Winter in a motorhome is a special time. The world is a quieter place; only the brave head for the winter mountains in a motorhome. You’ll meet like minded souls and enjoy hot chocolate and mulled wine from the warmth and coziness of your van! See all the best motorhome winter destinations in Europe to inspire your seasonal and holiday travels.
Best Motorhome Winter Destinations in Europe
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OK, maybe hot chocolate and mulled wine are a bit romantic! Taking winter motorhome trips or heading for a mountain destination means preparation and ensuring you have the right equipment fitted to your van. Oh, but it’s worth it! Motorhome winter destinations in Europe mean Christmas markets, fairytale towns, untouched snow and places to take your breath away.
If you’re reading this wondering where the winter sun is or where to motorhome in winter, then head over to this post, Should I Take my Motorhome to Spain for the Winter? This post has lots of information about warm weather in Europe in winter and some of the best places to motorhome in winter.
If you’re looking for a longer motorhome stay, check out our post about van life in Europe in winter, How to Live the Van Life in Tarifa, Spain. Or, see our top fifteen road trips in Europe whatever the time of year for more ideas.
Preparation & Equipment
Unless you are heading to Southern Spain, Portugal or Morocco, you will need a winterised van (we would not recommend taking a caravan on a winter road trip where snow is expected). A winterised van has a heating system, insulation, possibly a double floor and certainly some proper winter tyres or snow chains. It is advisable to check with your motorhome insurance to see if they have any specific requirements for winter travel.
Head on over to Winterised, the authority on using a motorhome in winter, and check out their recommendations and motorhome advice sections. Have a winter service done on your van before leaving, this will ensure all your fluids and brakes are up to climbing and descending the mountains you will undoubtedly encounter motorhoming and campervanning in winter!
You also need to be prepared at home. Ensure you leave your heating on a frost setting and have someone check regularly that your pipes are all ok, especially if very cold weather is forecast. This may be a requirement of your home insurance.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Considered one of the most photogenic Christmas destinations in Europe, Rothenburg is Christmas, southern Germany and medieval all rolled into one gorgeous parcel, it has to be one of the most romantic towns in Germany.
Rothenburg is one of our favourite campervan winter destinations; the perfect time to visit this fairytale town in southern Germany. It is heaving in the summer and we think it’s more beautiful in the winter, especially with a light dusting of snow.
The Christmas market here is legendary and has been taking place every year since the 15th century. In 2019 it will start on 29th November and run until 23rd December. We’ve been to a fair few Christmas markets in Europe and this is one of our favourites for the tradition and spectacle.
This well-situated aire is a five minute walk into the town; when it snows the paths are well maintained. If you don’t need services there are a number of wild camping spots to the west of the city which you will find on Park4Night.
For more information about motorhome travel in Germany, click here.
Tallinn is a beautiful and often overlooked city at any time of the year. In winter, with cold crisp days and stunning medieval architecture, Tallinn’s Vanalinn district (or old town) is simply magical.
From mid November until early January you will find the sparkly Christmas market and tree in Raekoja plats, the Town Hall Square. In December you can skate next to the stunning and historic St. Nicholas Church in the centre of the old town, before heading to Kehrwieder Chocolaterie for a hot chocolate.
It’s not all about markets and hot chocolate though! This is a superbly well-preserved medieval UNESCO World Heritage Site stuffed full of historic buildings, urban structures and tradition. Take a walk along the city walls, visit Toompea Castle and climb some of the 20 towers still surrounding the city today.
Wild camping is legal; Estonia has a legal right to roam, giving Estonians and visitors the right to hike, camp and enjoy the great outdoors. For this reason, it is one of our top motorhome winter destinations. There are a number of wild camping spots around Tallinn but from a security perspective, we would recommend Camping Freedom, which can be booked online. There is a bus into the city centre literally outside the campsite, which takes around 15 minutes. The site is open year round.
Belgian frites, chocolate and waffles…who wouldn’t want to go here to sample these great Belgian culinary masterpieces? It’s even better in winter when the twinkling lights and clear frosty days give you licence to eat as many waffles as you want!
Bruges is a delightful city, around two hours from Calais and chock full of historic architecture, pretty squares and interesting, independent shops. There will be Christmas markets, gluewien drinking opportunities and perhaps a carriage ride along the cobbled streets.
Hop on a ferry or head for the tunnel and make Bruges an easy and affordable weekend motorhome winter destination. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the waffles!
The law on wild camping in Belgium is not clear. We stayed at this aire. It has good facilities and will take you around 30 minutes to walk into the centre of town or get the bus which will take around 10 minutes.
For more information about motorhome travel in Belgium, click here.
Lofoten Islands, Norway
Not for the faint-hearted, this is a serious motorhome winter destination of the expedition variety! The Lofoten Islands in winter, when all the summer tourists have gone, are glorious. Above the Arctic Circle and one of the best places to see the Northern Lights, this trek north is an unforgettable one.
As their name suggests, this is a group of islands, so a ferry is necessary! There are two main winter routes, from Bodo to Moskenes and Bognes too Lodingen. We recommend the former, it’s the least amount of driving by far and will cost you around £100 to cross.
There is not a great deal to do here in winter; take long coastal walks, capture amazing winter images and enjoy the solitude. This motorhome winter destination is not for everyone but for some, the lure of spending time in the Arctic Circle in winter cannot be denied.
Make sure you have good quality technical winter gear with you and don’t expect to be able to wash it very often…this trip is more about roughing it and the experience than anything else.
It rains a lot in November. From December 9th to January 4th you will experience the polar night…for us, this is not the time to be in Lofoten! In January the days will be short with the sun sitting low on the horizon, amazing for capturing the moody skies and changing light during the short time between sunrise and sunset. Winter conditions are more stable and it’s a great time of year for the Northern Lights.
It is very possible to wild camp here all year round. Norway enjoys ‘Allemannsretten’ or ‘every man’s right’ which means that nearly all uninhabited lands are open for recreation and camping. Obviously you can’t wild camp on cultivated land or private property and you should always follow the leave no trace ethos.
For more information about motorhome travel in Norway, click here.
This is a winter city, if ever there was one! Rich in history and culture, winter in Budapest has a fairy tale like quality with every winter activity you can image on offer. There are the ubiquitous Christmas markets with Vörösmarty Square being one of the most popular in central Europe as well as one of the oldest in Hungary. You can buy loads of unique and hand-crafted gifts here as well as sample traditional Hungarian foods and mulled wine.
Over in City Park, with Vajdahunyad Castle as the backdrop, is a huge ice-rink which runs from late November to mid January before it is turned back to a summer pond complete with ducks!
There’s also the stunning State Opera House and St Stephens Basilica to see, but for me the main draw are the fabulous natural thermal springs that deliver 70 million litres of warm and therapeutic water every day to more than a dozen spas.
If you’re looking for a perfect motorhome winter destination with winter sports and an alpine backdrop, look no further than Innsbruck. Surrounded by the mighty Alps, with its imperial architecture and charming alt Stadt, Innsbruck is a welcoming city that offers immediate access to a winter sports playground.
Whether it’s skiing, snowboarding or tobogganing, the mountains and glaciers surrounding Innsbruck are waiting for you whether you are a thrill-seeker or enjoy a gentle stroll.
Stay at the fantastic Natterer See Campsite which is open all year round and has the best sanitaries we have ever seen! In fact, we think this is one of the best winter campsites in Europe.
If you’d prefer to visit Innsbruck in summer, click here for loads of info.
Strasbourg, on the German border, works surprisingly well as a motorhome winter destination. Easily reachable in a day from Calais, this gorgeous medieval city is made up of charming half-timbered houses, imposing churches and pretty canals. Think of a charming medieval town dusted with snow and you will be imagining Strasbourg.
Yes, Christmas markets do exist outside Germany and Strasbourg’s has been going for centuries! This Christmas market is becoming more popular by the year and offers all the usual hand-crafted gifts and lots of delicious French goodies to eat.
Add in a bit of sight-seeing and wandering and you’ve got the perfect motorhome winter destination almost on your doorstep! This aire would be our choice, with a 10-15 minute walk or short tram ride into the centre and all the services you need.
For more information about motorhome travel in France, click here.
This is another expedition type of motorhome winter destination. You’re not going to head up to (almost) the Arctic Circle and Finnish Lapland for a long weekend, but there is so much to do here in winter, you could go for a couple of weeks or more.
Known as the home of Santa Claus, this is a busy place in the winter months. It’s home to the official Santa Claus Village, where you can meet the man himself and hang out with his reindeer. Once you’re over that, you can go dog-sledding, snow shoeing, Northern Lights watching, ice fishing, snowmobiling, ice-cart racing and ice floating (whatever that is) and more. Check out all the activities on offer here.
For a bit of culture and to learn more about Finnish Lapland and the Arctic, head to the Arktikum Science Museum where you can find out more about the culture, history and nature of the area.
There are a number of wild camping spots around Rovaniemi and a few places with services, so it’s possible to come and spend a few weeks in a winterised van. Use Google and Park4Night to research your options. The Visit Rovaniemi website is also a great resource for information, tips and attractions.
If you’re looking for other white Christmas destinations with kids, then check out this post from tripchiefs.com.
There are so many skiing destinations, it’s impossible to pick one. What I can tell you is that there are loads of places in Europe where you can park your motorhome and ski. In some destinations, there are purpose built campsites where you will have a brick-built and heated en-suite on your pitch, with lots of hot water and a bath, pretty vital after a day on the slopes.
Winterised have by far the best information, so if motorhome skiing is for you, check out their website for recommendations, winter motorhome tips and the best sites.