Whoever said that all the fun stuff has to be reserved for summer? Today we’re counting down our picks for the top winter festivals in Europe. For this list we’re looking at some of the most unique and exciting winter festivals across the continent. Winter brings about the magic of Christmas, the adrenaline of skiing down mighty mountains and the romance of sleer rides under the starry cold skies. While not every city is suited to winter, some European cities just flourish as the temperatures plummet. We’ll explore some of the best events in Europe in winter and what makes each so special.
- 1 Arctic Museum – Rovaniemi, Finland
- 2 Andorra de Vella, Andorra
- 3 Amsterdam Light Festival, The Netherlands
- 4 Where’s The Music, Norrköping, Sweden
- 5 Snow Bike Festival, Gstaad, Switzerland
- 6 Venice Carnival, Italy
- 7 Christmas Markets, Germany
- 8 Copenhagen Christmas Markets, Denmark
- 9 Tallinn, Estonia
- 10 Wroclaw’s Christmas Festivities, Poland
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Arctic Museum – Rovaniemi, Finland
Fistfuls of Christmas cliches characterize Rovaniemi, the official terrestrial residence of Santa Claus. Everyone’s favorite bearded man hangs out in an atmospheric Arctic Turtle Grotto and it’s free to visit him.
Snow and reindeer add festive spirit while the Arctic Museum gives insights into life at these latitudes.
Andorra de Vella, Andorra
There are many winter activities to do in Andorra, from relaxation to fun. Caldea is a large natural spin complex and spa where you can dive into the heated pools and indulge in some hydrotherapy.
It is a huge complex spread over 18 floors and is the largest thermal spa complex in Europe. Andorra is also known as a ski haven. The country lies at an average 2000 meters above sea level and even reaches 3.000.
Amsterdam Light Festival, The Netherlands
During the Amsterdam Light Festival, the city lights up and comes to life with a national and international light artist showing their work throughout the city center. Hundreds of submissions are submitted by designers and architects among which the selection committee chooses 30 artworks.
To see the festival in its best lights, you can follow suggested routes for boats, bikes or walking or make your own way through the installations.
Where’s The Music, Norrköping, Sweden
Where’s the Music is one of the best winter music festivals in Europe. The two-day music event brings together the best of both Swedish and international music. You can find established professionals and emerging young artists performing at this fest.
Snow Bike Festival, Gstaad, Switzerland
The most exciting winter festival in Europe is the Snow Bike Festival. It is a 3-day mountain bike stage race which is a must-visit for all the cycling enthusiasts, mountain bikers to experience some crazy biking in the snow.
Visitors get amazed by the exciting mix of rides, parties, and a lot of excitement.
Venice Carnival, Italy
Venice Carnival is the most celebrated winter festival in Europe. The grand fair is held annually in the stunning city, Italy. There are many free events held in the duration of two weeks which are open to the public.
You will be exhilarated by the different fun competitions and excellent performances on the street. The highlights of the festival include ice skating, Venetian mast market, grand masquerade balls, concerts and more.
Christmas Markets, Germany
Come for the Christmas markets, stay for the mulled wine and schnitzel. Winter is the perfect time to visit Germany. The country is filled with festive markets, cozy cafes and fairy tale castles.
Thanks to its convenient location in the heart of Europe, it’s easy to reach from just about anywhere. If you’re planning a winter vacation in Germany, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- First, pack plenty of warm clothes. Temperatures can drop below freezing especially at night
- Second, make sure to book your accommodation in advance. Popular tourist destinations fill up quickly during the holiday season
- Finally, don’t forget to try some of the traditional Christmas food. Delicious dishes like roast goose and Stalin cake are sure to get you into the holiday spirit.
Copenhagen Christmas Markets, Denmark
Visit Copenhagen at the most magical time of the year. Copenhagen has many Christmas markets to explore, but the Christmas atmosphere can be felt throughout the city.
You can experience the Danish way of living with a glass of hot glue while being surrounded by the countless beautiful Christmas lights. Each year from mid-november to the end of December Copenhagen hosts one of Europe’s most iconic Christmas Markets.
The magical two league gardens have a fairy tale-like atmosphere and you can buy and try some traditional Danish handicrafts, festive food and drinks and of course admire the dazzling lights around the gardens.
Tallinn has become a must-see destination at Christmas. The market delights everyone with its historical location, centuries old buildings surrounding the market square, and long traditions. Every year more than half a million people from close by and far away come looking for a little taste of magic at the Italian Christmas Market.
It’s great for families in particular as children will enjoy all the carousels and Santa Claus who distributes candy you’ll be spoilt for choice with all the local handicrafts, accessories and all sorts of knickknacks. If you’ve never been to Tallinn before, give it a try.
Wroclaw’s Christmas Festivities, Poland
Wroclaw might be fourth in size but it’s second to none when it comes to Polish Christmas celebrations. What you’ll love about Wroclaw’s Christmas festivities is that while there are countless traditional elements, the city isn’t afraid of pushing the limits in terms of its decorations and the colored lights that illuminate the city.
If you’re feeling burnt out and are worried that the usual dose of holiday cheer isn’t enough, Wroclaw’s willingness to embrace neon colors may be just what the doctor ordered. Don’t let Wroclaw’s more youthful decor scare you off though, they go bold while still keeping things joyful and very much in the spirit of the holiday.
It’s a city that checks all the Christmas boxes including markets, local delicacies, concerts, skating and more. Plus given that Wroclaw is a smaller city in a country with a lower cost of living, your Christmas shopping budget will go further here than in most destinations in Europe.