Come January, the holiday season is over, and you may be a few pounds heavier and a few (hundred) dollars lighter. You might be sick of traveling, too, if you had to make your way through jam-packed airports and bumper-to-bumper traffic to see friends and family this holiday season. That said, if you stop traveling in December, you’ll miss out on some magical experiences. Winter is an amazing time to visit Europe so you can take advantage of cheaper prices, fewer crowds, and picturesque winter wonderlands. You may have to brave colder temperatures, but that can be part of the fun. Bundle up in warm jackets, hats, scarves, and mittens and enjoy snowy activities, including sleigh rides and ice castle tours in some of Europe’s most fascinating cities and landscapes. Then, take a break from sightseeing and warm up in cozy restaurants and interesting museums. Book a winter getaway at one of these best places to visit in Europe in January.
Rovaniemi is the perfect destination for a wintry vacation filled with snowy fun. Get around on a snowmobile, a dog sled, or a reindeer sleigh, and try some winter sports including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or ice fishing. Rovaniemi is also a great walking city, and there are several walking tours and museums to experience to learn a little more about this Finnish town. Consider buying the Culture Pass, which gets you into three attractions for one price. With this pass, you can learn about the history of Lapland and Arctic research at Arktikum, get to know northern contemporary art in the Korundi House of Culture, and familiarize yourself with the northern forests at Science Centre Pilke.
Take a Hurtigruten Cruise along the stunning Norwegian coast this January for a unique winter vacation. The cruise line offers trips that take you to the Arctic Circle and North Cape, where you’ll take in picturesque winter scenery. Plus, there’s a chance you can even catch a glimpse of the northern lights.
Be sure to check out Oslo, where you take a fjord cruise or learn about Nordic history at the Viking Ship Museum. Try cross-country skiing or sledding at Korketrekkeren. While you’re there, visit Frognerseteren, an old-fashioned cafe that has views of the Oslofjorden and serves apple pie, hot chocolate, and, of course, Norwegian waffles.
If you want to skip the wintry wonderlands and go for a warm island vacation in January, try the Canary Islands, which share Africa’s climate but are actually part of Spain. While on the islands, you hike on volcanoes, like the famous Mount Teide on Tenerife. You can also try tackling Roque de los Muchachos, which reaches almost 8,000 feet in elevation (but it gets cold in the winter, so bundle up if you plan to reach the top).
While it might be a little too chilly to enjoy the beaches, there are plenty of other activities on the islands. Take time to go off-roading on sand dunes and enjoy the local Canarian cuisine.
A New Year's swim on the first day of the year is a Canary Island tradition in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Be sure to also check out the Canary Islands International Music Festival, which happens in January and February.
This city is famous for its Christmas markets, but you can enjoy its unique history and culture in January without the holiday crowds. Stop into a local cafe to experience Viennese coffee house culture and warm up with a toasty beverage after a day of touring the city. If you’re in Vienna for the New Year, try following the Silvesterpfad, a New Year’s Eve trail which takes you to different stages with live music. Stop and enjoy a glass of mulled wine or champagne while you prep for the coming year.
Southern Germany is lovely throughout the year, but it turns into a snowy wonderland during the winter months. Think about basing yourself in Munich, an urban center that is walkable and offers several nearby day trip options. Consider traveling to Salzburg, Austria or visiting Munich Residenz, the former home of the royal family and the largest city palace in Germany.
January may be the best time of year to visit the nearby famous Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. This castle is known as the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle at Walt Disney World, and it’s going to look even prettier covered in snow.
Take in this historic city in January and skip the holiday crowds. You can wander down quiet streets and visit museums like the Tate Modern (which features modern art) or the National Gallery, which has works from da Vinci, van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Michelangelo.
During the day, visit historic sites like the Tower of England (where you can view the Crown Jewels) or Westminster Abbey. Then warm up in a cozy pub with a pint and some fish and chips.
January is the best time to visit western Switzerland. There’s tons of great skiing, with runs to fit every level — from beginners to experts. You can even try night skiing at Rinderberg, which stays open late with floodlit slopes. Each year, the nearby town of Château-d’Oex hosts a nine-day hot air balloon festival, and the snow-capped mountains make a perfect backdrop for the hundreds of colorful balloons that decorate the sky.
Consider ringing in the new year in the party city of Amsterdam. You can visit fascinating museums during the day and enjoy the city’s vibrant nightlife in the evenings.
Each January, Amsterdam is filled with art installations for the Amsterdam Light Festival, which lasts until January 19. There are 30 different light installations to explore around the city. Then, you can try ice skating at Ice Amsterdam at Museumplein, or celebrate National Tulip Day on January 18, where you can pick up a tulip in Dam Square.
January offers a taste of the famous Formula 1 Grand Prix (held every May) with the Monte-Carlo Rally, held at the end of January. Even though it’s not as exciting as the main event, this race still brings parties and excitement to the city.
While in Monaco, be sure to check out the iconic Monte Carlo Casino, made famous in the James Bond films and books. Stop by the Oceanographic Museum to learn about marine life, or go shopping at the Metropole Shopping Centre and Fontvieille Shopping Centre.
If you want great skiing without the frigid temperatures, try the southernmost ski region in Europe in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Spain. This resort area has 65 miles of trails with lots of routes for beginner and intermediate skiers.
Be sure to check out the beautiful Alhambra in nearby Granada. The walled palace dates back to the 13th century, and it was home to King Charles V and Queen Isabel during the 16th century.
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