Snow-covered roofs, Christmas markets and the smell of gingerbread in the streets. European cities are especially beautiful in winter! So why not take a city trip at Christmas time. Every city looks twice as beautiful in winter. I show you the best cities for your city trip in winter - including travel tips and all important information.
Stockholm - the winter city
Stockholm is the classic choice for a city trip in winter. After all, the Scandinavians can do winter. In Stockholm you are guaranteed snow and pleasant winter walks along the river. Most of the time, the sun is still shining and no Swede can be prevented from sitting outside by sub-zero temperatures.
Activities in Stockholm
My favorite winter activity: Ice skating! You can do that in Stockholm in the centre of the city on the ice rink in Kungsträdgarden.
From there you can walk along the waterfront to the museum island Djurgarden and visit the Wasa Museum to see the famous pirate ship that sank in the 17th century after a journey of only 1000 meters.
If, like the Swedes, you prefer to be outdoors in winter, you must visit Skansen - an open-air museum with houses and farms that show how people lived hundreds of years ago. There is also an animal park, with animals that are exclusively native to Scandinavia.
A small insider tip is the Monteliusvägen viewpoint on the north bank of Södermalm. Not even Google Maps has found it, as it is only a very narrow footpath. From here you have the best view of the town hall and the old town Gamla Stan.
Riga - Latvia's underrated gem
When it comes to city trips in Europe, not many people consider the capital of Latvia to be the place to go. Riga has a beautiful old town and is, for example from Stockholm, reached easily by ferry. Overnight you can enjoy the view of the Nordic Arctic Ocean with a drink from the observation deck. As the ferry journey takes about 15 hours, it is worthwhile to travel overnight.
Do you like going to the opera or musicals at Christmas time? In Riga's National Opera House, the best plays are performed here throughout December.
Helsinki - a must in winter
The next Scandinavian city on this list shows that winter in northern Europe is simply even more beautiful. As in Stockholm, Helsinki has an incredible amount of water everywhere - rivers, lakes, the adjacent sea. The best thing to do is to find a spot at the harbour at early sunset and enjoy the view. During the day you can let the first rays of sunshine shine in your face on the steps in front of Senate Square.
Prague - Christmas in the golden city
Prague is the perfect city for me to visit in winter. The golden buildings shining in the winter sun and Trdelnik, the incomparably delicious yeast pastry you can get on every street corner here, are just perfect for a great winter evening.
On the Charles Bridge and in the historic Old Town it is also much emptier at this time of year than in summer.
Edinburgh - pure cosiness
The many pubs that line the cosy alleys of Edinburgh's old town are almost more inviting in winter than in summer. British cities in particular have a magical and enchanting effect due to their cosiness when it gets cold and snowy outside.
My advice, if you're tough and packed warm clothes: Arthurs Seat, on the hill above the city, is the ideal place for a romantic sunset.
City trips in winter: Paris
As I write, I realize that I really like almost every city in Europe better in winter than in summer. Paris is always beautiful, of course - but in winter it's even a bit more.
Together with my sister, I made a spontaneous road trip to Paris just before Christmas. Past the small port city Le Havre and countless French villages.
When we drove in to Paris, we were overwhelmed by all the Christmas lights and decorations. The Christmas market at Sacre Coeur offers delicious French street food and the whole city of love seems even more romantic than at other times of the year.
Innsbruck - the Classic
The Austrian winter sports resorts are of course particularly inviting for a trip during the cold season. But also for non-skiers a visit to Innsbruck is worthwhile. You can try sledging instead, for example. There are countless sledding slopes with different levels of difficulty around the city. Many of them are even illuminated at night. If you park your car at the top of the mountain, you should check beforehand what time the bus or lift will take you back up. After twenty minutes of sledding, we had to walk up an incredibly slippery hill for more than two hours in the dark. It was worth it anyway!
Amsterdam - New Year's Eve in the canal city
The food in the small shops in Amsterdam's alleys is incredibly delicious all year round. But even here it is still topped by the Christmas market time. You want to spend New Year's Eve in Amsterdam? You can do that especially well at the official fireworks display on Dam Square. Everyone can enjoy the programme on stage for free and at twelve o'clock you can toast to each other and shoot rockets. You should be there early though, because the place gets really crowded.
A must see in Amsterdam is the Anne Frank House at any time of the year. To see this place live and to hear the whole story again is incredibly moving.
If you arrive with your own car, you can park at one of the many P+R car parks around the city. They are always close to a tram station, which will take you to the city centre free of charge. Find all the parking spots here.
Brussels - The tastiest food
I have to admit that Brussels as a city didn't really get me. If you want to see the Belgian capital, then definitely in winter. Because then, like everywhere else, there is a great Christmas market with lots of delicious delicacies - in addition to chips and waffles. The lighting also makes the city much more beautiful. Especially around the Grote Markt with its baroque façade, it becomes a dreamlike Christmas.
Zurich - The winter insider tip
Zurich is not less beautiful in the summer than in the winter. Picturesque alleys, lakes and rivers at every corner are always pretty. Letting the sun shine in your face in the ice-cold air at the Lake of Zurich, is even nicer in the winter though.
City trips in winter
I have already shifted pure city trips to the winter a long time ago. Then even the biggest metropolises are less crowded, seem more quiet and cosy. So I have reserved the summer for things that are definitely more fun - water sports and being outdoors in nature.
Whichever of these eleven cities you choose as your next winter destination, make sure you pack warm clothes and enjoy the magic that comes from each of them, especially in winter! Have fun on your winter city break!