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December 19, 2017
By Joey Tyson
Poor January has it hard. Not only does it have a tough act to follow, it’s usually cold and dreary, and forever associated with the blues. But write the start of the year off at your peril – there are travel bargains to be had.
New research from TravelSupermarket reveals that January is actually one of the cheapest times of the year for a city break in Europe. It might be cold, but the prices are low and the crowds thinner.
Our research shows that there are huge savings to be made. For example if you’re yearning to discover Seville, there’s a whopping difference in price of 73% for trips in January compared to visiting the city in September.
To inspire you to swap the January blues for a dose of culture, here are 10 cities with bargain prices and lots going on.
Average price per night in January: £30.83pp
January saving*: 56%
From war and resistance to Chopin and Curie, Warsaw’s complicated past and rich cultural heritage make it a city worth visiting at any time of year – even if the January weather is more than a bit nippy.
Its medieval-style Old Town (it was almost completely destroyed and then rebuilt again in WWII) acts as a handy centre point for the sprawling Polish capital, and in January, it plays host to a wonderful ice rink.
Meanwhile, the fascinating Warsaw Uprising Museum (Grzybowska 79, 00-844 Warszawa; +48 22 539 79 05) and the Palace of Culture and Science (plac Defilad 1, 00-901 Warszawa), are both excellent options to escape the cold.
If you’re keen to embrace the winter theme, the National Stadium (Zimowy Narodowy, Al. Księcia J. Poniatowskiego 1) transforms itself into a huge winter village where you can try your hand at skating, skiing, curling and more. There’s also The Royal Garden of Light illuminations, which light up the Wilanow Palace Museum gardens (ul. S.K. Potockiego 10/16; +48 22 544 27 00) every year.
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Average price per night in January: £35.56pp
January saving: 64%
Since it declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Riga has gone on to reinvent itself as a centre for culture and cool in the Baltics.
Its picturesque Old Town, a mixture of gothic towers and grand Art Nouveau architecture with UNESCO World Heritage status, is the heart of the action. It’s here you’ll find some of the city’s most important sights, such as the House of the Blackheads (Rātslaukums 7, Central District, Riga, LV-1050; +371 67 043 678), Līvu Square, and the imposing St Peter’s Church (Skārņu iela 19, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050).
Make no mistake, Riga in January is freezing, so wrap up warm. However, if you’re lucky enough to be in the city when it snows, it takes on a fairy tale charm – especially in the old centre. To warm up, duck into Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs (Peldu iela 19, Basement, Old town, LV-1050) for some traditional Latvian music, hearty fare and plenty of dancing.
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Average price per night in January: £39.88pp
January saving: 55%
Athens is much warmer than most other European capitals, even in the depths of January. If you’re lucky, you could see plenty of sunshine and blue skies.
The ancient Acropolis and the Parthenon, one of its most important buildings, are open for business, but the usual throngs of crowds are nowhere to be seen. The same goes for the many museums and archaeological sites that tell of Athens’ history and culture. The National Archaeological Museum (28is Oktovriou 44, Athina 106 82: +30 21 3214 4800) and the Acropolis Museum (Dionysiou Areopagitou 15, Athina 117 42; +30 21 0900 0900), are among the city’s best.
If you’re in town this January, an exhibition of influential Greek poet George Seferis (B & M Theocharakis Foundation, for the Fine Arts and Music, Vasilissis Sofias 9 & Merlin 1, Athens) and an immersive tribute to the works of Van Gogh (Megaron, Athens Concert Hall, Vassilis Sofias Ave & Kokkali Streets) are not to be missed.
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Average price per night in January: £41.25pp
January saving: 73%
With average high temperatures of 15C and around six hours of sunshine a day, Seville is positively balmy compared to most of Europe in January.
A city of rich culture and glorious architecture, Seville is famous for flamenco and some of the finest buildings in Spain – Alcázar Castle (Plaza Reina Victoria Eugenia, s/n, 40003 Segovia) and the Seville Cathedral (Av. de la Constitución, s/n, 41004) are among the city’s most splendid.
During January, the Three Kings (Los Reyes Magos) festival takes place on the 5th, where a procession makes its way through the city. Other than this, it’s business as usual, and Seville’s packed theatre calendar is worth looking into.
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Average price per night in January: £41.66pp
January saving: 57%
Hamburg is having a bit of a moment. Lonely Planet picked it as one of its top 10 cities for 2018, while it was also recently voted as the “best city in the world for a night out” by Hostelworld.
And Hamburg certainly has lots to keep you going over a short break. Minaturworld (Kehrwieder 2-4/Block D, 20457 Hamburg; +49 40 3006800), the world’s largest miniature railway, is a favourite in the city, and while it’s usually heaving, it should be much quieter in January.
Museum mile, home to five major galleries, is another good bet for escaping the cold. Meanwhile, the Reeperbahn is a hub of live music and nightlife – just be aware that it’s also a red-light district.
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Average price per night in January: £42.73pp
January saving: 53%
It might not be too hot in January, but Barcelona’s fiery fiestas bring more than enough heat to the Catalan city.
The two major parties are Cavalcada dels Reis (January 5), a huge Epiphany parade that winds up on the iconic La Rambla, and Festa dels Tres Tombs (January 17), a week-long celebration of music, feasting and pageantry in honour of the patron saint, that takes place in Sant Antoni.
Barcelona’s main attractions, meanwhile, are likely to be much quieter in January so it’s a good month to visit the likes of the Sagrada Familia (Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona), Pac Guell (08024 Barcelona), Museu Picasso (Carrer Montcada, 15-23, 08003 Barcelona) and the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya ( Palau Nacional, Parc de Montjuïc, s/n, 08038 Barcelona).
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Average price per night in January: £44.05pp
January saving: 28%
Think Brussels is just a stuffy old city of politics? Think again. A vibrant centre for art and architecture, chocolate and beer, the Belgian capital is a captivating option for a winter city break.
Central square The Grand Place is among the most beautiful in the world, and from here you can walk to pretty much all of Brussels’ major sights. While most of Brussels’ core is architecturally stunning, don’t miss Église Notre-Dame du Sablon church (Rue de la Régence). The Museum of Natural Sciences (Rue Vautier 29, 1000 Bruxelles; +32 2 627 42 11), with its impressive display of dinosaur fossils, is also not to be missed.
Besides the usual suspects, there’s a range of cultural events on during January. Enter the surreal world of Margritte in a unique exhibition at the Atomium (Atomiumsquare, 1020 Laeken; +32 2 475 47 75), see the works of photographer Robert Doisneau at the Museum of Ixelles (Rue Jean Van Volsem 71, 1050 Ixelles; +32 2 515 64 22), and learn about the rituals of Indonesia at the Centre for Fine Arts (Rue Ravenstein 23, 1000).
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Average price per night in January: £44.29pp
Madrid can be cold in January, but a lack of rain means it’s dry, the skies are clear and it’s generally a pleasant month visit – at least by British winter standards, anyway.
As a major city with a thriving population, you won’t find a shortage of things to do, even if the tourism crowds are refreshingly low, either. Take a crisp stroll through the elegant Buen Retiro Park (Plaza de la Indipendencia 7, 28001) before paying a visit to the magnificent Prado Museum (Paseo del Prado,s/n, 28014), home to some of the world’s greatest masterpieces.
Foodies visiting in January won’t want to miss the Gastrofestival Madrid at the end of the month. Meanwhile, football fanatics may want to see one of Madrid’s great teams in action – Real and Atletico – as the Spanish La Liga restarts after the winter break.
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Average price per night in January: £44.48pp
January saving: 34%
Berlin is a city for all seasons but in winter, when the temperature drops, most look inside for their entertainment, and the bars, theatres, museums and galleries come alive in defiance of the January chill.
Museum Island, a collection of five world-class museums, is an excellent place to escape the cold. The Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building, is another. Of course, you can always wrap up warm and visit the Brandenburg Gate and the remaining sections of the Berlin Wall too.
For something different, the Days of Dance festival (Sophienstraße 18, 10178 Berlin) will display the best of German contemporary movement. Or try Six Day Berlin (Paul-Heyse-Straße 26, 10407 Berlin), a series of cycling races that lasts just under a week – you’ll warm up just watching!
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Average price per night in January: £44.89pp
January saving: 49%
Lisbon enjoys mild winters and gets its fair share of sunshine over January. If it does drop below the 15C mark, you’ll soon warm up hiking up the city’s famous seven hills.
Some of the best views in the city can be found at Miradouro de Santa Luzia and the São Jorge Castle – you can take one of Lisbon’s classic trams (28 line) to the top of the former. Other top picks for Lisbon include the Jeronimos Monastery (Praça do Império 1400-206 Lisboa), the Fado Museum (Largo Chafariz de Dentro 1, 1100-139) and the incredibly popular Time Out Market (Av. 24 de Julho 49, 1200-479 Lisboa).
A new Joan Miro exhibition runs into January at the Palacio Nacional da Ajuda (Largo Ajuda 1349-021). There’s also a packed calendar featuring football, jiu jitsu, music and theatre to get stuck into.
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*All savings have been calculated by working out the price difference between the price per night in January and the price per night in the most expensive month of the year
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