Best European Cities to Visit in December

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There are so many amazing places around Europe to visit in December, whether you are looking for a perfect Christmas shopping location, a visit to Christmas markets or taking in some history and culture.
European cities make ideal winter vacation destinations, with so many Christmas activities and festivals taking place throughout December. Snowy weather in some European areas also attracts winter sports enthusiasts who are looking for some festive fun on the slopes.
Our guide to the best European cities to visit in December should help you to plan your dream winter holiday, filled with all the magical festive fun you need for an unforgettable visit in Europe.

Our Take on The Best European Cities to Visit in December

The cities around Europe have unique attractions and each destination has individual appeal. Some cities are ideal for festive celebrations, while others are all about the ski slopes. Our summaries of the top cities should help you to decide the most fantastic winter destination for your ideal winter trip.

1. Prague, Czech Republic

Prague is a very popular winter destination with the combination of potential snowfall and stunning architecture turning the city into a winter wonderland.
The Czech capital has several picturesque squares, such as the Old Town Square, where the annual Christmas market takes place. Prague Castle is worth a visit and you should take a walk to see the Lamplights on Charles Bridge and there are a number of outdoor ice skating rinks to visit.
If you’d love to visit Prague this winter, check out the travel requirements for the Czech Republic first.

2. Budapest, Hungary

Temperatures can drop to around -20°C in winter in Budapest and it is home to the largest ice skating rink in Europe when the City Park's boating lake freezes over and the backdrop of Vajdahunyad Castle makes the experience even more spectacular.
You can warm up with a mulled wine or hot chocolate at the Christmas markets around the city center, while the laser show at St Stephen's Basilica is worth braving the cold weather for.
If you plan to travel to Budapest, get to know the visa requirements for Hungary and other relevant information beforehand.

3. Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck has hosted the Winter Olympics twice due to its fantastic location in the Alps. It is a popular winter destination for winter hiking and skiing, and taking a Nordkette cable car ride will give you stunning views.
Top attractions like the Golden Roof, Ambras Castle and Bergisel Ski Jump make Innsbruck a great place for a day trip and the thermal baths will help you to feel rejuvenated in time for Christmas.

4. Vienna, Austria

Lying along the Danube River, Vienna is famous for its artistic culture and Imperial palaces. When you visit Vienna you will see impressive architecture such as St Stephen's Cathedral, Hofburg Imperial Palace, and the Vienna State Opera House.
A walking tour of the city will take you through street art, Viennese cafes, and through December the many Christmas markets.
When planning your winter vacation, check out our guide on Austria visa and entry requirements too.

5. Rome, Italy

Rome is one of the milder European cities in winter, so snow is less common but there is still a lot of festive cheer to indulge in. It is a fabulous place to do your Christmas shopping and there are many top-designer stores to visit.
The top sightseeing attraction in Rome is of course the Colosseum, which is open every day except 25 Dec and 1 Jan. If you are looking for a fine dining Christmas dinner then Rome is home to some of the finest chef's in the world.
Check out how to gain entry to Italy before taking your winter holiday plans any further.

6. Colmar, France

Colmar is famous for the most atmospheric Christmas markets in France, so if you are looking for somewhere with winter charm, Christmas lights, and traditional Christmas markets, this is one of the best places to visit. Colmar is close to the Switzerland border and there are some great ski resorts nearby.

7. Copenhagen, Denmark

Denmark is a great place to spend Christmas and New Year as they celebrate in style. Copenhagen in December is magical with streets of Christmas markets, parades and a good chance of snow for a White Christmas.
Hygge is a preferred type of lifestyle in Denmark that involves a warm atmosphere and comfortable environment and this is why many people say Christmas in Denmark is more enjoyable than in other European cities.
If you’ve set your mind up to visit Copenhagen this December, make sure to familiarize yourself with travel authorization for Denmark.

8. Helsinki, Finland

There are many festive events going on in Helsinki and the close proximity to Santa Claus in the North Pole and the Arctic Circle is one of the reasons people travel here. The Suomenlinna fortress is a unique place to visit in Europe, while the architectural brilliance of Helsinki Cathedral is another place to see.
Prepare for your winter trip to Helsinki properly, and check out the travel requirements for Finland.

9. Paris, France

Paris needs no introduction as one of the best cities to visit in Europe but not many people know that it is a fantastic place to be at Christmas. The stores are adorned with beautifully decorated displays and the cafes and bars are buzzing over the holiday season. For the best Christmas market, visit La Defense and enjoy ice skating in the Jardin des Tuileries Christmas Market near the Louvre.
If you plan to travel to Paris this winter, learn key information about visa requirements for France beforehand.

10. Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

Karlovy Vary is one of the lesser-known European cities for visiting in December. However, it is the place to visit for thermal springs. The spa town is renowned for its warm water river and tree-lined streets.
In December, Karlovy Vary holds Christmas markets between Grandhotel Pupp and Thermal Hotel, so you can have fun at the markets and then take a relaxing visit to a thermal spa.

11. Valletta, Malta

The Valletta Fairyland Christmas Village is one of the top festive attractions in the European winter destinations, and Christmas is a big celebration in Malta. The average daily temperature in December is 17°C which is considerably warmer weather than some of the other European cities.
Travelers to Valletta should check out how to gain entry to Malta before they go any further with their plans.

12. Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik is one of the best places to visit to see the Northern Lights and the Iceland capital is a short distance from the Blue Lagoon, one of the most renowned places for the hot springs and for the silica mud mask skin treatment.
Dog sledding is also a popular activity to try in Iceland, along with most snow sports.
If you’re wondering whether you need a visa to visit Reykjavik, read more about visa requirements for Iceland.

13. Bruges, Belgium

Bruges is a beautiful Christmas destination, with the magnificent Square overlooked by the Belfry turning into a magical wonderland filled with Christmas markets. Bruges is also home to a chocolate factory and endless beer tours.
When it comes to gaining access to Bruges, some visitors will need to get visa for Belgium, while others may not be required to do that step.

14. Chateau-d’Oex, Switzerland

The lovely chalets and snowy mountainous make for a dream location in the winter months if you are looking for somewhere filled with Christmas spirit. The famous Chateau d'Oex ski resort is popular for snow sports as well as cheese-making demonstrations.
Travelers to this picturesque place can get either a Schengen visa or an ETIAS for Switzerland.

15. Crete, Greece

December is one of the quieter times of year to visit Crete with fewer tourists, as most people travel here in the summer for the sunny weather.
The island situated in the Mediterranean Sea is a very different type of holiday in the winter compared to the summer months. Still, Christmas markets and Christmas lights make it a beautiful setting for spending Christmas in.
Greece is a part of the Schengen community, so some visitors will need to apply for a visa while others will only need ETIAS travel authorization.

16. Seville, Spain

Seville is one of the warmer weather areas of Europe during December. So if you would like to enjoy festive events without freezing cold temperatures, Seville might be the place for you.
In December there are street musicians, parades, and Christmas concerts to enjoy as well as the Christmas markets. During winter, Seville's tapas bars are great places to spend an evening, eating great food surrounded by Christmas decorations and light displays.
The Real Alcaraz Palace and the Plaza de Toros are also worth a visit. But before you book a flight and accommodation, make sure to understand the travel requirements for Spain.

17. Munich, Germany

Christmas markets originated in Germany and you can expect the grandest and most traditional Christmas markets in Munich. If you are looking for a winter trip to experience holiday cheer, Munich is a top destination. You can try curling at the Nymphenburger Canal and ice skating at Muenchner Eiszauber.
Learn how to gain entry to Germany and enjoy the splendid Christmas market in Munich.

18. Sicily, Italy

Palermo, Sicily's capital is a top winter destination buzzing with holiday spirit. You can still enjoy pleasant weather in December in Sicily while visiting the Christmas markets and indulging in the local delicacies.
Sicily is also a less crowded city to visit in Europe in December, so if you want to experience Christmas events in a warmer and less busy place, it is a great winter destination.

19. Porto, Portugal

The Porto Christmas Market an exciting place to visit in December, with stalls serving delicious food and selling artisan crafts. As well as having lots of events in Christmas week, Porto is a stunning destination for a holiday at any time of year, with beautiful bridges, cobbled streets, and of course, the best place to drink port!
If you’re wondering whether you need a visa for Porto, read our guide on visa requirements for Portugal.

20. The French and Swiss Alps

For the ultimate snow sports holiday, there is nowhere better than The Alps. France tends to have more prominent ski resorts than Switzerland, with more advanced pistes, and Tignes is regarded as one of the best places for guaranteed snow.
If you are looking for a luxury ski resort, both France and Switzerland have plenty, including Davos (Switzerland) and Chamonix Mt Blanc (France). Many resorts have festive events taking place in the lead-up to Christmas and over New Year, with the Rise Ski Festival being a popular event for people whose perfect vacation involves music and skiing.

Best European Cities to Visit in December for Christmas Markets

  • Vienna
  • Berlin
  • Munich
  • Budapest
  • Prague
  • Cologne
  • Copenhagen
  • Brussels

Best Warm European Cities to Visit in December

For winter sun the best European destinations are the Canary Islands where Europeans flock to over December and January.
Las Palmas in Gran Canaria and southern Tenerife tend to have temperatures above 20°C in December. Although sunshine is not guaranteed, it is common to be able to sunbathe in Tenerife and other Canary Islands in December.
Due to the location to the west of Africa, flights to the Canaries from London are over 4.5 hours long, so if you are looking for a shorter flight time, there are some warm cities in Europe such as Seville, the Algarve, Benidorm, Costa del Sol, Crete, and Cyprus.

ETIAS: Visa Waiver for EU Visitors

From 2023 non-European citizens that currently don’t require a visa will have to get an ETIAS to enter the Schengen area. The ETIAS is applicable for tourist visits to Europe for a maximum stay of 90 days. The process for applying for an ETIAS will be much simpler than a visa application, as it is digitalized and there is no requirement for an interview at the embassy.
Written by: Fikayomi Abisola
Abisola is an ETIAS Travel and Immigration writer with several years of writing experience in the industry. Abisola has a unique enthusiasm for travels, tours, and tourism and loves to educate travellers about the criteria involved in international travelling.

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