December is when most of us search for an escape to sunny beach destinations and tropical islands. However, it’s also a great time to experience the magical Christmas atmosphere in many European towns and cities.
Apart from fairytale Christmas markets, the streets are usually crowd-free, and you can also expect much cheaper accommodation prices. Plus, if you’re rather looking for an active holiday, you can easily access many beautiful ski slopes. You can also find a couple of destinations to warm up.
We have completed a list of the best December destinations in Europe. So read on to choose your next winter getaway.
Known as the official hometown of Santa Claus, the best time to visit Rovaniemi is definitely in December. Stop by at Santa Claus Main Post Office to officially stamp and mail your Christmas cards from Santa Claus Village or visit a reindeer farm.
There are many other outdoor activities at Rovaniemi awaiting, including husky sledding, snowshoeing, ice fishing, or watching the spectacular northern lights.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is just a few hours away from Vienna and is beautiful alike. You can admire its medieval architecture and the castle watching over it. And you will also find various Christmas markets there. The one on Old Town Square is the most famous. However, locals prefer the market on Náměstí Míru (so don’t miss it).
If you’re around on December 5, you can come across groups of angels, devils, and St. Nicolas. According to a Czech tradition, well-behaved kids can sing a song to them and they will be rewarded with fruits and sweets. On the other hand, naughty kids might get a bag of potatoes or coal.
Bolzano might be smaller than other popular Italian cities. Yet, it boasts the largest Christmas market in the whole of Italy. It’s open from the last weekend in November until January 6. And you can find nice gifts there for your friends and family, such as wine, ceramic goods, and wool slippers.
Located in South Tyrol, it also makes a fantastic home base to enter various ski resorts. Some of the most famous ones are Val Sarentino and Eggental Valley.
Do you prefer the beach to ski slopes? Good news – you can find some pleasantly warm destinations also in Europe. One of them is Gran Canaria – the third largest island of Spain’s Canary Islands. Temperatures there in winter hover around 20°, which is just right for lying on the beach or hiking.
In bigger towns like Las Palmas, you can attend a New Year’s Eve concert. This way, you won’t miss the Christmas atmosphere even if you’re a beach bum.
If you are planning to go to Europe in December, Vienna is simply a must. The Austrian capital is famed mostly for its charming Christmas markets. There are 12 of them, and they are the perfect place to shop for gifts and sip mulled wine or hot chocolate.
Not in the festive mood yet? Vienna’s museums, galleries, and opera houses won’t disappoint you even this time of the year. What’s more, Schönbrunn Palace, St. Charles Church, and other cultural gems covered in snow will be the perfect memory for the end of 2023.
Set in Switzerland, near the Italian border, Lugano has a unique atmosphere that can be enjoyed not only in summer. The Christmas market at the Piazza della Riforma is probably the most popular winter attraction in Lugano and so is its food scene.
Try some freshly made pasta, the famous melted fondue cheese, or local Ticino red wine. Swiss wine might not be the most recognized one but is always spectacular, especially in Lugano.
Whether you’re looking for prime shopping, exquisite dining, or dazzling light displays, you will find all of that in London, which comes more alive during Christmas than in any other season.
Enjoy ice skating and amusements at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, see an exhibition, or cozy up in a pub. The nearby cities are also worth a stop. How about a day trip to Oxford, Cambridge, or Bath?
Malta is another sunny European destination that could be enjoyed in December. The temperatures are usually slightly below 20° and allow you to stay outside the whole day and even enjoy some al fresco dining.
Feel festive at St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, listen to candle-lit carol services, or visit Mdina Glass for unusual gifts, you will have a blast in Malta.
This Baltic city is another great place to soak in the wonderful Christmas atmosphere. Because of its location, chances are high that the city will be hidden under a blanket of snow and you will be able to take breathtaking pictures of the Christmas-decorated Old Town.
The best spot to do so is from the Kohtuotsa lookout. If you enjoy sports, you can take a spin at Uisuplata Ice Rink (skates are available for hire there). And at the end of the day, you can warm up and down some beers in a medieval restaurant like Olde Hansa or III Draakon.
Barcelona is one of the most popular cities in Europe to visit in summer. However, it’s equally mesmerizing in December, with the advantage of mild weather, fewer crowds, and affordable accommodation prices.
One of the best things to do there is to go see some of Gaudí’s buildings, such as Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló, or La Pedrera. Just make sure you book your tickets in advance, otherwise, you might have to face a huge line at the entrance.
If this Mediterranean city is on your travel bucket list, consider visiting the Balearic Islands or Canary Islands, as you will often find good deals on direct flights.