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5 cities in Europe to visit in January

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It is that time of the year to ignore the weather and pack your bags to discover hidden gems

With Christmas out of the way, but winter pretty much here,  January unveils a unique charm in several European cities, inviting intrepid travelers to explore beyond the conventional tourist seasons.

Despite being the winter season, Europe also has plenty of cultural festivals and events in January. From winter markets and music festivals to unique local celebrations, travelers can immerse themselves in the cultural richness of different regions. And with January being officially an off-peak travel season in Europe, you are likely to battle fewer crowds at popular attractions and landmarks such as museums and historic sites.

Euronewsweek prepared a list featuring six enchanting European destinations, each offering a distinctive winter experience that goes beyond the surface.

Photo: Saikat Bhuiyan

Vienna, Austria – Imperial Elegance Amidst Winter Whispers

Nestled in the heart of Europe, Vienna transforms into a winter wonderland in January. The city’s imperial palaces, including the iconic Schönbrunn and Hofburg, stand adorned with a dusting of snow, creating a captivating scene. Explore the grandeur of the Belvedere Palace and its extensive art collection, or wander through the enchanting Stadtpark. With temperatures hovering around 0 to 5 degrees Celsius, savor a cup of hot Viennese coffee at Café Central or indulge in a horse-drawn carriage ride through the city’s picturesque streets.

Photo: Marc Najera

Barcelona, Spain – Sunshine on Gaudí’s Masterpieces

In January, Barcelona basks in mild winter sunshine, providing the perfect setting to explore its architectural marvels. Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and Park Güell take on a serene ambiance, allowing for a more intimate connection with these iconic landmarks. Venture into the narrow alleys of the Gothic Quarter, where the Cathedral of Barcelona stands proudly. With average temperatures ranging from 8 to 14 degrees Celsius, enjoy the warmth of local tapas in bustling markets and discover the city’s vibrant street life.

Photo: Jon Flobrant

Reykjavik, Iceland – Geothermal Wonders

Brave the winter chill in Reykjavik, where January unveils a magical display of the Northern Lights. Explore the city’s unique cultural offerings at the National Museum or unwind in the steaming waters of the Blue Lagoon. For the adventurous, embark on a thrilling glacier tour or marvel at the geysers and hot springs surrounding the city. With temperatures ranging from -1 to 3 degrees Celsius, Reykjavik’s winter landscape promises an unforgettable escape into nature’s spectacle.

Photo: Milan Chudoba

Prague, Czech Republic – Explorations in Frosty Splendor

January turns Prague into a fairytale setting, with snow-draped spires and cobblestone streets creating a picturesque scene. Immerse yourself in the rich history of Prague Castle, where the St. Vitus Cathedral stands as a testament to Gothic architecture. Traverse the charming Old Town Square, adorned with winter markets and festive lights. Indulge in hearty Czech cuisine in cozy taverns, as temperatures hover around -3 to 1 degree Celsius, providing a tranquil backdrop to the city’s timeless beauty.

Photo: Seongho Jang

Edinburgh, Scotland – Extravaganza and Historic Wonders

Edinburgh, renowned for its iconic Hogmanay Festival, comes alive in January with vibrant celebrations. Traverse the historic Royal Mile, where the Edinburgh Castle stands proudly against the winter sky. Explore the city’s rich history in the quieter winter months, discovering the National Museum of Scotland and the dynamic Edinburgh Zoo. With average temperatures ranging from 2 to 6 degrees Celsius, Edinburgh’s winter magic invites you to partake in festive parades and New Year’s Day extravaganzas.

Photo: Filip Bunkens

Ijzerenleen, Belgium – Cobblestone Charms Along the Water

In the heart of Belgium, Ijzerenleen in Mechelen beckons winter visitors with its cobblestone streets along the water. The picturesque canalside setting, adorned with historic buildings, creates a tranquil atmosphere. Explore the local charm of the Ijzerenleen promenade and visit nearby attractions such as St. Rumbold’s Cathedral. With average temperatures around 2 to 6 degrees Celsius, Mechelen’s winter allure provides a quieter escape for those seeking a hidden gem.

It is that time of the year to ignore the weather and pack your bags to discover the hidden gems waiting to be explored in the quieter, colder months.

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Swiss Air Lines to offer direct services from Seoul to Zurich

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Swiss Air Lines to offer direct services from Seoul to Zurich
Non-stop service from Seoul to start on May 8, 2024 | Photo: Henrique Ferreira

Swiss International Air Lines will be further expanding its services in the 2024 summer schedule with the addition of Seoul to its long-haul network in Asia. Alongside the already announced new intercontinental destinations of Washington, DC and Toronto, Canada in the West, SWISS will also be enlarging its long-haul network in the East by connecting the South Korean capital of Seoul with Zurich, Switzerland.

Seoul, the capital of South Korea, will receive its first-ever SWISS services in summer 2024. This metropolis offers a perfect blend of traditional charm and contemporary flair and delights visitors with sights like the Gyeongbokgung Palace and futuristic landmarks such as the N Seoul Tower. Similarly, Switzerland offers a mix of natural beauty and modernity with its majestic Alpine landscapes, including the Matterhorn and Jungfrau peaks, as well as the vibrant economic and cultural centre of Zurich.

“We are delighted to be further growing our network,” says SWISS Chief Commercial Officer Heike Birlenbach. “As well as our new long-haul destinations of Washington, DC and Toronto, which we’ve already announced, we’ll be adding the extremely attractive destination of Seoul to our Asian network in summer 2024. The capital of South Korea has a lot to offer leisure and business travellers alike. And our new Seoul service will help us even better meet our customers’ needs for non-stop services to and from the world’s key cities.” 

According to Leo Tonidandel, General Manager Korea, Lufthansa Group Airlines: “We are excited to launch Seoul as the first new destination in Asia for SWISS in 2024. As a premium carrier, SWISS will offer four cabins including First Class and Premium Economy Class and provide Korean passengers with more choices when traveling to Europe with direct flights from Seoul/Incheon to Zurich and beyond with connections in Zurich. In addition, SWISS, as a member of Lufthansa Group Airlines, gives Korean customers the opportunity to enjoy combined services with Lufthansa, including the same mileage program and various benefits.”

SWISS will commence its thrice-weekly non-stop service between Zurich and Seoul on 8  May 2024. The flights will be operated with an Airbus A340 equipped with First, Business, Premium Economy and Economy Class.

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Great places to stay in the Algarve that won’t break the bank

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A rooftop terrace in the Algarve, Portugal, where it is still possible to find an affordable holiday rental.
Despite the current cost of living in Europe, it is still possible to find affordable luxury accommodation in the Algarve, Portugal.

Known for its golden sandy beaches, good tourism infrastructure, and friendly weather all year round, it is not a surprise that the Algarve, in Portugal, is a sought-after destination for locals and tourists from around the world. And popularity comes at a price: according to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), over the first semester of 2023 alone, the average property prices in the Algarve increased by 16.6% compared to the first quarter of 2022. In fact, in the past four years, the price per square meter of properties still available in the region has increased by an astounding 57% – a 10 percentage point increase above the national market average in Portugal.

Thankfully, you don’t have to buy a property in the Algarve to enjoy its 100+ beaches and 155 km coastline. Although the cost of living in Europe have pushed princes up, including temporary accommodation, it is still possible to visit Portugal and stay in decent places charging reasonably affordable daily fees in the Algarve.

Here our readers share the places and areas they have chosen to stay while in the Algarve to make the most of this popular destination without emptying their wallets.

Olhos de Água for affordable boutique hotels

“I spent 12 days in Algarve while backpacking throughout Latin American and European cities. While searching through different hotel booking sites, I came across Velamar Boutique Hotel, in Olhos de Água, which cost me € 85 per day, which is reasonable given the number of amenities the hotel provides including an outdoor swimming pool, a spa, as well as game and meeting rooms.”

Shreya Patel – Marketing Manager at Lowest Flight Fares

Portimão for riverside tranquillity

“I typically head to Spain’s Costa Brava for a quick beach getaway. Last summer, I wanted to treat myself to a little luxury in a new location, so I decided upon the Jupiter Marina Hotel – Couples & Spa – in Portimão, Algarve. It is a luxurious 4-star hotel ideally positioned in Portimão, just a stone’s throw from the riverside and close to the  marina and beach. I particularly enjoyed the comfort of the rooms and the ambiance of the rooftop bar. Reasonably priced from €56, I found it almost half the price of other luxury accommodation in the area.”

Guy Sharp – Relocation Manager at Andorra Guides 


Ferragudo for timeless beauty

“Nestled between the vibrant cities of Lagos and Albufeira, Ferragudo unveils the essence of a quintessential Portuguese fishing village. During my visit last year, I found myself enchanted by the town’s authenticity, momentarily setting aside my camera to soak in the natural beauty that surrounded me. Positioned at the mouth of the Arada River, Ferragudo retains its timeless beauty, offering a tranquil riverside route. While there, also take time to visit Praia do Pintadinho Praia dos Caneiros and the Ferragudo Lighthouse for breathtaking panoramic views.”

Olly Gaspar – Adventure Travel Publisher & Photographer

Daily rates for accommodation in Ferragudo start from €50.

Entire holiday homes in the Algarve can be booked from as little as £69 per day

Roja-Pé for family Airbnb near the beach

“I like to stay at nice places, but I try to avoid busy hotels whenever possible. And as someone who often travels with a family of six members, that is why I first look at Airbnb to see if large properties are available. This works out more economically than booking several rooms separately. For two years in a row, I have stayed at Casa D’ Cor, a spacious townhouse in Albufeira with a rooftop terrace, within walking distance from Falesia Beach and Olhos D’agua Beach. It is a very residential area so, besides feeling safe, I find it close enough to  bustling places during the day – yet still very tranquil for those looking to rest at night.”

Celine Allard – Retired teacher

Booking the entire Casa D’Cor, costs from £69 per day during the low season (November – March).


Porches for luxury within budget


“During my recent trip to the Algarve, I stumbled upon this fantastic spot called Vila Vita Parc by Azure Retreats. It’s a luxury resort offering 7 nights from £1,105pp, including flights, transfers and breakfast. It is Tucked away in the countryside with great views. If you are up for a bit of luxury that won’t wreck your budget, give Azure Retreats a shot – totally worth it!”

Maarten Cox – Director at Gecko Routes

Luz for luxury within budget

“As a travel and lifestyle writer with over 12 years of extensive travel experience, one of my most recent adventures took me to Luz, in the Algarve, where I stayed at the Luz Beach Apartments. These self-catering apartments appeal with their balance of comfort, luxury, and affordability. With fully equipped kitchens, spacious rooms, and stunning sea views, it was far superior to my average Airbnb stays. Being able to enjoy the golden sands within just a short stroll from my temporary home added a unique convenience and luxury that is rare to come by, especially without burning a hole in your pocket. Plus, with eateries and local marketplaces in the vicinity, I could truly immerse in the local culture and lifestyle.”

Amelia Thompson – Travel writer

Sea view studios at Luz Beach Apartments cost from €70 during the low season (November – March)

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Platform for Venice entry fee for day trippers is now live

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View of Venice's main canal on a sunny day
New access fee to enter Venice aims to discourage daily tourism during peak periods | Photo: Angelo Casto

Following the announcement of new tourist rules for Venice launching this year, the platform for visitors to purchase the €5 fee to enter the city for day-trippers is now live, allowing visitors to make their payment before visiting the city. The fee does not apply for visitors that stay overnight in the city.

The authorities in Venice have officially enforced the entry fee, also known as the Venice Access Fee, for day visitors sightseeing in the ancient City of Canals during 29 designated dates in the year. The initiative aims to preserve the daily life of Venice residents.

This Access Fee initiative, seeks to discourage daily tourism during peak periods. The 5-euro per day fee is applicable only to the historical parts of the city.

The platform issues a QR code upon payment, simplifying the entry process and making it more efficient for travelers to explore the iconic city. The fee is applicable on specific days from 25th April to 5th May and on weekends in May, June, and July, from 8:30 am to 4 pm, excluding access to the islands.

What if I don’t pay?

Day-trippers not purchasing a €5 ticket to enter Venice on selected days in 2024 will face a fine. The penalty ranges from €50 (£43) to €300 (£258), plus an additional €10 (£8.60) for the entry fee. In exceptional circumstances (for example, if you do not have access to the internet) visitors will be able to pay the entry fee at a kiosk on arrival in Venice, Italy.

How to pay in advance the €5 fee to enter Venice

The Venice council has launched an online platform allowing you to prepay if you’re visiting for the day, here.

Click on pay the fee – you’ll then be taken to a landing page run by Venezia Unica, the city’s official tourism site.

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