Seeking winter sun in Europe might seem counterintuitive. After all, most tourists during this time of year are looking to enjoy bustling ski resorts or the famous Christmas markets. However, I was surprised that this continent harbors surprisingly warm winter getaways.
But where exactly in Europe can you find sunshine during this frosty season? Luckily for you, I’ve taken the time to review over 50 European destinations to identify the hottest average temperatures in December among the bunch.
In this guide, I explore the 16 warmest places in Europe in December, uncovering hidden gems that defy the traditional chill of the season. From the sun-drenched expanses of the Canary Islands to the inviting climate of Crete, these destinations promise a delightful escape.
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Where is hot in December in Europe?
The Canary Islands emerge as the hottest place in Europe in December based on our analysis of 50 popular spots. These islands offer an ideal blend of warm temperatures and minimal rainfall, making them a prime choice for a sun-soaked getaway during the winter months.
Madeira and the Azores follow closely behind, although these destinations experience slightly higher levels of precipitation. If you’re not looking for an island escape, the hottest countries in Europe in December are Spain, Portugal, Malta, Greece, and Cyprus.
Warmest places in Europe in December
If you’re looking for warm places in December in Europe, here are the top 16 (which we will cover in detail in this article):
- Gran Canaria
- Madeira Island
- São Miguel Island
- The Algarve
1. Tenerife, Spain (Canary Islands)
Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, is one of the hottest places in Europe in December, thanks to its location off the coast of Africa. With winter temperatures averaging in the mid-60s, this volcanic island becomes an enticing retreat for outdoor enthusiasts.
For example, experience surfing, windsurfing, and hiking amidst more affordable prices and fewer crowds than the high season. Of course, Tenerife is home to Mount Teide, Spain’s highest point and the Earth’s third-tallest volcanic structure, standing proudly at 12,188 feet (3,715 m).
Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers visitors the option to ascend via cable car or secure a permit for a challenging summit hike. Beyond the heights of Teide, Tenerife beckons with its diverse beaches, ranging from golden sands to rugged, volcanic black shores.
For wildlife enthusiasts, this season provides an excellent opportunity for dolphin and whale watching through catamaran tours. Then, to complete the Tenerife experience, indulge in local cuisine, with a must-try being papas arrugadas!
In December, most tourists stay on the southern coast, particularly Costa Adeje and Los Cristianos. Remember that you’ll typically find a warmer and drier climate on the southern part of the island versus the north.
2. Gran Canaria, Spain (Canary Islands)
Gran Canaria is the third largest Canary Island, famous for its diverse landscapes, earning it the nickname of a “miniature continent.” After all, you can find green rolling hills, rocky mountains, and white sand beaches on this volcanic island, making it a perfect winter escape.
Beaches like Maspalomas and Playa del Inglés, where sea temperatures hover around 68°F, aren’t the best for swimming this time of year. However, they do provide a delightful setting for sunbathing and leisurely seaside strolls.
With temperatures in the mid-60s, December in Gran Canaria strikes an ideal balance, offering crisp air and mild conditions conducive to outdoor adventures. Hiking enthusiasts can head to Roque Nublo, a towering rock formation offering panoramic island views.
Or, consider visiting the second-highest point on the island: Pico de Las Nieves. It’s accessible by car, and there are hiking trails for those seeking a more active approach! On a clear day, you can see Tenerife’s Pico del Teide and half of Gran Canaria from this vantage point.
The Maspalomas Dunes in the south present a unique ecosystem, where visitors can go camel riding, adding a touch of exoticism to their vacation. Or, history lovers will enjoy places Vegueta, the colonial heart of Las Palmas, boasting architectural gems like the Cathedral of Santa Ana.
Gran Canaria, with its warm weather and year-round appeal, blends natural wonders, outdoor activities, and cultural exploration.
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3. Lanzarote, Spain (Canary Islands)
In the winter season, Lanzarote beckons travelers to its enchanting landscapes shaped by volcanic activity. Despite December being one of the island’s cooler months, it maintains a remarkably mild climate, with temperatures rarely dipping below 65°F during the day.
Explore the renowned Timanfaya National Park, where cooler temperatures offer a comfortable setting to explore the volcanic terrain, including dramatic craters and lunar-like landscapes. We suggest a guided bus tour or a walking tour with one of the park’s rangers for an in-depth experience.
Discover the Jameos del Agua, an underground oasis created by César Manrique, or visit Cueva de los Verdes, a series of underground caves. The island’s allure extends to La Geria, known for its unique vine cultivation methods, and the historical charm of Teguise, with its vibrant markets.
Although it’s too cold for my taste to swim, you can still hang out on the Papagayo beaches or go surfing! Celebrate the New Year in style at Puerto del Carmen, Playa Blanca, or Costa Teguise, where festivities featuring live music and fireworks.
|0.85 in (21.5mm)
4. Fuerteventura, Spain (Canary Islands)
Ranked among the warmest winter destinations in Europe, Fuerteventura, the second-largest Canary Island, offers a haven of sun-soaked delights in December. It’s best known for its expansive sandy beaches that are popular with both sun-seekers and water sports enthusiasts.
After all, the island’s consistent trade winds make it a hotspot for activities such as windsurfing and kiteboarding. Thanks to its year-round mild climate and beaches, Fuerteventura’s nickname is “the Beach of the Canaries.”
You can expect daytime temperatures around 64 to 73°F (18 to 23°C). With this in mind, most establishments remain open during the winter season. Additionally, december is considered one of the best times of the year for surfing on the island.
So, why not take a surfing lesson? After all, the sea temperature is around 67.6°F (19.8°C), so you should be good to go with a wetsuit! Moreover, winter is prime time for dolphin and whale watching.
Other popular activities in December include exploring the iconic sand dunes of Corralejo Natural Park. The unique desert-like landscape is ideal for photography and buggy tours. Plus, you can always enjoy the nearby beaches!
We also suggest visiting the historic town of Betancuria to explore its charming streets, historical sites, and museums. Of course, even though it’s winter, the beaches in Fuerteventura are also a big draw, including Playa de Sotavento and Playa de Cofete.
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5. Madeira Island, Portugal
Madeira Island is located in the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately 520 kilometers (323 miles) southwest of Portugal’s mainland. Famous for its breathtaking natural landscapes, the island is characterized by lush green mountains, dramatic cliffs, and picturesque valleys.
Madeira enjoys a mild and subtropical climate throughout the year, making it the perfect place to escape cold winter weather. The island’s famous levadas and botanical gardens remain lush and vibrant during this season, providing excellent opportunities for scenic walks.
With this in mind, December is an ideal time for hikers, as the temperatures are comfortable, and the trails are less crowded. Although the weather is cooler compared to the summer months, daytime temperatures range from a comfortable 59 to 68°F (15 to 20°C).
The capital city, Funchal, is known for its charming old town, vibrant markets, and historic sites. Visitors can explore the city’s cultural heritage, including the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption and the Madeira Story Centre.
Don’t forget to try local fortified wine, often referred to simply as Madeira wine, on your trip! Also, if your vacation coincides with New Years, you won’t want to miss the island’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display in Funchal.
|4.53 in (115mm)
6. São Miguel, Portugal (Azores Islands)
Situated in the North Atlantic Ocean, São Miguel Island, also called “The Green Island,” is the largest of the Azores islands. In December, while Europe experiences a cooler climate, São Miguel enjoys mild temperatures, hovering in the high 50s to low 60s (14-17°C).
This makes it an ideal destination for active travelers, despite occasional rainy days. Often referred to as “Europe’s Hawaii,” the Azores Islands, with São Miguel at its forefront, feature volcanic craters, crater lakes, hot springs, and diverse ecosystems.
December visitors can explore the stunning Lagoa das Sete Cidades, where the twin lakes are surrounded by lush landscapes. Or, indulge in the warmth of geothermal springs and savor a traditional Cozido das Furnas, a meal cooked by the earth’s natural heat.
São Miguel is one of the few places in Europe where tea is cultivated, making a visit to the historic Gorreana Tea Factory a must. Of course, there’s also the Parque Terra Nostra, the Lagoa do Fogo, and pineapple plantations where greenhouse tours offer insight into the cultivation process.
Conveniently accessible from both Europe and the East Coast of the US, São Miguel welcomes travelers with 5-hour direct flights from Boston and New York. Or, if you’re traveling from Europe, you can take a short 2.5-hour flight from Lisbon.
|6.26 in (158.9mm)
7. Gibraltar, U.K. (British Overseas Territory)
Situated at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, Gibraltar is a unique destination that combines stunning natural beauty with rich historical significance. This British Overseas Territory may only be 2.6 square miles (6.7 km2), however it’s got plenty of things to do.
For example, its famous “Rock of Gibraltar” is home to the Barbary macaques, the sole population of wild monkeys in Europe. Plus, the territory’s duty-free status offers a unique shopping experience, while the scenic cable car ride to the summit of the Rock provides panoramic views.
Discover the stunning St. Michael’s Cave, where you can see impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations. Or, history buffs will love visiting the Great Siege Tunnels, a series of tunnels and galleries carved out during the Great Siege of 1779-1783.
The Rock of Gibraltar is merely 7.7 nautical miles away from Morocco, equivalent to 8.9 miles or 14.24 kilometers. With this in mind, you can expect much warmer temperatures than the rest of the United Kingdom–mainly in the mid to high 50s (12-15°C).
Many tourists visit Gibraltar as a day trip from cities in southern Spain, like Seville, Malaga, or Marbella. The close proximity of this destination to the Costa del Sol International Airport makes it convenient for travelers to include in a broader vacation plan.
|5.93 in (150.7mm)
8. Valletta, Malta
Valletta sits on the island of Malta’s eastern coast, in the central Mediterranean Sea, south of Sicily, Italy. It holds the distinction of being Europe’s southernmost capital, the E.U.’s smallest capital city, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site!
Valletta is famous for its Baroque architecture, grand fortifications, and a wealth of historic buildings and monuments. Plus, the nearby sea moderates cold temperatures, leading to exceptionally mild winters, making Valletta one of our favorite warm places in December in Europe.
During this month, the city offers a delightful array of activities that capture the festive spirit and showcase the city’s cultural and historical richness. Start by visiting the stunning St. John’s Co-Cathedral, considered one of the best examples of high Baroque architecture in Europe.
Then, head to Upper Barrakka Gardens for breathtaking panoramic views of the Grand Harbour. Also, don’t miss the chance to try traditional dishes such as rabbit stew or widow’s soup and festive sweets like qagħaq tal-għasel (honey rings).
|3.69 in (93.7mm)
Situated in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus holds a strategic position at the intersection of Europe, Asia, and Africa. With average temperatures ranging from around 50°F to 66°F (10°C to 19°C), it’s much warmer than other European countries this time of year.
Visitors can explore ancient archaeological sites such as the Kourion and the Tombs of the Kings. Additionally, the charming city of Paphos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasts medieval fortresses, Roman villas with well-preserved mosaics, and a picturesque harbor.
Outdoor enthusiasts can take advantage of the comfortable weather to hike the Akamas Peninsula or enjoy boat tours along the beautiful coastline. The Akamas Gorge, a nature lover’s paradise, provides an excellent hiking experience with its scenic trails and unique flora and fauna.
Enjoy hearty dishes such as moussaka and souvlaki, and don’t forget to try local sweets like loukoumades and kourabiedes, especially during the holiday season.
10. Marbella, Spain
Nestled along the Costa del Sol in southern Spain, Marbella is one of our favorite warm European cities in December. Situated on the Mediterranean coastline, this destination benefits from a Mediterranean climate characterized by mild, wet winters.
Renowned for its glamorous atmosphere and luxurious resorts, Marbella attracts visitors year-round. In December, temperatures here remain comfortably mild, ranging from around 48°F to 64°F (9°C to 18°C), making this city an appealing destination for those seeking to escape cold weather.
During this month in particular, one of the top activities to enjoy is strolling along the historic Old Town with its charming Christmas lights. Explore the Orange Square (Plaza de los Naranjos), visit the 16th-century Town Hall, and enjoy the cozy ambiance of local cafes and shops.
We also suggest exploring the upscale Puerto Banús marina and taking advantage of Marbella’s renowned golf courses, like Los Naranjos Golf Club or Marbella Golf & Country Club. Don’t forget to try some traditional local dishes, such as gambas al pilpil, espetos de sardinas, or boquerones.
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11. Mallorca, Spain (Balearic Islands)
Situated in the Balearic Islands in the western Mediterranean, Mallorca, is a great option for warm European destinations in December. This sun-kissed island, with its idyllic location off the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula, enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate.
In December, Mallorca experiences average temperatures from around 50°F to 65°F (10°C to 18°C), providing a pleasant respite from the colder climates of northern Europe. While it’s renowned for its sandy beaches, this island also has lots of activities to keep you busy in the winter.
For example, history lovers will enjoy the Palma Cathedral, a Gothic masterpiece, and Alcudia Old Town, surrounded by medieval walls. We also recommend visiting Valldemossa, known for its Royal Charterhouse, where Chopin once spent a winter season.
If you’re looking for something more outdoorsy, don’t miss the chance to hike the UNESCO-listed Tramuntana Mountains. Or, take full advantage of the holiday atmosphere by heading to local Christmas markets in Palma, running from early December to Three Kings’ Day in January.
|1.94 in (49.3mm)
12. Crete, Greece
Situated in the southern part of the Aegean Sea, Crete is a warm and inviting destination in Europe in December. Blessed with a Mediterranean climate, average temperatures range from approximately 52°F to 63°F (11°C to 17°C), with the southern part of the island offering slightly warmer weather.
Crete is the largest Greek island and boasts a plethora of attractions, including several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. For example, the Palace of Knossos was once the center of the Minoan civilization, featuring impressive ruins, including vibrant frescoes and intricate architecture.
Another top activity to do here during December is to stroll through the Old Town of Chania. It’s home to Venetian architecture, a picturesque harbor, the Maritime Museum, and the Chania Archaeological Museum.
Don’t miss out on Cretan food, like dakos, moussaka, and fresh seafood dishes at traditional tavernas. You can also visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum–home to a treasure trove of artifacts, including items from the Minoan civilization.
|3.37 in (85.6mm)
13. Algarve, Portugal
Nestled in the southernmost region of Portugal, the Algarve is a coveted winter escape. In December, you can expect mild temperatures–from the low 50s to mid-60s (10 to 18°C)–making it one of the warmest places in mainland Europe during this season.
This coastal haven is renowned for its beautiful beaches, featuring golden sands and pristine shores. Although the weather in December isn’t hot enough for a beach vacation, it’s certainly an improvement from the cold and dark winter conditions prevalent across much of Europe.
While water activities may be limited due to cooler temperatures, the Algarve is known for its golf courses, like Quinta do Lago, Dom Pedro, and Vale do Lobo. Plus, hiking trails such as the famous Seven Hanging Valleys Trail offer a chance to enjoy the outdoors.
The historic towns and cities in the Algarve, such as Lagos and Faro, retain their charm in December. In fact, many of these locations host Christmas villages and markets!
14. Malaga, Spain
Malaga, situated on the Costa del Sol in southern Spain, is a prime destination for warm winter escapes in Europe. Thanks to its southern location along the Mediterranean, it experiences pleasant temperatures in December, averaging around 56°F (13°C).
Known for its rich history, Malaga boasts landmarks like the Alcazaba fortress and the Renaissance-style cathedral. In fact, “the capital of the Costa del Sol” is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Western Europe.
Visitors can explore the Picasso Museum, honoring the birthplace of the renowned artist Pablo Picasso, who was born in Malaga. Additionally, art aficionados will love the chance to see the Carmen Thyssen Museum, exhibiting Spanish paintings from the 1700s to the 1900s.
Head to the lively Atarazanas Market, which offers a variety of fresh produce, seafood, and regional specialties. Or, enjoy the Christmas light show on Calle Larios–don’t miss all of the traditional festive sweets, like turrón (nougat) or borrachuelos!
15. Seville, Spain
Seville, located in the southwest of Spain, is a city that basks in the warmth of its Mediterranean climate even in December. The capital of Andalusia enjoys mild winters, with average temperatures ranging from around 47°F to 63°F (8°C to 17°C).
In particular, Seville is renowned for its Moorish heritage, evident in landmarks such as the Alcazar and the Giralda Tower. The Alcazar is famous for its breathtaking Moorish architecture, intricate tilework, and extensive gardens, making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Just across the street, visit the 16th-century Seville Cathedral, the largest Gothic church in the world. Moreover, you don’t want to miss the Plaza de España, originally built for fair in 1929. It features a square with a canal, bridges, and colorful tiles representing different regions of Spain.
Of course, no trip to Seville is complete without attending a local flamenco show, where you can witness the powerful combination of dance, music, and singing.
16. Antalya, Turkey
Nestled along the captivating Turkish Riviera, Antalya graces the southern coast of Turkey with its warm embrace. With average temperatures ranging from around 53°F (11.7°C), this coastal gem offers a delightful escape from the chilly winter elsewhere.
Visitors can explore the well-preserved ancient city of Perge, the ruins of Termessos, or stroll the charming streets of Kaleici, Antalya’s old town. In December, you can still take boat tours along the region’s picturesque coastline or explore the impressive Duden Waterfalls.
Antalya is also known for its delicious Turkish cuisine. Savor traditional dishes at local restaurants, including kebabs, mezes, and sweet treats like baklava, or warm up with a cup of Turkish tea or coffee as you enjoy the cozy ambiance of winter in Antalya.