Mainland Europe, also called Continental Europe, refers to Europe but without its islands. Those include the UK, Greek islands, Malta, Cyprus, Iceland, and all the other islands belonging to individual states. The warmest place in mainland Europe can’t be pinned down to one particular location because Southern Europe usually sees the warmest temperatures at this time of year.
We can, however, narrow our search to particular areas and regions in the south of the continent. We do need to stress the fact that, although warm and temperate, even the warmest regions of mainland Europe still feel and are colder than certain tropical destinations at this time of year. If you feel temperatures between 55°F – 65°F are just perfect for your warm winter holiday, this is where you should go.
1. Andalusia, Spain
Average winter temperature: 59°F
Average temperature in December: 65°F
Average temperature in January: 57°F
Average temperature in February: 65°F
Andalusia is located in the southernmost parts of continental Spain and it represents one of the hottest regions in mainland Europe. Although the temperate Mediterranean climate is characteristic of Andalusia, you still have to plan your vacation carefully. There are several different weather patterns throughout the region which make Andalusia the hottest and the wettest region in Europe. December is also the rainiest month of the year, especially in the inland parts of the region. Inland areas are also the coldest.
If you want to stay away from the rain, avoid inland areas and instead, go for the coastal parts of Andalusia. The lowest amount of rainfall and the mildest winter temperatures can be found in Costa de Almeria and Costa del Sol region. It is here that you can find some of the most beautiful beaches in this part of Spain. The sea temperatures stay around 59.9°F so, unfortunately, you won’t be able to take a swim unless you enjoy somewhat refreshing water temperatures.
Cities to visit in Andalusia in winter
- Seville, Andalusia’s capital famous for Christmas markets, delicious tapas, and glorious architecture. The temperature in Seville in winter stays around 61°F.
- Cordoba, one of the cheaper cities in Spain but also the one that has a spectacular history and rich heritage. The temperature in Cordoba in winter stays around 59°F.
- Granada, known for medieval architecture and royal palaces. The temperature in Granada stays around 55°F.
Best things to do in Andalusia in winter
- Visit UNESCO sites – Moorish Alhambra Palace in Granada, Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral in Cordoba, Renaissance towns of Ubeda and Baeza, and many more unique things in Spain.
- Hike the Grand Senda de Malaga and the famous Caminito del Rey, one of the most ‘dangerous’ hikes in the world. Winter is ideal because there is no scorching heat.
- Watch whales and dolphins migrate near the coast in early winter.
2. Algarve, Portugal
Average winter temperature: 57°F
Average temperature in December: 57°F
Average temperature in January: 54°F
Average temperature in February: 55°F
A neighbor to Spain and no less captivating. Portugal is one of those countries you can visit year-round, regardless of the season. Winter in Portugal can be chilly in the north but south of the country is perfect for enjoying balmy weather.
The perks of visiting Portugal in winter are numerous. It’s the low-season which means the prices will be lower and there will be fewer tourists around. With almost 300 sunny days a year, Algarve is the go-to region in Portugal for anyone who wants to escape the winter blues and find the warmest place in mainland Europe in winter.
Cities to visit in Algarve in winter
- Faro, the region’s capital. Culturally rich and picturesque with stunning gothic architecture and beautiful views. Average winter temperatures in Faro stay around 60°F.
- Tavira is a small charming town providing a perfect mixture of culture and beaches. Average winter temperatures in this Portuguese town 61°F.
- Lagos, a beach town located at the western end of Algarve with a distinct charm and atmosphere. In Lagos, average winter temperatures stay around 54°F.
Best things to do in Algarve in winter
- Explore the caves in Carvoeiro, a former fishing village. The caves are reachable by boat.
- Visit the zoo in Lagos which is open year-round, unlike many other theme parks.
- Admire the dramatic landscape at Praia de Marinha.
- Wander around Ria Formosa – a natural park enlisted in 7 natural wonders of Portugal.
Read more: Beach Resorts Close to Lisbon
3. Amalfi Coast, Italy
Average winter temperature:55°F
Average temperature in December: 58°F
Average temperature in January: 59°F
Average temperature in February: 57°F
One can’t really go about describing Amalfi Coast without wishing to be there that very instant. Indeed, this captivating region along the southern edge of Italy packs incredible natural beauty in a 50-kilometer stretch of coast. It is also home to some of Italy’s most captivating beaches.
Winters here are mild but you may catch a few rainy days although it’s mostly sunny. The rainiest month in Amalfi is November so you should be able to avoid the wet weather if you schedule the visit for later.
Cities to visit in Amalfi Coast in winter
- Naples. Not exactly on the Amalfi Coast but just an hour’s drive away from it. In Naples, the temperatures are a bit lower and you can expect some snow.
- Positano, a small town with lots of winding streets and alleyways, art galleries and amazingly colorful architecture.
- Sorrento, a charming town on the southern coast, overlooking the Bay of Naples.
Amalfi Town, the pearl of the coast offering dramatic panoramas and rich cultural experience.
Best things to do in Amalfi Coast in winter
- Visit the Duomo, a famous architectural site and Paper Museum (Museo della Carta).
- Travel back in time in Pompeii (just an hour’s drive from Sorrento) and get closer tot he ancient Roman ruins.
- Hike Mount Vesuvius – the only active volcano in continental Europe. It will take you about an hour and a half to reach it from Amalfi Coast.
All of these destinations are highly popular during the summer months. That means you will probably see a lot of facilities and amenities closed down for the period, especially in smaller beach towns. For example, ferries on the Amalfi Coast don’t operate during the winter and almost all restaurants close in Positano. A lot of theme parks in Portugal will probably be out too.
Still, that doesn’t mean you won’t have the time of your life. Pleasant weather and fewer people around will enable you to experience the warmest places in mainland Europe in the winter months as you’ve never seen them before.