Best winter vacation ideas

Vacation in winter is a wondrous affair. While some folks chase that elusive winter sun in cities sprinkled throughout the Mediterranean, there’s pure magic in embracing the snowy landscapes on a winter break.

It doesn’t matter if you’re wondering where to go for a winter vacation with the family or a group of friends, we’ve rounded up four snowy getaways that cater to all tastes.


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Whether you’re after cosy nights by the fire, exploring winter landscapes with the northern lights dancing above, or days filled with world-class pistes and post-ski revelry, these are winter vacation destinations you’ve been craving.

These winter wonderlands are perfect getaways to nearby sightseeing spots, famous ski resorts, historic sites, and unique dining experiences.



Salzburg, Austria

Experienced winter travellers will always consider Salzburg, a picturesque city nestled in the Austrian Alps.

With its Baroque architecture, charming Old Town, and stunning mountain backdrop with easy access to plenty of different ski resorts, Salzburg is a classic choice for a winter break in Europe.

A view of the Salzburg Cathedral in winter

Photo by Breitegger Günter on Salzburg Tourism

And for good reason. Beyond the world-class pistes and après-ski, Salzburg itself comes with a rich musical heritage, elegant architecture, and timeless beauty that’s hard to beat.



Top ski resorts near Salzburg

Salzburg sits in a corner of Austria right next to the Alps, so you already know that it’s going to be a perfect gateway to several world-class ski resorts.

One of the most famous areas is the Ski Amadé region, which lies just an hour south of the city.

There you’ll find more than 760 kilometres of ski slopes spread across five different resorts, ensuring endless opportunities for skiers and snowboarders of all levels.

One of Salzburg's most famous ski areas is the Ski Amadé region_

Just to the west of this region is another combined ski resort called Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn – a mouthful, but home to some of the country’s best pistes and après-ski scenes.

Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn provides freeride and freestyle parks

Photo by Young Gun Ben Kalra on Saalbach

And then there’s Kitzbühel and its ski resort, where every January professionals race downhill in the Hahnenkamm World Cup Race.



Things to do in Salzburg

Back in Salzburg, the enchanting Old Town demands you linger a while in the city.

The entire area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to several iconic landmarks, such as the Hohensalzburg Fortress and Mirabell Palace.

A view of Salzburg's Old Town and the Hohensalzburg Fortress at night

Photo on Unsplash

Then, since this is the birthplace of Mozart, immersing yourself in the city’s musical heritage is also a wonderful way to get to know the city.

Attend a classical concert (expect many Christmas concerts) or visit the birthplace of Mozart, a cosy house-turned-museum dedicated to the composer’s life.

Mozart's statue at his birthplace - Salzburg

Photo on Salzburg Tourism



What to eat and drink in Salzburg

Austrian cuisine is hearty and flavourful and the perfect antidote to the biting winter cold.

Stave off the chill with dishes such as Wiener Schnitzel (breaded and fried veal cutlet) and goulash, both local favourites over the winter.

Austrian local cuisine - Wiener Schnitzel, breaded and fried veal cutlet

Photo on Tripadvisor

For dessert, Austrian pastries such as apple strudel or Sachertorte are delicious.

While in Austria, for dessert, try Austrian pastry apple strudel

Photo on Tripadvisor

Or, savour traditional treats such as Kaiserschmarrn (fluffy shredded pancake) and Germknödel (yeast dumpling filled with plum jam).

And don’t forget that Austria’s Christmas markets are among the best in the world, where you can browse the stalls with a warm mug of Glühwein (mulled wine) in hand.

One of the world's oldest and greatest Christmas markets in Austria at the Dom and Residenzplatz

Photo on Instagram



Where to stay in Salzburg

Salzburg is a major European destination and comes with all the modern accommodation options you’d expect.

The Old Town is, of course, the most attractive place to look, putting you in the middle of those enchanting cobbled streets.

The surrounding mountains are also one of the most developed ski areas in the world, with everything from ski-in-ski-out resorts to more traditional alpine lodges to choose from.

Accommodation place in Salzburg surrounded by mountains

Photo on Pixabay


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Kittilä, Finland

Nestled in the heart of Finnish Lapland, Kittilä is one of Europe’s most magical winter wonderlands.

Surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty far from the busy cries of the city, this is a place of snow-covered forests, frozen lakes, and rugged mountains, with the northern lights dancing in the sky above.

Breathtaking natural beauty in the heart of Finnish Lapland - Kittilä

Photo on Unsplash

As winter wraps its icy arms around Kittilä, it’s the perfect time to explore the indigenous Sami culture in this part of Finland and immerse yourself in chilly (but fantastic) adventure.

Located within the Arctic Circle in the far north of Finland, winter activities here will keep you busy, with everything on offer from snowshoeing and dog sledding to snowboarding and skiing at one of Finland’s most famous ski resorts.

Kittilä will be a great destination to explore a wide selection of winter activities

Photo on Unsplash

The perpetual twilight lends an otherworldly feeling to it all, and you might feel as if it’s all a dream.



Top ski resorts near Kittilä

First things first – for snow sport enthusiasts, Kittilä is the gateway to Finland’s most famous ski resort at Levi, only 20 minutes north of town.

Offering a wide range of slopes that cater to all skill levels, Levi is a wonderful place to visit with the family to learn the ropes.

Levi Ski Resort is a wonderful place to visit with the family to learn the ropes

Photo on Levi

There are over 40 slopes with excellent snow conditions throughout the season, making it a perfect choice for those who don’t want to worry about whether the snow cover will be good enough during their trip.

Levi Ski Resort was awarded as Finland’s ski resort of the year 2023

Photo on Instagram



Things to do in Kittilä

This municipality has plenty to keep you busy, most of it involving getting out into the magical surrounding landscapes.

Maybe you’d like to join a reindeer safari, rushing across the snow-clad mountains and valleys and feeling the cold air against your face?

While in Lapland, enjoy a reindeer sledging

Photo on Unsplash

There are also opportunities for things such as snowshoeing, ice fishing, and even snowmobile tours.

Another difference between skiing here instead of the Alps is the après-ski scene; there are still restaurants and bars, but most people prefer to head to the sauna to wind down after a day on the slopes.

And then at night, don’t forget to keep your eyes glued to the sky for a chance to see the northern lights.

At nights in Lapland, keep your head up for a chance to see the northern lights

Photo on Visit Finland



What to eat and drink in Kittilä

When it comes to food, warm up with a cup of hot berry juice or indulge in local delicacies such as smoked reindeer or sautéed elk.

One of the Finnish local delicacies - sautéed elk

Photo on Tripadvisor

Finish off your meal with a traditional Finnish dessert such as blueberry pie or cinnamon buns.



Where to stay in Kittilä

There are plenty of accommodation options in Kittilä municipality, ranging from cosy cabins to luxury hotels.

However, traditional log cabins provide the most authentic Finnish atmosphere, and most come complete with a private sauna to enjoy some steam after a day outdoors.

Experience an unforgettable stay in the Sky View cabin at Levi Ski Resort

Photo on Levi


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Tbilisi, Georgia

Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia, is a surprising destination for travellers, a vibrant and cosmopolitan capital, and one of the most overlooked cities at the far edge of Europe.

Blending rich history with modern-day vibes, the city’s charm lies in its hi-lo mix. Ancient architecture details sit side by side with Soviet apartment blocks and Art Nouveau darlings. The winding streets of the Old Town reveal vibrant wine bars, art galleries, and restaurants.

Tbilisi city’s charm lies in its hi-lo mix

Photo on Visit Georgia

And the historical atmosphere plays nicely against the warm and welcoming population, a cosmopolitan bunch who are more than happy to give you tips for visiting their city.



Top ski resorts near Tbilisi

Any winter trip to Tbilisi demands a visit to Gudauri, one of the country’s most famous ski resorts.

Nestled in the Caucasus Mountains north of the city, it takes about two hours by car to get there.

At Gudauri, 15 ski lifts whisk you up into the mountains, where you can enjoy around 70 kilometres of slopes, with the season running from December 10 until early April, when snow cover is all but guaranteed.

At Gudauri Ski Resort the season runs from December 10 until early April

Photo on Unsplash

There’s also boundless backcountry to explore, and the après-ski scene is unique in that you’ll be stuffed with so much good Georgian food and wine you might think twice about hitting the slopes the morning after.



Things to do in Tbilisi

Because Gudauri is a relatively small ski resort, it makes sense to split a winter trip between the pistes and Tbilisi. There’s plenty to see and do in the beautiful capital.

Enjoy a wander around the charming Old Town, take in the views from the iconic Narikala Fortress, and visit the impressive Holy Trinity Cathedral, which is the world’s tallest Eastern Orthodox cathedral.

The impressive Holy Trinity Cathedral, the world’s tallest Eastern Orthodox cathedral

Photo on Unsplash

The city is also home to several special sulphur baths; booking a private room at one (such as Gulo’s Thermal Spa) to soak in the hot water is the perfect remedy for a cold day in the capital.

Tbilisi offers several special sulphur baths

Photo on Tripadvisor



What to eat and drink in Tbilisi

Straddling the boundary between Eastern Europe and Asia, Georgia is a fascinating place.

The hospitality here is legendary, and as you explore, you’ll be greeted with a warm smile and often a glass of homemade wine as well. That mix of Europe and Asia also translates to some delicious food.

Georgia offers delicious food of a mix of European and Asia cuisine

Photo on Tripadvisor

Once a major stop along the Silk Road trading route, expect a melting pot of flavours and influences from different cultures and regions. You’ll find khinkali, which are meaty dumplings similar to the ones you get in Shanghai, but with a spicy kick.

Khinkali in Georgia is similar to what you can get in Shanghai but with a spicy kick

Photo on Unsplash

You can also enjoy fresh bread baked in clay ovens, like the ones they use in India, but with cheese and herbs inside. And remember to also savour chakapuli, a lamb stew that’s infused with herbs and sour plums.



Where to stay in Tbilisi

Tbilisi has a wide range of modern hotels in the city centre, but the boutique hotels are best for immersing yourself in the local culture.

The art, architecture, and food on offer in these smaller establishments is always best.

The boutique hotels in Tbilisi are best for immersing yourself in the local culture

Photo on Pixabay


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Verona, Italy

Located in the Veneto region of Italy, Verona is a city that beckons travellers with its sultry mix of romance, history, and Italian charms.

Best known as the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the streets and piazzas here exude a timeless charm, winding past stunning architecture, ancient ruins, and centuries of love stories and political intrigue.

The streets in Verona exude a timeless charm, stunning architecture and centuries of love stories

Photo on Unsplash

As winter descends upon this enchanting place, Verona’s cosy cafés and bustling marketplaces take on a special warmth, inviting visitors to linger and get to know the city’s beauty.

And best of all? It’s a gateway to some of Italy’s best ski resorts.



Top ski resorts near Verona

Wind your way north of the city into the Dolomites, and you’ll quickly find yourself immersed in some of Europe’s most pristine Alpine landscapes.

Immerse yourself in some of Europe’s most pristine Alpine landscapes in the Dolomites

Here are some of Italy’s most renowned ski resorts, including Val Gardena near Bolzano, Cortina d’Ampezzo (which hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics), and San Cassiano, offering a wide range of ski slopes in gorgeous landscapes.

In the Dolomites region, you will find some of the Italy’s most renowned ski resorts

Photo on Unsplash

And while this is technically northern Italy, it doesn’t feel like it; Mussolini annexed the region from Austria back in the day, many here speak a local mountain dialect, and the food is less pasta and more hearty, Austrian-inspired meals.

As for the weather? It’s said that the Dolomites enjoy around 300 days of sun per year, more than anywhere else in the Alps. Chances are you’ll be skiing under blue skies.



Things to do in Verona

Once you’re back in town fresh from some time in the mountains, Verona has plenty to keep you busy for a few days or more.

The well-preserved Roman amphitheatre from the 1st century CE is a definite highlight, as are the countless churches dotted throughout the charming historical centre.

The well-preserved Roman amphitheatre in Verona from the 1st century CE

Photo on Unsplash

Of course, no visit to Verona is complete without Juliet’s balcony. While the story is completely fictional and the balcony in question bears no relation to anyone in the real world, it’s still a famous tourist attraction where you can immerse yourself in feelings of love, romance, and all matters of the heart.

Immerse yourself in feelings of love visiting Juliet's balcony

Photo on Unsplash

Speaking of love, Verona is also famous for its wine production, making it the perfect place to while away an afternoon in a square sampling the local drops.



What to eat and drink in Verona

Verona is in the Veneto region, which is known for its culinary delights.

Try traditional dishes such as risotto al Amarone (risotto cooked with Amarone wine) and baccalà alla Vicentina (salted codfish stew).

Try traditional Verona dish such as risotto all'Amarone - risotto cooked with Amarone wine

Photo on Tripadvisor

Pair your meal with a glass of Valpolicella or Soave, two of the region’s renowned wines.



Where to stay in Verona

Verona offers a range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels in the city centre to cosy bed and breakfasts tucked away in charming alleyways.

Consider staying in a historic palazzo or a boutique hotel for an authentic Italian experience.

Enjoy your Stay in Verona in a place surrounded by the Alps

Photo on Booking

And up in the mountains, the rifugi (mountain huts) act as restaurants, cafés, pubs, and inns for those looking for a more rustic stay.


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Read more about authentic travel experiences in Baltic Outlook.

Cover photo on Unsplash
Text by James Taylor

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