January 26, 2018 / 17 Comments
Deciding the best time to visit Europe depends on many factors, all of which really decide on what type of trip you’re looking for and where you want to visit, specifically, in Europe. Yet, there’s also a third factor to consider when determining what time of year is best to visit Europe – price.
All these factors weigh heavily, and vary from person to person. Therefore, we’ll give you a breakdown on seasonality, the high and low times of Europe, and when you’ll be able to get the most value for your money while visiting Europe – depending on where you want to visit!
Seasonality In Visiting Europe
Considering the season is vastly important when planning a European vacation, no matter where in Europe it is. Yet, with a continent as far-reaching as Europe, with as varied climates and options, it might be difficult to wrap your arms around how to create the ideal trip.
Most who visit Europe (especially from the United States) do so during the most popular months for the most popular cities – namely, the summer months while visiting London, Barcelona , Paris, Rome, and a few other of the most popular and trendy European destinations.
One thing is for sure – no matter where you want to travel in Europe, the warmer months from May to September will always be the most popular. However, with popularity comes higher prices as well, as travel companies, airlines, and hotel providers are well aware of the high demand their services satisfy.
You can definitely book cheaper travel to Europe in the window outside of this range, but what you’ll sacrifice and what you gain in return will ultimately be a wager you’ll want to consider. If you’re traveling to Spain, perhaps the weather in November will still be great, and you’ll save 30-40% of the overall cost of the trip. Norway?
Maybe not so much.
Remember that the closer to the beginning and end of the year, the less daylight you have. While that may not greatly affect a trip to Italy or Greece, it’s a huge problem in Iceland. It’ll be freezing, and you’ll only have a few hours of daylight each day – if that.
Conversely, booking a Scandinavian or Icelandic destination during the summer months could be equally as bothersome with only a few hours of darkness each day. Imagine nothing but sunshine at 11pm, with the sun rising at 3am… it’ll take some adjustment.
Therefore, where you’re going will help you to adjust to seasonality. However, also consider the popularity of certain locations during certain months. For example, Germany (despite being cold in the winter), is very popular during late November and through December, as their Christmas Markets are in full swing for tourists. Late September can be even busier in Germany, and certainly more expensive, as Oktoberfest rolls through Bavaria.
Do a little research. Understand the festival and holiday schedule where you’re trying to go, and compare the prices then with those of less “festive” seasons, and decide if you want to visit during those busier times or not.
When To Visit Northern Europe
Personally, our favorite time of year to visit Northern Europe is on the shoulder of that “high” season – either around May, or in late September/October. We’ve found that the weather is chilly, yet enjoyable. You can avoid the heat of summer, while still receiving as much as 30% off the price of trips in the busier summer months. Mind you, we consider “Northern” Europe to be really any area where snow falls and “sticks” with some regularity. Southern France, Spain, Portugal, Southern Italy, Greece, and similarly located countries are not in this classification. Scandinavia, UK, and Bavaria most certainly are.
Additionally, by traveling during the slightly-less busy times of year, you can often avoid crowds, lines, and the general malaise of swarming tourists who tend to distill the actual authenticity of a city we look for when we travel. In fact, we often visit Europe in November, as the lead up to the U.S. Thanksgiving presents a less-than-full flight schedule, with thinned crowds and easy itineraries – not to mention extremely low costs! Make sure to find a great tour provider to give you the best Nordic tours and trips in 2019.
How Visiting Southern Europe Differs
Visiting Southern Europe gives you a wider framework to choose from than Northern Europe, but is also more punitive when it comes going to the wrong place at the wrong time.
To be frank, there are certain cities in the “hotter” areas of Europe that we wouldn’t be caught dead in during the mid-summer. Rome is beautiful year-round, but it’s far more expensive, incredibly hot, and loaded with tourists during this time-frame. Unless your goal is to squeeze between other tourists, who are also sweating out of every fiber of their body, hold off until the weather cools a bit. The same can be said for Greece, Turkey, and (in our opinion) Southern Spain/France.
It’s not just the heat and crowd, however, it can be almost (or more than) twice the price to see these parts of Europe during peak season!
Now, if what you’re looking for is craziness in the heat, then do understand that it’s going to cost you. Ibiza in July doesn’t come cheaply, no matter how you’re booking it. If you want to spend early June on the French Riviera, that will cost you also. However, if your goal is to be able to do as much as possible, see as much as possible, keep your budget, and thrive in the true culture of a city or country while visiting Europe, we’re not sure this is the best time to do it.
If you have deep pockets, plenty of melanin, and are looking for more of a party atmosphere – you can pretty much do what you like.
Considerations For Peak Season
If you do intend on traveling to Europe during the “Peak” season, during the warmer months with longer days, there are some things you should consider to have the best experience possible.
One of the big advantages to traveling during peak season is accessibility to the best the cities have to offer. For example, on our last trip to Santorini, Greece, we traveled in November. While the weather was beautiful and the island stunning, many of the shops were closed down, and Santorini was almost “too” vacant. While this might not be as big of an issue in larger cities like London or Rome (it isn’t), more tropical destinations in Europe, as well as islands that don’t support a large, regular population, will see dwindling attractions due to the fall-off of tourists.
Another great way to experience more cities with fewer allotted time, especially in consideration of large cities, is to take advantage of long layovers. We actually inject our trips with long layovers to pack in as much as we can, often picking up a hostel or inexpensive hotel for one night while we explore the city.
Another item to consider is weather. Some places really should be visited at or near peak season. In the furthest reaches of Scandinavia, as well as Iceland, the weather during off-season borders on “too cold to enjoy myself”, and there’s little to no daylight.