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When is the best time to travel to Europe? High, Low & Shoulder Seasons Guide

With each season comes new weather patterns, varying temperatures and a whole host of interesting things to see, do, and eat. Travelling to Europe is just as diverse as the continent is large; that is to say, there are plenty of options on offer! But when is the best time to travel to Europe? When should you personally go? Here’s your complete guide on when to visit the European continent, and where to go.

Best time to travel to Europe revealed!

When is the best time to travel to Europe (by season)?

While any fellow fan of the continent would agree that Europe is always worth a visit, when you should plan your visit depends much on what you like, your favourite weather types and if you like to travel with fewer crowds around. After all, fewer tourists equal shorter queues…

And if you’re looking for even more Europe inspiration? Be sure to check out our guide to the very best of Europe bucket list. Otherwise, for more expert tips about what to pack, customs to know about, and other things to know before you go, check out our guide to the best Europe travel tips.

When is the best time to visit Europe? Here's your complete guide on when to visiting Europe, a season by season guide to spending time in Europe

When to visit Europe by Season

Europe in the Spring (shoulder season)

The smell of sweet spring blossom fills the air and the promise of longer days is on the horizon. Visiting Europe in the spring is always a happy time to visit as cafés spill out onto the pavements and birdsong fills the air once more.

Top spring break destinations in Europe for spotting cherry blossom and eating great food include Paris (think plenty of spring blossom), Seville (the spring is a better time to visit this Spanish city if too much hot weather isn’t really your thing), Amsterdam (fewer crowds and all of the tulips), and Ljubljana (this Slovenian city offers plenty of parks and open-air cafés).

Why visit Europe in the spring?

Cheaper airfares before peak season, fewer tourists, hotel discounts and the accommodation of your choice is almost certainly on offer, museums that are not overly crowded.

Read more: Best Spring Destinations in Europe.

cherry blossoms in saint cloud

Europe in the Summer (high season)

Hot summer heat and throngs of tourists flock to the European continent. Europe in the summer is the perfect opportunity to get off the beaten track a little and search for those hidden gems while everyone else is queuing up for any given iconic tourist attraction in a place. If you love sunny and warm weather, then you’re almost guaranteed to find it if you travel through most of Europe in the summer months.

Top summer destinations include Provence (this French region is filled with mountains, secret beaches, and vineyards to visit), Greek islands (perfect for soaking up summer sun and history simultaneously), and road trips- check out our best road trip tips- through the UK (summer is quite literally the only time of the year where the UK gets great weather and it’s not raining!)

Why visit Europe in the summer?

Some of the best reasons to head to Europe during the warmest months of the year include beaches, long sunny days, amazing weather, if you don’t mind queuing to see some of the more iconic European attractions, open-air cafés, and a summer vibe. 

Read more: Best summer destinations in Europe!

the beach at la ciotat provence france

Europe in the Fall (shoulder season)

Crisp mornings and plenty of fall foliage, there is perhaps no better time to visit Europe than in the fall. Fewer tourists, cheaper prices and finding that everything is still open are just a couple of reasons many people opt to see Europe during the autumnal months.

Visiting most countries in the fall (with the exception of parts of France and Italy) will also ensure that you’re seeing the continent during the shoulder season, meaning fewer crowds and lower prices. In my personal opinion, the best time to travel to Europe is easily the fall!

Top fall destinations in Europe include Gdansk (in Northern Poland), Luxembourg (this gem of a country is filled with friendly locals, great food and oodles of castles), and Switzerland (travelling through one of the most expensive countries in Europe during the shoulder season will ensure you snap up some of the cheapest fares possible).

Why visit Europe in the Autumn? 

Fall foliage, fewer tourists, cheaper airfare and hotel prices- ie making your wallet happy in general, wine drinking (much of the previous season’s vines have been harvested and processed), and the Northern Lights if you head to countries like Sweden and Iceland. 

Read more: Best Fall Destinations in Europe.

gdansk, poland

Europe in the Winter (low season)

The promise of snow, cosy fires and plenty of mulled wine makes Europe the perfect winter destination for those wishing to experience Christmas markets, sparkling lights and all of the rich delicious food that’s available across the continent.

If you’ve not already tried it, I also highly recommend sampling some mulled wine (also known as vin chaud or Glühwein). This spicy hot drink is the perfect winter warmer and a real speciality of the continent. If you’re looking for the best time to travel to Europe and you fancy a little magic along the way, then a little European chill may well be for you!

If you’re planning on enjoying some of the best Christmas markets in Europe, then you should note that, as the majority of European countries celebrate Christmas day on the 24th December, most Christmas markets end by this date.

Top winter destinations in Europe include the French Alps (perfect for all manner of snow sports and cheaper than the Swiss Alps), the German Christmas markets (the Bavarian style chalets are now famous throughout the world and find their origins in Germany), and Finland (original ‘home’ of Father Christmas and the actual home to plenty of reindeer!).

Why visit Europe in the Winter?

Visit Europe in the winter (low season) if you like skiing, cold weather, other snow sports, snow-capped mountains, Christmas markets, and so so so much more! If you’re planning to visit Europe in the winter months, then you can expect to have many places to yourself as there are fewer crowds in the winter months than at any other time of the year…

Where to see and find the very best Christmas lights in paris, France

Why the European Shoulder Season is the best time to travel Europe

What is the European shoulder season?

Hands down, my personal favourite time to visit Europe is during the shoulder seasons (i.e. during the spring and summer months of the year). April through to Mid June and September through to October form the bulk of the shoulder seasons; a time when it’s not quite peak season, nor is it off-season. 

Reasons to visit Europe during the shoulder seasons

There are fewer Tourists

Let’s just get this one out the way first: During the shoulder seasons in Europe, you’ll often find fewer tourists than at many other times of the year (including Christmas time)! That in itself is a very good reason to visit the continent.

After all, fewer tourists mean less waiting times in queues, which in turn means that you’ll be able to pack plenty more activities into your European itinerary. Just bear in mind that shoulder season doesn’t always translate to fewer tourists- particularly in major cities like Rome and Paris- so make sure you do your research first!

You’ll see the changing of the Seasons

There is one good word to describe the changing of the seasons in Europe. And that is: beautiful. There are perhaps few times where Europe is prettier than in the shoulder seasons.

Think hues of pink in the spring months, and golden tones in the Autumn. In mid-April, you’ll find tulip season in the Netherlands, while you’ll find spring blossom pretty much everywhere around March time!

pink tulip field

You’ll find cheaper flights (and other methods of transportation)

The shoulder seasons are often cheaper in terms of travel as airlines and train companies attempt to shift tickets to an ever-dwindling number of passengers. While you may find that not as many attractions are open as in the summer months, the fact that travel is often cheaper easily makes up for the fact!

You’ll find cheaper accommodation

Much like the transport situation in Europe during the shoulder seasons, accommodation is often cheaper too. (However, this is not always the case so make sure to do your research first!) Head to smaller towns, cities and villages to find the best deals.

The weather is (often) still good!

Throughout much of September, right through to early November, many places throughout Europe still enjoy the warm weather. The air is not as sticky or as hot as in the summer months, and the weather is still pleasant.

Though the weather can be unpredictable at times, in both the spring and the autumn, you’ll likely need a light jacket at most. Good weather also means that many outdoor attractions still look pretty, in either spring blooms or autumnal leaves.

Pin the best time to travel to Europe now, read it again later!

Visit Europe: when is the best time to visit europe, a season by season guide
5 very good reasons to visit Europe in the shoulder seasons! (April through to Mid June and September through to October)
Best time to travel to Europe revealed! When is the best time to visit the European continent and where should you go? A complete guide on the time of year to see Europe.
Best time to travel to Europe revealed! When is the best time to visit the European continent and where should you go? A complete guide on the time of year to see Europe!

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