In need of an end-of-the-year holiday and looking for the best places to visit in December? We got you covered! Whether you are seeking warm or cold, Christmas cheer or beach time, Europe or Africa, we are delving into the best places to travel in December.
Being a winter snow bunny, December is my favorite time to travel. If it involves Christmas and holiday cheer, it’s even better. There is something about being cozied up, next to a roaring fire, with a hot cappuccino in hand that never gets old.
If you’re looking to escape all that cold nonsense, don’t worry! There are plenty of travel destinations listed here that will have you reaching for a bathing suit, sunglasses, and a cold drink instead of hand mittens.
The Best Cold Places to Travel in December
Florence, Firenze, is the capital of Tuscany and a highlight of any trip around Italy. You have to add this city to your Italy itinerary if it’s not already. The city is famous for its world-class cuisine, museums, works of art, and surrounding countryside. The architecture in Florence pulls you in and begs you to get lost in its historic heart.
History nuts will go nuts as Florence is known for being the birthplace of the Renaissance period and packed full of treasures. Say “hello” to David! Walking the narrow cobbled stone streets appears as if little has changed over the centuries with marble basilicas, dark chapels, gas lanterns, and enchanting frescos. You have the opportunity to get lost in time.
It’s one of the best places to visit in December since the streets are alive for a holiday, but the weather is still comfortable. December is the beginning of winter in Italy, and the average temperature drops to 13°C nationwide. You’ll need a packable down jacket, but it’s still an excellent time to visit a famous city without the crowds.
There aren’t many cities in Europe quite like Innsbruck. It’s coined the title “Capital of Alps,” and easy to understand why once you set foot in the town. Flanked by the impressive Nordkette mountain range towers over the city, nature never feels far away.
It’s the only city where you can ski, explore a grand palace, window shop, and savor a strudel all in one day. Making it the perfect place to visit in December – especially around the holidays. No one does Christmas markets like the Austrians!
There are plenty of things to do in Innsbruck with the Austrian Alps and a city rich in history. In many ways, it’s everything we love about Austria, all packed into a modern city and historic city. We love that you can be in a beautiful medieval old town and then place yourself in the heart of the Alps within minutes with cowbells ringing and fresh Alpine air.
Salt Lake City, Utah
If you like skiing, snowboarding, and chasing fresh powder, you can’t go wrong with Salt Lake City in the winter. Resorts like Snowbird, Brighton, Park City, and Solitude get endless amounts of fluffy fresh pow that is a dream to ski on.
All are close to Salt Lake City, meaning you can enjoy the city restaurants and breweries at night and venture into the mountains by day! Book your trip well in advance. Rates around the holidays in this winter destination might make your eyes water.
Tallinn is one of the most well-preserved old towns in all of Europe and well worthy of a stop in December. There are many sights to see in Tallinn and to make the most of a trip we recommend at least two days. However, we were able to have a fun time for only a day.
You can head to the buzzing Christmas market with folk dancers in December. The closer to Christmas, the more lively it gets! Eat your way around the Medieval old town, check out the beautiful Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, walk the city walls, ice skate, and more! The city center is very compact and easy to walk around.
Vienna has been voted the most liveable city in the world several times over, and it’s known for its abundantly happy citizens. It’s a beautiful city full of historic buildings and palaces. Most notable is the Habsburgs Palace, a stunning example of Baroque architecture and awe-inspiring gardens.
Vienna opera house is known for being one of the best in the world, and don’t forget to try the famous Sachertorte (chocolate cake).
Vienna also hosts great Christmas markets during December, which only get better and better as the holidays roll around. In our opinion, everyone should experience Vienna during the winter at least once in their lives!
Few cities in Europe feel as forward-thinking as Helsinki. The Finns have pushed into the modern era and embraced design, food, and art. No place is this more evident than in Finland’s capital. It’s a marvelous city that delighted us with plenty of things to do.
For such a modern city, you never seem to be too far away from nature, though. The town features an extraordinary amount of green space as it’s spread across a series of islands in the Baltic Sea. You have a brilliant mix when you add in the city’s delicious restaurants and Finn’s apparent affinity for having a good time. The Finns know how to live life with “kalsarikannit,” a word to describe sitting at home in your underwear drinking with no intention of going out – that made us laugh.
Helsinki is a beautiful city to explore, full of things to do and delicious food to eat. We spent a week here around Christmas and could not have had a better time exploring a city. Helsinki may not be your typical European city break destination, but it is well worth a memorable trip to Finland.
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
The city and country embody many quintessential European cities and countries. It’s a great place to visit in December as the Christmas cheer is everywhere. We were lucky enough to see it during the Christmas season, catch one of the first snowfalls of the season, and even participate in Luxembourg’s wonderful Christmas markets.
Luxembourg City is a mix of the old and new, with highrises rising all over the city and a pleasant old town located in the heart of the city. It’s a melting pot of nationalities, and you’ll often hear English on the streets as many foreigners come to work for banks and tech companies based in the city. It brings a pleasant expatriate vibe to vibe to the town and adds to its character.
Hokkaido is Japan’s Siberian north. Home to some genuinely polar temperatures that plunge way below zero, Hokkaido is home to prime snowboarding and skiing as much as some of the wildest, most small slices of nature to be found in Japan.
If you are wondering when the best time to visit Hokkaido is, it’s December through March (if you love powder, that is).
Winter has its full grip on Hokkaido at this time. Snow will be falling a lot – pretty much everywhere – blanketing the countryside and mountains.
The air is dry, and the rainfall is at its lowest in December. Gloves, hats, and scarves become a must once again, as the average high flatlines at about 3°C. Our tip? Head to an onsen (traditional Japanese hot springs) to warm up.
Banff, Alberta Canada
Banff National Park is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world. Have you logged onto Instagram lately? In case you missed it, Banff, has been the hot place to go for the past few years. Imagine vast mountains, beautiful blue lakes, and a charming Canadian small town. If it sounds like the perfect place to spend Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring, that’s because it is!
Banff is also surrounded by Mt. Norquay, Banff /Lake Louise, and Banff Sunshine to form SkiBig3. This whole area turns into a skier or snowboarder version of heaven in the winter. We spent a few weeks here mountain hopping around the Rockies in 2018 and have since moved to the Rockies and called it home (so there is no way it wouldn’t make this list). Seriously, it’s that good and is one of the most beautiful towns to visit during the winter.
However, keep in mind that it is COLD. If you were wondering, the average temperature is about -4°C; so yeah, it’s frigid. After dark, it plummets below -10.
Expect snow and fog and only a few hours of sunshine a day. However, it’s now full swing in December if you like cold weather activities and skiing and snowboarding. The crowds don’t hit the mountains until the holidays, so you can expect pretty quiet and powdery runs if you arrive anytime between December 1-20.
Banff and Canmore get busy around the holidays – it’s one of the most popular places in Canada so book your holiday early!
Lech Am Arlberg, Austria
If we were to pick one of our favorite ski resort towns in Europe, it would be Lech Zurs Arlberg. The village ambiance is tough to beat in the winter due to a wide selection of boutique hotels, all intimate in size due to strict ordinance laws. You won’t find mega hotels or foreign investments in this former farming village.
It’s distinctly Austrian, with local families running restaurants, hotels, bars, chalets, and B&Bs. Everything in the village is modern and luxurious but understated so you won’t be completely gobsmacked here. This charm is what continues to draw regulars from around the world year after year.
Norway in the winter is what fairytale books are made out of. Especially the more north you head. We found a fantastic winter home in Narvik where we could spot the Northern Lights and go snowboarding all in one day.
The first night of our tour outside of Narvik included a dog sled at night led by head torches and the Aurora Borealis above us. Our second night was followed up with the Northern Lights over the city of Narvik from atop the ski hill. Both experiences are ones to remember forever!
If you plan to see the Northern lights in Northern Norway, I’d advise you to rent a car to guarantee your chances. Northern Norway is mainly coastal and is comprised of a mix of mountains and islands. The result of the unique landscape and the sea create very localized weather and unpredictable weather.
Narvik is also where you can visit Narvikfjellet, one of Norway’s most famous ski resorts. Off-piste riding is a significant draw for Narvikfjellet as their brand new gondola provides access to some big terrain with views of the fjord below.
Madonna Di Campiglio, Italy
This is the jewel of the ski and winter scene in the Trentino region and one of the best places to travel in December. It’s a well-known resort famous for hosting many Italians looking for solid skiing, dining, and relaxation in a very posh environment. It still holds on to its claim to fame as the summer vacation spot of Austrian Royalty and Princess Sissi. The town is a beautiful little gem set at the base of the Dolomites and has all the charm of a mountain town.
Madonna Di Campiglio is nearly car-free, and it’s easy to take an evening stroll after a day on the slopes. We spent our evening window shopping while checking out the 19th-century architecture with a cappuccino in hand.
Charming wooden homes line the streets at the foot of the Dolomites. It is easy to see why the resort town is well cherished in Northern Italy and a great spot to travel to in December.
The little mountain village provides perfect access to two ski areas and numerous Swiss hiking trails. High above Grindelwald lies the Bernese Alps and a famous mountain face. That mountain is Eiger’s notorious North Face.
The village has a long main road and plenty of accommodation options to handle many tourists that make the journey up the valley from Interlaken. The town lacks the charm that the surrounding villages have, such as Gimmelwald, Murren, or Wengen, but it does provide amazing access to the mountains – great for skiers and those after a solid European winter holiday.
Switzerland, in general, is one of the best countries to visit in December. Zermatt in the wintertime can only be described as a magical winter wonderland. Under its blanket of snow, this chocolate box alpine village is set against the backdrop of the iconic Matterhorn and is a must on anyone’s Swiss itinerary.
Whether you’re into skiing or not, you can’t help but fall under the charm of this beautiful village. It will enchant you with its little back roads, traditional and modern chalets, lack of traffic (a car-free village), and the restaurants and shops that line the main street.
Skiers are spoiled for choice with the kilometers of slopes on offer. A trip up to the Klein Matterhorn or a journey on the train to the Gornergrat is a must for non-skiers. There is a lively après-ski scene and an abundance of restaurants catering to all tastes, from traditional Swiss fayre to Japanese, Chinese, Italian, and more. It is also an excellent resort for families visiting Zermatt, although it does come with a hefty price tag.
We’ve been on a mission to explore some of the smallest countries in the world. It’s what recently brought us to Luxembourg and took us through Swaziland. On our grand tour of the Alps, we visited Austria and Switzerland, so it only made a chance to stop by the country sandwiched right in between the two. Liechtenstein has an area of just over 160 square kilometers, making it the fourth smallest country in Europe, with a population of only 38,000!
Malbun is a small town in the alps that is great for a winter vacation in Europe. Here you can enjoy the best things to do in Europe in the winter – snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, and fondue dipping! We even went for a winter walk in the woods with llamas!
We spent two full days in Liechtenstein and thought it was the ultimate place for families looking for winter travel during December. The mountain and town are big enough to have some fun in, but also small enough to let children run wild and free should you want to have some gluhwein.
New York, New York
On the ground, gritty New York may not be the most beautiful city, and there is no doubt plenty of ugly spots. Take a few rides on the New York subway, and you’ll see plenty of the ugly. However, no skyline in the world is more iconic than New York with its architectural feats, bridges, and Central Park.
It’s next to impossible not to be amazed by the Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, Flatiron Building, Grand Central Station, One World Trade Center, New York Public Library, Chrysler Building, and the Statue of Liberty — the list could go on. New York’s world-class restaurants, bars, street food, museums, concert venues, art galleries, and neighborhoods.
There is no shortage of things to do in the city that never sleeps. It’s a city that assaults your senses and paints a vibrant tapestry before your eyes.
Around the holidays is, in my opinion, when the city truly shines. There is special holiday cheer in the air. The shops, coffee shops, and general street vibe are so magical. There are Christmas markets, parties, and then, of course, the lighting of the tree in Rockafeller Center. It’s a city one must visit sometime in their life.
Love or hate Venice; there is no denying its popularity. It is the most beautiful historic city on the planet, but it is also besieged by tourists, except in the winter.
The sinking city is a network of 118 islands connected by bridges. Buildings here are old, and if you manage to get away from the crowds, it feels like you’ve stepped back five centuries. It is surreal, and after several visits, we love Venice.
In our opinion, Venice is best visited on the shoulder and offseasons. December is a great time to visit Venice; we went around Christmas (when the above photo was taken) and barely experienced any crowds.
The canals of Venice are notorious for harboring a lot of waste, and in the summer, the smell can get pretty bad; however, in the cooler months, there are fewer tourists, less waste, and the scent is at bay. If you were to ask us, Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, except in the summer months.
Best Beach Destinations to Travel in December
Saint Lucia, Caribbean
For North Americans, the Caribbean is one of the most sought-after places to holiday in December. Breezy temperatures, sunshine, and beautiful water make it an ideal destination for those looking for a suntan rather than frostbite.
One of the best places to visit in the Caribbean is the stunning island of Saint Lucia. This country in the West Indies is regarded as one of the most beautiful islands to visit in the Caribbean. It’s the perfect travel destination for the holidays, but be forewarned – rates are at their highest around this time.
Portugal is a year-round destination where vacationers and locals can be found body-surfing, parasailing, deep-sea fishing, water skiing, and surfing. We spent November and December based in Lagos searching for the best beaches in the Algarve and enjoyed every sun-kissed day to the fullest. We now consider it one of the best places to travel in December.
The coastline around Lagos has some of the tastiest waves, cleanest water, and most dramatic landscapes. To top it off, Lagos boasts an average of 300 days of sunshine each year! We spent November and December here and only had TWO rainy days. Not only are the beaches around the Algarve fabulous, but the town is small, walkable, and sculpted by traditional architecture.
We would spend many days walking around Lagos, watching old Portuguese men play chess, enjoy their coffee, and soak in the sunshine without the crowds in December.
Cape Town, South Africa
If there is one city in the world I am dying to return to, it’s Cape Town. It’s a city too beautiful for its sound. Where one can get easily lost in the depths of nature and still have dinner at any sushi, tapas, or bistro, they want at night.
There are so many things to do in Cape Town that it’s hard to optimize your time there unless you have a full year. We spent two months there and felt we barely scratched the surface of what the city has to offer.
Cape Town will enchant you with activities like climbing the iconic table mountain to sipping some delicious Pinotage while overlooking the tip of Africa. If you find yourself in the South African city,
don’t tell me because I will be jealous, have fun!
December in South Africa means summer, at least the start of it. Being the holiday season, it’s a time for tourists to visit the country and one of the best places to travel in December.
Cape Town has barely any rain, blue skies, sunshine, and rising temperatures; the daytime average is 25°C. It’s an excellent time to hit the beach; the Atlantic Ocean is about 19°C in December, so that you could be laying out on the sand and swimming on Christmas Day!
In northwest Morocco, situated in the beautiful Rif Mountains, is Chefchaouen. “Chaouen,” as locals call it, is a small city renowned for its charming streets of blue. Besides the blue streets, Chefchauoen is a popular tourist destination for its hashish, grown prolifically all over the region.
We went to Morocco’s blue city to escape the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities in Morocco. We had seen the photos online detailing all the shades of blue and knew we had to get to this Moroccan town.
It is as impressive as it looks on the internet! Most people wander around and take photos in the town, but there is also some good hiking through the Rif Mountains.
December is one of the most excellent months of the year… in Morocco. If you’re looking for winter sun, it’s an excellent time to visit the country!
Visiting Morocco in December is not really about the beaches and coast; Morocco in December is about seeing the sights and exploring a bit of nature.
Melbourne is one of the most exciting cities to visit in Australia. The buzzing city has nightlife, a great food scene, festivals galore, and outdoor activities. It is tough to hate on the city, bringing people in from all over the world.
People often make their way to Sydney to see the Opera House on their trip to Australia, but in my opinion, Melbourne is the better option as it has less of that big city feel. There may not be snow here during the winter, but it’s summer in Australia, making it the perfect place to visit in December if you are after a warm escape!
Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown is a great city/town on New Zealand’s South Island. It’s one of the most visited spots in the country and one of the main places everyone seeks to live in. The town sits on Lake Wakatipu and is surrounded by the Southern Alps. If you are lucky enough to score a lakeside Airbnb rental, you’ll have uninterrupted views of ” The Remarkables,” the mountain range around the lake.
Queenstown is dubbed the adventure capital of the southern hemisphere and is where you will find a wide range of travelers getting an adrenaline high. Bungee jumping, paragliding, and canyoneering are everyday things to do in Queenstown. The city also serves as a jumping-off point to the Milford Sound and Lake Wanaka.
Like in Australia, December means it’s summer in Queenstown. You can expect pleasant temperatures and long hours of daylight! It’s another one to hit up if you are after a warm place to travel to in December for some adventure.
December marks the start of the dry season in Costa Rica, and many North Americans are trying to escape the cold up north. There are plenty of flights running to San Jose during this month.
It’s a great time to travel to Costa Rica at the beginning of themonth, as the end of the month sees plenty of vacationers taking advantage of a Christmas in paradise.
Pay attention to your destination in Costa Rica in December. The Caribbean Coast is currently deep into its rainy season in Costa Rica. Flash downpours, rather than day-long rains, are par for the course in the coastal areas.
The Central Valley is starting to dry up this time of year. Even though it’s not scorching, that makes it a good time of year to try out some adventure sports in the great outdoors. We suggest heading to Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve to enjoy waterfall chasing and bird watching!
December marks the dry season in The Maldives, and if you’re forking out the cost for an epic Maldives vacation, you will likely want ideal weather. The only issue is that tourists start to flock to the Maldives towards the end of December. It’s Christmas, after all, and who doesn’t want to spend the holiday vacation in the Maldives? It’s sunny, it’s beautiful, it’s fantastic, and it’s one of the best times to visit the Maldives.
Make sure to book your Maldives trip well in advance to score the best deal on resort and airfare rates. During December, you can do anything in the Maldives; if you like scuba diving and snorkeling, it’s a fantastic place to visit. We have found The Maldives to have some of the best scuba diving in the world.
The best time to visit Patagonia may not be what you think. Since Patagonia is in the Southern Hemisphere, their spring and summer begin in September, with their summer season being in December!
Days now are long and warm, and there’s very little rainfall to contend with. It’s a fabulous time to enjoy all the best hiking Patagonia offers.
Thailand is always a fantastic destination; however, for ideal weather, it’s best in the dry season. The dry season in Thailand typically lasts from November to April, making it a fabulous place to travel in December. However, you will have to be careful of your Thai destination, as the Lower Gulf (Ko Samui, Ko Phangan, and Ko Tao) are pretty rainy in December.
December is when most of the country is excellent and has low humidity. It’s a great time to snorkel around Phuket, lay on the beaches of Khao Lak, or enjoy the mountains surrounding Chaing Mai!
The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are always a dream destination, but there are better periods to visit than others. The best time to see the Keys is between December and April. This is when the Florida Keys are the dryest, and temperatures are bearable. You also miss hurricane season, which is always a relief.
We love starting our trip in Key Largo, staying a few days, and then driving the Overseas Highway to Key West. Some of the best stops are Islamorada and Marathon. When you reach Key West, try El Siboney, it’s one of the best Key West restaurants!
Of all the months to visit Antarctica, December is one of the best. It’s relatively warm (for Arctic standards) and sees long hours. Wildlife is also the most active time for wildlife and is a fantastic time to see whales, penguins, and seals! If Antarctica is on your bucket list, make sure to pick the right time.
Plan For Your Trip
- Protect Your Trip: We don’t travel without travel insurance, nor should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
- Find Cheap Flights: Sign up for Going (formerly Scotts Cheap Flights) to get notified when prices get ultra low.
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.
- Travel Backpack: We like the Nomatic Travel Backpack for our travels. Check the price here.
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always ALLBIRDS! Check them out on their site!
- Get a Travel Credit Card: We travel worldwide for free because we have leveraged our spending into points. See why you should get a travel credit card and how you can do the same with our favorite travel credit cards.
Hopefully this helped you determine which of these best places to visit in December is right for you. For other great places to travel by month check out these other articles!
- The Best Places to Visit in January
- The Best Places to Visit in February
- The Best Places to Visit in March
- The Best Places to Visit in April
- The Best Places to Visit in May
- The Best Places to Visit in June
- The Best Places to Visit in July
- The Best Places to Visit in August
- The Best Places to Visit in September
- The Best Places to Visit in October
- The Best Places to Visit in November