While December may not be the ideal month to visit Europe, it can actually be a lot of fun and you won't have much competition at the famous sights. But that still leaves most of the most famous cities, which will be filled with shopping and working locals until just before Christmas.
With a bit of advance planning you should be able to get cheap flights between most of these as well, so you can visit several of them as long as you allow about 3 days in each. The thing is, people from all over are flying back home to every one of those freezing cities for the Christmas break, so airfares are going to be high and last-minute deals are nonexistent.
The best advice is to book your Christmas holiday flights (December 19 through January 4 or so) as early as possible. Airlines typically start selling tickets 8 to 11 months out, and you'll usually get your lowest prices if you book as early as you can.
Anyone looking for a proper beach destination in Europe in December is bound to be disappointed, but the Canary Islands are still a good choice as long as your expectations aren't too high. Tenerife is the largest of these Spanish islands off the coast of Africa, and the best choice for English speakers as well.
The temperatures above don't look great for sunbathing, but it's usually warmer and sunnier in the southwest coast of the island, and that's where most of the hotels and vacation rentals are as well. In December, you'll find northern Europeans sitting in the sun here even if it feels cool to the rest of us.
If you are planning a general Europe trip in December you are obviously prepared for cooler temperatures and maybe a bit of rain. You can get very good deals on hotels up until Christmas time, and even that isn't bad because there are no business travelers at all.
It's still fairly warm compared to most of the rest of Europe, and it's a short train ride from Rome as well. Florence is the capital of Tuscany and it's the ideal base for day trips to Pisa and Saint as well.
Florence is a fairly dense city so even cooler weather won't dampen the fun much in December. Some people also do day trips to Cinque Terry from here, but those little towns will be nearly abandoned in winter, and not nearly as pretty as they look the rest of the year.
It's more north and located on a lagoon so it's a bit chillier than the other cities above, but it's still worth a visit if you are in the area. Hotel prices will be low and this is about the only time of year you won't have to fight with insane crowds.
To be honest, we have Paris on the list for best places to visit in Europe every month of the year. Paris is also a business city so it's very alive for the first few weeks of December until offices start closing for the holidays.
London famously has chilly and damp weather most of the year, but the good news is that it rarely freezes here and there isn't much precipitation, so if you wear decent outerwear you can still move around quickly. Also, similar to Paris, London is a business city and it's bustling through December and up until the holidays.
The Christmas displays on Oxford Street are world-class, and the pubs are always warm and inviting. Except for Lisbon, which is listed a bit down this page, Barcelona might have the nicest December climate of any major tourist city in Europe proper.
A visit in December will feel much more calm, and the famous nightlife goes all year round. Even though Madrid is farther south than Barcelona, it's also in the middle of the country rather than on the Mediterranean, so it gets a bit colder in winter.
Still, the December weather is quite nice for Europe, and this city is another that is geared more towards indoor attractions as well because summers can also be terrible. While Barcelona seems to be getting more visitors these days, Madrid will always be the king of Spain since it has the royal palaces and the country's most famous museum.
The Portuguese capital is very remote for Europe, but because it's so far south and west is actually has the best climate of any city on the continent. As one of the world's most historic and important cities, it's great that Athens also has decent weather in December.
The nightlife in Athens is underrated because so many people focus on the party scenes on the various islands during the summer months, so don't plan on going to be too early. Speaking of the Greek islands, the smaller ones are literally shut down in winter and even the larger ones will be very dead, so it's not really recommended that you even bother this time of year.
Even more remote than Athens, Istanbul also had a mild climate in winter, and it's another of the world's most important cities. As a primarily Muslim country, you don't want to come to Turkey to do your Christmas shopping, but there are plenty of people celebrating anyway.
Sicily in December tolerable weather The warmest places in Europe in December tend to be the southernmost countries such as Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Malta, and Italy.
The Canary Islands are the absolute warmest place in Europe in winter, followed by other southern European countries. While you won’t get tropical weather, it’s still possible to find warm temperatures in Europe, even in winter.
Most people tend to define the Canary Islands as being European despite being geographically closer to Africa. The archipelago includes several well-known islands such as Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and La Palma.
It has been announced that a 26 km promenade, the longest in the world, stretching all the way from Puerto del Carmen to Costa Te guise, will eventually be constructed on the island, but this has not been confirmed yet. Possibly the warmest place in Europe in December, Gran Canaria is another island with stunning beaches.
Similarly to Fuerteventura, there is a lot of beautiful nature, including weird rock formations, beaches with black pebbles or white sand, and some great hiking trails. Gran Canaria has some lovely, colorful towns that you should take a trip to, like Tenor and Vegetal.
Many of the towns have weekly street markets selling local delicacies, fruit and veg as well as clothes, jewelry and souvenirs. At the same time, Tenerife is also home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of San Cristóbal de la Laguna, the beautiful Made National Park, several hiking trails and many more destinations worth exploring.
We recommend taking an eco-friendly sailing tour around the island, to explore the amazing Los Gig ante cliffs and hopefully spot some dolphins and whales. If hot and sunny is what you're after, then Tenerife is a good choice for a winter holiday in December in Europe.
With temperatures over 20 degrees and no more than 3 or 4 rainy days in December, Fuerteventura is a great option if you want to escape colder climates without going to the tropics. Note that, unlike most other places in South Europe, December is actually high season in Fuerteventura, so book in advance.
Bear in mind that December is Crete’s rainiest month, and consider bringing some waterproof shoes and clothes. You can also go hiking, stroll around the pretty towns of Chalía, Medallion, Rethymnon and Adios Nikolas, and Seymour the delicious Cretan food.
Crete has plenty of wineries and some fantastic olive oil, and this tour will give you lots of insight to these popular traditional Greek products. You can get there in less than 3 hours if you are driving from Athens, or catch a short flight to the local airport, located a few kilometers out of town.
You can use Kawabata as a base to explore the Peloponnese, particularly the nearby areas, such as the Mani, Dirks Caves, the castles of Method and Moroni, Ancient Essene and Sparta. While summers can be scorching, winters are not exactly warm, but they are a lot milder than Central and Northern Europe.
This large area in Spain is where popular destinations like Seville, Malaga, Córdoba, Granada and Marbella are located. If you visit Andalusia in December, you will enjoy the gorgeous landscapes and the pretty towns without the summer crowds.
With the magnificent Alhambra Castle, the Generalize Gardens and the quaint architecture all around the city’s neighborhoods, the picturesque town is great to visit in winter, when it’s less crowded. With beautiful UNESCO buildings, such as the Alcázar Royal Palace and the General Archive of the Indies, Seville needs at least a couple of days.
With an abundance of ancient sites, a lovely coastline and beautiful mountains, Cyprus is a great destination for the off-season. We visited Cyprus in September, and we found the weather almost too warm, but were told that winters are generally very mild and that swimming is possible all-year-round.
The country’s main airports are in Maraca, Pathos and Nicosia, so you should be able to find a direct flight from many locations in Europe. With the impressive Pathos archaeological park that took us several hours to see properly, its medieval castle, and many churches and temples all around, it makes for a great destination for those interested in ancient cultures and history.
The historic center is full of small streets where you can see the lovely old architecture, while there is a nice promenade where you can go for an evening walk. Another place that we found fascinating, a few hours’ drive from Nicosia, was the ghost city of Augusta.
If you don’t want to drive, it’s totally worth taking a tour including Augusta, which will give you a better background of Northern Cyprus. With rich architecture, nice sandy beaches and unique culinary traditions, it’s worth considering if you want to visit Europe in December.
The southernmost area of mainland Portugal, the Algarve, has some of the mildest climate in continental Europe. Choosing Faro, Albufeira or Lagos as your base, you can explore the wider area, and discover great nature, beautiful cathedrals and interesting museums and sites.
Make sure you take a boat tour to the nearby RIA Formosa islands, or to the magnificent Bengal Caves. Off the coast of Africa, and to the north of Spain’s Canary Islands, lies the small archipelago of Madeira.
It’s also home to the UNESCO World Heritage Center of the Laurissilva Forest, a natural relic estimated to be about 20 million years old. Although you may be lucky and get some beach weather in Madeira, don’t bank on swimming, given that the ocean is open and water temperature might not be pleasant for you.
December is a great time to travel to Sicily if you want to visit the numerous archaeological sites, as you may virtually be on your own. At the same time, don’t miss a day trip to the Etna volcano, which is easier to arrange through a tour.
If you are mostly interested in ancient history, some ideal places to visit in Europe in winter are Greece, Cyprus and Sicily. Bring your comfy shoes and an umbrella, and be prepared to explore the historic city centers on foot.
If you want to see an interesting mix of everything, from ancient sites to baroque architecture, tiny Malta is a good choice. The Mediterranean countries of Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Malta and Spain have much warmer December temperatures compared to their northern counterparts.
For warm weather and refreshingly lower-key Christmas celebrations though, Cyprus and Greece are two excellent choices of December destinations in Europe.