Booking a holiday or weekend away in January is the perfect way to fight the winter blues and recover from a busy Christmas. Europe is a vast continent, so travellers can choose warm, sunny days on Mediterranean beaches or fun activities in sparkling snow. Here are our choices for the best places to go in Europe in January.
STUNNING PLACES TO GO IN EUROPE IN JANUARY
Rovaniemi – Finland
Average High: -8°C | Average Low: -16°C
Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland, the most northern region of Finland. A magical place of freezing wildernesses, adventure snow sports and the dancing colours of the aurora borealis, this mystical town is also the official home of Santa Claus.
Reindeers are beautiful creatures, and it’s a huge treat to see them in their natural snowy habitat on a reindeer farm. Husky sledding through the forest is another excellent way to enjoy some time with the animals of this stunning country.
Day trips from Rovaniemi are superb; there are the frozen waterfalls and natural ice sculptures of Korouma Canyon, an amethyst mine tour, and exhilarating snowmobile journeys.
After a long day exploring the icy landscape around Rovaniemi, jump into an avanto (a hole cut into a frozen lake), sprint into a warming Finnish sauna and then indulge in a delicious meal of traditional Sami dishes at the Ice Hotel.
Average High: 2°C | Average Low: -2°C
Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, is a colourful yet elegant city that sits on two islands off the coast near Sweden.
By January, you might be all shopped out. Still, suppose you do have the budget for some souvenirs. In that case, Kronprinsensgade is a great street of designer boutiques, craft shops and cafes selling mouth-watering cinnamon buns, Danish open sandwiches called Smorrebrod and steaming coffee.
Once you’ve fuelled up with caffeine and sweet treats, head to one of the ice-skating rinks in the city. We recommend the picturesque Toftegards Plads or Frederiksberg Runddel; they are even more beautiful to skate on when lit up at night.
Thanks to Hans Christian Andersen, Copenhagen is the city of fairy tales. Of course, visiting Edward Eriksen’s 1913 statue of The Little Mermaid is a must, but so are days out to the stunning buildings such as Frederiksborg Castle, which inspired the iconic stories.
Fans of Shakespeare will also love Kronberg Castle. It is an hour outside of the city but as the location for The Bard’s haunting tragedy, Hamlet, and a fascinating piece of architecture, it’s well worth the journey.
Courchevel – France
Average High: 0°C | Average Low: -9°C
Courchevel is a luxurious ski resort created around a few tiny mountain villages and sheep farms in 1942. It is now the centre of the skiing world and hurtling down the powder snow slopes is the main reason tourists visit.
Snowsports use a lot of calories, and a midday meal at La Cave des Creux is a wonderful way to refuel. It’s an authentic Alpine farm building with views of the three valleys and Mont Blanc; they serve regional delicacies and a homemade dessert buffet that will bring happy tears to your eyes.
There is plenty to do on rest days too. The Aquamotion Centre is a state-of-the-art swimming hub with indoor and outdoor pools, sumptuous spa facilities and fun slides for the young at heart.
If you’re full of energy but need a break from the mountain, book onto the indoor rock-climbing wall or the 8-lane bowling alley at the Forum Building in glamorous Courcheval 1850.
Average High: 20°C | Average Low: 15°C
The Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the coast of North Africa, are the ideal destination for winter sun, they bask in 3000 hours of sunshine per year, and it’s almost always T-shirt weather.
The varied landscape of the Canaries is exciting to explore, from the arid black slopes of the active volcano Mount Teide to the lush sub-tropical forests of Garajonay National Park. There are plenty of hiking guides and group tours available, so you can walk safely while learning about the environment.
Days on the coast of the Canaries in January are peaceful when compared to bustling summer days. Choose from unique volcanic beaches or soft, golden sand and enjoy a post-Christmas lounge in the sunshine.
New Year in Las Palmas is fabulous fun; every year, there is a spectacular fireworks display, music on the beach and the city’s tradition of a midnight swim in the sea at midnight.
Amsterdam – Netherlands
Average High: 6°C | Average Low: 1°C
Amsterdam is the capital of The Netherlands and a popular location for city breaks. It’s cold in January, and snow can fall, but it’s still comfortable to discover the city on foot or bike if you wrap up.
Canal cruises and walking tours are excellent ways to learn about Amsterdam’s culture and history. Afterward, wander the pretty streets towards to museum district to gaze upon the art of Van Gogh, feel profound sadness at Anne Frank’s house or be educated at the Rijksmuseum.
On winter nights, the city is magical thanks to the Amsterdam Light Festival. Illuminations decorate the canals, streets and famous landmarks, and they create the delightful, classically Dutch, warm and cosy feeling of ‘gezellig.’ Cones of delicious chips loaded with creamy mayonnaise help with that happy feeling too!
If you’re feeling thirsty after all your walking and ice skating (on the canal if the weather is right!), the Heineken Brewery Tour is enthralling, and the refreshing beer at the end is to die for.
Madeira – Portugal
Average High: 12°C | Average Low: 6°C
Madeira is an independent region of Portugal and is a collection of four small islands close to the coast of Africa. Funchal, the capital, is on the main island, a dramatic, volcanic but green landscape.
There’s plenty of outdoor fun to be had in the mild climate of Madeira in January. Coasteering is a relatively new sport; you hike, climb, swim, and jump along the coastline with a guide. It gets your adrenaline pumping and is a brilliant way to explore the sea and cliffs in a completely different way.
If you love trekking, then the quieter months on the mountain trails of Madeira are a joy. It rains more in January, so the landscape is lush. Trek up to the viewing platforms in Cabo Girao and Pico do Ariero; the effort is worth it for contrasting but equally beautiful views of the island.
The towns and villages are lovely too; the historic Old Town of Funchal is especially divine. Seek out the brightly painted and ornate doors for quirky photographs.
Athens – Greece
Average High: 12°C | Average Low: 6°C
Athens is a beautiful and historic city and is the capital of Greece. However, it can be too hot to enjoy this incredible city’s treasures in the summer months, so visiting in the cooler temperatures of January is a great option.
Food is one of the joys of life, and Greek food is delectable! From super fresh tomatoes, salty feta cheese and cooling cucumber mixed into a Greek salad to indulgent and warming Moussaka. So eat your fill of these delights and follow with shots of ouzo.
The Acropolis is a 13th century UNESCO site that overlooks the city of which it is an iconic symbol. In January, you can walk through the olive trees towards it without battling crowds of fellow tourists.
After soaking up Greece’s ancient history and military rituals, take a walk in the National Gardens of Athens. They are next to the Hellenic Parliament and the President’s House and are an oasis of nature in the metropolis. Then, eat a picnic while watching the abundance of birds and colourful flowers.