December in the Northern Hemisphere is a winter wonderland! It’s the season of Christmas markets, fairy lights and ice-skating rinks. Take the chance to plan your winter escape… You can go to markets in Germany, snow in Switzerland and the theatre in Austria. Europe has something for everyone.
The best news of all? If you don’t mind the cold, you can pay cheaper prices and have less people around. We’ve made a list of some of the best places to visit in Europe this winter…
1. Munich, Germany
Munich is freezing in winter. But this doesn’t mean the capital quiets down at all. If anything, December is the liveliest month of the year in Munich. Making it one of the best European cities to visit in Winter. Streets are lit up with fairy and Christmas lights. Cathedrals and churches fill up with choir singing and organ music. You can plan your days around ice rinks, beer halls, palaces, museums, historical buildings and 24-hour Christmas markets. Marienplatz square is in the heart of the city centre. It is home to one of the most popular Christmas markets, where you’ll see a towering 100-feet Christmas tree! There, one can buy mulled wine, gingerbread, glassware and charming gifts.
Avoid the cold weather by planning indoor things. Museums like the BMW museum or Olympiapark from the 1972 Summer Olympics – there is no end to the list of attractions in Munich.
2. Jungfrau Region, Switzerland
Nowhere in the world is it as easy to get active in winter. Switzerland is the mecca of winter sports! Get active by skiing, sledding, snowshoeing or hiking. Not in the mood to get active? Take the cable car or train to enjoy the spectacular views. You will see snow-covered Swiss alps and foggy lakes. Or snuggle up in front of the fire in a wooden chalet and eat Swiss chocolate and cheese. Winter in Switzerland is truly magical. It could be one of your best December vacations!
3. Bruges, Belgium
Bruges knows how to do Winter! Imagine exploring a Flemish landscape guided by festive lights. You can walk through the medieval city centre and along the canals. Or you can listen to a free bell-ringing concert. Take a ride on a horse-drawn carriage. Take Christmas gift-buying to a whole new level with some of the best Christmas markets. Bruges is one of the chocolate capitals of Belgium. On every corner you can see chocolate connoisseurs. They make artisan truffles, salted caramels and pâte de frui by hand – take the chance to explore all the interesting flavours. You can enjoy chocolate and wine (or beer) pairings at any of the local chocolatiers.
Rome is at its most beautiful in European winter! The cooler weather means fewer crowds and locals returning to the streets. With space to breathe you can fully appreciate the Italian culture. You also experience the smells and sights the city has to offer. If you’re in Rome or southern Italy over Christmas, keep an eye out for the bagpipe players (known as Zampognari). They travel from the nearby mountains to play their merry folklore carols. Top Tip! Italian hot chocolate is thick and enjoyed with a spoon. Ask for whipped cream (“panna” in Italian).
5. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Tourists reap unexpected rewards in Amsterdam during Winter. There is a long list of things to do even if the weather dips to lower temperatures. You can go to Christmas markets and museums (like Rijksmuseum and Anne Frankhuis). Or enjoy canal-side cafes and charming little shops selling stationery, art, photography and books. If it’s not too cold, go for a walk along the canals and warm up with a Nutella-stuffed crepe.
Related: Not sure what to pack? Read our top packing tips for cold weather travel here.
6. Venice, Italy
Like Rome, Venice has fewer people and is less expensive in winter. The chance of getting a quiet moment in a canal or square is better than at any other time of the year. Crisp and clear winter skies mean you can take a peaceful gondola ride and indulge in tasty pizza. Why not ignore the map to follow your nose around?
If you’re around from the end of January to mid-February, you can experience the annual Venice Carnival. What an amazing travelling experience! It was first held in Venice in the 11th century, this world famous carnival is now hosted by the tourist board. For two weeks, locals and tourists can take part in classical concerts, grand masquerade balls, cocktail parties and party cruises. Go to the official website to book tickets in advance. We guarantee, you’ll have a ball!
7. Prague, Czech Republic
Christmas time in Prague! What you can expect: The most beautiful architecture frosted with snow and lit up by street lamps. Everything comes to a standstill as the locals head out for shopping and celebrations. Make your way to the Old Town Square for some barbecued pork, Czech muffins and other edible delights.
8. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is Spain’s energetic second city. It’s a colorful and stunning city to visit in wintertime. It is not too cold and often enjoys sunny, clear blue skies. This means you can enjoy open-air markets, ice skating rinks and even walks on the beach. There is also a big science museum, amazing architecture and cozy fondue restaurants (or take a food tour).
9. Stockholm, Sweden
Swedish Christmas food is a must. Smoked sausages, meatballs, reindeer meat (yes, it’s considered a delicacy here) Gingerbread and hot glögg (Swedish spiced wine). Christmas markets are held four weeks before Christmas. Some are traditional and some more modern. Visit the Old Town for a genuine Stockholm Christmas. The Swedish word for Christmas is “Jul”. Everywhere you go locals will say, ” God Jul”, which means Merry Christmas.
10. Vienna, Austria
The largest Christmas markets can be found right here in beautiful Vienna. Festively decorated market squares turn into magical Christmas markets. You can smell the aromas of candied fruit, hot punch and roasted chestnuts. At the Viennese Christmas market, children can learn how to make Christmas cookies and candles. They can enjoy this inside the City Hall (ground floor). The Christmas Market at Schönbrunn Palace is converted into a New Year’s market after Christmas. Here, you can buy traditional Austrian gifts like hand-crafted glass decorations, ceramics and the most spectacular baked goods. With 188 entertainment venues in Vienna, there is something for young and old. You can experience chapels, theatres or even live acts on street corners.
Europe is festive in winter. There’s no two ways about it. It’s one of the best places to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve! Everyone should experience it at least once in their lives. It’s not too late to book an unforgettable trip to Europe over Christmas and New Years. Find out more about our delightful European Christmas and New Year tours .