West Europe January Best Cities

The Sistine Chapel ceiling, Vatican Museums, Rome travel, Italy, Europe January

The Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Italy, Europe January. Photo by Boutique Creativa.

Europe January Weather

European tourism is limited to southern Europe in January, unless you’re intent on primarily indoor culture, or you don’t mind cold and grey skies.

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).

Best West European cities January, sightseeing in good weather

• 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, as well as Malaga and Cadiz cities that don’t depend on beaches for tourism.
Barcelona too is a lively, fascinating city – spiced up by weird Gaudi architecture, 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).

• The French Riviera tends to be bright and sunny T-shirt weather in January, with chilly nights. We love Nice, Antibes and Monaco but find Cannes and St Tropez pretentious.

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 (Big Sales: stores like Harrods start their sales around Jan 5th, but some begin just after Christmas)

Europe January Festivals

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.