Best Time to Visit Europe | When to Go (2022 Honest Guide)

In general, the best time to visit Europe is during the shoulder season. In most European countries the shoulder runs from mid-April to mid-June and again during the month of September. This is the best time to go for cheaper prices and fewer crowds, while still offering relatively decent weather.

Well, that’s the short answer anyway …

The long answer is much more complicated.

The truth is there are many “best times to travel to Europe,” and finding yours really depends on where in Europe you are going and what you are looking to do while you visit Europe.

I’ve traveled to Europe extensively. I’ve been to 35 countries across the continent (many of them multiple times) and I’ve taken trips backpacking Europe during every season.

I’ll break all that and more down in this detailed post on the best time to visit Europe.

Table of Contents

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What is the Best Time to Visit Europe?

The best time to visit Europe is typically during the shoulder season. Europe’s spring shoulder season runs from mid-April to mid-June in most countries. The fall shoulder season is during September. During these times, crowds are thinner, prices still moderate, and the weather warm enough to enjoy your vacation.

Here is a table breaking down by month when to go to Europe for good prices, weather, and crowds:

PricesWeatherCrowds
Jan, Feb, March*LowCold (cool in Mediterranean)Few
April, MayModerateComfortable (often rainy & not quite beach weather)Moderate
June, July, AugustVery HighWarm to very hotVery high
September, OctoberModerateCool (bring a jacket)Moderate
November, December*ModerateCold (cool in Mediterranean)Few

*Note: Christmas market cities & ski towns will have higher prices & greater crowds during winter

As you can see, to me the sweet spots are during the shoulder season months before and after summer.

Europe is wonderful during the summer. The days are long and the nights warm. Europe’s capital cities come along, and its beaches become giant parties. You can have a lot of fun in Europe during the summer season.

But the entire world knows that …

And during summer Europe absolutely floods with tourists. Prices soar to more than double what they were just a couple months before, and many destinations (like overcrowded Santorini) become so over touristed that it can be hard to enjoy the experience among all the crowds.

But note that the above is generalizing for an entire continent, and there is a ton of variation by destination. Ireland is very different than Greece or Spain, for example.

To find the best time to travel to Europe for your situation, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself …

Need a Travel Backpack for Your Trip? Read my guide to travel backpacks for Europe to find out which one I recommend.

5 Questions to Decide When to Go to Europe

The author posing for a photo in Bratislava, Slovakia

Me in Bratislava, Slovakia during my latest trip to Europe

The truth is that picking the best time to travel in Europe is largely a subjective thing. It’s going to be a bit different for every person, and there just isn’t ONE correct answer.

I wish I could just tell you something simple like “springtime in Europe is great” and end this post there. But, while springtime in Europe IS truly great, it’s not necessarily the best time to travel to Europe for everyone.

The first thing you need to do when deciding when to visit Europe is to ask yourself a few questions:

1. Where in Europe do you want to travel?

Aerial view of Prizren, Kosovo during sunset

The Balkans are an affordable destination best visited in spring and fall (pictured: Prizren, Kosovo)

Europe might be one of the smallest continents, but it’s still got a huge diversity of climates. Traveling to Europe in December is going to be a very different experience in frigid Finland than it will be in the Mediterranean climate of Cyprus.

The bad news is this means it can require a little more specific research to find the best time to go to Europe for your specific destination. But the good news is that it means it’s always the best time to travel to Europe (or, at least, somewhere in Europe). So ask yourself this question because first because it might help narrow down your search a bit!

2. How important to you is the weather?

Winter is not the best time to visit Europe if you don

Romania can get a bit cold in winter!

To me, weather matters a lot. I was miserable in Prague in part because the weather was cold and rainy when I visited in October. By contrast, when I visited Madrid a few days later I loved it — undeniably in large part because of the pleasant weather.

I personally prefer to visit Europe when it’s warm but not too hot. Cold and snow make it hard for me to get outside, which is a big part of what I like to do when I travel.

But the high-summer heat in Europe can be overbearing and air conditioning just isn’t the norm in a lot of European accommodation (something I once complained about to the New York Times).

So all of that means that springtime or autumn are the best times to travel to Europe for me if I’m going to the Iberian peninsula, the Mediterranean, or the Balkans, while the middle of summer works well when I want to visit Scandinavia or the northern part of Europe.

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3. Can you deal with crowds if it means visiting Europe at the best time?

People fighting to get sunset picture in Santorini

Santorini is crowded in high season!

Guess what? You’re not the only one looking to figure out the best time to travel to Europe. Every year millions of tourists descend on the continent, and they all tend to congregate in the same places at the same times — especially during the summer, which is a great time to visit Croatia and other summer destinations if you want to fight crowds every step of the way.

Generally speaking, the high season for travel in Europe is from June until late August, with peak crowds around July . And although this is a great time of year to visit a lot of European destinations from a weather perspective, it can also mean the attractions become ridiculously overcrowded.

I felt like sardines when I was trying to take photos in Santorini, and the experienced soured me so much that I wrote a post telling people to skip visiting Santorini altogether!

4. How much does budget matter to you?

The best time to go to Europe: Paris by night

Paris great – but expensive during high season

Along with the high season crowds comes higher prices. Hotels and hostels can easily be double or even triple their low season prices during peak periods. So if you are looking to backpack Europe on a budget, you’ll have an easier go of it if you visit outside the peak periods.

Personally, I find that the shoulder seasons tend to offer the best combination of weather and value. Prices in much of Europe drop after Labor Day, when summer vacations end back in the States and many tourists go home to send their kids to school (or to go back to school themselves).

That all means that September is one of the best times to travel to Europe in my mind, as it’s still pleasantly warm on most of the continent but not too overpriced and overcrowded.

5. Do you want to attend any particular festivals or seasonal events?

You can’t experience Christmas markets in June and you can’t attend Oktoberfest in March (by the way, you can’t attend it in much of October either, as it often – and confusingly – falls primarily in September). So if attending a particular festival or cultural event is important to you, you’ll need to plan around that.

The same reasoning applies if you want to participate in a seasonal outdoor event. Want to go hiking in Germany? I guess you could do it in December, but you’ll have much more fun in June. And skiing the Alps is going to be kind of hard in July.

Resources to Help Find Your Best Time to Visit Europe

Researching Europe? Climate

When trying to figure out what a destination’s weather will be like, I’m a big fan of Wikipedia’s climate charts for cities.

For example, a Google search for “Budapest climate Wikipedia” will pull up this awesome chart that lets you quickly and easily get a feel for temperature, precipitation, and sunshine. You can then use that info to figure out your best time to explore the best things to do in Budapest.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a page that aggregates all these charts together in a usable way, so for now, the best thing I can suggest is to simply run the above Google search for your potential destinations to figure out your best time to travel to Europe.

This site can also help give you a more general sense of climate in various areas, though I don’t find it as easy on the eyes as the Wikipedia charts.

Europe’s Peak, Shoulder, and Off-Peak Seasons

Generally speaking, Europe’s tourist seasons are as follows:

Peak season : June-August

Shoulder Season : April-May, September-October

Off Season : November-March (except in ski destinations, and except during Christmas-New Years period)

Note that the above chart will vary for some regions, especially in the Mediterranean. For instance, visiting Greece is possible year round if you’re not looking to swim. You can also visit Portugal any season.

Just realize your trip to Greece will feel a little different in the winter.

But the above is really just a very rough guide, and seasonality will vary a lot by destination. For example, I’ve found that a lot of Europe’s big northern cities like Amsterdam and Paris actually tend to empty out a bit in July and August, because locals take their holidays and head south in search of beaches and sun.

If you’re a statistics-minded person, you might find this chart helpful as it shows the distribution of tourists for each country by month of the year.

Events and Festivals in Europe

You can find lists of some of Europe’s most popular special events and festivals here.

I personally really want to go back to Amsterdam to experience King’s Day in April!

Tips for Travel to Europe

One last thing before you go: if you’re on a tight budget for Europe trip, check out my tips for traveling Europe cheaply. And I’ve also got a guide to how to choose the best backpack for travel in Europe.

FAQs About When to Travel Europe

What is the best month to go to Europe?

The best month to go to Europe is September. Europe’s weather is still pleasant but the crowds and prices are much lower in September.

What is the cheapest month to travel to Europe?

The cheapest months to travel to Europe are November, January, February and March. The weather is cold so, outside of ski destinations, the winter season tends to have few crowds and discount prices.

What is the cheapest country in Europe to visit?

The cheapest countries in Europe to visit include Kosovo, Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, and Albania. In general, Eastern European countries tend to be significantly more affordable than Western European countries.

That’s it for this guide to the best seasons, months, and times to visit Europe. I hope this helped you find YOUR best time to visit Europe!

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When’s the Best Time to Go to Europe for Budget Travelers?

Let’s start with the Cheapo basics: When are you traveling to Europe? Many travelers don’t have the luxury of choosing their travel dates, as their trips are dictated by academic vacations, holidays or work schedules.

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The result, unfortunately, is that most Western travelers heading to Europe have very similar vacation schedules. These periods tend to make up the “high season,” and include travel in late spring, summer, early fall, and major holidays (especially Christmas and Easter).

High season

Late spring – Summer – Early fall

Pros: Best weather. Most convenient.
Cons: Most expensive flights and hotels. Crowds.

It’s obvious, but worth considering: Heading over in late June or July makes a lot of sense for many Americans, especially those traveling with children or during their own academic break. However, they’re all competing with each other for flights, trains, and hotel rooms, which shoots prices for everything sky high.

This is Disney World — it’s Venice in July.

And it’s not just about money, either. High season also means crowds, lines, and potential disappointments. Restaurants can be more difficult to get into. Museums are often packed. Want to head to the top of the Eiffel Tower? Be prepared to wait… in a long line.

I need to add a quick defense of traveling during high season, however. As mentioned above, for many, there simply isn’t any other option. Many travelers simply have to work with the vacation schedules they’ve been given. And anyhow, let’s face it: The weather is probably going to be glorious. So at least you can work on that tan while you’re waiting in line…

However, if you can tweak the timing of your trip a bit, you’re in a position to save on everything from flights to hotels.

Shoulder season

Early spring and Late fall

Pros: Pretty good weather. Fewer crowds. Lower prices.
Cons: Watch out for school vacations.

Paris in early May still belongs to the locals.

The “shoulder season” is the transition period between the pricey high season and the cold and cheap low season. Generally speaking, this period is in the early spring (late March and early April) and late fall (October and early November).

Traveling through much of Europe during the shoulder season tends to be a delight, with far fewer crowds (the kids are in school, after all), and lower prices for airfare and hotel rooms. It’s usually pretty great.

Of course, the weather is famously fickle and increasingly hard to predict, but late March and early April tend to offer the first smells of spring throughout much of Europe (although you should certainly pack an umbrella), and October and early November remain quite pleasant (although chances are you’ll need a hat and gloves at night).

Our only warning for shoulder season is to be aware of school vacations (see note below). You might find yourself swamped in a museum.

Low season

Winter

Pros: Cheapest. Fewest crowds. It’s you and the locals.
Cons: The weather. Some attractions may be closed. Special conventions may pack city.

I love traveling throughout Europe during the late fall, winter and early spring. This is when I usually travel, partly out of necessity, as I need to inspect hotel rooms (which is difficult to do when they’re all occupied). Thus, I’m quite accustomed to hitting the road as temperatures are dropping.

But hey — think of all those fabulous free museums in London you’ll have to yourself!

But even if my travels didn’t require empty hotels, I’d still probably choose to take at least occasional trips during the winter months. It’s a magical time, when major tourist destinations, from Amsterdam to Zurich, belong to their residents. It’s a far different experience from visiting during the high summer months. Restaurants are filled with locals, museums are relatively quiet (save a group of local students on a tour), and sidewalks are bustling with neighbors.

The low season isn’t a great time, of course, for sun-seekers and those averse to cold temperatures. And skiers will find that the winter is anything but “low season” in the Alps. However, most travelers looking to connect with local cultures, spend days wandering in museums, and attend concerts and other prime cultural programming, will love low season travel.

And budget travelers will love the lower costs of airfare, hotel rooms, train tickets, car rentals and many other related travel expenses.

Some notable exceptions

In covering the basics of seasonality in Europe, I’m painting with some broad strokes. There are several notable exceptions to this low/high equation.

A few considerations:

• August in Paris is not “high season”: Right around the first of August, many French workers go on holiday for several weeks, and many families take the opportunity to clear out of their cities and hit the countryside and coast. Residents clear out of Paris, for example, and many (but certainly not all) restaurants and shops close for much of the month. Hotel rates tend to be markedly lower in August, as well, but climb again in September. But warning: Airlines will still charge “high season” prices for August flights. (Read our guide to visiting Paris during August.)

• August in other European cities: Paris isn’t alone. Many European cities see a dramatic dip in tourism (and hotel rates) in August, as travelers opt for sandy beaches over cobblestone streets. Traveling to Venice, Florence and Rome during August will be cheaper than during May, June or September.

• Late October – Early November: Most students throughout the European Union have an academic break the last week of October and first week of November. Many of them hit the road on class trips. If you’re traveling during this period, you will see them… everywhere. This could affect hotel availability, plus museums and other attractions will be more crowded.

• Christmas break: Traveling during the Christmas and New Year holiday can be a mixed bag. Flights will be at their “high season” heights (with the possible exception of flying on Christmas Day itself), although hotel rates can be lower.

• Outdoor sports have their own seasonality. Skiing the Alps? “High season” for winter sports is February (especially mid-to-late February, when the French have their winter breaks). Head to the same mountain towns in May and June for lovely hikes… and lower prices.

Watch out for special events

One warning about low season: Cities throughout Europe fill their empty hotel rooms during the low season by hosting business conventions, expos, major sports matches, and other special events. These can wreak havoc on a budget travelers itinerary.

The Schottenhammel tent at Oktoberfest, Munich.

A while back I headed to Amsterdam in late October (normally the low season), only to book my trip during the city’s annual marathon–which sells out every room in town. (I ended up booking a hotel in nearby Utrecht for a couple of nights and commuting in. More about that here.)

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Other events to avoid include Paris’ fashion weeks (early March late September/early October), and Venice’s Biennale and Carnevale (early/mid February).

And then, of course, maybe you’re purposefully planning a trip because of a special event. Such is the annual conundrum created by the Oktoberfest celebration in Munich in late September and early Oktober… er, October. What can I say? It’s going to be expensive. (All is not lost: We do have some tips for saving at Oktoberfest!)

Tip: When planning your trip, if hotel rates look uncommonly high, do a search for “Special events in [city]” to double check that you’re not trying to visit during a peak (and expensive) travel period.

More help

We have more advice on the best time to visit specific cities and countries: Best time to visit Amsterdam, Berlin, Lisbon, New York and Paris.

(Photo credits: Venice in summer by davidbolton, Paris in May by Faungg, London blizzard by neiljs, and Oktoberfest by nataliemarchant.)

This Is the Cheapest Time to Fly to Europe

Alison Fox is a Travel + Leisure contributor. She has also written for Parents.com, The Wall Street Journal, and amNewYork. When she’s not in New York City, she can be found at the beach or on the slopes.

Paris in Autumn

Dreams of fresh baguettes in France, overflowing and frosty beer steins in Munich, and sipping on an Aperol spritz during aperitivo in Milan are possible. And you don’t have to break the bank to do it.

While flights to Europe can sometimes skyrocket around holidays or peak season, it’s possible to regularly find flights for under $400 round-trip — if you know when to look, that is.

The absolute cheapest time to fly to Europe is going to be January through March, Scott Keyes, the founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, told Travel + Leisure. That is followed by September through November.

“There are so many people who can only travel in the summer: students, teachers, families with children. Going just after, when the school year starts, there’s a lot less competition for seats,” Keyes said. “Airlines don’t have a ton of airplanes in reserve so if there’s a big increase in demand, then the prices go up.”

So if hitting the ski slopes in Engelberg, Switzerland or sipping hot chocolate at one of Paris’ many people-watching cafes appeals to you, here are Keyes’ best tips for how to find the absolute cheapest deals to Europe in the fall and winter.

Start searching early.

Keyes said one of the worst things you can do is wait until the last minute as prices tend to skyrocket close to the scheduled flight. Instead, he said to look to book in the opposite season from when you want to travel (book flights in the summer to leave in the winter and book flights in the winter to leave during the summer).

“The sweet spot, ideally, when you want to book is about two to six months ahead of time, maybe a little bit longer if you want to travel during summer or Christmas, New Year’s,” Keyes said, but added that even better than that is to “start looking around the New Year for September, November. As soon as a great price comes up, I’m going to book it, but when you’re more like 11 months out, I’m going to be more patient. You’ve got a lot of time. it’s better to have 10 months from when you want to fly rather than two months — you can be choosy.”

Search flights to other cities neighboring your target destination.

Keyes said subscribers to his site have reported saving more than $1,000 by booking flights to or from a neighboring city (like flying out of New York City instead of Philadelphia or flying into Brussels instead of Paris). Keyes said this works particularly well for more out-of-the-way destinations — for example, if you want to go to one of the Greek Islands, consider flying into Athens first.

“You can take a train or a budget flight anywhere in the continent for under $50. Just getting across the ocean cheap is really the key,” he said. “Being flexible with your airports. is one of the best things you can do to try to get cheaper flights.”

Compare options using Google Flights.

The search engine allows you to put in up to seven airports of origin and seven potential destinations at once.

“It’s so powerful in terms of what it can search,” Keyes said. “It’s looking at all of these 49 combinations and showing you the cheapest possible flight of any of those 49 combinations. So it makes it really easy and simple from a consumer standpoint to sift through.”

Be flexible.

While Paris may be your ideal destination, Keyes said flexibility is paramount to finding the cheapest flight possible. Instead of setting your heart on the City of Light, maybe look to explore some lesser known destinations in Europe if a cheap flight happens to come along.

“It’s not a bad idea to have an ideal in your mind, [but] if you just really narrowly tailor your vision. you end up missing out on some really good deals,” he said. “Rather than setting your heart on one place first. see where the cheap flights pop up. It’s kind of a shift in your mentality, you’re making cheap flights the goal rather than making [a certain city] the goal.”

Watch out for extra airline fees.

Keyes pointed out that airlines, especially budget ones, often charge fees for things like seat selection and baggage (sometimes that charge is even per leg of a flight for connecting flights) and it’s important to know exactly what you’ll have to pay for.

“The main thing to be aware of is that most airlines now are running the basic economy model,” he said. “The biggest thing that I recommend is trying to project forward when you book a flight [and] if you’re pretty sure you will want to check a bag, take a look at what it costs to upgrade to main economy. It’s something to be aware of.”

Source https://travellemming.com/best-time-to-travel-to-europe/

Source https://www.eurocheapo.com/blog/cheapest-time-to-visit-europe.html

Source https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-tips/cheapest-time-to-fly-to-europe

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