Why You Should Travel to Europe in the Winter

By Alexandra Caspero on February 5, 2022

There are many reasons why you should consider hoping the pond to Europe, but especially now– during the Winter months, when both the prices and the crowds are lower. I’m fortunate to have been able to travel to Europe several times, but I’m convinced that heading over during the winter months is a completely different experience than enjoying Europe during the heavy travel season.

From the Christmas markets to the snow-covered Alps to the stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, enjoying Europe from November to March is magical.

Here are 6 reasons why you should travel to Europe in the winter.

Photo Credit: Delish Knowledge.

1. Incredibly Romantic

Let me paint this cozy picture for you: shops beautifully decorated for Christmas, twinkling lights everywhere, a light dusting of snow and you and your sweetie pop into a tiny hole-in-the-wall for a cup of rich hot cocoa and slice of cake to warm up and relax. THIS is Europe in the winter. When my husband and I head to Europe in the winter, we play out this scene at least twice a day. Although, we sometimes swap espresso, wine or beer for the cocoa. Either way, it’s one incredible scene. If you like NYC during Christmas, you will love most European cities at Christmas.

Photo Credit: Delish Knowledge.

2. Cheaper Flights

For our last European winter trip, we found round-trip, direct flights from Chicago to Vienna for $500 bucks a person. Which, if you’re counting, is about the same cost as a flight from California to Virginia. Compared to our other European vacations, this is a major steal thanks to the off-season pricing. Even though Christmas is a popular time to travel (see more below) we found that the flights were consistently lower during this time period, no matter where you wanted to go. The flight to Vienna wasn’t just a fluke, we found similar priced flights to Copenhagen and Germany before settling on Austria.

See also: How to Travel Internationally on a Budget

Photo Credit: Delish Knowledge.

3. Hearty Food

European food, especially French, British, Nordic and German cuisine is fairly heavy. And, that’s putting it mildly. Which, after dressing in 15 layers before venturing outside, I completely understand. I never knew the true meaning of stick-to-your-ribs fare until I was chowing on my second plate of spätzle just to stay warm.

Who wants raw vegetables when it’s 10 degrees F out? Instead, pass the carbs, pass the cheese and pass the hot cocoa (and glühwein)! Obviously, this kind of eating just feels better in the wintertime. Since the food choices don’t change much over the course of the year, I’m putting hearty food in the pro column for a Winter excursion.

Popping into a pub for a plate of spaetzle, sausage, and beer feels better during the winter than sticky summer months.

See also: How to Eat Well in Italy

Photo Credit: Delish Knowledge.

4. When to Travel

For really discounted air fares, fly in or out on a holiday. Most years, we choose to travel on New Years Eve or New Years Day, saving major bucks along the way. Who want’s to fly on New Years Eve? If you don’t mind popping bubbly over the ocean, you can score serious deals. Same goes for Christmas and Christmas Eve.

The only downside to traveling during this time is that some restaurants/shops and sites will be closed for the holidays. In some cultures, Christmas Eve is a bigger deal than Christmas and vis-versa. In Vienna, almost everything was closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas and December 26th. In Salzburg, Christmas Eve was a ghost town, but Christmas day was bustling. We had planned alternative activities, so it was OK, but it just shows that flying out on a holiday means you aren’t missing much.

Last night in Budapest
Photo Credit: Delish Knowledge.

5. Christmas Markets

If you plan your travels over December, you’ll also get to enjoy the plentiful Christmas markets! On our last trip to Vienna, Salzburg and Budapest, we visited at least a dozen of the markets between the three cities.

Vendors selling food, sweets, homemade gifts, trinkets and more food. To be fair, this was the reason we wanted to come here for Christmas. I remember reading a story about the Salzburg market last Winter and immediately put it on my to-see list. They didn’t disappoint and were even more incredible than I imagined.

My forever memory: our first night in Vienna, BL and I giddy from excitement but half-frozen stumbling onto our first market. We were like kids in a candy shop. We promptly ordered a mug of hot spiced wine then perused the little shops while snow started to fall. It felt like a movie and I was only too happy to be the starring couple in that moment.

Photo Credit: Delish Knowledge.
Photo Credit: Delish Knowledge.

6. Less Crowded

Perhaps the best reason to travel to Europe in Winter? The tourists are almost non-existent. Sure, people are still visiting the cities, but nothing compared to the throngs of people that occupy places from May until September. Even compared to my recent trip to Italy this past October, there were far less tourists in December. This means shorter lines at sites, easier dinner reservations and not feeling like you are drowning in crowds.

Photo Credit: Delish Knowledge.
Hungarian Baths! It was so incredibly cold outside and the baths were so warm. Photo Credit: Delish Knowledge.
That time we ice-skated in front of a Transylvania Castle. Photo Credit: Delish Knowledge.
Quick stop over on the edge of Austria; those peaks are Germany!
Photo Credit: Delish Knowledge.
Salzburg is such a beautiful, quaint town. Photo Credit: Delish Knowledge.

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Plant-Based Chef and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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    1. Laurel
      February 1, 2017 AT 6:25 am

      Beautiful photos! Where is your warm looking coat from? It’s cute!

      1. Alex
        February 1, 2017 AT 11:30 am

        Thanks Laurel! It’s Calvin Klein. I got it at a consignment shop when I first moved to St. Louis and LOVE it. Super warm, even in freezing temps 🙂

    2. Nina Martin
      January 17, 2017 AT 11:55 pm

      I am planning to fly to Europe this weekend.I hope the Christmas markets are still there..Hope I have some really great time there.

    3. Katy Widrick
      January 17, 2017 AT 8:01 pm

      These pictures are amazing! I have traveled to Europe twice during the fall and it was wonderful, but you’ve tempted me to try something a bit later in the season.

      1. Alex
        January 18, 2017 AT 8:22 am

        Ah, I love the fall as well! But, if you need convincing to go during the Winter, I’m your girl. It was like a Disney movie, minus the creepy villians and evil stepmoms.