Europe in December is a travel treat unlike any other, unlike other seasons, winter can completely transform a location and create a visiting experience that you simply cannot get at other times of the year. Although it is cold, December is not usually the coldest month of the year, so you can still go for a walk and see the sights.
Winter is an inspiring time to visit grand cities and charming villages because there are fewer crowds and off-season accommodation prices make European travel affordable in November, December, January, and February. Let’s look at the best winter destinations in Europe and what makes them unique.
12 Best European Cities to Visit in Winter
The following are some suggestions for the best European cities to visit in December.
1. Palermo, Italy
Do you want to spend your winter in the sun while remaining connected to Europe? Palermo, Sicily’s sun-kissed capital, is one of Europe’s best winter destinations. It is well-known for its culture and gastronomy, and it is Italy’s fifth largest city.
Winters in Palermo are mild, with temperatures reaching a balmy 20°C on some afternoons thanks to the warm Sirocco winds that blow in from Africa. This means you can enjoy everything from incredible street food and fantastic wine to the stunning picture-perfect blue ocean at any time of year.
If the sun is not shining, there is no reason to be concerned. Palermo has a rich cultural, fashion, history, and art scene to explore.
The seasonal flora and fauna are especially beautiful in the winter, and the spectacular ancient Roman monuments and Greek temples are less crowded.
2. Lapland, Finland
Without a doubt, one of the best places to visit in Europe in December. Lapland is sure to pique your interest with activities such as aurora borealis hunting, snowshoeing, dog sledding, ice fishing, and a variety of other outdoor and indoor activities.
It’s also known for its extremely friendly people, many of whom are known as Sámi, and for its breathtaking winter wonderland environment.
Visitors who venture deep inside the Arctic Circle are sure to have an unforgettable experience! Traveling with children? Lapland is also home to a large number of reindeer, as well as Santa Clause’s village in Rovaniemi!
Lapland, Finland is also ideal for tourists seeking an escape from city life. The only people you’ll meet are new friends and happy faces because you’re in a remote part of the world.
3. Prague, Czech Republic
Without a doubt, Prague is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. So it’s not surprising that the Czech capital is insanely busy during the summer. Surprisingly, Prague is just as appealing in the winter and has a fraction of the tourists. With a light dusting of snow, this city of old world grandeur, architecture, and culture may appear even more atmospheric than under blue skies.
While Prague is a cultural destination, its love of beer and partying makes it a fun destination as well. No matter the season, sampling the various local beers available at the city’s numerous bars is a pleasurable experience. If you want to warm up while drinking beer, Prague has you covered with its many beer spas, where you can literally soak up the local brews.
4. Copenhagen, Denmark
If you want to fully immerse yourself in the cosy Danish concept of hygge, Copenhagen is one of the best places to visit in Europe in December. Hygge is all about snuggling up in cozy cafes with hot mulled wine, mini pancakes, and good company. That is, after you’ve filled your shopping bags at the Nyhavn Christmas market and the Kongens Nytorv market’s elaborate decorations.
Families with children can take almost private tours of The Round Tower, Rosenborg Castle, the National Museum of Denmark, and even Christiansborg Palace. With the frequent snowfall, kids can have snowball fights along the pier while parents enjoy hot Danish treats and holiday window shopping.
5. Berlin, Germany
In December, Berlin is one of Europe’s most popular destinations. There are over 70 Christmas markets to visit. That’s right, the city has cozy indoor markets, outdoor festivals with rides, nostalgic stores, and plenty of seasonal cheer.
The largest market is in Spandau’s old town, and the historic Gendarmenmarkt features one-of-a-kind stalls with glassblowers and origami artists. Pick up some freshly roasted almonds and stroll around Opernpalais, where you can purchase arts and crafts from all over the world.
Spend a long weekend in Berlin and enjoy the winter sports available. Toboggan runs, not ice skating rinks, are where the action is, especially on the slopes of Teufelsberg, one of Berlin’s highest hills.
6. Zermatt, Switzerland
Zermatt is a sleepy village for the majority of the year. In the winter, however, skiers of all abilities flock to the 200-plus kilometers of pistes. With off-piste opportunities and top stations at nearly 4,000 meters, Zermatt is a haven for expert skiers.
Non-skiers will have plenty to do in Zermatt as well. For those interested in snowshoeing and winter hiking, Zermatt has plenty of sunshine during the colder months, making it ideal for a walk in the wilderness. There’s also tobogganing and sledding, as well as guided hikes to explore off-the-beaten-path areas.
The 2.2-kilometer walk from Blauherd to Fluhalp is a great easy trail to try, with views of chamois grazing on the slopes and the Matterhorn in the distance.
7. Bruges, Belgium
Winter in Bruges is a delight. While early December is mild in comparison to mid-winter temperatures hovering around freezing, visiting Bruges in winter at any time is a multi-sensory delight. In late November and December, the city’s crowning jewel is its Christmas market, with the scent of fresh waffles, hot chocolate, mulled wine, and mayonnaise-covered fries wafting through the streets of the Old Town. Bruges is transformed into a picturesque winter wonderland that can’t help but make you feel festive.
Bruges is a fairytale destination for lovers, with its historic Old Town and charming canals, medieval architecture, and endless cozy breweries. Take in the view from the top of Belfry Tower, fill your stomach with waffles from the House of Waffles on Wollestraat, and walk around the cold city at night to capture some incredible photos!
8. Canary Islands, Spain
Not every winter destination has to be cold. It’s just as good to get away from the cold weather and go somewhere warmer to avoid shivering. For all of this, the Canary Islands are likely the best option. These Spanish islands, located off the coast of West Africa, typically enjoy pleasant sunny weather while Europe freezes. And, while other island destinations may close during the winter, you can be certain that the Canaries will be open for business.
In terms of what to see and do in the Canary Islands, you can choose between relaxing on a beach, playing in the water with diving and surfing, or hiking through the islands’ memorable landscapes. These volcanic islands have varied terrains that include epic craters, sand dunes, and ash fields. Basically, you’ll have no trouble finding outdoor activities to enjoy.
9. Vienna, Austria
Vienna’s central location in Europe makes it an ideal base for day trips to neighboring countries or other parts of Austria. The capital city of Austria is well-known for its coffee culture, opera, architecture, Carnival, and music. It is a city with something for everyone.
Visit Schönbrunn Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the 1700s for the Habsburgs. Enjoy a memorable family outing to Prater amusement park. And, of course, spend an evening at the Vienna State Opera, regarded as one of the world’s best opera houses.
10. Geneva, Switzerland
Geneva, one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, is stunning at any time of year thanks to Lake Geneva and the surrounding Alps, but it really shines in winter. After coming in from the snowy city, the warming deliciousness of Swiss hot chocolate transforms into something otherworldly.
The iconic ski town of Chamonix is only an hour’s drive from Geneva and has some of the best slopes in the world. With so many great restaurants and cafes in the city and surrounding area, you really can have your pick of ski resorts and eat some of the best, most filling, heartiest food. Geneva is one of the best European winter travel destinations due to its combination of great food, great slopes, and great people.
11. Budapest, Hungary
Budapest is one of Europe’s most romantic December vacation destinations, with thermal baths, scenic boat cruises, and magically lit streets. Just strolling through the old town is romantic enough, let alone the dazzling array of atmospheric restaurants, bars, and cafes serving champagne and rich Hungarian cuisine.
In the winter, even the trams light up to transport you around town in fairytale style. If you’re looking for shopping, markets and famous retail streets may keep you pounding the pavements for hours.
Vörösmarty Square is home to the most spectacular Christmas market, with crafts, goulash, grilled sausages, and the delectable Chimney Cake on display, ready to be washed down with hot, spicy drinks. Are you planning a December honeymoon in Europe? Nothing says romance like a cruise down the Danube.
12. Rome, Italy
Rome, one of Europe’s most popular cities, is an open-air museum! It also has a lot of Christmas markets, so we recommend going in December. The good news is that if you visit outside of the peak summer months, prices are lower and attractions such as the Colosseum and Pantheon are also relatively quiet.
The incredible variety of museums in Rome will keep you warm, and the Vatican City is a popular Christmastime attraction. And then there’s all that fantastic Italian food you can eat every day….
If you plan on staying for a while, train connections make it simple to visit other parts of Italy. We recommend spending a few days in the warmer southern region and visiting cities such as Florence.
These, in our opinion, are some of the best places to visit in Europe in December. With so many different countries and cities on one continent, Europe provides a cultural feast for the would-be winter traveler.
It is important to note that this conclusion is intended for people who want to travel to Europe in December. It is not an exhaustive list of everything to see in Europe in December, but it does include the best places to visit.