7 European Destinations for All Seasons
Guidebooks and travel bloggers might tell you that unless you’re into skiing, the indoors, or very cold hands, Europe is mainly a summer destination. But don’t believe those brief “When To Go” sections. Some regions may be sun-starved in the winter months, but many transform into brand new atmospheric wonderlands. Here are 7 European destinations for all seasons, that hold different appeals throughout the year.
Destinations For All Seasons
1. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona may be the ultimate year-round destination in Europe. The colder months see average temperatures of about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5°C), fewer tourists, better deals, and endless indoor and outdoor attractions to keep you busy. The warmer months bring an influx of travelers. Everyone is looking to soak up the rays on the famous beaches, immerse themselves in the chaotic Las Ramblas, party until dawn, spend the afternoons sipping sangria, and snack on tapas on an outside terrace.
How to get there by train: Barcelona is a major rail hub in Spain. There are regular trains from Madrid and most Spanish cities. There are also train connections from France. Find out how to get from Paris to Barcelona by train.
2. Vienna, Austria
Vienna’s atmosphere ebbs and flows perfectly with the seasons. Winter transforms this classic city into a snow-capped wonderland. The holiday season serves up vibrant markets and outdoor ice skating rinks. And when the temperatures get too cold to handle, there are ample coffee shops and dozens of vast museums in which to reheat. Summer in Vienna brings with it green parks, beautifully manicured palatial gardens, and long pedestrianized streets lined with shimmering architecture.
How to get there by train: Vienna is conveniently located for rail travel. There are regular high speed trains from within Austria and across the neighboring countries. Find out how to get there from Prague, Budapest, and Venice.
3. Salzburg, Austria
On the other side of Austria lies the fairytale city of Salzburg. In spite of frosty, high-altitude winters, it offers something special regardless of the time of the year. Summer may reveal Salzburg’s true Sound of Music colors, with emerald green hills, sparkling rivers, flowering gardens and endless hikes. But if you’re a fan of steaming hot chocolate in Christmas markets, frosty rivers, sheer blue skies, and beautiful baroque architecture with a dusting of snow, then you’ll be equally happy in the colder winter months.
How to get there by train: Salzburg is easy to reach by train from Munich and most Austrian cities. There are also long distance trains from the likes of Zurich, Zagreb, Ljubljana, and Budapest.
4. Lisbon, Portugal
If your primary winter travel goal is to avoid frostbite, and your number one summer priority is a sweaty all-night party, then Lisbon is the answer to your travel dreams. While you may have to endure a few rainy days, the winter temperatures in the Portuguese capital rarely slip below 50°F (10°C) and the major attractions are often quieter and more accessible. Summer transforms this hedonistic city into a vibrant hub alive with parties, music festivals, and all-day beach trips.
How to get there by train: There are regular high-speed trains to Lisbon from Porto in the north and the Algarve in the south.
5. Venice, Italy
Winter in Venice is the low season for a reason. The temperatures drop, the mist rolls in, the winds pick up and the crowds tend to disperse. Which is exactly why it’s worth visiting, regardless of the season. Although it’s true that there’s something magical about a warm summer’s day in Venice, it’s also true that much of the world is aware of this. Weather critics may turn their noses up at the damp and cold. But the lower prices, fewer tourists and eerie atmosphere more than make up for it.
6. Budapest, Hungary
Budapest has an effortless charm that’s appealing regardless of the time of year. As the temperatures drop, the sparkling Danube turns into an icy thoroughfare. Regular snowfall transforms the look and feel of the beautifully uniform Pest. There are museums, bars, restaurants and winter festivals to keep you warm. And, truthfully, there’s nothing better than an afternoon in an outdoor thermal bath when the temperatures around you slip below freezing. The warmer months present a reawakening of sorts. Joggers dust off their shoes to stride the parks and pathways along the river, while revelers spend the balmy evenings at pop-up bars and rooftop terraces.
How to get there by train: Budapest is conveniently located for rail travel both within Hungary and abroad, including direct high-speed trains from Vienna. Read about the Vienna to Budapest train route.
7. Zakopane, Poland
Zakopane has all the trimmings of a classic winter ski resort. It comes complete with a quaint, walkable village, snow-capped rooftops, and cozy wood-fire heated restaurants to burst into when the temperatures head below freezing. As the snow melts, the rivers turn into captivating raging torrents. The once exhilarating skiing terrain turns into beautiful hiking territory, particularly as you head just out of town into the surrounding High Tatra mountain range.
How to get there by train: There are up to five daily trains to Zakopane from Kraków.
These 7 cities all have a unique appeal throughout the year. The same is true for most places in Europe, especially if you approach them with the right mindset. And if you want the best of both worlds, a Eurail Global Pass will get you from snowy mountains to shimmering beaches in a matter of hours.
From destinations for all seasons, to destinations for specific seasons:
Summer in Europe: where to go to make it unforgettable!
Europe in the fall – the 6 best destinations for 2016
Central Europe in winter: our top 4 cities