West Europe December, Best Cities

The British Museum Great Court, London, England

The British Museum, London, England.

A chilly and grey city in December but Christmas lights are up, bargain sales start early and the selection of brilliant, world-class museums and art galleries are free to enter. Yes, The British Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, Natural History Museum, Tate Modern gallery, National Gallery and more, all free!

Europe December Weather

For sightseeing in Europe choice is limited in December, unless a) you’re happy with primarily indoor culture b) you don’t mind the cold c) you head seriously south.
North and central Europe are usually either cold, wet and grey, or cold, white and dark, with daylight in increasingly short supply as you move north.

On the upside, tourists are also in short supply, many cities add interesting lights to their streets, and indoor entertainment is exceptional.

Some European cities have lively pre-Christmas markets, or colourful New Year celebrations, or super-value January sales.

There are lively, colourful Christmas markets, lights and entertainment in these pretty European cities:
Austria (Vienna); Belgium (Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp, Bruges); France (Paris, Lyons, Lille, Strasbourg, Nancy, Metz), Germany (Berlin, Heidelberg, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Munich, Trier, Dusseldorf); Netherlands (Amsterdam); Sweden (Stockholm).

Austria: Vienna Kaiserball – waltzing into Vienna’s glamorous ball season is this, the ultimate in posh dances, set in the Hofburg Palace. No expense spared. December 31st.

England: Officially the London sales start in early January, but many high street shops start their sales just after Christmas. Combine shopping with Christmas and New Year celebrations, throw in a few sights and some sensational, free museums and you might be able to ignore the chilly grey skies. Snow is rare.

Scotland: Edinburgh has post-Christmas sales, plus a totally wacko Hogmany, Dec 31st, a truly wild and wooly underwear occasion, with a torchlight procession, a Fire Festival, fireworks, concerts and much insobriety, in a city dark yet strangely light. . . Beware low light, cold, wind and high precipitation.

Sweden: Santa Lucia Day, (blonde girls celebration/parade) especially Stockholm, Dec 13th.

Russia: St Petersburg, Russian Winter Festival, late December.

Also see European Festivals or Arts Festivals for suggestions, information and dates.

Best West European cities December for sightseeing in good weather

Spain: with the exception of Madrid (cold) and the north (very grey and wet), southern Spain is generally a warm and pleasant 12C (54F) in December but statistically the second wettest month of the year, though you may also expect 4 hours of sunshine daily.

The best bet for a dry-ish cultural experience in December is in Andalusia in the south, visiting the magical Moorish cities of Seville, Cordoba and Granada, where the days are warm and the nights coolish, as well as Malaga and Cadiz cities that don’t depend on beaches for tourism.

Barcelona too is a lively, fascinating city – spiced up by weird Gaudi architecture, though it may well be chilly and/or wet in December.

Portugal:  December is Lisbon’s wettest month but you can still expect a few hours of sunshine every day and high temperatures around 15C. Try the pleasant old-fashioned atmospheres of Lisbon, Sintra and Evora.

The French Riviera has decent daytime temperatures of about 15C (59F) in December,  not much rain, maybe overcast but visitors can  expect 5 or 6 hours of sunshine daily. Italians appreciate their neighbour’s weather and joie de vivre and invade the Riviera coast in huge numbers in around Christmas. Sea temperatures are about 15C at this time so some bold swimmers still take a plunge, especially at Christmas.
Popular Riviera cities are  Nice, Antibes, Monaco, Cannes.

Italy: The southern part of Italy has generally mild December with limited rain, though in Rome it’s by far the wettest month of the year (high temperatures 15C/59F), Pompeii, Herculaneum and Sicily are excellent cultural targets, while Amalfi takes good care of those who need a scenic uplift.

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