European Winter Breaks

The Take 12 Trips Challenge is a real traveller’s challenge; an initiative encouraging greenhorn globetrotters to take a trip away every month for a year!

You don’t necessarily have you go abroad, but here at DFDS we’ve been focussing on giving you ideas for great European getaways, and we’ve got plenty more where they’ve come from.

Since it’s winter and the cold days and long nights are setting in, you may be tempted to try and escape to somewhere hot and sunny, but why not embrace the winter festivities and head to one of Europe’s amazing winter destinations? Whether you’re looking to get cosy in a café, or do your Christmas shopping somewhere new, you’re sure to find something for you.


If the words “winter wonderland” are thrown around too readily nowadays, you have to make an exception for Belgium’s most pretty city, Bruges.

No matter what time of year, the city’s cobbled streets, winding canals and jagged steeples make for wonderful vistas, however in the winter, with a light dusting of frost on a bitterly cold night, they take on an entirely new aesthetic. The city’s Christmas market also helps provide a magical festive atmosphere, with wonderful food, desserts, beers and arts and crafts for sale at the various beautifully decorated stalls.


Go ice skating in the shadow of the old belfry, or hop on the Ferris Wheel for a magnificent view of the city from the Christmas market; a winter break in Ghent is packed full of amazing sights, sounds and experiences for any visitor.

St Nicholas’s Church and the Castle of the Counts are decorated in classic winter styles, making them even more wonderful for visitors, and of course traditional Belgian comfort food is the perfect way to spend a cold winter’s night.


Haarlem isn’t just Amsterdam’s smaller brother or sister, it’s a wonderful city in its own right, despite its superficial similarities and proximity to the Dutch capital.

In fact, Haarlem is often named as Holland’s favourite shopping city, so what better place to pick up your Christmas shopping while enjoying a short break away?


Antwerp is another fantastic destination for your Christmas shopping, thanks to its amazing Christmas market and its festive Retail Sundays. While shopping be sure to stop off for a spot of ice skating, take a turn on the Ferris Wheel, or play mini golf along the Schledt.

This year Antwerp Zoo is hosting the China Light Festival, which sees hundreds of huge light objects in the shape of animals, flowers and other creatures scattered around the zoo.


Lille is one of France’s most cultural cities, with a beautiful old town – Vieux Lille – that is best described as a French city with a Flemish accent, thanks to its Flanders-inspired architecture.

While visiting Lille, however, what better way to spend your time than by experiencing the city’s amazing museums and galleries? When it comes to art and history, Lille is simply unrivalled in the north of France.


Also known as where France and Germany collide, Strasbourg is one of France’s most interesting and varied cities, maintaining a strong French style despite having been a free city as part of the Holy Roman Empire and then swapping between French and German rule.

In winter you can enjoy one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe – held here every year since 1570 – as well as soaking in its genteel, gemütlich, Germanic charm.


Sitting not too far away from Strasbourg is Colmar, one of France’s prettiest small cities. Another city with a hybrid of Germanic and Gallic aesthetics, Colmar has large timber-fronted buildings lying alongside turrets and towers cut from stone.

In the winter, the Alsace-Lorraine region is one of the most likely to receive snow, so wander the streets of this gorgeous city as it is coated with a gorgeous, crisp sheet of snow and get comfortable and cosy in a café to see the day away.


Hamburg is one of Germany’s oldest and most affluent cities, with amazing architecture, museums and more.

In winter, however, the biggest attraction is without doubt the Winter Beer Festival. For 1 month, the city offers live music, festive fairs, fairground rides and more as well as, of course, some of the best beers made from all over Germany.

What better way to spend a cold winter’s night than by getting your beer jacket on?


A city centred around a magnificent cathedral, Cologne has no shortage of architectural wonders, but in the winter its main attraction is its amazing and varied Christmas markets. There’s even an adult Christmas market aimed at LGBTQ travellers!

New Year’s Eve in Cologne is also a spectacular sight, with hundreds of thousands of locals heading to the streets for fireworks and more.

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