During the cold season, vacation is the time to get cozy and relax. But for those looking to add a bit of adventure or discovery to their holiday unwinding, a winter city break will give the best of both worlds.
Whether you want to while away the hours in world-famous museums, get your foodie fix in pioneering restaurants, or just love spending days wandering the foreign streets of a new destination, we’ve rounded up the best cities in the world to visit this winter, as well as the hotels you need to check in to while you’re there.
When it comes to Italian city breaks, Rome and Venice are naturally at the top of travelers’ bucket lists. However, Florence has our heart this season. The winter months do see temperatures drop considerably, but the silver lining is the lack of tourists. While summer might have you wasting hours in long queues or opting for your second or even third choice of restaurant, a winter city break in Florence will be refreshingly crowd-free.
The city is an art buff’s heaven, with some of the finest remaining examples of Renaissance art and architecture on display. First on the museum tour should be the world-famous Uffizi Gallery, which is home to works by Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael, among other greats. The Accademia and Palazzo Pitti are also must-visits. The city is a work of art in itself, even, with stunning buildings at every turn, separated by the wide Arno river that runs through the middle.
For your winter city break in Florence, make a reservation at the Four Seasons Firenze. Tucked back slightly from the main city, the hotel is found within an impressive villa that dates back to the 15th century, surrounded by perfectly manicured walled gardens. Inside, the aptly named Historical Suites are the top key, with period furniture, frescoed ceilings, and glittering chandeliers galore. The beautiful setting is accompanied by service that is up to the usual impeccable Four Seasons standards and some. Another highlight is the hotel’s impressive dining offering, which includes the one-Michelin-starred Il Palagio. It is worth knowing that the restaurant sets up the most picturesque dining experiences: on request, guests can enjoy dinner in the hotel’s private chapel or even on the fourth floor of the iconic Ponte Vecchio.
With its enviably chic residents, world-leading fine dining scene, and abundance of culture, the Danish capital makes for a no-brainer winter city break. The city of Hygge is the perfect cocoon for those who want to experience winter from a cozy and welcoming destination and enjoy warm drinks while eating pastries in a candle-lit room.
Foodie travelers won’t need reminding, but Copenhagen’s best restaurants are notoriously difficult to get a reservation at, so be sure to do your research ahead of time; this city waits for no one. Noma is the obvious bet, but it was announced earlier this year that Winter 2024 will be its last season before closing the restaurant to a cooking lab, so don’t miss the last chance to experience the five-time Best Restaurant in the World winner. Carve out some time to visit the likes of Geranium, Alchemist, and the newly opened Jatak, all of which are helping to uphold Copenhagen’s remarkable dining reputation.
After a day of exploring, eating and people-watching, rest your head at the stunning Villa Copenhagen hotel. Occupying an impressive building that used to house the Central Post & Telegraph Head Office, Villa Copenhagen fuses European style and luxury touches with environmental consideration. Rooms are indulgent yet minimalist, with each suite boasting its own distinct themes. The dining offering is equally as thoughtful, with local, seasonal fare and inventive drinks on offer at one of the hotel’s several eateries and bars.
To top the ultimate Hygge season, you can even enjoy a ski session with a view. Right in the center of the city, Copenhill has a rooftop slope made out of green plastic – a sight too surreal to be missed.
While the UK weather is known for being temperamental, to put it lightly, winter is as good a time as any for an Edinburgh city break – just be sure to pack a raincoat. However, this is a city built for rain, so you’ll find plenty of things to do in the warm and dry. For a taste of Scottish history, take a tour around the imposing Edinburgh Castle which looms high above the city atop Castle Rock, or head to the National Museum of Scotland. If the weather does play in your favor, a hike up Arthur’s Seat is well worth the view.
Of course, Scotland is the land of whisky. While the majority of the best-known distilleries are further north, Edinburgh does have its own in the form of Holyrood Distillery, which runs regular tours and tastings. The Scottish dining scene is also an attraction in its own right, with Edinburgh’s finest restaurants showcasing the country’s bounty of native ingredients. Our newest favorite is Lyla, which opened its doors just in time for this winter season. Inside a modern and warm interior on the Royal Terrace, the well-established Edinburgh chef Stuart Ralston adds an international touch to seasonal Scottish cuisine.
Another fresh venue worth your attention, Gleneagles’ iconic hotel brought its charm to the city and opened the glamorous Gleneagles Townhouse in 2022. With its amazingly friendly staff, a wide range of wellness treatments (including an infrared sauna to come back to after wandering in the cold Scottish weather), and luxurious homey vibes, the Townhouse is the perfect place to get cozy and relax during winter in the city.
Las Vegas, US
For many, come January, the party stops with rejuvenation and wellness becoming top priority. However, for those who buy into the ethos that partying is for life, not just for Christmas, Las Vegas is a guaranteed winning winter city break.
Alongside the city’s infamous casino scene, there’s plenty in the way of entertainment. From raucous nightclubs and sporting events to musical residencies and comedians, Las Vegas promises an impossibly full social calendar. Not to mention the extraordinary dining experiences, which include an immersion into 1930s Parisian lifestyle and tables surrounded by a collection of Picasso’s original paintings.
It’s not all buzz, however, with Vegas offering plenty of opportunities for downtime high above the Strip. At the Waldorf Astoria, the award-winning spa invites guests to indulge in a series of customized wellness treatments and rituals. With its freshly renovated Art Deco lobby and luxurious rooms featuring spa-style bathrooms, this is one of our favorite relaxation spots in Sin City.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Dubbed ‘The Paris of South America’, Buenos Aires is quickly becoming a hotspot among discerning travelers. The Argentinean capital is known for its crazy yet incredibly welcoming attitude, with days seeping seamlessly into the night. If you’re prepared to melt into the Buenos Aires buzz, you’re guaranteed to experience a city break like no other.
Being in the southern hemisphere, the winters in Buenos Aires are delightfully warm, with temperatures reliably in the late 70s and early 80s from November through March. Make the most of it by catching an outdoor tango performance, or even booking tickets for a game of soccer. If the heat gets too much, head to the air-conned bliss of a museum – Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and MALBA are among the best.
Fine dining aficionados will find plenty to whet their appetite in Buenos Aires too, with Argentina renowned for its prime beef and impressive wines. Enjoy one of the best steaks in the world at the historical La Cabaña. For accommodation, check in to the city’s grande dame: The Alvear Palace Hotel. Each of the hotel’s rooms is a slice of heaven, but the city’s Parisian nickname is worth the very chic Royal Suite, with luxurious marble bathrooms and a unique corner view of Avenida Alvear and the park of Recoleta.
While the summer sees Marrakech reach sweltering average temperatures of around 98.6°F, winter is far more manageable with highs of around 73, making it a great city break choice for those who still want a little sun on their faces. Nicknamed the Red City thanks to its high, red city walls, the rich history of Marrakech is apparent at every corner, with its long cultural traditions still alive and well.
No visit is complete without a trip to the walled medina, which sits in the heart of old Marrakech, where a maze of narrowed streets leads into bustling souks. Here, local traders sell everything from spices, slippers and jewelry to Berber rugs and glass lamps. After a busy morning shopping, head to an authentic hammam bath, where the hustle and bustle of the city seemingly slips away.
Our top pick for a stay in the city is easily the Royal Mansour, also home to chef Hélène Darroze’s newly opened restaurant. Here, conventional hotel rooms and suites are replaced by riads, spread across a network of alleyways within its own private medina. The Grand Riad (which featured in our 2023 Top Suites shortlist) is the finest of them all. Covering almost 20,000 sq ft, the accommodation has four bedrooms, four bathrooms and its own private rooftop terrace, complete with a plunge pool.