You may be surprised to hear this, but, in my opinion, January presents the perfect opportunity to explore European destinations ideal for winter travel. So let’s see the best places to visit in Europe in January – for different preferences and budgets.
With fewer crowds, lower prices, and stunning snow-covered scenery, Europe dazzles during the first month of the year.
Whether you prefer mountains covered in snow, exploring historic medieval towns blanketed in white, warming up in thermal baths, or enjoying winter carnivals and festivals, Europe offers endless choices for an unforgettable winter escape.
From the snow-capped Swiss Alps and Norwegian fjords to cheerful Christmas markets still lingering in German and Eastern European cities, these breathtaking locales top the list of the best European destinations for January.
Weather in Europe in January
January is the second winter month and many countries in Europe have splendid winter landscapes, offering travelers a range of experiences influenced by regional climates.
Northern countries like Sweden and Norway embrace a pristine winter wonderland with crisp cold temperatures and snow-covered landscapes, inviting enthusiasts to enjoy winter sports and witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights.
In Central Europe, countries such as Germany and the Czech Republic showcase a mix of winter elegance, featuring charming medieval cities adorned with snow and lingering Christmas markets.
Moving towards Western Europe, including France and the United Kingdom, milder winters prevail with occasional chilly temperatures but less frequent snowfall (though in Paris we froze even in March.) Cities like Paris and London maintain their enchanting allure, providing a comfortable environment for sightseeing and exploring historic landmarks.
Eastern European countries, such as Poland, Hungary, and Romania, showcase a winter landscape characterized by chilly temperatures and occasional snowfall. The cities of Warsaw, Budapest, and Bucharest are beautiful during this time – but other regions are amazing too – for instance the Carpathians in Romania (Transylvania and Prahova Valley, Vatra Dornei, and more.)
Southern European destinations, such as Spain and Italy, enjoy Mediterranean moderation in January, offering a pleasant escape from the colder temperatures of the north.
Coastal cities like Barcelona and Athens provide a cultural retreat with milder weather, allowing travelers to immerse themselves in the region’s rich heritage without the harshness of winter chill.
Based on your preferences, Europe is a great destination for January vacations!
The Best Places to Visit in Europe in January
It’s time to see the best European vacation destinations in January.
Nestled at the base of the iconic Matterhorn peak, Zermatt transforms into a snow globe winter wonderland in January.
Its car-free policy enhances the old-world charm, with horse-drawn carriages and sleds whisking visitors through snowy lanes.
Beyond its storybook allure, Zermatt offers access to Switzerland’s finest skiing and snowboarding making it a perfect vacation destination in Europe for snow sports lovers. There are also lesser-known skiing resorts in Switzerland, and if you want to visit other cities, Lucerne and Zurich are amazing choices!
Bergen & the Norwegian Fjords
Bergen is my husband’s favourite city in Norway. He loves the houses, the landscape, and the view!
During January, I recommend you to the Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen to gaze down upon Bergen’s lively waterfront dotted with fishermen’s cottages and market halls. (You can do this all year long, but the landscape covered in white is spectacular!)
Next, hop a train through Norway’s fjord country, stopping to relish lengthy ferry rides across icy inlets hemming cliffs. Go to Balestrand to try kicksledding, or continue to Flåm to ride the renowned mountain railway ascending to Myrdal on the edge of the Hardangervidda plateau.
An important note: the Bergen line is the highest mainline railway line in Northern Europe, so you will enjoy mesmerizing winter landscapes!
For a warmer winter adventure, soak in open-air geothermal pools overlooking fjords or sample craft ales inside cozy Norwegian pubs and microbreweries.
With fjords taking on fairy tale magic capped in snow and sparkling under blue-hour skies, Norway shines as an unspoiled winter gem during January.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is the next best European travel destination in January. The historic Old Town Square transforms into a winter wonderland, adorned with sparkling lights and festive markets.
Immerse yourself in the rich history of Prague Castle, admire the St. Vitus Cathedral, and be sure to warm up with a cup of svařák (mulled wine) at the Christmas markets. Do not forget about one of the must-visit attractions in Europe – Tyn Church – and you should also wander through Old Town Square and Charles Bridge.
If you want to take it a step further, you can take a hot air balloon ride for a breathtaking aerial view of the city. And if you are in the area for multiple days, consider a visit to Brno, a nearby city with interesting sights to see.
In January, Reykjavik transforms into a winter wonderland surrounded by otherworldly landscapes.
More than that, if you decide to visit Iceland in January, you may very well be able to marvel at the Northern Lights dancing across the sky.
If you like adventures, you can consider embarking on a thrilling adventure to the Golden Circle, including Thingvellir National Park and Gullfoss waterfall.
For an unconventional experience, soak in the healing waters of the Blue Lagoon surrounded by snow-capped mountains – yes, Iceland is home to many amazing attractions, both indoor and outdoor.
Barcelona offers a milder winter experience with a plethora of cultural activities and delectable cuisine – as you may know already, the Spanish food is amazing.
Wander through the historic Gothic Quarter and marvel at the architectural wonders of Antoni Gaudí. You need to go at least to the Sagrada Familia and Park Güell. Indulge in the local culinary scene at La Boqueria market and enjoy the city’s vibrant atmosphere.
You can even attend a traditional flamenco show for an authentic Spanish cultural experience – so yes, Barcelona is a great January European destination.
Austria is a popular European destination in January – even many of our friends go here to ski.
The capital – Vienna -, one of my favourite cities in the world, welcomes you with imperial charm. Classical music and stunning architecture take center stage. Attend a concert at the Vienna State Opera and explore the opulent Schönbrunn Palace. And this is just the begining, as depending on your preferences, there are many museums in Vienna to see.
Don’t miss the Rathausplatz ice rink for a delightful skating experience. You can also take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the historic streets of Vienna as this is definitely one of the best places to visit in January in Europe, especially if you are lookg for great deals.
Dubrovnik’s charm knows no season, and January offers a quieter, more intimate experience. So, if you want to avoid crowds in Dubrovnik, January can be a great time to visit.
Stroll along the ancient city walls and soak in panoramic views of the Adriatic Sea. Explore the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and savor local seafood delicacies.
Sea kayaking around the city walls for a unique perspective of Dubrovnik.
Yes, I am including an area from my country as well. When visiting Romania, go beyond Bran Castle (known as well as Dracula’s castle due to Bram Stoker’s novel) and explore the mysterious Romanian region of Transylvania hides fairy tale towns lost in times well as big, wonderful cities.
Go to Sighisoara, Brasov, and Sibiu as they all feel frozen in a medieval time warp, with frost-dusted hilltop citadels, Gothic clock towers, and colorful Saxon houses lining cobblestone streets.
In between revelries, warm your soul at old wood-beamed restaurants dishing heaping portions of Transylvanian comfort foods like savory meat stews, polenta, stuffed cabbage rolls, and papanasi – a famous dessert here – as well as our pies.
Don’t leave without trying the region’s signature spirit – țuică, a high-octane plum brandy guaranteed to give even vampires a buzz. Yes, Transylvania is one of the best places to go in January in Europe.
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Like stepping into a medieval winter wonderland, Český Krumlov enchants as a unique Bohemian time capsule dusted in snow. Its dazzling castle presides over a warren of Baroque architecture lining the twisty Vltava River vale. And yes, it is the second city in the country included in this article with the best January destinations in Europe.
Having escaped wartime destruction, this meticulously preserved town transports you back centuries with epic castle towers, frescoed Renaissance halls, soaring arches leading across the river, and an old-town plaza brimming with shops and taverns.
Beyond fairytale city strolls, winter adventures around Krumlov include downhill and cross-country skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, and soaking in thermal mineral pools.
Or escape into the whimsical interior of Egon Schiele Art Centrum spotlighting multimedia installations paying homage to the controversial 20th-century expressionist artist born in Krumlov.
Throughout January, you can warm up over open fires inside medieval taverns pouring hot mulled wine and serving hearty Czech comfort food favorites perfect for the icy weather.
Redefining winter wonderful, the snow-dusted lakeside town of Annecy enchants with its candy-colored Alpine chalets, rippling canals threaded through a pedestrianized old town, and the icy blue Lake Annecy. It is no surprise that I have included this on this list of European January tourist destinations!
Hit the slopes at La Clusaz, Le Grand Bornand, and other nearby ski stations for affordable lift passes and premium pistes. Or glide across Lake Annecy’s frozen surface on ice skates or free your inner child sledding down hills transformed into winter playlands.
Back in town, thaw out Annecy-style at a cave à fondues (cheese fondue restaurant) like Les Caveaux des Arches oozing Savoyard charm. January serves up the Alpine ambiance in overdrive minus peak summer visitor levels.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
You might be accustomed to Lake Bled as a summer destination, but it can also be one of the top places to visit in Europe in January. You can enjoy a splendid winter landscape while strolling the 6 km path encircling the lake (early, before the crowds is even better.)
If you like to discover the local food, make sure to indulge in Bled’s famous kremna rezina, a decadent layer cake cream cake, best enjoyed with hot cocoa at a cozy lakeshore cafe.
As it is winter and many people like to ski, it’s good to know that you have a lot of options nearby. January offers smaller crowds and lower rates, making it the ideal month to experience Slovenia’s crown jewel frozen in wintery splendor.
Salzburg is one of my favourite European destinations regardless of the season. Yes, The Sound of the Music is one of my favourite movies too.
Music lovers already know that Salzburg puts on its most dazzling winter finery just in time for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s January 27th birthday. As the maestro’s birthplace and muse, Austria’s star attraction celebrates its legendary native son all month with classical concerts, opera performances, and singspiels across its many Baroque halls and ornate theaters. aficionados can even catch a rare performance of Mozart’s operas by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at the Salzburg Mozarteum.
Beyond the highbrow celebrations, January delights visitors with cheering open-air concerts and operas, plus old-fashioned Christmas markets still merrymaking through early January.
Salzburg’s UNESCO-listed old town district shines even more magical dusted in glimmering snow. Its palaces, cathedrals, cloistered courtyards, and statue-lined squares look lifted from a snow globe when draped in an icy white winter coat.
I’d take the funicular fortress-top for sweeping views across Salzburg’s sea of frosty red rooftops to the sharp alpine peaks ringing Austria’s storybook Alpine city.
When you need some warmth, cozy up fireside at one of Salzburg’s stately old cafes to indulge in Vienna’s opulent coffee-and-confectionary culture over Sachertorte, strudels, linzers, and other decadent treats.
Nearby winter fun includes skiing, skating, sledding, or pampering at hot springs spa towns nestled at the feet of the Salzburg Alps like stately Baden bei Wien. Mozart’s birth month adds extra magic to a winter getaway undoubtedly on your Salzburg bucket list.
And as this was the second vacation destination in Europe for January from Austria, I won’t create a separate section, but I will mention here another amazing city to visit in January in Austria: Hallstatt!
Other places you can visit in January in Europe
January is the perfect month to visit Europe if you want to go skiing. Expect crowds – as other people have the same idea – but, if you like skiing, you won’t regret choosing Europe.
How to decide where to travel in January in Europe? Choose a country you want to visit and then see if they have skiing resorts. See what cities/attractions can be found nearby – and check for plane tickets and accommodation options.
Another thing you can do to travel in January in Europe is to go after the schools start – so After January 10th. You won’t find Christmas markets, but the cities won’t be too crowded with tourists. You can benefit from finding lower airfare and lower accommodation prices – and saving some money is always a great idea!
Plus, you get to experience the cities during winter, to admire splendid landscapes – especially if you are choosing mountain resorts – so all the more reasons to visit Europe in January!