Come winter, the colder weather can be a shock to the system, not to mention the darker nights that creep up out of nowhere. For many, a dose of sunshine and vitamin D are exactly what is needed during the winter months. With that in mind, below is a list of 10 fantastic European cities to take a break in over winter. Of course, the sunshine can’t always be guaranteed, but there is a very good chance of it showing up in a European city listed below.
1 Santa Cruz, Tenerife
With temperatures at a pleasant 26°C on average come winter, Tenerife’s capital, Santa Cruz, is an ideal place to soak up the winter sun. The city’s mix of vibrant architecture, port area and line of shops, make it a popular spot for travellers visiting the island of Tenerife. What’s more, Santa Cruz has a beautiful beach, Playa de las Teresitas, and a mountainous backdrop to enjoy. If you’re wanting to experience a livelier part of Santa Cruz then visit February/March when the city comes alive for its annual carnival.
View our hotels in Santa Cruz and look forward to a few days of island life.
2 Valetta, Malta
The historic capital of the Knights of Malta, Valetta is brimming with charm and guaranteed sunshine most days of the year.
A fortress city, Valetta was commissioned by Grand Master Jean de La Valette in 1566. The city has historical treasures such as the Auberge de Castille et Leon, formerly the official seat of the Knights of Malta and now the office of the Prime Minister of Malta. There is also The Manoel Theatre, one of the oldest working theatres in Europe, and St John’s Cathedral and Museum. Not to mention the glorious Upper Barrakka Gardens, which are stunning gardens overlooking the city’s historic Grand Harbour. In January, the Valetta International Baroque Festival will take place with a variety of cultural events to enjoy.
Valetta has fast become known as one of Europe’s favourite foodie haunts with its incredible Gastro Trail treating visitors to the best of Maltese food and drink. This includes a sampling of local oils and wine, seafood and fish delicacies, as well as traditional honey and cheeses.
Find the latest hotel deals in Valletta and visit the city that has been selected by the European Commission as a contender for European Capital of Culture in 2018.
3 Nicosia, Cyprus
The capital of Cyprus, Nicosia (or Lefkosia as it’s officially known) is a wondrous city that offers sunshine and an intriguing past. The last known divided city of the world, Lefkosia has seen battles over the years that have left their mark on the city. For example, much of the Old City is still bordered by Venetian Walls erected in 1567 by Venetian rulers. Then, during the French Lusignan rule, the city experienced a ‘Golden Age’, when several existing monasteries, churches and palaces were built. Today, the city is now separated into northern and southern parts under Turkish and Greek rule, with much of the tourist spots – Laiki Geitonia traditional quarter, Leventis Museum and Schacolas Tower – lying in the Greek-run southern part of the city.
View our Nicosia hotels and discover more about the city’s fascinating past.
4 Heraklion, Crete
Once a traffic-filled hub of Crete, Heraklion has become a much more tourist-friendly city in recent years. Today, visitors can soak up so much more of the city’s rich history and archaeological highlights. Sites include the Venetian Fortress of Heraklion, also known as Koules (meaning ‘fortress’ in Turkish), an impressive fortress that surrounds the city’s harbour; Saint Minas Cathedral, built in 1862; the Natural History Museum of Crete, and the History Museum of Crete.
For adventure seekers, the uninhabited island of Dia lies north of the city waiting to be explored. There is evidence of an ancient Minoan settlement on the island that was discovered by the diver Jacques Cousteau. Boat trips from Heraklion will take visitors to the island to discover more.
Find the latest hotel deals in Heraklion and spend a weekend discovering the city’s many historic highlights.
5 Cagliari, Sardinia
The capital of the Italian island of Sardinia, Cagliari exudes Italian charm and relaxed island vibes.
Soak up the city’s historical highlights, which include the magnificent 13th-Century Cagliari Cathedral. Then there is the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Cagliari, containing impressive artefacts from Roman, Nuragic and Byzantine eras. Take an afternoon stroll along some of the city’s many winding streets and end with a long lunch in one of its piazzas. Like Rome, the city was built on seven hills, which now form the different neighbourhoods of the city. Along the waterfront is the popular Poetto beach, where sunsets and drinks will end a day perfectly.
View the most recent hotel deals in Cagliari and enjoy a long dreamy weekend on this stunning Italian island.
6 Palma, Mallorca
Based on the Spanish island of Mallorca, Palma is a popular spot for travellers looking to steal some sunshine during the winter months. The city is the largest among Spain’s Balaeric islands and has a great combination of food, culture and sunshine to bask in. Start with a tour around the stunning Mallorca Cathedral based in the city centre, followed by a visit to Museu Fundacion Juan March to view the works of Miro, Dali and other Spanish artists. In the city is also the impressive Mercat de l’Olivar, a wonderful food market filled with fresh and delicious local seafood delicacies such as calamari and clams. The market is a perfect place to grab lunch before heading to the beach for a siesta.
Check out our hotels in Palma and soak up the city’s vast array of food, culture and sunshine.
7 Athens, Greece
One of Europe’s most ancient cities, Athens is better visited in winter when the sun’s heat is not so unbearable. The city’s history dates back to the Neolithic age, with the Golden Age of Pericles in the 5th Century creating some of the world’s most fascinating historical sites. Famous sites include the Parthenon temple, Hadrian’s Arch (131 AD) and the Acropolis Museum, all of which, among many other sites, have to be explored on a visit to the city. In the deeper parts of Athens’ historic centre are further sites such as Roman Agora and Hadrian’s Library that are a must. Then, once you are done exploring the endless historical treasures Athens affords, make sure to spend a few hours enjoying the best of Greek food in the city’s restaurants and cafes.
Find your preferred Athens hotel and spend a few nights exploring the ancient city.
Looking to see more of Europe’s Best Cities?
Explore 9 of the best European destinations in Europe as part of a pre-Christmas getaway. Also feel free to share some of your favourite European cities in the comment section below.