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.
We crunched the numbers at TravelSupermarket HQ and can reveal 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.
To inspire you to swap the January blues for a dose of culture, here are ten cities with bargain prices and lots going on.
Athens’ milder winter temperatures aren’t the only draw to visiting Greece’s capital city in January. As one of Europe’s cheapest city breaks, it gets even more affordable this time of year, with cheaper flights and low, off-season room rates available at many hotels.
It’s the perfect month to see the city’s incredible archeological sites and ancient architecture without the crowds. Hike up to the Acropolis and Parthenon, take your time exploring the Temple of Olympian Zeus and waltz straight into the National Archaeological Museum.
The Epiphany also takes place at the start of January. You’ll find many Greek Orthodox churches performing ‘Blessing of the Water’ ceremonies and traditional festivities such as carol singing.
Thanks to its sheltered position on Spain’s south coast, you can expect temperatures reaching 15C on a January city break to Benidorm. Yes, it may not be sea-swimming weather, but the beaches that are normally jam-packed with sunbathing Brits are now delightfully calmer and you can take your pick of restaurants and bars along The Strip.
Make the most of the peace and quiet by leisurely exploring the old town. Here you’ll find a maze of cobbled streets peppered with local tapas bars and shops. Don’t miss the blue-domed church of San Jaime, watching over the old town from Canfali hill.
Keen explorers can head to the Serra Gelada Natural Park – January’s cooler temperatures make hiking its craggy hills far more enjoyable.
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 de 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 patron saint, 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, Park Guell, Museu Picasso and the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya.
Prague seems made for wintertime wandering – its fairytale streets take on a magical air, especially at dusk, and stallholders can be found hawking warming Czech fare on every corner. It’s a pleasant change from the city’s usual tourist bustle, but even in January you’ll still find plenty to do.
Christmas celebrations are still in full swing early on in the month. Festive markets run until January 6, the Procession of the Three Kings parades through the city on January 5 and outdoor ice rinks stick around until the end of February.
The city’s main attractions are all yours to explore and when you want to warm up, there’s plenty of interesting things to do indoors. The Prague National Gallery and the National Museum are quieter this time of year, or just cosy up in one of the city’s pubs and tuck into a traditional feast.
Dublin’s rainy reputation holds true over winter, so its excellent indoor attractions are where you’ll want to look. Brew buffs can learn to pour the perfect pint and find out if the black stuff really does taste better in Ireland at the Guinness Storehouse.
For a hit of history, check out the Kilmainham Gaol or the Chester Beatty museum, where you’ll find an impressive collection of rare books and manuscripts from around the world.
Also in January is the five-day Tradfest, a celebration of traditional and folk Irish music. The festival is held in some of the city’s most iconic spaces, including City Hall and Kilmainham Gaol. It runs from January 24 to 28 in 2024.
If you’re chasing snow in January, Krakow is as good a bet as any. Average highs can reach zero but the temperature often plummets to –3C.
It’s ideal weather for discovering the city’s quirkier indoor attractions. The interactive Arcade and Pinball museums, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow (MOCAK) and Manggha Museum of Japanese Art are top picks.
Outdoors, get active with a skate around an ice rink, which Krakow has several well into January, and stay warm with mulled wine or hearty street food like grilled kiełbasa sausages and kumpir stuffed baked potatoes.
Daytime temperatures are on the chillier side, but you’ll soon warm up with an itinerary full of sightseeing – top attractions such as the Colosseum and Roman Forum, the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel are blissfully unhampered with tourists come January.
As well as Epiphany celebrations at the start of the month, you’ll also find some more unusual events going on. January 17 is the celebration of Sant'Antonio Abate – known as the ‘Blessing of Animals’. Farmers bring their animals and locals their pets to be blessed by the cardinal, and there’s even a mounted police procession.
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Venice isn’t exactly known for being a cheap city break, but thanks to a tourism lull in the lead up to February’s Carnival, January is prime time to pick up a bargain break.
Not only are holiday prices cheaper, the crowds are thinner too. That means unhurried wanders through St Mark’s Square, quick queues at the Doge’s Palace and quiet canals for a gondola ride, if you’re so inclined.
Fog and the odd snow flurry aren’t uncommon in the depths of winter so you’ll want to wrap up warm – it’s nothing a steaming cup of Italian hot chocolate can’t help with, though.
Budapest is icy during January, but the weather makes some of its best attractions shine.
Counter the cold with a dip in one of the city’s famous thermal spas – the sprawling Széchenyi and Art Nouveau Gellért thermal baths are favourites for a reason – or warm your belly with a brew in a ruin bar. Szimpla Kert is a must for first-time visitors.
Hungary’s warming fare is ideal for winter, too. Foodies will be in their element between the rich goulashes (gulyás) packed with beef and veg and chicken paprikash (csirke paprikás) served with dumplings.
The start of January doesn’t mean the end of festivities in Amsterdam. It all kicks off with the New Year's Dive on January 1, where locals make their way to the coast to partake in the annual Dutch tradition of jumping into the North Sea.
Back in the city centre, several craft markets and the Rembrandtplein ice rink continue to run in the first half of the month. Amsterdam’s legendary Light Festival also sticks around until January 21, beautifully setting the city's canals and streets aglow with LED-displays and creative illuminations.
If the weather takes a turn for the worst, the best of the city’s museums are all yours to explore. Must-visits include the Rijksmuseum, the Anne Frank museum and the Van Gogh museum.
Alternatively, a few beers at the Heineken Brewery should help warm you up – take a guided tour to learn about Amsterdam’s most popular brand.
*All prices correct at time of writing. Research compared median prices of 2- and 3-night package holidays departing in January 2024, across all star ratings, board bases and departure airports.
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