Visiting Europe: Why Winter is the Perfect Time

Everyone talks up summer vacation, but what about winter? Turns out, winter might be the perfect time to visit many European destinations.

Thinking about visiting Europe in winter? You’re not crazy — you’re actually really on to something here! While most people tend to plan their European vacations in summer, there are a lot of compelling reasons to visit Europe in winter. From crowds and pricing to seasonal fun and dining, winter is truly the perfect time to visit Europe!

Lower Crowds

Winter's lighter crowds mean easier access to attractions like museums. Pictured: British Museum, London.

Winter’s lighter crowds mean easier access to attractions like museums. Pictured: British Museum, London.

Maybe this one is obvious, but it’s such a good reason it must be pointed out. Europe’s busiest travel season is summer, and so everything in summer is more crowded. It’s also more expensive. With low crowds visiting Europe in the winter season, you can spend more time enjoying the must-dos on your itinerary. Think about the great museums of Italy, Spain and France — you’ll find fewer heads between you and the Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s David in January than July!

Christmas Markets

The Christmas markets of Germany, Switzerland and Italy alone are worth visiting Europe in winter!

The Christmas markets of Germany, Switzerland and Italy alone are worth visiting Europe in winter!

For handcrafted treasures, warming treats and more Christmas cheer than you could possibly know how to handle, the Christmas markets of Europe are a tradition dating back to the middle ages. Depending on the region’s specialties, treasures you’ll find include traditional wooden toys, handmade nutcrackers and ornaments, Bohemian glass and locally-made accessories such as hats.

Seasonal goodies like roasted almonds, gingerbread and hot chestnuts are sure to scent the air as you wander market stalls, and many markets have their own signature treat to warm you on a chilly evening shopping trip, like Nuremburg’s lebkuchen gingerbread and Nuremburg Bratwursts.

Winter Dining

Warm up with gluhwein, spicy German mulled wine for a winter treat.

Warm up with gluhwein, spicy German mulled wine for a winter treat.

That leads us nicely to our next topic: the food! Northern European cultures have been dealing with dark, cold winters for a long time now, and they’ve perfected the recipes to warm up anyone after a day tramping around in the snow. Exhibit A: fondue. Hot cheese is very good in winter; it may be less appealing in summer for obvious reasons! Exhibit B: mulled wine — or gluhwein, if you’re in Germany or Austria. Other perfect wintertime dishes include Germany’s hot Bavarian pretzels (another Christmas market staple), sausages like Bratwurst (ditto) and hot drinks like Spanish drinking chocolate or Czech medovina — a hot honey wine.

Mediterranean Warmth (But Not Too Much!)

Cooler winter temperatures might just make Athens more appealing in winter.

Cooler winter temperatures might just make Athens more appealing in winter.

Dreaming of Athens? When you’re ready to explore the treasures of Mediterranean destinations like Greece, Crete, the south of France and Spain, but you don’t want to melt in summertime temps in the 80, 90s, or even higher (!) consider winter travel. The average January high temperature in Athens is 55 degrees; in August, it’s 93. That’s not exactly “discover antiquities and amazing outdoor sites” weather. Consider a winter trip to Athens for more comfortable touring.

Guilt-free Museum Days

Everyone wants to go to the Louvre. Solution? Go when there are fewer people.

Everyone wants to go to the Louvre. Solution? Go when there are fewer people.

Remember how your mother used to tell you to get outside and stop wasting such a beautiful day? It stuck with you, didn’t it? On any European vacation you’re going to find yourself wanting to spend quite a lot of time in museums, whether you’re wandering the Louvre in Paris or the Natural History Museum in London. But it can be a tough decision if your museum day coincides with a sunny summer stand-out — especially in London! Luckily, winter is perfect museum weather. Leave the elements outside and discover a world of wonder within each museum’s walls — and then stop for tea in the museum cafe. You’re in no hurry.

Winter: the perfect season for visiting Europe!

Winter: the perfect season for visiting Europe!

While it’s true winter weather can be a bit dreary, and it’s not always fun taking a winter coat on vacation, visiting Europe in winter can open up your vacation options in many ways. From saving money and enjoying lower crowds, to experiencing winter-only fun like the European Christmas markets, and truly embracing the fantastic museums, galleries and other indoor attractions Europe has to offer, you can find plenty of excellent reasons to visit Europe this winter.

Well, it’s decided: you’re visiting Europe this winter! Looking for some great winter destinations? Consider a Germany and Switzerland vacation with a Christmas Market tour, or see them yourself an independent Fly & Drive vacation package through Bavaria. Or explore the incomparable art and architecture of Italy with an escorted tour through Rome, Florence and Venice.

Book early: through June 16th, 2017, you can save hundreds with early-bird discounts on many European winter vacations from Virgin Vacations!