TIPS FOR YOUR DECEMBER TRIP TO EUROPE
December is a perfect time to visit Europe. Winter sports lovers will be in heaven, but even if you aren’t into winter sports (like me), Europe is a great destination as the cities are so much fun to visit as well. So, in this post you will find out what to expect when you visit in December – general travel tips (like what to pack) as well as tips on the best cities to visit in December (some cities even offer winter sports possibilities while others offer warm temperatures).
PLANNING A TRIP TO EUROPE IN DECEMBER
Here is what you need to know if you are planning a December trip.
WEATHER IN DECEMBER IN EUROPE
December can be rainy and gray at times. However, it can also be like a winter wonderland. So, this will allow you to do different things in Europe – you can do winter sports but can also do nice strolls along the beach where you have mild temperatures (at least in Southern Italy).
So, in general Europe in December is cold. Countries in Southern Europe are warmer – in Greece, Italy, and Spain you might have some nice warm days. So, it will really depend on where you visit as a generalization is difficult (and each year, the weather is different).
Europe is such a diverse continent with so many countries that you can easily visit by train, car, or plane. So, getting around – even in the winter months – isn’t challenging, and whether you just want to visit certain cities or winter resorts or want to do a full Europe winter trip – you can!
In countries like Switzerland, train travel is actually the very best way to get around. Depending on where you travel to exactly, you can actually have the best train rides in the world (if it is snowing).
And while driving is also okay in most of the countries here, I would not necessarily recommend it as cities can be busy and driving (and finding parking) can be an issue but also because weather conditions might make driving quite difficult in December.
WHAT TO PACK IN DECEMBER FOR EUROPE
Everyday Attire Essentials
Dressing in layers is essential. Even if you visit warmer countries like Spain. For most countries, you will need the following versatile, essential items. Using these items to dress in layers will keep you both stylish and warm.
- Coat – Warm And Waterproof: A warm, waterproof jacket should be one of the very first items that you think to pack. If possible opt for a lightweight, trench raincoat that will keep you warm, dry, and comfortable.
- Hat: Science tells us that we lose up to 10% of our body heat through our heads, meaning that it’s essential to keep this area warm. A knitted beanie is a perfect solution for keeping the warmth in while you venture out. A hat will keep you toasty warm whether you’re sipping mulled wine, checking out Christmas Markets, or exploring the sights.
- Gloves: Have you ever tried to use your phone with frozen fingers? It’s a nearly impossible task. A pair of gloves can do wonders for your mobility, dexterity, and comfort. This makes it one of the most important items on your Switzerland packing list. When selecting your options, it’s worth investing in a pair that can dry quickly and are touch-screen compatible.
- Scarf Or Turtleneck: A warm scarf and/or turtleneck sweater are key items for keeping your neck covered. Not only do these items keep you warm, but they also prevent you from getting ill (and thereby ruining the fun). A turtleneck sweater is perfect as a garment to wear underneath your jacket, while the scarf can be removed easily.
- Leggings: There’s a reason that almost every woman owns a pair of leggings. They are both comfortable and snug. Leggings are an essential item to pack as you can dress them up or down. You can even wear them underneath your denim as an extra layer of warmth.
- Socks: When it comes to packing socks for your December in Europe trip – the thicker the better. Chances are that you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors in the snow, and you’ll want your feet to be warm and cozy. If you plan on hitting the slopes at any stage, then you’ll want your socks to be extra-thick or padded for increased comfort.
- Thermals: A quality set of thermals is your key to enjoying the winter weather – though I love them and they have become my best friends for some cold winter days, I think, you will need them only if the temperature is close to 0 degrees Celsius.
- Comfortable Walking Shoes: If you can only pack one pair of shoes, then make sure that they are a trusty pair of waterproof snowshoes. You’ll want your shoes to be as versatile as possible.
BOOK ACCOMMODATIONS FOR YOUR DECEMBER TRIP
I normally use booking.com for booking my accommodation throughout the world. This is for several reasons – they do find the best accommodations and prices that I would not find on my own. Then I think it is fair to book via them. But most of all, I love their cancellation policy – often you can cancel hotels up to 24 hours before your stay without having to pay for the accommodation.
This is why I have added to my favorite site here, too.
BEST CITIES TO VISIT IN EUROPE IN DECEMBER
Christmas markets in December are just one reason to visit. Here are some of my favorite cities to visit in winter in Europe.
Okay, I am biased as I am a local who has been in Bremen almost all my life. But besides my biases, Bremen is a great city to visit in December for many reasons.
First of all, Bremen has some of the most beautiful Christmas Markets in Europe (aka in the world). The Christmas Markets in Bremen start in late November and end on the morning of Christmas Eve. So, for about 4 weeks, you will find many foods, gifts, souvenir stalls, carousels, and more.
Especially in the evenings, it gets busy and cozy with a lot of festive lighting. And there is not just one main Christmas Market, but actually two main ones – one is especially unique as it is styled as a Christmas Market during the Middle Ages (if they had been any at all).
The city center is beautifully decorated and…what should I say, Bremen in December is perfect to visit.
Bremen is not the biggest city in Germany but has quite a number of shops – boutique shops as well as big chains – that will allow you to do some (Christmas) shopping. Just as a tip: to avoid the crowds, go shopping earlier in the day and not in the afternoon. Check out my Bremen itinerary for more tips.
Beautiful Lucerne is not only a perfect summer getaway but also great to visit in December. Of course, Lucerne has beautiful Christmas Markets, but it is actually perfect because it is also a winter wonderland.
So, after spending time in the city center and checking out the Christmas markets and the beautiful old town, it is time to explore the stunning natural scenery.
Though Lucerne most likely will not be covered in snow, the surroundings will be and so you can spend time in the city (or we should say, Lucerne is a town) and then spend time in the mountains and in the snow.
So, Lucerne is the perfect city to visit if you want to combine city life and nature. Whether you head to Mount Pilatus, Mount Rigi, or Mount Titlis, you can do all kinds of winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, or sliding. Also, if you are not into winter sports, but just want to be outdoors surrounded by snowy mountains, then Lucerne is the best place to go.
Copenhagen is such a fun and interesting city – and visiting in December exceeded all my expectations.
While Copenhagen is located in Northern Europe, there most likely will not be a lot of snow. But visiting before Christmas will allow you to soak in the special atmosphere with many Christmas Markets all around the city. Whether you want to do some luxury shopping or buy souvenirs, Copenhagen has a lot of shops that are waiting for some Christmas shopping.
Copenhagen in December is not only about spending time outdoors and in shops – there are so many interesting museums and castles where you can always warm up quickly and learn a lot about the history of Copenhagen and Denmark.
Copenhagen is very expensive, so if you have a tight budget, I recommend visiting for just 2 or 3 days and getting a Copenhagen Card if you want to make the most of your trip.
Unlike many other places here on this list, it is a more budget-friendly destination while still being absolutely gorgeous. You can visit many museums and learn about the history of Warsaw, which suffered greatly during World War II, and also spend some time outdoors.
But do not expect the city to be empty and quiet – it is still busy and there is a lot going on. With beautiful decorations and stalls throughout the city, you will have a perfectly magical time in Warsaw, which is probably one of the most underrated cities to visit in December here in Europe.
Though Austria, in general, is a great winter sports destination, Vienna isn’t. However, you will enjoy the beautiful city with its Christmas lighting and several Christmas Markets, and with its many shopping opportunities. But you can also go ice-skating or enjoy hot drinks at rooftop bars – Vienna is truly festive.
You can also do a few day trips and spend some time in the snow, doing winter activities close to Vienna. This makes Vienna a must-see in winter in Europe (here are more tips for visiting Vienna in winter).
London probably has the most beautiful Christmas decorations I have ever seen.
London in winter normally is quite busy. Given its many shopping options, people love to visit the city, but there are also so many beautiful markets and places that are fully decorated.
Whether we talk about Covent Garden or Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, these are just two of the many parks that are perfect for nice strolls in December.
Also, the shopping malls are beautifully decorated. Then there are the many museums that you can visit in the winter months. And even in this season, there are lots of rooftop bars that offer stunning views over the city. London in winter is a must-visit place in Europe – check out my detailed winter guide for London.
Strasbourg and Colmar are some of the best places to visit in Europe in winter, as these places are also very well known for their extraordinary Christmas Markets. Both cities are absolutely charming and beautiful throughout the year, but before Christmas, they are even more special and unique.
They might not be so rich in shopping opportunities, but little stalls offer you the chance to buy souvenirs, and little presents, and of course, it is a lot about food and drinks. Though Alsace is great for road-tripping in summer, you should add it to your winter Europe itinerary as well.
Honestly, I have mixed feelings about visiting Iceland´s capital – Reykjavik – in December.
It is quite a relaxed place to visit (compared to the very crowded cities in other parts of Europe), and you might see the Northern Lights. Also, if you do day trips, you will be amazed by the stunning nature in Iceland in December.
Iceland´s winter scenery is unique and cannot be compared to the other places mentioned here, and from Reykjavik, you can also go on some (guided or self-guided) day tours (e.g. Golden Circle).
It is also known as one of the best places to celebrate New Year’s Eve. I have been there and done that and I must say, they really know how to do fireworks and how to party.
However, if you visit Reykjavik in December you should just keep in mind that the days are short (very short). But other than that, Reykjavik is one of the best places to visit in Europe in December.
Valencia is the perfect place to visit if you are looking for a water place and want anything but the typical winter destination.
The beautiful city at Costa Blanca in Southern Spain is an interesting city with a lot of beautiful architecture – the old town with its many stunning buildings is perfect for discovering the city and getting lost.
Of course, you should add the City of Arts and Sciences to your itinerary, as it is one of the main sights to visit in Valencia. And there is also a beach! Though December might be too cold for spending time at the beach, it is warm enough for some nice walks in the sand.
Though there are some Christmas decorations, Valencia is perfect if you DON‘T want to have that festive feeling that you have in Western European cities, where it is much more about Christmas Markets.
Amsterdam is another fun and interesting place to visit in Europe in December.
You will have the chance to see a beautifully decorated city. And whether you visit Amsterdam in summer or winter, you will have that relaxed atmosphere and can do many things that you can also do in the warmer months.
Explore Amsterdam by bike, go on a canal cruise, or just stroll the busy streets of Amsterdam.
Coffee shops are open and – it seems – especially popular in the cold months, for both locals and tourists – not only to warm up but also to have a typical Dutch experience.
And though Amsterdam is in a festive mood in December, you won’t find – fortunately, or unfortunately – the Christmas Markets you will find in many other cities mentioned above, but rather just a few stalls here and there.
Europe in December is beautiful – and it doesn’t really matter where you visit because there are so many pretty and fun places to visit. However, I hope, this post has helped you to inspire you and maybe visit one of the pretty and interesting places mentioned above in December. So, whether you are in Europe already and are just looking for a weekend getaway or if you plan your Europe winter itinerary – enjoy your trip and stay safe!