By Briana Seftel
Do you dream of mulled wine, Christmas markets, and craggy mountain peaks dusted with snow? Then you're a winter lover! Luckily, Europe has plenty of options when it comes to idyllic destionations.
Bundle up and explore Europe's most charming winter escapes, from Slovenia to Finland. There really is snow place like these.
Known as the "Official Hometown of Santa Claus," Rovaniemi is quite possibly the ultimate winter destination in Europe. The capital of Lapland situated on the Arctic Circle is a winter wonderland of snow-covered forest, quaint houses, and reindeer - yep, in this part of the world, reindeer outnumber people! It's also a great place to see the Northern Lights.
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
The tiny country of Luxembourg in the heart of Europe is absolutely charming year round, but winter gives it a whole new splendor. In the capital of Luxembourg City, one of the three European Union capitals, sip mulled wine, visit a Christmas market, and enjoy Winterlights, the festival of lights and animation.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Slovenia, known as "The Sunny Side of the Alps," is quickly becoming one of the hottest destinations in Central Europe for its gorgeous cities and scene-stealing natural beauty. For a perfect winter escape, head to Lake Bled in northwestern Slovenia. Admire stunning views of Bled Castle which sits in the center of the town’s enchanting lake.
Located in the northern Italian Alps, the Dolomites are a UNESCO-certified mountain range that make up the beautiful backdrop in the winter. Offering some of the best mountain adventures in Europe, this region is a unique blend of Austrian and Italian cultures, evident in the food and language. The city of Bolzano is the known as the gateway to the Dolomites.
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Cesky Krumlov in southern Bohemia is one of the most picturesque towns in all of Europe. Like a mini Prague, the city situated on the Vltava River is dominated by the stunning State Castle. Winter is a magical time to visit Cesky Krumlov - the crowds disperse and the whole city gets a light dusting of snow that looks like powdered sugar.
Switzerland is a country of stunning winter escapes, but none are quite as striking as Zermatt, the picturesque village in southern Switzerland sitting at the foot of the world-famous Matterhorn. If your idea of heaven is a day spent skiiing or snowboarding, Zermatt is the perfect place to go. The village itself has plenty of charm too, with restaurants serving melty fondue and cosy chalets to warm your bones.
The village of Hallstatt on Lake Hallstatt's western shore is a true lakeside beauty in all four seasons. Summer brings an enormous amount of visitors, but in the winter, the village quiets down to a calming oasis, with the elegant architecture of Market Square casting reflections in the lake.
The spiritual home of Hansel and Gretel is also a wonderful place to visit in the winter. This region in southern Germany is like a world unto itself, with bustling beer halls, charming villages, iconic lakes, and steep mountain ranges. The alpine towns of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Berchtesgaden are both essential places to experience winter in Bavaria.
If you equate winter with Christmas, then there really is no other place like Colmar in the Alsace region of France. Blending French and German influences, Colmar looks like the pages of a fairy tale town come to life. Visit its famous Christmas market, sip Alsatian wine, and stroll the illuminated streets at night.
This tiny fishing village (est. population: 300) on northern Norway’s Lofoten archipelago is a true off-the-beaten-path winter destionation. Red and white fisherman's huts dot the shoreline, while the surrounding mountain Reinebringen encompasses the entire surroundings.
There are many reasons to visit Iceland in the winter - the jaw-dropping Northern Lights, enormous glaciers, gushing waterfalls to name a few. While daylight may be short, there is still plenty of time to discover the natural wonders that seem to come alive in the winter months.