European Cities Perfect For A Winter Weekend Break

Swap your regular haunts for a culture-packed adventure with our pick of the European cities to escape to this season, spanning a rural Spanish town to the Swedish neighbourhood with a centuries-old craft ale scene

There's something remarkably attractive about a winter city break. Hearty, hyperlocal cuisine tastes even better after an afternoon spent sightseeing under a crisp blue sky; distant mountains appear all the more atmospheric when crowned with snow; and museums, cafés and hiking routes are all easier to navigate minus the peak-season crowds.

Join us as we order our morning espresso in Cagliari, browse the supercool indie shops of Kilkenny, sip native red wine in Cyprus' vibrant capital, take long, invigorating walks on empty beaches and soak up enough culture to keep us inspired all year.

Winter wonderlands: the European cities we love

cagliari sardinia


Sardinia, Italy

It's no secret that some hotspots are better visited outside of peak season: step forward, Cagliari. Bursting with evidence of the city's rich history, the Sardinian capital's cobbled alleys are replete with Roman ruins, ancient churches and towering palazzi. Rent a Vespa and zip through the city streets in true Italian style, stopping only for a quick espresso at any of the charismatic cafés that line the narrow roads. Beautiful beaches fringe the city's bay: Spiaggia del Poetto is the most popular, with its white sands stretching over 8km, but we suggest heading to Mari Pintau, a secluded bay just a short drive from the city. In the evening, visit Castello, the walled citadel perched on a hilltop overlooking town. What appears to be a sleepy neighbourhood comes alive when the sun goes down, with locals at bars, cafés and restaurants spilling out onto the street and enthusiastically directing tourists towards their favourite boltholes. Stanley Tucci fans should look to visit the Civic Market of San Benedetto, where the actor taste-tested some of the region's specialities.

Where to stay: Hotel MiraMare




While the rest of the world is busy snapping selfies outside Dublin's famous Temple Bar Pub, we recommend venturing south to the lesser-trodden city of Kilkenny. Sitting pretty on the River Nore, the medieval town is home to cobblestone streets lined with a treasure trove of independent craft shops and pioneering galleries - addresses that have seen the area swap its old trading nickname of "the Marble City" for "the craft capital of Ireland". Make a pit stop at the National Design & Craft Gallery, where exhibitions are often a celebration of Ireland's heritage crafts. Then, feast at all-day dining spot Café la Coco, where stacks of bacon and maple pancakes await - the goat's cheese tartlet is also a delight.

Where to stay: Langtons House Hotel

Wroclaw, Poland



Located in the Silesia region of southwestern Poland, the handsome city of Wrocław is home to 12 islands,100 bridges and a population of around 640,000. The perfect day? Begin with a stroll through the vibrant passageways of the Old Town to the marvellous Market Square, where you'll find plenty of artisan coffee houses at which to grab a cup of joe and and watch the world go by - our favourite is OTO Coffee Bar. Wander past Flemish-style villas and baroque palaces, before stopping off at the National Forum of Music, followed by the Architecture Museum and Polish art-filled Four Domes Pavilion. After a day of sightseeing, make tracks to the water-facing La Maddalena restaurant, where baked oysters and prawn risottos await. Come happy hour, you'll find us lounging on one of the leather banquettes at speakeasy-style Cocktail bar by Incognito.

Where to stay: Art Hotel

Reykjavik, Iceland



Ask any adventurer where their favourite winter city break destination is and we're fairly certain you'll hear an Icelandic tale, the northern lights playing a starring role. Iceland is widely known for its dramatic snow-capped peaks, rugged hills and myth-infused hot springs, but it's also home to a cosmopolitan capital city that demands exploration. Make tracks to Dill, the city's first Michelin-starred joint, for plates of farm-to-fork goodness; drink and dance at the lively Prikid bar, or settle down on one of the emerald-green banquettes at Port 9 wine bar; and pick up handmade Scandi souvenirs at Kaolin Ceramics. Recharge your batteries at Kvosin Downtown Hotel, where guest rooms feature king-size beds dressed in soft linens and nightstands topped with fresh bouquets. The hotel also has a brilliant, whisky-soaked menu and Spanish-style tapas bites at the ground-floor Klaustar Bar.

Where to stay: Kvosin Downtown Hotel

Sofia Bulgaria



Bulgaria's capital has all the ingredients for an all-star winter getaway: one of the biggest open-air ice rinks in Europe, a skiable mountain within easy reach and a plethora of museums and markets. Days are best spent taking in the city's iconic landmarks - Independence Square, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the National Palace of Culture - or snowshoeing on Vitosha Mountain, for sensational views of the city's twinkling lights. After dark, Sofia transforms into a lively party destination, with old-school speakeasy-style bars and techno warehouses welcoming a hedonistic crowd. Dada Bar Sofia, 5L Speakeasy Bar and 65 Fireflies are our favourites.

Where to stay: Grand Hotel Sofia

Frigiliana, Spain


Andalusia, Spain

A happy marriage of culture and nature, this slice of the Costa del Sol is the eastern gateway to Malaga. Picture dusty, steep, sun-soaked streets crammed with whitewashed villas; a tangle of alleyways giving way to Moorish-Mudéjar architecture. While Frigiliana still goes under the radar for the cool kids, we'd argue that its lack of hipster kudos only makes it more magical. To appreciate the place in all its glory, start by exploring the ninth-century Castillo de Lízar, before popping into Vinos El Lagar for a glass of muscatel and some plates of local tapas. Keen hikers will want to take the 7km route from Frigiliana to hilly El Fuerte, where, at a staggering height of 963m, you'll be rewarded with sweeping views across the town.

Where to stay: La Posada Morisca



Nicosia - the culture-rich Cypriot capital - is a city that sways to its own beat. This is a destination where secluded coves, fragrant citrus trees and crumbling squares form a backdrop to charming cafés and family-run eateries, and where vivid turquoise waters contrast with ancient olive tree-studded hillsides. Thanks to its subtropical climate, you can enjoy a shot of sunshine here at any time of year, but it's February we love, when the tourist crowds are few. Join convivial locals at beloved neighbourhood taverna Piatsa Gourounaki, where plates arrive piled high with herb-marinated meats and grilled vegetables. Come sunset, venture to old-school Mousikon Kafenio to savour streetside dining and a carafe of native red wine.

Where to stay: Madama Residence

Hamburg, Germany



Germany's second city is a hybrid of old and new, with multicultural eateries and architectural marvels seamlessly slotted alongside centuries-old establishments. Start by exploring the "museum mile", a culture-rich pocket home to five world-renowned galleries: standouts include the Deichtorhallen, which houses contemporary art and photography, and the Kunsthalle, home to one of Europe's largest art collections. Spend Sunday exploring the weekly market that sprawls along the Elbe and scouting out the harbour-side venues that champion the city's distinctive electronic-music scene. An ideal spot for couples who find Paris gauche.

Where to stay: Sir Nikolai

Strasbourg, France



Itching for a weekend getaway that isn't Paris? Look no further than the crossroads of culture that is the city of Strasbourg. Thanks to its charming blend of French and German heritage, this is surely the most romantic retreat France has to offer - that doesn't come with the star-stuck Eiffel Tower crowds, that is. After one glance at its medieval houses overlooking the Rhine River, it will hardly come as a surprise that Beauty and the Beast was set here. Stroll the snow-dusted streets and be sure to take time to browse the many gift shops stocking local sweet treats - C'est Si Bon is known for its sugar-dusted crepes and Nutella-drenched waffles.

Where to stay: Régent Contades

Delft, Netherlands



If it was good enough for the legendary artist Vermeer, then it's certainly good enough for us. Delft has a much slower pace of life than neighbouring Rotterdam and The Hague. When not making the obvious stops at the Vermeer Centre and the Royal Delft Museum (where regular workshops mean you can try your hand at painting the famous blue-and white pottery that was invented here), cosy into a corner at hip Café de Wijnhaven. For a seriously satisfying supper, head to restaurant La Tasca. Start by ordering the brioche with fresh truffle, then follow that up with the parsnip fondant. Dessert? Tartelette with vanilla ice cream.

Where to stay: Emauspoort Hotel

Gothenburg, Sweden



A hotbed for creatives, Gothenburg has more than its fair share of avant-garde art galleries, grungy music venues full of beautiful people and boutiques stocked with the kind of clothing seen on Scandi Instagrammers. When not browsing vinyl stores or dining at Dinner 22, pop into Poppels Brewery, a city staple since the 17th century. Nearby Brewers Beer Bar is one of the best for its wide selection of craft beers and knowledgeable staff. Insider tip: only pack your carry-on half-full - the rest will be filled with modish Swedish wares.

Where to stay: Hotel Flora

This article was updated on 30 January, it contains affiliate links, which means SUITCASE may earn a small commission if you click through and book. | Main Photo credit: Emeryk III /

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