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Best places to visit in December for Australians
From sun-kissed beaches to white winters, these are the top December escapes.
December presents Australians with so many travel opportunities that it's difficult to choose the best destination to escape to and relax during the silly season.
We've got your choices for you whatever your preference.
1. Best budget destination: Adelaide
The city of churches comes into its own in December.
Adelaide basks in the heat of summer during December with sprawling markets, summer festivals and Christmas cheer in the air. As it does get quite balmy during December, it's not peak season, keeping prices low and making it among the most budget-friendly options for travellers this month.
According to Skyscanner, flights in December start from $232 return (from Melbourne on Jetstar). This price was retrieved on 3 November 2023 and is the cheapest domestic flights to book at the moment.
- December weather: 23–31°C
- Top December events: Christmas markets, Adelaide's Christmas Festival, Ghan International Film Festival, Civic Park Carols, VALO Adelaide 500, Moonlight Cinema, Adelaide Town Hall Christmas Concert, Test Series vs West Indies and Christmas Wonderland Festival.
- Pro tip: Take a day trip out to Adelaide Hills for some wine or Monarto Safari Park for a wildlife adventure.
2. 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 midnight in one of the most impressive pyrotechnical displays in the world.
- December weather: 23–28°C
- Top December events: Christmas markets, New Year’s Eve parties, the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
- Pro tip: Book a spot at a waterfront restaurant on New Year's Eve for unparalleled views without the crowds.
3. 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 list. You can only explore the region during summer from November to March as it's too dangerous during winter.
Expeditions are by cruises that depart from South America and Tasmania. During December, you can expect warm and bright days (relative to other months). If you're lucky, you can spy whales, elephant seals and penguins.
- December weather: -16–25°C
- Top December events: Tail-end of elephant seal mating season, penguin chicks about to hatch.
- Pro tip: Can't spare the time for a big cruise? Another alternative is to take a scenic flight over the icebergs with a private Antarctica flight.
4. Best city to visit: Melbourne
Melbourne, it's been way too long.
Now that Victoria has reached high levels of vaccination, the restrictions are quickly being removed, making it a city worth a visit. It could be to reconnect with friends and family or it could simply be because we're pining for a good cup of coffee.
Whatever the case, December is a great time to visit the state for its warm weather and warmer welcomes.
- December weather: 24°C
- Top December events: Myer Christmas Windows at Bourke Street Mall, Christmas Projections, Melbourne Music Week, Christmas Square, Jon Foreman's Aussie Pops Orchestra Gala Concert and Christmas Eve Circus Spectacular.
- Pro tip: Spend a day driving the iconic Great Ocean Road.
5. Best for beaches: Gold Coast
Because we can't think of anywhere better to hail the sunshine than the Sunshine State.
When December comes around, you can bet your bottom dollar that everyone will be making a dash for the beach. And while Australia has more than its fair share of beaches, it's safe to say that Queensland has some of the nation's best.
Whether you choose the Whitsundays, the Gold Coast or elsewhere in the Sunshine State, you're practically guaranteed to get a top dose of vitamin D.
- December weather: 28°C
- Top December events: Christmas at Warner Bros. Movie World, Mayor's Christmas Carols and New Year's Eve parties.
- Pro tip: Stay where there's buffet breakfast to start your day off with a bang.
6. Best Christmas culture: 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. Live out your Christmas movie fantasy.
- December weather: 1–10°C
- Top December events: Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting, New Year's Eve ball, Hanukkah celebrations, Radio City Christmas Spectacular and Bryant Park Winter Village.
- Pro tip: Book your tickets into the Crown of the Statue of Liberty early as there are only limited spots per day – you can do this online.
The best of the rest
Australians can finally head overseas this year. Not all countries have opened up to Australia so you might want to consider those ones for December in 2023 (but hey, that's more time to plan and book).
Best places to visit in Asia in December
- Cambodia. Rain showers are rare, humidity is almost zero and temperatures are at their most comfortable. December in Cambodia is that sweet spot where you can explore temples in comfort and still sunbathe by the coast.
- The Philippines. It's among the few Asian countries that celebrate Christmas with gusto. You'll get to take part in all the festivities including the Giant Lantern Festival in Pampanga.
- Vietnam. The weather has dried out and seaside vacations are a go, especially in the south where islands such as Phú Quốc and Côn Đảo are ideal at this time of year.
Best places to visit in Europe in December
- Germany. When you think of Europe in December, chances are Christmas markets are at the top of your list and Germany is undoubtedly the king of Christmas markets. Sample traditional foods and sip on mulled wine as you scour through the picturesque wooden stalls.
- Budapest, Hungary. This eclectic city seems made for winter with its lively ruin bars, thermal baths, Christmas markets and even an outdoor ice rink to really immerse yourself in the vibe of the city.
- Tallinn, Estonia. Looking for a bargain European getaway? Take yourself to Old Town Tallinn for a winter escape with a medieval feel. You'll be able to eat, drink and be merry for a fraction of the cost of its neighbours in the west.
Best places to visit in India in December
- Rajasthan. Experience the vibrant culture of the Pink City, a desert safari in Jaisalmer or the lakeside palaces in Udaipur. Rajasthan is ideal in December. While nights can get quite chilly, daytime temperatures are much more comfortable for sightseeing than any other time of the year.
- Uttarakhand. Known as the "home of the gods", here you'll find the holiest rivers in India, fascinating history, exotic wildlife, challenging treks and Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world.
- Kerala. Whether you're after a beach getaway, keen to explore the state's backwaters or interested in taking a peek at a tea plantation or two, this southern state packs a punch and sightseeing is ideal in the winter months.
Best places to visit in Canada in December
- Quebec City. For a romantic European feel complete with history, snow, lights, great shopping and Christmas markets, look no further than Quebec City. Stay for New Year's Eve and be prepared for one of the biggest spectacles in Canada.
- Banff. Ski season is in full swing here and those looking for adventure can fill their days with dog sledding, cross-country skiing and ice skating on a frozen lake. Keen for some downtime? Unwind at one of the many hot springs and spas.
- Niagara-on-the-Lake. Here you'll get a month packed full of events thanks to the Winter Festival of Lights. Sample some world-famous ice wine against the jaw-dropping backdrop of the mighty waterfalls covered in ice formations.
Best places to visit in Italy in December
- Rome and Vatican City. As you can imagine, Christmas in Italy is a big deal, and for many, seeing Christmas mass at St Peter's Basilica is a lifelong dream. Even if the church thing is not for you, the city is filled with events, markets and nativity scenes.
- The Amalfi Coast. Popular tourist sights like Pompeii and Herculaneum are free from the usual crowds and the city's streets, all decked out in fairy lights reflected on the water at sunset, create a magical atmosphere.
- Cervinia. Snow bunnies looking for some guaranteed snowfall in December should head straight to Cervinia. 160km of pistes with lift access to the slopes of Zermatt in Switzerland brings the count up to an impressive 360km.
Best places to visit in the US in December
- Stowe. Embrace the season with this winter getaway that has everything from snowboarding and alpine skiing to dog sledding and ice fishing.
- Aspen. While NYC is known for its big showy events, the 12 Days of Aspen has a lot to offer. Highlights include ice skating, concerts and a breathtaking firework spectacular over the snow-covered Rocky Mountains for New Year's Eve.
- Puerto Rico. If you'd rather escape the cold, then head south and then some more. Spend time on Puerto Rico's beautiful beaches and sample some of the local cuisine at the annual Festival del Macabeo.
Best places to visit in Switzerland in December
- Basel. What's Europe in December without a Christmas market? Basel Christmas Market is among the best. Walking through the well-preserved Old Town, indulging in local treats and shopping up a storm can't be beat.
- Bernina Express. This is among the most beautiful train journeys in Europe and one of only a handful in the world that has been marked a UNESCO World Heritage site. Feast your eyes on the region in all its glory as you snake your way through ancient glaciers, crystal-clear lakes, alpine towns and snow-capped peaks.
- Zurich. Whether you're up for braving the annual 111-metre teeth-chattering swim across the Limmat river, walking through the magical Christmas markets or partying the night away on New Year's Eve, Zurich is the place to be.
Best places to visit in Thailand in December
- Phuket. Sure, it's popular, but for good reason. December in Phuket is ideal if you're after great weather conditions for swimming and beach hopping.
- Ko Chang. On the flip side, if you're ready to get away from it all, then make a beeline for the Andaman Coast where you can stay in a bamboo bungalow, swim in gentle waters and eat local Thai food every day.
- Wonderfruit Festival, Pattaya. Thailand's biggest arts and music festival combines Asian and western cultures with performances and wide-ranging workshops.
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 the 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, such as 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.