During these difficult times, we’re all dreaming of a much-needed holiday. While the possibility of travel this December is uncertain and many major events like Christmas markets and countdown parties may be cancelled, it’s never too early to plan a year-end vacation – perhaps for next year or the year after. Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of where to go in December, so you can choose your perfect destination now.
Best holiday events in December
1. Bali, Indonesia
Bali works all year round, but a Christmas here is way better than a sack full of toys, as any dedicated traveller will tell you. Bali is pretty dry in December, unlike large swaths of Southeast Asia where the rain is coming down in sheets. If you go early in December and remember to book early, you can find some amazing hotel deals as well, so this island is one of the best places to go on holiday in December! Things may seem a bit slow when compared to peak season, but Bali always throbs with life even on the slowest day. Check out some of the surrounding islands nearby!
2. Seoul, South Korea
K-Drama fans already know how romantic Seoul can be during the holidays, and even casual fans looking for where to go in December will get a thrill seeing how the city transforms into a haven for lovers. If the air outside gets cold, head to a jimjilbang, the traditional Korean sauna, where you will warm back up in no time. For nourishment, head to a chicken and beer parlour and meet some gregarious locals as you enjoy this simple delicacy. For one of the best holiday events in December, try Lotte World, whose Christmas parties are pretty amazing. Ice skating at Seoul Plaza is another memorable experience that will stay with you long after you’ve left, and for an unforgettable New Year’s Day experience, check out the Sunrise Festival, a celebration of all the new year holds in store.
3. Tokyo, Japan
Do you really need an excuse to head to Tokyo? Well, in December, it makes the list as one of the best places to go on holiday. As excuses go, Christmas is as good as any, as the world’s coolest city is even cooler when festooned with colourful displays of cheerful illumination. Seeking tradition? Head to the amazing temples and shrines, like Sensoji, for a taste of Japan’s past. Looking for something more modern? Tokyo embraces modernity with a fervour that few other cities can match. As for holidays, Christmas is more of a romantic holiday for younger Japanese, but for tourists, the shopping is unparalleled. While New Year is traditionally a time to spend with family, Tokyo has embraced the idea of a countdown party, and there will be plenty of places to celebrate. Pick up a fukubukuro lucky bag from one of the many department stores in the city to surprise yourself with some Christmas bargains.
4. Sydney, Australia
Revellers in Sydney get to be among the first people in the world to ring in the New Year, and when it comes to parties, the locals really know how to get down. With its extravagant midnight pyrotechnics display and innumerable festivals and exhibits, there is more than enough to keep the whole family grinning as they ring in the new year at one of the best events in December! For someone looking for a hot Christmas, Sydney is enjoying some of the nicest weather in the southern hemisphere, and the water temperature is a balmy 21 degrees, perfect for splashing and surfing.
5. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City, the bustling commerce capital of southern Vietnam, usually welcomes the start of the dry season in December, meaning you won’t need to pack your wellies for this trip. Ho Chi Minh City, being the growing country’s most bustling and international city, is a great place to celebrate the end of the old year and ring in the new. As a formerly Catholic city, the grand old cathedrals are fantastic for Christmas services, and the world-class hotels contribute to the spirit of the holiday with displays and events not only for Christians, but fans of Christmas as well. For New Year’s celebrations, the city turns out in force to party with the rest of the world, and the city’s rooftop restaurants give travellers a front-row view of the colourful explosions filling the sky. Check out The Rex Hotel’s iconic Rooftop Beer Garden on Dong Khoi Street. It is a fantastic place to start off Lunar New Year’s Eve in the busiest city in the south of Vietnam.
6. Bangkok, Thailand
Monsoon rains avoid Bangkok in December, so chances are you’ll be high and dry if you choose Thailand this Christmas. Shopping, of course, is a big draw this time of year, and you’ll be sure to find the best gifts for all the people you care about (and yourself too, of course!). New Year’s Eve is when the party really gets going here, and there are hundreds of choices to pick from. The options run the gamut from family-friendly places like Asiatique Riverfront, to quieter and more subdued options like hotel countdown parties. DJs from all over the world fly in for all-night dance parties, so keep your eyes on the club guides. Money a little tight come December? Experience Bangkok on a budget!
Best places for a winter wonderland
7. Venice, Italy
Italy’s canal-laced fantasy capital is enchanting at the end of the year, when the crowds of tourists have thinned a bit and mists descend upon the canals. Cheap flights abound in early December, and hotels offer special deals to attract more business, making this month especially attractive to cost-conscious travellers. For travelling around Christmas, the cathedrals of the city are magical places to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and on New Year’s Eve, the squares of the city fill with revellers as entertainers from the city and around the world strut their stuff to entertain the crowds. Even if you arrive without an itinerary, you will find that simply wandering the byways of the city can be a fascinating and richly rewarding experience.
8. Budapest, Hungary
Budapest looks glorious in winter, especially when the snow coats the city in a white crust of fairy dust. The festive city strings lights along major roads, public squares and even on trams, bringing an extra touch of magic to the already magical city. Budapest has many of the same traditional European-style holiday attractions, and you won’t feel you’re missing out on anything by choosing here over some of the other options. The Christmas market in Vorosmarty Square has an amazing selection of goods and treats for hungry travellers. Hungarians know how to party as well. For one of the best holiday events in December, try the December Bath Party at Szechenyi Spa Baths.
9. Berlin, Germany
Winter gifts Berlin with a magical aura that enchants visitors to this ancient city in the eastern stretches of Germany. As the lakes ice over, and the cafes and restaurants drag their sidewalk seating inside, the social life shifts indoors, where the warmth of the coffee and the company make the winters feel warm and cosy. People come for the art and the culture, and December is a great place to experience both the modern and traditional sides of the city. The iconic Christmas markets come to life and people buy mulled wine and marzipan to warm their spirits. Berlin’s nightlife is legendary too, and the dancing can continue for days. It’s also home to one of the largest street parties in Europe, and the music and movement is the perfect way for the modern party people to welcome the new year.
10. Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Glasgow is Scotland’s student hub, and is famous for its music scenes, which means your time here will be exciting and culturally rich. For New Year’s Eve parties, there will be gigs galore with amazing DJs to ring the new year in. Known as Hogmanay, Glaswegians young and old converge upon venues all over the city to dance the night away. For a traditional taste of old Europe, check out the Glasgow Christmas Market at St Enoch Square. For an elegant taste of the UK, you can try Christmas-themed high tea at Cup Tea Lounge. Last but not least, nothing battles winter chill like Scotch whisky, so try some at the Pot Still, where they have over 700 whiskies to warm your stomach.
11. Stockholm, Sweden
Like the rest of Scandinavia, the sun sets early in this cosy capital, but the doughty Swedes are well prepared for the dark of December and have tons of things to do during these long winter nights. Pack your warmest gear because it will be cold, but the warmth of the city will make it more than bearable. If you happen to be there in early December, head to church to see the festival of Saint Lucia, where children don candle crowns to ward off the dark and chill of winter. Closer to Christmas, be sure to visit one of Stockholm’s gorgeous Christmas markets, popular with both visitors and residents, where you can shop for souvenirs like Christmas decorations or delicious snacks like sausages while you sip on glogg. Top it off with some live entertainment and you’ve got yourself a Christmas!
12. Copenhagen, Denmark
For a Christmas destination that just feels really Christmas-y, Copenhagen is worth considering. In addition to the crisp air and potential for snow, sights like Tivoli and Nyhavn will put you right in the mood for a fairy tale European Christmas. While the weather is cold, the vibes are warm, and the Christmas markets are the perfect place for your meals and gifts. While it gets dark quite early this time of year, the Danes will be up for a party, so make some friends and get festive in one of the happiest cities in the world. The clubs come alive and the parties stretch late into the night.
Published in October 2016 and updated in May 2020. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.