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Winter is coming soon, and you are probably looking up the best wintertime places to visit. Europe in December is a fantastic time to visit.
With the Christmas season upon us, what better way to get into the holiday spirit than by visiting some of the best places Europe offers during this festive time of year? From the gorgeous snow-covered landscapes to the best Christmas markets, there are plenty of reasons why Europe should be at the top of your winter vacation list this December.
But even if you don’t like the cold weather and prefer warmer destinations, Europe has plenty to offer in December. With its multitude of cultures and countries, there’s something for everyone, no matter your preference.
To help you narrow down your choices, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best places to visit in Europe in December. So whether you’re looking for a festive city break or a winter wonderland escape, add these destinations to your travel itinerary.
Cold Weather Destinations in Europe in December
Let’s start with our recommendations for the best places to visit in Europe in December if you like colder weather and are looking for winter wonderlands.
Destinations in Germany
Germany is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe and for a good reason. From its fairytale castles to its traditional Christmas markets, there’s no shortage of reasons to visit Germany in December. If you’re looking for a festive city break, be sure to add Cologne, Dresden, and Nuremberg to your winter travel itinerary.
1. Nuremberg, Germany
Nuremberg is one of my favorite cities in Germany. It’s located in the Bavarian region, which is well known for its picturesque landscape and charming towns. Nuremberg is no exception – the city is absolutely beautiful, especially around Christmastime.
The Christkindlmarket is a must-see for anyone visiting during the holidays. You’ll find an array of traditional German Christmas decorations and gifts, as well as plenty of food and drink to keep you warm. If you’re looking to do some Christmas shopping, be sure to head to the Hauptmarkt. You won’t be disappointed!
Insider Tip: Make sure to try the Nuremberg Lebkuchen, a delicious gingerbread cookie
Hotel Recommendation: Hotel Drei Koenige is centrally located and just a short walk from the market.
2. Dresden, Germany
Dresden’s Christmas markets are some of the best in Europe. The city transforms into a festive wonderland, with twinkling lights, intricate decorations, and the scent of gingerbread and mulled wine in the air.
You can find traditional handcrafted gifts, sample festive foods and drink, and enjoy the festive atmosphere that fills the city. Even if you don’t usually enjoy crowds, it’s worth braving the masses to experience Dresden’s magical Christmas markets.
Insider Tip: Try Hefestriezel, a Dresden specialty made with cinnamon, raisins, and almonds.
Hotel Recommendation: The Kempinski Hotel Taschenbergpalais, which is located right in the heart of the Old Town.
3. Cologne, Germany
Cologne is a beautiful city located on the Rhine River in western Germany. It’s well known for its large number of churches, as well as its Christmas markets which are some of the best in Europe. You don’t have to choose one Cologne Christmas market over the others, as they are all located within walking distance of each other.
Be sure to stroll through the Altstadt (Old Town) to admire the historic buildings and cobblestone streets. Take a look at this guide to find out more about the different markets and what each has to offer.
Insider Tip: The markets can get quite crowded, so it’s worth getting there early to avoid the crowds.
Hotel Recommendation: The Hilton Cologne, which is located right in the city center.
4. Munich, Germany
Munich is one of Germany’s most sought-after tourist destinations, and it’s easy to see why. The capital of Bavaria, Munich is home to a wealth of historical and cultural attractions, as well as a range of annual festivals that bring visitors from all over the world.
Christmas is a particularly special time of year in Munich when the city’s famous Marienplatz Christmas market comes to life. Here you can find a range of Bavarian handicrafts and foods, making it the perfect place to do your Christmas shopping. If you’re looking for something truly unique, check out the market’s selection of hand-painted nutcrackers – they make excellent souvenirs!
Insider Tip: Try Lebkuchen (gingerbread), Christstollen (fruitcake), and of course, the ever-popular pretzels.
Hotel Recommendation: The Mandarin Oriental Munich, located right in the city center.
5. Lubeck, Germany
Lubeck is a historic city located in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. It’s well known for its picturesque Christmas markets, some of the best in Europe. If you’re looking to do some Christmas shopping, head to the Holstentor market, where you’ll find an array of traditional German goods.
The market is located in the city center, and it’s easy to spend a few hours browsing the stalls and sampling the local cuisine. You’ll find everything from handmade jewelry to Christmas decorations, and the prices are very reasonable. If you’re looking for a unique gift, this is the place to find it.
Insider Tip: Try the Lubecker Marzipan, a local specialty made from almond paste and sugar. It’s delicious!
Hotel Recommendation: The Radisson Blu Senator Hotel, which is located in the heart of the city.
6. Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a historic town in the German state of Bavaria. It’s well known for its picturesque Christmas markets, some of the best in Europe. If you want to buy some gifts for your loved ones, head to the Hauptmarkt, where you’ll find an array of traditional German goods.
The markets are open from the end of November until Christmas Eve, and they’re worth a visit if you’re in the area. Just be sure to bundle up – it can get pretty cold in Rothenburg ob der Tauber in December!
Insider Tip: Climb the 220 steps of the Town Hall Tower to get a spectacular view of the Christmas Market.
Hotel Recommendation: Hotel Herrnaschloessens, just a short walk from the Hauptmarkt
Destinations in Switzerland
If you’re looking for a winter wonderland destination in Europe, look no further than Switzerland. This Alpine country is renowned for its breathtaking scenery and is home to some of the best ski resorts in the world. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced skier, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to winter sports in Switzerland.
And it’s not just the ski resorts that make Switzerland a great destination in December. The country is also home to many charming Christmas markets, where you can find traditional handcrafted gifts and festive foods. So whether you’re looking for a winter sports holiday or a festive city break, be sure to add Switzerland to your travel itinerary -it’s definitely of the prettiest European countries for a winter trip.
7. Zermatt, Switzerland
Zermatt is a mountain resort town located in the Swiss Alps on the foot of the Matterhorn.
It’s well known for its picturesque setting and its many outdoor activities, making it the perfect place to visit in December. Winter charm awaits you in the entire city, as the buildings are all adorned with lights and decorations.
There’s also a great selection of Christmas markets to enjoy, where you can find traditional Swiss gifts and foods. And if you’re looking for a unique way to experience the Swiss Alps, be sure to take the Gornergrat Bahn – it’s the highest open-air railway in Europe!
8. Interlaken, Switzerland
Interlaken is a charming Swiss town located between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun in the Bernese Oberland region. It is a popular destination for those wanting to hit the slopes or enjoy some snow-related activities.
December is a great time to visit as the Christmas markets add a festive touch to the town. The markets are full of traditional Swiss handicrafts, Christmas decorations, and delicious food – definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area! And if you’re looking for something extra special, you can even take a ride on the Jungfrau Railway – the highest railway in Europe. So whether you’re looking to ski, shop, or enjoy the absolutely magical winter scenery, Interlaken is the perfect place to do it.
Insider Tip: Take a scenic airplane flight over the Jungfrau region – it’s an experience you won’t forget!
Hotel Recommendation: Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa
9. Basel, Switzerland
If you’re looking for a festive European Christmas market to visit, you won’t be disappointed with Basel. Located in northwest Switzerland, Basel is home to one of the country’s biggest and most beautiful Christmas markets.
The market covers a large city center area and offers a range of traditional Swiss gifts and souvenirs. You’ll also find a wide selection of food and drink, including roasted chestnuts, Raclette cheese, and Swiss chocolate. And if you’re lucky enough to visit on December 6th, you’ll be able to enjoy the special St. Nicholas Day parade. Basel is a beautiful city anytime, but it’s especially magical during the holidays.
Insider Tip: Check out the Adventskalendar at Theater Basel where you can enjoy a new performance from opera, drama, ballet, and their cooperation partners every day. The performances take place from 5-5:30 pm in the foyer with a new contribution each day. You can find out what is hidden behind the next door in the calendar entry for that day!
Hotel Recommendation: Hotel der Teufelhof Basel
10. Bern, Switzerland
Bern, the capital of Switzerland, is a beautiful city to visit in December when the snow is falling, and the Christmas markets are open. The city’s Old Town is especially charming during this time of year, with its cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Be sure to try some of the traditional Swiss dishes on offer at the markets, such as Raclette and Fondue.
And don’t forget to sample some of the local mulled wine! The Bernese Christmas markets are definitely worth a visit – you’ll find everything from handcrafted gifts to delicious food and drink. So why not add Bern to your list of must-see European cities this December? You won’t regret it!
Insider Tip: If you’re visiting Bern in December, make sure to bundle up! The city can get quite cold, especially at night.
Hotel Recommendation: Hotel Bristol Bern in the old city center.
11. St. Moritz, Switzerland
St. Moritz is one of the most popular high-altitude resort towns in the Swiss Alps. It’s well known for its luxury hotels, ski resorts, and outdoor activities. December is a great time to visit St. Moritz as the town is transformed into a winter wonderland with its sparkling Christmas lights and festive decorations.
The Christmas markets in St. Moritz are also worth a visit, where you can find a range of traditional Swiss gifts and souvenirs. If you’re looking for a festive and beautiful place to spend your Christmas holiday, St. Moritz is definitely worth a visit!
Insider Tip: If you’re visiting St. Moritz in December, make sure to pack your warmest clothes! The temperature can drop below freezing, so it’s important to be prepared.
Hotel Recommendation: Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains, a luxury 5-star hotel in the heart of St. Moritz.
Destinations in Austria
Austria is a country that is steeped in Christmas tradition and is one of the best places to experience the Christmas spirit in Europe. December is a great time to visit Austria as the country comes alive with festive decorations, charming Christmas markets, and plenty of snow. Here are some of the best places to visit in Austria in December:
12. Vienna, Austria
If you’re looking for a festive and romantic European city to visit in December, Vienna is a perfect choice. This stunning capital city is known for its world-renowned Christmas markets, which sell a range of traditional Austrian gifts and souvenirs. You can also find a variety of delicious food and drink on offer, including the famous Vienna Christmas Punch.
The city comes alive at night during the festive season, with twinkling lights and decorations adorning every street. And if you’re lucky enough to experience a Viennese winter, you can skate outdoors on one of the city’s many beautiful ice rinks. Whether you’re looking for shopping, romance, or simply a festive atmosphere, Vienna is the perfect place to spend your December holiday.
Insider Tip: Don’t miss out on a visit to the Vienna State Opera. It offers a range of performances throughout December, including some festive operas such as Amahl and the Night Visitors and La Bohème.
Hotel Recommendation: The Sacher Hotel, a luxurious 5-star hotel located in the heart of Vienna.
13. Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and it is especially magical during the Christmas season. The old town is full of quaint shops and homes decked out in festive decorations, and the Hohensalzburg Fortress is lit up with thousands of lights.
You can also take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the snow-covered streets or go for a walk in one of the many parks. And of course, don’t forget to try some of the city’s famous Mozartkugeln chocolates. They are truly delicious!
Insider Tip: Try to visit Salzburg during the Advent period (the four Sundays before Christmas), as this is when the city is at its most festive.
Hotel Recommendation: Hotel Goldener Hirsch, a luxury 5-star hotel located in the heart of the old town.
14. Innsbruck, Austria
Innsbruck is a beautiful city in the Austrian Alps, and it’s the perfect place to visit if you want to experience a traditional European Christmas. The old town is full of charming shops and cafes, and there is an enormous Christmas tree in the main square.
You can also go ice skating in one of the many outdoor rinks or take a cable car up to the nearby ski resort. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even go on a guided tour of the city’s famous Ice Palace.
Insider Tip: Make sure to try some of the delicious apple strudels while you’re in Innsbruck.
Hotel Recommendation: Adlers Hotel, a highly rated hotel in the center of Innsbruck.
15. Kitzbühel, Austria
Kitzbühel is a small town located in the Austrian Alps. It’s well known for its luxury ski resorts and winter sports. December is a great time to visit Kitzbühel as the town is transformed into a winter dreamland with its twinkling lights and festive decorations. You can also find a range of traditional Austrian gifts and souvenirs at the Christmas markets.
The markets are the perfect place to find unique gifts for your loved ones or pick up some treats for yourself. There’s something for everyone, from hand-crafted jewelry to locally made food and drink. If you’re looking for a truly memorable experience, take a sleigh ride through the snow-covered streets of Kitzbühel. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
Insider Tip: If you’re visiting Kitzbühel during the Christmas season, make sure to try some of the traditional German Christstollen bread.
Hotel Recommendation: The Grand Tirolia is a luxury hotel located in the center of Kitzbühel.
Destinations in France
France is a country that comes alive in winter, with its charming Christmas markets, festive decorations, and plenty of snow. December is a great time to visit France as the country is filled with holiday cheer. Here are some of the best places to visit in France in December:
16. Paris, France
If you’re looking for a classic European Christmas experience, there’s no better place than Paris. The city is adorned with lights and decorations, and the streets are filled with shoppers and tourists enjoying the festive atmosphere. The Champs Elysees is a must-see—the iconic lights and window displays are simply breathtaking.
You can also skate at the Eiffel Tower or enjoy a cup of hot chocolate at one of the many cafes. Just be sure to wrap up warm—average temperatures in December hover around freezing. Paris is truly a magical place during Christmastime, and it’s an experience you’ll never forget.
Insider Tip: Go on a Segway tour of Paris to see the city’s Christmas lights in style.
Hotel Recommendation: The Ritz, a luxurious hotel located just steps from the Champs Elysees.
17. Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg is a beautiful city located near the German border in northeastern France. The city is known for its stunning Christmas markets, considered some of the best in Europe. You can find a range of traditional French gifts and souvenirs, delicious food and drink.
Be sure to check out the Strasbourg Cathedral lit up with lights. The cathedral is an incredible sight and definitely worth a visit. Strasbourg is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a unique and beautiful place to celebrate the holidays.
Insider Tip: Make sure to try the famous pain d’epices, a delicious spiced cake.
Hotel Recommendation: Hotel Les Haras, a 4-star hotel with beautiful views of the cathedral
18. Lyon, France
Lyon is a beautiful city located in southeastern France. It’s known for its attractive old town, filled with narrow streets and medieval buildings. In December, the city comes alive with its Christmas markets and festive lights. You can also find various traditional French gifts, souvenirs, delicious food, and drink.
Lyon is the perfect place to spend a winter weekend, or even longer if you have the time. There’s so much to see and do, you’ll never be bored. From exploring the city’s medieval past to indulging in French cuisine, you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied.
Insider Tip: Make sure to try the famous Lyonnais sausages, which are a local specialty.
Hotel Recommendation: Sofitel Lyon Bellecour, a luxurious 5-star hotel located in the city center.
Destinations in the UK
The United Kingdom is another great European country to visit in December. From the lively city of London to the charming town of Bath, there are plenty of destinations to choose from. And with its Christmas markets, festive decorations, and plenty of snow, the UK is a great place to experience a traditional European Christmas.
19. London, England
No list of European Christmas destinations would be complete without London. This lively city comes alive in December with its many Christmas markets, festive lights, and attractions. Be sure to visit Hyde Park to see the Winter Wonderland, take a ride on the London Eye, or go ice skating at Somerset House.
For something a little more unique, try attending a traditional English Christmas pantomime or singing Christmas carols at one of the city’s many churches. With so much to see and do, London is the perfect place to spend the holidays.
Insider Tip: Avoid the crowds and visit the Christmas markets at Covent Garden or Leicester Square.
Hotel Recommendation: The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, a luxurious 5-star hotel located in Knightsbridge.
20. Bath, England
Bath is a charming English town located in the southwest of the country. It’s known for its Roman baths, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In December, the town comes alive with its Christmas markets and festive decorations. You can also find a range of traditional British gifts and souvenirs, delicious food and drink.
Insider Tip: Visit the Bath Abbey, a beautiful Gothic church located in the center of town.
Hotel Recommendation: The Royal Crescent Hotel, a 5-star hotel located in a stunning Georgian building.
21. Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK. It’s known for its medieval old town, scenic castle, and annual festivals.
December is the perfect time to visit Edinburgh when the city is decked out in holiday lights and decorations. The Christmas markets are a must-see, offering unique gifts and traditional Scottish food. And don’t miss the Hogmanay celebration on New Year’s Eve, one of the biggest parties in Europe!
Insider Tip: Enjoy a special Christmas time afternoon tea
Hotel Recommendation: The Balmoral
Destinations Closer To The Arctic Circle
If you love the winter months and are looking for magical places to visit in Europe in December, then you should head to Scandinavia or Lapland. These destinations are closer to the Arctic Circle and offer longer periods of darkness and colder temperatures. However, they also offer some of Europe’s most breathtaking winter scenery, with snow-covered forests, frozen lakes, and towering mountains. And of course, you can also find a range of festive activities to enjoy, such as Christmas markets and reindeer sleigh rides.
22. Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen is a great city to visit in December, with its charming Christmas markets, festive decorations, and cozy cafes. One of the best things to do in Copenhagen at Christmas is to tour the city’s canals, which are lined with lights and decorated boats.
You can also visit the Tivoli Gardens, which are transformed into a winter wonderland with an ice rink, Christmas lights, and a range of festive rides.
Insider Tip: Make sure to try a Danish Christmas treat, such as æbleskiver (a type of pancake) or flæskesteg (roast pork).
Hotel Recommendation: The Nimb Hotel, a 5-star hotel located in the Tivoli Gardens.
23. Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm is a beautiful European city to visit in December. The Swedish capital is located on 14 islands and is known for its stunning architecture, cozy cafes, and lively nightlife. The city is transformed into a winter dreamland during the Christmas season with its festive lights and decorations.
You can also find several traditional Swedish Christmas markets selling a range of gifts. The atmosphere in Stockholm during December is truly magical and worth a visit if you’re looking for a festive break.
Insider Tip: Take a ferry ride to one of Stockholm’s many islands, such as Djurgården or Södermalm.
Hotel Recommendation: The Grand Hôtel, a luxurious 5-star hotel located in the center of Stockholm.
24. Rovaniemi, Finland
Rovaniemi is the capital of Finnish Lapland and is one of the best places to visit in Europe in December if you want to experience a true winter wonderland. The city is located right on the Arctic Circle and offers long periods of darkness and cold temperatures.
However, it also offers some of Europe’s most breathtaking wintery scenery, with snow-covered forests, frozen lakes, and towering mountains. And of course, you can also find a range of festive activities to enjoy, such as reindeer sleigh rides and visits to Santa Claus Village.
Insider Tip: Pet animals at Elf’s Farmyard Petting Zoo
Hotel Recommendation: Artic TreeHouse Hotel
25. Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and one of the best places to visit in Europe in December. While the city is located on the edge of the Arctic Circle and experiences long periods of darkness and cold temperatures, it also offers some of the most breathtaking winter scenery in Europe.
Snow-covered mountains, frozen lakes, and glaciers provide a stunning backdrop for festive activities like visiting Christmas markets and taking a dip in the Blue Lagoon or seeing the Northern Lights. So if you’re looking for an unforgettable winter vacation destination, be sure to add Reykjavik to your list!
Insider Tip: Visit less crowded hot springs such as Hrunalaug or Deildartunguhver.
Hotel Recommendation: Hotel Ranga
Warm Weather Destinations in Europe In December
Although Scandinavia and Lapland are among the most famous destinations to visit in Europe in December if you want to experience true winter vibes, there are also several of destinations that offer warmer weather. These destinations are ideal if you’re looking for a Christmas getaway where you can enjoy some sun and avoid colder temperatures.
26. Malta, Italy
If you’re looking for a breathtaking beach destination to escape the winter blues, Malta is a great option. This small island country, located in the Mediterranean Sea, boasts stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and historical sites. And although it’s not as well-known as some other Mediterranean destinations, it’s worth considering if you’re looking for a warm-weather destination in December.
The average temperature in Malta in December is a mild 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Valletta, Malta’s capital city, will be transformed into a magical Fairyland Santa’s City during this time of year – making it even more enticing for holiday travelers.
Insider Tip: Hop on a ferry and take a day trip to the island of Gozo
Hotel Recommendation: The Phoenicia Malta, a 5-star hotel located in Valletta.
27. Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
Gran Canaria is one of the Canary Islands, a group of islands located off the coast of Africa. It’s known for its beautiful beaches, which offer year-round sunshine and warm temperatures. The average temperature in Gran Canaria in December is a balmy 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius).
The island is also home to some of the best hiking in the Canary Islands. Head to the island’s interior, and you’ll find yourself in a different world. With its volcanic landscapes, deep canyons, and evergreen forests, it looks more like something you’d find in Hawaii than in the Canary Islands.
This island is, without a doubt, a great winter destination.
Insider tip: Take a cable car up to the top of Gran Canaria for some stunning views
Hotel Recommendation: The 5-star Seaside Palm Beach hotel, located in Maspalomas.
28. Madeira, Portugal
Consider Madeira if you’re looking for a winter getaway that’s a little off the beaten path. This Portuguese island is located in the Atlantic Ocean, about 1,000 kilometers from Lisbon.
Despite its relatively remote location, Madeira is a popular tourist destination in December, especially among Europeans. And it’s easy to see why.
Madeira is a stunning island with towering mountains, lush vegetation, and dramatic coastal cliffs. And, of course, it also offers mild temperatures and plenty of sunshine in December. The average temperature in Madeira in December is a pleasant 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius).
Insider Tip: Sunrise Hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo
Hotel Recommendation: Cliff Bay Hotel
Cyprus is an island nation located in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a popular tourist destination for its stunning beaches, clear waters, and historic sites. And although it’s not as well-known as some other Mediterranean destinations, it’s worth considering if you’re looking for a warm-weather getaway.
December is a great time to visit Cyprus, as the weather is still mild and the crowds are thinner than during peak season. This is also a great time to take advantage of the island’s many outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and golfing, as it’s not as hot as during the summer months. On top of that, Cyprus would be complete without spending some time relaxing on the beach.
Insider Tips: If you’re looking for a more authentic Cypriot experience, head to the town of Paphos, where you can explore the ruins of a Roman villa and visit an ancient mosaic floor.
Hotel Recommendation: Almyra, Paphos
No matter if you want to explore a lively Christmas market in Germany, try out some ice skating rinks in Paris, go cross-country skiing in Switzerland, meet Santa Claus in Lapland or enjoy the sunny weather in the Mediterranean, Europe has plenty of options for a winter getaway. And with so many different places to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect destination for you.
So what are you waiting for? Start planning your European winter getaway today and set your winter vacation countdown!