Best places to visit in December
From sun-kissed beaches to white winters, these are the top December escapes.
December presents with so many travel opportunities it’s difficult to choose the best destination to escape to and relax during the silly season. We've got your choices for you...
So whether you choose to play it local with the family or go all out for Christmas and New Year’s, these locations will make your holiday the best ever.
1. Best budget destination: Rome
Experience the beauty of Rome during low season.
In winter Rome is not typically a hot destination during December – though that shouldn't stop you from rugging up to explore its historical beauty. It might be cold but on the upside, lines to the Colosseum and Sistine Chapel are also virtually non-existent at this time – so you can walk straight in and ignore all the "tour guides" who fast-track you for a price.
- December weather: 8-15℃
- Top December events: Christmas markets, Christmas tree at the Colosseum, Christmas masses and religious parades.
- Best for: Food, history, art.
2. Best city to visit: New York City
Magical doesn’t even begin to describe Christmas in New York City, but it comes close.
New York City is an option at any time of year, but visiting during Christmas is especially magical. Rockefeller Center lights up with its famous Christmas tree and ice skating rink, Christmas concerts fill the air and spectacular window displays abound. You might even be lucky enough to catch a snow flurry and have that perfect white Christmas you’ve always dreamed of seeing.
- December weather: 1°C–14℃
- Top December events: Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting, New Year’s Eve ball, Hanukkah celebrations, Radio City Christmas Spectacular and Bryant Park Winter Village.
- Best for: Festivals, city exploration.
3. Best for beaches: Sri Lanka
Exotic beaches that are closer than you think.
December welcomes the start of dry season in the western and southern cities of Sri Lanka. From Colombo to Galle, Negombo to Bentota Beach, while other parts of the island experience monsoon weather you'll be dry and sun-kissed at these hot spots.
December is especially ideal for whale watching off the south coast.
- December weather: 29ºC-32℃
- Top December events: Peace Expo and Colombo Food Fest (9-10 December), White Night Walk (10 December), Christmas Street Night Market (16 December) and Year-End Shopping Festival (29-31 December).
- Best for: Beaches, culture, food.
4. Best for events: Sydney
Many call it the best New Year's Eve fireworks in the world.
Sydney for New Year’s is THE BEST. We’re not exaggerating. Millions of punters from around the world gather on the foreshore to witness the fireworks light up the sky at 9pm and midnight in one of the most impressive pyrotechnical displays in the world. Keen to join them?
- December weather: 23ºC-29℃
- Top December events: Christmas markets, New Year’s Eve parties, Sydney to Hobart yacht race, Christmas on George Street.
- Best for: Parties, events, weekend getaways.
5. Best surprise destination: Antarctica
Play with penguins on a polar expedition south.
No one can say they've travelled the world if they haven't made it south and ticked Antarctica off their bucket lists. You can only explore the region during summer from November to March as its too dangerous during winter.
Expeditions are by cruise. These depart from South America and Tasmania and during December you can expect warm and bright days (relative to other months) and if you're lucky can spy whales, elephant seals and penguins.
- December weather: -16℃ to -25°C
- Top December events: Tail-end of elephant seal mating season, penguin chicks about to hatch
- Best for: Adventure, nature
Follow the festival: Top December events to attend
- Christmas markets: An event that needs no introduction, Christmas cheer is rife in all corners of the world. Decorations line the streets and Christmas markets take over main plazas in cities across Europe and are scattered in other destinations across the globe. As Christmas is a Christian celebration, non-Christian countries may not celebrate it.
- New Year’s Eve: From parties to fireworks displays, New Year’s Eve farewells the year just past and welcomes the new year ahead. Most countries celebrate it with parties and fireworks displays.
- Northern lights: Somewhere between November and February every year, punters hunt these colourful lights as they dance in the northern night sky up to the Arctic Circle. Popular countries to visit them include Finland, Norway and Iceland. Activity is dependent on the weather but if lady luck is with you, you’ll catch this awe-inspiring phenomenon in all its glory.
When is the best time in December to take a holiday?
December is peak season throughout the world as it’s the biggest holiday period of the year. There are a number of ways to avoid crowds and peak prices, this includes travelling at the beginning of the month before the holiday season truly kicks in.
Alternatively, you may want to spend your Christmas or New Year’s somewhere special. If this is the case and you’re looking to avoid overpaying, book your trip early as prices generally increase closer to Christmas.