Warm European Destinations to Visit in Winter

share the love
Warm European Destinations to Visit in Winter
Warm European Destinations to Visit in Winter

This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy through those links, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. You can read the full disclosure here.

As I sit here writing this article on this cold Sunday, there are currently -25°C and I dread the thought of having to step outside tomorrow morning to go to work. Not that staying indoors for days on end is any better. In fact I wish I could go on a walk and enjoy some nicer temperatures. And if you too would like to travel somewhere warmer during the winter months, this article is for you. When compiling these 10 destinations, I decided to focus mainly on walkable cities that are easy to reach from major European cities.

Warm European Destinations to Visit in Winter

With sunny days and mild temperatures between 5-20°C, these destinations are not for you if you’re looking for sunbathing in January. However, you can participate in outdoor activities, scenic sights, and taste local cuisine without the heat and crowds of the peak summer season. From underrated Mediterranean island getaways to bustling cities, here are 10 destinations for your next winter getaway:

Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Palma de Mallorca is the capital of the island of Mallorca, located in the Mediterranean Sea, 80 km from mainland Spain. The city is known for its beautiful beaches, stunning Gothic architecture, and lively nightlife. It is one of the most versatile warm European destinations. Everyone from families with small children, youths, sports enthusiasts, and culture buffs will have a good time here. Some things to do in Palma de Mallorca include:

  • visiting the Palma Aquarium
  • exploring the stunning Cathedral of Santa Maria
  • enjoying a stroll through Parc de la Mar
  • taking a day trip to the island of Cabrera
  • going bar hopping
  • participating in outdoor activities such as swimming, tennis, golf, hiking, cycling, and sailing
  • having a nice meal at one of the many world class restaurants

Temperatures from December to February can range from a low 8°C to a high of 16°C with an average of 5 day of rain per month. The fastest way to reach Palma de Mallorca is to fly in. There are multiple daily flights from numerous European cities. However, you can also take a ferry from the mainland, which can take anywhere from 5 to 9 hours, but offers a more picturesque experience.

Nice, France

Located on the French Riviera in the south of France, Nice is one of the most popular year-round destinations in the country. However, if you visit in the winter time you can enjoy warm weather, lower prices, and fewer tourists. For centuries Nice has been a popular winter destination. In fact it was a second, winter home to many European aristocrats in the 18th century. You can see their influences from the Promenade des Anglais to the Russian Orthodox Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas de nice. Today, Nice is a large, metropolitan city with over 460, 000 inhabitants.

Nice, France
Nice, France

Nice makes a great destination for everyone from the very young to the very old. There are plenty of attractions for families with young children. The city is also very pedestrian friendly, with great public transit, which makes it a great choice for strollers and those with limited mobility. Some things to do in Nice are:

  • having a picnic on the beach with local delicacies and pastries
  • walking along Promenade des Anglais and Old Town
  • walking up to Castle Hill and enjoying the views
  • visiting one the famous museums such as the Matisse Museum, the Marc Chagall Museum, the Natural History Museum, or the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco
  • attending the Nice Carnival which usually takes place in February, sometimes early March
  • taking a day trip to one of the many nearby destinations such as: Èze, Monaco, Menton, Saint-Paul de Vence, Villefranche-sur-Mer
  • admiring Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
  • taking the children to Parc Phœnix
  • participating in the Lemon Festival in the neighbour town of Menton

The easiest way to get to Nice is by plane, as it hosts the second largest airport in France. Additionally, you can also take the train from neighbouring cities in France or Italy. Temperatures can range from 5 to 15°C between December and February, with an average 5 days of precipitations each month.

Istanbul, Turkey

The largest city in Turkey, and a very important historical, financial and cultural hub, Istanbul also spans two continents. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, having served as the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. Today, Istanbul is a bustling metropolis rich in vibrant markets, fine dining, and stunning landmarks. It is one of the best warm European destinations for culture enthusiasts. These are some things to do in Istanbul:

  • walk across the Bosphorus Strait which separates the European and Asian continents
  • relax at a museum: the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, or the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts
  • have a relaxing traditional Turkish Bath (hammam)
  • learn more about Istanbul’s history at the historic sites of: Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern
  • shop for authentic souvenirs, spices, and textiles at the Grand Bazaar
  • indulge in traditional Turkish dishes such as: kebabs, saksuka, mezze platters, yaprak dolmas, Inegol kofte and baklava
Warm European Destinations to Visit in Winter: Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, Turkey

With the busiest airport in Europe, Istanbul is best reached by plane. However, since it has always been an important trading hub, Istanbul can also be reached by car/ bus, ferry, or train from numerous European, Asian, and Middle Eastern cities. In the winter, temperatures can range from 5-15°C, which is perfect for walking around and exploring the city by foot.

Heraklion, Greece

The capital city of Crete, Greece’s largest island, Heraklion is also the fourth largest city in the country. It offers the perfect blend of history, culture, and modern conveniences. Heraklion is best suited for those interested in culture, sports and relaxation. However, as a large city there are also plenty of opportunities for shopping, dining, and nightlife. Here are some things you might be interested in doing:

  • explore the Palace of Knossos, and important centre of the Minoan civilization
  • take the children to the CretAquarium and admire the local marine life
  • stop by the Archaeological Museum, which covers over 5500 years of Crete’s history
  • get spooked by the dinosaur replicas and fossils at Dinosauria Park
  • if you’re visiting in December, stop by the Christmas Market
  • stroll through the Municipal Garden
  • indulge in traditional Cretan cuisine

In the wintertime, Heraklion’s weather is quite lovely with temperatures between 9 and 17°C and little precipitations. To reach this wonderful city, you can fly from Athens or other European cities. Additionally, you can catch a ferry from Athens, which takes 6-8 hours.

Valletta, Malta

Located south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea, Malta is a great winter destination for those looking to soak in some sun. And the capital Valletta, is especially impressive. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its impressive Baroque architecture, fortified walls, lively cafes, restaurants, and shops.

Throughout the years, Malta has been ruled by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Knights of St. John, French, and British. And this has given the island and its inhabitants a unique blend of architecture, art, and cultural practices. Therefore, Malta offers a diverse range of experiences for visitors interested in history, culture, and nature. Some of these experiences include:

  • admire and walk through Porta Reale, the entry gate to the city
  • visit St. John’s Co-Cathedral, built by the Order of St. John between 1573 and 1578 in Baroque style
  • walk through the Upper Barrakka Gardens and admire the views of the harbour
  • stop by the National Museum of Archaeology and learn about Malta’s vast history
  • take a boat trip to the Blue Lagoon, located on the island of Comino and admire the stunning landscapes and local marine life
  • enjoy a day trip to the Limestone Heritage Park & Gardens and observe Malta’s limestone history through exhibits, sculptures and demonstrations

As with the previous destinations, the fastest and easiest way to reach Malta is by plane. There are daily flights from multiple European cities. There are also ferries from Catania (Sicily) and the journey takes 4-7 hours. However very few people take the ferry, and it’s better to fly.

Cinque Terre, Italy

Located in the Liguria region in northwestern Italy, Cinque Terre is composed of five villages built into the cliffs. These villages are: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, and they are connected by walking trails and paths with fantastic views. In the summer season, Cinque Terre is absolutely packed with tourists. So much so that you’ll have to book everything months in advance and you may have a difficult time sightseeing due to all the crowds. Therefore, if you’ve wished to visit Cinque Terre for a while now, the winter season might be ideal for you. Additionally, in the winter season you’ll also benefit from lower prices and a more authentic experience.

But do keep your expectations low as some businesses will close for the winter months. Moreover, keep in mind that since the villages were built into the cliffs, there are countless steps to climb/ descend as you make your way around. With that in mind, here are some activities to do in Cinque Terre:

  • walk along the Sentiero Azzurro, a path which connects the five villages and offers stunning views of the coastline and surrounding nature
  • enjoy the local culture and cuisine of each village
  • go wine tasting and try the local Sciacchetrà wine, a sweet wine made in the hills of Cinque Terre
  • soak in the beauty of each village and take pictures without crowds of tourists
  • if you’re visiting in December, check out the nativity scene in Manarola
  • if you’re visiting in February, enjoy the carnival

You can reach Cinque Terre by train from either Florence or Milan. There are daily direct trains that stop at Monterosso, as well as regional trains that connect the villages. The winter temperatures range from 5 to 12°C.

Ajaccio, France

The capital city of the Corsican island, Ajaccio is where Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, was born in 1769. However, the city’s history begins long before him, around the 2nd century AD when it became a Roman port on the trade route between Italy and France. Later, in 1943 Ajaccio became the first city in France to be liberated from Nazi occupation. So if you’re a fan of history, you may want to explore this gem in the off-season, after the crowds of summer seeking tourists have left.

However, there is more to Ajaccio than history. Located in the Gulf of Ajaccio, the city is surrounded by the mountains and sea. Thus making it a great destination for those interested nature, and outdoor activities. There is also a lively restaurant and nightlife scene. Here are some things to do in Ajaccio:

  • visit Maison Bonaparte, the birthplace of Napoleon turned into a museum dedicated to his life and legacy
  • enjoy a snack and a coffee at Place Foch
  • take a half-day trip to Château de la Punta, which is a blend of Corsican and French history
  • take in the island’s beautiful landscapes from a boat tour
  • have a relaxing picnic at one of the many beaches
  • explore the 9 km Chemin des Crêtes hiking trail
  • keep an eye on the bay for dolphins (and maybe even whales if you’re lucky)
  • if you’re feeling adventurous, go fishing for sea urchins
  • walk around the luxurious Foreigners’ Quarter, which was built in the 19th to accommodate rich tourists who came to Ajaccio to escape winter

Over the winter months, temperatures range from 5 to 15°C. Getting to Ajaccio is easy by plane or ferry. There are multiple daily ferries departing from Nice and Marseille, even in the winter months. Additionally, there is a vast network of trains and buses connecting the cities on the island of Corsica, so it’s easy to get around if you want to. Of all the warm European destinations, Corsica is my favorite, and it’s a shame not many people outside of France visit it.

Malaga, Spain

Malaga is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Andalusia region in Southern Spain. It offers a blend of old and new, from high rise hotels, to hilltop citadels. With beautiful beaches, and some of the warmest temperatures in Europe, Malaga is one of the few European destinations warm enough to actually sunbathe in winter. And if that’s not your cup of tea, there are multiple sporting activities you can partake in. Furthermore, as a large city, Malaga has a vast network of public transit making it a great destination for those with mobility challenges.

Warm European Destinations to Visit in Winter: Malaga, Spain
Malaga, Spain

With incredibly hot summers and busy tourist season, the winter months are the best time to visit Malaga and here are some attractions and activities:

  • walk along or sunbathe at La Malagueta beach
  • stop by the Cathedral of Malaga and admire the Renaissance architecture
  • explore the Roman Theatre, the oldest monument in the city dating back to 1st century BC
  • as the birthplace of Picasso, consider paying a visit to the Picasso Museum
  • for the outdoorsy ones, walk El Caminito del Rey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that spans 8 km (keep in mind that you need to buy tickets in advance)
  • take a boat tour and enjoy the scenery from the sea
  • if you’re looking for a day trip, the British territory of Gibraltar is nearby and it is the only place on mainland Europe with wild monkeys
  • if you’re visiting in December, enjoy the lights show in Calle Larios, which takes place every evening
  • the carnival takes place in February and it features a float parade and street performers

Winter temperatures range from 8 to 18°C with around 5 days of precipitations. You can reach Malaga from most large cities in Europe or Spain by plane, train, or ferry.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

For those interested in history and culture, Dubrovnik makes a perfect warm European getaway to visit during winter. Its well-preserved Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it features a maze of narrow cobblestone streets and historic buildings. After all the walking, you can sit down and enjoy one of the local seafood dishes. And if you’re feeling more adventurous, you can try some water sports.

  • walk along the city walls and enjoy beautiful views of the city and coast
  • have a tea/ coffee in the Stradun, the main street in the Old Town, filled with shops and restaurants
  • admire the panoramic views from the cable car
  • or hike up Mount Srd and enjoy even vaster views
  • visit the Sponza Palace Museum and learn more about Dubrovnik’s history
  • buy some local delicacies from the food market and enjoy a picnic on one of the many beaches
  • take a day trip to Neretva Valley and go mandarin harvesting
  • the winter festival takes place from early December until early January and you can enjoy good music, food and drink
  • if you are going in February, attend the festivity of St. Blaise, patron of Dubrovnik who helped defend the city against armies of Venice

In the winter months, temperatures range from 7 to 14°C with some precipitations. The fastest way to get to Dubrovnik is by plane, but you can also get here by ferry, train, or bus.

Cagliari, Italy

The capital city of the island of Sardinia, Cagliari is rich in history, culture, and stunning architecture. Originally founded in Neolithic Age, the city has faced thousands of years of change. Today, it offers a perfect blend of history and modern life. As a coastal city, there are multiple beaches around Cagliari, making it a great destination for sunbathing as well as water sports.

Cagliari, Italy
Cagliari, Italy

And the best part of visiting Cagliari in winter is that you can have a truly authentic experience. In high season, there are some international tourists visiting the city, but in the off season, there are very few. So you can really take in how the locals live. Cagliari is the best destination for those wanting a more unconventional experience. With that in mind, here are some attractions in Cagliari:

  • have a coffee and a snack at Bohemian Marina Quarter while people watching
  • go up the hill to Castello San Michele and take in fantastic views of the city and coastline
  • stop by the the Mercato Civico food market to pick up some local snacks, then have a picnic on a beach
  • visit the Citadel of Museums to learn more about the history and culture of the city
  • stop by Parco di Molentargius for birdwatching or admiring the local flora and fauna
  • if you’re young or young at heart, enjoy nightlife with the locals
  • indulge in some local Sardian dishes such as fregula, suppa cuata, pecora in cappotto, and seadas
  • try out some water sports such as: windsurfing, kitesurfing, or diving

Cagliari’s winter temperatures range from 5°C tat night o as high as 17°C during the day, with plenty of sunshine. Reaching Cagliari is easy by air, or by ferry from the mainland.

In Summary

These are the 10 warm European destinations to visit in winter:

  • Palma de Mallorca, Spain
  • Nice, France
  • Istanbul, Turkey
  • Heraklion, Greece
  • Valletta, Malta
  • Cinque Terre, Italy
  • Ajaccio, France
  • Malaga, Spain
  • Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Cagliari, Italy
share the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *