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Europe’s Best Places for Winter Family Travel

by Barbara Rogers

Dec 19, 2023

© Eva Bocek | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / Europe

While winter may not be the best time for family travel to Spain’s Costa del Sol or for hiking in the Alps, it’s a great time for enjoying village life in a snow-covered alpine town or watching the northern lights while skiing on floodlit trails in Finland.


Even traditional summer resort areas are good family destinations during the uncrowded off-season when you share them with locals and European travelers. Portugal’s Algarve promises sunny days for most of winter, and the island of Madeira is known for its year-round spring weather. Here are three favorites:


Ski in Austrian Tirol

Austrian ski resorts are more low-key and less expensive than the more famous resorts in France and Switzerland, but the snow is just as good, and the facilities in many are more family-friendly. SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser–Brixental is known for its gentle slopes, child-safe ski lifts and facilities for kids. Its 22 ski schools introduce children as young as 2 to the sport, and kids can practice their turns on nursery and practice slopes (one with free lifts). Child-care facilities are right at the lift stations and the lighted toboggan runs are fun for the whole family.


Watch Northern Lights in Finland

For a more exotic winter vacation, head north from Helsinki to meet Santa Claus in Rovaniemi, capital of Finnish Lapland and right on the Arctic Circle. It’s Santa’s year-round home, and at Santa Claus Village, kids can meet the reindeer and later take a ride on a reindeer sled. There’s skiing here and at Levi, and dogsled trips stop at a Sami camp for a visit inside their tepee-like homes and a taste of traditional foods.


Smell the Flowers in Madeira

This garden spot in the Atlantic is known for its year-round spring temperatures and for flowers that bloom there year-round. After exploring the enchanting Monte Palace Gardens, see the dazzling collection of gemstones and crystals in the museum before riding back to town on a sidewalk sled. Your kids will scream all the way down and talk about it for years.


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