Visiting European cities in January is like stepping into your own fairy tale. The festive spirit still lingers around, bringing the ever-so-charming vibe to the places already magnificent in their own right.
Whether you want to wander the streets sprinkled with rustling snow or you simply want to stay snug and sip a cup of hot tea as you take in the magical view, here are our top picks for the best European cities to visit at this time of year.
Where to Go in Europe in January
1. Brasov, Romania
Situated in the very heart of Romania, Brasov is one of the hidden gems of this European country. Not only does it offer a great opportunity to see the magnificent Transylvania in its winter glory, but the city itself is also a sight to behold during January. With its unmistakable medieval charm, you can easily fall in love with Brasov once you roam around the snow-sprinkled old city center, the bohemian George Enescu Square, and the colorful Saxon houses.
Temperatures in Brasov in January: Around 32°F although they can drop to around 20°F during the night.
Things to do in Brasov in January: Stroll down the historic streets and admire the architecture, take the cable car to the top of Mount Tampa, and visit Bran Castle which is only 35 minutes away.
2. Bern, Switzerland
Bern is Switzerland’s capital for a good reason while winter adds a particular charm to it. The city is cozily tucked in the Swiss Alps and incredibly rich in history. The Old City of Bern is listed under UNESCO world heritage sites which speaks volumes about its magnificent architecture and cultural plentitude. When covered in snow, Bern seems like a place straight out of a fairytale.
Temperatures in Bern in January: Daily highs stay around 38°F and rarely drop below 15°F at coldest.
Things to do in Bern in January: Go on a shopping spree under the longest arcade promenade in Europe and get a great bargain on the January sales, take up winter sports on the nearby Gurten mountain, or pamper yourself on a cold night in a warm bath and wellness center.
3. Bergen, Norway
Bergen in winter is guaranteed to leave you breathless. As the gateway to the narrow fjords, mountain slopes, glaciers, and charming little islets, this city offers a unique opportunity to explore the natural wonders of this amazing country. Bergen is often called ‘the city between the seven mountains’ but the temperatures are surprisingly high given that it’s situated so far north and surrounded by high snowy peaks.
Temperatures in Bergen in January: Bergen is cold in January, with temperatures around 37°F, sometimes dropping to 29°F.
4. Salzburg, Austria
It will only take you a couple of minutes to fall in love with this Austrian city, even more so in January. The panorama view will give you all the feels and you can enjoy this splendid vista from one of the viewing points around the city.
Temperatures in Salzburg in January: January is the coldest and snowiest month in Salzburg. The temperatures are well below freezing, going down to 25°F.
Things to do in Salzburg in January: Attend a concert for Mozart’s birthday (January 28) and visit his birthplace and residence, explore Salzburg’s Altstadt – a district that is home to some of the oldest buildings in the city under UNESCO’s protection, and be sure to satisfy your sweet tooth by indulging in some of the best desserts in Salzburg.
5. Utrecht, the Netherlands
The city of Utrecht often gets overlooked in the face of Amsterdam or Rotterdam. Truth be told, this city in the central Netherlands deserves a big shout-out, especially in January. It’s also the fourth largest Dutch city and it’s only a half-an-hour drive from Amsterdam which makes it a great base for exploration.
Temperatures in Utrecht in January: During the day, temperatures stay around 42°F at best or drop to 34°F.
Things to do in Utrecht in January: Bundle up and explore the amazing architecture of the city, including the Dom Tower of Utrecht, the Cathedral of Saint Martin, and St Martin’s Cathedral. Utrecht is also famous for a wide range of exquisite museums so you’ll be spoilt for choice in that are too.
Read more: Best December Destinations in Europe
6. Rovaniemi, Finland
Can you think of a better winter destination than the official residence of our beloved Santa? The city of Rovaniemi is right in the heart of Lapland but it’s also in the Arctic Circle so make sure to bundle up. Other than that, Santa’s hometown is absolutely charming.
Temperatures in Rovaniemi in January: Daily highs linger around 18°F but can also drop to 7°F.
Things to do in Rovaniemi in January: Book northern lights viewing tour and admire the celestial light show, visit Arktikum Science Museum where you’ll learn about Finland’s history and science, or go straight to Santapark – an amusement park and Santa’s secret cavern. In case you feel particularly bold and courageous, why not try winter swimming?
7. Copenhagen, Denmark
Speaking of winter fairytales, you can hardly find a better place to bring your childhood memories back than visiting the home of Hans Christen Andresen. A visit to the 19th century Tivoli Park will warm your heart too.
Temperatures in Copenhagen in January: Temperatures hover around 37°F but be prepared to experience the lows around 30°F.
Best things to do in Copenhagen in January: Go back to your childhood and visit the fairytale castles, have some winter fun at Tivoli Amusement Park, go ice skating, or warm up in a sauna or a hot bath.
8. Dresden, Germany
Yes, Berlin is spectacular but hold your breath until you see Dresden. This beautiful city in Eastern Germany is home to masterpieces of Baroque architecture, outstanding art collections, and intense cultural scene.
Temperatures in Dresden in January: Average temperatures in January stay around 32°F, rarely exceeding 36°F or dropping below 25°F.
9. Reykjavik, Iceland
Although Reykjavik is one of the coldest cities year-round, winters in Reykjavik are spectacular. This is also the northernmost city in Europe and the one that’s lively even when it’s cold outside. Elegant and charming but in no way pretentious, Reykjavik is one of the best European cities to visit in January, that is if you prefer the icy whiteness all around you.
Temperatures in Reykjavik in January: It cold in Iceland at this time of year so you can expect 36°F or lows around 28°F.
Best things to do in Reykjavik in January: Hunt for the Northern lights during one of the darkest months in Iceland (there are only a few hours of sunlight a day), gain some in-depth knowledge of the geology of Iceland at Volcano House, and inevitably, take a dip in a hot pool. Reykjavik has got several of them although there are countless thermal spas and hot springs in its close vicinity, such as the Blue Lagoon.
10. Belgrade, Serbia
January is usually the snowiest month in Serbia but the winter of 2019 barely had any snow. Although you can expect it to get all white and dreamy any moment, rest assured you’ll have a great time in Belgrade in January. The Orthodox New Year (an informal holiday) is celebrated throughout Serbia so you’ll be able to find great parties and entertainment in Belgrade.
Temperatures in Belgrade in January: Temperatures stay around 39°F but may drop to 28°F after the sun goes down.
Best things to do in Belgrade in January: Celebrate Orthodox Christmas (January 7) or Orthodox New Year (January 14) with the locals, explore the rich club scene, go sightseeing around Kalemegdan Fortress, or warm up with a traditional Serbian dish in Skadarlija Street.
In case you wanted a warm January escape, here’s where you can go.
11. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona stays relatively warm at this time of year. That means you will have a great opportunity to see the sights without the cold but also without excessive crowds. In case you wondered how expensive Spain is, you can expect rates of accommodation to be lower so you won’t have to strain your budget too much.
Temperatures in Barcelona in January: During the day, temperatures rarely drop below 61°F and 50°F during the night.
Best things to do in Barcelona in January: Go from bar to bar and see where you’ll find the best tapas, catch a game at Camp Nou, take part in the Three Kings Parade (January 5), or simply get the city pass and explore the sights until you drop.
Read more: The Most Peculiar Places in Spain
12. Lisbon, Portugal
Although January is the coldest month in Lisbon, it’s still warm compared to other parts of Europe. The beginning of the year marks the sale season so you can splurge on all the goodies. Of course, January sees fewer crowds so you’ll have this magnificent city almost entirely to yourself.
Temperatures in Lisbon in January: Temperatures stay around the pleasant 59ºF and rarely drop below 46ºF.
Best things to do in Lisbon in January: Enjoy the most famous landmarks of Lisbon without too many crowds, visit the nearby ancient city of Sintra, or admire the underwater world at Oceanário de Lisboa.
13. Athens, Greece
January marks the shoulder season in Athens which is why it’s one of the best times to visit the Greek capital. Pleasant temperatures in January ensure that you can explore all the important sites without excessive heat. It also means you’ll find great accommodation options without straining your budget too much.
Temperatures in Athens in January: Daily temperatures linger around 50°F, sometimes climbing to 55°F or else, falling to 45°F.
Best things to do in Athens in January: Climb Mount Lycabettus and admire the view from the top, visit Acropolis – the capital’s trademark, or simply wander the historic streets, drop by a bar and enjoy traditional Greek cuisine.
14. Naples, Italy
If you’re looking for a warm winter destination in Europe, Naples can be just the right choice. The weather is cool and pleasant and there are no crowds. Being so rich in history and cultural heritage, Naples is a true gem and an incredible city for exploration.
Temperatures in Naples in January: Daily highs stay around 55°F but may drop to 43°F, accompanied by some rain but almost never with snow.
15. Valletta, Malta
The last item on this list is the only island city at the same time. Valletta is Malta’s capital and it’s an incredibly charming and exotic city. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage City so be prepared for impressive architecture.
Temperatures in Valletta in January: It’s predominantly warm, around 60°F. If you’re lucky, the temperature can climb up to 65°F or else drop to 55°F.
We hope you’ve got plenty of ideas about where to go in Europe in January. Whether you wanted an icy adventure or a slightly warmer winter charm, Europe has got you covered, even at this time of year.