The Best Places To Visit In Europe In December

While European summers offer long, balmy nights and many outdoor activities, winter also has much in store. In fact, it can be argued that some destinations are even more magical as winter encroaches and the festive season begins.
Berlin Cathedral. Photo: Anthony Reungère | Unsplash

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If you’re ready to wrap up warm, pop your winter woollies on, and get lost in the magic of whimsical, wintery Europe, these destinations are for you.

Berlin, Germany

Enjoy dazzling Christmas markets like the one on Breidscheidplatz. Photo: Maximalfocus | Unsplash

Berlin is a must-visit winter destination if you want to revel in the festive holiday spirit and warm up with mulled wine. Enjoy a superabundance of Christmas markets where you’ll walk amid fairy lights, relish the sounds of Oompah music, and delight in the wafting smells of gingerbread and other festive treats.

The Gendarmenmarkt and the Alexanderplatz Christmas Market are definitely worth a squiz at this time, and music connoisseurs will also love the wide selection of classical concerts and operas during the festive period. The Mitte neighborhood is a great place for first-time visitors as it’s close to top historical landmarks.

There is also much to experience in terms of history, and since December is a little less busy than the summer months, you’ll contend with fewer queues for the big attractions.

Must-see sites:

• Christmas markets dotted across the city
• The Holocaust Memorial
• East side gallery (a 1.3 km open-air art gallery spanning the remainder of the Berlin Wall)
• The Neo-Baroque Reichstag parliament building (which survived fire, bombings, Nazis, and wars.)

Paris, France

Paris illuminated by the Eiffel Tower. Photo: Rafael Kellermann Streit | Unsplash

Sweet Paree is known as the city of love, and it offers much for the history buffs and romantics amongst us during December. The city is truly in full swing at this time of year, offering visitors an abundance of opportunities, including Christmas markets, ice skating rinks, ballet shows, and world-class cuisine.

Travelers can also enjoy all the historical landmarks and museums during December, making it a fabulous option if you want to skip the summer bustle. The city of light really shines at this time courtesy of all the Christmas lights lining the streets.

Must-see sites:

• View the stunning Christmas decorations at the Galeries Lafayette
• Witness the Festival of Lights at the Jarden des Plantes
• Check out the famed art at the Louvre
• Explore the Montmartre district and the Moulin Rouge
• See the dazzling city from atop the Eiffel Tower

Granada, Spain

The enchanting Alhambra Palace. Photo: Petr Slováček | Unsplash

December is a gorgeous time to visit the city of Granada in southern Spain, especially if you still want to bask in some lingering warmth, all the while enjoying the festive spirit. Visitors can also explore vibes markets, eat churros at cozy cafes, and enjoy an array of fabulous showcases like flamenco performances.The city also brings together an eclectic architectural offering, amalgamating Moorish design with Gothic and Renaissance styles.

You can enjoy all this and much more with the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains as your backdrop.

Must-see sites

• Catch a Belenes nativity scene
• Visit the Sacromonte (so-called ”gypsy” district)
• Enjoy Spanish tapas at one of the many local eateries (and as a bonus, enjoy free wine with your food!)
• Explore the Royal Chapel of Granada

Budapest, Hungary

The Danube River separates Buda and Pest. Photo : Keszthelyi Timi | Unsplash

The charming Hungarian capital is home to gorgeous architecture, incredible markets, underground caves, and thermal spas galore. Winter is the perfect time to warm up at one of the thermal bathhouses in the city or enjoy the top attractions and museums without the summer chaos. You can also get lost amid the magical city lights and Christmas markets or visit the world’s largest natural ice rink.

Budapest is truly like a fairytale over December, and visitors can explore the city with ease in one of the fairylight-clad winter trams. Be sure also to explore one of the quirky Ruin Bars after a day of site seeing and thermal bathing.

Must-see sites:

• Great Market Hall for local delicacies and souvenirs
• Vörösmarty Square Christmas Market
• Thermal Baths (like the Szechenyi Spa Baths)
• Whizz around the Városligeti ice rink
• Check out Szimpler Kert Ruin Bar

Funchal, Madeira Island

The cascading coastline of Madeira Island. Photo : Colin Watts | Unsplash

If you’re looking to catch some sunshine and aren’t ready to contend with harsh European winters, the capital of Funchal in Madeira Island is certainly worth a peruse. During December, it can even see temperatures of 20ºC, making it a much warmer winter destination. With its old-world charm, abundance of wildlife, stunning hiking routes, and legendary wine, it’s a must for nature lovers, historians, and foodies alike.

Must-see sites:

• Explore Monte Palace
• Visit the Madeira Botanical Garden and catch the cable car for some breathtaking city views
• Swim at Praia Formosa beach
• Stroll around the farmers market and purchase some fresh local produce
• Explore the brightly colored doors of one of the oldest streets, Santa Maria

Abisko, Sweden

Magical Northern Lights, Abisko. Photo: David Becker | Unsplash

December and January are the darkest months in Abisko, which might make you wonder why on Earth it’s the best time to visit. Well, there is an excellent reason! The darker days make for superb star-gazing opportunities, meaning that it’s the best time of year to witness the ethereal Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). The famed Blue Hole of Abisko offers visitors a unique weather pattern whereby clearer nights make for better viewing of the swirling dance of green and blue light.

If you’re a lover of winter, Lapland is a magical destination!

Must-see sites:

  • Experience the Northern Lights 
  • Visit the Abisko National Park 
  • Spot reindeer or moose 
  • Hop on a snowmobile and enjoy all the winter wonder as you whizz through the snow 

The Takeaway

Europe offers travelers an abundance of magic and charm over the colder festive months. You’ll have fewer crowds to navigate and might even get to enjoy some Christmas specials. If you don’t mind a little chill in the air and love the enchanted opulence of Christmas lights galore, December is a fantastic time to visit these gorgeous European cities. Happily, there are also some slightly warmer destinations (like Funchal and Granada) for those who aren’t quite ready to traverse the snow. 

Which European destinations have you visited in December? We would love to hear from you! And if you’re looking for ideas, why not check out these incredible European delights


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