Europeans have dreamt up many definitions of cozy. Denmark has hygge, a concept that evokes “coziness when relaxing with good friends.” Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have gemütlich, which translates to “comfortably homey.” And Bulgaria has its уют, which means “snug.”
In other words, when the temperature drops, there’s a special appeal to hightailing it to Europe, where the art form of coziness has been perfected over the course of a few thousand winters. From the Ardennes to the Alps, woodsy retreats with crackling fireplaces, steamy thermal baths with pine-scented steam rooms, and wood-paneled inns where bubbling pots of fondue and shots of schnapps have long warmed locals and propelled many travelers to cross an ocean for a taste.
Still, the concept of a European winter getaway is changing. Seaside towns and off-season resort areas are seeing an uptick of visitors who come for digital detoxes and crowd-free retreats that can cost a quarter as much as a ski weekend. Sagres, in Portugal, for instance, is experiencing an increase in visitors, namely golfers seeking a bit of cool January sun and surfers coming for the winter swells. Croatia’s Istrian coast, meanwhile, attracts flocks of Zagreb creative types thanks to the significant off-season savings at its seaside and design-forward hotels.
Find out why there’s no winter like a European winter—especially in these towns.