I often find myself dreaming about travelling to warmer (or at least sunnier) destinations in Europe as the rain and dark clouds tend to take over the winter months in London, England (where I currently reside). Gloomy winter seasons in the UK can also move the gauge on your vitamin D tank towards empty.
Perhaps this is just a phenomenon I face, but nonetheless, after three winters in London, I find myself craving winter sun pretty much anywhere in Europe! I also needed some inspiration. So here I am, putting together a list of the best places for winter sun in Europe with the help of several travel blogger friends.
From Barcelona to Lisbon and Istanbul, there are many great destinations to head to for warmer weather and some sun in and around Europe. So I hope you find this list useful when it comes to giving you ideas for places to go for some sunshine and warmth in Europe in winter.
Barcelona in winter is a great place for moderate temperatures at around 10-16 degrees Celsius. You wouldn't be going to the beach necessarily at this time, but you can bask in the sun during the day.
Wintertime is also an excellent time to visit because the summer crowds have disappeared and you can explore some of the most famous sites without having to line up in long queues. Prices are also down for this reason, so you can snatch a few deals on accommodation as well.
It’s also a pretty magical time of year to visit because the festive season is in full swing. The streets are lined with holiday decorations, and there are some gorgeous markets to explore.
Two of the most popular Christmas markets include the Santa Llucia Market, which has over 300 stalls, and the Old Market around Gaudi’s magnum opus the Sagrada Familia, which has been going since the 1960s. Visit Catedral de Barcelona during Christmas time to see some of Catalonia’s fascinating traditions, like the nativity scene.
There’s also no real “off season” in Barcelona, so even if you've missed the Christmas festivities, you can still enjoy all the famous Catalonian food from the Michelin-awarded restaurants.
As the crowds are still minimal, you can visit the best sites reasonably quickly, like Casa Batllo, and explore the local culture by walking around La Rambla and El Gotic (the Gothic Quarter).
Written by Cal from Once in a Lifetime Journey.
Batumi, Georgia is a wonderful place to visit all year long, but the best time to visit it is in the colder months. The city is not too packed, so you can get excellent value for your money and enjoy a warm seaside getaway.
You can go for long walks along the promenade, which is surrounded by beautiful views of the Black Sea, get lost in the winding lanes of the old town and go on the hunt for street art.
Batumi is also full of some quirky sculptures; the most famous one being Ali and Nino - two lovers that move, interpenetrating each other.
Be sure to take the cable car to the nearby mountain to see some of the best views of Batumi and the Black Sea.
Another popular spot for views is the botanical garden, which is located a bit beyond the city but is worth a trip. The garden itself is fascinating too; you can find some exotic plants not typical to the area here.
Lastly, don't miss the local market that has so many delicious goodies! Georgian food is one of the best in the world and eating out in Batumi is a real treat. You can't leave Batumi without trying the most popular local dish - Adjarian khachapuri - a pastry with egg, cheese, and butter.
There are so many things to do in Batumi, so you will enjoy your time here for sure!
Written by Kami from My Wanderlust.
Montenegro, especially the Bay of Kotor, is an ideal place for a winter escape.
The northern portion of this small Balkan nation’s Adriatic coastline, known only simply as ‘The Boka’, is made up of picturesque coves flanked by bald, teal-tinged hills that unfurl into an endless sea of turquoise. It’s gorgeous any time of year, but winter is a great time to visit for several reasons.
Winter is quieter in Kotor especially, as fewer cruise ships are pulling into port. That means you’re more likely to find some solitude on the cobbled streets of the UNESCO Old Town – even if it does mean that you have to sacrifice on beach time and water activities.
If you’re on a road trip around Montenegro, there’s more good news: you’ll be able to find a car park with relative ease.
Rain is not uncommon, but there are plenty of sunny days in between. Because the Bay of Kotor is such a seasonal destination, many of the tourist restaurants and cafes close for the winter – a great excuse to eat locally instead.
Along with Kotor and the bigger cities of Budva and Tivat, take the time to discover some of the smaller towns along the bay, including Risan, Sveti Stefan, and my personal favourite, Perast. Further north, near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Herceg Novi is also worth a look in.
If you can, time your visit for Kotor’s Winter Carnival, a massive celebration that runs for two weeks in the lead-up to Lent (typically starting in late January or early February). Masked balls, street performances and parades pay homage to the city’s Venetian heritage.
Written by Emily from Wander-Lush.
Crete is a lovely place to visit in winter, and Chania is its cultural capital. This city in Western Crete is a perfect European winter escape as the weather stays in the 10-17 degree Celsius range. So while you’ll want a jacket, and you certainly won’t be spending time in the water, you can still enjoy everything that lovely little Chania has to offer.
Start with the Venetian Harbor and the gorgeous lighthouse. Enjoy some Cretan cuisine at one of the town's tavernas located right alongside the harbour with amazing water views. While not every restaurant in Chania is open year-round, the ones that are are the ones most frequented by locals (and thus have customers coming in when the tourists all leave), so you know you'll be in great hands!
If you do find a day is a bit on the chilly side, you can happily warm up with a Greek coffee or two, plus you can end every meal with a hearty glass of Cretan raki.
Nightlife in Chania does quiet down during the winter, but there are still fun spots to enjoy!
You can take day trips to some of the area's most lovely spots, including a visit to our favourite beach, Seitan Limania. Yes, this beach is so beautiful that even in winter it's worth a visit (just dress for a little wind)!
Written by Stephanie Craig from Sofia Adventures.
The unique landscapes of the Douro Valley in Northern Portugal make this wine region one of the most beautiful in all of Europe. Rolling hills with vineyards growing up the steep slopes, a winding river flowing through the middle and some of the oldest wineries in the entire world - the Douro Valley is truly a special place.
It also makes an excellent destination for off-season travel. You won’t find hot temperatures during the winter, but you can expect to see a lot of sun with comfortable temperatures from 15-20’s(ºC) during the day.
When I visited during the winter of last year, I was pleased to have sunny weather for the duration of my stay. You should still always prepare for rain and bring warm clothing when travelling during the winter months.
There are a few activities that you cannot miss when you visit the Douro Valley. Take a tour of one of the many historic vineyards and taste some of the famous Port wine that has been produced here for centuries. Wine production in this region dates back over 2000 years! The Douro Valley has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the oldest wine-producing region in the world.
Another great activity that you shouldn’t miss out on is taking a river cruise along the Douro River. Take in the stunning landscape views as you float along the river on a relaxing boat cruise. Half-day cruises depart regularly from the village of Peso da Régua.
Written by Ann from The Road is Life.
Winter is a great time to head to Istanbul. Temperatures here are a little warmer than the rest of Europe in winter, and there are almost no tourists around!
Istanbul can get cold in winter. Still, the great thing is that many of the tourist attractions, such as Dolmabahce Palace, Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar (one of the oldest markets in the world with over 4,000 stalls!), are all inside, so you won't be out in the cold too much! Plus, as you'll be dressed up warm, you'll always be dressed appropriately to enter the mosques, such as the Blue Mosque.
During the summer months, queues for the likes of the Galata Tower and Topkapi Palace can be humongous, and people can often be queueing for a couple of hours to get inside! So, take advantage of there being significantly fewer tourists in winter as there will hardly be any queues.
The many traditional Turkish restaurants here are also really cosy and offer great food and strong Turkish coffee to keep you going! Even during the winter, visiting a rooftop cafe in Istanbul is a must - my favourite is Kubbe Istanbul (pictured above).
When you need a break from visiting tourist attractions and want to warm up, head inside for a Turkish bath (hammam). Not only will this warm you up, but it will make you feel totally relaxed afterwards (and your skin will be so smooth!).
Written by Catrina from 24 Hours Layover.
When you are tired of the cold, dark winter blues, Lisbon is the answer to your prayers. It is the capital of Portugal and the best city to visit in Europe in winter.
Warmer and sunnier than most European countries during this time of year, Lisbon's welcoming clear blue skies, bright sunshine, and 16-degree temperature make it an attractive winter destination in Europe.
Aside from providing the much-needed sun and warmth, Lisbon's winter temperature is the best temperature for exploring its many hills. As it is the low season, the charm of Lisbon will not be lost in the crowd, and one can enjoy a coffee break without having to queue for it. Best of all, you can enjoy a sweet pairing of coffee and pastel de nata in peace (Portugal's famous custard pie).
One of the things to do in Lisbon is to admire the city and river views from the top of the Rua Augusta Arc for EU2.50, or do it for free on the centrally-located miradouros, Portas Do Sol, Graca, or Santa Luzia.
Wander around the colourful neighbourhoods around the city centre, such as Alfama, Baixa Chiado, and Bairro Alto. Then, take a day trip to Sintra to see the impressive structures of the Quinta de Regelaria Villa and the Castle of the Moors.
Written by Karolina Klesta from Lazy Travel Blog.
Malaga in southern Spain is the perfect place for a decent amount of European winter sun. With more than 320 sunny days a year, the capital of the sunshine coast is boasting with historical sites, breathtaking views, beaches, nightlife, shopping, and tapas bars. The beautiful weather all year round makes Malaga a perfect city to sit outside in the pleasant winter sun to have lunch or a drink at day time.
There are a few points of interest you should not miss on your visit to Malaga. First of all, the Moorish fortress La Alcazaba, which is located on a hilltop overlooking the city, makes for a beautiful walk and is a stunning landmark. The fortress is protected by two sets of walls and contains mesmerising gardens as well as a palace.
Just down the hill from Alcazaba, you can find the Roman Theatre that hasn’t been used since the 200s. Castillo Gibralfaro is another hilltop fortress that should not be missed and can be seen on the emblem of the province of Malaga.
Further, Malaga Cathedral is a beautiful combination of Renaissance and Baroque styles and the 84 meters tall north tower is the second tallest in Andalusia.
But Malaga is also Pablo Picasso’s birthplace; thus, you should visit the Picasso Museum. Insider tip: The museum has free entry on Sundays.
If you have enough time, there are many incredible day trips from Malaga to picturesque hillside villages, beautiful hiking scenes, and breathtaking beaches.
Written by Linn Haglund from Brainy Backpackers.
While the rest of Europe is experiencing rain, clouds, and pretty much freezing temperatures, Malta provides the perfect escape.
The island experiences sunshine year round, including December to February, with stable temperatures made for being outdoors and an average temperature of around 14*C. This mild temperature allows for exploring the island, its landscape, culture and all that it has to offer in cool but sunny weather.
Don’t miss a visit to Valetta, Mdina, and Balutta Bay, just to name a few. The weather may even be good enough for a visit to one of the many beaches that Malta is famously known for.
Reduced prices on hotels and a lower number of tourists as compared to the summer months are other benefits of visiting in winter.
Christmas is also a festive time all around with the city’s main streets lit up and adorned with lights, trees, and garlands. Participation in churches increases around this time with a special attendance on Christmas Day and Midnight Mass being the main event.
Taking part in these festive traditions is one of the best things to do in Malta to get a better understanding of the island and its people.
Written by Rai from A Rai of Light.
Rethymno city has a rich history and is located in the north of Crete Island in Greece. This Cretan city attracts many tourists throughout the year.
Even though the peak season is the summer, visiting Rethymno in winter is a great way to escape from colder climates and enjoy the sun while learning about Greek culture and history. Keep in mind that the temperature stays relatively warm between 9 - 16 °C.
In winter, you can easily find a good hotel in the town centre, which is also affordable since the prices drop during the off-peak months. In this way, you are only a walking distance from most attractions. By strolling around the Old Town, you will pass the cute narrow streets where there are several Venetian and Turkish architecture, including temples and public buildings.
When you are in Rethymno, visiting the Venetian castle of Fortezza is a must. This unique and outstanding monument is located at the top of Paleokastro hill on the west side of Rethymno town.
After visiting the castle, you can continue walking towards the Venetian Harbour of Rethymno to eat at one of the waterfront restaurants and watch the sunset. This is where you can see the Egyptian lighthouse.
Written by Mansoureh from Travel with Mansoureh.
Winter is actually the best time to visit Seville, especially if you want to avoid both oppressive crowds and unbearable heat. Summer temperatures can top 40 degrees Celsius here, while in winter high temperatures are a delightful 16 degrees.
You can dine al fresco on the terrace of one of Seville's many tapas bars and enjoy the views in the beautiful neighbourhood of Santa Cruz.
And you won't have to share Seville with so many other tourists in winter either, although it's still a good idea to buy online tickets in advance for the Alcázar. This spectacular Mudejar-style has become exceptionally popular in recent years after it was used as a filming location for Game of Thrones. But even if you're not a GOT fan, you definitely shouldn't miss this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you visit around Christmas time, you'll be able to see all the elaborate nativity scenes set up in shop windows and churches around the city. Known as "Belén", which is the Spanish word for Bethlehem, nativity scenes are a vital part of the Christmas tradition in Spain. There's even a feria del Belén (nativity market) where you can shop for pieces to create your own.
And if you're planning your trip for January and think you'll miss all the Christmas festivities, think again! Spaniards actually exchange gifts not on Christmas Day, but on the Día de Los Reyes Magos (Day of the Three Wise Men), which falls on January 6. Seville celebrates this day with a huge parade where the Wise Men pass by on floats and throw candy and toys to the children in the crowd. It's great fun!
Written by Wendy Werneth from The Nomadic Vegan.
Sicily in Italy is a great place to visit in Europe for some winter sun, especially if you are a history lover and are looking to avoid the crowds and experience Sicily all by yourself.
The beautiful island of Sicily has always been on the crossroads of many different empires. That is why it is historically rich and culturally vibrant.
In Sicily, you can see magnificent Greek ruins at the Valley of Temples in Agrigento, sample extraordinary Roman mosaics at Piazza Armerina, and be awed by Sicilian Baroque architecture of Val di Noto. And you can get some fantastic pictures for your Instagram without people hovering in the background.
Quite a few resorts are open during winters, and the otherwise touristy town of Taormina is surprisingly calm. Culture lovers will also enjoy Siracusa’s Feast of Saint Lucy in December and Agrigento’s Almond Blossom Festival in late February. And if you are looking for some adventure, try skiing on Mt. Etna.
Sicilian winters are milder than anywhere else in Europe. Temperatures can be as high as 20 °C or 68 °F because of hot winds from Africa. And it is almost always sunny. There are a few cold spells, but they do not last longer than a couple of days. However, it is still advisable to wear coats and sweaters because of a cool light wind that blows through the island.
Written by Soumya from Stories by Soumya.
Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands and can be found just off of West Africa.
There are so many reasons to visit Tenerife. Whether you are travelling as a family, as a couple or solo, there is plenty for everyone to do. One of Tenerife’s main attractions is the all-year-round warm climate and distance from the UK being only a 4-hour plane ride away.
The beaches in Tenerife are beautiful, and there are so many to choose from, but the sand fascinates me. It is completely diverse, and the beaches range from a vibrant golden yellow colour to black. It is worth making some beach visits just for this.
There are two sides to the Island - the Northside and Southside. In the north, if you are a keen hiker, you can take a day trip to Mount Teide National Park to do the 5-hour climb to the top. Or, if you are with your family, jump in a cable car to be there in 8 mins!
For water enthusiasts, visit either Aqualand or Siam Park - Tenerife’s largest water park. It can be accessed from the north or south side. You can also jump aboard a boat and go whale and dolphin watching. In the North, you can also go caving in Cueva del Viento.
The market at Los Cristianos, which is on the south side, makes for an enjoyable cultured day out. You can also tie it in with a trip to the Jungle Park or Monkey Park.
Written by Anna Miller from Twins and Travels.
Valencia is the perfect city to travel to in winter. This Spanish city is still a secret for most tourists, so you will not only escape from the freezing cold but also the crowded scene. It is not as touristy as Madrid and Barcelona.
Activities to Do in Valencia
"Mercados." You can't do Christmas and not visit the famous European Christmas market.
Belen. "The Nativity Scene" here in Valencia allows you to see the Belen's at life scale. If you've heard of Las Fallas, you know you can expect some amazing artwork in this city.
Eat paella by the sea. Paella is the typical Valencian dish, and there is not a better place to enjoy it than by the sea.
Cabanyal Beach. Valencia has year-round sun, so why not go to the beach and play some sports, or relax and enjoy some sangria? Plus, you will be grateful for not having the harsh sun damaging your skin while you are enjoying the beach.
Oceanographic. It is the second-best aquarium, and it is right here in Valencia.
Circus. Valencians don't follow all the rules when it comes to typical Christmas traditions. The circus is also a good idea if you are tired of the Christmas scene. Be sure to check out the Alaska Circus - it is a 3D holographic circus representing animals.
Night clubs. Spain is known for its nightlife, and little old Valencia is not an exception. Mia is the place to be for a hot international ambience just beside the famous Science and Arts Museum.
Written by Yina from My Nomad Tips.
I hope you have been inspired after reading this list for the best places to go for winter sun in Europe. If you're not too bothered about colder temperatures and clouds, then you also have the option of checking out Berlin and Gdansk in Poland.
This article was first published on Jan 6, 2020 17:39 UTC.
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