1. St. Moritz, Switzerland
Temps are low in Europe in February, but so are the crowds—and hotel rates. Isn't that reason enough to get those 2019 travel plans off to a roaring start?
There’s no wrong time to visit this swish alpine resort town, which stuns both in summer and winter, but February is arguably the best. Ultra-luxe ski resorts are in full swing, the winter temps are at their warmest (ideal for lingering on the high slopes), and Switzerland's world-famous White Turf horse-racing event takes over three weekends on the town’s frozen lake. Don’t forget to try your hand at bobsledding (St. Moritz hosted two Winter Olympic Games, after all) on its Olympia Bob Run, the oldest of its kind in the world. Afterwards, bed down at the glamorous, all-suite Carlton Hotel, whose three-Michelin-starred restaurant Da Vittorio is matched only by the property's show-stopping lake views.
2. Venice, Italy
Get ready for Venice’s biggest party of the year. The weird, wacky, and wonderful time of Carnival takes over the streets in mid-February, when visitors and locals don ornate masks and costumes to attend parades, concerts, and balls. The festival's popularity makes it a busy time to visit Venice (truthfully, when isn’t it?) but is worth checking off the bucket list. Just be forewarned: it’s best to revel on the earlier side this year, as hide tides may threaten your fun near the end of the month. And, unless you plan on staying the night, Italy’s parliament is now charging up to 10 Euros for day-trippers to see the city in an effort to combat overtourism. Skip the fee by dropping your bags at Palazzo Cristo, a relative newcomer to the accommodations scene and a refreshing change from Venice's typical piles (the 15th-century palazzo received a beautiful contemporary makeover).
3. Tenerife, Canary Islands
Your options are limited, but it is possible to squeeze in some European beach time during the second month of the year. While mainland Spain fluctuates from cool to cold, the southernmost Canary Islands—specifically Tenerife—are warm year-round. February is one of the best times to visit Tenerife’s southern beaches, when temperatures hit the low 70s and there’s less chance of rain. Lounging by the water at Playa de la Tejita is requisite, but if you’ve got more time to spare, don’t miss a hike through the forests of the Anaga Mountains or a walk through Garachico, where you can also swim in rock pools formed by lava. Heads up: time your trip for the tail-end of the month and you'll be just in time for the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival (February 24–March 10, 2019), a celebration of music, color, and life.
4. Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon experiences the most mild weather of any major European city this time of year. In late February, you might even spot the earliest buds of spring beginning to emerge. Don you best jacket before strolling the city’s streets—or better yet, hop on a trolley for a cruise through scenic neighborhoods like Alfama and Chiado. On the docket this month: the Antiques and Art Fair, one of Portugal’s biggest events that exhibits rare finds and newer works for admiration or purchase. February is also one of the wettest times of year for Lisbon, which means hotel and airfare prices are slashed to accommodate. We suggest packing your best rain jacket and booking a room at Verride Palácio Santa Catarina. The stunning 18th-century former home of a count is now an 18-room boutique that's full of luxurious details like marble pillars, Azulejo tiles, silk de Gournay wallpaper, and a rooftop pool.
5. Athens, Greece
Greece’s idyllic islands are still too cold to gallivant off to in February, but shoulder season in Athens hits the sweet spot. The city’s typically oppressive heat and air pollution are at an all-time low thanks to average temps that hang in the high 40s to mid 50s, and crowds are few and far between. For you, that means setting up that perfect shot in front of big-ticket attractions like the Parthenon without a million strange faces in the frame—not to mention breezing through the line at the National Archaeological Museum. After all that sightseeing, rest your feet at the new Perianth Hotel, a 38-room Modernist gem facing one of Athens’ most popular squares.
6. Budapest, Hungary
February is the driest month of the year for Budapest, and we can’t think of a more romantic city to spend a long Valentine’s Day weekend with your person. A cruise down the Danube is a must—many tours will pass UNESCO World Heritage-listed landmarks like the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, the Hungarian Parliament Building, and Margaret Island while serving up fancy wine and dinner pairings and live gypsy music. While the city's magical holiday markets have been packed up for the season, you'll find all the wintery romance you're looking for at the still-open ice-skating rink in City Park by Vajdahunyad Castle. Afterwards, warm up at one of the city’s famous thermal baths like Széchenyi Spa, whose 18 indoor and outdoor pools and 10 saunas make it Europe's largest.