Europe covers a land mass of over four million square miles; as a result, a great deal of climate diversity exists. This means that European destinations are far more than just summer or winter spots.
Europe can be a great place to travel in the winter, even for travelers who want to avoid the cold. Europe is perfect for winter travelers to cure their seasonal depression with year-round sunshine.
There are several European countries in which summer never stops. Travelers looking to replace cold and rainy days with beaches and sunshine will have no issue finding their perfect winter getaway in Europe.
What Are the Warmest Countries in Europe?
Europe’s warmest countries are usually the southernmost, closest to the equator. Countries near the equator are the warmest year-round due to the higher angle at which the sun’s rays hit, making the land absorb more heat.
While no European country touches the equator, which cuts through central Africa, many are close enough for not-to-hot, not-to-cold weather in the winter. Europe’s Mediterranean region is squarely in this goldilocks zone.
Notorious for beautiful weather and beaches, this southern region features year-round warm weather and sunny days. Even more attractive for winter travelers is the near-constant sunshine. Factor in high-quality food, nightlife, and history, and there’s no wonder the Mediterranean is one of Europe’s most popular destinations, no matter the season.
Located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, this island nation is one of the best choices for an oceanic getaway. Cyprus is renowned for its gorgeous beaches, caves, and cliffs. In Greek Mythology, Cyprus is remarked as the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love.
Such sites as the Adonis Baths, Stavrovouni Monastery, and Cape Greco are not just worth the trip but also perfect for their year-round sunshine. In addition to a lack of clouds and rain, visitors can expect the average temperature to stay above 50°F.
Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world, drawing in over 30 million tourists each year. Winter is not the best time to visit the capital city. Beginning as early as fall, Paris can get quite frigid, and while the northern French alps are a skier’s paradise, sun-seekers will want to stay away.
Thanks to its stunning beaches and celebrity clientele, the south of France is one of Europe's most popular summer destinations. Winter might be one of the best times to visit.
During this time, crowds will be smaller, and prices will be less high. While temperatures can dip below 50°F in the winter, there is plenty of sunshine to enjoy the beaches, boats, and cuisine.
Similar to France, the weather in Italy can vary greatly. Italy shares the Alps with France, Switzerland, Germany, Liechtenstein, and Slovenia in the North. Italy’s long size, though, stretches far into the Mediterranean Sea. While the North turns into a winter wonderland, the south remains a beach-goers paradise.
Those who want to enjoy temperate weather and sunshine along the water should look no further than the Amalfi coast. This dramatic landscape of bright blue water and jagged cliffs is a perfect escape from winter blues. Italy’s most visited city, Venice, is another excellent choice, as the winter weather is bearable and crowds are at their lowest.
Greece is the ultimate destination for beach-goers, island-hoppers, and history freaks. Few countries pack as much sunshine, culture, and beauty as Greece. Best of all, you can enjoy it year-round. Temperatures usually hover around 50°F but can work their way past 65°F.
It is best to stay away from the mainland and old town Athens during the winter and opt for the warmer southern islands. Crete, the biggest and southernmost Greek island, is also one of the warmest, often surpassing 60°F.
On top of that, due to its size, there is plenty to do and explore throughout the offseason. Santorini is another excellent choice, as off-season tourists will enjoy the dramatically lower prices of this famous island.
Often confused as part of Italy, Malta is a Mediterranean island located south of Sicily. Malta's beauty is extraordinary, including ancient architecture overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
One of the most popular sites is Fort St. Elmo, the focal point of the Siege of Malta in 1565, during the days of the Ottoman Empire.
Due to its ideal southern location, temperatures in Malta rarely dip below 50°F and can even surpass 70°F. Better yet, Malta gets at least five hours of sunshine during the winter, making it one of the sunniest places in Europe.
Because it borders the Atlantic Ocean rather than the Mediterranean Sea, Portugal is an outlier on this list. Mediterranean countries have great weather because they are protected from Atlantic cold fronts.
Nonetheless, Portugal boasts fantastic year-round weather in more cities than just Lisbon. If you feel like getting on a boat, check out Madeira, off the coast of Portugal, for sandy beaches and sunshine.
The southern region of the Algarve is undoubtedly the best Portuguese city to visit during the winter. Located in Algarve, Faro is one of Europe’s sunniest cities, displaying nearly 10 hours of sunshine on most winter days. While the weather can drop at night, Algarve is a top choice to catch up on vitamin D.
It’s no surprise that Europe’s southernmost country is also one of its warmest places. Located near Spain’s southern tip, Malaga is arguably Europe’s best city for winter tourists.
Temperatures are known to surpass 70°F. On top of that, Malaga is located along Spain’s world-renowned Costa del Sol and boasts high-quality tapas and drinks day and night.
As a result, it rarely rains, getting over 300 days of sunshine each year. Marbella is one of the most popular Spanish destinations, where beach-loungers and yacht owners convene year-round. Similarly, popular beach locations include Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, where white sand beaches and water sports help you enjoy the hottest place in Europe.
And if you are in the mood to travel, head to Lanzarote, a sunny island off the coast of Spain. With islands such as Tenerife and Gran Canaria, the Canary islands boast sandy beaches and sunny skies.
Which European Country Is the Warmest in the Winter?
Thanks to its inclusion of the Mediterranean coast, plenty of European countries experience warm winter weather. However, Spain tends to be Europe’s hottest country in summer and winter due to its southern location.
Which Country in Europe Is the Coldest?
While it offers many warm countries, Europe mostly experiences cold winters. A few countries, including each on this list, experience cold and warm climates depending on the specific location.
Several countries are dominated by cold winter weather, though. Europe’s coldest countries are in the Nordic and Alps regions:
The Nordic countries are Europe’s northernmost, close to the North Pole. This results in some areas being cold year-round.
While the Alps are further south, they are also Europe’s most elevated region. Similar to parts in the far north, high-elevation areas can also be cold year-round.
Is Europe Worth Visiting in the Winter?
No matter the weather, Europe is well worth visiting in winter. The countries on this list offer not just warm weather but also lower prices and smaller crowds. Because of this, many savvy travelers feel the off-season is the best time to visit Europe.
While many European countries offer year-round warm weather, the colder regions also have a lot to offer as winter destinations. In addition to world-class alpine skiing, Munich and Vienna boast some of Europe’s most festive Christmas markets. Further north in the Nordic region, winter is the best time to witness the Northern Lights, one of the seven wonders of the natural world.
Do I Need a Visa To Enter Europe?
Currently, certain non-EU citizens, including U.S. citizens, can travel throughout Europe visa-free for up to 90 days or 180 days. As early as 2025, this policy will change with the implementation of ETIAS.
An electronic visa-waiver program, ETIAS, will require non-EU citizens to pre-register before entering Europe. While such travelers will continue to travel visa-free, this registration process will be mandatory.
What Is the Purpose of ETIAS?
ETIAS was officially proposed in 2016 to address dwindling security conditions in Europe. The initial proposal addressed four primary concerns:
- Each year, around 200 million people cross EU borders, which continues to rise.
- As a result of several international crises, the number of refugees and people seeking asylum has risen sharply.
- Terrorist attacks have become disturbingly frequent, threatening the lives of citizens who call Europe home.
- Technological advancements have made electronic pre-travel authorization a realistic and practical way of maintaining border security.
When travelers apply for ETIAS, they are added to an online database accessible to EU customs agents. ETIAS will effectively give customs agents prior knowledge of who will be entering the border daily, thus enhancing the identity verification process.
On top of the security concerns that ETIAS will address, ETIAS will also expedite the customs process, creating shorter lines for travelers. While ETIAS is primarily geared towards security issues, it also aims to benefit travelers.
Will ETIAS Make Traveling More Difficult?
For many travelers, implementing ETIAS adds an extra step that wasn’t there before. While this may seem an inconvenience, ETIAS registration is a quick process, and approval is nearly instant in most cases. On top of that, ETIAS approval lasts for three years. This means that travelers do not have to apply for ETIAS multiple times within those three years.
One of the most seamless aspects of ETIAS is its digital implementation. Upon approval, ETIAS is digitally linked to the traveler’s passport. This means that the traveler does not have to worry about additional documents while traveling. As long as they have their passport, they have their ETIAS.
Which Countries Does ETIAS Apply To?
ETIAS will apply to all countries in the Schengen Area and each nation a part of the European Free Trade Association. These countries include:
- Czech Republic
- Iceland (EFTA)
- Liechtenstein (EFTA)
- Norway (EFTA)
- Switzerland (EFTA)
While they are not yet officially part of the Schengen Area, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania will soon be the Schengen States, meaning they will also require ETIAS. Ireland is the only EU country excluded from the Schengen Area. Ireland upholds their visa requirements for visitors.
What To Do Next
For many travelers, winter is the best time to visit Europe. Not only are crowds smaller and prices cheaper, but plenty of locations offer excellent weather year-round.
In the Mediterranean region, the sun is constantly shining. Such countries as Spain, Italy, and Greece are excellent choices for those who want to escape crowds, steep prices, and seasonal depression.
Those planning their European winter getaway should look into ETIAS and how it applies to them. For many, ETIAS will change how they have previously traveled to Europe. While ETIAS adds an extra step to the travel process, it will make European travel safer and more efficient.