The summer is long over, autumn is here and winter isn’t that far behind if the recent drop in temperatures is anything to go by! But, that doesn’t mean you should pack away your passport until the spring, with cheap flights and off season bargains to be found, this is the perfect time to visit some of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
Continue reading below for my top European cities to visit this autumn or winter on a budget, whether it’s some winter sun, culture or Christmas cheer that you are looking for, this list is bound to have something for you.
This Andalusian gem is blessed with warm temperatures for most of the year (well compared to Ireland). With average temperatures in December been anywhere from 12 to 16 degrees, Seville is the perfect city break for those looking for a little bit of Vitamin D. After visiting it last October it quickly became my favourite Spanish city, it has so much to offer yet, it’s small enough to explore in a weekend.
Things to do – Visit the Plaza de Espana, Seville Cathedral, Torre Giralda and the Metropol Parasol.
Pretend like you are an extra in Game of Thrones at the Real Alcazar.
Explore Seville with Pancho Tours – this free walking tour is a great introduction to the city.
Get lost wandering the streets of Barrio Santa Cruz and Tirana.
Go see a flamenco show at La Carboneria on Calle Levis 18. Entrance is free, drinks are cheap and the flamenco is authentic!
Getting there – Fly from Dublin twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays with Ryanair.
Stay – We stayed in a great AirBNB just minutes from Seville’s cathedral on Calle Conteros.
Eat – If you like tapas then don’t miss La Bartola on Calle San Jose 24.
Anyone that visits Gent is immediately drawn in by its picturesque streets and tall charming canal houses; however it’s often overlooked for its more famous neighbour Brugge. And while I enjoyed Brugge, I preferred Gent. It’s a university city with a small town like feel, akin to Galway and it’s easily explored in a couple of days. This year Gent’s Christmas markets will run from December 9th to January 10th, with over 40 stalls between Sint-Baffsplein and Korenmarkt.
Things to do – Visit Gravensteen castle, St. Bavo’s Cathedral and the Belfry for panoramic views over the city.
Float through the canals on a boat cruise.
Explore the quaint cobblestone streets of Patershol.
Grab a beer or a waffle and mix with the locals in Graslei.
Take a street art tour – you can get a free map from the tourist office across the street from Gravensteen castle.
Eat chocolate and drink beer, you have to try the Gentse Tripel.
Check out the night time illuminations, Geent is even prettier by night.
Getting there – Fly from Dublin daily with Aer Lingus or Ryanair into Brussels Zaventem airport. From here it’s a 1 hour train journey to Gent’s historic Sint Peter’s station.
Stay – Hotel Onderbergen. Situated beside the Leie River and less than a five mintute walk to Gent’s medieval centre, Hotel Onderbergen makes a great base for exploring the city.
Eat – ‘t Oud Clooster. The food is delicious but the décor and selection of Belgium beers is enough of a reason to visit ‘t Oud Clooster on Zwartezusterstraat 5.
Oktoberfest, need I saw more! J Ok so I know it’s in September but Munich’s famous beer halls are opened all year long. You can even have a history lesson while sampling beer in Munich’s famous Hofbrauhaus, it was here in 1920 that the Nazi Party held their first ever meeting. However it should be noted, there is a lot more to Munich than just beer, it wasn’t bombed during World War II so a lot of history is still visible today and it makes a great base to explore the rest of Bavaria. And if you decide to go in December then you will be able to enjoy Munich’s famous Christmas markets which run from November 25th to December 24th throughout the city.
Things to do – Visit Marienplatz, the New Town Hall, Residenz Munchen and the Nymphenburg Palace.
Climb the 306 steps in St. Peter’s church for great panoramic views of the city.
Visit the BMW museum and admire some famous works of art at Alte Pinakothek.
Take a stroll in the English Garden and grab a bite to eat at the Viktualienmarkt.
Shop until you drop at Kaufingerstrasse.
Drink beer and eat pretzels in one of the many beer houses dotted throughout the city.
*If you have some extra time be sure to take the train to Fussen and visit King Ludwig’s famous Neuschwanstein castle, trust me you won’t be disappointed. For the best views go to Mary’s bridge. Or alternatively you can travel to Dachau Concentration camp, Germany’s first concentration camp.
Getting there – You can fly with Aer Lingus to Munich daily or you can fly to Memmingen (about 1 hour 20mins from Munich) with Ryanair up to 4 times weekly.
**The Bavaria Pass – this is a train ticket that gives you unlimited travel throughout Bavaria from 9am to 3am on the day of purchase for only €23. This ticket is very practical for groups as you can travel with up to 4 others at the additional cost of €5 per person, so if you were a group of 5 you could all travel to and back from Fussen for €43! (oh and it includes all suburban trains and buses too!)
Stay – In the centrally located Vi Vadi Hotel on Bayerstrasse, about 5 minutes’ walk from Munich’s Hauptbahnhof this hotel is the perfect place to base yourself in Munich.
Eat – For some traditional Bavarian fare you can’t beat Augustiner-Keller on Arnulfstrasse.
Salzburg is a wonderfully charming city which I fell in love with it straight away. Famous for its starring role in The Sound of Music, Salzburg is one of the most picturesque cities in Europe, it’s like something out of a fairy-tale with is stunning architecture back dropped by the Austrian Alps. Salzburg is actually small enough to explore in one day but it’s a good idea to plan for more time and enjoy some of the day trips from the city. Salzburg is the perfect place to visit at any time of year but the annual Christmas markets the Christkindlmarkt make winter a really special time to visit. The markets will be running from November 17 to December 26 2016.
Things to do – Visit the Mirabellgardens and the Old Town of Salzburg – Salzburg Dom Cathedral, St Peter’s Monastery. Don’t miss the views from Hohensalburg Fortress and Mozart’s Birthplace on Getreidegasse. Also check out Kapuzinerberg on the Eastern bank of the river for more great views of the city.
Go beer tasting at Austria’s largest beer inn, the Augustiner Braustueberl on Lindhofstrasse.
Take the one day Sound of Music tour which brings you to all the filming locations in and around Salzburg.
*Grab the bus to Hallstatt, one of the most beautiful lake side villages that I have ever seen.
Getting there – Ryanair fly from Dublin to Salzburg three times a week, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. If those days don’t suit, you could always fly Aer Lingus to Munich and avail of the Bavaria Pass, which also included trains to Salzburg, YEY!!
Stay – Salzburg is a small city so anywhere you decide to stay will be more or less centrally located. We stayed in the cosy Hotel Mozart on Franz-Josef-Strasse and loved every minute. The staff were very friendly and gave us some great advice on places to visit and eat nearby.
Eat – Ok so I know its Salzburg and I should be recommending traditional Austrian cuisine but the best meal we had in Salzburg was Italian at Pasta e Vino on Wolfe-Dietrich-Strasse. The menu like the restaurant is small but the food and the ambience were just perfect, be sure to order the antipasti.
There’s something very intoxicating about Cologne, and I don’t mean the perfume! While Cologne is one of the oldest cities in Germany, it is not as big or as touristy as Berlin and Munich which makes it that little bit easier to navigate and also that little bit cheaper! Cologne’s cathedral, the Kolner Dom is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe and the view from the top is spectacular. Moreover, Cologne’s many Christmas markets are some of the best in Europe and they will be running from November 21st to December 23rd this year.
Things to do – If you are there in December be sure to visit at least one or two or all of Colognes’ seven Christmas markets.
Climb the 509 steps to the top of Kolner Dom for the great views but arrive at least a half hour before closing time. We arrived with about 10 minutes to go and weren’t allowed up!
Wander the streets of the Alstadt and add your own ‘love lock’ to the Hohenzollen Bridge.
If you are an art lover don’t miss Museum Ludvig and the Chocolate museum is a must for chocolate lovers.
I’d also recommend using the reliable U-Bahn to explore some other quarters like Rudolfplatz with its trendy bars and cafes.
Getting there – Ryanair fly from Dublin to Cologne daily and it’s a quick train journey from the airport into the city centre.
Stay – We stayed in NH Koln Alstadt on Holzmarkt 47. We found the location perfect for exploring Cologne’s many Christmas markets.
Eat – Peter’s Brauhaus on Muehlengasse serves up some great German cuisine but if you really want a treat, try the smoked salmon salads or rolls on offer at many of the Christmas markets – DELICIOUS!
So there’s my top European cities to visit right now, I hope you found it helpful. Have you visited any of the cities I’ve mentioned? Or have you got any city breaks planned for the next couple of months? Please let us know below. We are always looking for new places to visit.
I’m actually going to Copenhagen in a few weeks. I’ve heard it’s a beautiful city. Have you been? What would you recommend? Thanks for reading.