The Best Places to Visit in Europe in January

The 15 Best Places to Visit in Europe in January

With all the excitement of Christmas and New Year’s, it’s easy to be so overwhelmed with everything going on that you completely forget what a great month January is for traveling. At this time of year, many of Europe’s most charismatic cities are deserted, meaning you can visit the iconic museums and see the famous landmarks without having to fight your way through crowds. 

There’s no way around it – most of Europe is pretty chilly in January. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Ancient fairytale villages look even more magical when they’re covered in a light dusting of snow, and remote ski resorts provide a dynamic alternative if you want to get away from cosmopolitan life.

Whether you want to lounge on a sun-kissed beach and forget that winter even exists or embrace the enchanting season and explore medieval towns while feeling like you’re the only person in the world, January is a great time to travel throughout Europe. To help you plan the perfect winter escape, we’ve put together a fantastic selection of warm-weather destinations and winter wonderlands for you to check out!

Don’t forget to check out our web story: The 15 Best Places to Visit in Europe in January

The 15 Best Places in Europe to Visit in January

1. Tenerife, Canary Islands

Best Cities to Visit in Europe in January: Tenerife, Canary Islands

The Canary Islands is one of your best options if you’re looking for warm European destinations in January. The volcanic archipelago is located closer to northwestern Africa than it is to mainland Spain, giving it a wonderful climate all year round. In January, temperatures rarely drop below 60°F (15°C), and they can often go as high as 70°F (21°C). If there’s a Calima sandstorm, temperatures can even spike up to a boiling 90°F (32°C).

Not only are the Canary Islands a fabulous place to visit in January because of the weather, but this special time of year is also when you’ll find the biggest Christmas celebrations. While Christmas Day is certainly acknowledged, the main festive event takes place on the eve of Epiphany (January 5).

Tenerife is a fantastic place to be at this time of year when cities throughout the island come to life in preparation to welcome the three kings. In Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the island’s capital city, the three kings arrive by helicopter and parade throughout the streets on camels, handing out gifts and sweets to children who have been well-behaved all year!

2. Belgrade, Serbia

Must Visit Places in Europe in January: Belgrade, Serbia

If New Year’s is your favorite celebration, spend January in Belgrade, Serbia. Not only will you be able to celebrate the typical New Year’s Day on January 1, but you’ll get to celebrate the beginning of the Serbian New Year on January 15, too.

Serbia is a largely Eastern Orthodox country that uses the Julian calendar as its liturgical calendar. This means locals in Belgrade celebrate Christmas Day on January 7 and New Year’s Day on January 15. They still celebrate on January 1, like the rest of the world, but they also get a second big party two weeks later.

Because Christmas falls so late in Serbia, Christmas markets still abound in the first half of January. Republic Square, the main square in Belgrade, is where you’ll find one of the city’s best Christmas markets. Wander around the cute wooden huts and pick up all kinds of festive treats and souvenirs. 

On January 4, Serbian families traditionally burn oak branches on a big fire. Head to St. Sava Temple after sunset and see the unique Christmas Eve custom for yourself. 

3. Santorini, Greece

Best Places to Visit in Europe in January: Santorini, Greece

The Greek Islands are magical places to visit. But in summer, their alluring charm is tainted by the swarms of visitors which descend on the archipelago. If you want to experience the islands at their best, visit them out of season, when the sleepy coastal towns are mostly full of a small number of residents.

Out of all the islands, Santorini is one of the best European destinations in January. The Aegean jewel is pleasantly mild at this time of year, with temperatures ranging from lows of 48°F (9°C) to highs of 57°F (14°C). It may not be the warmest place in Europe, but the island hardly gets any rain and is bathed in plenty of sunshine throughout the month.

Because so few people visit Santorini in January, it’s an excellent time to take in the most iconic sites. Spend lazy days on the island’s golden beaches, explore the ancient site of Akrotiri, check out the Thera ruins, and watch the sunset from a cute seafood restaurant by the sea.

4. Auvergne Region, France

Must Visit Places in Europe in January: Auvergne Region, France

If this time of year typically leaves you feeling gloomy, mix things up a bit and plan an alpine adventure. France’s Auvergne Region is one of the top locations in Europe for all kinds of adrenaline-pumping winter sports.

There’s the Mont-Dore Ski Resort for fast-paced skiing down soft snowy slopes, as well as Chastreix-Sancy for cross-country skiing if you fancy a bit of a challenge or don’t want to take things too fast just yet.

For something even tamer, consider snowshoeing across one of the trails that surround Puy de Dôme. This is the highest peak of the ancient Auvergne volcano range and rewards visitors with spectacular views. 

If you really want to get your heart racing, consider dog mushing or snow kiting. Both of these extreme winter sports are available in Le Lioran and Prabouré, respectively. 

5. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Best Cities to Visit in Europe in January: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

There are loads of amazing festivals going on throughout Europe at this time of year, and you’ll find one of the most spectacular and spellbinding in the Netherlands. One of the best places to visit in Europe in January, Amsterdam hosts its remarkable Light Festival in winter.

This spectacular 53-day event begins at the start of December and continues until the end of January, giving you plenty of opportunities to check it out. No matter how many incredible Christmas lights you’ve seen before, you’ve never seen anything quite like what Amsterdam has to offer during its festival.

National and international artists flock to the city for the chance to show off their mind-bending work. Sculptures of all shapes, sizes, and designs are scattered throughout the city center and along the dreamy canals, all illuminated with the most wonderful lights. From giant butterflies floating on the canal to bizarre space-like objects that seem to hover in the sky, this festival will leave you questioning your eyes!

Experience the Amsterdam Light Festival

6. The Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Must Visit Places in Europe in January: Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Iceland is at the top of many people’s bucket lists and if you’ve always wanted to go, consider booking flights for January. Although this is the darkest and coldest month of the year (Iceland only gets six hours of daylight, and temperatures typically drop as low as 30°F/-1°C), it’s also one of the quietest.

Hordes of people travel to Iceland to spend the holidays there. After New Year’s has come and gone, the place is practically empty, making it an excellent time to see the sights and explore. 

Now is the time to trek through solid ice caves and hike over stunning rugged glaciers. It’s also the best month to relax in the steamy Blue Lagoon and snap unique selfies without a bunch of other people in the background.

Another added bonus is that January is a fantastic time to spot the Northern Lights. With wonderfully clear skies and plenty of dark hours, you’ve got a great chance of seeing this natural phenomenon.

7. Lapland, Finland

Best Places to Visit in Europe in January: Lapland, Finland

When it comes to where to go in Europe in January for a truly magical experience you’ll be telling people about for the rest of your life, you can’t go wrong with Lapland. While countless families flock there in December for the chance to celebrate Christmas with Santa, this place is shockingly quiet in January, making it a great spot to go for some peace and quiet.

With temperatures ranging between 16°F (-9°C) and 40°F (4°C), you’ve got to be able to brave the cold. But if you wrap up warm, you’ll have the chance to stay in a one-of-a-kind ice hotel. Lapland’s ice hotels are even more whimsical and majestic than you can imagine.

Almost everything, from the walls and the floor to your bed and sofa, in your room will be made entirely out of ice. Thankfully, you’ll be given some super-soft animal furs and sleeping bags, so you don’t freeze at night! 

See the Lapland Northern Lights

8. Paphos, Cyprus

Where to Vacation in Europe in January: Paphos, Cyprus

Cyprus is absolutely packed with fascinating historic and mythical places to visit. If you’re interested in Greek mythology, you’ve got to take a trip to Aphrodite’s Rock in Paphos. This eye-catching natural wonder rises from the waves and is said to be the birthplace of the goddess of love. If you’re up for it, you can climb to the top of the rock and snap some amazing pictures of the surrounding landscape. 

If you’ve got zero interest in Greek mythology, Paphos is still worth visiting. This is the low season for the city, making it blissfully quiet. Popular sites that are usually buzzing with visitors are almost completely empty at this time of year, giving you the chance to admire ruins that date back as far as the Roman Empire, as well as the Tombs of the Kings, which was created in the 4th century.

January is surprisingly mild in Paphos, with plenty of sunshine at highs of around 60°F (15°C). This weather is perfect for laid-back beach days without having to worry too much about getting burned. If you’re wondering where to go in Europe in January, Paphos is well worth a visit!

9. Zell am See, Austria

Best Cities to Visit in Europe in January: Zell am See, Austria

Definitely one of the best places in Europe to visit in January, Zell am See in Austria boasts some of the very best skiing opportunities on the continent. The perfect choice for total newbies, amateur skiers, and intermediate ones, the slopes here are a little more gentle than most other resorts, but they’re still plenty of fun.

Zell am See has a pretty low base at 2,500 feet, and the highest ski lift only takes you 6,600 feet into the sky. But if you’re just getting started with skiing, it’s ideal. January is one of the coldest months in the resort, so you can be guaranteed a fresh, thick layer of snow almost every day.

What makes Zell am See extra special is its idyllic location at Lake Zell. When you’re riding the ski lift to the top of the slope or zooming down it at high speed, you’ll be rewarded with astounding views you won’t be able to take your eyes off. 

10. Lerwick, Scotland

Must Visit Places in Europe in January: Lerwick, Scotland

If you want to carry on the party that Christmas and New Year’s started, make plans to visit Lerwick, the main port in Scotland’s Shetland Islands. Each January, this usually sleepy city comes to life with one of Europe’s biggest and most impressive fire festivals.

Known by the unusual name of Up Helly Aa, this one-of-a-kind event takes place on the last Tuesday in January and celebrates the local Viking heritage. More than 1,000 locals dress up in costumes that are unbelievably accurate and hurl genuine burning torches into a traditional Viking longship.

As well as the main event, the festival also includes live performances of traditional music. It’s great fun to see locals dressed in period clothing dance just like their ancestors would have done centuries ago. 

There’s also a dramatic torch-lit procession that precedes the torch throwing. The whole thing has a really eerie, Pagan feel, but it’s something you won’t experience anywhere else in the world! 

11. Tromsø, Norway

Best Places to Visit in Europe in January: Tromso, Norway

Spotting the Northern Lights is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most people. If you’ve got some vacation time to use at the start of the year, make plans to visit Europe in January. There are many different places you can spot the spectacular natural light show at this time of year, including Tromsø in Norway.

Most of the city is still in the polar night season in January, when the sun never rises above the horizon. This means most of your trip will be in darkness, giving you the best possible chance of spotting the Northern Lights. 

Even if you don’t manage to see the stunning show, January is still an excellent time to visit Tromsø. The icy-cold weather at this time of year creates the ideal conditions for all kinds of fun winter sports and activities. 

Fill your to-do list with snowmobiling, dog sledding, snowboarding, skiing, whale watching, and whatever else takes your fancy. If the low temperatures get to be too much for you, you can always hide away in one of the city’s many public saunas. 

Search for the Tromsø Northern Lights

12. Snowdonia National Park, Wales

What Places Have Shoulder Season in Europe in January: Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Get a head start on Valentine’s Day and plan a romantic getaway with your partner to the Snowdonia National Park in Wales. While the rest of the world celebrates Valentine’s Day on February 14, Wales celebrates it on January 25.

On this special day, known locally as St. Dwynwen’s Day, it’s tradition to give your special someone a Welsh love spoon to show them how much they mean to you. In the days leading up to the holiday, you’ll find these cute spoons in all the shops in the local area, so you won’t have to look far.

There are plenty of phenomenal things to do in the Snowdonia National Park during your visit, too. There are many stunning winter walking trails, the world’s fastest zipline, white water kayaking, horseback riding routes, and mountain biking treks, all of which are running throughout January.

13. Zermatt, Switzerland

Best Cities to Visit in Europe in January: Zermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt is one of the top spots for stretching your legs – it’s surprisingly walkable, even in the middle of winter. This makes it one of the best places to go in Europe in January, whether you’re planning on exploring the city or staying on the outskirts and discovering everything that nature has to offer.

As well as some of the finest snowboarding and skiing opportunities in Europe, Zermatt is also home to fantastic routes for snowshoeing. The scenery you’ll walk through is absolutely enchanting. Make sure you keep a lookout for the famous Matterhorn peak that stands proudly in the distance. 

If you’d prefer to move vertically instead of horizontally, the city also boasts some epic ice climbing. Ride the Swiss cable car all the way up to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. Here you’ll find a phenomenal place with 14 icy glaciers, 38 rugged mountain peaks, and some of the most spectacular views you’ve ever laid eyes on.

14. Istria, Croatia

What Places Have Shoulder Season in Europe in January: Istria, Croatia

Istra is one of the few hidden gems that remain a well-kept secret in Europe. The biggest green oasis of the North Adriatic, this stunning vacation destination is the perfect place to visit if you’re craving some winter sunshine.

The weather may be a bit on the cool side in January (temperatures range between 45°F (7°C) and 55°F (13°C), but the blissfully blue skies and warm dazzling sunshine more than make up for it. When there’s absolutely no breeze, these temperatures can feel surprisingly warm and perfect for a day at the beach. 

Most find the sea a little too cold for swimming at this time of year, but there are plenty of other things to do in Istria. Like a lot of places, January is the low season for this city, making it one of the best European destinations in January if you hate jostling in crowds.

Streets that are usually overflowing with people, such as the coastal avenues in Rovinj, are beautifully peaceful at this time of year, giving them a totally different vibe from the one most people experience. Amazing archaeological sites, such as Pula Arena, are also all but empty in January! 

15. Malta

Best Places to Visit in Europe in January: Malta

Malta is one of the best places in Europe to visit in January if you want somewhere with stunning sandy beaches, fascinating historical sites, and lively festivals you won’t be able to resist. At this time of year, the weather is warm and sunny, with lows of 48°F (9°C) at night and highs of 61°F (16°C) in the middle of the day. Rain is almost unheard of in January, but you can be sure of plenty of sunshine.

Valletta is one of the best cities to visit in Europe in January. This sleepy medieval town hosts its International Baroque Festival during this month which is something you’ve absolutely got to experience. During this annual 15-day event, all kinds of talented performers from around the world show off their talents at the ball. Expect to see people in lavish costumes performing shows that wouldn’t look out of place centuries ago.

As well as the fun festival, January is also an excellent time for hiking. As the weather is mild, you don’t need to set off early in the morning. Instead, you can follow the most popular routes, such as the Girgenti Country Trail and the Zurrieq Loop, whenever you choose to.

There you have it! The 15 best places to visit in Europe in January. What’s your favorite European destination to travel to in January?



  • Nicola Quinn

    Nicola is a freelance writer with an insatiable hunger for travel. She swapped her home in the UK for the sunny Canary Islands when she was just 11 and she has been based there ever since.

    From crawling on her hands and knees inside pyramids in Egypt to swimming with baby sharks in Bali and searching (fruitlessly!) for the Northern Lights in Iceland, Nicola takes every chance she gets to explore new places.

    The incredible experiences she has around the world fuels her writing and inspires her to plan even more adventures for the future.

    View all posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *