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The Best Places to Visit in December

Visit in December
By Mark Ellwood
Why not nix that chore-like trip to visit the family this holiday season and make a break for an international Christmas market instead? If frosted trees and mulled wine leave you cold, what about a warm-weather getaway to party on the beach in the world’s sexiest city? Either way, we have you covered: These are the seven best places to visit in December. 

St. Moritz, Switzerland

Thanks to regulars ranging from George Clooney to Audrey Hepburn, star-studded St. Moritz remains one of Europe’s most glamorous ski getaways. But it’s also a top-notch winter sports mecca, especially during December. This month, the Ski World Cup brings three days of Olympic-caliber sport from the best female alpine skiers in the world. Just after Christmas, the Bob: Swiss Championship features both men and women competing in adrenaline-fueled bobsled and skeleton racing at speeds of up to 85 mph. Rest up at the five-star Kulm hotel, which has been a local landmark for more than 160 years. The 21,000 square-foot spa is the ultimate après-ski spot.


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Christmas Market Vienna, traditional market at Vienna Town Hall in December
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Courtesy Adam Policky/Captain Fairfield Inn

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Santiago, Chile

Travelers often overlook Chile’s capital city in favor of splashier South American destinations like Rio or Buenos Aires. It’s a pity, though, as Santiago is clean, well-run, and a superb base, especially in December when temperatures rarely dip below the mid-70s. Explore funky neighborhoods like Barrio Italia, named after the immigrants who settled here in the 19th century and now home to some of the best shopping in the city (especially antiques), or museum-filled Barrio Lastarria. Combine this with a few days in Valparaiso, just a two-hour drive west, which the late poet Pablo Neruda called home. Once a trading hub, it was rendered a backwater by the opening of the Panama Canal; the brightly colored buildings bolted to the steep hillsides have been well preserved as a result. Sample some of the local wine with a trip to the tasting room at all-organic Matetic vineyards to the south; there’s even an onsite guesthouse.

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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Pick a month, and you’re guaranteed to hit Cariocas in a partying mood. But in December, even Rio outstrips its own reputation. On New Year’s Eve, more than two million people descend on Copacabana Beach (pictured) for the Reveillon party, which peaks at midnight but goes on for hours afterward. Expect live rock music, samba bands, and fresh coconuts to sip (and to spike with a little rum, if you like). Wear white as a tribute to the local heritage. The bash is a legacy of the Afro-Brazilian Festa de Yemanja when the namesake goddess of the sea, known as the Mother of the Waters in this oceanfront city, was traditionally offered gifts and flowers. Now, celebrations often consist of flickering candles in paper boats launched out into the darkness.

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