12 Best Europe destinations in December of 2017

While December may not be the ideal month to visit Europe, it can actually be a lot of fun and you won't have much competition at the famous sights. Unless you have a special reason to do so, it's best to avoid northern Europe and even most of central Europe in winter. But that still leaves most of the most famous cities, which will be filled with shopping and working locals until just before Christmas.

Below you'll find our list of the best cities to consider for a Europe trip in December. With a bit of advance planning you should be able to get cheap flights between most of these as well, so you can visit several of them as long as you allow about 3 days in each. There is even one reasonable beach destination, although it may not be warm enough this month unless you are from one of the Nordic countries.

If this is your first trip to Europe you may also be interested in our recommendations for best first-time Europe itineraries of your own.

Below you'll find

  1. Europe's best December beach destination
  2. Europe's 10 best December city destinations

Europe's only decent December beach destination

Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

  • December avg high: 71°F/22°C
  • December avg low: 61°F/16°C
  • December avg precip: 1.7″/4.3cm

Anyone looking for a proper beach destination in Europe in December is bound to be disappointed, but the Canary Islands are still a good choice as long as your expectations aren't too high. Tenerife is the largest of these Spanish islands off the coast of Africa, and the best choice for English speakers as well.

The temperatures above don't look great for sunbathing, but it's usually warmer and sunnier in the southwest coast of the island, and that's where most of the hotels and vacation rentals are as well. In December you'll find northern Europeans sitting in the sun here even if it feels cool to the rest of us. And things here are quite cheap as well, although Christmas week is busy.

>>>Tenerife prices and travel tips

11 Best non-beach destinations in Europe in December

Rome, Italy

  • December avg high: 57°F/14°C
  • December avg low: 41°F/5°C
  • December avg precip: 3.5″/8.8cm

If you are planning a general Europe trip in December you are obviously prepared for cooler temperatures and maybe a bit of rain. So the key is to go to the larger cities in the southern areas, and bundle up a bit. Rome is a great choice because daytime temperatures are nice even in winter.

You can get very good deals on hotels up until Christmas time, and even that isn't bad because there are no business travelers at all. If you want to go south a bit more for slightly warmer temperatures you can go to Sorrento, which is a bit south of Naples. It's the ideal base for day trips to Naples and Pompeii. It's also near the Amalfi Coast and the Isle of Capri, although those are extremely quiet in winter.

>>>Rome prices and travel tips

Florence, Italy

  • December avg high: 51°F/11°C
  • December avg low: 36°F/2°C
  • December avg precip: 3.6″/9.0cm

If you are going to Rome you might as well also include Florence in your plans. It's still fairly warm compared to most of the rest of Europe, and it's a short train ride from Rome as well. Florence is the capital of Tuscany and it's the ideal base for day trips to Pisa and Siena as well.

Florence is a fairly dense city so even cooler weather won't dampen the fun much in December. Some people also do day trips to Cinque Terre from here, but those little towns will be nearly abandoned in winter, and not nearly as pretty as they look the rest of the year.

>>>Florence prices and travel tips

Venice, Italy

  • December avg high: 44°F/7°C
  • December avg low: 32°F/0°C
  • December avg precip: 2.1″/5.3cm

Any tour of Italy will need a stop in Venice, at least for a day or two. It's more north and located on a lagoon so it's a bit chillier than the other cities above, but it's still worth a visit if you are in the area. Hotel prices will be low and this is about the only time of year you won't have to fight with insane crowds.

The one thing to be careful of in winter in Venice is the Acqua alta (high water), where during part of the day you might have water up to your shins depending on the tides. Even tourists can still get around on the planks they lay out, but it's not ideal to be there when that happens.

>>>Venice prices and travel tips

Paris, France

  • December avg high: 43°F/8°C
  • December avg low: 40°F/4°C
  • December avg precip: 2.2″/5.5cm

To be honest, we have Paris on the list for best places to visit in Europe every month of the year. In December it will be chilly, but you shouldn't get much rain and you probably won't get any snow either. This is a beautiful city no matter the weather, and most of the attractions are of the indoor variety anyway.

Paris is also a business city so it's very alive for the first few weeks of December until offices start closing for the holidays. The restaurants are busy and the shopping displays are some of the best in Europe. If you want to do most of the famous attractions you should check out our review of the Paris Pass.

>>>Paris prices and travel tips

London, England

  • December avg high: 47°F/8°C
  • December avg low: 38°F/3°C
  • December avg precip: 2.2″/5.5cm

Similar to what we say about Paris just above, London should be on your list for a Europe trip any time of year. London famously has chilly and damp weather most of the year, but the good news is that it rarely freezes here and there isn't much precipitation, so if you wear decent outerwear you can still move around quickly.

Also similar to Paris, London is a business city and it's bustling through December and up until the holidays. The Christmas displays on Oxford Street are world class, and the pubs are always warm and inviting. You might even want to look at our London Pass review if you want to see the top attractions in a short time.

>>>London prices and travel tips

Barcelona, Spain

  • December avg high: 58°F/14°C
  • December avg low: 42°F/6°C
  • December avg precip: 2.0″/5.0cm

Except for Lisbon, which is listed a bit down this page, Barcelona might have the nicest December climate of any major tourist city in Europe proper. It's chilly at night, but the days aren't bad and you shouldn't see much rain at all.

Another thing to consider is that Barcelona is now so popular with tourists that it can be dispiriting to visit in summer. A visit in December will feel much more calm, and the famous nightlife goes all year round. If you are doing the main sights you should have a look at the Barcelona Pass.

>>>Barcelona prices and travel tips

Madrid, Spain

  • December avg high: 50°F/10°C
  • December avg low: 39°F/4°C
  • December avg precip: 2.2″/5.5cm

Even though Madrid is farther south than Barcelona, it's also in the middle of the country rather than on the Mediterranean, so it gets a bit colder in winter. Still, the December weather is quite nice for Europe, and this city is another that is geared more towards indoor attractions as well because summers can also be terrible.

While Barcelona seems to be getting more visitors these days, Madrid will always be the king of Spain since it has the royal palaces and the country's most famous museum. The cities are very different from each other so visiting both is recommended. There is a high-speed train between them in about 3 hours, and it's fairly cheap if you book a month or two in advance.

>>>Madrid prices and travel tips

Lisbon, Portugal

  • December avg high: 59°F/15°C
  • December avg low: 49°F/9°C
  • December avg precip: 4.8″/12.0cm

The Portuguese capital is very remote for Europe, but because it's so far south and west is actually has the best climate of any city on the continent. You can see that the December temperatures are very moderate, although you might get a bit of rain.

More good news is that Lisbon is one of Europe's finest bargains. It's as gorgeous and pleasant as some of Europe's more famous cities, and yet it's surprisingly cheap once you get there. You can take an overnight train from Madrid, but flying is probably a better idea for most people.

>>>Lisbon prices and travel tips

Amsterdam, Netherlands

  • December avg high: 44°F/7°C
  • December avg low: 36°F/2°C
  • December avg precip: 2.8″/7.0cm

Amsterdam doesn't have the best weather in December, but that's actually true of almost every month of the year. In other words, you don't come to Amsterdam to sit in the sun, so coming during December isn't much different from the rest of the year.

This city is stuffed with excellent museums and other indoor sights. But it's really beautiful when going between them any time of year. The nightlife here is also some of Europe's most interesting, so this is a popular stop for those exploring what goes on after dark.

>>>Amsterdam prices and travel tips

Athens, Greece

  • December avg high: 57°F/14°C
  • December avg low: 44°F/7°C
  • December avg precip: 2.7″/6.8cm

As one of the world's most historic and important cities, it's great that Athens also has decent weather in December. You can usually get away with just a light jacket or sweater during the day, and the rainfall isn't usually bad either. The nightlife in Athens is underrated because so many people focus on the party scenes on the various islands during the summer months, so don't plan on going to be too early.

Speaking of the Greek islands, the smaller ones are literally shut down in winter and even the larger ones will be very dead, so it's not really recommended that you even bother this time of year. It's best to fly in for a few days and then fly back out to another city on this list.

Istanbul, Turkey

  • December avg high: 52°F/11°C
  • December avg low: 42°F/6°C
  • December avg precip: 4.2″/10.5cm

Even more remote than Athens, Istanbul also had a mild climate in winter, and it's another of the world's most important cities. As a primarlily Muslim country, you don't want to come to Turkey to do your Christmas shopping, but there are plenty of people celebrating anyway.

Istanbul has become very cheap in recent years due to currency devaluation. The political climate isn't as stable as it was for many years, but that doesn't seem to affect the tourist who actually show up to enjoy the hospitality and low prices.

>>>Istanbul prices and travel tips

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