Looking for a cool European destination for your next winter vacation? In this post, I am sharing some of the best places to visit in Europe in December.
I am sure you will find some inspiration for your next trip.
Whether you are looking for a warm winter escape in the coldest months of the year or the best Christmas Market, you want to see the Aurora Borealis or take long walks by the beach, we have got you covered.
Read on and find out what travelers share about their favorite destination to visit in Europe in December.
The header picture is courtesy of Charu from Travel with CG
The Best Places to Visit in Europe in December
1. Dublin in December
One of the best places to visit in Europe in December is Dublin, Ireland. I studied abroad in this city in 2019, and I’m still in awe of it.
This beautiful city is highly underrated, and it’s filled with kind people, lots of history, and incredible culture.
Most people opt to visit Ireland in the summer months, but the winter is magical because there are barely any tourists, the weather is superb, and there are many fun festivals.
When visiting in winter, one of the absolute best things to do is to attend the beautiful Christmas markets.
Dublin hosts these during December, and it’s a great time to get super excited about the holiday season.
They also host a New Year’s Festival that starts at the very tail end of December. Other fun things to do in Dublin this time of year include exploring Temple Bar (it’s touristy, but it’s a must), walking along the River Liffey, and touring the Guinness Storehouse.
Many of the restaurants in Dublin can be somewhat touristy, but don’t worry; there are places you can go to catch up with locals, too.
The Temple Bar Pub is always overrun by tourists, so instead, go right across the street to The Old Mill. It’s almost always got open seats, and the interior is a lot more quaint and charming.
It still has that classic pub feel, and the food is impeccable. For breakfast, head to Queen of Tarts Cafe which has two city locations!
Try to stay downtown to easily access Dublin’s best attractions; the Fitzsimons Temple Bar is super central and within walking distance from The Old Mill, River Liffey, Temple Bar, and Queen of Tarts!
Contributed by Krystianna from Volumes & Voyages
2. Reykjavik in December
Reykjavik, Iceland is easily one of the best places to visit in Europe in December. After all, you can enjoy seeing the vibrant northern lights dancing through the air.
Or, book a Northern Lights Adventure Tour and see this incredible natural phenomenon from another part of the country.
Next, warm yourself up after a day spent in the cold at Iceland’s newest geothermal pool, Sky Lagoon.
Alternatively, you could always go for a refreshing dip in one of the area’s many hot springs, like Hrunalaug, Reykjadalur, or the iconic Blue Lagoon.
Then, when you’re ready to enjoy some seasonal activities one of the best things to do In Reykjavik is to join the locals and go on a hunt for Santa Clause.
So, head downtown and see if you can spot one of the 13 holograms of Santa Clause hidden among various buildings. This event usually takes place on December 23rd since Christmas is typically celebrated on December 24th.
Afterward, enjoy some hearty seasonal cuisine during s 3-hour, Reykjavik Food Walk. Just be sure to book your spot well in advance since tickets sell out fast.
Finally, prepare to party it up on New Year’s Eve in this incredible city. Not only is it the biggest party night of the year but a ban on fireworks is lifted for one week.
Therefore, you’ll see a ton of wonderful fireworks displays go off at this time of year.
Contributed by Victoria from Iceland Trippers
3. Berlin in December
Berlin can get quite cold and dark in the winter, but the Christmas markets make it all worthwhile. I look forward to December every year, despite the weather, because it’s such a festive time of year.
With so many great Christmas markets in Berlin, you’ll never run out of places to soak up the holiday cheer.
One of my favorite markets is the one at Charlottenburg Palace. The palace is such a gorgeous setting, and the stalls are a good mix of food, drinks, and gifts.
And don’t forget to climb the stairs to the top level of the Hungarian food hut, which will give you some nice views of the palace and the market.
Another local favorite is the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market. There’s a 1 euro entry fee, but it’s a small price to pay for such a pretty market.
This is one of the most beautiful squares in Berlin, and the market has a bit of an upscale feel to it while still keeping with traditions.
Berlin has lots of non-traditional Christmas markets too. There’s a Nordic-themed market at Kulturbrauerei, one of my personal favorites.
You can also find a vegan market, markets that are more focused on arts and shopping, and many other types. With over 50 markets in the city, there’s something for everyone.
It’s easy to eat dinner at most Christmas markets, but if you’d rather eat inside, try Gaststätte Sophieneck for some German food in a tavern atmosphere.
For delicious pastries, look for Zeit für Brot, they have several locations. And for a hotel with an amazing view of the Berlin Zoo and Tiergarten park, book a “jungle” room at the 25Hours Hotel.
Contributed by Ali from Berlin Travel Tips.
4. Milan in December
The winter season in Milan is beautiful, especially at Christmas. The festive atmosphere makes the cold weather even more enjoyable. You will find all the most beautiful shops competing for the best Christmas decorations.
The Christmas tree in Piazza Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is packed with people and their colorful shopping bags, but most of all I love Piazza Gae Aulenti.
The modern square is surrounded by contemporary skyscrapers including the famous building Il Bosco Verticale one of the most exclusive condos in Milan, and a pair of residential towers in the Porta Nuova district of Milan that contain more than 900 trees.
In this futuristic atmosphere, you can enjoy walking around the Christmas market and trying local delicacies, such as different chocolates, cheeses, and curated meat among others.
But you will also find handcrafted goods and accessories for some Christmas gift ideas.
If you are visiting at this time of the year the best area to stay in Milan is definitely Brera, in the heart of Milan, where you can live the Christmas atmosphere fully.
5. Florence in December
If you want to combine art and culture with great food and wine and a Christmassy atmosphere, you should definitely visit Florence in Italy at this time of the year.
The thriving city can be safely considered the cultural capital of Italy, the cradle of the renaissance where you can immerse yourself in the most precious works of art that have ever been created.
Visit the famous Uffizi, climb the Brunelleschi’s Dome in Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence walk along the Ponte Vecchio look at the spectacular views from Michelangelo square, visit the manicured Boboli Gardens and eat in the Gourmet Market food stalls.
There is so much to do in Florence and its surroundings that you should at least spend a week there to enjoy it fully.
At Chrismas, the city becomes even more alive with Christmas music and decorations all over the city and a cheerful atmosphere.
If you don’t know where to stay in Florence I have got you covered with this thorough guide to the best areas and hotels for every budget.
6. Lugano in December
For a stunning and festive location to visit in December in Europe, Lugano in Switzerland is the place to be! Located in the Italian region of Switzerland, Lugano is easy to reach with a short train ride from Milan, Italy.
Lugano is not a popular destination for non-Swiss residents in winter, making it a great but very unique destination from abroad.
As a Swiss winter location, it can of course have a sprinkle of snow and low temperatures, so you need to be prepared with warm clothing.
But don’t let that put you off, as the warm winter festivities are enjoyable for all ages. Lugano hosts a Christmas market in the city that has numerous stands selling local treats, festive drinks, and wintery decorations/souvenirs.
Many cafes and restaurants provide blankets and heaters to keep you warm while visiting if you wish to sit outside.
Despite the colder weather, Lugano is very highly suggested to still visit with lots of things to do.
For example, when not visiting the Christmas markets and city, you can enjoy an easy Lugano Lugano walking day trip around the neighborhoods.
Exploring also sub-neighborhoods such as Gandria or Morcote is pretty to see if you have the time. Else head to the top of Monte Brè or Mount San Salvatore for some wintery scenery from above.
Alternatively, book a visit to a local spa for some thermal massage and relaxation.
If you stay at The View Lugano hotel, their sauna is perfect for relaxing after a long day out. They also have the best service and a gorgeous dining area for a night in.
Contributed by Zoe from Together In Switzerland
7. Malta in December
If you are looking for someplace in Europe with warm weather in winter, Malta is the perfect place for you.
An island country in the Mediterranean Sea, Malta is one of the warmest places in Europe in December. Due to the Mediterranean climate, the weather in Malta remains relatively warm and dry in December, with an average temperature of around 15°C.
There are plenty of amazing historical and cultural fun things to do in Malta to make your holiday memorable.
Start your Maltese adventure by visiting the capital city, Valletta. The walled city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the capital of Malta. Wander around the streets of Valletta to marvel at the gorgeous architecture of this historic city.
A visit to the St John’s Co-Cathedral is an absolute must in the city. Founded in the 16th century, the incredibly ornate interior of the cathedral is one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Europe.
From the nearby Upper Barrakka Gardens, admire the breathtaking panoramic view out to the picturesque Grand Harbour and the Three Cities of Malta.
Visitors gather here to watch the ceremonial gunfire that takes place daily at noon and 4 pm. Enjoy a delicious dinner with some hearty traditional Maltese food and drink in Nenu, The Artisan Baker.
Take a day trip to visit the stunning Blue Lagoons – a tropical beach paradise on the island of Comino. Also, explore the atmospheric Mdina, known as the silent city.
There are plenty of luxury and budget hotels dotted around Malta. We would recommend staying at La Falconeria Hotel, which lies very close to the Valletta city center.
Contributed by Moumita from Chasing the Long Road
8. Riquewihr in December
With its cobblestone streets and colorful half-timbered houses, Riquewihr is argued to be one of the most beautiful villages in France, and it’s easy to understand why.
This little town is located in the French Alsace Region, 12 km from Colmar, and it’s one of these destinations that truly come to life around Christmas.
Together with the neighboring town of Ribeauvillé, Riquewihr was the inspiration for the village in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
So, it’s no wonder that exploring its little alleys makes you fill as if you were walking through a fairy tale.
Starting from the end of November, Riquewihr will be decorated with plenty of lights, huge teddy bears, giant Alsatian gingerbread men, and more beautiful decorations.
It’s the perfect place to visit Christmas markets, shop for gifts, drink Glühwein, and enjoy the town’s cozy atmosphere.
One of Riquewihr’s most famous hotels is Hotel de la Couronne. This authentic, family-run hotel was built in 1550, and it’s located in the center of the village.
When it comes to the best restaurants, places like La Grappe d’Or and Au Trotthus won’t disappoint you.
You will be able to try some of the best Alsatian food here, including choucroûte garnie and tarte flambée.
It’s good to know that Riquewihr is surrounded by vineyards and other charming villages like Ribeauvillé, Hunawihr, Eguisheim, and Kaysersberg. If you have the time, these are well worth visiting too.
All in all, Riquewihr’s charm and Christmas market make it one of the best places to visit in Europe in December.
Contributed by Laura from Laure Wanders
9. Athens in December
Athens is an exciting metropolis to explore all year long. Winter is probably the ideal season to visit Athens for the fewer crowds in Plaka and the historic center, the mild temperatures, and the frequent sunny days.
In December, Athens is adorned by thousands of Christmas lights while the city’s excellent dining and nightlife scenes become even more alluring thanks to the inescapable Christmas cheer.
Undoubtedly, the best thing to do in Athens in December is to visit the Acropolis. Thanks to the lower temperatures, it’s easier to climb the rock of the Acropolis then and the absence of crowds will allow you to take in the beauty of this spectacular monument in a unique way.
Moreover, museums in Athens are among the best places to visit in December. Who doesn’t love a warm space, filled with art and knowledge, after all?
There are a lot of museums in Athens, among which the Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum are the best for ancient history lovers. If you are into contemporary art, the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation stands out.
In Athens, you can find a lot of fine restaurants that feel irresistibly warm and festive in December. One of them is Ergon House in Syntagma, where you can savor superb Mediterranean cuisine and buy local delicacies at the on-site market. For traditional Greek dishes in a quaint setting, try To Krasopoulio Tou Kokkora in Psyrri.
Royalty Hotel Athens is one of the best accommodation options for those who want an elegant and comfortable hotel in the heart of the city.
Contributed by Katerina from It’s All Trip To Me
10. Paris in December
Paris is magical any time of the year you visit and is a popular tourist destination all year round, but there is something so special about December.
The streets are getting lit up with Christmas decorations, and the weather is chilly, but what’s a Christmas in Paris without some layers?
Visiting Paris in December presents an opportunity to do several unique activities that wouldn’t be possible during other times of the year.
From admiring the perfectly decorated window displays at the city’s big department stores and enjoying the Festival of Lights at Jardin des Plantes to picking up some souvenirs from the various Christmas markets, Paris becomes incredibly exciting even with an overcast.
And unlike other cities in northern Europe where December is one of the coldest months, Paris is still bearable when you dress in layers with temperatures oscillating between 4° C ( 39 °F) and 8° C (46 °F).
But when the cold gets to you, and you want to hide away, the best thing to do is to cozy up at some of its trendy cafes like Café de Flore, La Flamme, and Angelina to either warm up with hot chocolate, Vin chaud, or the winter’s staple, Onion soup.
And for where to stay, you can opt for Mandarin Oriental Paris since it goes all out when it comes to Christmas decorations or Hôtel Eiffel Turenne to be close to the Iron lady.
Contributed by Esther from Dreams in Paris
11. London in December
The amazing amount of Christmas decorations, winter festivals, and one of the biggest Christmas trees in Europe, make London a top place to visit in December. With so many amazing things to do in London in winter, you will never run out of festive activities in one of the most vibrant cities in Europe.
Visit Covent Garden for its beautiful Christmas decorations and some of the most amazing bars and restaurants. You can try a delicious meal in Rules which is one of the oldest restaurants in London.
However, a walk around the most famous street in London such as Regent Street, New Bond Street, or Oxford Street cannot be missed in winter.
Admire angels and stars that hung over London’s streets. Then, go Christmas shopping at Burlington Arcade which is a unique place to get presents for your friends and family.
Stay in 5-star accommodation – One Aldwych Hotel, which is nearby some of the best theatres in London. There is no better way to spend a cold winter evening than watching Christmas shows in the National Theatre or the Globe.
December is also the best time of the year to check out winter festivals such as Lightopia or Lumiere London. Incredible light installations which receive numerous awards for the best festival in the world make London the top place to visit in Europe during winter.
Contributed by Paulina from the UK Every Day
12. Prague in December
Prague’s charm shines throughout the year but even more so at Christmastime. At the end of November, Christmas markets start popping up and Prague puts on a beautiful festive dress with lots of lights and sparkles. When it snows, it’s pure magic.
To enjoy the true Christmas atmosphere, hang out at markets with a mug of mulled wine or hot mead and soak up the Christmassy vibes.
The Old Town Square market is the largest and the most traditional one.
It’s pretty and a total must-see but if you don’t like crowds, there are many smaller markets to enjoy. I personally love the Prague Castle Christmas market.
It’s small and intimate and later in the day, say after 4 pm, there’s hardly anyone.
Apart from enjoying Prague winter and Christmas, you should do the usual sightseeing visiting the Old Town, Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, etc.
In winter, you may also have fun at one of the ice skating rinks around town with the most central one located at the Ovocný trh Square between the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.
There are many cafés to cozy up in when you need to warm up – e.g. SmetanaQ Café at the Vltava Riverbank is a great choice. The choco café “U Červené židle” (By the Red Chair) in the Old Town is a charming hideaway with excellent hot chocolate.
I can highly recommend the Mosaic House as an accommodation option with various types of rooms suiting every budget and with a location close to the city center.
Contributed by Veronika Primm from Travel Geekery
13. Lapland in December
December can be a really great time to explore Europe, but Lapland is a particularly magical place to be during this wintry month. Christmas in Finland’s northernmost region is like something out of a dream, mainly because it’s where you’ll find Rovaniemi, the official hometown of Santa Claus!
Great for families, couples, or even solo travelers, two of my favorite places in Rovaniemi has to be the Santa Claus village and Santa Park. Here, you can meet the iconic Mr. Claus and enroll in the famous Elf School.
Of course, when in Lapland, you should take the opportunity to hunt the Northern Lights. Your best bet is to stay far away from light pollution, such as in an igloo hotel, and a matter of patience as you wait out the night to spot the enchanting aurora phenomenon.
Staying in a snow hotel is also a must-do, and there are few things more enticing than watching the white landscape unfurl beyond your glass-domed room.
Or if you don’t want to spend the night, it’s also possible to just dine here during the day—still a pretty memorable experience!
Speaking of a Christmassy trip and Finland, your trip won’t be complete without a dreamy husky safari.
This is the ultimate Lapland bucket list, but be sure to pick an ethical husky company. I personally recommend BearHill Husky.
Overall, Lapland has a lot to offer for visitors throughout the year, but more so in December. From Santa histories and reindeer farms to snowmobiles and polar bear zoos, there really is something for everyone.
Contributed by Bradley from Dream Big, Travel Far
14. Madeira in December
Madeira is a fantastic destination in Europe to visit in winter. The town of Funchal, which is where most travelers will use it as a base on the island, has an average temperature of around 20 degrees in December.
There are plenty of amazing things to do in Madeira. Because the island is small, you can reach most places in around one hour – even the mountains.
Pico do Arieiro, at 1800 high, from where you can witness the most incredible sunrise above the clouds, is a mere 40 minutes away from Funchal.
In the North of the island, you will find the natural volcanic pools from Porto Moniz. You can either swim in the wild ones, or at the lido – which is much safer when the ocean is rough.
The lido is open all year round, and offers a lifeguard service, as well as changing rooms and toilets. The water is cold, but the experience is well worth it, especially when the ocean waves push you back towards the middle of the pools.
Funchal is a lovely town, with a beautiful historic old center. Here you will find two buildings that are dating from the 16thcentury and are still standing.
The market in Funchal is also a great place to visit, especially in the morning when the fish vendors are bringing their catch of the day.
A great place to eat in Funchal is the Beerhouse, a brewery that serves traditional dishes and has a lovely view over the harbor. A good hotel to stay at is VidaMar Resort.
Contributed by Joanna from The World in My Pocket
👉 Read more about Portugal in my Portugal Travel Guide
15. Hamburg in December
If you’re looking for a place to visit in Europe during December, there is no better place than Hamburg.
The major reason for this is the numerous Christmas markets located around the city; if Christmas markets are your thing, you absolutely have to visit.
Arguably the biggest and best is Rathausmarkt Christmas Market located in the shadows of the City Hall and it truly is worth spending an evening exploring. The market is open throughout the whole of December each year and is packed with stalls selling handmade toys, jewelry, and international delicacies.
Alternatively, you can wander over and around Hamburg’s famous canals. Located in the Speicherstadt district, a UNESCO World Heritage site, these canals are beautiful to explore in the evening where you can view stunning architecture, museums, and much more!
If you’re traveling on a budget, there is no better place to stay than Generator Hamburg. This hostel is situated just outside the city center and a three-minute walk from both the bus and train stations; perfect for getting in and out of the city.
Conversely, the Hotel Motel One Hamburg-Fleetinsel, if you’re searching for a more comfortable and, aren’t constrained by any budgets.
Whilst you’re exploring the city, make sure to try out Groot, an authentic bistro specializing in traditional German cuisine.
Here you’ll be able to choose your meat (ham, beef, or pork) along with roast or mash potatoes and cabbage.
The portion sizes are huge and it only costs €10 including a drink; well worth checking out!
Overall, the main reason you should visit Hamburg in winter is that it’s a city that comes alive in the dark; the canal and buildings are beautifully lit up and it’s such a calming, warm city to explore!
Contributed by Alex and Leah from Alex and Leah on tour
16. Zagreb, Croatia in December
Advent in Zagreb is the number one reason to visit Croatia’s capital in December. Did you know that Zagreb’s Christmas market was named the best Christmas Market in Europe for a couple of years in a row?
As soon as the 1st of December rolls around, the whole city gets a holiday makeover, food stands pop up all over the city, and the fragrant scent of mulled wine permeates the cold air.
Bundle up, and start your Zagreb itinerary from Ban Jelačić square. This central square is known as the local meeting spot. Stroll along Ilica, the longest street in Croatia, to the Funicular leading to the Upper Town.
Arrive at the Lotrščak tower before noon to witness the Grič canon firing to signify noon, a daily tradition dating to the 19th century!
Plato Gradec offers the best view of the city and the Cathedral. In December, Plato gets a special makeover making it one of the best Christmas market locations.
There is no need to look for restaurants, as most cult Zagreb restaurants will have their stand on the Market, and you can see the food! However, if you want to warm up inside, the History cafe on Tkalča walking street or Noktoruno restaurant are popular local choices!
Save visiting Zrijevac park for the afternoon. As the night begins to fall, glistening Christmas lights illuminate the trees. The highlight of the Christmas market is the ice rink on King Tomislav square.
December is a high season in Zagreb, so book your accommodation in advance! Opt for a studio apartment to get the best value for your money.
Contributed by Natali from She’s abroad again
17. Nice in December
Nice, France is a lovely city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and one of the best destinations to visit in Europe in December if you are looking for warm temperatures.
Its temperate winter climate made it famous as a winter resort town for the English aristocracy. For that reason, it is honored as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
There are many wonderful things to do in Nice. One must-do activity is to take a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais, Nice’s seven-kilometer pedestrian boardwalk.
To the south, enjoy the beautiful sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean. To the north, there are myriad tempting entertainments: restaurants, bars, museums, fancy hotels, and swanky casinos.
At the easternmost end of the promenade and the beaches, climb to the Parc de la Colline du Château to enjoy fantastic views of the beaches and the sea. Along the way, you’ll find the #ILoveNice sign, with picture-perfect views of Nice!
Be sure to visit Vieux Nice, the city’s historic center. Walk along the cobbled streets and do some shopping at the Marché Aux Fleurs Cours Saleya.
This outdoor market is a great place to find vibrant flowers as well as local produce and specialties.
You’ll want to sample socca, a local favorite. Socca is a thin pancake made of chickpea flour, baked, then sliced into strips for snacking – try some at Chez Thérésa.
For a heartier meal, try La Rossettisserie; this rotisserie-focused restaurant pleases with roasted meats, chicken, and hearty sides. Note they’re only open for dinner and closed on Sundays, so plan accordingly.
Stay at the Hôtel Nice Beau Rivage. This hotel has a great location just a block from the Promenade des Anglais, the public park of Jardin Albert 1er, and the lovely beaches of Nice.
Contributed by Lisa Garrett of Waves and Cobblestones
18. Helsinki in December
There are plenty of reasons to love Helsinki in winter. For starters, the city is beautifully blanketed in snow, making it a picturesque destination for winter wonderland seekers.
And if you’re looking for a festive atmosphere, Helsinki definitely delivers, with its many Christmas markets and holiday events.
But what really makes Helsinki shine in winter is its excellent food and drink scene.
From cozy cafes serving up steaming cups of coffee to Michelin-starred restaurants dishing up Nordic delicacies, there’s something for every foodie in Helsinki.
One of the most unique things that you can do in Helsinki in winter is visiting the Allas Sea Pool.
It’s conveniently located in the city center and is quite cheap compared to other attractions in Finland. For just 18€ you can enjoy 3h of pools and saunas.
The main pool is outdoors and it’s heated to 27°C all year round. The pool has a view of the city center and the port, which is really impressive in winter.
You can swim comfortably in your bathing suit in a pool, while there are big ships breaking ice to get to the port just a few meters away.
If you wish to stay right in the city center of Helsinki, Holiday Inn Helsinki City Centre, an IHG Hotel is the perfect place.
It’s located right next to the train station and is a walking distance away from all of the attractions in the city center, including shops, restaurants, museums, and the seaside.
Contributed by Una from Wandernity
19. Seville in December
One of the best places to visit in December in Europe is the capital city of Andalucia in southern Spain, Seville.
It is not only a wonderful city to visit for its many famous attractions like the Giralda and the Moorish palace Real Alcazar.
Seville in winter is magical. The city is dotted with grilled chestnut stands on every corner, and the Christmas lights are giving that warm touch, especially in the evenings.
The streets are full of people no matter where you go, and people are generally in a good holiday mood.
The weather is wonderful with highs up to 18-20 degrees Celsius in the daytime if it is sunny that is.
Nighttime temperatures might go as low as 5 degrees Celsius, however, and even in the shade you will feel a huge temperature difference in the day, so make sure that you dress up in layers that are easy to take off and on again as you meander through one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
Venturing through Maria Louisa Park, taking pictures at the picturesque Plaza de España, and strolling along the Guadalquivir River feeling the sun on your skin is a wonderful feeling when other parts of Europe are cold and grey.
Seville is truly a good choice when looking for a city break in December.
Contributed by Linn Haglund of Amused by Andalucia
20. Tallin in December
Tallin in Estonia claims to be the first to display a Christmas tree in public and is therefore among the best places to visit in Europe in December.
Whether they are right or not, setting up the Christmas tree in Tallin’s medieval town hall square remains a yearly tradition along with a lively market.
The festivities in December bring joy to the cold and dark days in Estonia’s capital.
Tallinn in winter is extremely picturesque. In December the chance is high that the city is covered under a thick blanket of snow.
This makes the cobbled stone streets of the old town even more fairytale-like. If it gets too cold for you there are lots of trendy cafes and delicious restaurants to warm up.
Or you can visit one of the interesting museums.
If you are not a city person, Tallinn is still a great place to visit in December. The city is surrounded by lots of nature. Even in winter, you can still go hiking in the forests and bogs.
Not far from Tallinn you will find the Jagala waterfall which will freeze in winter and is a spectacular sight. The Viru bog trail is also great in winter when it is a frozen wonderland.
As you can see there are plenty of reasons to visit Tallinn in the cold and dark days of December. Just make sure you bring enough warm clothes and you have a wonderful time.
21. Lisbon in December
Although Portugal may seem more of a summer destination, Lisbon in Winter is kind of special with mild weather that allows you to enjoy roaming around the vibrant city and many things to do indoors in case of rain.
But most of all you will enjoy Lisbon’s nightlife with colorful Christmas lights throughout the historic center and on its main squares and avenues.
The Christmas markets at Eduardo VII Park are something not to be missed, with many attractions, local vendors selling typical handicrafts and Christmas foods.
Lisbon’s City Hall also organizes several activities including exhibitions, performances, and cultural programs for the entire family.
The inauguration of the Christmas lights is one of these events and it usually takes place between the last days of November and the beginning of December.
Also don’t miss the dance of the famous “Nutcracker” organized by the Belém Cultural Center, among the many Christmas Concerts.
22. Lagos, Algarve, Portugal in December
Lagos is a great place to visit in December for the winter sun, empty beaches, and nice weather.
After the busy summer season, the town and the beaches get quieter and prices of accommodation and activities decrease significantly.
You don’t have to plan and book your trip months in advance unless you want to spend New Year here. Lagos is famous for its fireworks. Many locals come here for the New Year’s party.
The weather is pleasant. It’s not as hot and dry as during the summer months, but it’s still warm and sunny with little rain.
Daily temperatures are between 15°C and 20°C. Nights are quite chilly though. During the day you can enjoy outdoor activities and beaches and sit in front of a fireplace reading a book at night.
There are many great things to do in Lagos in December. Surfing is better in winter than in summer.
Porto de Mos Beach and Meia Praia are the two best beaches for surfing in Lagos. Hiking is another great outdoor winter activity.
There are several walking trails and boardwalks around Lagos that offer breathtaking scenery. Relaxing and tanning on the beach is possible in Lagos in December.
Praia Dona Ana, Camilo Beach, and Praia dos Estudantes are pefect for that.
Unlike in January and February, all restaurants and coffee shops are open in December. For a good cup of coffee head to the Coffee Studio in the Old Town of Lagos.
To get the best views of town go to Mare Restaurant. Marina de Lagos is the best place to come for a drink. Several bars offer live music on weekends.
If you prefer to stay close to the Old Town and the Marina Lagos Avenida Hotel is a good option.
Contributed by Alya from the Algarve Family
23. Turin, Italy in December
Turin is one of the best places in Europe to visit in December because it combines a city getaway with a sky holiday.
Many people don’t know, but Turin was the first capital city of Italy, which means it has so much history hidden in its streets and palaces that you can stay there for days and only scratch the surface.
And Turin’s strategic location at the feet of the Italian Alps makes it an excellent base for ski day trips to the snow-capped mountains.
That makes it one of the best European destinations for those who love both winter sports and cultural sites
The region of Piedmont (Piemonte) in Northern Italy is world famous for Barolo wine, slow food movement, truffles, chocolates, and mouthwatering dishes like vitello tonnato, agnolotti, pizza al padellino, and many more.
When you get tired of exploring the old town, the city parks, and neighborhoods filled with incredible buildings and unique architecture, you can go to the mountains.
There are a couple of ski resorts near Turin, most of which can be done as a day trip. In fact, you can go from Turin to Bardonnechia ski town using public transportation.
The ski resorts in Piedmont and Aosta Valley have pistes for beginners to experienced skiers and snowboarders.
Some of them will have a snow park and all the infrastructure you expect from a ski resort (restaurants, cafes, ski rentals, and hotels).
When planning your trip to Turin, remember that you can fly to Turin International Airport or one of the two airports in Milan, and from there, get a train to Turin.
The train trip takes about 1 hour, and you will arrive at Turin’s central station, which is close to many hotels.
Contributed by Natalie Deduck from The Best of Turin
24. Istanbul in December
With its vibrant cafe culture, fantastic food scene, and wide range of indoor attractions that are perfect for when the temperature drops, the picturesque city of Istanbul is the ideal destination for a wallet-friendly December winter holiday.
One of the major benefits of visiting Istanbul in December is that it is low tourist season, so you can enjoy all of the most popular attractions such as The Hagia Sophia Mosque, The Blue Mosque, and The Topkapı Palace without the crowds.
As all of these attractions are indoors, you don’t have to worry about getting cold or rained on.
There are also plenty of fascinating museums, underground cisterns, massive bazaars, and churches to keep you occupied!
After a long day of sightseeing, head over to one of the many Turkish baths (hammams) in the city. Having a massage, steambath and scrub is a surefire way to rid you of those winter chills.
Winter is also the perfect time to try out unique Turkish winter foods and explore Istanbul’s incredible cafe scene. Istanbul is a city filled with cafe lovers and you’ll find cozy and quirky cafes everywhere you look.
Pop into one that takes your fancy and order schlep, a warming traditional winter drink that’s the perfect antidote to the chilly weather.
Made from milk, orchid root flour, cinnamon, and sugar, it’s rich, creamy, and filling. Murat Muhallebicisi in Karaköy sells particularly good sahlep.
Another famous winter beverage is boza, a cold drink made from fermented grains and topped with roasted chickpeas and cinnamon.
The best place to try this is at Vefa Bozacısı, a historic shop that has been making boza since 1876. In winter the queues are out of the door!
Winter is also the cheapest time to visit the city: flights to Istanbul and city tours are much more affordable at this time of year.
There is a wide range of places to stay in Istanbul and in winter many hotels and apartments offer major discounts.
Louis Appartements in the historic Galata area offers cozy and comfortable rooms and a terrace with great views of the Galata Tower.
Contributed by Sasha from Mog and Dog Travels
25. Barcelona in December
Barcelona is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year, but it can get very busy. If you visit Barcelona in winter you will be able to experience this incredible city when it is relatively quiet.
From the end of November to early January, the streets are filled with colorful decorations, and Christmas Markets appear around the city, selling Catalan Christmas decorations and souvenirs, bringing festive cheer to the city.
Barcelona’s climate means it stays relatively warm throughout the winter months with an average high of 59F/15°C and low of 28.2F/9°C in December, and a little colder in January.
While it can rain, it’s more likely you’ll get to enjoy some sunny weather – even if it is cold, a walk along the beach is still guaranteed to bring a smile to your face!
You still should plan to book tickets in advance for the top attractions in Barcelona, such as Gaudí’s stunning Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, and a tour of Camp Nou and the FC Barcelona Museum.
Barcelona has plenty more fabulous museums if the weather is poor, but when it is dry and sunny you can explore on foot.
The Bunkers at El Carmel have incredible views of the city and the Mediterranean beyond and are worth the walk (or bus journey) to get up there.
As for eating, the best way to warm up in poor weather is with a cup of thick hot chocolate and churro doughnuts from Granja Dulcinea on Carrer Petrixol.
For great value traditional Catalan food, head to Taverna el Glop in Gracia, or hit the bars on Carrer del Blai in Poble Sec for a tapas crawl.
If you’re on a budget Chic and Basic Born is a good value choice, or try the H10 Madison hotel, with a roof terrace overlooking the Gothic Cathedral.
Contributed by Claire from Why Visit Barcelona
26. Vienna, Austria in December
Vienna is a wonderful destination throughout the whole year, but December is one of, if not the most magical month to visit the Austrian capital.
This time is marked by Christmas markets, mulled wine, and fairytale decorations all around.
When saying “all round”, this is actually serious – there are over 15 Christmas markets in Vienna in December, scattered around the city.
If you’re spending a short few days here, seeing even one or two of them is enough to admire the festive atmosphere and delicious traditional snacks and drinks.
The most beautiful and recommendable Christmas markets are the one in front of the Rathaus (City Hall), the one in front of Karlskirche, and the one in front of Schönbrunn Palace.
When in Vienna, one must also try some traditional food like Viennese schnitzel or Sacher cake. One of the best places for a traditional schnitzel, which won’t break the bank, is the Reinthaler – a small local restaurant, right in the heart of Vienna.
Another must-do thing in Vienna, and especially appropriate for the cold weather, is to visit the Schönbrunn Palace and the Belvedere Palace – two of the city’s biggest attractions.
The Schönbrunn Palace served as the Habsburg’s summer residence and one can still see the wonderful interior which has been preserved.
Belvedere Palace has been turned into an art museum, where one can see the famous painting by Gustav Klimt – The Kiss.
A recommendable hotel in Vienna is The Leo Grand, which is located right in the heart of the city.
Contributed by Lyubomira from Bulgarian On The Go
27. Gdansk in December
One of the best places to visit in December in Europe is the quaint Polish city of Gdansk.
During the Second World War, the city got completely bombed, in fact, point zero of the war was in Gdansk and is now a memorial site worth visiting, Westerplatte.
But there are many wonderful things to do in Gdansk as the city was rebuilt and a few of the attractions, like Neptune’s fountain, were hidden during the war and the original set up again.
This, like many other attractions, is set on the Royal Way, where pastel houses line the road where kings once entered the city, welcomed by the entire population.
Gdansk in December can be snow-capped or not, but no matter what, you will have the opportunity to try numerous Polish hot drinks that are so popular in the winter months, like hot beer with fruit.
Yes, it is not for everyone. If it is not for you, hot chocolate can never go wrong, especially after a swirl at the city’s skate rink.
The Christmas markets in Gdansk are also worth visiting and there are many typical Polish Christmas treats to be tested.
Stay centrally at the Celestin Residence to have walking distance to all the main attractions.
Contributed by Linn Haglund from Brainy Backpackers
28. Copenhagen in December
The birthplace of hygge, winter in Copenhagen is a cozy affair. Cafes and restaurants deck out their outdoor terraces with heating, sheepskin rugs, and blankets, so eating al fresco is a delight all year round.
Stores invite you in with their tempting window displays and approaching Christmas, the entire city has a distinctively festive feel. Head along to the Tivoli Gardens for a fun day out for all ages, with rides, markets, and shimmering Xmas trees to delight all.
For more low-key entertainment, seek out one of the city’s ice skating rinks for family fun on the ice. Afterward, spas and saunas await to thaw out frosty bones.
And if you’re lucky enough to time your visit right, you’ll be able to witness the annual Saint Lucia Kayak Parade where hundreds of decorated kayaks float through the city’s canals.
Copenhagen often experiences snowfall in December too, so you may be lucky enough to do all this sightseeing within a magical snowy scene.
When it’s time to find sustenance, you can’t beat the cakes at Sek’s bakery for an afternoon pick me up, and for an after-dinner tipple, Den Vandrette is the spot to be.
At the end of the day, rest your head at the centrally located Nimb Hotel.
Contributed by Nadine Maffre from Le Long Weekend
29. Brussels in December
Are you looking for a great European Christmas vibe? While most people flock to Germany to visit the many Christmas markets, Brussels is a great alternative to travel to in December.
Aside from the regular things to see and do in Brussels, like visiting the Atomium and “Manneke Pis”, the city is turned into a winter wonderland that you will surely enjoy for a couple of days.
During the day, head to Brussel’s famous Christmas market. You can find around 225 chalet-style Christmas stalls covering the streets around La Bourse all the way up to Place Sainte Catherine.
Here you can enjoy mulled wine and Belgian chocolate, and try out Bûche de Noël, a traditional Belgian dessert you can find at every family’s Christmas table.
As for another great December activity, Winterpop is a small pop-up winter show held on the first three weekends of December.
Here you can enjoy small concerts, Brass bands, acrobatics, performances, and art. It is held at different locations around Brussels every year so keep an eye out on their website Winterpop.
In the evenings you can take a stroll through the city to enjoy the Brussels by Light festival, which gives the city a magical touch.
Hungry? Try out some traditional Belgian cuisine at places like Viva M’Boma, Au Vieux Spijtigen Duivel, and Fin de Siècle, or try one of the many lovely vegan restaurants in Brussels.
A beer lover? Don’t forget to visit De Monk, a typical brown café with a large selection of Belgian beers.
One of the best places to stay in Brussels, especially in the wintertime, is Jardin’s secret.
Not only are the rooms and staff fabulous here but the hotel has a heated outside pool that is open during the winter.
Contributed by Annelies from Travelers & Dreamers
30. Bolzano, Italy in December
If you’ve always wanted to visit Italy in December but didn’t think you’d find the European charm of other countries, consider a trip to Bolzano for the Mercatini Bolzano, Italy’s largest Christmas market.
Beginning at the end of November, there are several small Christmas markets scattered around the city to enjoy.
But the largest of all is located in Piazza Walther, a sprawling square surrounded by grand European-style architecture and crowned by the Assumption of Our Lady Cathedral, Bolzano’s main landmark.
But besides being known for its holiday market, Bolzano in December is full of charm for holiday shoppers and winter activities for snow lovers.
You can spend all day ducking in and out of shops in between bites of local food and steaming cups of hot chocolate.
Peter Patisserie is a perfect stop for your sweet tooth indulgence. Known for their cakes and pastries, you’ll find their cafe just steps from the main square.
For traditional Tyrolean food, the bright yellow facade of Hopfen & Co.beckons you in from the cold for hearty fare and a warm lively alpine atmosphere.
There are decent ski runs just outside the city, but powder hounds should head to the nearby Dolomites or Ortler ski areas for more challenging slopes.
At the end of the day, the Hotel Grief is a perfect place to lay your head and has an ideal view overlooking the Christmas market.
Contributed by Lori from Travlinmad
31. Krakow, Poland in December
While Krakow, the second-largest city in Poland, is worth visiting all year long, there is just something magical about being there in December.
Not only the place is decorated for Christmas and you can attend the Christmas market on the Main Square but you can also join some unique Christmas activities, such as the annual Krakow Nativity Scene Contest.
The local tradition of creating spectacular, multi-story, handmade nativity scenes dates back to the 19th century.
The first contest for the most beautiful nativity scene took place in 1937 and it was a way to keep the tradition going.
The contest takes place on the first Thursday of December but afterward, you can admire the incredible works throughout the whole month in one of the city’s locations (recently it was Krzysztofory Palace).
December is also a good time to do some sightseeing as the city isn’t so packed with tourists and you can freely enjoy all the amazing things to do in Krakow.
And since days are shorter then you can spend the afternoons checking numerous cafes and restaurants Krakow is known for – you will find most of them in the former Jewish district of Kazimierz.
Since Krakow is a popular destination, there are plenty of accommodation options to choose from, for each taste.
The best areas to stay in Krakow are either the Old Town or Kazimierz.
Contributed by Kami from Kami and the Rest of the World
32. Hallstatt in December
If you like picturesque destinations with serene lake views, pristine mountains, and traditional architecture, you’ll fall in love with Hallstatt in Austria.
Located a little over an hour from Salzburg, it is a quaint and lesser-known destination that looks like a winter wonderland in December.
One of the best things to do in Hallstatt is to stroll along the lakefront, covering the entire length of the village to get your bearings.
Being a small village, you can visit most places in Hallstatt on foot and stumble across many viewpoints on your way.
Both Aussichtspunkt Hallstatt and Badestrand are postcard perfect.
Another place to not miss in Hallstatt is Salzwelten Altaussee, the oldest working salt mine in the country. You can spend your afternoon taking a tour and learning about the history of salt production in Hallstatt.
Besides, there is also a treasure chamber, chapel, and an underground lake to see when there.
Lastly, take a cable car to Dachstein Krippenstein for the Five Fingers Viewing Platform.
You will need to hike for roughly 20 minutes to get to the platform from the cable car station, but the unobstructed view of Hallstatt, the lake, and the surrounding alps is so worth it.
Although many people visit Hallstatt for a day trip, staying there for a night or two is a must.
The Seehotel Grüner Baum and Heritage Hotel Hallstatt, located close to each other, are both beautiful lakefront properties. For dining, Zum Salzbaron at Seehotel Grüner Baum is a good choice, with delicious food and seating overlooking Hallstätter See.
The nearby Café Derbl and Simple 169 are also worth checking out.
Contributed by Charu from Travel with CG
The Best places to visit in Europe in December: final thoughts
If you are reading this it means that you found this post on the 31 Best places to visit in Europe in December interesting. I also hope you found some inspiration for your next winter vacation in Europe.
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