As the chilly winds and grey skies of winter settle over Ireland, many dream of escaping to warmer, sunnier climes. Winter sun holidays offer the perfect antidote to the cold Irish winter, providing a much-needed dose of Vitamin D and a chance to recharge. This article explores the top 7 winter sun destinations within Europe that are easily accessible from Ireland, promising milder temperatures and plenty of sunshine.
Lisbon, the coastal capital of Portugal, is a treasure trove of cultural wonders and culinary delights. Known for its warm winter sunshine and picturesque streets, Lisbon is ideal for those who seek culture and good food. Visitors can explore the historic Belém district, indulge in the famous Pastéis de Belém, or wander through the vibrant Alfama neighbourhood. And music lovers can enjoy the wonderful Misty Fest which runs at the end of November, taking over the most vibrant music venues in the city and playing host to a range of well-known international musicians for over a decade. With its mild winter temperatures, Lisbon offers an inviting escape from the Irish winter. If you’re looking for other great cultural experiences, check our blog covering 10 stunning cities for a weekend trip.
Best for: Culture enthusiasts and foodies
Best time to visit: November to March (average temperatures: 15-18°C)
Popular activities: Discovering historic landmarks, tasting local cuisine
Best areas to stay: Baixa, Chiado
Valletta, the sun-soaked capital of Malta, boasts some of the warmest winter temperatures in Europe. The city's rich history, dating back to the Knights of St. John, is evident in its fortified walls and ancient architecture. Winter visitors can enjoy leisurely strolls along the waterfront, explore historic sites like St. John's Co-Cathedral, and capture stunning photographs of the Mediterranean Sea. Valletta's compact size makes it an ideal winter sun holiday destination for history enthusiasts. And in January each year the International Baroque Festival takes place in Valetta’s Teatru Manoel, one of the oldest working theatres in the world, and throughout the rest of the city, a must do for fans of classical music.
Best for: History buffs and photographers
Best time to visit: October to April (average temperatures: 16-20°C)
Popular activities: Visiting ancient sites, enjoying coastal views
Best areas to stay: Sliema, St. Julian's
Seville, the vibrant heart of Andalusia, is famous for its Moorish architecture and lively flamenco scene. The hottest city in Continental Europe, nicknamed the “Iberian oven” due to hot air which blows up from North Africa, can be unbearably hot in the summer. But winter visitors can enjoy pleasant temperatures while exploring the Alcázar palace, the Cathedral of Seville, and the Plaza de España. The city's narrow, winding streets and colourful markets offer a feast for the senses. Seville’s unique blend of cultures makes it a fascinating destination for those seeking a winter sun holiday infused with architectural marvels and rich traditions.
Best for: Architecture lovers and flamenco fans
Best time to visit: November to February (average temperatures: 15-20°C)
Popular activities: Exploring Moorish architecture, experiencing flamenco shows
Best areas to stay: Santa Cruz, Triana
Nestled at the foot of Mount Etna, Catania is a gem on the eastern coast of Sicily. With its mild winter climate and proximity to both mountains and beaches, Catania is perfect for adventure seekers and beach enthusiasts. Visitors can experience the thrill of hiking Europe’s largest active volcano, Mount Etna, or relax on the scenic beaches along the Ionian Sea. Catania's rich history and vibrant street markets give visitors an authentic taste of Sicilian culture. The festival of Santa Lucia, celebrated on the 13th and 20th of December, is the largest and most important festival in nearby Siracusa (only a 40 minute drive away). It begins with a grand procession of the silver statute of Santa Lucia, dignitaries, marching bands, holiday lights and hundreds of barefoot local citizens offering a real insight into traditional Sicilian culture.
Best for: Adventure seekers, beach lovers
Best time to visit: November to March (average temperatures: 14-17°C)
Popular activities: Hiking Mount Etna, exploring Sicilian beaches
Best areas to stay: City Centre, Aci Castello
Nice, located on the French Riviera, is a haven for art lovers and swimmers seeking a mild winter getaway. The city is home to several renowned art museums, including the Matisse Museum and the Marc Chagall National Museum. The clear, calm waters of the Mediterranean Sea offer a unique opportunity for open-water swimming, even in winter. Nice's elegant seafront promenade and charming Old Town add to its allure as a winter sun holiday destination that the whole family can enjoy. If you’re looking for more kid friendly holiday inspiration check out the best family destinations less than 3 hours flight from Dublin.
Best for: Art aficionados and open-water swimmers
Best time to visit: December to February (average temperatures: 13-15°C)
Popular activities: Visiting art museums, swimming in the Mediterranean
Best areas to stay: Promenade des Anglais, Old Town
Paphos, a coastal city in Cyprus, is steeped in history and natural beauty. It's a paradise for archaeology enthusiasts, with the Unesco World Heritage sites of the Tombs of the Kings as well as the Paphos Archaeological Park. The nearby Akamas Peninsula offers stunning landscapes for hiking and wildlife spotting. Paphos's pleasant winter weather and scenic beaches make it an ideal destination for those seeking a combination of historical exploration and natural beauty. Oddly enough you can even go skiing in Cyprus, from January onwards on the nearby Mount Olympus, if you think snow would be more your thing, check out the best ski resorts Europe has to offer.
Best for: Archaeology enthusiasts, nature lovers
Best time to visit: November to March (average temperatures: 16-19°C)
Popular activities: Exploring ancient ruins, hiking in nature parks
Best areas to stay: Kato Paphos, Coral Bay
Dubrovnik, known as the 'Pearl of the Adriatic', is a stunningly preserved medieval city in Croatia. With its iconic city walls (familiar to all Game of Thrones fans) and breath-taking sea views, Dubrovnik offers a tranquil winter sun escape. Visitors can wander through the Old Town's cobblestone streets, marvel at the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture, and enjoy the serene beauty of the Adriatic coast. The city's mild winter temperatures make it a delightful destination for those seeking a peaceful winter retreat. Dubrovnik’s Christmas Market is gaining a serious reputation as a festive destination and could soon find itself on our list of Europe’s Best Christmas Markets.
Best for: Fans of historical architecture, serene seaside experiences
Best time to visit: October to April (average temperatures: 12-15°C)
Popular activities: Walking the city walls, exploring the Adriatic coastline
Best areas to stay: Old Town, Lapad
These spectacular European destinations are the ideal place to escape the cold Irish winter and bask in the warm sunshine. Each city offers its own unique charm, cultural richness, and pleasant winter climate. Remember, wherever your winter sun holiday takes you, ensure a worry-free trip by considering travel insurance With AIG. Happy travels and don't forget to soak up the sun!