The Best Places to Travel in Europe in February
Travelers who head to Europe in February can enjoy some of the continent’s best sights crowd-free, including major attractions like the Spanish Steps and the Tivoli Gardens.
This month is something of a breather: a sweet spot between the busy holiday season and spring breakers.
While the summer months promise balmier temperatures, it's hard to argue with the allure of a deserted beach in Cyprus, say, or a discounted rail tour across England. These incredible experiences are impossible to pass up (or to recreate during peak travel times).
To find the best places to travel in Europe in February, we looked at popular annual events and noteworthy openings and sought out prime weather (whether you're in the mood for a winter wonderland or a winter escape).
You may also recognize some of these destinations from our list of the 50 Best Places to Travel in 2018, like the Danish capital, Copenhagen, with its groundbreaking Noma restaurant and clutch of stylish new hotels.
From tiny German towns for serious sweet-fiends to European takes on famous Carnival celebrations, these 14 European cities are perfect for waiting out the worst of winter.
On February 6, West Coasters have a new reason to book a trip to the Eternal City: Norwegian Air is launching its first-ever direct route from Oakland to Rome, with flights as low as $200 each way. That ought to leave room for extra spending when it comes to lodging, so consider the grand, art-filled suite at Hotel de Russie, a landmark property with private terraced gardens and a killer location right around the corner from the Spanish Steps.
Traditionally known for its stunning wine regions and perfect beach towns, Portugal has another trick up its sleeve for travelers who show up in February: Carnaval. The four-day celebration gets underway the week after Valentine’s Day, and includes parades, pageants, and performances of all kinds. In Lisbon, expect the streets to be filled with parade floats, lively music, and colorful costumes. Fill up on traditional desserts like Bolo de Mel de Madeira (honey cake) and the famous Pastel de Nata custard tarts.
If Europe is in the cards, travelers this month would be wise to consider a trip to the island of Cyprus, which receives an average of 320 sunny days a year. For your best shot at a sun-soaked week in paradise, take inspiration from Intrepid Travel’s dynamic eight-day itinerary, which leads travelers through ancient castles and monasteries before landing on the Karpaz Peninsula to explore deserted, golden sand beaches on foot.
The holidays are far behind us, but the twinkling light displays still haven’t been taken down in Warsaw. The city’s annual winter exhibition, Royal Garden of Light, remains intact through the end of the month, with thousands of LED lights that have been arranged to create fantastical Baroque figures. The incredible display is centered around Wilanów Palace and, on weekends, an impressive 3D light show is projected onto the building’s facade.
During the most romantic month of the year, lovebirds flock to the charming capital of France. Because many couples book their hotel room months in advance, travelers should consider bedding down in a luxury apartment rental. Agencies such as Paris Perfect scour the city for well-situated, impeccably designed pieds-à-terre (even some with Eiffel Tower views), and your chances of winding up in a cozy loft on Place Dauphine are pretty good.
Tuscany is always a good idea, and this month, Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco — an acclaimed property with 17th-century farmhouses that have been restored as luxury villas — is going all out for the region’s biggest event. Montalcino’s top winemakers come together for the annual Benvenuto Brunello festival (February 16 to 19), making the year-round accommodations (all with fireplaces and well-stocked pantries) a fantastic home base for attending the festivities, meeting Italian vintners, or planning a day-trip to nearby Siena or Florence.
While most people think of enjoying Madrid’s stylish tapas restaurants and rich 16th-century architecture during summer months, travelers who show up in February will learn just how fun it is to be swept up in the annual celebration of Carnaval. Kicking off on February 9, the six-day event is a chance to see chirigotas (satirical theater troupes), attend a masked ball, sample chocolate sardines, and watch the big annual parade in El Paraíso Park.
The popular Spanish summer resort island of Mallorca, with a tree-dotted coastline that recalls St. Tropez or Monte Carlo, is ideal for couples who visit in February. During this time, fewer crowds mean you can score cheaper room rates. At the adults-only Pure Salt Port Adriano, for example, guests enjoy spacious suites with balconies, a private beach, and a luxury spa for under $200 a night. That’s more than 50 percent cheaper than the same room in June or July.
Lake District, England
Want to travel in style around the United Kingdom this month? Through the third week of February, BritRail Passes are being offered at a 20 percent discount — a fantastic excuse for an ambitious crawl through some of the country’s best-known sites, including sleepy villages in the Cotswolds and the beautiful the Lake District. (Another reason to visit the Lake District now? Commercial flights are resuming for the first time in 25 years this June.) Because it's the low season, visitors will also have few people to compete with for the perfect view.
Paris remains one of the most visited destinations in Europe and the world — but for travelers hoping to discover a new side of France, a worthy alternative is Nice. The French Riviera is where well-to-do 19th-century Europeans used to dodge long, dreary winters, and that's still true today. The handsome city is just 20 miles from the Italian border, making a quick hop into the Old Country entirely doable. Temperatures may not go above the high-50s in the dead of winter, but that doesn't make places like the Chagall Museum and the Musée des Beaux-Arts any less enjoyable. While the city’s glimmering Mediterranean coast looks good year-round, February also offers a fresh take on Carnival, with celebrations lasting more than two weeks.
In south Germany, along the Swiss border, the small city of Friedrichshafen isn’t on most travelers’ grand Europe tour itinerary. But if you have a sweet tooth, it’s worth reconsidering. This month, a new cake design festival brings together some of the top confectionary masters of Germany in one place. Think of it as an art fair, but instead of abstract sculpture and oil paintings, the materials are flour, butter, sugar, and eggs.
If gliding on a custom-built ice skating rink at a boutique hotel on the shores of Lac Léman sounds up your alley, Geneva is the place to be. February is the last month to take advantage of La Réserve Genève’s indoor ice skating rink (it's the only one of its kind in the whole city). Decorated with twinkling lights, icicles, and faux snowmen, the structure is a mini winter wonderland for parents and kids to enjoy. There's even hot chocolate and crêpes served on the side, for skaters who work up an appetite.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a single address more deserving of a trip across the Atlantic than Noma, the widely acclaimed, hyper-seasonal restaurant by chef Rene Redzepi. Though it closed earlier this year, the new Noma is set to open this month, on February 15. Of course, there’s a waiting list with 35,000 names on it — but that shouldn’t be a problem, as long as you’re on the winning end of this contest, which benefits an organization called MAD that promotes sustainable food practices around the globe.
Show up in Europe’s favorite culture hub this February, and you’ll be treated to the latest art exhibit at Nhow Berlin: a music-focused boutique hotel along the banks of the Spree River. In addition to millennial pink bathrooms and a “guitar room service” amenity, the ultra-contemporary hotel will also be home to an exciting photography exhibit by indieBerlin (February 18 to March 31), including rare shots of major stars like Massive Attack, PJ Harvey, and Thom Yorke.