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15 of the Best Places To Visit in February in Europe: Sun, Skiing, Valentine’s & Carnival

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Updated: 24th January 2024

February is one of my favourite months to travel in Europe. Sure, the weather isn’t always reliable, but there is a surplus of excellent events scheduled across the continent. From the age-old traditions of February’s lively carnival celebrations and the romantic call of Valentine’s Day abroad to ski slopes stacked with fresh powder and northern lights adventures in the Arctic, narrowing down the list of best places to visit in February in Europe is somewhat of a challenge.

That said, if you do want to try and escape the cold, grey, gloomy days at home, there are a handful of warm places to visit in Europe in February, too. The middle of the month is also a popular time to visit some of Europe’s most family-friendly holiday destinations during the February half-term break. Plus, as an added bonus, there are also usually plenty of deals to snap up in the off-season away from these big events.

To help you plan where to go in Europe in February, I’ve split this article into five sections, covering ski and snow, winter sun, romantic escapes, cultured city breaks, and offbeat celebrations. I’ve also avoided generic tips like ‘go to London because it’s less busy’ and instead focused on destinations that have something special happening in February so that you can make your well-timed visit particularly unforgettable.

Best European adventure, snow and ski destinations in February

For fresh powder lovers, the best European vacations in February take place on the pistes, but skiing isn’t the only activity available this month. Northern lights chasing, snowshoeing, and adventures in the Arctic all abound in the winter climates of the north. 

The French Alps

Arguably the most iconic ski destination on the planet, France’s reign as the ultimate place for first-class pistes and après-ski is undisputed. The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpe, with its more than 150 ski and winter sports resorts, has something for everyone — ranging from the most indulgent and luxe properties with direct access to some of Les 3 Vallées best ski runs to more affordable ski passes in Le Semnoz.

France’s slopes are also an excellent February half-term destination as they are quick and easy to reach, either on a short flight to Chambéry, Grenoble or Lyon or by bundling everyone in the car and driving over on the Channel Tunnel. Family-friendly ski resorts are in no short supply, with companies such as Sno having dedicated packages and lodges suitable for children of any age. Some chalets and resorts offer kids’ clubs, teens’ ski schools, or even creches and child care.

Another of the best events in February in Europe happens around the upscale resort of Courchevel when the Pyrotechnic Arts Festival brightens the skies with fireworks and torchlit evenings (weekly between 15th February and 7th March 2024).

Get cozy, or active, in Norway's Nordland Region
Get cosy, or active, in Norway’s Nordland Region

Nordland, Norway

Norway’s least populated region, Nordland, is perhaps best known for the cinematic Lofoten Islands. Here, the scenery is spectacular in February, when snow coats the dramatic peaks, and Rorbu cabins (traditional fishing huts) add a splash of colour. But there are plenty more winter snow adventures to have in the north of the country, with ski resorts around Narvik and snowshoeing in the Arctic — part of Lapland is also within Nordland’s borders. Best of all, some of Norway’s best long-distance train journeys depart and arrive from here, and the Nordland Travel Pass will allow you to explore the whole region car-free. 

But there are a couple of extra reasons why Norland is one of the best places to visit in Europe in Winter 2024. Firstly, the aurora borealis (northern lights) are predicted to be particularly impressive this winter as the 12-year Solar Cycle is expected to hit its peak in early 2024, meaning as long as there is a clear evening, the sky should put on a proper show pretty regularly.

Secondly, the remote city of Bodø has been crowned one of the EU’s Capital of Culture 2024 — the first time any city in the Arctic has been given the title — and the year-long programme of cultural events will launch on the 3rd of February 2024. To celebrate, an out-of-this-world floating stage will be in the city’s harbour to officially declare the start of Bodø2024.

Getting into Innsbruck's mountains is easy
Getting into the mountains and Karwendel Nature Park is easy from Innsbruck

Tyrol, Austria 

The Austrian Alps are where winter comes alive, and with snow adventures and skiing being two of the best things to do in Austria, February is a fantastic time to visit this mountainous and scenic region. There is a huge array of ski resorts to choose from in this corner of Austria, ranging from famous slopes around Ischgl and Serfaus to more beginner-friendly runs at Kitzbühel. Cross-country skiing is also possible, while there are plenty of sledging opportunities for the younger ones.

February’s charm isn’t just fresh snow, though; the Tyrol region is laden with history and tradition. As with many other countries in Europe in February, carnival time adds a splash of colour to the otherwise white landscapes. The Tirolean Carnival parades take place in most towns, and you can expect plenty of traditional dress alongside costumes of witches and wooden masks. Some of Tyrol’s best carnival events only take place every 3 or 4 years. In 2024, it’s the turn of Imst Schemenlaufen (4th February 2024), one of the Alps’ most important masked parades, which is inscribed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. As this event only happens every four years, it’s worth trying to attend if you’re in Austria in February.

If you just want a short and quick getaway, consider a long weekend in Innsbruck. One of the best cities in Europe to visit in February for a ski holiday, thanks to its proximity to the mountains, there are also enough museums and cultural attractions to fill at least one day. From Innsbruck, you’re also well-placed for some intense snow-covered treks in Karwendel Nature Park.

Best winter destinations in Europe
Misty mornings during February’s Venice Carnival

Where to go in February in Europe for Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day falling on a Wednesday in 2024, it’s a little harder to plan a romantic midweek getaway. Still, you don’t need to celebrate your love on the commercialised day itself, and a city break on one of the weekends is surely better than a bunch of roses. Sure, you could pick from any of the more romanticised cities on the continent, such as Paris, Florence or Prague. Or, you could plan where to go in Europe in February for Valentine’s Day around one of these awesome annual events instead.

Venice, Italy

Starting with perhaps the most obvious choice for a romantic city break, Venice is certainly one of the best places to visit for Valentine’s Day — but I’m thinking about the magic of one of the world’s greatest carnivals (3rd – 13th February 2024) rather than charming if chilly gondola rides.

Dating back to the 12th century (although some reports believe it was informally established some 200 years before), Venice Carnival has long been one of the greatest festivals on the planet, packed with colour, glam, debauchery and secrets — often concealed behind those fabled Venetian masks, which also date back to the Middle Ages. Nowadays, it’s a mix of grand and opulent ticket-only balls, street performers, competitions and parades. So why not whisk your loved one away for a visit to Venice in February to celebrate in this city of romance?

If you’d prefer another nearby romantic alternative, then consider Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, where Valentine’s Day is also a huge celebration. With many romantic and memorable things to do in Italy, there is no shortage of February city breaks to choose from.

The canals of Venice
Venice is one of the most romantic places in the world

Sitges, Spain

Sitges, one of Europe’s most gay-friendly destinations, hosts its huge carnival celebration between the 8th and 14th of February 2024, making it an excellent and safe place for the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate Valentine’s Day. One of the oldest carnivals in Catalonia, huge parades, costumes and crowds descend on this seaside town, breaking its winter hibernation in the most kaleidoscopic way.

There are two big parades, with the second being on the 13th of February, 2024 — ideally for partying into Valentine’s Day proper — and the main LGBTQ+ clubs and bars host their own parties throughout the week. 

Away from the celebrations (although it’s nearly impossible to avoid them), you’ve got a couple of fantastic museums, such as Cau Ferrat, sea-view restaurants, and a cute if small Old Town to visit. Of course, one of Sitge’s main draws is the beach, and while it isn’t one of the warmest places to visit in February in Europe, you might get lucky with some sunny days to top up your tan.

Journey through time at The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Sicily
February might not be beach weather in Nice, but it’s still time to celebrate

Côte d’Azur, France

Paris might be France’s most obvious choice for a Valentine’s Day getaway, but if you want to turn your romantic trip into a week-long vacation, then a luxury visit to the French Riviera might be the perfect answer.

Best known for glamour, film festivals, pretty pastel-hued homes and one of Europe’s smallest countries, Monaco, there is no shortage of first-class restaurants and romantic resorts to steal away along the shoreline. However, there are a few of France’s best events scheduled in the south during February, and I’d highly recommend you make your visit to the Côte d’Azur even more special by planning it around one of these.

Perhaps the most famous is Nice Carnival, one of the world’s biggest, where this upscale seaside resort comes alive with parades (the illuminated nighttime procession is particularly fantastic), flower battles (yep, you read that right), and general revelry. The ridiculously attractive town of Menton, closer to the Italian border, also holds a big annual bash, the Fête du Citron, on the same dates (both run between February 17th and March 3rd, 2024). The Lemon Festival is a flamboyant and almost fantasy festival where the colours and flavours of citrus fruits set the stage for parades, artisan stores, and local produce tasting. Lastly, there’s also the short but sweet Fête du Mimosa (14th – 18th February 2024), which starts on Valentine’s Day itself and is anchored around the blossoming of the locally beloved Mimosa trees.

Journey through time at The Valley of the Temples, Sicily
Journey through time at The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Sicily

Best European cities to visit in February

When putting together my picks of the best cities in Europe to visit in February, I’ve focused on destinations that have annual events scheduled, the food and bar scene is strong (for those colder nights), and enough museums or cultural attractions to keep you busy in case of some showers. If you just want affordable food and drink with better chances of blue skies, then consider Valletta (Malta), Lisbon (Portugal), or Chania (Crete, Greece).

Agrigento, Sicily, Italy 

Sicily is always a good idea, and if you’re visiting Europe in February, then the city of Agrigento, already an archaeological wonder, should be firmly in your sights for the pretty almond tree blossoms that brighten the city. As well as admiring the flowers, there’s an official Festival of Almond Blossom (the 2024 dates are to be confirmed), which includes performances, parades and puppet shows. Later in the month, a grand feast to celebrate the city’s patron saint is also held.

But even if blossoms aren’t your thing, Agrigento is perhaps the best reason to visit Sicily year-round. It’s laden with history, and the Valle dei Templi, a vast archaeological and World Heritage Site consisting of ancient Greek temples, will astound you as you walk the ridge linking these ancient wonders. And while the weather is far from guaranteed at this time of year, Sicily’s southern position makes it one of the warmest places to visit in Europe in February.

Get cosy along Copenhagen's Nyhavn in February
Get cosy along Copenhagen’s Nyhavn in February

Copenhagen, Denmark

Chic Copenhagen is one of the best European city breaks in February, thanks to the Vinterjazz festival (1st – 25th February 2024) bringing something extra to this already cultured city. For over three weeks, multiple concerts can be appreciated in various venues, ranging from chilly open-air performances to impressive contemporary concert halls. There are only a few free events, so you’ll want to scan the schedule to book tickets in advance.

Alongside the jazz concerts, you can still cram plenty into a two-day weekend visit to Copenhagen. Some 50-odd excellent museums offer plenty of respite from any showers, with a few, such as the standout SMK Art Museum, easily occupying half a day. If opulent halls and royal history are more your thing, then the city’s handful of palaces and castles are sure to impress, while iconic sights such as the colourful 17th-century Nyhavn Canal and overrated Little Mermaid statues round off any visit.

Of course, another bonus of visiting after Christmas and before the popular summer season is that accommodation prices are usually lower. Other ways to cut costs in Denmark are to consider hostels (there are plenty of trendy, private room options), take a Copenhagen free walking tour (don’t forget to tip), consider the Copenhagen Card and take the Havnebussen rather than a canal tour. All additional affordable benefits of a February visit.

The iconic Grand-Place of Brussels
The iconic Grand Place in the heart of Brussels

Brussels, Belgium

Highly underrated, many people expect to find a sterile and bureaucratic Belgian capital when they first visit Brussels, but in reality, it’s anything but. There’s excellent cuisine on nearly every street corner with global gastronomy well represented; the nation’s penchant for first-class craft beers ensures that even on cold winter nights, the bars are tempting; and the city’s collection of celebrated cultural institutions, galleries and museums can fill countless rainy days. Plus, who doesn’t love Belgian chocolate?

As an added bonus for visiting this European city in February, you’ll also be treated to the Bright Festival of Lights, which runs from the 15th to 18th February 2024. Installations from local and international artists bring incredible illuminations to some of the city’s most prominent landmarks, giving a magical life to the otherwise cold nights.

Plaza de Espana Seville
Take a tour of all the carnival celebrations in Andalucia in February

Warm European destinations in February for winter sun

If you’re wondering where to go in Europe in February for sun, then my suggestions of the best warm European destinations in January — the Algarve, Malta and the Canary Islands — still apply. However, February brings with it a few more excellent choices, with huge carnivals under (hopefully) blue skies being the main reason I’ve chosen them. And given how even the warmest winter destinations in Europe can’t guarantee endless blue days, at least if you get unlucky with some worse-than-expected weather, you’ll have these unforgettable cultural experiences to cherish instead.

Andalucia (or Tenerife), Spain

Spain’s southern Andalucia region is one of mainland Europe’s warmest winter destinations, with February temperatures in the city of Seville often reaching 17°C (62°F) in the daytime. Still, the odd shower and chilly evenings are to be expected, but thankfully, by night, you can warm up with the region’s incredible area of carnival celebrations.

No matter where you decide to visit in this passionate region, you’ll likely find a party. Some of the most famous festivals are the huge and often humorous street party of Cadiz Carnival (8th – 18th of February 2024), which lasts well over a week, the similarly grand Málaga Carnival (3rd – 11th of February 2024), which dates back hundreds of years, and the Carnaval Colombino in lesser-visited Huelva. It’s a great time to plan a road trip through Andalucia to soak up the region’s culture of tapas, flamenco, and Islamic architecture, as prices and crowds can be thin along the coast, stopping at the parties along the way.

But if you want to be a part of the biggest February festivities in Spain, then you’ll need to head to Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, for the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Flamboyant in all ways, this fifteen-day event consumes the island’s capital, and it comes with an added bonus: the temperatures are even warmer down here due to being closer to the Sahara than Spain proper. This year, events start in January and end on the 18th of February, 2024.

Dan in Madeira Quinta da Saraiva discount code
Relaxing with a local wine looking out on Madeira at Quinta da Saraiva

Madeira, Portugal

With an almost year-round spring climate, the autonomous Portuguese archipelago of Madeira is one of Europe’s warmest destinations in February. Daytime temperatures around 16°C (61°F) are fairly common, though with the odd shower here and there and chilly evenings, an umbrella and jacket are still advised. Whether your February aim is to try and catch some winter sun, swim in natural pools formed from lava, or hike incredible mountainous trails above the clouds, you’ll find it all here.

Just be warned, unlike many of Europe’s best beach destinations, the majority of the beaches on Madeira are pebbly or volcanic sands. If you want the more typical golden sands on your doorstep, then you’ll need to take the two-hour ferry to Porto Santo, Madeira’s little sister, where a golden beach stretches out as far as the eye can see. With little tourism on this secondary island in the offseason, the hotels that do remain open year-round often offer great value deals.

However, as with many of the other destinations on this list, Madeira’s February highlight is the island’s two-week-long carnival (7th – 18th of February 2024). Usually starting in the second week of the month, you can expect plenty of flower-themed costumes and colourful dancers washed back with the local Madeira wine or poncha (a typical sugarcane rum drink) across the island, although the biggest celebrations are in Funchal, the capital city.

Madeira's flower festival is a spectacle of people on parades and floats
Madeira’s Carnival is one of many annual celebrations

Cyprus

Technically located in Western Asia, the Mediterranean nation of Cyprus is nonetheless considered one of the warmest places to visit in Europe in February. With a mild winter climate — temperatures are often around 15°C (59°F) with a mix of sunny and cloudy days in February — it’s a fairly reliable bet for a bit of winter sun if not a full beach holiday.

Across this beautiful island, you’ll find some spectacular shorelines, beaches and bays. And not only are the island’s golden sands and turquoise waters pretty, if slightly chilly, but there are plenty of attractions to keep you entertained if rain showers do appear. From the ancient archaeological attractions of Pahos — such as the 4th-century BC Tombs of the Kings — to the border-defining city of Nicosia’s museums, Cyprus’ best attractions are varied and fascinating.

February also has another compelling reason to visit Cyprus: the carnival. Commencing around the middle of the month, you’ll find celebrations in plenty of towns and villages. Two of the biggest are in Paphos, which culminates in a grand parade (in 2024, this will actually be on the 9th of March), and Limassol (8th of February – 17th of March 2024), renowned for its eating, dancing, and all-round revelry.

Pin it: Best places to visit in Europe in February (Top: Cyprus | Bottom: Caretos constume /Canva)
Pin it: Best places to visit in Europe in February (Top: Cyprus | Bottom: Caretos costume /Canva)

More ‘offbeat’ places to go in February in Europe

Ending on my favourite topic of visiting Europe’s most underrated cities and towns, here are a few more of my personal recommendations of where to go in Europe in February that are often criminally overlooked.

Podence, Portugal

One of the most interesting places to visit in February in Europe is the small northern Portuguese village of Podence. For much of the year, this offbeat spot not far from the Spanish border flies under the radar. But in February, that all changes when the Carnival of Podence (18th – 21st February 2024) brings a flurry of activity.

Still, even though the event is UNESCO-listed due to its long history and unique costumes, most visitors to Europe in February haven’t even heard of it. For those that do want to visit, advance planning is essential, as while thousands of people do descend on the village for the mid-February event, the tourism infrastructure simply isn’t there to accommodate such a crowd. Hiring a car and staying in nearby larger towns such as Braganca, Macedo de Cavaleiros, or even Vila Real are, therefore, the best ways to organise your visit.

But what makes this small random carnival so special? Firstly, it’s the story behind the celebration and unique costumes of this remote region. The roots of the carnival were as a rite of passage, paganism, fertility, and celebrating the winter’s end. Secondly, the performances by the ‘Caretos’, who are dressed in traditional colourful streamer costumes and masks, are almost hypnotizing.

Over the four days, bonfires are lit, the sound of the gaita (a bagpipe instrument of Northern Portugal and Spain’s Galicia region) rings through the mountain air, and torches topped by flames are whipped around by the dancing Caretos. It’s a confusing, colourful and sometimes almost satanic feeling event, but if you want to experience Europe’s hidden gems, this is one place to find them.

Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Like many of the most popular places to visit in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Sarajevo’s tourism is often discussed in conversations about war. And while the country’s capital certainly has stories of horror to convey, I believe it’s important we don’t just visit cities because of their past, but also to see and learn from their blossoming future — modern Sarajevo is both a fascinating mix of cultures, religions and traditions, but also a forward-looking city of trendy coffee houses, galleries and festivities.

What makes it one of the best European cities to visit in February for an offbeat break is the Sarajevo Winter Festival (the 40th anniversary is this year, starting on the 7th of February 2024), which has a packed programme from early February into mid-March. One of the annual cultural highlights in Bosnia & Herzegovina, you’ll find art exhibitions, literary events, concerts, theatre and opera performances both within the city’s cultural institutions but also in the nearby Olympic Mountains — the festival was actually first launched as part of their turn hosting the winter games. For an insight into the culture of a country often skipped by travellers, this February event makes for an ideal time to visit. 

Outside of the programmed events, you’ve got one of the most engrossing cities in Europe to explore. Do take time to learn about the country’s recent and hard-to-process history at the Museum Of Crimes Against Humanity And Genocide, and of course, you’ll likely want to learn more about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which triggered the start of World War One. But away from this haunted past, delve into the city’s medley of architecture — there are glorious mosques and Islamic-style touches inside Vijećnica (Town Hall) — and explore the ever-growing cafe culture, take it all in from the Yellow Fortress high above, and get lost in the bazaar of Baščaršija. You can even hit the slopes for a fraction of France’s prices in the resorts beyond the city limits.

In February half-term, Durham's Beamish Museum puts on special events
In February half-term, Durham’s Beamish Museum puts on special events

Durham, England 

If you’re wondering where to go in Europe in February without flying abroad, why not plan a UK staycation a bit closer to home and head to Durham during the half-term holidays? Stacked with important historical sites, such as Durham Castle and Cathedral — both of which have major Harry Potter vibes — alongside a decent energy and selection of affordable restaurants thanks to the student-heavy population, it’s one of my favourite destinations in England.

But the top two reasons to visit Durham in February are for the annual Fire & Ice event (23rd – 24th February 2024), when the city is decorated by interactive displays, frozen statues, and dusk fires blazing for a couple of days. Secondly, the impressive open-air Beamish Museum, which shows bygone eras in reconstructed towns and houses with actors and real-life rattling trams, hosts a dedicated February half-term programme for kids.

If you’re up in Scotland and don’t fancy crossing the border, you might want to plan a visit to Aberdeen instead for the SPECTRA Festival of Light (8th -11th February 2024), which illuminates the gorgeous cobbled streets and modern corners of this often unsung Scottish city.

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