Europe makes for a pretty fabulous holiday no matter the time of the year. Summers can be spent on the beaches of Croatia or in the gelaterias of Italy, the parks and canals of London and Amsterdam are a sight to see in autumn, and spring brings the season of vineyard stays in France and Portugal. But come winter, parts of Europe transform into a magical wonderland with thick blankets of snow as far as the eye can see. If you’re planning on a white Christmas in Europe with a few days of skiing or sledding, here are ten beautiful snow-covered towns that you should consider staying in.
10/10 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Considering the energy and spirit with which the holidays are celebrated in the capital of Slovenia, the fact that Ljubljana also gets heaps of snowfall only serves as a bonus. Ljubljana’s most popular landmarks host winter markets, the streets are lit up with lights and Christmas ornaments, and the month of December is filled with Santa parades, live concerts, and ballets that put forth the Nutcracker. In fact, the holidays are celebrated with such fervor that it’s entirely normal to wake up with Maček, what Slovenians call a hangover.
9/10 Tallinn, Estonia
Widely regarded as one of the best-preserved towns from the medieval period in Europe, the Old Town of Tallinn also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While this makes the capital city of Estonia a stunning destination all year round, Tallinn looks even better when its historic buildings and turreted castles are covered in a layer of shimmery snow. Visitors can enjoy winter in Tallinn while roaming around its bookstores, gazing at the city’s architecture, or holing up in a warm cafe as it snows outside.
8/10 Bergen, Norway
Bergen may have a reputation for being the rainiest city in Norway, but the Scandinavian coastal city is also prone to heavy dustings of snow which makes Bergen look like a town that’s straight out of a fairytale. Bergen makes for an excellent base from where travelers can hop on to a fjord cruise or go cross-country skiing. But with its colorful buildings, picturesque harbor, winter markets, and Pepperkaker (Norwegian gingerbread), it’s going to be hard to leave the streets of Bergen to do anything else.
7/10 Copenhagen, Denmark
Think Copenhagen is pretty stunning as it is? Wait till you see it covered in snow in the season of hygge. Copenhagen is home to some of the best Christmas markets in all of Europe. So, it’s absolutely likely that those visiting the snow-covered Copenhagen will spend the entirety of their holiday simply sipping on Glogg — Danish mulled wine with raisins and almonds that occasionally comes spiked with rum too. If you do manage to visit all the Christmas markets during your stay and have time for something more, Copenhagen also has wonderful ice rinks, hot saunas, and frozen canals to see.
6/10 Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg may be the capital of northeastern France, but it’s also known as the capital city of Christmas, and it’s easy to see why. With snug wine taverns, night markets, and hundreds of wooden stalls around the city selling all kinds of festive wares, Strasbourg is a terrific place for those who want to celebrate a snowy white Christmas. Besides, Strasbourg’s town center is listed as a UNESCO site, and it only gets better when winter transforms it into a sea of soft snow with bright Christmas lights.
5/10 Zermatt, Switzerland
For those who like to spend their winters skiing in the mountains, there are few places better than the slopes of Switzerland. The mountain town of Zermatt is located at an elevation of 1,600 meters, making it a sought-after location for skiers around the world. As such, Zermatt has everything that you’d expect from a picturesque ski town: late-night cozy pubs, chic boutiques, and spas with spectacular views. But Zermatt also has a lot to offer for non-skiers: wine bars, cheese shops, snowy hikes, suspension bridges and cable cars that lead to beautiful landmarks, and even adventure sports like paragliding.
4/10 Budapest, Hungary
Pictures of Budapest covered in snow often make their way to postcards — the city is just that spectacular during winter. Besides the Christmas markets, light shows, opera shows, and ice rinks, Budapest also runs a light ram or Fényvillamos that is covered in 39,000 lights, especially for the festive season. Plus, Budapest is known as the spa capital of the world, and there’s something special about soaking in a steaming hot thermal bath while the temperature runs in the negative and snowflakes fall on your face.
3/10 Prague, Czech Republic
The capital city of the Czech Republic attracts thousands of tourists every day, but those who haven’t experienced the magical charm of Prague in the winter haven’t truly seen all that the city has to offer. The temperature in Prague can go as low as -15°C as the city gets covered in a light powder of snow. Visitors can lace up their snow shoes and stroll through the twinkling lights of Christmas markets and churches of a city that smells like mulled wine and trdelník (spit cake).
2/10 Hallstatt, Austria
Hallstatt is located in the Salzkammergut region of the Eastern Alps, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is recognized for its visually breathtaking landscape with Alpine mountains and crystal clear lakes. With thick showers of snow, Hallstatt is a marvelous town to make a pit stop at for mornings filled with skiing and winter sports, evenings that are spent walking by the lakes, and nights that end with trips to cozy pubs for a cup of hot chocolate or warm cider.
1/10 Rovaniemi, Finland
Known as the hometown of Santa Claus, Rovaniemi is a land of chilly temperatures with heaps and heaps of snow. While Rovaniemi is covered in thick snow for half of the year — thanks to the Arctic region — the capital city of Finnish Lapland turns into a magical wonderland around the time of Christmas and pulses with a festive spirit so warm that you’ll feel fuzzy inside despite the freezing weather. Those who have already visited Santa’s village can watch the Northern Lights, go husky sledding in the wild or even try their hand at ice fishing. Don’t be surprised if you see Santa whizz past you on his sled as you go about your day, though!