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Why should you consider backpacking Europe in the winter?

Why should you consider backpacking Europe in the winter?

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Visiting Europe during the winter doesn’t sound so enticing at first thought. The weather is cold, the winter days are shorter, and some attractions are even closed during the winter. On top of that, it’s highly recommendable to get travel insurance in case of weather-related flight/trains delays. However, there are still some major advantages while traveling around Europe in the winter. It’s not the end of the world if the weather is cold. Like the smart traveler mantra says: ‘There’s no such thing as a bad weather, only unsuitable clothing’. Here are some reasons to go consider backpacking Europe in winter!

winter in saint petersburg

Europe looks fabulous in its winter clothes

Snowflakes falling in front of the illuminated Eiffel Tower. The magnificent Colosseum surrounded by snowy streets. Icicles hanging from the eaves in an authentic German village. The crunching sounds of tires under the snowy roads in Scandinavia…

Europe can oftentimes look like a fairytale in its winter outfit. Some cities simply look better in the winter. Even though some sights might be closed during winter, the off-season is the in-season for cultural events. Opera houses have more events, theaters work at full steam, and even the Mediterranean isn’t so damn hot during winter.

Visit Europe in the winter

The festivals and the time around Christmas

Walking down the streets of Europe and looking at the Christmas decorations, while having a glass of warm spiced wine and a gingerbread can really make you feel like the star of a Christmas movie. The atmosphere is really warm around Europe, despite the cold winds and the white snowflakes that are starting to invade most European cities. There are also a lot of traditional carnivals before the start of Lent and the atmosphere is really vibrant around these days and certainly, something worth seeing. christmas market

There are fewer tourists

You will be able to spot the difference pretty soon, as you won’t be stuck in a line for two hours waiting to see the Louvre or to get to the Eiffel Tower. Traveling during the winter will allow you to avoid the waves of tourists which are present during the summer days. And I always say that these big waves of tourists change the appearance of a city. During the winter you will be able to see the European cities in a more natural appearance, and you will witness the normal, everyday life, which is quite different compared to the tourist season.

Strasbourg best winter destinations in europe

Related: how to spend three days in Amsterdam?

Everything is cheaper

The fewer tourists result in cheaper prices. And this is applicable to flight fares and accommodation facilities too. To put it simply, the lack of demand lowers the level of the prices. However, the metropolitan cities have visitors throughout the year, so the difference might not be that big in these cities. But you will surely be able to get big discounts in the smaller cities that are trying to attract more tourists in the winter period. If you want to get the best flight deals in Europe, use this Qatar Airways coupon to save up to 20% on your flight booking.

You can experience the northern lights

northern lights backpacking europe in the winter

In winter, the days are shorter, and consequently, the nights are longer. The longer, darker nights mean more opportunities to see the breathtaking Aurora Borealis, commonly known as Northern Lights. The best place to witness this the Northern Lights in Europe is Northern Scandinavia, and sometimes even Scotland. Conditions such as cold, crisp nights with clear skies are the prime conditions for witnessing the stunning Aurora Borealis.

You can stay in ice hotels

The Northern Lights aren’t everything Scandinavia has to offer. Every winter, especially in Northern Scandinavia, there are accommodation options that are built entirely from ice. If you visit during the winter you will have the unique opportunity to stay in a hotel, where everything is made of ice, including beds, closets and even shot glasses.

ice hotel

You have more flexibility

As there aren’t too many tourists, you will not have to stress over your accommodation. During the summer months, accommodation facilities have their rooms booked months in advance. In winter, that’s not the case, and this gives you more flexibility while planning your trip. You can afford yourself to be spontaneous and make unplanned stops while traveling or even prolong your trip for a few days. On top of that, there will be many more last-minute deals and all the famous restaurants will be less crowded.

Italy on a budget

The winter cuisine is amazing!

The cold weather conditions in the winters have spawned a number of traditional cold-weather dishes which are different in different parts of Europe.

In France and Switzerland, there are the fondue and raclette, both being delicious snacks with bread and different kinds of warm cheese. Germans and even Slavic countries have roasted chestnuts as a staple food during the winters. Southern Mediterranean people don’t even think about eating their delicious, winter, heavy-on-cream sauces during the summer (because it’s too hot to eat something so greasy).

Every country has their own delicacies that you’ll be able to find only during the winter. Mulled wine is a typical winter drink in many countries, and Slavic countries have mulled sweet rakija (local hard liquor).

Liking this article? Make sure to check out my ultimate list of hidden gems in Paris.

Visit Europe in the winter

That sounds great but what about the cold weather?

Winter in Europe comes in a few different shapes. Some places can get quite chilly but, the South of Europe, especially Italy, Spain, and Greece are balmy during the winters. But, if I were you I wouldn’t look to get away from the cold and I would organize my Europe travel itinerary in a way to cover as many snowy places as possible.

You should just pack as many winter clothes as you can and go for an adventure, one that will allow you to see Europe in a very different light. You will be guaranteed more time to see all the tourist places, with fewer tourists around, eat delicious, heart-warming food and enjoy the laid-back local vibe. Use this opportunity to explore the cold foggy channels of Venice, hit the slopes of Switzerland, go ice skating at the Eiffel Tower, go for skiing at Chamonix or enjoy the Northern Lights in Scandinavia.

For more information about food in Europe, check out my list of the best food destinations in Europe.

Useful resources for traveling around Europe

If you’re looking for a good flight deal, use this Qatar Airways coupon to save up to 20% on all flights to Europe.

For travel insurance discounts, you can use my World Nomads discount code.

For transportation bookings in Europe, use Busbud and save big on all bus rides in Europe (for more info, check out our Busbud review).

If you’re looking to save on accommodation, you can get 15% off on all bookings in Europe with my Booking discount coupon.

Finally, consider using to combine all of your points and save big while you travel.  

backpacking in Europe in winter
backpacking europe in winter

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Clarice Lao / Camping for Women

Tuesday 13th of November 2018

This is definitely a wonderful idea. I am not really fond of crowded places thus, we prefer travelling during off-peak seasons. Thus, I would have to agree that we get more flexibility when there are fewer tourists in the area. Will consider this next time. Thank you for sharing.

Passport Symphony

Tuesday 13th of November 2018

I'm not fond of crowded places either and honestly, this article is more for people like me :) I'm really glad to hear you liked it.


Monday 12th of November 2018

I am a family traveller and not sure if backpacking across Europe is a doable thing for me. This said, your article actually compels and tempts me to go back-packing and experience the winters and a white-Christmas for sure. For, I love the snow!

Passport Symphony

Tuesday 13th of November 2018

I understand, Meenkashi. Even if you're not a backpacker, you would still have a great time visiting Europe in the winter.


Monday 12th of November 2018

Ok so I am definitely more of a summer-lover but your post has tempted me to travel more in Winter! I couldn't agree more about the clothing, as long as you're warm you will be fine. I can imagine so many places in Europe look absolutely stunning covered in snow, like your photo from Paris. I absolutely love visiting Christmas markets too! Nothing like a hot chocolate or gluhwein to warm you up in the winter :D

Passport Symphony

Monday 12th of November 2018

Thanks, Rosie! I'm glad my article tempted you to visit Europe in the winter :)

Catherine Salvador Mendoza

Monday 12th of November 2018

Absolutely considerable! Especially on the part that Europe has less crowd in winter as many Europeans travel outside to escape cold winter and of course, everything seems cheaper! If I were doing this, I'd surely not miss the beautiful lanterns and decorations of Christmas, especially everything is covered in snow! Europe is indeed gorgeous and I'm looking forward to celebrating Christmas here next year! Plus, not to mention the winter clothes and fashion!

Passport Symphony

Monday 12th of November 2018

Thanks for the comment, Catherine. You're absolutely right! And that sounds like a great idea for a trip.

Bhushavali N

Sunday 11th of November 2018

Indeed Europe is gorgeous in snow! I saw snow for the first time in my 20s and it was in Frankfurt. That feel is just indescribable! Very true. Europe is indeed pretty cheap by mid Jan. Till then the Christmas and New year crowd and rates are applicable at most places. Some places are also a bit costly around Valentines, esp Paris... So many end up proposing on Valentine's Day in Paris and the hotel rates are just sky high. The concept of Ice hotels is interesting. I've read about a few in Finland called Igloo hotels. I should stay there atleast once in lifetime!

Passport Symphony

Sunday 11th of November 2018

Thanks for the comment, Bhushavali. You're right, Paris does get overcrowded during Valentine's day which is one thing I forgot to mention.