1. Waltz in Vienna
Austria’s capital of Vienna conjures up images of romantic grand balls and classic waltzes. Immerse yourself in this cultural hub during the famous Ball Season. There are over 450 balls in Vienna each year and winter is when the best ones happen, so don your finest and dance the night away.
If you’d rather enjoy classical masterpieces than spin around a ballroom, enjoy a classical concert at Eschenbach Palace. St. Peter’s Church also offers concerts and gorgeous Baroque architecture. Other must-dos are a tour of Schönbrunn Palace and bundling up for a walk through the old town. Warm up afterward with a rich hot chocolate and a slice of famous Sacher torte cake, or see how traditional apple strudel is made.
2. Engage your senses in Amsterdam
The Dutch term gezellig means cozy, fun, and comfortable. A visit to Amsterdam provides plenty of opportunities to snuggle up in winter. The city has over 1,000 canals, creating a magical feeling during wet, misty months. Winter sees the annual Amsterdam Light Festival, where local and international artists create thought-provoking illuminated installations. These are best seen from a boat tour on the canals. Traditional Dutch food provides comfort aplenty during the cold months. Dig into fritjes (fries), poffertjes (mini pancakes), pannekoek (huge pancakes), and stroopwafels (crisp waffles doused in syrup). Take a food tour to explore all the tastes this city has to offer.
3. Gaze at Florence’s fine art (and sip Chianti)
Any Europe trip needs to include this Italian gem. Avoiding the crowds is one of the major reasons to visit Florence in winter. But, there are lots more! Getting up-close views of Renaissance art on display in the city’s galleries is a special experience. Tour the Accademia Gallery with a private guide to see Michelangelo’s David. Then, head to the Uffizi Gallery to see Botticelli’s masterpieces such as “The Birth of Venus.”
Once you’ve gotten an art-filled dose of culture, take advantage of Florence’s prime location in the heart of Tuscany. Strike out on a day trip to the famous Chianti wine region to channel your inner sommelier. The hill towns surrounding Florence are equally scenic for a day tour: Siena is famous for the annual summer Palio horse race, San Gimignano for its medieval towers, and Pisa for its leaning tower.
4. Fall in love with Paris
What better place to spend this Valentine’s Day than in Paris, the City of Love? Why not propose on top of the Eiffel Tower or see the sights from a limousine? Cruising the Seine River not only allows you to cuddle up to your loved one, but you’ll see the sights such as the Orsay Museum, Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame from a new perspective.
Fashion lovers know that Paris is one of the couture capitals of the world. The city hosts two fashion weeks, so snap some inspiration as Paris buzzes with designers and models. Haute Couture Week runs from 20-23 January, while 24 February – 4 March sees Paris Fashion Week in all its glamorous glory. Join a local guide on a shopping tour to refine your style or tour vintage markets with an expert.
5. Cozy up in Copenhagen
The Danes strive for hygge in everything — this means coziness that creates a sense of well-being. We like that life approach. A visit to the seaside city of Copenhagen offers a variety of cozy experiences. Get your groove on with the annual Vinterjazz Festival that runs from 6-29 February throughout Denmark.
Copenhagen is also a gourmet paradise, as it boasts 17 restaurants with Michelin Stars, and is home to Noma restaurant, which is ranked number 2 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Get a taste of the city’s foodie soul with a gourmet walking tour of the West End area, or a culinary tour that starts at the city’s food market. To round it all off, enjoy the bright lights and fun rides at famous Tivoli Gardens.
6. Feed your soul in Dublin
Immerse yourself in heart-warming folk music during Dublin’s annual Tradfest that runs from 22-26 January. Both Irish and International musicians perform traditional and folk music in venues around the city. After the music, it’s time to enjoy the craic — basically a fun night out. There are plenty of ways to get the party started. Take a distilleries tour to learn about (and taste) Irish whiskey, visit the home of Guinness, or take a pub tour around the city.
7. Bathe in Budapest’s thermal waters
The sprawling city of Budapest boasts a spa culture like no other. Thanks to the thermal hot springs under the city, there are nine spas to choose from. Széchenyi and Gellért thermal baths are famous for their ornate architecture. Soaking in pools of various temperatures, having a swim, or enjoying a massage are all part of the city’s spa culture and you can easily spend half a day enjoying the facilities.
A tip: bring your own swimsuit, swimming cap, towel, robe, and flip-flops, otherwise you’ll have to buy or rent them there. Once you’re suitably relaxed, explore Budapest’s sights such as impressive Baroque Buda Castle with its stellar views over the Danube River. End with an evening in one of the city’s ruin bars — hip spots located in disused warehouses.