There are countless cities and countries that are beautiful during the summer, but what about cities that are even more beautiful during the winter months? Our selection of the most beautiful winter cities is going to leave you wanting to forego your tropical destination for your skis and snowshoes.
New York City
New York City is one of the best cities to visit around the holiday season thanks to the epic amounts of decoration that happens all across the city. If you visit in winter just before Christmas, you can pop over to Rockefeller Center and gaze up at the beautiful 100ft Christmas tree that they have on display there every year. The city has some great winter markets inside Columbus Circle, the Beer Garden and Union Square. Fifth Avenue shops really go all out in decorating their window displays for winter so if you are in the mood to walk and window shop, this is the place for you to go.
Zurich is a city that’s known for being beautiful in the winter, it becomes magical even if you’re not a fan of the cold (especially during Christmas season).
The Old Town of Zurich is particularly beautiful when the snow has fallen, so put on your warmest clothes and take a stroll through the town to see the architecture dusted with sparkly white snow. If you prefer to be indoors, tuck yourself (or with your travel companion) into the corner of a restaurant and bask in some fondue that’s authentic to Switzerland and enjoy the feeling of being warm and cozy while the snow falls lightly outside. The museums in Zurich are a great thing to visit while the snow falls, if you want to stay indoors that is. Zurich is home to the Museum of Modern Art, the Swiss National Museum and the Circus Museum Rapperswill, which is Switzerland’s only circus museum.
In the winter months, there is no shortage of things to do in Nice, France. From mid-February to the beginning of March, Nice is home to the Nice Carnival, which is known as Europe’s “greatest carnival”!
If you don’t like to be outdoors in the winter, you can pay a visit to the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC), which is the Cote-d’Azur’s best contemporary art gallery majors on Euro-realism and pop art. The best part? It’s free to attend! If you have a sweet tooth, you should cozy up to a cup of hot chocolate from Antonia Caffe on Place Rossetti, which is right in the heart of Vieux Nice. The hot chocolate there is famous because of the massive size; one cup could easily be enough for two people.
Prague, Czech Republic
In the winter, Prague has many different faces. You can visit the Christmas markets for a more vintage and antique feel.
A lot of them honor old Christmas traditions, but it’s not even all about Christmas as the markets are full of fascinating and unique things to purchase and see. If you’re looking for something more active, there are a ton of places to go skating in Prague. The Fruit Market in Old Town allows people to skate into the late evening by the Estates Theatre. They sometimes have themed nights for children or live music. You could take a walk through Prague Castle Gardens, which is a really romantic thing to do with your significant other.
Salzburg is an important tourist attraction in the winter months and hotels often raise their prices because of how busy the city gets. If you’re going to visit Salzburg, you are hopefully going to go skiing, as that’s the number one activity to do while you’re there. Some of the finest ski areas in the Alps can be found in the south part of Salzburg. You’ll want to make a point of nibbling on some Lebkuchen and sipping on some Glühwein. Around the Christmas season, people will often bake Christmas cookies (Lebkuchen) and it’s not uncommon to have competitions to see who can make the best ones. Christmas markets and bakeries will offer a ton of different kinds.
In Berlin in the winter is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The lake freezes over and all of the cafés, bars, museums, galleries and theaters transform into parts of a winter wonderland.
When you’re out walking around, grab some hot chocolate (or a warm apple strudel) at a café. If you like 19th century inspired places, you’ll love Café Einstein as it’s set in a 19th-century villa and offers a classic Viennese atmosphere and a really delicious menu! There is always something happening in Berlin so there is never a shortage of things to do, especially in the winter. Berlin really steps it up at New Years and is bigger (and louder) than many cities for the night.
Visiting Boulder in the winter is great for a variety of reasons. The first being that most hotels offer the lowest rates during the winter (bonus!) and normally they don’t get a lot of snow, so it makes it easy to go out walking without having to trek through mounds of snow.
If it’s a warmer winter day, it’s not surprising to see people on bikes or hiking and sitting on restaurant patios. If it’s a cooler day, you’ll notice that coffee shops and cafes are full of locals warming up with friends and family. You can go snowshoeing if there is enough snow on the ground and with the mountains in site it makes for a breathtaking view.
One of the primary benefits of visiting Rome in the winter is that there are very few tourists in the city. Only the locals are out and about (avoid the two weeks leading up to Christmas though, Italians tend to leave their shopping until late so all of the stores will be packed).
Budapest is quite warm in the summer, but in the winter it cools off and is so nice and it’s so beautiful when there is a light sprinkle of snow on the top of the buildings.
When you’re there during the cooler seasons, check out one of the secret baths they have. Budapest is known for its baths but if you want a more local experience then definitely visit the Veil Bej Bath. Also, visiting Budapest around the holiday season allows you to experience all of the food that comes along with it! There is a very popular ice skating rink located right beside a castle in Budapest so it makes skating seem like you’re inside a fairy tale.
There’s never a dull day in Reykjavik, even in the winter months! The days may be dark, but you will always be able to gaze at the Northern Lights (which I think is reason enough to visit – don’t you?).
However, Reykjavik is also full of cultural events in the wintertime! Winter sports fans will love the fact that Reykjavik has monster jeep tours, horseback riding, dog sledding and snowmobiling! The city itself is decorated full of beauty during the Christmas season with many lights, decorations, ornaments and really cute Christmas displays. Reykjavik has one of the best firework displays you’ve ever seen on New Years! In February, they have a Food & Fun festival, which is followed by the Winter Lights Festival (which is always, always packed), which is a great festival to include for the whole family!
Austria is a great place for those who love winter sports. There is a ton of locations for those who enjoy skiing or snowboarding or skating, you can do it all in Austria. Better yet – it’s famous for not having to wait for the lifts!
If you really want to do something adventurous, you can actually go ice diving underneath the frozen lakes. Not all of the lakes freeze over, but the biologically active ones do. If there is a break in the ice and the sunlight shines through, it’s one of the most indescribably, beautiful things you can see. If you’re looking for a more romantic activity, you can visit one of the many spas that Hallstatt offers. There you can find anything from a relaxing massage to a soak in a Jacuzzi while watching the snowfall outside.
Burlington, Vermont, USA
Vermont is a popular destination in the winter because it’s so well known for it skiing. There are 19 alpine ski resorts, 30 cross-country touring centers and 6090 acres of alpine terrain. Burlington, Vermont is a family friendly city with so many activities that are conducive to everyone in the family. You can take an afternoon and go snowshoeing, or you can organize an entire day of winter hiking for the family or you can visit a winter farmers market!
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Cesky Krumlov is a city in the South Bohemia region of the Czech Republic. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the Czech Republic with it’s narrow medieval lanes and Renaissance houses which is a great compliment to the huge castle and chateau (which is the second largest in the Czech Republic).
The old streets of Cesky Krumlov are lined with gothic, renaissance and baroque houses once belonging to wealthy noblemen. This city is really romantic, perfect for walking with your significant other, and in the winter with a light dusting of snow, it makes this city even more magical.
In the winter, Paris (or better known as The City of Love) lights up and becomes the most magical place on Earth. The Champs-Elysees becomes this magnificent Christmas exhibit with a ton of lights and decorations with the Arc De Triomphe illuminated at the end for you to see.
Winter in Paris can be chilly, but it usually rains less in the winter than in the spring and snow in Paris is rare. The skating rinks usually have a live DJ there playing for the skaters, which is a huge draw in the wintertime. Popular shopping destinations such as the Boulevard Haussmann department stores and Printemps and Galeries Lafayette have incredible window displays which are as much of a draw as the actual shopping, if not more!
Bavaria is a state in Germany as opposed to an actual city, but the area itself is beautiful in the wintertime.
There are over 1250 museums to visit during the winter (the greatest number of museums in all of Germany) and there are six UNESCO heritage sites in Bavaria. Bring your significant other to the Old Town Boulevard and stare in awe at the historic buildings (as well as visiting the boutiques and cafes that call the historical area home). You can take a little rendezvous through narrow alleyways, hidden courtyards, a cathedral, the Old Town Hall, the Golden Tower and the famous Stone Bridge.
Copenhagen is a bit chilly during the winter months and even though most of us try and avoid the cold during our “vacations”, there are many reasons to visit Copenhagen as a vacation destination in the winter.
Even when the temperature dips below freezing, you can still see a lot of people riding their bikes around the city! The economy in Copenhagen in the winter is just as lively as in the summer, and tourists can do everything in the winter that they can do in the summer. Enjoy a local meal at a little restaurant or visit a boutique museum (which are very popular in the winter!).
Sedona, Arizona is famous for its red sandstone formations and in the winter they become lightly dusted with snow.
The weather remains fairly mild for winter and the city is much less crowded with tourists making it a great winter destination for those looking for some quiet time and empty hiking trails. You can take a hot-air balloon ride to gaze at the sunsets and the formations from above and while you’re on the ground, you can have an enjoyable dinner at the restaurants or have a relaxing treatment at a local spa.
Winters in Athens are bit milder than we may be used to, but it’s definitely not as warm as it is in the summer time. Winters in Athens are very understated and it’s actually a really great time to visit the city.
The temperatures are just above the freezing mark making it perfect for that afternoon stroll and for site seeing and shopping or lunching with friends or family. All of the ancient sites in Athens are empty of tourists and all of the locals have left the Greek Islands and have come back to the city for the winter. The most popular museums (the National Archaeological Museum or the Byzantine & Christian Museum) are so uncrowded and are definitely world-class museums.
Banff is one place in Canada that is notorious for being so beautiful and lovely in the winter (instead of the standard awful winters Canada seems to get).
If you love any kind of winter sport, or just love lounging in a hot tub staring at the mountains, then Banff is definitely for you. For an even more stunning view of the mountains, you can hop in a gondola and venture to the top of them to overlook the entire city of Banff. Banff is not only an incredible place to go skiing (how can you beat a backdrop of all mountains) but the après-ski is popular there as well, as people sit inside and indulge with poutine and beer.
Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Quebec City has an average snowfall of about 400 centimeters each year, which makes it one big beautiful winter playground. During the holiday season, Quebec City is full of fun and exciting things to do. Every year there is the Winter Festival, which is the world’s biggest winter carnival and includes things like the Ice Palace, snow sculptures and canoe races. There are places to go downhill skiing and snowboarding and there’s even an entire hotel made of ice where you really can spend the night (some suites in the hotel include a fireplace too!).
Many people say that winter in Barcelona is actually the best time of year. The locals get their city back from the thousands of tourists that frequent during the summer months, there’s much less noise and is actually more of a time of relaxation for the locals.
In the winter, you’re able to see all of the typical tourist attractions but there isn’t nearly as long of lines as during the warmer weather making it ideal for those who don’t like to wait. You’ll be able to see Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece; the Sagrada Familia and the Camp Nou football stadium and as an added bonus, the city will be full of beautiful Christmas lights illuminating all of the beautiful historical buildings.
Rovaniemi is the official hometown of Santa Claus! If you’re a Christmas fanatic, this is a city you must travel to at some point in your life.
Santa Claus’s original home is in the mysterious Korvatunuri in Finnish Lapland, and because the actual location is a secret only known by a few, he built an office in Rovaniemi. If you’re less into Santa and want to do more sightseeing, Rovaniemi is a great city for observing the Northern Lights, which you can see from most parts of the city and from any time between mid-August to mid-April.
For those of you who aren’t a huge fan of winter, why not trade the white snow for some white sand? Bora Bora actually has their summer white it’s winter in America or Canada and at that time tourism is at its peak.
It’s a pretty expensive tourist destination as it’s a small area and a lot of people are looking to travel there. There are so many activities that you can choose from snorkeling to scuba diving to deep sea fishing, there’s a little something for everyone. You can take island tours on a speedboat, go parasailing and take a Ray and Snorkel Safari.
Lake Tahoe, California
Lake Tahoe is one of those places in California that is not only beautiful in the summer, but it’s beautiful in the winter as well. There are so many things to do in Lake Tahoe in the winter that it would be extremely difficult to fit everything in one trip. Lake Tahoe is a fantastic place for skiing and snowboarding, but that’s not the only thing to do. You can sled around Tahoe Meadows, cross-country ski at the Royal Gorge, or you can go check out a ton of their different restaurants and famous dishes such as thin crust pizza, bison burgers or Cesar salad!
Bergen is one of the most popular cities in Norway and is located in the midst of the fjords and is surrounded by pure nature.
There are mountains in the city that provide the opportunity to go skiing, sledding or even hiking. You can take a cable car up to the top of Mount Ulriken and see the entire view of the city and surrounding areas. There are many Scandinavian spas in the city where tourists are more than welcome to spend some of their time.
Tokyo becomes a dazzling attraction in the winter months as the Christmas lights and over the top decorations are more sophisticated than anywhere else. During the winter, you can go shopping, skiing or snowboarding in many places, relax in hot springs, attend a festival (Tokyo has many during the winter) and the best part? You can be in the first city in the entire world to celebrate the New Year. The city has everything you could ask for, a bustling city life or a quiet retreat if that’s what you’re after as well.