look out of place in all black, New Yorkers also integrate a lot of color into their wardrobes, especially with their accessories, so don’t be afraid to wear whatever colors you normally would back home.

Here’s my basic New York packing list, winter edition (enough for 1 week):

What Else Should Be On Your Winter in New York Packing List?

Once you’ve figured out what to wear in New York in winter, I’ve got a few more things you should add to your NYC packing list. Some are NYC-specific but most are related to how you’d normally travel, anyway. New York has basically everything you need, so don’t be worried if you forget anything. There is a pharmacy on virtually every city block that will have everything you need. Just pop into a Duane Reade, Walgreen’s, CVS, Rite Aid… and you’ll be well-sorted (though you’ll pay a bit for the convenience).

Toiletries

  • Lip balm: Your lips will get more chapped in New York than you ever thought possible… going from the windy cold streets to the super-heated interiors will do a number on your lips. Be sure to bring a good quality lip balm with you – I love this Aquaphor.
  • High-quality moisturizer: For the same reason as above – New York winters will do a number on your skin. I use Shiseido moisturizer on my face most of the winter.
  • Sunscreen: Don’t discount the need for sunscreen even in the winter! New York is quite sunny in the winter (and cloudy days actually require SPF, too!) despite the cold so make sure you protect your skin. I use this fancy Japanese Biore sunscreen for my face as my skin is quite sensitive and acne-prone and this is really gentle on my skin
  • Hand sanitizer: New York is a dirty city – the subway in particular is a germ war zone. I recommend traveling with hand sanitizer for when you can’t get to a bathroom quickly and touch something questionable (which is basically any surface in the city). I carry a mini bottle of Purell like this one.
  • Kleenex
  • Everyday make-up
  • Basics like shampoo, body wash, etc.
  • Deodorant (please)
  • Prescription medicine, if you need it

Electronics

  • High-powered portable battery pack: Your phone battery will get run down very quickly on a cold winter day in New York, so be sure to pack a portable battery charger like an Anker battery pack (this is what I swear by as a blogger who needs fully charged electronics at all times!)
  • Camera: I personally use a Sony A6000 mirrorless camera, which is the perfect travel camera for producing professional-quality photos without taking up much space or weighing too much. I have several lenses for it but most people will be fine with the kit lens. Be sure to pack several extra batteries as well, for the same reason as above (winter weather = zapped electronics)
  • Adaptor, if visiting internationally: If you are visiting from Europe or somewhere that uses different outlets than U.S. plugs, you’ll want an international adaptor for sure.
  • Phone and charger
  • Laptop or tablet and charger
  • Kindle, if you use one
  • Noise-canceling headphones, if you have them: For the subway, trust me.

Random

  • Reusable water bottle: New York tap water is excellent quality. Save money and the environment with a reusable metal water bottle. Pretty much any café or restaurant will be happy to refill yours (I’ve never been turned down).
  • Reusable bags: The plastic bag ban is currently being battled in New York City, but please step ahead of the curve and bring your own reusable tote bags anyway.
  • Whatever else you’d normally pack for a week away from home!

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