10 Best Uncrowded, Fabulous Places in Europe

  • Budapest at night

    Budapest, Hungary

    Since Europe is such a popular tourist destination, it can get both crowded and expensive. Plan your trip during the winter off season to enjoy discounted hotel and attraction rates with more elbow room to maneuver. Budapest, considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, empties out starting in October, so pack your sweater and hit the fabulous Christmas markets. If you get cold, you can always warm up in the Széchenyi medicinal baths.

    Photo courtesy of Dennis Jarvis

  • Amsterdam canal

    Amsterdam, Netherlands

    If you don't mind short days and a little rain (that's what umbrellas are for), then you'll find Amsterdam rather charming during the winter months. Public squares double as ice skating rinks and local restaurants and coffee shops feel much more friendly and relaxed in the absence of tourist hordes. The city transforms into a giant Christmas village, and a hot cup of cocoa, spiced cider or mulled wine is never far away.

    Photo courtesy of Edward Dalmulder

  • Belem Tower

    Lisbon, Portugal

    European winters are not for everybody, but as you head south, you should find more sunshine for your winter getaway. Lisbon enjoys average highs in the upper 50s from November through February, and the temperature rarely dips below 40. Ride the tram past historic landmarks, shop the morning and holiday markets and sip on a glass of warming Portuguese red as you take in the laid back – and quiet – city

    Photo courtesy of Cris

  • Gaudi architecture

    Barcelona, Spain

    Barcelona, another European city with a mild winter, rarely approaches freezing temperatures and occasionally enjoys a day in the 70s, even in January. Even with the tourists gone, the streets here still feel lively as the locals reclaim their city. As Christmas approaches, the Fira de Santa Llúcia market takes over the area surrounding the cathedral, and there's nothing quite like a thick, brown Catalan stew to warm you on a chilly day.

    Photo courtesy of Rob Gillies

  • Vienna reflected

    Vienna, Austria

    Temperatures in Vienna during winter may hover around freezing, but the air is crisp and clear, and the sun is almost always shining. With the exception of Christmas, Vienna quiets down significantly in the winter, and you can easily spend days on end alternating between empty museums and cozy coffee houses with inexpensive orchestra, ballet or opera performances to round out a day of culture.

    Photo courtesy of Benedetta Anghileri

  • City life

    Venice, Italy

    Venice, perhaps the most romanticized city in Europe, is the perfect place to get lost in, and you won't feel like a sardine trying to wriggle your way out of the can in the quiet off season. The weather is drier than the summer months, yet there's something misty and very atmospheric about Venice in the winter. You'll have no shortage of trattorias to duck into to warm up between gallery viewings and shopping expeditions.

    Photo courtesy of Kieran Lynam

  • View from the Eye

    London, England

    London's cold winter weather certainly doesn't keep locals inside, and it shouldn't keep you from going either. Quite the opposite. During the less-crowded winter months, you can ice skate in front of the Somerset House or the moat of the Tower of London, participate in carnival festivities in Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and catch a theater performance to rival Broadway.

    Photo courtesy of Stig Nygaard

  • Geneva Fountain

    Geneva, Switzerland

    Switzerland enjoys some of the best skiing in the world, but even if you're not a winter sports enthusiast, you'll have the charming city to yourself while the rest of the tourists hit the slopes. Whether you've been frolicking in the snow or in a museum, there's only one choice for a warming winter meal when hunger strikes: fondue. Chunks of bread dipped in a vat of bubbly cheese seems like a meal made for winter evenings.

    Photo courtesy of Nicolas Louit © Gen?ve Tourisme

  • Cologne at night

    Cologne, Germany

    The city of Cologne is quickly earning the reputation as the art capital of Germany, and with a 2,000-year history, there's plenty to explore. If you're visiting Cologne this winter, make sure to set aside ample time to visit the Christmas markets. Try to make it to all six, but if you have to choose one, go to the Cologne Cathedral market. Red wooden pavilions blanketed in twinkling lights sit in front of the towering cathedral with plenty of mulled wine to go around.

    Photo courtesy of © www.koelntourismus.de

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