When travelling in winter, Europe is hands down one of the most beautiful continents you can choose. Not only is it full of festive cheer, but the cosy ambiance of snowy cities and twinkling lights will lull you into a contented Christmas coma while you sip on a hot cup of mulled wine. 

Even if strolling through a scene straight out of a cheesy Christmas rom-com isn’t your cup of glühwein, you’re bound to find something on this list you’ll resonate with. Here are some of the best places to visit in Europe in December this year.

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Best European Countries to Visit in December

Depending on the length of your stay, you may prefer to spend your time in several different cities rather than just stay put in one location. Take a look at some of the best countries to visit in December.

Germany

Although Christmas markets are dotted throughout Europe in winter, even the Europeans flock to Germany for the ultimate Christmas market experience. 

There’s often a Gothic cathedral benevolently watching over the festivities, and some markets even have their own ice rinks and live nativity scenes to add to the fun. You can buy tasty lebkuchen, drink hot chocolate or glühwein from souvenir market cups, and fill up your tote with delicately handcrafted Christmas ornaments and warm winter accessories. 

There’s also the spectacular Christmas Garden in Berlin as well as a superbly festive ice rink ringed around the Neptunbrunnen fountain. 

On the snowier western side of the country, your inner child can indulge in sleigh rides and toboggan runs. With all this to offer, Germany is by far one of the best countries in Europe to visit during winter time. 

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Austria

Austria could easily be classified as one of the most infinitely Instagrammable countries to choose from when deciding on the best place to visit in Europe in December. 

The snowy weather emphasises the charm of the baroque castles, churches, and quaint houses of its cities and towns. You could take in the ambiance of villages like Hallstatt or stroll through Christmas markets listening to the cadence of carolling choirs. 

Vienna hosts a world-famous New Year’s ball where the dress code is strictly formal, and you can waltz and dine on fine foods to your heart’s content. 

Music lovers have their pick of classical concerts to attend in Vienna and Salzburg, and adventure enthusiasts can try out tobogganing or indulge in some skiing at any one of the highly affordable ski resorts

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The Netherlands 

The Netherlands may not be as big on Christmas markets, but they have a passion for fireworks and will not disappoint on New Year’s Eve. In fact, you’re likely to hear them going off regularly once the sun sets in the more residentially dense areas during the week leading up to New Year’s.

The capital city of Amsterdam also boasts a Light Festival with gorgeous electric works of art throughout the winter months. If historical culture is what you’re looking for instead, head to any of the famous museums nearby to catch a glimpse of your favourite works of art. You might even find a souvenir or two. 

If you’re still around for New Year’s Day, grab some oliebollen and make for the beaches to watch (or even partake in) the Dutch tradition of jumping into the North Sea.

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Best European Cities to Visit in December

If you fancy sticking with one city for your vacation, it’s best to pick one that has a lot to offer. Whether that means activities or scenery, here are the best cities for you to choose from.  

Venice, Italy

During winter, the most appealing aspect of this top destination in Europe is the lack of tourists clogging up your holiday snapshots. 

Venice is renowned for its canals and also its crowds, and thankfully when the cold sets in they tend to thin out. That doesn’t mean Venice is without its own wintery attractions, though. 

There won’t be snow yet in December, so taking a gondola ride is still possible (don’t worry, they have blankets!). There are also Christmas concerts in the Basilicas. Piazzetta San Marco is usually the hub of activity. Here you’ll find a classical performance to kick off the festive season as well as a massive party to ring in the New Year. 

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Budapest, Hungary

The 118 natural thermal hot springs are by far the fundamental standout feature of Budapest. 

Winter in Europe is usually characterised by snowy landscapes and activities like sleigh rides and skiing. However, the cold weather and gorgeous thermal hot springs offer the discerning traveller a different experience best enjoyed in the winter months. 

Budapest is even home to one of the most popular Christmas markets in Europe in recent years. Pair this with the breathtaking St Stephen’s Basilica Light Show and the unusual kaleidoscope of different architectural styles, and you’re sure to experience a truly unique winter vacation. 

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Rovaniemi, Finland 

If your idea of a December vacation is a winter wonderland, then Rovaniemi is the perfect choice when you’re wondering where to go in Europe in December

It may be famous to the young at heart as the unofficial home of Santa Claus — which, let’s face it, is as charmingly festive as you can get. However, it has a lot more to offer than Santa sightings and reindeer rides. 

There’s also a snow hotel and an ice bar to visit. As if that’s not enough, how about a bucket list experience? December just happens to be one of the best months to view the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) in northern Finland, which you can do from the comfort of a thermally-controlled igloo. 

Temperatures sit well below freezing on average, so pack some serious winter garb to keep the cold at bay.  

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Final Thoughts on Visiting Europe in December

December brings out the best in some countries, but Europe really shows it off to its full potential. There’s nothing like exploring some of the best countries in Europe to refresh and prepare you for a new year. From whimsical winter wonderlands to luxurious thermal springs in the snow, we know that you’ll make the most of wherever you decide to go in Europe in December.