Traveling to Europe during the month of December is an enticing option. After all, the crowds have mostly dispersed and round-trip flights are a fraction of what they cost during the summer. But isn’t Europe cold in December? Are businesses open? Do the trains run? Is it even worth visiting Europe in December?
The answer to that latter question is a resounding, YES! Whether you’re looking for the cold and snow, or someplace relatively warm, Europe is chock-full of great winter destinations. Keep scrolling to find out our top European destinations to visit in December.
Average December Temperature: 44ºF / 35ºF
Don’t let those chilly temperatures keep you from visiting Amsterdam, one of Europe’s most beautiful and delightfully entertaining cities. Come December, prices on most Dutch hotel rooms have plummeted, while the vast majority of its best sights — including the Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum — remain open throughout the season. Christmas markets and the Amsterdam Light Festival provide some holiday spirit, as do the ice skating rinks that pop up all over the city.
Average December Temperature: 43ºF / 28ºF
Spain and France are two of Europe’s most popular destinations, but this December why not visit Andorra, the tiny nation that sits between the two powerhouses? In fact, Andorra may just be the ideal winter destination. After all, nearly all of the must-see sites in this tiny country are ski resorts. Check out places like Grandvalira, Vallnord, and Coma Pedrosa for world-class skiing and snowboarding.
Average December Temperature: 57ºF / 47ºF
Barcelona is one of the most popular destinations in Europe. For those who want to avoid the hoards of tourists, get easier access to hard-to-visit sites, and maybe even save a little cash, December is an ideal time to book your trip to Barcelona. Reserve your ticket to the Sagrada Familia, and take your time wandering the one-of-a-kind church designed by Gaudi. Speaking of the famous Spanish architect, Park Guell is another Barcelona site that’s easier to access and navigate in less-crowded December. There are even slopes as near as three hours’ drive outside of the city, should you feel a desire to ski or snowboard.
Average December Temperature: 39ºF / 30ºF
Germany is one European country that tends to draw just as many crowds during December as it does during the summer months. But there’s one very good reason for that: Christmas markets. Embrace the spirit of the season while strolling through the market stands selling everything from handmade gift items to spiced cider. Of course, Berlin’s other sites and museums are also worth visiting during the winter months. Just bring a heavy jacket, as it gets cold here in December!
Average December Temperature: 38ºF / 28ºF
When most people think of European winter, they think of skiing down iconic mountains and enjoying an apres ski in a romantic ski chalet. But the destinations associated with this stereotypical dream tend to be incredibly expensive and busy. Fortunately, there’s Borovets in Bulgaria. A fantastic option for experiencing that dreamy European winter, Borovets is an accessible resort area with hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues, and of course, great skiing.
Average December Temperature: 39ºF / 29ºF
Budapest is just one of those places that’s better during the winter. After braving the cold to visit the city’s many museums and the impressive Hungarian Parliament, warm up at one of Budapest’s famous thermal baths. If you’re in Budapest over either Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve, consider making a reservation for the special dinner held at the incredible Corinthia Hotel Budapest.
The Canary Islands, Spain
Average December Temperature: 68ºF / 58ºF
This is where Europeans themselves head when they’re in need of a warmer climate come winter. Located off the coast of Africa, but a territory of Spain, the Canaries consist of seven islands known for their long picturesque beaches and laid-back Spanish vibe. Each island is known for something different. Those looking for a tasty culinary scene and stunning natural sights should look into Fuerteventura. Tenerife or Gran Canaria might be better for those interested in lounging in the sand by day and enjoying the vibrant nightlife come evening.
Average December Temperature: 61ºF / 51ºF
Exactly why Crete’s main tourism season ends in October is a mystery. After all, the Greek island enjoys a Mediterranean climate with December temps that have been known to rise into the high 70s! If that’s not enough to tempt a winter-time trip to Crete, then consider these other selling points: practically no tourists, archaeological sites and museums that remain open through December, and hotel and restaurant prices that tank during the off season.
Average December Temperature: 66ºF / 62ºF
Another island destination that makes for an ideal December vacation is Cyprus. Located in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus enjoys winter-time temperatures in the mid-60s. This makes enjoying the island’s beaches and sights warm and enjoyable. Things to see and do include:
- archaeological sites dating back to the time of the Crusades
- hiking trails along the coastline
- charming historic towns and village
As an added benefit, the crowds that descend upon Cyprus during the summer are practically nonexistent in December, and oceanfront hotels and restaurants slash their prices in response.
Average December Temperature: 39ºF / 31ºF
If you’re set on visiting Germany, but like the idea of avoiding the Christmas Market crowds of the bigger cities, then consider Dresden. This charming old city comes alive during winter with holiday decorations, some of the oldest Christmas Markets in Germany, and lots of culture and history. If you can, time your trip so that you’re in town for the Stollen Parade. During this unique event, a giant stollen (a traditional German fruit cake) is paraded through Dresden on a horse-drawn accompanied by a marching band.
Average December Temperature: 44ºF / 34ºF
There’s always something going on in Edinburgh, and at the end of December it’s the three-day New Year festivities officially known as the Hogmanay Festival. Grab your warmest winter coat, and join the party. There are concerts, fireworks, and lots of Scottish dancing. When you’re not ringing in the New Year Scottish style, try your hand at skiing in nearby Pentland Hills, explore the imposing Edinburgh Castle, or head to the Royal Botanic Garden to discover the winter-flowering plants.
Average December Temperature: 71ºF / 61ºF
With an average December high of 71 degrees Fahrenheit, the Mediterranean city of Grenada is the perfect place to warm up in the sun. Grenada oozes with charm, and makes for a nice place to wander at your leisure. However, don’t leave town without visiting the stunning Alhambra, the majestic Moorish palace dating back to 889 — just be sure to book your tickets as far in advance as possible, even for December.
Average December Temperature: 38ºF / 26ºF
Make it its own destination, or add it on to your trip to Salzburg or Vienna. Either way, the storybook-like, lakeside town of Halstätt is a perfect European destination for December travel. Spend your days skiing or snowshoeing the stunning Dachstein Mountains. In the evening, cozy up at a candlelit restaurant or take a horse-drawn carriage around the charming main square.
Average December Temperature: 26ºF / 15ºF
Embrace everything that’s wonderful about December by traveling to the northern region of Finland known as Lapland. Sleep in an igloo under the Aurora Borealis, mush through the snow on a dog sled, take the polar plunge into the Arctic, and visit the big man himself at Santa Claus Village. It’s all possible in Lapland!
Average December Temperature: 59ºF / 49ºF
There is really never a bad time to visit Lisbon. But while the Portuguese capital is swarming with tourists during the steamy summer months, it’s quiet and intimate come December. It’s also near perfect sweater weather. Get lost walking Lisbon’s vibrant neighborhoods, don a wetsuit and book a surfing lesson, and grab a seat at one of the city’s many celebrated restaurants to people watch and soak up the local culture.
Average December Temperature: 48ºF / 40ºF
No matter the time of year, London is a great travel destination! The British capital is at once historic and modern, and otherworldly, yet remarkably down to earth. Escape the colder December weather by hopping to and from the city’s many museums (the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Natural History Museum are just a few of the highlights) by day. Then take in a show in the evening.
Average December Temperature: 44ºF / 34ºF
Paris may get all the attention, but Lyon is a French gem that is truly worth discovering. Located just two hours from Paris by train, Lyon is chock-full of must-see sites. After all, it is the second largest city in France! Lyon’s chilly winter-time temperatures make for a great excuse to spend more time exploring Notre-Dame de Fourvière, one of Lyon’s most famous attractions. Make sure you save some time to see Le Cour des Voraces, the charming historic quarter known as Vieux Lyon or Old Lyon, a river cruise, and Le Musée de Beaux Arts.
Average December Temperature: 63ºF / 52ºF
The Mediterranean island of Malta has lots to offer the December traveler. Consisting of two islands — Malta and Gozo — this tiny island nation is characterized by its unique archaeological sites. People have been living here for more than 3,000 years. There are stunning beaches and bays (though the water is a bit chilly during the winter), and loads of culture. Spend some time wandering through the historic city of Valletta, cruising the secluded bays, or touring archaeological sites such as the impressive Hypogeum.
Average December Temperature: 40ºF / 30ºF
One of three German cities on our list of the best places in Europe to visit in December, Munich is yet another city that comes alive during winter. This beautiful Bavarian city oozes a romance that is emphasized with a backdrop of snow and ice. Yes, it gets chilly — bring a coat! — but nearby Neuschwanstein castle is postcard perfect draped in white. After visiting sites like the castle and the famous glockenspiel at Marienplatz, head to the Hofbrauhaus to warm up with one of Munich’s famous beers.
Average December Temperature: 34ºF / 25ºF
Grab your jacket and book your December ticket to Oslo, Norway — you won’t regret it! Oslo is a great option for those wanting to experience authentic Scandinavian snow culture. Head 30 minutes outside of the city to Oslo Winter Park, where you’ll have your choice of 18 different slopes. If tobogganing is more your thing, then spend a day shooting full speed down the toboggan runs at Korketrekkeren. Oh, and don’t forget about ice skating outdoors at Frogner Ice Skating Rink. Finally, warm up with a coffee at Kafé Seterstua, known for its stunning views over the city.
Average December Temperature: 64ºF / 44ºF
Though a number of destinations on our list embrace the winter cold, the Algarve does the exact opposite. Though there are lots of little towns and villages to explore in this region during December, most people come here for the beaches. The ocean might be a tad chilly for all but the brave, but the sandy areas remain just as picturesque and enjoyable as any other time of year. Best of all, you can experience the budget-friendly Algarve even cheaper during this less busy month. No wonder so many people consider the Algarve the very best winter destination in Europe!
Prague, Czech Republic
Average December Temperature: 39ºF /32ºF
Prague may be wonderful during the summer, but it’s downright magical during the winter. If you visit Prague during the month of December, be sure to bring a good coat, as the city will likely be covered in snow and ice. Such weather only makes the sights more appealing, though. Be sure to cross the famous Saint James Bridge and tour the castle, the latter of which yields stunning views in the crisp, clear winter air.
Average December Temperature: 37ºF / 28ºF
Sure, Iceland is cold during December, but dress appropriately and you’ll have no problem seeing why the capital city of Reykjavik is the epitome of perfect wintertime travel. Besides the typical must-see sites (hot springs and icebergs, most notably), the Northern Lights are absolutely spectacular when seen from this otherworldly island in December.
Average December Temperature: 59ºF / 44ºF
Sardinia is one of the warmest places in Europe in December. Therefore, it’s not so surprising that this Mediterranean island is one of the continent’s most popular winter destinations. The list of things to see and do in Sardinia is practically endless. Base yourself in the capital city of Cagliari, then spend your time exploring the island’s many fascinating archaeological sites, wandering the charming villages, and enjoying the world-class beaches (even if the water is a little colder than it is in summer).
Average December Temperature: 62ºF / 46ºF
Another ideal December destination in southern Spain is Sevilla, the capital of Andalusia. Brimming with old-world charm and culture, Sevilla has lots to see and do. Be sure to visit the gorgeous cathedral, the Real Alcazar (the oldest royal residence in Europe), Giralda tower, and Plaza de España, the seemingly otherworldly square in which parts of Star Wars were filmed. Sevilla also makes an ideal home base for those interested in exploring the tiny Andalusian towns for which the region is so beloved. If you have the time, make an easy trip to either Lisbon or Grenada, both of which are also included on our list of European destinations to visit in December.
Average December Temperature: 36ºF / 29ºF
Don’t write off Scandinavia as a December travel destination! Stockholm, Sweden’s charming capital, is chock-full of things to do during winter. Plan time to visit Christmas Markets, the interesting Vasa Museum, and the various holiday light installations set up throughout the city.
Average December Temperature: 42ºF / 32ºF
Strasbourg isn’t one of those cities that gets heaps of attention. That’s unfortunate because this romantic destination is the perfect place to spend a few days on your December European vacation. Situated on the border of France and Germany, Strasbourg is overflowing with culture. Set aside a little time to wander through Strasbourg’s oldest section, lovingly nicknamed “La Petit France.”
Average December Temperature: 33ºF / 23ºF
With its historic Old Town, impressive collection of medieval buildings, and charming cobblestone streets, the city of Tallinn, Estonia is absolutely stunning. Add some snow-covered rooftops, and Tallinn becomes postcard perfect. Conveniently, Tallinn’s best attractions are all in or around the aforementioned Old Town, so getting around is extremely convenient. Just be sure to bring your best jacket, as Estonia can get quite cold and windy in December.
Average December Temperature: 46ºF / 33ºF
Sure, you’ll need to pack some warmer clothes, but we think Venice is one of those places that’s actually better in winter. Summertime brings hoards of tourists into this small city of islands, but in December, it’s actually possible to wander the streets without bumping into other people taking selfies. And you’ll want to wander. Venice is the perfect place in which to get lost, with narrow streets all leading to the majestic Grand Canal.
Average December Temperature: 40ºF / 33ºF
Like Berlin, Vienna is famous for its Christmas markets in December. In fact, Vienna’s markets may just be the most famous in Europe, making the Austrian capital a great option for your December travels. When you’re not strolling through the market stalls, check out sites such as the Schönbrunn Palace, the iconic giant wheel at Prater park, or the Lipizzaner horses at the Spanish Riding School. December is also an excellent time to take in an opera performance at the Vienna State Opera.