When you think of Europe your mind may jump to the rolling green hills of Tuscany, the vibrant colors of the Greek Islands, or the snow-blasted tundra of Scandinavia. With such a diverse range of landscapes and cultures, it’s impossible to describe Europe with just one word. However, something we can be certain about is that our list of the coldest places in Europe contains some downright subzero spots!
Russia makes up 40% of Europe’s total land area, which brings the whole continent’s yearly average temperature down to a mere -5.1°C (22.8 °F). Besides this, parts of Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden reach up into the Arctic Circle. There, winter days see only a few hours of sunlight, and temperatures can drop to well below freezing for months and months at a time.
Even so, deciding on the coldest places in Europe is no easy task. Some towns may see intensely cold winters but have hot summers to balance it out. On the other hand, places like Iceland and Lapland will stay relatively chilly all year round. But we’ve scoured the climate data and hand-picked the locations where we think you’ll need the thermals and the woolly jumpers this year…
1) Oymyakon, Russia
- Coldest day on record: -71.2 °C (-96.2 °F), January 1924
- Average minimum temperature in winter: -50 °C (-58 °F)
- Average maximum temperature in summer: 22.7 °C (72.9 °F)
Deemed the coldest permanently inhabited place on earth, Oymyakon, Russia tops the list of the coldest places in Europe for good reason. It’s so cold, in fact, that you’ll be hard-pressed to find a flushing toilet in the village. Instead, outhouses are the bathroom of choice to avoid the issue of continuously freezing pipes. In addition, cars are rarely turned off if they’re parked outside, and heated garages are a positive necessity.
Temperatures rarely go above freezing from October through to April, making for a long, harsh winter and a very short summer. In the coldest months, December and January, the average daily temperature is around just -45 °C (-49 °F). Although not officially recorded, the coldest temperature in Oymyakon’s history was in January of 1924, when it dipped to a mind-numbing -71.2 °C (-96.2 °F).
In addition to its freezing temperatures, its location very near the Arctic Circle means that it’s only light out for three hours during the shortest days. Plus, as it’s tucked between two valleys, cold wind becomes trapped and reduces the temps even more through wind chill. Laying claim to being the world’s coldest inhabited place does have its perks, though. Tours bring curious guests on a multi-day journey to reach Oymyakon, where ice fishing, snowmobiling, hot springs, and even reindeer hunts are on offer. If you have a picky stomach, be sure to bring your own snacks, as popular dishes include reindeer meat, frozen horse liver, and macaroni served with ice cubes of horse blood!
2) Yakutsk, Russia
- Coldest day on record: −64.4 °C (−83.9 °F), February 1891
- Average minimum temperature in winter: -41.5 °C (-42.7 °F)
- Average maximum temperature in summer: 25.5 °C ( 77.9 °F)
Deemed the largest city in the world built on permafrost, Yakutsk is designed to not only master the cold but embrace it. Located in the Central Yakutian Lowland of Russia, winters are extremely long, and temperatures never reach above freezing between mid-November and mid-March. Even so, over one million people call Yakutsk home, and it’s one of the most progressive cities in Russia to boot.
Another record: Yakutsk is also one of the only large cities in the world with an average winter temperature below −20 °C (−4 °F). In January, the average minimum is a bone-chilling -41.5 °C (-42.7 °F). Due to this, many buildings are built with cement columns, and you can see beneath almost all structures. What’s more, as the ground is too cold for some pipes, gas lines and other pipes can be seen running through town. However, as a thick layer of fog can descend on the city for days at a time, if you visit at the wrong time, you may hardly get a glimpse of the center at all.
The summer months, contrary to what you might believe, are quite warm. As Yakutsk is located 1,000 km (620 miles) from the Pacific Ocean, the temperatures are higher than what you can find in cities with similar longitudes. The seasonal temperature differences are some of the greatest in the world, with 102 °C (215 °F) between the maximum low and the maximum high at 30 °C (86 °F). In June, July, and August, locals flock to the Lena River, which offers stunning scenery and a chance to cool off with a swim.
3) Kautokeino, Norway
- Coldest day on record: -50.3 °C (-59 °F), January 1999
- Average minimum temperature in winter: -18 °C (0 °F)
- Average maximum temperature in summer: 18 °C (64 °F)
The coldest town in mainland Norway, Kautokeino has returned an average yearly temp over the past 30 years of a mere -2.7 °C (27 °F). The harshest months are December through to February, where temperatures can dive down as far as −40 °C (−40 °F). However, you’ll still find cold temperatures and snow on the ground in mid-October and in late April.
Being located in Northern Finland, the majority of residents are Sami – the northernmost indigenous people of Europe. Their traditional lifestyle is still very much apparent, with most people having Sami as their first language. Throughout the region, Sami activities and festivals are plentiful, and visitors can go dog sledding, camp in a traditional lavvy (Sami tent), ski on the frigid Finnmark plain, and watch the Northern Lights many nights of the year.
If you happen to be in Kautokeino around Easter, then you’re in luck. The entire week is set aside for cultural events, competitions, and fun – the biggest being the iconic reindeer races. Locals take the race very seriously. It’s divided into two different categories, one being pulled by skis, the other being pulled while laying on a sled. They even have a third category set aside just for tourists who are keen to give reindeer racing a go!
Getting to Kautokeino, like other places on this list, holds the same challenges. With no commercial airport, folks have to fly into Alta Airport (140 km or 87 miles) or Enontekiö Airport (90 km or 56 miles) and then bus across the ice to Kautokeino. If you decide to bus from Helsinki, the journey will take nearly four days, and only one bus leaves a week!
4) Salla, Finland
- Coldest day on record: -50 °C (-58 °F), 1985
- Average minimum temperature in winter: -18 °C (0 °F)
- Average maximum temperature in summer: 19.2 °C (66.6 °F)
An absolute winter wonderland, Salla is a cold-weather lover’s dream come true. Located in northeastern Finland, it’s absolutely one of the coldest places in Europe. Winter seems to last most of the year, with freezing temperatures and snow on the ground from October through to April. Spring and autumn last about a month each, leaving only June, July, and August for a short summer season.
For most of the winter, temperatures rarely reach above 0 °C (32 °F), and lows drop down to -18 °C (-0.4 °F). The coldest temperature ever recorded was in 1985, when the temperatures fell to -50 °C (-58 °F).
Yet, residents of Salla embrace the coldness, and there’s plenty of activities to get you outside and playing in the snow. One can wander through snow-covered forests, head up Salla Ski Resort where 15 slopes are waiting, watch the Northern Lights dance across the sky, or even head out for a reindeer-pulled sleigh ride. When you’re done, head into one of the many cozy wood cabin accommodations and warm up next to the fire.
If you’re keen to experience Salla for yourself, getting there does have its challenges. With a tagline of ‘In the Middle of Nowhere,’ you’ll have to put in a bit of effort to reach this winter paradise. The nearest airports are located in Kuusamo (110 km or 68 miles away) and Rovaniemi (145 km or 90 miles away), where you’ll then have to hop on a bus for an hour or two’s ride.
5) Akureyri, Iceland
- Coldest day on record: -23 °C (-9.5 °F), March 1969
- Average minimum temperature in winter: -5.1 °C (22.8 °F)
- Average maximum temperature in summer: 18 °C (59 °F)
Located just south of the Arctic Circle, Akureyri is chilly all year round. Temperatures rarely reach above 15 °C (60 °F), even in the middle of summer, and will dip below freezing most winter days. However, as Akureyri sits in the path of the North Atlantic Current, a warm western current, temperatures are milder than you’d find in similar parts of the world.
Even so, if you head over anytime between October and February, expect to find a town covered in snow and temperatures hanging around 0 °C (32 °F). Being Iceland’s second-largest city, there’s plenty to do both inside to escape the cold and outside to embrace this winter wonderland. Just 5 km (3 miles) from town is Hlíðarfjall ski resort which offers downhill and cross country skiing. Also popular in the region are snowshoeing, husky sledding, and Northern Lights tours. Always be sure to pack plenty of layers as winds from the North Pole and Greenland can bring days of frigid temperatures and low wind chills.
Even so, in summer, the landscapes thaw out beautifully. While you won’t be basking in the hot sun, you will enjoy nearly 24 hours of daylight. There is also an abundance of hiking trails to choose from and whale-watching excursions from April to late September. It’s easy to see why this cold town at the top of Iceland is so well-loved in all seasons.
6) Ufa, Russia
- Coldest day on record: -48.5 °C (-55.3 °F)
- Average minimum temperature in winter: -17 °C (1.4 °F)
- Average maximum temperature in summer: 25.9 °C (74.3 °F)
It shouldn’t surprise you that another Russian city has made this list. Vying with Canada for being the coldest country in the world, Russia has more than its fair share of frigid cities. With temperatures dropping to -18 °C (0 °F) at night, Ufa is certainly one of the coldest places in Europe. During winter, temperatures hang well below 0 °C (32 °F), and the town can see upwards of 25 snowy days per month.
Located in West Russia with a population of over 1 million people, Ufa isn’t a small and quiet tourist destination. Instead, it’s a significant transport hub with a focus on oil refining and mechanical engineering industries. Due to this, there are very few touristy things to do, and most people who visit Ufa are there for work, visiting friends or family, or are simply in transit to their next destination.
Even so, it’s well worth spending a day or two wandering this bustling town and seeing how the locals embrace the colder weather. A favorite pastime of many is ice hockey. A brand new arena seating 8,250 people opened in 2007, and Ufa is now home to a Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) ice hockey team that promises fast action, big hits, and exciting games. If a game isn’t on, stroll around the city and keep an eye out for unique wooden houses, the monument to Salavat Yulaev that stretches 9.8 meters (32 feet) tall, and gardens tucked around the city.
7) Reykjavik, Iceland
- Coldest day on record: -24.5 °C (-12 °F), January 1918
- Average minimum temperature in winter: -1.9 °C (28.6 °F)
- Average maximum temperature in summer: 14.6 °C ( 58.3 °F)
While Reykjavik doesn’t see the frigid lows many of these other coldest places in Europe experience, it’s officially the coldest city in Europe – if you’re looking at average highs throughout the entire year. The daily high is a measly 7 °C (44.6 °F) across the year, and even in mid-summer, temperatures rarely get higher than 16 °C ( 60 °F). If you’re looking to bask in the sun next to a pool, Reykjavik isn’t your go-to vacation destination.
On the other hand, even in mid-winter, temperatures are mild enough to enjoy the beauty of Iceland without worrying about covering every inch of your skin. As the average minimum temperature is -1.9 °C (28.6 °F), the weather is perfect for trying out one of Reykjavik’s unique activities. A favorite of many is heading out to the Blue Lagoon, located just 30-minutes from the city. You can soak in the milky blue waters, sitting at a perfect 39 °C ( 102 °F), and ponder the surrounding barren landscapes.
As Reykjavik is located near the Arctic Circle, the sun shows itself for just 4 hours a day in the dead of winter. While it takes some getting used to, once adjusted, locals enjoy the dramatic change in seasons. In winter, the northern lights often put on magical shows in the night’s sky, and in the summer, festivals take place left and right as nearly 24 hours of daylight shines through. No matter the time of the year, if you’re feeling a bit chilly, ask for a Brennivin. A local spirit made from Iceland’s soft, high-pH water and showcasing a licorice taste. It’s sure to warm you from the inside out!
Coldest Places in Europe FAQ’s
What is the coldest country in Europe?
The coldest country in Europe is Russia. The estimated yearly average temperature in Russia is a mere -5.1 °C (22.8 °F), and northern cities see an average minimum temperature of -50 °C (-58 °F). The coldest inhabited place on earth is also in Russia (Oymyakon), which has seen temperatures as low as -71.2 °C (-96.2 °F). The winters, especially in northern Russia, are very long and see only a few hours of daylight.
What country in Europe has no snow?
There are no completely snowless countries in Europe. Every country has at least one area that has the chance for snow, even if the likelihood is small. The closest country in Europe to having no snow is Malta. Its highest point, Ta’ Dmejrek, sits 253 meters (830 feet) above sea level and will see a dusting of snow on rare occasions. The Canary Islands also see very limited snow on Mount Teide on Tenerife island. However, the Canary Islands are not considered a country and instead are a territory of Spain.
What part of Europe is very cold?
The coldest part of Europe is the Yana-Oymyakon Highlands. Located in the mountainous area of Russia’s Far Eastern Federal District, it’s home to some of the coldest inhabited places on earth, including Oymyakon and Verkhoyansk. Here, the winters are so cold that vehicles cannot be left outside unless they’re running, and outhouses are used as the likelihood of pipes freezing is too great.