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 our favorite places to travel to during December.
Being a winter snow bunny, December is my favorite time of the year 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.
If you’re looking to escape all that 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.
Best Places to Travel During 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 for 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! When you walk the narrow cobbled stone streets it appears as if little has changed over the centuries with marble basilicas, dark chapels, gas lanterns, and enchanting frescos. You really 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 the 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 all around it’s still a nice time to visit a famous city without the crowds.
There aren’t many cities in Europe quite like Innsbruck. It’s coined itself the title “Capital of Alps” and easy to understand why once you set foot in the city. Flanked by the impressive Nordkette mountain range that 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 – espeically around the holidays. No one doest 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 historical city. We love the fact that you can be in a beautiful medieval old town and then within minutes places you in the heart of the Alps with cowbells ringing and fresh Alpine air.
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 out of a trip we recommend at least two days. However, we were able to have a fun time with 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.
Hokkaido is Japan’s Siberian north. Home to some truly polar temperatures that plunge way below zero, Hokkaido is home to prime snowboarding and skiing as much as some of the wildest, most remote 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). Whether you want to hike under clear skies or throw yourself down a ski slope, we’ve got you covered with our handy guide.
Winter has its full grip on Hokkaido right now. 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 level in December. Gloves, hats, and scarfs become a must once again, as the average high flatlines at about 3°C. Our tip? Head to onsen (traditional Japanese hot springs) to warm up.
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.
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 as if you’ve stepped back five centuries. It is surreal and after several visits, we love Venice.
In our opinion, Venice is best visited in 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 smell is at bay. If you were to ask us Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, except in the summer months.
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 in search of the best beaches in the Algarve and enjoyed every sun-kissed day to the fullest.
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 spend November and December here and only had TWO rainy days. Not only are the beaches around Lagos 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.
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 wonderful 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 host fabulous Christmas markets during the month of December which only gets better and better as the holidays roll around. In our opinion everyone should experience Vienna during the winter at least once in their lives!
There are few cities in Europe that 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 city features a marvelous amount of green space as it’s spread out across a series of islands in the Baltic Sea. When you add in the cities delicious restaurants and Finn’s clear affinity for having a good time you have a brilliant mix. 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 wonderful city to explore full of things to do and delicious food to eat. We spent a week here around Christmas time 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 special trip to Finland for.
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 visit during the Christmas season and catch one of the first snowfalls of the season and even take part 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 city and adds to its character.
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 own good. 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, 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.
We like to think we hit many of the tourist hot spots, and were still able to delve a little deeper into the city. With activities like climbing the iconic table mountain to sipping some delicious Pinotage while overlooking the tip of Africa, Cape Town will enchant you. 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 and all, it’s a time for tourists to visit the country.
Cape Town has barely any rain, blue skies, lots of sunshine, and rising temperatures; the daytime average is 25°C. It’s a good time of year to hit the beach; the Atlantic Ocean is about 19°C in December, so 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 that is renowned for its entrancing 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 get away from the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities in Morocco. We had seen the photos online detailing all the shades of blue, and just knew we had to get to this Moroccan town.
It really is as amazing 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 coolest months of the year… in Morocco, obviously. As far as Decembers go, we’re into the idea of a mild one like this. If you’re looking for winter sun, it’s a good 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.
Banff and Canmore, 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, Alberta 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. In the winter this whole area turns into a skier or snowboarders version of heaven. We spent a few weeks here mountain hopping around the Rockies in 2018 and have since moved to Canmore and called it home (so there is no way it wouldn’t make this list). Seriously, it’s that good and is definitely one of the most beautiful towns to visit during the winter.
However, keep in mind that it is COLD. The average temperature, if you were wondering, is about -4°C; so yeah, it’s frigid. After dark, it plummets to -10.
Expect snow and fog and only a few hours of sunshine a day. However if you like cold weather activities and skiing and snowboarding it’s now full swing in December. The crowds don’t hit the mountains until the holidays so if you arrive anytime between December 1-22 you can expect pretty quiet and powdery runs.
Banff and Canmore get busy around the holidays – it’s one of the most popular places in Canada so book your holiday early!
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, there is no skyline in the world more iconic than New York with its architectural feats, bridges, and Central Park.
It’s next to impossible to not 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 restaurants, bars, street food, museums, concert venues, art galleries, and neighborhoods are all world class.
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 a special holiday cheer in the air. The shops, coffee shops, and general vibe in the streets are so magical. There are Christmas markets, and parties, and then, of course, the lighting of the tree in Rockafeller center. It’s a city one must visit sometime in their life.
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 and brings people in from all over the world. I will never regret booking a spontaneous flight to Melbourne years ago just to go to the prestigious Melbourne Cup.
People often make their way straight 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 an amazing city/town in 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 yourself 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 all common 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.
Lech Am Arlberg, Austria
If we were to pick one of our favorite ski resort towns in Europe it would definitely be Lech Zurs Arlberg. The village ambiance is tough to beat in the winter months due to a wide selection of boutique hotels all intimate in size due to strict ordinance laws. You won’t find any mega hotels or foreign investment in this former farming village.
It’s all distinctly Austrian with restaurants, hotels, bars, chalets, and B&Bs run by local families. 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 in order to guarantee your chances. Northern Norway is largely 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 major draw for Narvikfjellet as their brand new gondola provides access to some big terrain with views of the fjord down below.
Madonna Di Campiglio, Italy
This is the jewel of the ski and winter scene in the Trentino region. It’s a well-known resort that is famous for hosting many Italians looking for solid skiing, dining, and relaxation in a very posh environment. In fact, 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.
The town is nearly car-free and it’s easy to take an evening stroll after a day on the slopes. We spent our evenings 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 hiking trails. High above Grindelwald lies to the Bernese Alps, and a famous mountain face. That mountain is Eiger’s notorious North Face – yup the clothing company you have probably heard of is named after a mountain in Switzerland.
The village has a long main road and plenty of accommodation options to handle a large number of tourists that make the journey up the valley from Interlaken. The village lacks the charm that the surrounding villages have such a Gimmelwald, Murren, or Wengen, but it does provide amazing access to the mountains – great for skiers and those after a solid European winter holiday.
Zermatt in the winter time can only be described as a magical winter wonderland. This chocolate box alpine village, under its blanket of snow, 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, its traditional and modern chalets, its lack of traffic (it’s a car-free village) as well as 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 a great 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 last year. 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 kilometres making it the fourth smallest country in Europe with a population of only 38,000 people!
Malbun is a small town in the alps that is great for a winter vacation in Europe. It’s 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 the month of December. The mountain and town is big enough to have some fun in, but also small enough to let children run wild and free!
What to Pack When You Travel in December
You’re going to need something to carry your belongings in while you’re traveling around the world. Even if you’re not doing extensive hikes or long days you need at least something for carry on and day trips.
You can see all our other backpack recommendations below:
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun when you’re traveling. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
If you’re wondering what travel necessities to bring to around the world then good walking shoes should be your top concern.
I ALWAYS have a down jacket with me when I’m traveling in the winter, fall, or even spring. They aren’t just good for hikes, but doing anything outside.
Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag. Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites (hint –Feathered Friends, Arc’Teryx Cerium LT Hooded Jacket, Patagonia Down Sweater, REI Coop Down Jacket)
Goretex Rain Jacket
We’re building up a collection of shell jackets. We always carry one in our pack and they’ve come in handy many times. Weather around the world can be iffy in November, so it’s best to be prepared. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof and really a great travel rain jacket. We have a bunch of different shell jackets after several years, but my favorite right now is from Arc’teryx.
Any jacket can do the job, but the top dollar ones will hold up and really help in inclement weather.
I love real books, but for traveling it can be easier to carry a lighter and more compact item like a Kindle. Plus, then you can download new books on the go!
Please consider purchasing a travel water bottle before your trip! We hate to see one time use plastic bottles ending up in the ocean. The tap water is so good here – seriously please don’t be one of those tourists that buys plastic water bottles. It’s a waste of money and plastic!
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