Contemplating a winter move? From snowy paradises to sunlit shores, the world is brimming with destinations that shine brightest in the colder months. Journey with me as we unveil the top places to live in winter. Let’s uncover your ideal winter retreat!
The allure of winter is undeniable. For some, it’s the mesmerizing beauty of snow-draped landscapes, while for others, it’s the promise of a tropical escape from the cold. As the world becomes increasingly accessible, and with the flexibility of remote work, the idea of choosing a winter haven has taken on a new dimension.
It’s no longer just about holiday destinations. It’s about finding places that resonate on a deeper level, places that could be called home, even if just for a season. From the tranquil beaches of Playa del Carmen to the majestic peaks of Banff, there’s a world of winter wonder waiting to be explored.
In this guide, we delve into some of the best destinations that have earned their spot as the best places to live in winter. Each location offers its unique charm, ensuring that there’s something for every winter enthusiast. Without further ado, here are ten of the best places to live in winter – for those who love the cold or prefer warmer weather.
Considering moving in winter? Here’s a quick snapshot to guide your choice:
- Best for Tropical Winter: Funchal, Madeira
- Best for Winter Sports: Banff, Alberta, Canada
- Best for Cozy Vibes: Burlington, Vermont, USA
- Best for Beach Escapes: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
- Best for Northern Lights: Tromsø, Norway
- Best for Adventure Seekers: Queenstown, New Zealand
- Best for Alpine Charm: Chamonix, France
- Best for Luxury Skiing: Aspen, Colorado, USA
- Best for Snow Festivals: Hokkaido, Japan
- Best for Santa’s Hometown: Rovaniemi, Finland
- Best for Thermal Baths: Budapest, Hungary
- Best for Christmas Markets: Nuremberg, Germany
Curious about what makes each of these winter destinations stand out? Let’s explore further!
While much of Europe is bundling up against the cold, Funchal, the capital of Madeira, is basking in the sun. This picturesque city, nestled in the Atlantic Ocean, offers a delightful escape from the typical winter chill. Imagine strolling through vibrant botanical gardens, their colors undimmed by winter, or sipping a glass of the island’s famed wine on a sun-drenched terrace.
Funchal isn’t just about the pleasant temperatures, though they’re undoubtedly a draw. It’s a city steeped in history, with charming streets lined with colonial-era architecture, bustling markets brimming with fresh produce, and a harbor that has welcomed travelers for centuries. The Lido Promenade is a favorite spot for both locals and visitors. This offers panoramic ocean views and a plethora of seaside cafes.
For the more adventurous, Madeira’s unique topography offers a range of activities. From levada walks that crisscross the island, offering breathtaking views of the landscape, to deep-sea fishing and dolphin watching, there’s no shortage of ways to connect with nature.
One of the best cities to live in winter, Funchal seamlessly blends the relaxation of a beach holiday with the cultural richness of a European city break. As the sun sets, you’ll find a vibrant nightlife scene waiting to be explored, from traditional Fado music venues to contemporary bars.
During my last visit to Funchal in the heart of winter, I found myself lounging on a sunlit terrace, coffee in hand, genuinely surprised by the mild weather. It felt surreal to be sending sunny beach photos to friends back home, who were bundled up in layers. That’s the charm of Funchal for me. If I were looking for a sunny destination in Europe in winter, Funchal would be my top choice.
The Canadian Rockies, with their majestic peaks and pristine landscapes, are a sight to behold any time of the year. But come winter, Banff, located in the heart of these mountains, transforms into a snowy paradise that’s nothing short of magical. Think frozen lakes, snow-covered pines, and the distant sound of laughter as skiers make their way down the slopes.
I’ve always been drawn to Banff’s unique blend of natural beauty and vibrant town life. The Banff Avenue, the town’s main street, is a hub of activity even in the coldest months. Boutique shops with handcrafted goods, cozy cafes offering respite from the cold, and restaurants serving hearty Canadian fare – there’s always something happening here.
It’s the great outdoors that truly sets Banff apart as one of the best places for young people to live in winter. Whether you’re an avid skier or someone who prefers a leisurely snowshoe hike, the options are endless. The three major ski resorts – Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, and Mt. Norquay – cater to all skill levels. And for those moments when you just want to soak in the beauty around you, the Banff Upper Hot Springs offer a warm and relaxing vantage point.
One of my favorite memories of Banff is taking a scenic drive along the Icefields Parkway. It is definitely one of the most beautiful drives in the world. The snow-capped peaks, frozen waterfalls, and the occasional sighting of wildlife like elk or mountain goats make it an unforgettable experience.
In Banff, winter is not just a season. It’s an experience, a call to adventure, and a reminder of nature’s awe-inspiring beauty. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best places to live in the winter.
If you’re considering a move to a place that offers both winter charm and practical living, Burlington should be high on your list. Situated on the shores of Lake Champlain, this city seamlessly blends natural beauty with everyday conveniences.
One of the first things I noticed when I explored Burlington as a potential winter home was its efficient public transportation system. Even in the thick of winter, the buses run on time, which makes it easy to navigate the city without a car. For those days when you want to drive, the roads are well-maintained and snow removal is prompt.
Housing in Burlington offers a mix of options. From lakeside condos with stunning views to historic homes in the downtown area, there’s something for every budget. And if you’re moving with family, you’ll appreciate the city’s strong emphasis on education. The Burlington School District is known for its quality programs and community involvement.
Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace is a hub of activity, even in winter. Lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes, it’s the perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon. If you’re in the mood for some winter sports, the nearby Green Mountains offer skiing and snowboarding opportunities.
For those who work remotely, Burlington boasts a robust internet infrastructure. You’ll find several co-working spaces like Study Hall and Hinge catering to digital nomads and professionals. It’s no wonder that Burlington is often touted as one of the best places for digital nomads in winter!
Burlington offers a winter experience that’s both enchanting and grounded in practicality. It’s a place where you can enjoy the magic of the season while still going about your daily life with ease.
When you think of winter, snow and cold might come to mind. But in Playa del Carmen, winter is synonymous with sun-soaked beaches, azure waters, and a laid-back vibe that’s hard to resist. Located on the Yucatán Peninsula, this coastal town offers a winter escape that’s both delightful and practical.
One of the standout features of Playa del Carmen is its cost of living. Compared to many U.S. cities, your dollar stretches further here. Whether it’s renting a beachfront condo, dining out at local eateries, or indulging in fresh tropical fruits from the market, you’ll find that living in Playa is not only enjoyable but also budget-friendly.
For those working remotely, Playa del Carmen offers reliable internet connectivity, with several co-working spaces like Nest and Bunker catering to the growing community of digital nomads. It’s become one of the best places for digital nomads in winter, thanks to its mix of work-friendly amenities and leisure opportunities.
Aside from work, Playa del Carmen is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Dive into the crystal-clear cenotes, explore the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum, or simply relax on the pristine beaches. The town’s Quinta Avenida is a bustling pedestrian street lined with shops, restaurants, and bars, perfect for an evening stroll.
For those considering a move, it’s worth noting that Playa del Carmen has a welcoming expat community. Many have made the town their home, drawn by its warm weather, friendly locals, and the promise of a relaxed lifestyle.
Playa del Carmen offers the best of both worlds: a tropical paradise with modern living. It’s truly where winter feels like an endless summer. Hands down, it’s one of the best places to live in winter.
Tromsø, the “Gateway to the Arctic,” is a city that defies expectations. Located well above the Arctic Circle, one might imagine it to be a remote, icy outpost. Instead, Tromsø buzzes with energy, culture, and a sense of community that’s truly heartwarming, especially during the long polar nights.
One of the first things that struck me about Tromsø was its vibrant cultural scene. Despite its northern location, the city is a hub for music, art, and festivals. The Tromsø International Film Festival in January is a highlight, drawing cinephiles from around the world. For music lovers, the Nordlysfestivalen (Northern Lights Festival) showcases a mix of classical, jazz, and folk performances.
But let’s talk about the real star of the show in Tromsø: the Northern Lights. There’s nothing quite like the experience of watching the auroras dance across the sky. It’s a natural spectacle that has made Tromsø one of the best places in winter in Europe for those chasing this celestial display.
On the practical side, Tromsø is a modern city with all the amenities you’d expect. The University of Tromsø brings in a diverse student population, adding to the city’s cosmopolitan feel. While the cost of living is higher compared to some other places, the quality of life, healthcare, and education in Norway are top-notch.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Tromsø offers a range of activities, from dog sledding and ice fishing to cross-country skiing. The city’s cafes are perfect for sipping a hot drink and indulging in some Norwegian pastries.
With its mix of natural beauty, cultural richness, and community spirit, Tromso is one of the best winter destinations that beckons those looking for a unique experience.
Tucked away in New Zealand‘s South Island, Queenstown is a gem that shines especially bright during the winter months. It’s a place where snow-capped peaks reflect in the shimmering waters of Lake Wakatipu, and where every turn reveals a postcard-worthy view. For those wondering where to go in winter, Queenstown offers an answer that’s both thrilling and serene.
The town is often abuzz with activity, from winter sports enthusiasts heading to nearby ski resorts like Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, to families enjoying a leisurely stroll along the lakefront. Beyond its reputation as an adventure hub, Queenstown has a quieter side that’s equally captivating. Cozy cafes, boutique shops, and scenic walking trails provide ample opportunities for relaxation and reflection.
For me, one of the standout features of Queenstown is its sense of community. Despite being a hotspot for tourists, it retains a small-town charm where locals greet you with a smile and are always up for a chat. It’s this blend of excitement and warmth that makes it one of the winter’s best places to call home, even if just for a season.
Practically speaking, Queenstown is well-equipped for both short-term visitors and those looking to settle down. The housing market offers a range of options, from modern apartments to traditional cottages. And with a well-connected international airport, travel to and from Queenstown is hassle-free.
For those considering a longer stay or even a permanent move, Queenstown’s job market is diverse. From tourism and hospitality roles to opportunities in the tech sector, there’s a range of employment options. Plus, with numerous educational institutions, including Queenstown Resort College, families can be assured of quality education for their kids.
Ah, Chamonix! A name that instantly evokes images of pristine snowfields, jagged mountain peaks, and the allure of the French Alps. But there’s so much more to this town than just its postcard-perfect scenery. Chamonix is where the heart of the mountaineer meets the soul of the artist. This creates a blend that’s as unique as it is captivating.
Located at the foot of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak, Chamonix has long been a mecca for skiing and mountaineering enthusiasts. The thrill of descending the Vallée Blanche or challenging oneself on the slopes of Les Grands Montets is unmatched. But for those like me who prefer our adventures a tad less adrenaline-pumping, the town offers a myriad of other delights.
Strolling through the streets of Chamonix, you’ll discover a vibrant arts scene. Quaint galleries showcasing local artists, jazz bars where the music spills out into the night, and cozy bookshops where you can lose yourself for hours. It’s this bohemian spirit, juxtaposed with the ruggedness of the Alps, that makes Chamonix one of the best places for young people to live in winter.
Foodies, rejoice! Chamonix’s culinary scene is a delightful fusion of traditional Savoyard fare and international flavors. From fondue and raclette to sushi and tapas, there’s something to tantalize every palate. And if you’re in the mood for a bit of shopping, the town’s boutiques offer everything from high-end fashion to handcrafted souvenirs.
Struggling to decide where to live in winter? Chamonix presents an enticing proposition. It’s not just a ski town. It’s a place where culture, adventure, and the joie de vivre of the French Alps come together in perfect harmony.
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Aspen is synonymous with luxury, culture, and world-class skiing. Beyond its reputation as a playground for the rich and famous, Aspen offers a quality of life that appeals to a diverse range of individuals, especially during the winter months.
For the outdoor enthusiast, Aspen is a dream come true. With four major ski areas – Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass – there’s a slope for every skill level. But skiing is just the tip of the iceberg. Snowshoeing, ice skating, and winter hiking trails offer more ways to immerse oneself in the stunning alpine landscape.
However, it’s not just the outdoor activities that make Aspen one of the best places in the US to live in winter. The town boasts a vibrant arts and culture scene. The Aspen Art Museum, contemporary galleries, and the historic Wheeler Opera House provide a cultural counterpoint to the natural beauty outside.
For professionals, especially those in the tech and creative industries, Aspen offers a unique work-life balance. The town has become a hub for networking events, workshops, and conferences. The Aspen Institute, for instance, hosts a series of talks and seminars, drawing thinkers and leaders from around the world. And with top-notch co-working spaces and a strong internet infrastructure, working remotely from Aspen is a breeze.
Overall, Aspen is perfect for those who seek an active winter lifestyle without compromising on urban amenities. It’s a place where you can hit the slopes in the morning, attend a business meeting in the afternoon, and enjoy a symphony performance in the evening. Living in Aspen during the winter is about embracing the best of both worlds.
Waking up in Hokkaido presents a landscape blanketed in the purest white snow, silent and majestic forests, and deep-rooted traditions. This northernmost island of Japan offers a distinct winter experience that captivates the heart, which makes it one of the best places to live in winter.
Hokkaido is renowned for its powdery snow, drawing skiers and snowboarders from all corners of the globe. Resorts like Niseko and Rusutsu have earned global acclaim for their pristine slopes and unparalleled snow quality. The island’s winter allure doesn’t stop at the ski runs.
Engage in traditional winter festivals such as the Sapporo Snow Festival, where intricate ice sculptures illuminate the night, or the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival, where lanterns create a magical ambiance.
Seafood enthusiasts will appreciate Hokkaido’s fresh catches, dairy products, and unique dishes like soup curry and jingisukan (grilled mutton). On a chilly day, a steaming bowl of ramen in a local eatery offers flavors as diverse as Hokkaido’s landscapes. It’s one of winter’s best places for culinary delights!
Hokkaido’s natural hot springs, or onsen, are perfect for relaxation after a day of exploration. Towns like Hakodate and Otaru provide insights into Japan’s rich history, with well-preserved architecture and vibrant markets.
From a practical standpoint, Hokkaido boasts an extensive rail network and several airports. The cost of living is more reasonable than in cities like Tokyo. As such, it’s an attractive option for both short-term visits and longer-term relocations.
Hokkaido seamlessly blends winter’s beauty with cultural immersion. It’s a destination that encourages you to savor each moment and truly embrace the magic of the season.
No list of the best places to live in winter would be complete without a mention of Rovaniemi. Situated in the heart of Finnish Lapland, this city is often referred to as the official hometown of Santa Claus. While it’s close enough to modern amenities, Rovaniemi offers the enchantment of a winter wonderland. Every day here feels like a fairy tale!
Picture this: walking through snow-covered forests illuminated by the soft glow of the Northern Lights, each step echoing tales of ancient Sami legends and Arctic expeditions. The city center, bustling with cafes, shops, and the iconic Santa Claus Village, is Rovaniemi’s vibrant core. And the magic doesn’t end there – the local reindeer herds, with their gentle eyes and majestic antlers, are a sight that never ceases to amaze.
For those with a love for winter sports, Rovaniemi offers a plethora of activities. From snowmobiling across frozen lakes to cross-country skiing through serene landscapes, adventure is always just around the corner. And for the culinary enthusiasts, local restaurants serve up traditional Lappish dishes, offering a taste of the Arctic like nowhere else.
But why consider Rovaniemi when deciding where to live in the winter? Aside from its snowy allure, the city provides a tranquil setting, ideal for those in search of creativity or a quiet place to work. With reliable internet connectivity, modern co-working spaces, and a community that’s both welcoming and innovative, Rovaniemi stands out as a top choice for remote professionals.
If the allure of the Arctic calls out to you, and you desire a mix of tradition, nature, and contemporary comforts, Rovaniemi might just be your winter haven!
Do you have further queries about where to live in winter? Here are some common questions (and answers) I get asked a lot about the best cities and areas to live in winter.
If you love snow and are looking for the best places to live during the winter, here are some top destinations around the world known for their snowy landscapes, winter sports, and picturesque settings:
- St. Moritz, Switzerland: Often referred to as the “winter playground of the rich and famous,” St. Moritz is not only known for its luxurious resorts but also for its reliable snowfall, winter sports, and hosting two Winter Olympics.
- Sapporo, Japan: Located on the northern island of Hokkaido, Sapporo receives consistent snowfall and hosts the famous Sapporo Snow Festival. The nearby mountains offer excellent skiing and snowboarding opportunities.
- Reykjavik, Iceland: While not as snowy as some other places on this list, Reykjavik offers a unique winter experience with its geothermal hot springs, Northern Lights, and a snowy landscape that looks straight out of a fairy tale.
- Tromsø, Norway: Situated above the Arctic Circle, Tromsø offers long, snowy winters. It’s one of the best places in the world to witness the Northern Lights.
- Aspen, Colorado, USA: Known for its world-class ski resorts and vibrant winter culture, Aspen is a haven for snow lovers. The town itself is picturesque, with Victorian-era buildings and a lively arts scene.
- Banff, Alberta, Canada: Located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff offers stunning mountain landscapes, hot springs, and some of the best skiing in North America.
- Rovaniemi, Finland: Often called the “Official Hometown of Santa Claus,” Rovaniemi lies just south of the Arctic Circle and offers snowy landscapes, winter activities, and the chance to see the Northern Lights.
- Levi, Finland: Another Finnish gem, Levi is a major ski resort town located in Finnish Lapland. It’s known for its winter sports, ice hotel, and reindeer safaris.
For those seeking warmth in the European winter, the southern parts of the continent tend to be milder. Funchal in Madeira, Portugal, stands out as one of the warmest European destinations during winter. Its pleasant climate, combined with its vibrant culture, makes it a top pick for those deciding where to go in winter in Europe.
Several cities in the U.S. are known for their warm and mild winter climates. Here are some of the top cities that offer respite from the cold:
- Miami, Florida: With its tropical climate, Miami boasts warm temperatures year-round, making it a popular winter escape. The city offers beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, and a mix of cultures.
- Honolulu, Hawaii: Hawaii‘s capital city offers a tropical paradise with consistent warm temperatures throughout the winter months. The island of Oahu, where Honolulu is located, provides a mix of urban life, beaches, and natural beauty.
- Phoenix, Arizona: Located in the Sonoran Desert, Phoenix experiences mild and warm winters. The city is also a gateway to several outdoor recreational areas.
- San Diego, California: Known for its consistent and mild climate, San Diego offers warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine during the winter months. The city boasts beautiful beaches, a lively downtown area, and numerous attractions.
- Tampa, Florida: Located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Tampa offers warm winter temperatures and a mix of cultural events, theme parks, and outdoor activities.
- Austin, Texas: Texas’ capital city experiences mild winters. It’s known for its vibrant music scene, tech industry, and outdoor recreational opportunities.
- Charleston, South Carolina: Charleston offers mild winter temperatures and is known for its historic charm, cobblestone streets, and southern hospitality.
- Savannah, Georgia: Similar to Charleston, Savannah boasts mild winters. It’s rich in history, with beautiful parks, historic homes, and a riverfront area.
- Los Angeles, California: While it can get cooler in the evenings, Los Angeles generally offers mild and sunny winters. There’s access to beaches, entertainment, and cultural attractions.
When considering the best places to live in winter for skiing enthusiasts, countries like Switzerland, Austria, and France often top the list due to their renowned ski resorts and consistent snowfall. However, Japan, specifically Hokkaido, has been gaining popularity for its powdery snow and unique skiing experience. The United States, with destinations like Aspen, also offers world-class skiing opportunities.
Absolutely! If you’re pondering where to live in winter but desire warmth throughout the year, places like Playa del Carmen, one of Mexico’s hidden gems, offer balmy temperatures even during the colder months. Funchal in Madeira is another destination with a mild climate year-round. This makes it one of the best places to live in winter who prefer sunnier days.
Canada is known for its picturesque winter landscapes, especially in areas like Banff in Alberta. While the country is famous for its cold temperatures and heavy snowfall, which is ideal for winter sports and activities, it also boasts clear blue skies and sunny days during the season. So, if you’re wondering about winter’s best places with a mix of snow and sunshine, Canada fits the bill!
Winter offers a unique living experience that varies dramatically from one destination to the next. From the snow-covered peaks of Banff to the sun-kissed shores of Playa del Carmen, each location presents its own set of charms and opportunities. For those seeking the thrill of winter sports, destinations like Aspen and Hokkaido stand out with world-class skiing and snowboarding facilities. On the other hand, places like Funchal offer warmth and sunshine, even when much of the world is in the grip of colder temperatures.
The rise of remote work has opened up a world of possibilities, allowing individuals to choose their ideal winter haven based on personal preferences. With reliable internet connectivity and supportive communities, many of these destinations are becoming hubs for digital nomads and professionals alike.
In the end, the perfect winter home is not just about the weather or the activities on offer. It’s about the culture, the people, and the overall quality of life. Each of the places highlighted in this article offers a unique blend of these elements. Wherever you choose to call home, embrace the season and all the experiences it brings.