When winter closes in, and Christmas is still a few weeks away, more of us are taking the opportunity to fit in a city break or two. To help you avoid the typically British winter weather, we've chosen our favourite European cities. From Athens to Reykjavik, you'll find heart-warming festive fun along with plenty of culture, all just an hour or so away.
Embrace the peace and quiet of Athens
A summer venture means there's always a chance that your photo of the Acropolis is obstructed by a few hundred other tourists. In the winter, however, Athens is a different entity entirely. Winter is a time of year where you can fully explore the city's ancient culture and history with added peace and quiet.
Typically, all the major sights and attractions stay open, outside of the Acropolis you'll pass through the Temple of Zeus, Temple of Dionysus and Roman Agora. And there's nothing more spectacular than the Parthenon in the low-lying sun of winter.
Revel in the aristocratic history of Vienna
Temperatures might be sub-zero in winter but Vienna is usually bathed in crystal clear skies, and if you're lucky, a fresh powder covering of snow. Even if you feel the cold, you'll be fully catered for in one of the many famous warm and welcoming coffee shops.
Come mid-November the vibrant street markets are bustling. There's plenty to do, and the stunning Kunsthistorisches Museum shouldn't be missed if you're in the city. Its art collection reaches through centuries and gives you an insight into one of the most affluent empires ever to grace Europe.
Escape the cold in shining Seville
Not every city break brings guaranteed snowfall or freezing temperatures. Seville, in southern Spain, bypasses winter. In fact, it's nearly non-existent. Temperatures can be as high as 20°C in November, and a very manageable 16°C in December. Visit Seville, and you'll find a warm paradise in a continent gripped by winter.
With a varied history to experience, you'll encounter a blend of Roman, Arabic and Castilian influences. When the Americas were discovered, this proud city became the economic centre of the Spanish Empire and trans-Atlantic trade. The city's 'Golden Age' was in the 15th Century, and the remnants of that explosion of culture and ideology, are seen in full view throughout the city today.
Get lost in the Christmas markets of Cologne
Germany's fourth largest city is home to some of the finest Gothic architecture in Europe, with its iconic cathedral recognised the world over. During the winter months, and over the Christmas season especially, the city becomes a wonderfully cosy winter destination and, each November, the Christmas markets sprawl beneath the cathedral and illuminations dazzle the central streets.
There are host of great museums and galleries to look out for, but Cologne is a city best spent drifting in, with its medieval churches, ancient Roman landmarks, avant-garde works and clean-cut modern districts bringing a surprise around each corner. This seemingly sleepy city will lure you in with its history and charm, but be sure to take a moment's rest in an authentic German café just to soak it all in.
Rest under the northern lights in Reykjavik
Make for a truly memorable winter by spending a few long nights beneath the Aurora Borealis. And while the Northern Lights are phenomenal, these sublime anomalies of the natural world aren't the only breathtaking part of Iceland.
The whole island nation is filled with natural wonders, with glaciers, volcanoes, geysers and boundless natural beauty throughout. Be sure to take a dip into one of the many hot springs, a favourite for both locals and tourists. These famous geothermic pools are the perfect place to wash away those winter aches, the Blue Lagoon is the most famous and this picture-perfect location is easily accessible from Reykjavik.