Europe is one of our absolute favorite regions because of it's incredible diversity and well preserved history. Selecting the best time to visit Europe is very important for a successful trip. From the fjords of Norway to the sunny Greek islands, there is always somewhere you can visit no matter what time of year. Here are some factors you should consider before planning your trip.
The Low Budget Traveler
Lets face it, much of Europe (especially the Western & Northern countries) can be expensive. If you want to visit Europe on a budget, the best time you can go is during the "off season" of late fall and winter. Generally from October through March prices drop significantly. Hotels reduce prices as much as 50-75% compared to the spring and summer months. Flights will also be much cheaper compared to the rest of the year.
Please note, the only exception here is over the Christmas holiday. Since many people travel over Christmas, flight fares generally jump up a bit no matter where you are wanting to travel.
If you tend to have introvert qualities, you may enjoy Europe much more during the fall/winter as well. European summers are busy with locals and tourists alike from all around the globe. European summers mean more traffic, crowded beaches, busy restaurants, and fully booked attractions. Western European countries are some of the most popular places to visit in the world during the summer. As an introvert if you do go in the summer, avoid the major cities such as Paris, London, Lisbon, Barcelona, and Rome.
The Nature & Outdoor Lover
We're total nature lovers at heart and if you're anything like us, we highly recommend visiting Europe during the spring. By late April into May, everything is in full bloom. Multiple hues of green and yellow dominate the landscape. Definitely check out the Keukenhof Gardens near Amsterdam and see the largest flower garden in the world when over 9 million tulips are in full bloom! Keep in mind far Northern Europe doesn't start warming up until June, while Southern Europe starts to heat up as early as late March.
Kuekenhof Gardens - Best Time to Visit Europe
The Nightlife & Extrovert
If you enjoy mingling with other tourists and locals, hitting up bars, and dancing the night away in clubs, you definitely want to visit Europe during the summertime anywhere from June through September. During the summer, many Europeans go on vacation to the southern regions of Europe such as Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Italy. These countries will be especially busy. Just be sure to book your major attractions in advance!
The City Lover
If you love exploring the narrow cobblestone streets, quaint restaurants, cafes, and bars Europe has to offer, the best time to visit Europe for you will likely be in the spring and summer months. European winters can get bone chilling cold unless your near the Mediterranean Sea. You'll find that many European restaurants have a very little space indoors and tend to utilize patios for much of their seating. There's nothing like having your coffee, tea, or beer outdoors while soaking in the surrounding atmosphere. This is significantly more difficult when its below freezing outside!
Best Time to Visit Europe - Pros and Cons List
European Spring & Summer Pros:
- Better weather
- Shops, restaurants, and attractions are open later
- More opportunities to mingle with other tourists
- Get to experience different seasonal dishes
- More comfortable atmosphere to explore cities and attractions
European Spring and Summer Cons:
- Generally more expensive hotels, flights, rental cars, & attractions.
- Many more tourists
- Attractions can get very crowded and have significantly longer wait times
- Southern Europe can get quite hot (Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal in particular)
European Fall and Winter Pros:
- Far less tourists
- Significantly cheaper
- No wait time at many attractions
- Get to experience a bit more of the local culture
European Fall and Winter Cons:
- May not as enjoyable to be outside
- Some restaurants and attractions close early or completely for off season
- Less colorful landscape/environment
- You may miss some great festivals that occur during spring and summer
Overall, we feel that Spring shoulder season (April - Early June) is generally the absolute best time to visit Europe. During this time, the weather is warming up, the sun is setting later, the landscape comes alive with color, and you can still get a discounted rate on travel vs the summer months.
With that being said, there are certain European destinations that are better than others at different points of the year. For instance, places like the Azores, Portugal, Southern Spain, Southern Italy, and Greece have mild winters which make them affordable and comfortable to visit even in December, January, and February.
On the other hand, places like Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Ireland can have cold weather well into May, so you may want to visit these places in June-August if you're looking for ultimate comfort.
Hopefully this list gave you an idea of the best time to visit Europe for the first time. If you have any questions or comments, be sure to drop them below!