European Vacations in January

The The Sistine Chapel, Rome, Italy

The Sistine Chapel, Rome, Italy. Photo by Boutique Creativa.

European weather in January

European tourism is limited in January, unless you’re intent on primarily indoor culture, you don’t mind the cold or you head south.

North and middle Europe are usually either cold, wet and grey, or cold, white and dark, with daylight in increasingly short supply as you move north.

On the upside, tourists are also in short supply, many cities add interesting lights to their streets, and indoor entertainment is exceptional.

Some European cities have colourful New Year celebrations (e. g. Edinburgh Hogmanay, Paris street parade), or super-value January sales (e. g. Paris, London).

France: La Grande Parade de Paris, 1st January.

England: London, The New Year’s Day Parade, 1st January, not wonderful.

Scotland: New Year’s Eve, Hogmanay, 29th Dec-2 Jan. Edinburgh

Monaco: International Circus Festival.

Austria: New Year Concerts, January – early March, Vienna

Russia: Russian Winter Festival in St Petersburg, early January.

Also see European Festivals or Arts Festivals for suggestions, information and dates.

Sightseeing/culture in reasonably comfortable weather conditions

Spain: with the exception of Madrid(cold) and the North(wet), Spain is often warm and pleasant in January. The best bet for a dry cultural experience is in the south, visiting the magical Moorish cities of Seville, Cordoba and Granada, where the days are warm and the nights coolish. Barcelona too is a lively, interesting city, though it may well be chilly and/or wet in January.

Italy: The southern part of Italy has generally mild winters with blue skies, so Rome, Pompeii, Herculaneum and Sicily are excellent cultural targets and the weather is likely to be fine, while Amalfi takes good care of those who need a scenic uplift. Venice is chilly, damp and foggy, but has an interesting, spooky quality, enhanced by the lack of tourists (and relatively welcoming locals).

Skiing: All over, but especially French, Switzerland and Italian Alps, Pyrenees, Austria.
Skating: Netherlands, on canals if it’s cold enough (once every few years)
Shopping: London & Paris (the Sales; big stores like Harrods start their sales around Jan 5th, but some begin just after Christmas)