Beautiful European Destinations To Visit In December

With so many great places to go this winter, it can be hard to decide exactly where your wanderlust should take you. Since December is a particularly festive time of year across the globe, there are many sights, festivals, and happenings almost everywhere, making the most magical time of the year even more magical — no matter your location. Still, countless places in Europe are brimming with holiday cheer, stunning landscapes, one-of-a-kind vistas, and fun traditions.

Truly a sight to behold in the latter half of the year, Europe has it all and then some. With different climates, celebratory events, and touristy activities, there are more than a few spots worth vacationing during the holiday season. So, whether you are a lover of all things Christmas-related, are looking for a chance to break out the winter sports gear, or simply want a change of scenery, planning a trip to this picturesque side of the world will not disappoint. That said, to help jump-start your holiday travels, here are some of the most beautiful European destinations to visit in December.

London, England

If you are looking for holiday cheer and more, then a stop in London is definitely the ticket. This destination is pure magic with twinkling lights, decked-out Christmas trees, brilliant angel light installations, ice skating, markets, and countless other festivities. But that's not all this iconic U.K. city has to offer this time of year — with themed events like Winter at Hogwarts at Warner Brothers Studio London, more than a few castles to check out, and nearby day trips to all sorts of enchanting and magical towns, London is pure eye candy.

While there, visitors may even get a glimpse of delightful snow-blanketed streets (though it doesn't snow often) as they make their way to this area's many historical pubs, or when taking in all the sights. The Big Smoke is also a great destination if you want to be whisked away via Eurostar to marvel at diverse landscapes on your way to places like Brighton Beach, Paris, Germany, and Scotland — just to name a few options. Even if you decide to keep it local, London is a bustling city with beauty all around. And, in December, the cityscape definitely kicks it up a notch with countless displays and festive décor.

Bruges, Belgium

December travelers ready to experience Bruges' Winter Glow and all the other spectacular festivities are in for a real treat. From Christmas markets and old-world ambiance to winter festivals galore, Bruges is as pretty as a picture, especially during this time of year. With snow usually enveloping this fairytale-like town, you have more than a few options when it comes to winter fun.

In Market Square, for instance, visitors can opt for romantic carriage rides, get in some ice skating, or marvel at the many Christmas markets. Likewise, couples can ooh and aah at the beautiful landscape surrounding the Lake of Love (which often has swans you can feed) and the iconic Lover's Bridge. After some much-needed seasonal excitement, make sure to indulge in some famous Belgian hot chocolate this region is known for. Of course, dozens of attractions in Bruges are also worth a look-see, but for the best view in all of the city, a trip to the Belfry is definitely in order. The Belfry is a 270-foot-tall bell tower from medieval times that is a hidden gem and offers anyone willing to climb it a truly stunning view.

Nuremberg, Germany

Yet another town that is a must-see winter wonderland in December is none other than Nuremberg, Germany. Known for its Bavarian style, well-maintained landmarks, history, and stunning background, Nuremberg is picturesque, no matter the season. But when Christmas is right around the corner, this popular German city shines bright with its light displays, holiday décor, and those world-famous Christmas markets that date back to the 1600s.

Like something out of a holiday postcard, Nuremberg is simply spectacular this time of year. Even outside this city's main square, the stunning scenery does not stop there. With winding waterways, historic bridges, classic architecture, Nuremberg Imperial Castle, and so much more, it is easy to fall in love at first sight with this particular European destination. If you do visit Nuremberg during the holidays or December, it is highly recommended that you enjoy the fanfare of one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe.

Prague, Czech Republic

This December, a trip to Prague will dazzle and delight. With less crowds, you can enjoy all the breathtaking sights and historical landmarks with ease. Of course, Prague also knows a thing or two about the holiday season and Christmas markets, so you can expect to be awe-struck by the glowing festivities, first and foremost. In fact, Prague is the place to go if you are seeking traditional European holiday vibes and flare.

Like other historic European cities, you can marvel at medieval fortresses and architecture, including Prague Castle, the Old Town Bridge Tower, Charles Bridge, and the surrounding cityscape. From colorful houses, iced-over waterways, and stunning sacred landmarks to charming streets blanketed with snow, Prague is undoubtedly a pretty sight. In addition to all the incredible views here, visitors can get into the holiday spirit with a variety of activities, like ice skating surrounded by enchanting Christmas trees, seeing the Nutcracker Ballet, and even encountering Christmas carolers as you adventure about the city.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland is easy on the eyes, regardless of the month. But, in December, this Scottish gem transforms into a true holiday wonderland. Beaming with Christmas lights, fireworks, decorations, evening light rail rides through the local botanical gardens, and more, Edinburgh is truly breathtaking. In many ways, Edinburgh offers the perfect mix of Christmas-themed fun, history, and entertainment.

Whether you decide to explore the city or get lost in any of the numerous attractions in this destination, you will quickly find that there are lights and décor celebrating this time of year everywhere you turn. Visitors will also have a wealth of festivities to check out while they are in town. For instance, Edinburgh's Christmas is a multi-week event. If you are considering a vacation in this spectacular place this December or next, make it a point to partake in Edinburgh's Christmas, as it is a perfect activity for families and holiday lovers of all ages.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is another great destination for December globetrotters, especially those in need of holiday cheer with all the trimmings. With fewer crowds and the perfect amount of seasonal ambiance, Amsterdam is absolutely alluring. As a whole, Amsterdam is beyond picturesque during the end of the year, which means travelers can appreciate their surroundings here — the vibrant annual light show, all the beauty of the Christmas markets, and the main square decked out for various events and happenings.

It is worth noting that Amsterdam is rather cold during the winter months, particularly in December. So, if you are not big on the temperatures that bring on the snow, you might want to choose somewhere a little warmer. Yet, despite the chill in the air, you can expect limitless merriment and a truly festive atmosphere. And with the World Christmas Circus, illuminated Christmas markets, ice skating, holiday shopping, Christmas cruises, and more, visitors who do not mind the wintery weather can expect to entertain all their senses while vacationing in the joyful DAM.

Paris, France

Of course, Paris shines just a little brighter during the holidays — making it a great option for December wanderers. Though technically considered the off-season, the last month of the year is ideal for people who want to take in the city sans the large crowds. Usually adorned with snow, The City of Lights and Love is absolutely dreamy with its cobblestone neighborhoods, art museums, and dazzling light displays.

Even the Eiffel Tower gets a costume change with the colors of the season. And, at the base of this iconic structure, a whole Christmas village with gifts, souvenirs, eats, and outdoor fun awaits. There are also several Parisian Christmas markets scattered about the city. Besides this, you can marvel at 13th-century churches while enjoying holiday-themed concerts, take Christmas cruises, and admire Paris's rich culture, cuisine, and character. Plus, one of the nice things about going to Paris is you are only a scenic train ride away from must-see castles, including the Château de Versailles, the Château de Chantilly, and the Château de Rambouillet. Therefore, after exploring this sparkling city, remember there is even more magic to see just around the corner.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark is extra cozy leading up to the major holidays thanks to the widespread practice of hygge (enjoying the comfortable things in life). Since hygge is, in fact, a lifestyle in Copenhagen, visitors can definitely experience this vibe anytime. But, when it is the season to be jolly, the sweaters seem to get cozier, the candlelight ambiance shines a little brighter, and the décor surpasses any Norman Rockwell Christmas painting or holiday Hallmark card.

What's more, the weather is pure Christmas in December without it being too cold (most of the time). Visitors can savor the festively decorated streets and famous lit-up Nyhavn harbor, the many seasonal markets, Danish holiday traditions, and more than a few events. And, if you do decide to make your way to Copenhagen around this time, it is highly recommended that you add Tivoli Gardens to your activities lists. Towards the end of the year, Tivoli Gardens is transformed into a genuinely striking winter wonderland complete with ice skating, its own market, seasonal trimmings, and mulled wine. There is also an absolutely captivating and must-see fireworks display at the gardens for New Year's Eve if your visit is at the end of December.

Munich, Germany

Munich, Germany is just one more destination that knows how to celebrate the holidays with flare. Here, travelers can appreciate the snow-covered landscape and fantastic architecture dressed up for Christmas. Whether you want to spend most of your time at the Christmas markets, ice skating at Karlsplatz Stachus, go for a winter stroll about town, or traipse through Munich's wintery English Garden, this German city in December is simply splendid.

While in Munich, relishing the view from street level, remember some of the best sights can be seen from the city's many viewing platforms, including the ones at St. Peter's Church, Olympic Park, and the Fitzroy. In addition to these incredible panoramic vistas, visitors should make it a point to see one of the city's top sights: Schloss Nymphenburg. A beautiful palace with a lavish interior, Schloss Nymphenburg is undoubtedly worth a tour. And speaking of must-see palaces, Munich is actually not too far from the world-famous fairytale castle — Schloss Neuschwanstein — one of the most magical-looking and photographed gems in the world. So, if you have time, do yourself a favor and catch a glimpse of this bucket list-worthy attraction as well.

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is also worth considering for a December getaway for various reasons. As expected, the city center is bejeweled with Christmas lights and brimming with charming cafes, holiday shopping, and amazing views of the surrounding landscape. What many visitors may not be prepared for is the Stockholm Santa Run. Typically held in the middle of December, visitors can expect to see hundreds of runners wearing their best Santa gear. Not only is the Stockholm Santa Run a heartwarming sight to see, but it also raises money for a good cause. 

After marveling at the countless Santas running through the streets, why not get out of the city and enjoy the great outdoors? Nature lovers can take the family to the open-air Skansen Museum and Zoo to see native animals, bears, and moose. Visitors can also sign up for an archipelago boat tour, go on a historical Viking guided excursion, ski at the Hammarbybacken Ski Resort, watch the Northern lights, and so much more. Stockholm is the perfect December destination for travelers who are not completely obsessed with only Christmas markets.

Reykjavik, Iceland

For outdoorsy folk, Reykjavik, Iceland is often on the bucket list, and winter is one of the best times to visit this pristine paradise. From miles and miles of untouched wilderness to Christmas decorations, Reykjavik is truly picture-perfect. Even so, many visitors flock to this city in December to see a natural wonder with their own eyes: the Northern Lights.

If this sounds like your kind of vacation, then you can expect to see swirling shades of green and blue above gorgeous mountainscapes when marveling at the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights. Reykjavik not only offers some of the prettiest views of this often-nightly occurrence, but it is also the best place actually to get a glimpse of these lights in general. And with guided Northern Lights tours and a wealth of other touristy activities (both festive and non-festive), a getaway to Reykjavik in December is absolutely a real treat, especially for stargazers and nature lovers.

Florence, Italy

Travelers looking for more Europe but less snow should head to Florence, Italy. Florence, or La Bella, still puts on a mesmerizing show around the holidays without the snowy weather, and winter is a wonderful time to experience this famed city in all its glory. Though December may be the low season here, Florence is undoubtedly a lovely holiday destination.

There should be nothing stopping you from spending ample time out and about — shopping, hanging out at Firenze Winter Park, going to the Firenze Light Festival, or even crossing off some normally overcrowded points of interest on your to-do list. This city is full of incredible architecture, historical churches, art museums galore, wine tasting, and more all year round. However, in December, visitors can live their best life at the picturesque Santa Croce Christmas Market, while exploring charming streets lined with holiday décor, and by attending all the breathtakingly beautiful seasonal festivities.

Palermo, Sicily

Palermo in Sicily is the better option for wanderlusters in need of a warmer weather December getaway. Averaging around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, Palermo may not be the tropics, but you definitely won't need your winter jacket unless you are off to the mountains or any of the ski resorts. That said, visitors can still check out the Christmas markets, marvel at beautiful churches, see shimmering seasonal decorations, and get some holiday shopping out of the way.

Palermo visitors can also enjoy the milder temperatures and explore city streets, traipse about ancient ruins, and even spend some time appreciating the beach. It is worth noting that though the beaches are beautiful, winter is not the best time to go for a dip or practice your surf moves. December travelers should not expect public transportation to get them to these pretty coastal regions either, as the towns tend to shut down for the season.

Paphos, Cyprus

Lastly, if you want to fully escape the wintery vibes and views, then December is a great time to head to Paphos in Cyprus. It may be the season to be jolly, but that does not mean one needs to be cold. With weather ranging from the low 60s to the high 70s Fahrenheit, Paphos is a marvelous retreat from traditional winter. Here, travelers can enjoy the holidays, the beach, the Paphos Coastal Path, their hotel's outdoor swimming pool, and lively harbors — all with a dramatic view of the Mediterranean. Paphos is also littered with Roman and ancient Greek ruins, so this is truly a beautiful destination worth a visit in winter. 

Ultimately, whether you want serious holiday vibes, powdery white snow, and all the sparkling trimmings, or some light holiday cheer, warm coastal breezes, and stunning sea vistas, one thing is for sure — there is a December European vacation under the tree with your name on it.