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December Europe Travel Suggestions

Our family (wife, myself, 20yr son, 17 yr son) looking to vacation from Dec 18-Jan 3. Does anyone have recommendations on places to vacation in Europe. Note we are from Florida (beaches - been there done that) open to anything but don’t know how to ski. Any advice on Greece during that time? What country(ies) do you think would be most enjoyable? Many thanks in advance for any input.

Posted by
12594 posts

Hi and welcome to the forum!
Can you tell us a bit more about yourselves? Good to know that beaches aren't a big thing for you, and that you don't ski but what sorts of things DO you and your offspring want to do/see on your holiday? What are you interested in? History, art, architecture, archeology, scenery, food, hiking...???? And while you don't ski, you maybe have a problem with colder climates?

And is this your first time abroad?

LOL, "anything" is sort of a throw-darts-at-the-map wish list. There's also not 100% surety all countries will be fully open by late winter, although there's hope. :O)

Posted by
5078 posts

Based on a fabulous trip done the same time of year in 2012, I’d say Italy. We had an apartment in Rome (Trastevere neighborhood, across the Tiber river and west from downtown) for a week, then a flight to Sicily. We rented a car at the Palermo airport, driving a counter-clockwise route over much of the island. A sunset walk near a beach on the southern coast one evening was the only even slightly beachy time the whole trip.

Christmas was at an agritourismo featured in a Rick Steves episode years earlier. Sicily included lots of historic sights from 2,000 years ago, as well as delightful towns and villages. You haven’t fully had chocolate until you’ve been to Modica. Mt. Etna didn’t rain ash on our parade.

A ferry brought us back to the mainland, and we continued with our same rental car up Italy, turning it in at Sorrento, after driving the Amalfi Coast. From there, visits included Naples, Capri, and Herculaneum. New Year’s Eve in Sorrento and New Year’s Day at Pompeii. Then a few more days, before a final train ride into Rome and one more night (airport hotel), before flying home.

The holidays are festive, with every town decorated. Italy was much less busy than a visit in the summer would’ve been, even with Christmas.

Posted by
4872 posts

Greece wouldn’t be my first thoughts for a winter trip, as it can be cold and very wet there.

I would stick to cities as there will be things to do if/when the weather is inclement. Daylight hours will be short. Are you happy to head to northern Europe with colder weather or do you want it milder?

What makes a country enjoyable for you?

Spain or Portugal would be my first thoughts for milder and less wet weather. Plenty of history, architecture and fantastic food and wine. Germany for the Christmas markets but it would be cold. Iceland is interesting in the winter, albeit daylight hours are short. Paris and London are good all year round.

Posted by
137 posts

Hi..a couple of suggestions based on past Dec. Euro trips.
Vienna..then train to Budapset..then fly to Paris..home. another.
Fly into Munich..train to Salzburg. Train to Vienna..then to Budapest..home. or fly into Amsterdam..train to Paris..train to Annecy..did not suggest stay times in each because these were a few enjoyable winter trips with wondetful sights and markets and fun that your kids would like. Another inclusion is Prague..a marvelous winter destination and pissibilities..have fun..all of these cities have Christmas markets which certainly add to the being and all have great train stations!

Posted by
1614 posts

Before Christmas I would visit a couple of Christmas markets - Germany, Austria are two countries I visited markets. After Christmas stick to larger cities where things are open - many smaller, even real touristy towns pretty much shut down.

Posted by
3789 posts

Not strictly 'Europe's but Morocco could be interesting and warmer for Florida's. Egypt, Canary Islands....though they might be a bit lame for the kids. Crete or Cyprus may suit your concept of 'Greece' for that time of the year.

Posted by
4769 posts

I'd say any big city that appeals to you, or maybe two cities that are easily combined, like London and Paris. Just layer up, enjoy indoor sightseeing, and accept the shorter daylight hours. Or, for milder weather, Sicily or southern Spain.

Posted by
145 posts

We've spent two Christmases in Europe and I have one phrase for you: Christmas markets! They are totally magical! Lots of booths with crafts, tons of food and a fun, festive atmosphere! We loved the markets and atmosphere in Strasbourg and Colmar France, but also really appreciated the unique aspects of markets in Vienna and Budapest. Of course, Germany is purported to have the best markets! I would visit areas that have markets and then of course see the normal sites.

With your time frame, I love the suggestion to fly into Paris and then hit Strasbourg (sleep in nearby Colmar), maybe through southern Germany and on to Vienna and Budapest, but it's so much ground to cover. Maybe you could do something like 4 days Paris, 3 days Strasbourg/Colmar, 2 days Lausanne, Switzerland, 3 days Annecy, 2 days Lyon, fly out of Paris? I don't know if you've been to Europe before and want a grand tour (in that case you could go from Colmar to Munich to Vienna and Budapest) or if you would prefer to visit one country more in-depth. Winter travels means staying in cozy hotels, taking public transport more often and knowing you may get drizzled on sometimes. You may cover less ground than you think. I would avoid snowy areas because of the packing headaches. Also, I agree with the idea of being in large cities on Christmas and the day after as places basically shut down for the holiday. Have fun!

Posted by
2264 posts

As others have mentioned, it would be helpful if you told us a bit more about what you are looking for. The big question is how and where you want to spend Christmas and New Year? There are many places that are good for the holidays, just remember that most countries more or less shut down over Christmas, some more than other.

Don't let your lack of skiing stop you from enjoying the winter. There are many things to do that don't involve skiing. Like watching the northern lights, from a mountaintop restaurant an outdoor hot tub, or just through the window. Go on a dog sled tour of the wilderness, or snow mobiles or a reindeer sled. Try ice fishing or, if you are brave, ice swimming. Visit the Ice Hotel. There are many options if you don't like skiing.

Posted by
19170 posts

If avoiding cold weather is a factor for you (it certainly is for me), you can get monthly-average comparative data from most cities' Wikipedia entries. That's a quick-and-dirty way to see whether Athens or Rome or Seville or Palermo is likely to be warmer or drier at the end of the year. Once you've narrowed things down to a few options, it can be helpful to look at the actual, historical, day-by-day weather statistics available on the website timeanddate.com. The data goes back about ten years. I like to check at least the most recent three years; five is better, because weather does vary a lot from year to year. Timeanddate.com is great for temperatures (not limited to daily highs and lows); for precipitation I used the monthly data from Wikipedia.

Not being a fan of cold weather, I have never been to Europe in December; if I needed to travel at that time of year, I'd look first at southern Spain: Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga, Cadiz. Those are all cities of size that will be lively at that time of year. Smaller places that are primarily coastal resorts might be quite dull. There are other, smaller, inland towns in Andalucia that I found very interesting, but I've only been there between April and August. I don't know what they'd be like in the winter.

Sicily is an utterly fascinating place that could certainly keep you busy for the full length of your trip.

Posted by
2834 posts

Christmas markets don't appeal to me because of the cold. We have been to London at Christmas and loved it. With the tube, you wouldn't have to be outside much and there's so much to see there. The year we went it wasn't memorably cold.

Posted by
540 posts

If you want to see Christmas Markets, plan to go to them first as most of the BEST ones close Dec. 23. There are some open after Christmas - you could google and find the ones open past 12/23.

For Christmas Markets, we love the one in Nuremberg as it's the largest with great vendors and food. Also, 2 cathedrals and an easy train ride anywhere as the Train Station is so close to the old town. We love to stay in Hotel Victoria as it's across the street from the train station and VERY walkable to the Xmas Market and cathedrals.

We love Prague, Vienna, Salzburg.

Italy is another option, so is Spain. Many love London.

There are tons of options - just depends on what you want to see and do. Are you planning to only do the train or rent a car? We always just do the train.

If it's your fist time over there, get the RS book EUROPE THROUGH THE BACK DOOR - it's sometimes cheaper on Amazon. You'll learn so much about how to use a CreditCard, how to get Euros out of ATM, and the last section of the book is all about European towns and what not to miss.

Be sure and download the RS app BEFORE you go - there are many GREAT walking tours to take for free thru the towns and cathedrals of most towns.

Also, European adaptors are cheap here on his site.

Posted by
2 posts

Wow! So many great replies. It has been a varied and lengthy discussion with the family. But I believe we have decided on Italy (Venice/Rome/Naples/Sicily a few days in each area). Thinking mostly by train but may also require car rental for some of our day trips. Thanks to everyone for all the great information.

Posted by
145 posts

Italy is a fantastic country! One thought: when we were in Venice in March, a fellow traveler was very frustrated because they rented an Airbnb and the building had central heat control. So they were very cold (and had kids) but had no access to the heating controls. I know you have 4 adults and may consider apartments but just be aware of this problem, although I couldn't say how widespread it is. Personally, I love hotels bc of the service you get. And being from FL you do not want to be cold in those stone buildings! Good luck!