It seems like it’s becoming increasingly unlikely to experience a white Christmas in Europe. But if you’re like me, you’ll want to find a place that snows for a cosy holiday abroad.
So, where does it snow in December?
Where Does it Snow in December
Obviously, it’s hard to say what’s going to happen; every December is different, but these 10 destinations have great potential for winter snow.
1. Munich, Germany
The Bavarian capital is one of Germany’s most popular travel destinations, but the city has even more than usual to offer in winter.
Munich’s main Christmas market is in Marienplatz, the extravagant main square, but there are many smaller markets too, like the medieval market at Wittelsbacherplatz.
Alternative markets like the Pink Christmas Market and Tollwood Winter Festival are other fun options.
When the temperature drops a little too low for comfort, head to the museum quarter to experience old, new and modern art at the Pinakotheken (Alte, Neue und Moderne).
Follow that with some of the best shopping in Europe and a touristy dinner at the famous Hofbrauhaus beer hall, including live cheesy Bavarian music.
Find my list of things to do in Munich in winter that specifically looks at visiting Munich in December.
If you’re planning a trip, this list of the best boutique hotels in Munich should help get things sorted.
2. Ohrid, North Macedonia
The last time I wrote about Ohrid, I gushed about how it was the most peaceful destination in the Balkans.
Watching the sunset from the church, the gentle sounds of water lapping on the lake edge, a small fishing boat puttering by. It was paradise.
I honestly believe it to be true, in winter at least.
Then I visited in the summer. Quite a different experience. Music was blaring all night long. Every single cafe was filled with smoking customers. Not to mention the party boats. Oof.
The beautiful, quiet lake was tarnished by drunk tourists screaming and partying on crowded boats circling the shore. I’m clearly showing my age here, but honestly, that was not a great experience.
The moral of the story is to visit Ohrid in the off-season if you want a peaceful winter experience in December.
Does it snow in Ohrid? Yes, it can do! I wasn’t lucky enough to see snow on my visits, but it’s definitely possible.
3. Amsterdam, Netherlands
I was shocked and scared the first time I visited Amsterdam for New Year’s Eve.
Fireworks were going off in every direction on every street, over the canals and out windows. It was way too much for me at the time.
You rarely see individuals set off fireworks in Australia, and I wasn’t expecting this to be a thing elsewhere.
But I later learned this is how they do fireworks in Amsterdam and much of Europe.
Now that I know what to expect, I’m much more chilled about the whole experience and even though I still get nervous, I can now appreciate the craziness of New Year’s in Amsterdam.
If you visit Amsterdam late in December, you can visit the Christmas markets, all the wonderful museums, restaurants and bars, experience the New Year celebrations and maybe even see some snow along the canals.
If you can’t make it to Amsterdam in December but would still like to go at some point, this guide to the best time to visit the Netherlands might help with planning your travel.
4. Ghent, Belgium
Sometimes you just want an easy-to-visit destination. Somewhere that’s hassle-free to get to, the sights are within walking distance, and the food is simple yet delicious.
That’s how I see Ghent in the Flemish region of Belgium.
Ghent in December is a stress-free weekend destination that requires little planning and won’t cost a fortune.
You don’t need to plan much because you’ll naturally come across most sights and attractions as you wander around.
It’s a great walkable city, making it easy to get from one place to the next quickly and easily without spending too much time out in the cold, especially as it might snow in December.
Given that Ghent is a smaller city, you won’t have to spend all day rushing around to see the sights; you can sleep late or have a leisurely lunch, do a little window shopping or visit a museum.
Destinations like Ghent are underrated, where your visit is a rejuvenating holiday rather than a crazy visit to a bustling big city.
Ghent is a great day trip from Brussels if you’re travelling from that part of Europe.
5. Venice, Italy
One of my most special travel experiences was watching the sunrise over St Mark’s Square in Venice with gondolas bopping on the lagoon in the distance.
It was a foggy, misty morning, creating a mysterious atmosphere and beautiful scenes.
Even though Venice is known for being overcrowded and over-touristed, I shared this experience with few others. There was hardly anyone else out and about.
This is the benefit of visiting Venice in December, or any hugely popular destination for that matter. Fewer people bother to venture out when it’s cold and foggy.
If you can get out of your warm bed while it’s still dark and minus outside, you’ll be rewarded with empty squares, calm canals and tourist-free photos.
As the climate warms, snow is becoming less common in Venice, but it’s highly likely you’ll get to experience a foggy morning, a classic, eery experience in Venice.
Venice is a mind-blowing destination and, in my opinion, December is the best time of the year to visit.
It’s a destination you might want to get to before rising waters and environmental degradation do further damage to this fragile ecosystem and the historic city.
Please limit negative tourism impacts but not travelling by cruise ship.
In this article, I give tips on how to spend 24 hours in Venice.
6. Transylvania, Romania
The destination of medieval kingdoms, eastern invasions and legends of violent impalement. Transylvania has a wicked history that goes far deeper than Dracula.
The region has a recent mixture of Hungarian, Germanic and Romanian influences and so much more going further back.
If you’re looking for a more affordable European holiday in December, Transylvania is hard to beat, and it’s a region filled with incredible cities and castles.
Consider Timisoara for its bold secessionist architecture, Sibiu for its Saxon history, Brasov for its access to Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle) or Sighisoara for the most beautiful medieval town in all of Romania (pictured above).
When thinking of where to travel in Europe, Romania might not cross your mind, particularly in December when it can snow or at least be raining, but you might be surprised how stunning it is.
Transylvania looks like a cross between Hungary and Germany, and the people are some of the most welcoming you’ll find anywhere in Europe.
Visiting Transylvania and elsewhere in Romania in winter is sure to be a memorable experience.
I wrote a complete guide to taking a Romania road trip if you fancy driving in winter.
7. Zurich, Switzerland
If your budget isn’t much of an issue or you’d prefer a luxury destination, Zurich in December is amazing.
The Old Town has a cosy feel, and it’s great for shopping and drinking Swiss hot chocolate or for visiting the Zurich Christmas market.
Zurich is an especially great choice if you love to travel for food.
There are so many options when eating out but look for classic dishes like rosti and fondue, as well as modern vegetarian restaurants and hipster cafes.
But yeah, just to reiterate, Zurich is not for the budget-conscious.
It is most definitely a luxury destination unless you don’t mind staying in a hostel or a bit further out of the city centre, something that might not be appealing during a cold snap. It’s still worth visiting, though.
8. Hamburg, Germany
I got extremely lucky in Hamburg. A huge storm covered the city in powdery snow the day I arrived. Then the clouds parted, and we had clear blue skies for the rest of the trip.
The city looked so beautiful from every angle. I’m sure the locals weren’t quite so happy, but I love snow!
Hamburg is one of the coolest cities in all of Europe. It’s full of hipster cafes and vegetarian and vegan restaurants mixed in with classic Hamburg hamburgers.
Hamburg is not as touristy as elsewhere, which might explain why the locals seem friendlier and more welcoming, and that’s saying something as I find the German people to be some of the friendliest Europeans.
If, like me, you get to visit Hamburg in December and the snow is falling, take heart in the fact the city has some incredible indoor attractions, including the city’s famous thermal spas, the quirky Minature Wunderland, countless museums, and if you feel like you can handle the cold, ice skating is a must.
I wrote about things to do in Hamburg in winter here.
9. Stockholm, Sweden
The great thing about visiting Sweden in winter, or anywhere in northern Europe, is that they are geared up for it.
It’s not like other places when there’s a light dusting of snow and the entire city grinds to a halt (hello London!).
Stockholm is beautiful in winter; they know what they’re doing, and there are loads of indoor activities to keep you busy.
This includes countless outdoor activities like ice skating, drinking mulled wine or even skiing.
I prefer activities of the eating variety, and if you’re with me on that, you need to educate yourself on all things fika.
I adored spending a weekend in Stockholm when I visited Sweden a few years back.
10. Tirana, Albania
As mentioned in my recent guide to things to do in Tirana, the Albanian capital, is a city that never sleeps, and it’s an interesting off-the-beaten-path winter destination.
Albania’s most popular national holiday is New Year’s. This means you can find fireworks all around the country and street parties in Tirana.
Start your winter visit in Skanderbeg Square, the heart of the city and where you’ll find many events like the Christmas market and New Year celebrations.
Find out where to stay in Tirana and which neighbourhoods are worth exploring.
From Tirana, the port city of Durres is only a 30-minute drive away, or you can visit the mountain village Kruja or take the cable car up to Mount Dajti.
Here’s my full list of recommended day trips from Tirana.
Europe in December
One of Europe’s most popular December travel experiences is visiting the Christmas markets. I highly recommend stopping by one if you get the chance to get involved in this tradition.
For me, the best cities for Christmas in Europe are Vienna, Dresden and Ljubljana but Brussels, Munich, and Budapest are also great places to visit in December.
This post goes into all the best Christmas markets in Europe in 2023. I’ve visited most of them and it’s always great fun.
This is just a sample of some of the best places to visit in December. Don’t be put off by the cold weather or by places that snow. Snow is one of the reasons to go!
These winter city breaks are further travel options if you didn’t find what you’re looking for here.
Winter in Europe is a wonderful experience; fewer crowds are always a bonus.
Sustainable Travel Tips
Start with these ideas on how to travel more responsibly this winter.
- Eco-Friendly Stays: There’s a growing trend of hotels championing sustainability throughout Europe. Opt for places that operate on renewable energy sources. Whether you’re in the bustling streets of Tirana or the serene landscapes of Ohrid, there’s likely an eco-friendly hotel nearby waiting to welcome you, all while minimising your travel footprint.
- Conscious Culinary Choices: European cuisine is undeniably diverse and delicious. However, it’s crucial to be mindful of your food consumption. Order portions you can comfortably finish to avoid wasting dishes. In cities like Zurich or Sighisoara, you’ll find eateries that source locally, benefiting both local farmers and the environment.
- Thoughtful Shopping: Europe’s markets, from Amsterdam’s flower markets to Munich’s Christmas markets, are a treasure trove of goods. While the allure is undeniable, practice restraint and prioritise purchases you’ll genuinely cherish or use, encouraging sustainable consumer habits.
- Embrace Plant-Based Options: European cities like Hamburg and Amsterdam are becoming hubs for vegan and vegetarian cuisine. Even if you’re not strictly plant-based, trying out these options occasionally can be both a culinary adventure and an environmentally friendly choice.
- Opt for Sustainable Transport: Cruises might offer panoramic views, but their environmental impact is significant. Instead, immerse yourself in the landscapes by taking scenic train routes to get around. While driving has its own charms, you might find train travel to be an eco-friendly and equally mesmerising alternative. If driving is essential, hiring an EV has a lower impact.
By incorporating these tips into your European getaway, you’ll enjoy the continent and help ensure that it remains preserved for future generations.
Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research.