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Best Time to Visit Europe

A continent-spanning 50 countries with such diverse experiences and climates – it’s not surprising deciding on the best time to visit Europe can be challenging.

Couple sitting on a park bench with an old town in the background.
Enjoy beautiful towns like Menton in the South of France in spring.

You may be planning to visit only one destination, or you’d like to tour all or part of the continent – when is the best month to visit Europe?

Looking down on the old town and river of Passau.
A birds-eye view of Passau, a favourite port for European river cruises.

Best Time to Visit Europe

When planning your trip to Europe, there are a lot of considerations, including your itinerary, weather, and activities.

If you want to visit several countries with no specific weather-dependent activity in mind, the shoulder seasons are best. Between May and June and September and October, the weather is pleasant. Nearly everything will be open in seasonal destinations, and there will be fewer tourists as Europeans are not on holiday.

The Best Season in Europe

Europe continues to be a go-to travel destination all year round, so there’s no wrong time to visit Europe. There is a season to suit every personal preference. The seasons in Europe are the same for each country throughout the Continent, but not quite in the same way. 

Countries in the south of Europe such as Greece, Spain, and Portugal experience warmer summers and milder winters. Countries in the north experience moderate summers and much colder winters, making them perfect skiing or snowy festive destinations.

Any season can be a good time to visit Europe; you just need to know what to expect or what you want to do. Let’s take a closer look at the seasons in Europe.

a motor yacht sailing past a hillside of old greek homes on Symi island.
A small boat charter around the Greek Islands is a cost-effective way to see beautiful villages like Symi Island.

Spring in Europe 

Spring in Europe takes place between March and May.

The weather in Europe starts warming up in March. Flowers begin to bloom, offering colourful landscapes of vibrant tulip fields and Europe’s best displays of blossom trees.

Animals also begin to emerge from hibernation and migrate – an excellent time for wildlife enthusiasts to visit Europe. Many don’t know Europe has some of the world’s best wildlife destinations.

Migratory flamingos in in flight over water in the Algarve in southern Portugal
Migratory flamingos on the Ria Formosa in the Algarve in southern Portugal

No matter where in Europe you decide to visit, spring is a beautiful time of year. For travellers looking to explore the great outdoors, the temperature in Europe in May is perfect.

Spring is excellent for hiking nearly anywhere in Europe, even for coastal destinations in southern countries such as Valencia in Spain. A tour of  Croatia in late spring offers beautiful weather without the summer crowds – a very affordable and lovely warm weather escape. 

The beach and blue ocean in front of the walled city of Dubrovnik in Croatia

We are great advocates of shoulder season travel in Europe, especially in spring. Spring is a great time to tour the entire continent or settle in to explore just one country. Enjoy an early summer in Southern Europe or welcome the sun’s return in Northern Europe.

Late spring is a lovely time to visit countries such as Norway. It is a time when locals head outside after a long winter to embrace the sun and celebrate unique rituals such as “Utepsils” – the tradition of the first beer drunk alfresco for the season. 

Snow capped mountain behind a fjord in Norway.
Spring is the perfect time for a cruise through Norway’s fjords.

It is also an excellent time to cruise through Norway’s spectacular fjords or a river cruise down some of Europe’s most scenic rivers

Spring delivers lovely warm weather without the unbearable heat of mid-summer. Perfect weather for sightseeing and outdoor activity. Early to mid-spring will also see fewer crowds at popular tourist attractions than in the peak summer months. 

Tulips in bloom in front of colourful buildings in old town Riga Latvia.
Spring is the best time in Europe if you want to see the colourful blooms of flowers.

Summer in Europe

Summer in Europe is between June and August and is also the peak season in Europe.

Perfect for travellers looking to spend long days sunbathing on pristine beaches and soaking up Europe’s unique summer vibe.

It is also an excellent season for hiking and sightseeing in northern countries, where summers tend not to be as hot as in the south.

Beach beds and shades on a beach in Portugal.
Relax on an organised beach in the Algarve, Portugal. A popular beach destination to spend the summer in Europe.

Consider island hopping in Greece, summer in Germany, or a summer holiday in Sardinia. If you want an excellent value for money European summer getaway, try the quaint village of Sozopol in Bulgaria on the Black Sea or stunning Montenegro for a beautiful summer beach escape and budget prices.

Summer is when you can experience the Festival of the White Nights in St Petersburg, Russia or enjoy hiking in the colder climates of Romania’s pristine Transylvania mountains.

Red flowers and greek table settings on a greek island.

However, remember, summer is peak season in Europe, so expect some popular tourist destinations to be very crowded and some unbearably hot.

It is also one of the most expensive times to visit Europe as accommodation is at a premium and flights can be costly.

Tourists in the old town streets of Cesky Krumlov in Czech Republic
Český Krumlov is one of the most beautiful villages in the Czech Republic but can be very busy with day tourists in the peak summer months.

Autumn in Europe

Autumn takes place between September and November in Europe.

Autumn in Europe is a beautiful time of year when the leaves turn brilliant shades of red and orange. October weather in Europe is delightful for travel.

It’s the perfect weather for exploring charming villages such as Liguria in Italy, France’s Pyrenees, or southern Spain’s White Villages.

See first-hand the fascinating architecture in Europe’s cities, such as Porto, one of the best cities to visit in Portugal or Turkey’s mysterious and exotic Istanbul

Tourists walking down a narrow street in France while a man ties his shoe.
The weather in October in Europe is ideal for sightseeing.

Europe in September is a gorgeous time of year. It is still warm enough for the beach in southern Europe, and the weather and crowds are cooling pleasantly in the north.

Fall is also the harvest time in Europe which presents many fabulous opportunities for food travellers. There are some very exciting food festivals throughout the continent – a perfect time to savour regional specialities and the incredible wines Europe is famous for.

A glass of white wine on a ledge next to the ocean.

Autumn is also an opportune season to visit countries further north before the severe cold of winter arrives. Taking a trip to Russia, Iceland or Finland can be a unique experience during this time of year.

It’s also important to note that the Northern Lights can be seen as early as September in countries that are a part of the Arctic Circle.

If you’re searching for spectacular photographic opportunities, from the possibility of the Northern Lights to an endless display of fall colours – autumn is a great time to visit Europe. 

A traditional Pletna boat on the banks of Lake Bled in Slovenia in autumn.

Winter in Europe

Winter takes place between December and February.

While much of Europe transforms into a magical wonderland full of festive activities during the winter, Northern Europe steals the limelight in the colder months.

Visitors turn their attention to snow-dusted Christmas markets and snow sports such as skiing and sledding.

2 huskies lying in the snow.

Explore a glacier, hike a snowy peak, ski and snowboard, or enjoy festive shopping at Europe’s most magical Christmas markets. Winter in Europe is filled with excitement and festivities.

Christmas markets at night in Ghent Belgium.

If you happen to be in Europe during the winter months, there is no shortage of magical Christmas markets scattered throughout the continent. December is a wonderful time to visit Europe and a great time to take a Christmas market river cruise to experience the best Christmas markets in Europe.

Early and late winter, either side of Christmas and New Year, are also good times to snag some great travel deals.

A snowy covered street with old stone buildings in Bulgaria.

European Winter Sun Escapes

Not all of Europe is transformed into a snow-dusted wonderland come winter. Europe has a surprising number of very temperate winter sun escapes. Head to the south of the continent and southernmost islands for balmy temps of around 17°C (63°F) in the winter months. You can find our list of 9 of the best European winter sun destinations here

Best Time for Skiing in Europe

The peak season for snowboarding and skiing in Europe is February to March. However, resorts usually start to open their slopes in early November and stay open until around mid-April. In far northern countries such as Finland, ski resorts will remain open as late as June.

If you’re looking for some of the cheapest ski trips, then look around the period just after Christmas. You’ll often find the best ski deal in January, but avoid New Year’s Eve, Christmas Day, and February, when schools are on holiday. 

Skiers on a mountain with snow covered trees and deep snow.
Bulgaria offers some of the best and cheapest skiing in Europe

Best Time to Visit Beaches in Europe

The summer season in Europe is by far the best time of year to be spending time on the beaches.

However, a beach holiday in southern Europe in late spring or early autumn is a fabulous idea. The weather can be remarkably warm, beaches are less crowded, and travel and accommodation rates are more reasonable.

Palm trees and crystal clear blue water in the south of France.
The French Riviera in early autumn is still warm enough for the beach but without the maddening crowds and peak season rates.

You can find some of the world’s best beaches in countries like Portugal, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Spain, and France. Although, don’t discount northern countries such as Latvia in the Baltic States for a delightful beach getaway with a difference.

Opt for the traditional beach holiday or try something different such as a snorkelling tour in Iceland. You might be surprised at the variety of beach holidays available in Europe.

A beach full of sun beds and shades leading down to blue clear water in Greece.
The Greek Islands for that ultimate European summer vacation.

Best Time for Visiting European Cities

The best time for exploring European cities is the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn. The weather is pleasant and not too hot for sightseeing, attractions are less crowded, and you will find some exciting festivals and celebrations during these months. The only time to avoid is Easter as this is a big holiday for Europeans so accommodation can be expensive.

Best Time for Festivals in Europe

With so many unique cultures, there are plenty of festivals throughout the year. Europeans also love to embrace the seasons. Whether heralding the end of winter with spring festivals, harvest festivals in autumn, celebrating the summer months or the magic of winter – there is a festival for you any time of year.

The most magical time to visit Europe would have to be in the winter months when the famous European Christmas markets get underway.

The fairytale atmosphere of the markets with twinkling lights and the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg around every corner can’t be matched anywhere.

Crowds making their way past a carousel at Christmas markets.

Germany, Austria and Prague are home to some of the best Christmas markets in the world. A festive atmosphere, cosy treats and Christmas joy seem to infect every city, town, and neighbourhood during this time of year.

Brightly lit Christmas stalls at the Dusseldorf Christmas markets.
Enjoy mulled wine and giant sausages at the Dusseldorf Christmas markets.

If you’re looking for slightly different festive activities, consider the Tour de France. During the first three weeks of July, ” Le Tour” brings a festive atmosphere to the French countryside and neighbouring countries.

The Tour de France coincides nicely with summer, so it is an excellent opportunity to combine the excitement of the world’s most fantastic bike race with a beach getaway or a sightseeing cruise down the Saône River.

Summer is also the time for Europe’s best music festivals and food festivals, such as Belgium’s food truck festival in Ghent

People walking past food truck vendors at the Ghent Food Truck Festival.

In St Petersburg, Russia, the annual White Nights Festival celebrates the long “white nights” when the sun barely dips below the horizon. The city celebrates the extended nights with concerts, balls and festivals.

Munich’s legendary Oktoberfest beer festival, held every year from mid-September to October, is one of the city’s most famous festivals. Tourists come from all over the world to raise a stein or two, or three.

Before the beginning of Lent, usually in February, colourful Carnivale festivals abound throughout Europe, and there is no more famous Carnivale than the Venice Carnivale. A magical display of beautiful costumes, parties, and performances culminating in one final magical candlelit parade of gondolas down the main canal.

Best Time for a European Cruise

Europe is famous for its river cruises and cruises along the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts. If you are taking a coastal cruise in the southern regions, any time from late spring to early autumn is great (bear in mind, peak summer, July, and August will be more expensive).

If it’s a river cruise, any time of year is excellent. However, spring and autumn are the best for some cruises. Spring and autumn are best for cruises with lots of city and town destinations, such as a cruise on the Danube. Summer is excellent for northern countries such as cruising the fjords of Norway and the Baltics. And, of course, winter is best for the iconic Christmas Market cruises.

Best Time to Visit Europe for a Honeymoon

If you’re planning a honeymoon, then the best time to go to Europe for a honeymoon is anytime. Europe is a remarkably romantic continent. It all depends on the type of honeymoon holiday you’d like. 

Love locks on a bridge with the Eiffel tower in the background.
Paris is, of course, the most romantic place in Europe for a honeymoon.

We recommend visiting during the shoulder seasons, as you’ll enjoy mild weather, fewer crowds, and discounted prices throughout the continent. However, cosying up with your significant other next to a warm fireplace while the snow falls outside is also a perfect winter honeymoon in Europe.

A honeymoon road trip is a great way to make the most of Europe’s fantastic summertime sightseeing opportunities. Rent a car in Croatia, and take a romantic road trip along the Adriatic coast.

2 horses and carriage on the street in Vienna.
Slow the pace and enjoy a traditional horse-drawn carriage ride.

Of course, Paris, one of the most romantic cities in the world, is the honeymoon destination of choice for so many newlyweds.

Although, we recommend avoiding the peak summer months for your romantic Paris sojourn. The same for Europe’s other romantic cities such as Vienna, Rome, and Venice.

Gondolas tied up in Venice.
The Gondola is the most romantic form of transport for the new couple.

Best Time in Europe to Avoid Crowds

If you want to enjoy Europe without the crowds, pick the low seasons of November, January and February. January and February will be busy at popular snow destinations, but the rest of Europe should be relatively quiet.

There are pros and cons to these months. The weather will be cold and possibly wet, and attractions and restaurants in seasonal destinations may be closed. There are some great discounts on flights and accommodation on the plus side. It’s a lovely time to explore popular cities without crowds, and you may even find the weather in the southern countries quite pleasant. It’s not unusual to have days warm enough to visit the beach in winter in the south.

Final Thoughts on When to Visit Europe

Now that you know when the best time for you to visit Europe is, you can start planning the ultimate European trip.

Whether you decide to brave the cold to experience Europe’s magical winter or soak up the summer sun on a beach-hopping tour of southern Europe, few places in the world are as beautiful and diverse as Europe.