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European Vacations in December



The British Museum Great Court, London, England

The British Museum, London, England


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European weather in December

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 south.
North and middle 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.


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There are lively, colourful Christmas markets and entertainment in these pretty European cities:
Austria (Vienna); Belgium (Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp, Bruges); France (Paris, 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.



Sightseeing/culture in reasonably comfortable weather conditions

Spain: with the exception of Madrid(cold) and the North(wet), Spain is generally warm and pleasant in December. The best bet for a dry cultural experience is in the south, visiting the magical Moorish cities of Seville, Cordoba and Granada, where the days are warm and the nights coolish. Barcelona too is a lively, interesting city, though it can be a little chilly/wet in December.


Italy: The southern part of Italy has generally mild winters with blue skies, so Rome, Pompeii, Herculaneum and Sicily are excellent cultural targets, while Amalfi takes good care of those who need a scenic uplift. Venice is chilly, damp and foggy, but has a terrific mysterious, romantic quality, enhanced by the lack of tourists and relatively welcoming locals.


Skiing: All over, but especially French, Switzerland and Italian Alps, Pyrenees, Austria.
Skating: Netherlands, on canals if it's cold enough.


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