When is the Best Time to Visit Europe?

Europe’s weather makes it a year-round destination, whether you’re dreaming of Mediterranean summers, snowy winters skiing or cultural holidays.

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Best time to visit

A hit of culture, breathtaking landscapes, action-packed activities, and the prettiest coastlines, Europe has something to offer visitors all year round. But when planning a trip to this varied continent, one of the most important factors to consider is timing. Each season brings its own unique charm, and understanding Europe's weather can help you make the most of your holiday.

You don’t, for example, need to follow the crowds and head to the most popular places in their peak months. Europe out of season can be even more captivating than you could imagine, with March, April and May or September and October the best time to go to Europe overall. Read on to discover more tips about when the weather in Europe is at its most perfect for exploring all that the north, south, east, and west have to offer.

 

Europe's Climate

The best time to visit Europe differs from region to region. The continent has five different climate zones, each with its own weather patterns.

In the north, including Scandinavia and Iceland, they experience a Nordic climate, which sees cold winters and mild summers (with highs of 27°C). During winter there is usually snow and temperatures can drop down to -30°C.

In central and eastern European areas there is a continental climate, which brings long, cold winters and mostly hot summers. In countries such as Switzerland and Austria, temperatures (on average) range from about 7°C in the winter up to the 30s in the summer.

Western Europe has an oceanic climate, which is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, North Sea and Baltic Sea. This part of Europe, which includes the UK, Ireland, and northern France, usually has mild, wet winters and cool summers. Temperatures can reach the mid-20s in the summer.

Then there’s the famous Mediterranean climate in southern Europe. Destinations such as Spain, Portugal, the South of France, Italy, Greece, and Turkey have hot dry summers and mild winters. Temperatures range between about 10°C and 30°C and in the spring and summer there is little rainfall.

Lastly, there’s the sub-continental climate in Northern Italy, Slovenia, and parts of Croatia, which have hot summers (like in the Mediterranean) but cool-to-cold winters, with some rain, which is more in line with the climate in continental areas.

Europe in November and December is mostly cold wherever you are, but in parts of southern Europe, you will still get temperatures in the 20s and blue sky. At this time of year, the colder parts of Europe become a magical winter wonderland, decorated with snow or the iconic Northern Lights.

Europe in May and April is beautiful almost everywhere. The more southern countries are warming up, with beach resorts opening and some parts hot enough for sunbathing and swimming. Meanwhile, the more northern countries are emerging from a long winter, with flowers blooming and longer days calling out for activities in nature.

Understanding Europe’s Seasons

With four distinctive seasons, there’s no one best time to travel to Europe. A great place to travel to year-round, here's what you can expect to see in each season, as well as the best countries to visit.

Best Time to Visit Northern Europe

The best time to visit Europe’s northern countries depends largely on what you’d like to do there, as each season is tailored better to specific experiences and activities. The busiest time of year is usually the summer, between June and August when northern Europe has its best weather and longest daylight hours. However, this can also mean higher prices, crowded attractions, and difficulty booking the hotel you might want.

If you can travel outside the school holidays, the weather in Europe in May is still very pleasant, albeit cooler than the summer months, and you’ll find fewer crowds. September and October are also a beautiful time to visit northern Europe when the weather is crisp and cool.

The kind of activities you might do in northern Europe will vary throughout the year, depending on the weather. In winter, there’s skiing, snowboarding and the magical Northern Lights in Norway, Sweden and Iceland. Spring brings weather suitable for outdoor activities like hiking and biking, and this is a great time of year to soak up the vibrant cultural scene in Denmark's capital, Copenhagen. Summer is perfect for getting out on the water in western Sweden’s beautiful coastline, plus there’s the Midsummer festivities, which take place all over the country. Autumn shows off this part of Europe’s beautiful landscape, with stunning foliage, making it an ideal time of year to see the fjords in Norway.

Best Time to Visit Western Europe

Western Europe’s peak seasons are summer and winter when weather conditions allow visitors to make the most of its top attractions. For France, hot, sunny days in the summer set the scene for holidays in the likes of Provence and the Cote d’Azur. The French Alps are equally appealing in summer, full of hikers, mountain bikers and paragliders. Look out for the Tour de France, which speeds through most of the country in July. The Fête de la Musique is another summer highlight in France, on June 21st when streets all over the country are filled with free music performances. Tennis fans should time their trip to Europe with the Roland Garros French Open, which is held in late May and early June in Paris.

France is one of the best places to visit in Europe in December thanks to its incredible ski resorts and magical Christmas markets. However, off-peak travel to this part of Europe is also brilliant, particularly in late spring and early autumn. Head to France’s wine regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Loire Valley, and Champagne in the autumn to witness the harvest and the festivities that come with it.

There’s something very special about the UK and Ireland in the summer months – when the weather behaves. The coastline is made for happy seaside holidays, while the countryside is in full bloom and sunny days are ideal for long walks, pub lunches and ice creams aplenty. All of the above translate equally well in the winter, when the pub lunches are accompanied by a roaring fire and the walks may be wet and windy but will leave you feeling revived. For a proper celebration, head to Edinburgh for Hogmanay New Year’s Eve festivities. Meanwhile, the Highlands in autumn are a riot of colour, creating a spectacular backdrop for whisky tasting and fishing.

Best Time to Visit Central Europe

The best time to visit Europe’s central countries like Switzerland and Austria are in the winter and spring months to make the most of their high-altitude ski resorts. Ski seasons in these countries tend to run from December to April, with the peak season being the Christmas holidays and February half term. To have the pistes to yourself go in January or early March and beat the school crowds. Later in the season, you’ll get more bluebird days, when the sun beams down on the snow and slow lunches are the order of the day.

Of course, the Swiss and Austrian mountains are glorious in summer too, when, like the French Alps, high-octane outdoor activities take the place of skiing and snowboarding. With temperatures around 30°C, fresh mountain air and a plethora of water sports on Lake Geneva, Switzerland’s capital is a rejuvenating holiday in July and August.

Central Europe’s cities in autumn are quieter than in the summer and have some fantastic events to look out for. Fancy a romantic weekend in Vienna? Book a holiday there in September or May to catch the opera, or experience all the glamour of the Zurich Film Festival in late September/early October.

Best Time to Visit Eastern Europe

The best time to visit Europe’s eastern countries is typically during the shoulder seasons of spring (April to May) and autumn (September to October) when the average temperature can be around 30°C and crowds are thinner compared to the peak summer months.

These are particularly good months to make the most of the pretty beaches in Croatia, Turkey and Montenegro by swimming, kayaking, and sailing. And the milder weather also means you can go sightseeing in historical towns such as Dubrovnik, Ephesus or Istanbul without feeling too hot.

Meanwhile, in Slovenia, May and June are the perfect months to go hiking in the Julian Alps, explore the picturesque Lake Bled, kayak in the emerald waters of the Soča River, visit charming medieval towns like Ljubljana and Piran, and indulge in wine tasting in the scenic vineyards of the Slovenian countryside. Temperatures are on average between 26°C and 32°C in this part of Europe in May and June.

In July and August, temperatures are around 30°C in Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia, and the popular attractions will be very busy. Hotels are also more expensive too. However, if you like a fun atmosphere, then these are the months for you. Croatia has several festivals in the summer, from contemporary music events to the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, which brings classical music, theatre, and opera performances to different venues around the city in July and August. Turkey’s Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Festival takes place in July too, the spectacular sight is a serious highlight, with 160 hot air balloons floating in the sky.

Best Time to Visit Southern Europe

It’s hard to top summer in the Mediterranean, but this is the high season so you should expect lots of people and more expensive flights and hotels, particularly in July and August. So, the best time to visit Europe’s southern countries, such as Greece, Spain, and Italy, is May, June, September and even the beginning of October when temperatures are in the 20s and 30s and there is no rainfall. In fact, the hottest places in Europe in September are southern Spain and parts of Greece, such as Crete.

However, earlier in the year, such as around Easter, places like Spain and Portugal will offer up crisp blue skies and sunshine, although milder temperatures than in the summer, you’ll still have t-shirt days for sightseeing and coastal walks. Semana Santa festivities create a lively atmosphere in Spain’s cities too. If you’re wondering where’s warm in March in Europe, then Tenerife and Cyprus are two destinations that offer up winter sun and are very good value for money at that time of year.

Meanwhile, Italy in winter has a real charm to it, there’s skiing in the Dolomites, Christmas markets and romantic sightseeing in Rome and Florence wrapped up warm against the cold, plus Venice’s Carnival in February is a highlight of the calendar.

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Best Time to Visit Europe FAQs

  • How far in advance should you plan a trip to Europe?

    You should try to book your luxury holiday to Europe at least 6 months before travelling. The earlier you book the better deals you can get on flights, and the easier it is to secure the best hotels, experiences, and restaurant bookings.

  • What time of year is the best weather in Europe?

    Europe is a continent that sees a range of climates and the type of holiday you have in mind will determine the best time of year to travel to Europe for you.

    If you want a break to one of the major cities such as Paris or Rome, visiting in the quieter months of March to June and September to October is perfect. At these times of the year, the weather is pleasantly warm, making it easy to get the most out of your holiday to Europe's most glamorous locations.

    Should you be dreaming of a holiday that takes you to the Mediterranean shores, spring and autumn are the perfect seasons for exploring the coastline. However, if you crave the heat, July to September are peak months for summer sun.

    The temperatures cool across Europe throughout winter, but this is the time to wrap up and visit the festive markets. You'll find wintry landscapes and snow-capped mountains in Scandinavia, while Iceland boasts a strikingly magical scenery and Finland is home to Father Christmas himself. Winter is also when the Alps come alive, with skiers seeking the perfect snow from December to April.

  • Where is hot in Europe in May?

    If you’re looking for sunny weather in Europe in May, you’ve got your pick of destinations, from Greece, particularly Crete and Corfu, to Tenerife which are child-friendly so ideal for the May half term, and Italy, Spain or Norway are also all excellent spring holiday choices in Europe.

  • When is the best time to visit European Christmas markets?

    Europe’s Christmas markets usually open in November and run until just after Christmas Day, with some extending into the beginning of January. For a quieter experience go earlier or later in the season, but throughout December, and the closer to the 25th as possible, is when you’ll find the most authentic and festive atmosphere.

  • When is the best time to visit Europe for a honeymoon?

    The best time to travel to Europe for a honeymoon really depends on what you’re looking for. If it’s the Greek Islands, go between May and September, for romance in Paris spring is perfect, adventurous couples could choose a honeymoon in the Alps or Dolomites between June and August, or for skiing or snowboarding between December and April. Scandinavia is at its best in the summer months or early autumn before it gets too cold, but you’ll need to travel to this part of Europe in November for the Northern Lights.

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