When’s the Best time to Travel to Europe?
“When is the best time to travel to Europe?“
This is a question often asked, and one that is difficult to answer without any further knowledge of the person asking it.
Europe has three main travel seasons – the High, Low and Shoulder seasons – each taking place at a different point throughout the year.
In truth, there is no ‘best season’ (although many people prefer to travel in the high season), and each season has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
By examining each of these three seasons (as we’ll do in this guide), you can then determine what the best time to visit Europe is for you.
High Season (Late June to Early September)
- Lovely Weather – Most of Europe generally enjoys its best period of weather during the high season (which is the main reason why the high season is the high season). The sun will be shining and there will be minimal rain.
- Longer Days – Daylight saving and the position of the Earth during high season means that the days will be longer than any other time in the year. At its peak, it won’t get dark until 9:30pm (depending on where you are in Europe), and possibly even later the further north you go.
- Lots of Other Travelers Around – Because this is a popular time to travel, there will be no shortage of other travelers around for you to meet up and make friends with. Hostels will be full to the brim with lots of young, friendly people, making the high season great for solo travelers.
- Lots to do – During the summertime, every major attraction will be open (as this is when they make most of their money). This is also when most of Europe’s amazing music festivals (such as Reading Festival and Benicassim) take place.
- The Intense Heat – Most of Europe isn’t used to the intense heat that can sweep through every few years. With summer temperatures seemingly rising ever year and the lack of air conditioning in most places, things can get rather hot, sweaty and uncomfortable.
- Expensive – Europe is the most expensive during the high season. Expect to pay over-the-odds for accommodation, transportation (particularly plane tickets) and more.
- The Crowds – As I mentioned, the high season in Europe is the most popular time for tourists. Attractions will have huge crowds, hotels and hostels will be fully-booked, public transport will be crammed.
For the budget traveler, high season in Europe is typically best avoided. Yes, the weather is the best during this time, but unless you’re going to a beach resort, the rest of Europe becomes extremely crowded and expensive.
Traveling through Europe during the high season can be great as long as you stay away from the typical tourist traps (such as Madame Tussauds in London) and spend your time outdoors where the sun is shining.
Low Season (Mid-November to April)
- Christmas – Christmastime can be a really magical time to be in Europe. Christmas markets and lights spring up all around, and local people will naturally be more friendly and receptive, as they take on the festive spirit (and because they’re not inundated with tourists). Providing you’re traveling with others (as Christmas on your own can be lonely), Europe is a great place to be during the festive season (especially if it snows!).
- Less Tourists – The ‘low season’ is named this because it’s the least busy time of the year for tourism (in most places). This is great as it means you won’t have to queue for once-crowded attractions.
- Cheaper Prices – Fewer tourists about means cheaper prices on accommodation and plane tickets (among other things).
- Skiing – There are lots of great places to go skiing in Europe (e.g. the Alps), and skiing is often best during the winter (as there’s more snow).
- Miserable Weather – If you’re the kind of person who enjoys a nice sunny day, you might find Europe during the winter to be a bit depressing. The days in most countries will typically be cold, overcast and very dreary, with a strong chance of rain.
- Shorter Days – In addition to this cold, dreary weather, the days will become ludicrously short, to the point where it’ll be almost pitch-black by 4pm.
- You’ll Need to Pack More – During the summer you can get away with wearing shorts and a vest if it’s hot enough. During the cold winter months, however, you’ll need to wear more layers and heavier clothing (such as fleeces). This means you’ll have to pack more clothing (as well as an umbrella and/or a rain mac incase it rains) to match the weather.
- Some Attractions will be Closed – Some tourist attractions (notably the outdoor ones) close down for the winter, meaning you won’t be able to visit them if you travel to Europe during the low season. In addition to this, even the ones that are open will probably close early.
If you hate traveling when it’s cold, the low season is not for you, as some parts of Europe are freezing during this time.
That being said, the cheaper accommodation prices and the build-up to Christmas buzz can result in a pretty magical trip if you don’t mind the weather.
Shoulder Season (Mid-September to Early November & April to Mid-June)
What is ‘shoulder season’? As Dictionary.com puts it, it’s “a travel season between peak and off-peak seasons, especiallyspring and fall, when fares tend to be relatively low.”
- Beautiful Gardens – During the springtime, flower will be in bloom making Europe a beautiful place to be. Gardens (such as Wisley Gardens in England or the fields of Tuscany, Italy) will be well worth visiting.
- The Weather – During the shoulder season the weather is at its mildest. The cold of the winter is gone, and the searing heat of the summer is yet to arrive.
- The shoulders season is a great ‘middle ground’ for travelers: There are plenty of other travelers around to meet up with; Hostels are busy but not fully booked and accommodation/transportation prices are reasonably priced.
- Potentially Bad Weather – Although I’ve stated that the weather should be good during the shoulder season, it can be perilously difficult to predict, so make sure you pack for all types of weather (especially rain).
- A Lack of Activity – The shoulder season doesn’t have the warm, vibrant music festivals and events of the summer, nor the festive season or the winter sports (skiing, snowboarding) that winter brings.
During shoulder season (especially mid-April to mid-June) is when I’d recommend most people travel to Europe, as the weather is just starting to turn towards summer and the prices are still relatively reasonable.
- What is the Best Time of Year to Visit Thailand?
- An American’s Guide to Packing for a Trip to Europe
- How to Tip in Europe
- How to Rent a Car in Europe
Share this Article!