Wondering what is the best time to visit Europe? While there is not really a wrong time to consider a visit to Europe, there are many factors which determine when we book our holidays. It could be the weather we desire, the activities available, a particular event or festival we want to attend, or something as simple as work limitations during specific times of the year. Whatever the reason, it is always handy to know which season is best for the destination you’re considering. When it comes to traveling in Europe, it is really hard to specify the best time to visit; some countries are amazing all year round, others definitely hit their peak during one specific season. It really depends on what you want to do and what you expect to get out of your trip.
With so many different climates represented in one continent, it can be hard deciding which places to visit, and when, in Europe. And if that was not difficult enough, the weather has become so temperamental in many parts of Europe, especially in recent years, that basing your holiday purely on this carries no guarantees. So, in order to make choosing the best time to visit Europe that little bit easier for you, I have decided to break down this article into two sections: the first is about the climate of each season, followed by the best time to visit for specific activities. This way you will hopefully find it easier to plan your trip.
Table of Contents (skip directly to the info you're looking for)
- 1 Best time to visit europe by seasons
- 2 Best Time to Visit Europe for Sightseeing
- 3 Best Time to Visit Europe for Beaches
- 4 Best Time to Visit Europe for Hiking
- 5 Best Time to Visit Europe for Water Sports
- 6 Best Time to Visit Europe for Winter Activities
- 7 Best Time to Visit Europe for Festivals and Holidays
Best time to visit europe by seasons
European Climate in Spring
Spring is often said to be the most beautiful season in Europe. It is the time when everything comes back to life – the trees and flowers start to bloom again – and the weather gets a little bit warmer.
It is also the time when many parts of Europe get a fair amount of rain, but this is more likely to be in the form of short showers rather than downpours. As you can imagine, northern Europe may still be a little cool during this time, but the rest of Europe will be extremely pleasant, particularly in the south. For the vast majority of the continent, spring is when the main resort season begins, even if this period is still classed as off-peak.
European Climate in Summer
For the most likely chance of sunny, hot weather, summer is the time to head to Europe. Southern Europe obviously gets the best weather, with temperatures soaring into the high 20°C and even 30°C in some cases. In recent years, possibly because of global warming, it has not been unusual to have this kind of weather in Western, Central and Eastern Europe too, although there is still the chance of rain in these parts – not that it rains every day, but it is common to have periods of hot weather followed by two or three days of downpours. The climate in northern Europe during these months is generally much milder, with highs rarely going over the mid-20°C.
European Climate in Autumn
Fall/Autumn is personally my favorite season. I love the changing of the colors of the leaves and the fresh, crisp air. For this kind of autumn, Western, Northern and Eastern Europe are the best places to visit. The only drawback of traveling to these parts of Europe in autumn is the chance of rain, which can come down in torrents.
But traveling at this time is definitely worth it, for these offer the really beautiful days, the days when the sun shines, the skies are clear and blue, and there is little to no wind, making them the perfect days for strolling. Southern Europe is still relatively mild, if not warm, during this time, with temperatures only dropping later in September or even October.
European Climate in The Winter
Unless you are heading straight down south, you can expect winter in Europe to be chilly at the very least. Northern Europe is, of course, where it gets coldest and the most snow, but these countries are so used to it that everyone is prepared. Everywhere is well-heated and there are a good mix of indoor and outdoor attractions, so the cold should not cause much interference for traveling to these parts.
Western, Central and Eastern Europe also get pretty cold although, if you are traveling to places such as the UK during this time, you will find the weather to be more temperate due to it being an island.
Southern Europe is known for having the warmest weather between December and February, although you certainly will not get the same sort of weather you would expect in summer; some places may get temperatures up to 18°C, but are more likely to hover around an average 12°C, and evenings will definitely have a chill to them. Check out this post highlighting the best winter breaks in Europe.
Best Time to Visit Europe for Sightseeing
There is no doubt that Europe has a wealth of opportunities for sightseeing, from historical sites and museums to amusement parks and fun attractions. The great thing about sightseeing in Europe is that any season is perfect for it.
Well, mostly; of course, that will depend on how you feel about wandering around cities during the depths of winter. Then again, as the saying goes that “there is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing” so, no matter what season you choose for sightseeing, you should be fine as long as you are prepared for it.
Summer is probably the best time to visit Europe for sightseeing if you want more guarantee of good weather. However, this is also the time that most destinations receive their largest number of tourists.
London, for example, is known for generally having excellent weather in July and August, but you can be sure that you’ll spend a lot of your time standing in queues and being jostled on the Tube. On this note, check out our curated 3 day itinerary for enjoying the best of London.
However, if you head to certain cities in Italy during the summer, you may find that everything slows down. This is the season when many Italians take their own summer holidays, so cities such as Florence seem to empty slightly, although you will still see plenty of tourists around.
Remember that the further south you go, the hotter it will get, meaning that doing lots of sightseeing can become a sweaty affair. So, if you are not a fan of walking around in intense heat, summer in the south is not for you.
Depending on your destination, winter also has its fair share of visitors, particularly around Christmastime in the major cities. While the cities in the south will be pleasantly mild during the day, if you are visiting other parts of Europe, you will need to dress warmly.
This does not make winter a bad time for sightseeing; during this season, you just need to be prepared. The shoulder seasons of spring and autumn are your best bet if you are looking to avoid the crowds plus, the weather will be much more comfortable for walking around.
Recommended: Best destinations to spend Christmas in Europe!
Best Time to Visit Europe for Beaches
Europe really does have some stunning beaches and, obviously, you want to choose the optimum time to fully enjoy them. You will be pleased to know that, because of the wide variety of climates in Europe, it is possible to get lovely weather somewhere all year round, so technically you can enjoy a beach break any month of the year.
Summer is obviously the most popular season to travel to seaside destinations in Europe, with Spain, Italy, France, Turkey and Cyprus being the countries receiving the largest amount of visitors. However, other resorts such as the Black Sea in Bulgaria have become increasingly popular in the last decade or so. While it will obviously get pretty hot in these destinations, as you will be by the sea, the feel of the temperature will be lower due to the breeze.
Read this: Best destinations to visit in Turkey!
Spring is also considered to be a great time to head to the beach in Europe, especially in southern Europe. However, in recent years, this season has become incredibly popular with travelers who want to grab some early sun, and you may find that some resorts are still pretty busy and there is no significant price reduction. Autumn is slightly better; you will still get the good weather and the crowds will have dispersed slightly.
While spring, summer and autumn are fantastic seasons to head to the beach, winter also offers some great destinations for those looking to get a healthy dose of vitamin D during the colder months. The Canary Islands, Madeira, Malta, Sicily, and Cyprus all still get pretty good weather in winter plus, this is the off-peak season when not so many people travel, so you will get the chance to experience a more authentic side to these destinations. Here is a guide to the best winter sun destinations you can visit in Europe.
Best Time to Visit Europe for Hiking
Experienced hikers will know that depending on the weather is a bad idea, and the kind of weather a hiker is willing to tolerate is incredibly individual. But there are some generalizations that can be made. For most European countries, hiking is best done in autumn, especially if you are planning on hiking trails in alpine ranges.
While spring does herald good weather for hiking, you may find that many of the trails are still covered in snow, so the conditions are still not optimal, and summer in many parts will just be far too hot. Saying that, if you are planning on hiking in northern Europe, summer temperatures are just about right.
If you do not mind hiking in the intense heat, then summer is not a bad time to hike in the south. As many people do not want to hike at this time, the trails will be clear, although you’ll need to remember to stay hydrated and to protect yourself from the sun. In some destinations, such as Croatia, the wind can make it seem deceptively cooler than it actually is. A little research can go a long way to making the best selection for your preferences.
Best Time to Visit Europe for Water Sports
For water sports, summer is a popular time to travel in Europe. However, you may also want to consider September, especially if you prefer higher water temperatures for activities in the sea. By this time, the water will have had time to warm up, making it more comfortable to bathe in. Autumn is also considered to be the best time for surfers in Europe as this is when you begin to get the big waves.
If you are into sailing, Croatia’s sailing season hits its peak in the summer but continues into autumn until October. September and October are the perfect time to go sailing here; the temperatures are still pleasant enough to enjoy sitting on deck plus, you will also get massive discounts on sailing trips during this time.
One destination which is ideal for water sports throughout the entire year is Tenerife. As I have mentioned before, the Canaries have amazing weather all year round, and Tenerife in particular is well-known for being a fantastic place for all kinds of water sports, including windsurfing, kite surfing and board surfing, making this a worry free selection.
Best Time to Visit Europe for Winter Activities
The clue here really is in the heading; winter is the best time to visit Europe if you want to participate in winter activities. However, there are also some destinations which either begin their season in late autumn and/or run into spring; it all depends on where you are going and the level of snowfall there.
Unlike the summer activities, which can potentially be done any time of the year at least somewhere in Europe, when it comes to skiing, cross country skiing, snowboarding, dog sledding, and other winter activities, you really can only do these generally speaking between November and February/March.
Best Time to Visit Europe for Festivals and Holidays
It is hard to say when the best time to visit Europe for festivals is; such events take place every month of the year somewhere on the continent, so it all depends on the specific festival or holiday you wish to attend. Here are a list of the most popular holidays and when you should visit:
· Carnival: the week prior to Ash Wednesday, the day signaling the beginning of Lent
· Easter: either March or April; the date changes every year
· Oktoberfest in Germany: end of September
· Christmas: December for Protestant and Catholic countries, January for Orthodox countries
· New Year: 31st December
You might also like: The best destinations to spend NYE in Europe and beyond!
There are, of course, specific holidays which are celebrated more in one country than others, such as St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland; so, it is better to check the country you want to visit and see if anything is happening while you are there. It is also worthwhile to note that accommodations and transport can get quickly booked up around holiday times, so if you do plan on traveling during them, make sure to make reservations as early as possible.
If you love attending music festivals, the main ones tend to take place during the summer months, and the same goes for film festivals. A variety of other festivals take place in the summer months too, such as food and drink festivals. Amsterdam has some pretty good ones (one example is Rollende Keukens (The Rolling Kitchen Festival).
There are also great festivals in Portugal and Austria, where you can also always go on a wine hopping adventure. In the UK, there are plenty of events throughout the whole country, but there’s much going on all over Europe, even destinations like Ukraine, where I live part time, has so many amazing festivals from coffee, chocolate, wine and food, to even renaissance fairs.
Suggested reading: Visiting Ukraine? Here is all you need to know
Proof that any time is a good time to visit Europe
I believe that we’ve shown how there is no way of saying when the best time to visit Europe is – there are just too many factors to consider. The most important thing is to have a good idea of what you want to do on your trip and the kind of weather you wish to have to do it. Hopefully, this article has given you plenty of ideas on when and where to go in Europe when for planning your next holiday. Safe Travels during your Euro Trip!
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