Discover the best European cities to visit in December and unlock a world of winter wonder and festive delights. You've done Ibiza, clubbed in Mykonos and toured the Florentine museums. Now it's time for something else. We have a few ideas. Whether it's the foodie French city you've not been to, the pine forests of a Croatian island, Portugal in mid-Atlantic or the multicoloured beaches of a Cycladic secret, there's a multitude of European escapes just a few hours' flight away. Oh, and did we mention the most exciting recent museum opening? We've narrowed down the choice to 20 of the best European cities to visit in December. Pack your bags and don't forget to send us a postcard.

18 Best European cities to visit in December 2024

Milos, Greece

Stand by for pink, red and orange beaches that you won't want to leave. For some aficionados, Milos is the only Greek island, truly the jewel of the Cyclades. Volcanic origins bequeathed those beaches and other spectacular sights, white rock formations dazzling against the azure Aegean Sea. Colourful settlements are cut into cliffs, remarkable cultural history includes the iconic marble statue that is the Venus de Milo, now in The Louvre. Unmissable sunsets, too.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

An unusually gorgeous capital city, still largely undiscovered by mass tourism. Ljubljana's charm is abundant, not least on the terrace of one of the summer cafes along the Ljubljanica River. Cars are restricted to city centre only, abundant greenery adds to environmental credentials and to Ljubljana's appeal for a citybreak. Culturally, there's the Slovenian minimalist architecture of Jože Plečnik, Ljubljana's great architect, to admire, while plentiful museums include those for modern art, railways, sport - and a brewery museum.

Menorca, Spain

Generally thought of as the quiet cousin of the Mediterranean's Balearic Islands - nothing so uncouth as a 24-hour Ibizan club culture here - Menorca doesn't need to shout about its substantial attractions. Golden beaches are high on the list: you could try a different one every day and still be just at the beginning. Maó and Ciutadella, at each end of the island, are the two appealingly laidback seaside cities. Travel inland and back in time to experience the island's true rural heart.

Sicily, Italy

Italy, but not as you know it. Sicily has enough going for it to fill several holidays, let alone just the one. You could spent your time in Palermo, the beguiling capital with its cultural attractions, across the island in jetset Taormina which tumbles down the cliffs, ancient Messina with its 12th century cathedral, or in Catania, repeatedly buried under volcanic lava. Above it all, the source of that lava, Mount Etna, still active, vertiginous visit obligatory. Oh, and did we mention the cuisine?

Korčula, Croatia

Cooling pine forests to the interior, inviting beaches in secluded coves and picturesque towns along the coastline, Korčula is among the biggest islands of the Dalmation Coast, dotting the Croatian coastline. The narrow streets of Old Town Korčula were designed to protect against winds, while a climb to the top of St Mark's Cathedral's bell tower is rewarded with breathtaking views. Local wines are said to be the best in all Croatia, and a vineyard tour surely beckons.

Oslo, Norway

Headline here is Munch, the towering waterfront museum dedicated to the work of Edvard Munch, recently opened and pulling in the crowds to see 'The Scream' and thousands of other works associated with Norway's finest. Oslo boasts so much more, of course: there's the innovative restaurants and bars of this most liveable of cities, a booming contemporary arts scene, Oslo's many parks - and the nearby islands and waterways of Oslofjord, the city's summer escape.

Istanbul, Turkey

Wow. Here's the city that literally spans East and West across the Bosporus strait, once known as Constantinople, parts dating back to the sixth century. You're not going to run out of things to do, whether that's marvelling at the multicoloured riches of the Topkapı Palace, taking in the breathtaking Byzantine basilica that is the Aya Sofya, an essential visit to the Blue Mosque - or haggling in the markets. All of that before indulging in the contemporary art galleries, a little light shopping - and some essential Turkish cuisine.

Lyon, France

Set where the Rhône and Saône rivers meet, Lyon's past invites with the ancient streets of the Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which includes the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière, France's oldest Roman amphitheatre. You might, though, just go for gastronomic delights, because this is very much a foodie capital. Take your pick of the numerous small bistros or splash out on one of Lyon's many Michelin-starred restaurants, from traditional to cutting edge. All of that before the many museums - from modern art to cinema and design - and a stroll in the Parc de la Tete d’Or, the country's biggest urban park.

Cork, Ireland

The heart of Ireland's second city is on an island in the middle of the River Lee, and that gives a clue to its romance and laidback appeal. Meander along the old alleyways and soak in the atmosphere, before bringing yourself bang up to date in one of the abundance of artisanal coffee bars. Time spent with stories and music in the traditional pubs - finding the craic isn't hard here - is time well spent, while locals maintain the local restaurant scene is the best in all Ireland.

Azores, Portugal

Not so much Portugal as mid-Atlantic, and that of course is the appeal of these nine volcanic islands. There's so much here: the soaring heights of Mount Pico, the highest mountain on Portuguese territory, the take-your-breath-away volcanic lakes of Sete Cidades, the UNESCO-registered 16th century town of Angra do Heroismo on the island of Terceira, the traditions of the many cultural and religious festivals - and those endless walks along the many beaches. Local cuisine vies with cutting edge cooking for your culinary attention.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria, is a city that transforms into a winter wonderland during December. Its grand Christmas markets, including the famous ones at Rathausplatz and Schönbrunn Palace, offer delightful holiday treats and handcrafted gifts amidst the backdrop of the city's ornate architecture. Classical music concerts and festive decorations add to the city's charm, making it a magical destination for holiday travellers.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague's picturesque Old Town Square is a sight to behold during December. Adorned with a massive Christmas tree and a bustling market, the city's historic charm is accentuated by the winter ambiance. Visitors can explore the iconic Prague Castle, stroll across the Charles Bridge, and enjoy Czech holiday traditions like sipping hot mulled wine and tasting trdelník, a sweet pastry.

Munich, Germany

Munich, in the heart of Bavaria, hosts some of Germany's most enchanting Christmas markets. Traditional Bavarian crafts, delicious treats like mulled wine and roasted chestnuts, and a festive atmosphere await visitors in Marienplatz and other historic squares. The city's stunning architecture, including Nymphenburg Palace and the Frauenkirche, provides a magnificent backdrop for holiday celebrations.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest's thermal baths provide a cozy retreat from the winter chill, while its Christmas markets offer an array of handcrafted gifts and Hungarian specialties. The city's illuminated landmarks, such as Buda Castle and the Hungarian Parliament Building, add a magical touch to the season, making Budapest a captivating destination for December travel.

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin embraces the holiday season with festive lights adorning its streets and a jovial atmosphere. Visitors can explore its Christmas markets, featuring unique Irish crafts and gastronomic delights. Dublin's lively pubs, such as Temple Bar, offer a warm and welcoming atmosphere, perfect for enjoying traditional Irish music and holiday cheer.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam's canals and bridges come alive with enchanting light displays during December. The city's museums, including the renowned Rijksmuseum, offer cultural enrichment in a cozy setting. Visitors can explore the Anne Frank House, take a canal cruise, and indulge in Dutch treats like oliebollen (Dutch doughnuts) and erwtensoep (split pea soup) at the winter markets.

Krakow, Poland

Krakow's historic Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a stunning backdrop for its Christmas market. Visitors can savor traditional Polish pierogi and mulled wine while exploring the city's rich history, including the Wawel Castle and St. Mary's Basilica. The annual nativity scene competition, known as Szopka Krakowska, is a unique cultural highlight during the holiday season.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, with its mild winter weather, offers an opportunity for outdoor exploration during December. The city combines its unique Catalan traditions with holiday festivities, creating a vibrant atmosphere. Visitors can stroll along the bustling La Rambla, visit the iconic Sagrada Família, and enjoy local holiday treats like turron (nougat) and cava (Spanish sparkling wine) at the Christmas markets.

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