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 this time of year, 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 5 pm 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.
Need to book a car for your road trip adventure? We use Discover Car Hire for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.
Be Prepared for Summer Showers
Do not forget your rain jacket and be ready for rain while traveling in 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 were many times where we waited out the rain and it eventually passed into a beautiful sunny day.
Be Prepared for Crowds
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 travel to Europe for your travels, you’ll just have to decide for yourself.
Hours of Daylight in Europe during Summer
10-14 hours depending on how far north you get.
Hot and Rainy
Essential Items to Pack
- Rain Jacket
- Waterproof shoes
- Long sleeve shirts
- Short sleeve shirts
- Water bottle.
Visiting Europe During the Shoulder Season
Shoulder season is typically 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 then 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 this time of year.
Europe is generally dark green in the springtime 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 the 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 sometimes cold hotel rooms, so pack something warm to sleep in and shortened restaurant hours.
Read reviews and check prices with our Hotel Search Engine, that gives you the best hotel deals found on the web. Our search engine pulls results from all of the major booking places, including Expedia, Hotels, Booking and more. All the options, all the deals, all in one place and just for you.
Hours of daylight in Europe during Shoulder Season
Prepare for a wide spectrum of weather with cool days that can peak hot and generally cold evenings and nights.
Essential Items to Pack
Pack for hot, cold and wet weather. Packing with layers of clothing is key to enjoying the 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 Winter
If you’re traveling to Europe in the winter, 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.
Winter 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 the 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.
Winter 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.
It will get dark early and light later, so your days are shorter. The weather can be a gamble and maybe at times be downright miserable, cold, windy and drizzly.
Packing can be hard because of the different types of weather. Dress warmly for cold weather, since most iconic sites are outdoors.
Most hotels are not equipped with great heating systems so in the off-season it can be cold in many hotel rooms. Smaller towns can turn into ghost towns during offseason and maybe shut down to tourists.
This can lead to frustration so it is very important that you confirm all your plans ahead of time. The off-season can be the best time to travel to Europe for the right traveler and offer many rewarding experiences and a unique look at many iconic cities and sights.
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 during the Winter
Cold and damp.
Essential Items to Pack
Pack for cold and wet. Wear layers of clothing, bring a rainproof jacket, gloves, a stocking hat, long johns, good socks, long sleeve shirts, a 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 Tips
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, Bratislava, and Vienna. To Portugal and Beyond. The Romantic Road in Germany.
Godly beaches and ancient highways in Greece. London to Edinburgh and the Highlands. Discover Cars 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 the off-season. Also, if the seasons overlap peak-shoulder you will also pay more.
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 quickly 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.)
Don’t want to plan anything
Why not book a full tour with G Adventures? G Adventures offers some of the best fully planned tours in Europe and all you have to do is book.
Take a European 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.
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!
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:
- 31 Fascinating Things to Do in Copenhagen
- 2 Days in Nuremberg
- 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