12 Best Europe destinations in January of 2023

Europe in January is not a popular combination for tourists, but there definitely are benefits of visiting off season if that is the time you have available. The weather in the southern European cities is generally pretty mild and almost all of the famous attractions are indoors anyway. On top of that, all of the cities listed below have great public transportation systems, so getting around is cheap and easy.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of visiting Europe in January is that hotels are typically at their lowest room rates of the year, so you can probably afford something far nicer for less money than you’d spend even in April or November.

The COVID situation in summer of 2022 is looking much better and many countries have dropped all COVID and vaccination restrictions completely, including many of the better European countries such as the UK, Ireland, Italy, and Greece. Hopefully things in January, 2023 are looking the same or even better, but it’s worth noting that January of 2022 was the peak of the Omicron wave in most of the world, so it’s important to stay up on the news.

Note: This article was last updated in July, 2022.

Important European holidays in 2023

  • January 1 – New Year’s Day (public holiday in most of the world)
  • January 6 – Epiphany (minor holiday in many Christian countries)

Below you’ll find

  1. Europe’s best January beach destination
  2. Europe’s 11 best January city destinations

Europe's only decent January beach destination

Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

  • January avg high: 69°F/21°C
  • January avg low: 59°F/15°C
  • January avg precip: 1.3″/3.3cm

The above temperatures are clearly lower than any of us would like for sunbathing, but that doesn’t stop an army of northern Europeans from doing just that in January whenever the sun is out, which is most of the time. You could fly to the Caribbean for warmer temperatures, although that’s not a good option for most of us.

Tenerife is the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands and it’s the best choice for English speakers as well. The area in the southwest of the island around Los Cristianos is where you’ll find most of the hotels and short term rentals, and fortunately it also usually has the nicest weather on the island. Things here are cheap for Europe and even for Spain. It’s worth pointing out that Tenerife is only one of the Canary Islands and the other share essentially the same weather and prices. Some online travel agencies group them all together, while others list each island separately so it might also be worth checking for Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, and La Palma, which might offer even better deals.

As of summer 2022, Spain is open to vaccinated visitors and those who can show a negative test within 3 days of entry. Hopefully things will get better from here, but of course it’s wise to check the news just in case it gets worse again.

  • Good 3-star hotels in January from €53 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in January from €78 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in January from €19 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Tenerife
>>>Tenerife prices and travel tips

11 Best non-beach destinations in Europe in January

Rome, Italy

  • January avg high: 55°F/13°C
  • January avg low: 39°F/4°C
  • January avg precip: 3.1″/7.8cm

No one planning a Europe trip in January will be expecting warm weather, so it’s just a matter of finding the places that aren’t too cold and are very lively in winter as well. Rome is a perfect example of that, so it’s one of the best winter choices.

During most of the year Rome is so packed with tourists that it can be chaotic and frustrating, and at least you’ll get far less of that in January. The hotel prices will also be lower, which is helpful since accommodation in this city is more expensive than you might expect. You might even consider Sicily, which will be even a bit warmer.

As of 2022, Italy is on the list of countries that have dropped all COVID and vaccination requirements so you can book and travel just as you could in 2019. Obviously it’s important to keep up with developments in case things get worse or more restricted again.

  • Good 3-star hotels in January from €47 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in January from €58 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in January from €26 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Rome
>>>Rome prices and travel tips

Florence, Italy

  • January avg high: 50°F/10°C
  • January avg low: 35°F/2°C
  • January avg precip: 2.9″/7.3cm

Any first trip to Italy will include Rome, but usually also Florence and Venice, which is why they are called Italy’s Big 3. Florence is only 1 hour 20 minutes from Rome on the high-speed train, so you could even do it as a day trip if you wanted. But it’s much better to stay here because hotels are usually cheaper and there is so much to see.

Florence is the heart of Tuscany and one of the world’s most important cities for art, so there is no shortage of excellent food and interesting sights to see. You can also visit Pisa in an hour each way as a day trip.

  • Good 3-star hotels in January from €45 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in January from €69 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in January from €26 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Florence
>>>Florence prices and travel tips

Venice, Italy

  • January avg high: 42°F/6°C
  • January avg low: 30°F/-1°C
  • January avg precip: 2.3″/5.8cm

Venice is only 1 hour 53 minutes from Florence by train, and it’s definitely worth the time even in winter. January is one of the few months when Venice isn’t completely overloaded with day trippers on bus tours, so you can actually wander around the city and enjoy it more than you would in summer.

You can see Venice in only a day or two, especially in the less crowded winter, but you should be careful of the Acqua alta (high water). During winter the lagoon can rise so much that the town squares can flood a bit and you have to walk over them on wooden planks. That only happens during high tide, so even on the bad days you can still enjoy at least half the day. And especially in January when hotels are cheaper, I recommend staying on the main island of Venice rather than across the lagoon on the mainland. You’ll save time and see a lot more. Finding a hotel close to St Marks Square or the Rialto Bridge (or between the two) is ideal if you can afford it.

  • Good 3-star hotels in January from €47 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in January from €68 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in January from €28 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Venice
>>>Venice prices and travel tips

Paris, France

  • January avg high: 45°F/7°C
  • January avg low: 38°F/3°C
  • January avg precip: 2.2″/5.5cm

Speaking of large cities that are still lively during winter, Paris is charming in any weather and it’s well suited to winter because the Metro allows you to get almost anywhere underground. Hotel prices in January are usually quite low as well, at least for the places more geared towards tourists than business travelers.

Most of the top attractions here are indoors, so you can spend time in museums, galleries, and shops if it’s not sunny out, and do your outdoor sightseeing when it’s nicer. If you want to do most of the famous attractions you should check out our review of the Paris Pass.

  • Good 3-star hotels in January from €67 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in January from €93 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in January from €29 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Paris
>>>Paris prices and travel tips

London, England

  • January avg high: 45°F/7°C
  • January avg low: 36°F/2°C
  • January avg precip: 2.1″/5.3cm

Even though London is quite far north, it really doesn’t get as cold as you might fear, and it very rarely snows. In other words, London is fairly easy to visit even in the colder months, and hotel prices will be much lower as well. As with other large European cities, the tourist numbers are tiny in January so you can visit places like the British Museum and Westminster Abbey with few distractions.

It’s worth noting that London is so far north that it gets dark by 4pm in January, but the city is still very alive and the pubs are full of locals even in the winter months. You might even want to look at our London Pass review if you want to see the top attractions in a short time.

As of 2022, the United Kingdom has dropped all COVID and vaccination requirements so you can visit without additional paperwork. Hopefully this stays the same through January 2023 at least.

  • Good 3-star hotels in January from £78 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in January from £123 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in January from £21 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for London
>>>London prices and travel tips

Barcelona, Spain

  • January avg high: 56°F/13°C
  • January avg low: 40°F/4°C
  • January avg precip: 1.6″/4.0cm

Barcelona is now on the list of European cities that are so packed with tourists in summer that there is a big backlash among locals. If you visit in January you will be one of a very small number of tourists, so you can enjoy the Sagrada Familia and other sights without having to stand in endless queues.

You’ll obviously need some outerwear, but Barcelona is on the coast and it never gets very cold. The dining scene and nightlife here are legendary, and nights here are lively all year round. If you are doing the main sights you should have a look at the Barcelona Pass.

Since Spain still has a requirement to prove vaccination or a negative COVID test before arrival, it’s even more convenient to combine a January trip with at least a few days on the Canary Islands. Flights from Barcelona or Madrid to the Canaries are cheap and frequent, even in January.

  • Good 3-star hotels in January from €45 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in January from €57 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in January from €19 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Barcelona
>>>Barcelona prices and travel tips

Madrid, Spain

  • January avg high: 49°F/9°C
  • January avg low: 37°F/3°C
  • January avg precip: 1.5″/3.8cm

Being in the center of Spain, Madrid gets colder in winter than Barcelona, but it rarely snows and it’s definitely worth a visit. You can get between these cities on a high-speed train in as little as 2 hours 45 minutes, and you’ll notice how different they are shortly after you emerge from the train station.

Obviously January is the slow season for tourists in Madrid as well, and there are plenty of great things to see here including the Prado Museum and the Royal Palace. Hotels in Madrid are great bargains in winter as well.

  • Good 3-star hotels in January from €42 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in January from €82 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in January from €18 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Madrid
>>>Madrid prices and travel tips

Lisbon, Portugal

  • January avg high: 58°F/14°C
  • January avg low: 47°F/8°C
  • January avg precip: 3.8″/9.5cm

If you can’t make it down to the Canary Islands and you are looking for the nicest winter weather in Europe, you’ve found it in Lisbon. This under-rated city is now starting to catch on with tourists, but it’s still wonderfully cheap and not yet overrun.

You might get a bit of rain in Lisbon in January if you are unlucky, though it’s easy to avoid since the city is quite densely packed and a shelter is never far away. You can get here on an overnight train from Madrid, though flying is probably a better and obviously much faster option for most people.

  • Good 3-star hotels in January from €38 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in January from €59 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in January from €19 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Lisbon
>>>Lisbon prices and travel tips

Amsterdam, Netherlands

  • January avg high: 41°F/5°C
  • January avg low: 34°F/1°C
  • January avg precip: 3.1″/7.8cm

The weather in Amsterdam is really only good for a few weeks each year, so the difference between January and most of the rest of the year is small. In other words, this is one of Europe’s better cities to visit in the colder weather, and it is even more beautiful if you get a light dusting of snow.

Amsterdam hotel prices are very high in summer, but in January you’ll get wonderful deals. You can reach Amsterdam by train from Paris in a bit over 3 hours, or from London on the Eurostar in about 5 hours. This is the only time of year that you can get into the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum without a long wait as well.

  • Good 3-star hotels in January from €54 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in January from €88 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in January from €32 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Amsterdam
>>>Amsterdam prices and travel tips

Athens, Greece

  • January avg high: 55°F/13°C
  • January avg low: 41°F/5°C
  • January avg precip: 2.27″/5.5cm

With its relatively southern location, Athens has reasonably warm days in January, and not much rainfall. This of course is one of the world’s most historic cities and it’s worth 3 days or so if you can get a cheap flight from somewhere else in Europe.

Unlike some others on this list, Athens’ main sights are mostly outdoor ones, so you’ll want to keep track of the weather. Still, since rain is rare and snow is far more rare, you’ll almost certainly have enough time up the Acropolis and through the Agora market hill on the way down. The Greek islands are mostly shut down this time of year, so it’s probably not worth a flight or a rough ferry ride.

As of 2022, Greece is yet another country that has dropped all COVID testing and vaccination requirements, so you can visit as you please. Let’s hope it stays that way through January 2023.

  • Good 3-star hotels in January from €42 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in January from €57 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in January from €12 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Istanbul
>>>Athens prices and travel tips

Istanbul, Turkey

  • January avg high: 48°F/9°C
  • January avg low: 37°F/3°C
  • January avg precip: 3.4″/8.5cm

If you are flying into Athens you might want to also book a cheap flight one more step east to Istanbul. Not only is Istanbul another of the world’s great cities with amazing history, but it’s quite a bit cheaper than most of the rest of the cities on this list as well.

It will be chilly in Istanbul in January, but with so few other tourists you’ll be able to see how things operate for the locals who will still be hard at work. The main sights are mostly clustered together in the Sultanahmet Square area, so even if it is cold you can still see a lot in a short time. The famous Grand Bazaar is a huge indoor marketplace, so the weather won’t be an issue there either.

The situation as of summer, 2022 is a bit complicated in Turkey. Inflation has been quite high, but the Turkish lira has devalued even more so the whole country is amazingly cheap for outsiders. There has been a bit of political unrest, although never involving tourists so it seems that visiting is safe as long as you aren’t looking for trouble.

  • Good 3-star hotels in January from €17 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in January from €22 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in January from €9 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Istanbul
>>>Istanbul prices and travel tips

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All Comments

  1. Jalna says:

    Hi Roger
    Thank you for the above suggestions and due to one of the party having been to Spain a number of times we have settled on Italy and probably around Florence.
    We fly in on New Years eve or New Years Day and then leave on the 5th January.
    Would we be better to stay in Florence itself, or in one of the surrounding towns? We are happy to hire a car for trips to Siena and surrounds but I’m just a little unsure if the smaller towns will have much open at that time.
    Cinque Terre will be very much weather dependant as to wether the paths will be open but we would still consider that as a possibility as we all love outdoor activities.
    i really appreciate your suggestions, it helped us work out a place to start.

    1. Roger Wade says:


      New Years Eve will probably be pretty busy (and fun) in Florence, but the following days should be pretty quiet so I’d stay in the city itself. There are many nice hotels within a reasonable walk of the main train station and if you stayed in that area you’d be able to get anywhere very quickly. Italy has very good high-speed train service to major cities and if you buy the tickets at least a month or so in advance they are strangely cheap. The trains to smaller cities like Pisa are always fairly cheap because they are commuter lines that leave a couple times an hour. I’d take trains rather than hiring a car, mostly because a car is a liability in most of the places you’d want to go. In other words, you could drive to, say, Siena, but then finding parking can be confusing and sometimes expensive.

      I think it’s a great idea to check the weather before you lock in plans for Cinque Terre. Most things in those towns will be closed except for a handful of restaurants, and if it’s cold and rainy you won’t even be able to take nice photos, much less enjoy strolling around. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  2. Jalna says:

    Hi Roger
    Thanks for the reply. That sounds like a good plan if we were to go to Turkey, the only problem being it involves quite a few travel days. We are open to suggestions for Italy and Spain and as you say they could be a better option. We are interested in food tours/classes,, walking, (not skiing)
    I know this sounds very vague but we are happy to have a week all together with a different country thrown in and things to do!!
    Thanks again

    1. Roger Wade says:


      If you want to stay based in one city for that whole time and only do day trips I think Italy or Spain are better options. In Italy you could base yourself in or near Florence and you’d be within 2 hours of Venice, Rome, Siena, Pisa, and the Cinque Terre by train, just to name a few places. Another option would be Sorrento where you’d be within 90 minutes of Naples, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, and the Isle of Capri. Those last two options would be quite empty in December though, so the Florence idea is probably better.

      As for Spain, Madrid is entertaining enough for the whole time, but it’s also within an hour of Toledo (great day trip) and 1 hour 40 minutes from Valencia and about 2.5 hours each way to Barcelona. Barcelona would be a long way for a day trip, so you could spend 2 or 3 days in Madrid and the rest of your time in Barcelona? As always, let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  3. Jalna says:

    Hi Roger
    My husband and I are visiting our daughter and partner in London over Christmas and mid January. We wanted to go somewhere for a week from the 28th December. Current thoughts are Istanbul with day trips or overnight trips. We don’t want to go to Gallipoli but would appreciate some suggestions as to what we could do. We love food history and outdoors. I have read through some of your above suggestions but thought i would ask as well. Thanks in advance

    1. Roger Wade says:


      I actually lived in Turkey for over a year not long ago, and I’m still a big fan, but unfortunately nearly all of the best places are very quiet from November through late March. Most restaurants and many hotels in the beach areas are actually closed for that period, and even Cappadocia will be very quiet. I’m pretty sure you’d still enjoy it, and Istanbul itself is vibrant even in winter, but I think there are better choices that time of year and you can save Turkey for spring or autumn.

      If you are looking for a one-week trip from London in early January the more obvious choices would be Italy or Spain, both of which are reasonably mild that time of year and could be ideal. I’ll be happy to give you more details on any of those choices, including Turkey, so let me know what you are thinking. If you were thinking Turkey I’d probably recommend 3 nights in Istanbul and then 2 nights in Cappadocia (in Goreme, more specifically) and then 2 nights in Antalya. Antalya is known for beach resorts up and down the coast, but the historic center of town is quite interesting (and remarkably cheap), so it could be fun and it’ll be busy enough because it’s a large city as well. -Roger

  4. jennifer says:

    hey Roger. I am thinking of doing the 5 day – I have a 19 year old that would like to go. So it will be 3 of use. Do you think the 5 cities we could do in 7-9 days?

    1. Roger Wade says:


      If you are asking whether you could visit 5 European cities in 7 to 9 days I’d say it’s possible but not recommended. I highly recommend spending 3 nights in almost any European city you visit if you are in a hurry. The short version is that it typically takes 3 to 5 hours to get between cities on trains (and usually a bit longer if you fly), and from the time you check out of one hotel to the time you check into a hotel in the next city, it’s usually 6 or 7 hours later. And you’ll be tired so it’s hard to do much sightseeing. If you have 7 to 9 days I’d shoot for 3 cities at the most. I’m happy to help if you’ve got other questions. -Roger