After spending our summer traveling in Europe, between Lina and I, we have visited Europe during all of the seasons. The best time to visit Europe really depends on the season and your personal preference.
Collectively, we’ve visited Europe 6 times and have spent time in 16 European countries. We both love Europe and each time we visit, realize we will spend our lifetimes exploring new places on each visit.
The traveling year in Europe is divided into three seasons for travelers: peak season, shoulder season and off-season and each one of these varies depending on what region you plan to visit. What might be high season for one country, can actually be shoulder or low season for another.
As you’ll quickly learn when you start planning your trip, each season varies from the other and offers its own pros and cons for travelers. The best time to visit Europe will really come down to your own preference and the country you are visiting.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Europe (Travel Guide)
Guide to the Best Time to Visit Europe
Visiting Europe During the Summer
Visiting during the summer is one of the best times to visit Europe. This also makes it the peak season running from mid-June to late August. With iconic monuments, sunny weather and long days all added together it’s no wonder that travelers flock to Europe in the summer.
It goes without saying that you can expect large crowds of travelers and temperatures high enough to melt that scrumptious scoop of gelato right off the cone.
Expect long lines, full restaurants and photographs with lots of people in them. These things alone can make traveling during peak season unpleasant and at times, unenjoyable.
Summer calls to all types of travelers and it is not uncommon to see the entire spectrum walking down the street at one time, backpackers, families, students and couples alike.
With all of those travelers it can be hard to avoid the large crowds but here are our tips to help avoid large crowds in Europe during the summer peak season.
Europe Summer Travel Tips:
- Allow for extra time while traveling during peak season
- Head to the iconic places as early or late as you can each day. It makes for early or late days but it’s so worth it to enjoy a place without crowds.
- Avoid the places that run summer promotions or deals. It’s great to save money but they are likely tourist traps and will be very crowded.
- Make your plans far in advance for the best rates and availability. Last minute bookings will cost you a fortune and probably end you outside the best areas.
- Rent a car and spend the night in the cities that people normally just visit on a day trip. You’ll be shocked at how quiet the places become when the buses pull out around 5pm each day.
- See Europe by train with a Eurail pass. No long wait times at the airport and no overpriced taxi rides. The trains run, for the most part, city center to city center saving you time and money. Be sure to make reservations early if required for your chosen route to ensure a seat during peak season.
- Buy snacks from the grocery store to make your own sandwiches and have a picnic outside, away from the crowds.
Want to get out of the city? Check out Sixt car rental for available rates.
Another factor to summer travel in Europe is rain preparation. Do not forget your rain jacket and be ready for rain while traveling Europe in the summer. We have had the most rain in three years of travel while traveling in Europe during the summer.
Don’t let the rain ruin your trip, just plan for it and wait it out. There was many times where we waited out the rain and it eventually passed into a beautiful sunny day.
Some places are best experienced in peak season and yes there may be horrible crowds at some destinations but viewing iconic places during their ideal season cannot be rivaled by any other experience.
Peak season offers the best weather and longest days possible to maximize your sightseeing and vacation days during your travels. Perhaps summer is the best time to visit Europe for your travels, you’ll just have to decide for yourself.
Hours of daylight in Europe during the summer: 10-14 hours depending how far North you get.
Weather: Hot and Rainy
Things to pack while traveling during peak season: Rain Jacket, umbrella, waterproof shoes, pants, shorts, long sleeve shirts, short sleeve shirts, sun screen and a water bottle.
Visiting Europe During the Shoulder Season
Shoulder season is typical from April to mid-June and September to early November. Shoulder season varies by destination through all of Europe and is a good choice if you have time during these periods.
The advantages come with decent weather, long-enough daylight and a dramatic decrease in crowds. The only real gamble you have is the weather and your good days could easily equal your not so good days during shoulder season. If you’re flexible and have the time than this is the season for you.
Is traveling in Spring or Fall better? You will have to consider your destination. Both weather and crowds are the same throughout Europe in the spring and fall. Europe is generally dark green in the spring time with lots of flowers however it can be wet and cold where in the fall plants start to brown up.
For outdoor lovers like us, the fall is the best time to discover places like the Alps since many hiking trails are covered with snow throughout late spring. In the fall you can also get crisp blue skies for some great photography.
Money Savings in Shoulder Season: No matter your budget, traveling during shoulder season will be kinder on your wallet. You’ll find more deals and better availability than traveling in peak season.
The trade off is sometime cold hotel rooms, so pack something warm to sleep in, and shortened restaurant hours.
Read reviews and check prices for hotels in Europe with our custom booking site that allows you to search all hotels and compare prices for the best deals on the web.
Hours of daylight in Europe during Shoulder Season: 10-11 hours
Weather: Prepare for a wide spectrum of weather with cool days that can peak hot and generally cold evenings and nights.
Things to pack while traveling during shoulder season? Pack for hot, cold and wet weather. Packing with layers of clothing is key to enjoying shoulder season. This includes long sleeve shirts and pants. Bring a rainproof jacket, bring only a few pairs of shorts, waterproof shoes and don’t forget an umbrella.
You’ll have to ask yourself, is shoulder season the best time to visit Europe for me after reading this information? That’s the best way to decide what you’re willing to compromise on.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Europe (Travel Guide)
Visiting Europe During the Off Season
If you’re traveling to Europe in the off season, enjoy having Europe to yourself. Traveling in Europe on off-season may be the best option for the traveler who does not want to deal with the large crowds or the high prices.
Off-season in Europe lasts from November to late March, peaking in December before the holidays due to the Christmas Markets, and is the cheapest time to visit Europe.
Expect to spend less while traveling in off-season as airfares are normally hundreds of dollars cheaper and with the crowds thinning out you will find many of those expensive hotels drop their prices too.
Keep in mind that many bed and breakfast places or small boutique hotels may be closed, those that still open will be empty and more comfortable than in the peak season. The same can be said for restaurants.
Many of the busy top tourist locations will be empty and you will enjoy taking your time in the museums without being pushed between rooms. Off-season travelers in Europe will be spoiled with walk up service at shops and tourist sites, unlike traveling during the peak and shoulder seasons.
Although there is a risk that popular tourist-oriented parks, shows and tours will be closed so make sure you check in advance.
Want to get out of the city? Check out Sixt car rental for available rates.
It will get dark early and light later, so your days are shorter. The weather can be a gamble and maybe at times be down right miserable, cold, windy and drizzly. Packing can be hard because of the different types of weather. Dress warm for cold weather, since most iconic sites are outdoors.
Most hotels are not equipped with great heating systems so in off season it can be cold in many hotel rooms. Smaller towns can turn into ghost towns during off season and may be shut down to tourists.
This can lead to frustration so it is very important that you confirm all your plans ahead of time. Off season can be the best time to visit Europe for the right traveler and offer many rewarding experiences and a unique look at many iconic cities and sights.
Worth noting: While it will be cold and you’ll certainly have snow, the off-season can be the best time to visit Scandinavia for dog-sledding and Northern Lights viewing.
Hours of daylight in Europe during off-season: 8-7 hours
Weather: Cold and damp.
Things to pack while traveling in Europe in Off-season: Pack for cold and wet. Wear layers of clothing, bring a rainproof jacket, gloves, stocking hat, long johns, good socks, long sleeve shirts, good jacket, pants, waterproof shoes and don’t forget an umbrella.
Related Article: Ultimate Guide to Eurail Pass Train Travel in Europe
First Visit to Europe
- Must Visit Cities in Europe: Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam, Prague, Berlin, Budapest, Barcelona, Venice, Florence, Vienna, Lisbon, Madrid, Dublin, Krakow, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Salzburg, and Helsinki.
- Day trip tours you simply can not miss in Europe: You cannot go wrong with local guides and small group sizes or private tours that Viator offers. Click to see tours in: Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam, Prague, Berlin, Budapest, Barcelona, Venice, Florence, Vienna, Lisbon, Madrid, Dublin, Krakow, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Salzburg, and Helsinki.
- Top Road Trip Routes in Europe: From the glamour and glitz of Paris to glorious grit of Berlin. Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland. The arctic Fjords from Bergen to Trondheim. The unexplored East: Bucharest, Transylvania, Budapest, Brastislava and Vienna. To Portugal and Beyond. The Romantic Road in Germany. Godly beaches and ancient highways in Greece. London to Edinburgh and the Highlands. Auto-Europe offers great deals on rental cars. We spent three weeks exploring Germany with our rental car from Auto-Europe.
- Tips for booking your flight: Book your ticket during shoulder or off-season, if you book your ticket in peak season you’re going to pay the most for your airplane ticket. Even if your ticket is for traveling in off-season. Also, if the seasons overlap peak-shoulder you will also pay more. Search for Flights: Priceline or Skyscanner offers great deals to Europe.
- Tips for booking your hotel in Europe: If you are traveling in peak season, absolutely book your hotel as far in advance as possible. Hotels fill up very quick and if you wait too long, you may find yourself with only very basic or very expensive options available. The farther out you can book, the better. Find Accommodation in Europe: Read reviews and check prices for hotels in (London, Paris, Rome, Crete, Barcelona, Prague, Istanbul, St. Petersburg, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Budapest and Berlin.) at TripAdvisor.
- Don’t want to plan anything? Why not book a full tour with TourRadar? TourRadar offers some of the best fully planned tours in Europe and all you have to do is book. Take a Europe holiday and enjoy history, adventure and food. Discover stunning Europe tour packages that will help you get the best fares ensuring a wonderful time while visiting the romantic Paris, ancient Greece or the serene Scandinavia. Discover cheap vacations, while enjoying premium services. Below are some of the great tours TourRadar offers:
Is Europe Safe?
While traveling in Europe this past summer it was evident that most European countries have their own worries and there were armed military guards at train stations and in city centers. Despite this, we never felt threatened.
Most traveler issues are petty crimes like pickpockets, bag snatchers and opportunistic crimes. Just be aware of your surroundings, all of your items and you will be fine.
We find travel in Europe to be very safe overall and very enjoyable. Practically everywhere you travel is easy with modern amenities, restaurants, accommodation options and the ability to stock up at the grocery store and go it on your own if you like.
Transport is reliable and efficient, with well-maintained roads. You really can’t go wrong with a vacation to Europe, no matter how many days you have.
We use Pacsafe bags since they are 100% pickpocket proof. Never get pickpocket again!
- Pacsafe Citysafe CS100 Anti-Theft Travel Handbag
- Pacsafe Venturesafe X30 Anti-Theft Adventure Backpack
- Travel Money Belt RFID Blocking
- Pacsafe Toursafe AT21 Anti-Theft Wheeled Carry-On, Black
When is Your Best Time to Visit Europe?
We are lucky enough to have flexible jobs and lifestyles to pick when we discover Europe, others do not have that chance. You can easily travel to Europe 365 days a year and each season will offer different experiences and adventures.
While we love to visit Europe in the summer, you cannot beat the weather, we openly admit the crowds are tough to deal with. This makes early Fall, in our opinion, the best time to visit Europe. No matter when you decide to visit though, you’ll enjoy amazing sites and culture.
More on Europe:
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- 13 Perfect Things to do in Hamburg, Germany
- The Ultimate 3 Days in Rome Itinerary
- The Ultimate 3 Days in Lisbon Itinerary
- Ultimate 3 Days in Florence Itinerary
- The Ultimate 3 Day Weekend in Barcelona Itinerary
- Ultimate 3 Days in Prague Itinerary
- 25 Things to Do in Krakow for the Perfect Visit
- 3 Day Bruges City Break Guide
- Ultimate 3 Day Weekend in Dublin Itinerary
- 3 Day Krakow Itinerary-Things to Do in Krakow
- 3 Days in London Itinerary: The Only One You Need
- 4 Days in Munich
- The Ultimate 3 Days in Paris Itinerary
- 21 Unmissable Things to do in Dubrovnik