WINTER – a season that brings joy, love, and warmth; a season that brings holidays (and how kids love it); a season that everyone celebrates – It’s the most beautiful time of the year.
Some love to enjoy skiing, snowboarding, making a snowman, drinking a cup of coffee or hot chocolate while curling up by the fire or go Christmas market hopping or chase the Northern Lights while some love to escape the cold weather altogether for somewhere warmer – Whatever you fancy, we have got you covered in our ultimate list of the best winter holiday destinations in Europe for families.
The snow-covered colorful wooden houses and trees, a shimmering lake enveloped by the fog covered mountains, the crunching sound of snow as you walk the town, and a spirit of the holiday in the cold air – this tiny Austrian town is everything magical during winter. One of the best places to visit in Austria, Hallstatt is stunningly gorgeous during winter!
Kids love the feel of a fairytale town. Hallstatt, besides being a picture-perfect winter town is quite kid-friendly. Its small size makes it easy to get around. Plus, Hallstatt is a car-free zone and thus, safe for young kids to run around and enjoy.
Hallstatt has many attractions and winter activities for families with kids. Children get excited seeing swans and ducks swimming in Hallstätter See or Lake Hallstatt and a boat ride on the lake is another fun way to see the village and around.
Dachstein Krippenstein cable car is another not-to-be-missed experience with kids. You can choose to visit one or all the Dachstein attractions – Dachstein ice cave, Mammut and Koppenbrüller cave, 5fingers, Dachstein shark, and many more.
Vienna, Austria’s capital, is an ideal winter destination for families, as it offers the perfect blend of cityscape and family-friendly destinations. The former capital of the Habsburg Empire, Vienna offers plenty of sightseeing opportunities, amazing shopping venues, a rich gourmet tradition, and is generally thought to be a very child-friendly city.
Vienna’s world-famous Christmas markets start mid-November and bring alongside good cheer, plenty of opportunities to spend quality family time. Raindeer trains, crafts workshops like candle or Christmas decoration making, as well as an array of sweet treats that simply cannot be grasped on a single visit.
Vienna’s world-class museums like the interactive sound museum Haus der Musik or the Schonbrunn Palace Children’s Museum are ideal destinations when temperatures are too cold for outdoor explorations. A day at the Schonbrunn Zoo, the Aquarium (Haus des Meeres), or the Butterfly House will be to the liking of little visitors who love wildlife. Vienna in January brings another great entertainment location for the entire family, the Wiener Eistraum – Vienna Ice World – one of the biggest ice rinks in the world!
Hotel Beethoven Wien; Motel One are two of the best hotels to stay in Vienna with family.
Expert Tip: Although the Prater adventure park is closed in winter, don’t miss out on attending a Chocolate Making Workshop at the Chocolate Museum there.
Famous for being the birthplace of Mozart, and as the backdrop of the family-favorite The Sound of Music movie, Salzburg is an interesting place to visit at any time of the year. But visiting Salzburg in winter affords a whole new level of fun! The old town lights up under a canopy of Xmas lights throughout late November through to early January, and festive markets and events entertain both young and old.
Watch out for the Krampus parades that are an unmissable experience – if a slightly frightening one due to the realistic and scary-looking costumes! But even if you arrive after the advent season, there’s still plenty to see and do.
Take the family on a Sound of Music tour to see all the movie scenes in real life, and maybe even reenact them with the kids! Ride the funicular up to the Salzburg Fortress and explore the complex grounds and gardens.
Get cozy in one of the cake houses and indulge in Austrian treats, and shop for cuckoo clocks in Heimatkunst Lackner. If you have the time, take a day trip to one of the nearby ski fields – you’ll find a few within an hour or so drive from the city center, Zell Am Zee is always a winner with the little ones.
Expert Tip: Take advantage of the Salzburg Card which allows you free use of public transport, free entrance to all the tourist attractions within the city, and often means getting express entry too – perfect if you have small children with you.
A combination of factors makes Innsbruck, the capital of the Austrian Tyrol, one of the best winter destinations in Europe for families. Not only is skiing from Innsbruck super easy with 13 resorts within a 45 km radius of the city, but there are a lot more than ski slopes to keep kids happy in winter.
Kilometers of sled runs, indoor swimming pools, ice skating, and museums catering for kids are all part Innsbruck’s winter offerings for families. The new Ski Plus City Pass also makes it affordable to be out and about. If you buy the ski pass, the Innsbruck city card is included. It gives holders free entry to a number of museums and attractions, as well as free use of public transport.
Bergisel Olympia Ski Jump Arena Is another popular attraction with breathtaking views of the Alps and a panoramic SKY restaurant to enjoy the hospitality. Don’t forget to book the entry ticket to Ski Jump Arena.
Taking a cable car to either ski, go sledding, or just play in the snow is non-negotiable for families visiting Innsbruck in winter. The closest cableway, the Nordkettenbahnen, leaves from the city center and drops you on a mountain top 40 minutes later.
A big family hit near Innsbruck is the Swarovski Crystal Worlds. Here, you might be entertained by a light show in the magical garden on a cold winter’s night. Before or after, kids can jump and climb to their hearts’ content in the 3-storey play tower. And there’s always something new and exciting in the chambers of wonders. Don’t miss the fun and buy the entrance ticket to Swarovski Crystal World in advance.
Innsbruck is ideally located in the centre of Europe and easily reached by train or car from Germany in the north, Italy in the south, and Switzerland in the west. There are also regular flights from the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands.
History, Christmas markets, delicious food – Berlin in winter truly has it all. The winter season is one of the best times to visit the German capital; though the air is cold, the city has a charm to it that makes visiting in winter worth it.
If you’re visiting Berlin around Christmastime, you must pay a visit to at least one of the city’s Christmas markets. One of the most popular in the city is the market at Gendarmenmarkt, one of the city’s prettiest squares. Here, you can shop for holiday gifts and souvenirs, sample delicious food and glühwein, and enjoy family-friendly entertainment.
Other markets around the city include the market at Charlottenburg Palace and the one at Potsdamer Platz. Visiting Berlin around New Year’s Eve is another incredible experience as the entire city is lit up by fireworks in order to celebrate the coming year.
Opting for Berlin Card and taking guided tours is another great way to explore the city hassle free.
Berlin is known for its tumultuous history, which you can experience for yourself at various museums and attractions around the city. Take a step back in time to World War II at the Topography of Terror museum and pay your respects to the lives lost at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
Learn more about Germany’s division at Checkpoint Charlie, the most famous crossing spot on the Berlin Wall, or admire the bright murals painted on the wall at the East Side Gallery. Other must-see attractions in Berlin include Brandenburg Gate, Tiergarten, and the museums on Museum Island.
If you’re looking for a great and reasonably-priced hotel in Berlin, consider staying at art’otel Mitte, centrally located among the city’s top attractions.
Munich is a top city for families in any season but during winter it comes alive with beautiful Christmas Markets, castles covered in snow, and warm restaurants that welcome you to have some of the world-known cuisines.
You can easily use the U-Bahn to get around the city to see the sites or you can catch one of the amazing Hop on Hop off buses that will get you to them easily. For another way to see the city, you can walk between the Christmas markets to get a real feel for Munich and to have some of the Christmas treats at the stalls. Many of the beer gardens will be closed but families are welcomed at many restaurants with kids being included with menus and activities.
There are so many activities in Munich for families that you can do inside like visit Nymphenburg Palace (the gardens are also stunning covered in snow) see the royal carriages at the Marstall museum, be entertained for hours at the Deutsches Museum, find Nemo at Sealife Munich or see all that glitters at the treasury at the Munich Residenz.
If you want to get out of the city to see something fantastic you can visit the Wildpark Poing. The animals there are roaming free and they love visitors armed with special food to feed them. You can see lynx, wolves, buffalo, goats, and beavers. It is a great day trip from Munich for the families.
Munich can be very cold, it’s icy winds can go straight through your layers so make sure you rug up and enjoy this amazing city in the winter.
The twin Hungarian capital of Buda and Pest is one of the most magical places to spend winter in Europe. At this time, Christmas markets occupy gorgeous squares throughout the city, city trams are decked out in thousands of little lights, and the city’s famous hot springs are the perfect place to warm up.
Beginning in late November, a number of Christmas markets kick off throughout the city. The Christmas market at Vörösmarty Square is the largest, complete with performances, a children’s craft tent if you happen to be visiting Budapest with kids, and a tall Christmas tree at its center. The most picturesque one is surely St. Stephen’s Basilica Christmas Market, where children can ice skate for free and a 3D Christmas lights display is cast onto the magnificent façade of the St. Stephen’s, one of the country’s most beautiful churches.
An absolute must when visiting these markets is sampling the many body-warming foods and drinks on offer. These include potato pancakes, cabbage rolls, Christmas cookies, and more. Also join the locals in guzzling mulled wine, which comes in red or white varieties, and hot punch, which you can get a variety of liquors added to. There’s no better way to stay warm!
Last but not least, Budapest’s incredible hot springs are one of its biggest draws in winter. Széchenyi Thermal Bath is the most famous one, and you’ll feel like royalty bathing in its enormous pools backed by palace-like structures. But with its popularity, it is always best to book the Skip the line ticket to Thermal Bath to save time.
To make a fun day of it, go ice skating on the huge frozen pond in front of nearby Vajdahunyad Castle before you soak! Gellért Spa is another tempting option, with special tubs overlooking the Danube.
Yes, Prague is wonderful at any time of year, but even more so in winter during the pre-Christmas period. Prague winter often means snowy roofs, the whole city dresses up in pretty decorations, and visiting Christmas markets is on everybody’s list.
Christmas markets truly make for the best Christmas atmosphere that the whole family will love. There are many to choose from to fit any style. From the largest and most-touristy (but still amazing) Old Town Square Christmas market to smaller, local ones, they’re all well worth visiting.
The Prague Castle Christmas market brings about special charm thanks to its unique location. If you visit after 4 pm, you can walk the famous Golden Lane for free. To discover the splendor of the Prague Castle, book the ticket that lets you skip the ticket line and the crowds.
Markets in local neighborhoods are then mostly frequented by locals, who meet with friends over a cup of mulled wine. Children will love all the sweet treats, with the Trdlo (or Trdelník) sold on every corner. This particular cinnamon treat is not originally Czech, but it’s delicious.
Taking the family ice-skating can be a lot of fun too. Ice-skating rinks are set up in different locations around Prague, with the most central one being at Ovocný trh, right in the Old Town!
Indoor activities are popular as well and there’s no lack of those that cater to the whole family. You can visit the Museum of Special Film Effects, the highly-rated National Technical Museum, or a Museum of the Senses, which is so entertaining! A high number of cafés placed in unique interiors, many even featuring a kids playing area, will warm you up in between all the sightseeing. Prague City Card is the best way to get free entry to many museums and attractions with saving your pocket.
The Transylvania region of Romania is an underrated yet spectacular winter destination in Europe for families. From the incredible scenery of the Carpathian Mountains to the historic fortified towns on the plateau – and the countless magnificent churches and castles – there’s more than enough to keep you busy for a week or more. Winter is a particularly lovely time to visit as crowds are thin and the landscape and castles are incredibly atmospheric when shrouded in snow.
Kids will love Transylvania’s spooky side that comes from the area’s association with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. If this piques your interest, be sure to visit the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, the ‘real-life Dracula’, in the historic town of Sighisoara.
Start your journey in Brasov, the gateway to Transylvania, stopping off in Sinai to visit the magnificent Peles Castle on the way. From Brasov, take a side trip to Bran Castle, the 14th-century royal residence that inspired Stoker’s novel. Transylvania’s larger cities – Sibiu, Alba Iulia, and Cluj-Napoca among them – all have a rich history left behind by the Saxon craft guilds and offer kid-friendly museums. Sledding, skiing, and other winter activities are available in the surrounding mountains.
Expert tip: For flexibility, it’s recommended to hire a car and drive yourself around Transylvania. The roads are in good condition, even in winter. It’s also possible to explore the area by train using Romania’s well-connected rail route. Higher villages in Maramures may be difficult to access during the winter months so check conditions in advance.
Madeira is probably one of the best places to go during the winter in Europe. It is an all-year-round island destination and has very nice weather even during wintertime. During the wintertime in Madeira, you can still visit pretty much everything on the island and have a great time with your little fellows.
Some of the top things to do in Madeira during the winter season is to check the Whale Museum and the Aquarium in Porto Moniz. Both of the places are suitable for families and can be a very nice experience. Another top thing to do in Madeira is to go on whale and dolphin watching tour on the island. However, during the winter season, there might not be many animals to observe
Another thing you can consider doing while in Madeira is visiting the skywalk of the island – Cabo Girão. It is also the highest cape in Europe and has some amazing views to enjoy. Going further you should definitely visit the caves of Sao Vicente. They have a quite interesting tour with short movies, interactive volcanos, and lots of information boards.
If you are spending most of the time in Funchal, you should definitely visit the Monte Palace. It has three museums dedicated to the African culture, precious gems from all over the world, and a museum about dedicated to the Portuguese culture. Along with that they are surrounded by lush vegetation from all corners of the world and have very beautiful Japanese gardens. The botanical garden of Funchal is also an option if you like strolling around some beautiful plants.
Eventually, if hiking is something that all of your family members like, then you should head for Madeira’s hiking trails. Some of the most beautiful trails of the island are Levada das 25 Fontes and Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço.
A good option for staying in Madeira with your family is the Santa Cruz Village Hotel, which is close to the airport.
With its golden beaches, stunning coastline, fascinating rock formations & sea caves, and beautiful towns, the Algarve region in Portugal is a breathtaking place.
A visit during the winter means you can explore the beaches, the historic towns and take in some of the amazing hikes without being bothered by crowds, or the high temperatures.
During the winter, the weather in the Algarve region is quite pleasant – temperatures hover around 15 deg C and you would not even need a jacket when out in the sun. If you are brave enough, you can even take a dip in the sea!
Beaches in the Algarve region are one of the biggest highlights of the place. Add to it the hiking options around them and you’ve got the makings of a fantastic experience.
Most beaches have rocky cliffs surrounding them and you can walk on these for some panoramic views over the sea. Praia da Marinha is one of the most stunning beaches, and you can walk all the way from there up to the famous Benagil Beach.
In addition, it’s an incredible experience to see the difference between these relatively calm Mediterranean beaches and the much rougher beaches on the Atlantic coast, such as Praia da Bordeira.
The coastline of the Algarve region is lined with a magical series of sea arches, rock formations, grottoes & caves and you can see them at places such as Ponta da Piedade or on a boat tour. Make sure you book a tour in advance since they can get filled up quickly.
Several small towns dot the Algarve coastline and are lovely to visit or stay at. The Jupiter Algarve Hotel at Portimão is an amazing option for a stay – it has incredible views over Praia da Rocha and very comfortable rooms.
When it comes to choosing the perfect winter destination in Europe for families, you can’t go wrong with Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel Island in the Azores, Portugal. Not only is it one of the warmest destinations in Europe — the temperature in January and February is a spring-like 17° C – but there’s a wealth of things to do. Top outdoor activities include whale-watching, hiking the crater lakes, cycling, swimming in outdoor hot springs, and dolphin excursions. Choose from the many tours.
If it’s rainy, then head indoors to the Carlos Machado Museum, home to the Natural History Museum where the excellent exhibits capture the spirit of early explorers of the Age of Discovery. Children of all ages will marvel at the size of the skeletons of the enormous right whale, bigeye tuna, and giant swordfish on display. Another interesting attraction for families is the Arruda Pineapple Plantation where you can take a free tour of its historic pineapple greenhouses.
Families will also appreciate the affordability of the Azores. Not only is it possible to pick up a wide range of low cost but healthy snacks, fresh fruit, and cheeses at the bustling Mercado da Graca in Ponta Delgada but meals in one of the many traditional restaurants throughout São Miguel offer large portions at a low cost compared to destinations on the mainland of Europe.
Azorean cuisine is not especially spicy and features lots of fresh fruit, seafood, and meats. One of the best hotels for families in Ponta Delgada is the Azor Hotel located directly across from the marina and within easy walking distance of major attractions. The Azor’s daily breakfast buffet is sure to be a hit with the whole family.
I spent last winter in Chania, Crete, and it is a fabulous winter destination! Despite the fact that Crete is a hopping tourist destination in the summertime, I’d actually go so far as to say Crete is even better in the winter. You won’t have to fight oppressive crowds and heat.
First of all, if you want to stay in Europe but need to escape winter climes, Crete is about as far south as you can get, which means it has the best winter weather with average daily temperatures ranging from 9-16° Celsius (48-60° Fahrenheit). The coastal areas are warm and usually sunny, and the interior mountainous regions provide an aesthetic contrast with snow-capped peaks.
The best things to do in Crete during the winter include visiting ruins like the Minoan Palace of Knossos which you’ll practically have to yourself (as compared to during summer). The same goes for restaurants, The Old Port in Chania, and the many beautiful hikes and beaches (although it’s too chilly to swim). You won’t have to fight the crowds, and you’ll get the best service.
I stayed in Chania just outside the old town in a fabulous apartment called Zamboli. And I highly recommend the Bohemian Sunset Tour by Urban Adventures to get the real scoop on Cretan culture, food, and history.
Expert Tip: In Crete, the main meal of the day is generally eaten mid-afternoon, and people eat dinner around 9 pm. So don’t be surprised if you go out for dinner at your usual time to find the restaurants empty. Secondly, you’ll want to rent a car to get around the island, and you’ll need an International Driver’s Permit to do so (which you can get at AAA before you leave). But beware: you’ll need nerves of steel to drive in Greece!
Once a tiny mountain village, Chamonix is now a world-renowned ski-resort towered by western Europe’s highest peak: Mont Blanc (4,810 m / 15,780 ft).
Surrounded by beautiful and breathtaking scenery, Chamonix was the site of the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924 and still hosts a number of world championships.
During the winter, the extensive network of ski-lifts bring skiers and tourists to an incredible wintertime playground: the Aiguille du Midi (3,842 m / 12,605 ft), the Brévent ( 2,525 m / 8,284 ft), without forgetting the stunning Mer de Glace (via the Montenvers rack railway). It may be worth buying a multipass that covers all the lifts in the area.
The skiing activity around Chamonix is varied and provides the best slopes for both beginners and advanced skiers. There are a number of ski schools to choose from. If downhill skiing is the most common sport practiced in the ski-resort, there are different kinds of winter sports and après-ski options: cross-country skiing, snowboarding, sledding (the children love it… and grown-ups too!), snowshoe hiking, dog-sledding, indoor tennis, ice skating, fitness, spas, and many more…
A lively village center is a great place for shopping – you’ll find winter sports equipment outlets, supermarkets, gourmet food shops (from where you can get the local cheese), and of course, souvenir stores. Chamonix has a wide choice of cafés and restaurants, many offering French, Swiss and Italian cuisine.
The closest airport is Geneva, Switzerland, distant of 100 km (62 mi) and there are 2 to 3 buses that run daily to Chamonix. Alternatively, you can catch the train to St-Gervais-Le Fayet station, 23 km (14 mi) west of Chamonix, and change for the Mont Blanc Express train. Or book a guided day trip from Geneva in an executive mini-bus
Paris in France is a great family destination to visit in the winter. The weather is cold but the temperatures rarely drop below 0 ºC so kids will be fine exploring the streets of Paris as long as they wear warm clothes. Also, the coldest days of winter in Paris are a great excuse for a hot chocolate break in a Parisian café.
For your stay in Paris, try to book a room in one of the hotels with the Eiffel Tower view. All the kids know about the Eiffel Tower in France and they are all excited to see it finally for real so it can be great when they can see it also lit up at night from the comfort of your hotel room. Book your Eiffel Tower tickets and other important tickets well in advance-
During the festive days before the end of the years, there are many activities to keep the family busy like the Christmas lights and decorations, or the Christmas markets. All these Christmas markets are free to visit and some of them have an ice skating rink which is always fun.
Other interesting events in Paris in the winter are the Festival of Lights – a magical stroll lit by monumental lanterns set in the alleys and pitches of Jardin des Plantes – and Disneyland Paris always has a fun program for all the family.
Expert Tip: Our best tip for winter in Paris with the family is to always have a B plan in case it rains or it is too cold outside. Do your research on interesting exhibits, cooking lessons for kids, or workshops beforehand and you will be set for a great trip to Paris.
Krakow once the ancient capital of Poland is today a lively city that attracts tourists all year-round to its old-world charms and attractions. It is fastly becoming a favorite of many families for a winter vacation.
Krakow in winter comes into itself, especially in the old town area. The Krakow old town square is the largest in Europe and the market held there is known the world over. Families gather to celebrate in the square with food stalls, souvenirs, and some delicious Polish food while listening to the choirs on the stage.
Highlights of Krakow include a visit to Wawel Castle, were the kings of Poland once lived. A tour of the old town on the mini tourist train brings all the best sights to you. All the main sites of Krakow are in the old town area. Stroll the Royal Route which takes you from one side of the old town to another.
Polish cuisine is hearty and filling in the winter months with lots of soups and meat-heavy dishes. You can choose to sit at a restaurant or you can easily get a great meal form the stalls at the Christmas markets.
14 kilometers from the city center is the UNESCO world heritage Wieliczka Salt Mines. A subterranean world like no other is waiting to be explored. There are also some places you can go skiing that are only a few hours from Krakow that will rival some of the most popular slopes in the world and maybe a fraction of the price in some other countries.
Krakow in winter has fewer tourists and cheaper prices than the summer. The winters in Poland can be cold and unforgiving so make sure you pack the winter woollies.
Sicily is one of the most southerly islands in the Mediterranean so it’s ideal for families looking for a winter sun destination. In the southeast of the island, around an hour from Catania airport, is the beautiful city of Syracuse.
The most interesting part of Syracuse for families is the small island of Ortigia which is connected to the mainland by two bridges. The island is small and easy to explore on foot, many of the medieval streets are car-free and Piazza del Duomo in the center of the city is perfect for children to run around in.
Kids will also enjoy the 13th century Castello Maniace, the traditional puppet shows (kids are reserved front row seats), and boat trips around the island. Just outside the city center is the impressive Archaeological Park which features both Greek and Roman ruins. Children love exploring the Ear of Dionisius, where legend says the emperor listened to his captives’ wails. The hand-carved cave is huge and offers impressive acoustics.
There are plenty of family-friendly places to stay in Syracuse including L’Approdo delle Sirene B&B which has interconnecting rooms and a breakfast room with views over the harbor. Small and beautifully furnished, the guesthouse has welcoming staff and its well located for exploring the city.
Sicily with kids is a perfect holiday in any season but it’s great for a cultural break in the wintertime as many of the sights of interest are hard to visit in the summer heat. Winters in Sicily are mild and temperatures can hit 20 degrees, a pleasant environment for a city break.
For families who want to avoid Europe’s bitterly cold winter temperatures, Barcelona, Spain is a perfect getaway. It offers much of the holiday festivity found in other cities, but with smaller crowds and weather that makes it easy to stay outside with young kids all day – without too many complaints.
One of the best ways to experience Barcelona with kids in the winter is to take in the city’s stunning light displays. You’ll find them strung across the grand boulevards and the tiny alleys of the Gothic Quarter. In some of the larger plazas, you’ll find ornately lit trees and more, all in an effort to bring light to the creeping darkness of winter.
One of the best activities for families is to take the teleferic (cable car) up in Montjuic and enjoy the views. Rather than taking it back down, walk through the well-landscaped park below. Stop to let your kids take advantage of the massive, speedy slides while you relax at the bottom with a warm cup of coffee.
Another fun winter activity is a scavenger hunt for the city’s best churros con chocolate. While they originated in Madrid, you’ll find lots of great options in Barcelona. The hot cups of rich, melted chocolate are the perfect way to warm up on a cold winter’s day!
London is our favorite destination as a family in winter, there’s so much to do there and much fewer tourists. There is something magical about London in winter, we love wrapping up warm to walk through Kensington Gardens and stopping for hot chocolates at the cafe in the Diana Memorial Playground (one of the best playgrounds in the world).
Some of the best London hotels for families are situated around Kensington Gardens so that is our recommendation of the area to stay in and the Crowne Plaza London Kensington is one of our favorites here. There are several other must-do activities when you’re visiting the British capital out of season, top of the list has to be ice skating at the Natural History Museum which feels such an iconic and atmospheric thing to do.
Stopping for hot chestnuts in the parks, getting excited for Christmas in Harrod’s food hall, and warming up in the Science Museum without the crowds are also great activities at this time of year. If you’re there in the run-up to Christmas then Kew Gardens, Shakespeare’s Globe, and Hyde Park with its annual Winter Wonderland, all have fun events on during this season. Taking a London Pass would let you access to many attractions.
Another favorite area is Southbank who has some great shows on during the winter season, along with fun activities around the Southbank Centre, some of them free to enter.
Expert Tip: My top tip would be to book a long time ahead for any of the seasonal shows because although London out of the summer months is much quieter this is one activity that still gets lots of visitors.
Scotland is a perfect winter destination for families and for a small country, Scotland really has it all. Winter starts in December and runs through to March, although there’s never a time in Scotland when you wouldn’t need your hat! The temperatures will start to drop from October onwards and snow comes every year, at some point until April.
Did you know that Scotland has over 720 islands? This makes it perfect for a road trip and even in winter, the islands are beautiful although the ferry journey can be on the adventurous side! However, my top recommendation would be to head to the Cairngorm mountain region which is almost central Scotland.
Inverness is the closest city that has an airport although you could fly to either Edinburgh and Glasgow too. Driving in Scotland is easy enough although the icy conditions can make it challenging for novices.
The Cairngorms have had snow every year over the last decade. You can check the webcams from the mountains here.
Coming to the Cairngorms you can obviously ski, snowboard and sled but there’s a range of other activities to do here too. You can visit the Cairngorm reindeer center, build your own ice hotel, have a go at curling, or book a tour on one of the many winter skills courses.
If you have older kids who hike, book a winter hiking tour up Ben Macdui (1,309m) (the second highest mountain in Britain). Another gorgeous mountain in the same area is Sgòr Gaoith where you can also snowshoe.
Urquhart Castle is a short drive away as are the Invermoriston Falls which may well be frozen solid. Scotland’s pillar of winter comes though from hot toddies so visit a distillery close by and snuggle by the log fire with a range of locally produced whiskies. Dalwhinnie Distillery offers free tours throughout winter. If beer is more your thing take the kids to the Cairngorm Brewery in Aviemore instead.
Although the infamous ‘Harry Potter’ train doesn’t run in winter, you can still catch a steam train at The Strathspey Steam Railway and if you like open-air art galleries, check out ‘Art on the Snowroads’ where there are commissioned art installations. You’ll find ‘Still’, ‘The Watchers’, and ‘Connecting Contours’.
If you’re super adventurous though and have kids who love adrenaline-fuelled activities, head over to the Killiecrankie bungee jump which is open all year round!
If one is looking for a winter destination for families, then there’s nothing better than Lapland Finland. The place to be in is Saariselka and it is a great family destination. There are direct flights from Helsinki to Rovaniemi which take a little more than an hour to reach.
Around 260 km north of Rovaniemi, Saariselkä village is close to the Urho Kekkonen National Park. Climb the fells of the area, and incredible views of the infinite landscape with the vastness of white snow all around spread out in front of you. Belonging to the Inari municipality, Saariselkä village has just about 350 inhabitants. This region also has the Sámi communities of Finland.
There are many things and activities to do in Saariselka Lapland. The most inviting thing, of course, is the sighting of northern lights. But be prepared not to get disappointed if you don’t get to see it. There are reindeer safari and husky safari to be done both at night and day as per your convenience. Add to it a sumptuous lunch or a session of hot coffee, tea at midnight with the locals.
Don’t forget to do snowmobiling, the thrill of speeding on frozen lakes, passing through jungles is an experience of a lifetime. Snowshoeing, ice fishing, bird watching, sauna, etc. is for people who are not that much into an adventure. You can also meet Sami people and Santa Clause as well. And your kids can enjoy their day in Angry Birds Activity Park. The place to stay would be Holiday Club Resorts. It has all the facilities for children also. It can also plan different tours for you.
One of Europe’s best cities to visit in the winter is Copenhagen, Denmark. The Danish capital is a festive destination at Christmastime, and there are so many things to do in Copenhagen in winter beyond the holidays.
One of the best family attractions in Copenhagen is Tivoli Gardens. It’s a must-visit destination all year long but they put on an incredible Christmas event each year. The paths are lined with Christmas market vendors and the rides operate with seasonal lighting and elaborate decorations. After New Year Tivoli closes for a short period only to reopen for the Winter Festival, so the family fun lasts through the depths of winter. It is always advisable to book the skip-the-line tickets to beat the crowd.
Copenhagen is also home to a fantastic street food scene, including Broens Gadekøkken or Bridge Street Kitchen. It’s located across from the famous Nyhavn harbor, and in the winter it’s transformed into a public outdoor ice skating rink. A few of the food vendors open to feed the crowds and serve hot chocolate to warm up skaters and spectators.
Denmark is a famously flat country, but the Danes are known for their ingenuity and innovation. That’s why it isn’t surprising that you can still go skiing in Copenhagen. The place to find family skiing in Denmark is Copenhagen’s newest and only ski slope, CopenHill. It’s an indoor ski slope built on top of the city’s trash incinerator power plant.
With plenty of seasonal activities in Copenhagen, you can also visit old standbys like the National Museum and the Copenhagen Zoo. Children love exploring the interactive exhibits and kid-friendly attractions. If you are planning to visit museums and other famous attractions then the Copenhagen city card is a great choice that also includes free transportation by all means.
It may get dark and temperatures decrease, but Copenhagen is a lot of fun in the winter months with almost no crowds.
If you’re looking for a gorgeous place to spend Winter in Europe, look no further than the beautiful little ski resort village of Wengen in the Jungfrau region. Wengen is a car-free village, so families can walk around safely without being concerned about traffic. Plus if you happen to visit at Christmas time, it’s just magical in Wengen with lovely decorations lining the streets and there usually is a Christmas market on into town too.
Wengen is particularly a great place to visit for families that love to ski – or want to learn. While Wengen itself doesn’t have a lot of slopes, it is a great place to learn as there a range of snow schools in the village as well as some smaller ski slopes which are perfect for both skiing and sledding.
For those with experience, there are 206 kilometers of ski slopes around Wengen in the nearby areas of Grindelwald-First, Kleine Scheidegg-Mannlichen, and Murren-Schilthron.
While you’re in town, you also can’t miss a day trip to Jungfrau – the top of Europe. Take the old cog train to the top and explore all the attractions there.
For families staying in Wengen, Hotel Edelweiss is a great budget-friendly place to stay. There is also a playground just across the road which is excellent for the kids.
Expert Tip: Get a Swiss Travel Pass if traveling by train. Kids travel for free and you’ll receive a discount on your day trip to the JungfrauAttachments area.
St Moritz is the perfect destination for some winter holiday fun with the family. Located in the Engadin Valley in southeast Switzerland, St Moritz offers something for all ages. The first and most obvious being that it is a great winter sports destination, offering some of the best ski slopes in Europe – in fact, it is often frequented by celebrities and royals such as Kate Moss, Robert de Niro, and the members of the Swedish royal family respectively.
Families can enjoy fun activities such as skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating against some of the country’s beautiful snow-capped mountains. After all, it has hosted the Winter Olympics twice in the past century!
Aside from great skiing and all the glitz and glamour, St Moritz offers plenty of attractions to see and things to do. Enjoy the breath-taking views of Lake St Moritz, indulge in Swiss cuisine at Hanselmann, or take a train ride on one of the most remarkable railways in the world, the Glacier Express.
An absolute must is to book an outdoor table at El Paradiso – a swanky bar and restaurant high up in the mountains with jaw-dropping views. Admittedly, it is a little pricey, but worth the once in a lifetime experience.
In addition, the region boasts some truly exquisite hotels such as the Kulm (a five-star resort that is reportedly the birthplace of winter holidays) or Badrutt’s Palace (where Alfred Hitchcock spent his honeymoon!).
Whilst St Moritz makes for a beautiful holiday destination throughout winter, the best time to visit for great skiing is early February to the end of March – as recommended by a local ski instructor!