Written by ANDY SYMINGTON
Off-season prices make Europe wallet-friendly between November and February, but winter comes in many guises in Europe.
In the polar north there’s serious snow and sunless weeks.
At the same time, you’ll find lingering sunshine in the mild Mediterranean.
And throughout the center, you'll find a cosy cafe culture and Christmas spirit.
Via Europe’s train network you can explore countries at your leisure, meeting locals going about their daily business away from the often-frenetic summer tourist season.
Making these our top 10 winter destinations for Europe...
#10 Venice, Italy
Hauntingly beautiful and rather weird, Venice's Carnevale in February is a European highlight.
Elaborate costumes and spooky masks bring the canal city's colourful history to life. Enjoy the free events with a mask bought on the street, but be prepared for epic crowding.
#9 Transylvania, Romania
You can’t visit Dracula’s lair on a sunny day with lambs bleating in the fields, right? Try steel-grey skies, bare trees and a smattering of snow.
Braşov and Sighişoara, two hours apart by rail, are gorgeous medieval towns with various connections to Vlad Ţepeş, the historical Dracula,
#8 Andalucía, Spain
Parts of Andalucía are further south than the African coast so expect mild temperatures in winter.
Accommodation is cheap, and crowds are smaller at standout attractions. Plus, tapas and nightlife in the cities are as enticing as ever.
#7 Jasná, Slovakia
Slovakia offers high-quality skiing at affordable prices. Accommodation and food are reasonable too, and there's a friendliness that’s missing from some of the snootier Alpine slopes.
Jasná is the best Slovakian resort, with long descents flanked by snow-laden spruce trees, set in the ruggedly lovely Tatras Mountains.
#6 Budapest, Hungary
Couples skating hand-in-hand, breath cloudy in the frosty air – there’s nowhere better for it than the Hungarian capital’s picturesque central park.
Feeling chilly afterwards? Budapest is famous for its ornate thermal baths.
#5 Copenhagen, Denmark
For fairytale European winter, it's hard to beat the home of Hans Christian Andersen. Forget the over-hyped Little Mermaid and head to the city's cosy bars and cafes.
The 19th-century Tivoli amusement park is a romantic, kitsch delight around Christmastime, with heartwarming illuminations and body-warming mugs of glögg.
#4 Athens, Greece
It's the best time to explore the country's ancient heritage and get to experience local culture.
All summer stresses – crowding, tourist pricing, intense heat, queues, air pollution – more or less disappear.
#3 Abisko, Sweden
Almost as far north as you can get in Europe on a train, Abisko in Lapland is for lovers of serious winter.
The sun doesn't rise for several weeks in December and January but that darkness makes it one of the world's best places to view the majestic aurora borealis.
#2 Christmas markets in Germany & Austria
Expect cute stalls selling everything from gingerbread to sleigh bells and plenty of good cheer, toasted with a glass of warming glühwein.
Famous markets in Cologne, Vienna and Munich draw the tourist crowds, but seeking out ones in smaller towns is rewarding.
#1 Rovaniemi, Finland
Everyone's favourite bearded man (AKA Santa Claus) hangs out in an atmospheric Arctic Circle grotto, and it's free to visit him (but photos are another story).
Snow and reindeer add festive spirit, while the Arktikum museum gives insights into life at these latitudes.