Best Time to Visit Europe (2020) + Where to Travel in Europe

Wondering when the best time to visit Europe is and don’t know where to start? If you’re planning a trip to explore Europe, all we can say is – great idea! Europe is a fantastic continent, with as many diverse cultures as there are cuisines and landscapes to try out and soak up. The weather in Europe can also be – well – diverse. Summer in one part of Europe might not match up to what you were imagining.

Also when it’s Fall in say…Norway, it’s still complete summer weather down in Greece. We’re going to break down the best time to visit Europe and cover all the regions of Europe you may want to explore. From Scandinavia, the Balkans, to the Mediterranean here’s the general gist of weather in Europe.

So, to help you figure it all out, we’ve studied that weather for you and come up with this insider’s guide on the best time to visit Europe. Of course, the festivals are not to be missed, so we’ve added a seasonal schedule for you as a bonus, too!


When is the Best Time to Visit Europe?


Weather in Europe in January

Nendaz, Switzerland
Snowboarding in Switzerland

Though in later months Europe can be pretty varied, January for most of Europe is when the continent agrees on one thing weather-wise: it’s cold. Mediterranean destinations, like Naples, Marseille, and Lisbon, may see temperatures that hit the mid-teens, with lows of 8°C. Western Europe hovers around 3°C, frequently dropping below freezing. 

The further north you go, the colder it gets. Russia can get to -20°C. Another thing to note is the short days. In the Arctic Circle, the sun will never rise, people! However, that means a great time to see the Northern Lights in places like Northern Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Iceland.

It is, however, an excellent time for skiing across Europe. We’ve been to the Italian Dolomites, Swiss Alps, and the Austrian Alps in January and had a fantastic time! There are also a variety of winter festivals that keep everyone happy in the cold. If you want any glimpse of sun or warmth at this time of year, head somewhere like the Portuguese islands of the Azores. Though you’ll be hard pressed to find that “swimming in the ocean” type of weather anywhere in Europe without a wetsuit.


Weather in Europe in February

Skiing in Zermatt

Still firmly in the clutches of winter in Europe, temperatures in Western Europe in February are 5°C on average. It can snow almost anywhere this time of year – even in Rome. It’s not the best time of year to visit Europe for weather, but crowds are low. We’d recommend heading inside to one of Europe’s many cultural sights, like museums and galleries.

The signs of spring do start to show towards the end of the month, with flowers like snowdrops and daffodils, as well as crisper, sunnier days. It’s still super cold. Kiev, Ukraine is -1°C, so is Oslo, Norway. Romania’s average temperature is 4°C. If you’re looking for warmth, again, head somewhere further south: Positano is 14°C, Albania is 13°C, Barcelona 15°C. The Canary Islands, part of Spain, see highs of 20°C!


Weather in Europe in March

Best Time to Visit Europe
Traveling Northern Norway in March

The snow starts to melt in March. There can be freak snow in the Alps, but usually, it’s not a thing. Officially, late March means spring; the days are sunnier, and the landscape is starting to wake up from the winter. Places like Germany and the UK hit averages of around 10-11°C.

The South of France, southern Italy, Greece, and other countries in the Med have averages in the mid-teens. Eastern Europe, Russia, and Scandinavia are still freezing though, with temperatures often below zero and short, short days. It’s a great time to visit Europe if you want to avoid the crowds.


Weather in Europe in April

This is Easter time for much of Europe (meaning religious festivals). Blossoms are in full bloom. Farms and rural areas are full of activity. It’s actually spring now. That’s shown in the temperatures, too. Even the colder countries like Finland, Russia, and the Baltic countries see averages of 10°C. 

The UK and much of Western Europe hit averages of 15°C. April is a time of changeable weather, so pack rain jackets, waterproofs boots, an umbrella, and prepare for showers. You can get beautifully sunny days, though. For warm temperatures, the Balkans, Greece, southern Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal are in the late-teens and hit the twenties on some days.


Weather in Europe in May

It’s a beautiful month across Europe. Even the usually frozen northern European countries and Russia are beginning to thaw out. In fact, Moscow is positively warm, with highs of 18°C. It’s refreshing, pleasant weather across the board, with nothing too hot yet and tourism, is still low making it the best time to visit Europe.

Rome, Italy, for example – as well as the Balkans – are seeing averages of 24°C at this time of year. It’s still very cold in Reykjavik (9°C), but then again, it’s not called Iceland for nothing, is it? Places like the UK, Denmark, and Finland (southern portions anyway) are all in the mid-teens. Towards the end of May, things may look pretty summery.


Weather in Europe in June

June means summer for pretty much all of Europe. The weather is fine, we have to say. Flowers are in full bloom in June; go hiking somewhere like the Carpathian Mountains in Romania for some amazing greenery. Days are longer, meaning the sun doesn’t set until well into the evening for much of Europe. 

Throughout the continent, the average highs are around 20°C. If you’re looking for some real heat, however, head to the Spanish capital of Madrid or Naples (27°C); even parts of Russia are hitting temperatures of 28°C. Lows can still be quite chilly though; in the UK – and a lot of Northern and Western Europe – it can drop as low as 9°C at night – basically half the temperature it was in the day! In places like Ireland and Scotland you can still plan on a few days of scattered showers.


Weather in Europe in July

July is warmer than June. It’s very warm throughout much of Europe. The weather is beautiful; the days are sunny, making chilling out on the beach very much a reality. Istanbul, Bucharest, and Belgrade are seeing highs of 29°C. Temperatures elsewhere can reach into the thirties – as in Athens, Madrid, and much of the Balkans. 

The Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia), the Netherlands, and parts of Russia – even Germany and the UK – are still in the early twenties. In recent years, heat waves have hit Europe at this time of year. In 2019, England and many other countries experienced scorching, record-breaking temperatures of 37°C. It seems to be a trend, so it might pay to be prepared for that.


Weather in Europe in August

Greece

It’s most definitely summer in August, and for most European countries, it’s the hottest month of the year. This is the month when Europe takes its summer holiday and heads to the beach, whether that’s in Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, or the Algarve.

France actually shuts down in August, with many companies closing their doors for a month. Visiting Paris in August can be weird. In Spain, people take siestas (afternoon naps of no longer than 20 minutes) to escape the heat. And it IS hot. Basically, all of Europe is in the twenties and thirties. The general rule is – north, cooler; south, hotter. Also, August means crowds in all the popular European hotspots (and non-hotspots too). This means places like Venice, Barcelona, Santorini, and Amsterdam are going to be crowded and expensive.


Weather in Europe in September

renting a car in italy

Even though September is technically the start of fall, a lot of countries do see some late summer heat. The UK often calls this an “Indian Summer,” though we don’t know why. The Balkans and other Mediterranean countries are in the mid-20s. Things start to cool down elsewhere though; Liechtenstein, Vienna, London, and Munich all see highs of around 20°C. 

Russia and Northern Europe get even cooler, only hitting about the mid-teens. To beat tourist crowds on beaches, early September is one of the best times to visit Europe; it’s also cheaper, since it’s not the summer holidays anymore. Towards the end of the month, many countries begin to get much cooler.

However if you’re still after sunshine and warm weather in September I’ve been spotted on the beaches of Sicily and Crete in late September!


Weather in Europe in October

Brittany-France-

October means fall, and fall means lower temperatures and shorter days. The weather is pretty unpredictable, with a lot of damp, wet days intermingled with crisp, sunny skies; the latter definitely complementing the colour of the fall foliage. Temperatures are, like we said, lower. 

Finland and Russia, on average, don’t get past 10°C this time of year. The Netherlands, Belgium, and Hungary, for instance, are still warm-ish, with highs of about 15°C. There are still highs in the early-twenties in places like Lisbon and the South of France.

If you’re chasing pumpkin patches, scarecrows, and pumpkin spiced lattes…well that’s sort of an American thing. BUT you can find beautiful fall foliage in places like Iceland, Germany, England, and Romania. Oh, also the Irish city of Galway throws an epic Halloween party.


Weather in Europe in November

November is cold. Days are short. Europe is getting a lot more chilly. Among the coldest places are Finland, Czech Republic, Iceland, and much of Russia. Expect cold, almost wintery weather, with highs of only about 3°C. Many of the trees are bare now, gone is that fall foliage, and a lot of destinations are quite wet with rain, and pretty cloudy this time of year.  It’s not the best time to head out on a European vacation.

That being said warmer weather can be found in Southern Spain, Nice, Croatia, and Lisbon, which all see averages in the mid-teens. For November sun, head to the Canary Islands or the Algarve, which sees temperatures of 23°C, or Malta (about 21°C).


Weather in Europe in December

what to do helsinki christmas

This is the real beginning of winter for practically all of Europe. It’s cold, it’s dark, and Christmas is on its way. The continent can see highs of 14 and 15°C, but that’s only in places like Spain and Greece. Most of Europe is cold: temperatures don’t get much higher than 5°C. Baltic and Scandinavian countries, as well as Russia, have temperatures of about zero. 

It’s definitely the time of year for sitting around a fire, drinking hot chocolate, and visiting light festivals and Christmas markets. The Alps will be coated with snow, as will Lapland (northern Scandinavia), Northern Norway, and many other countries; it can even snow in the UK. I love traveling Europe in December – it’s very festive and if you are in the right spots you’ll get to drink gluhwein while singing

Also, if you’re a skiier it’s time to unback of the skis and boots. The snow is fresh in places like Austria, France, Italy, and Switzerland. Europe is the ultimate ski break.


Epic Festivals in Europe


Winter Festivals in Europe

Chris Watt.

With all that snow and those dark nights, the winter festivals across Europe can be pretty fun. It all kicks off in December, with places like London’s Hyde Park hosting Winter Wonderland. There are winter lights in Luxembourg, it’s a good time of year to visit Santa in Helskini and Lapland, Finland, and there are plenty of Christmas markets across all of Germany, as well as Eastern and Western European Countries.

London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks are pretty incredible, while Hogmanay (Scottish New Year celebrations) in Edinburgh can be wild and a lot of fun. January takes a little while to get going, as people are recovering from New Year celebrations, we think!

The Battle of the Oranges in Ivrea, Northern Italy, is a crazy food fight – the largest food fight in Italy, rivalling the famous Tomatina of Spain. A million kilos of oranges are thrown, and a huge bonfire is lit – a more ancient tradition that welcomes springtime.

In mid-February, head to Venice. This is when the city holds its famous masked carnival. Go, get a mask made up, and join the fun.

Spring Festivals in Europe

At the start of March, there’s Nice Carnival. This is a fun festival with floats and flowers, marking the beginning of Lent. It’s actually one of the world’s biggest carnivals, alongside Venice and the very famous Brazilian Carnival. Go for floats and festivities.

Ah, Saint Patrick’s day (March). This is the day when Irish people wear green and drink Guinness, celebrating Saint Patrick. Head to Dublin, or actually any major city in the UK for some pretty crazy drinking and merriment.

From late-March to May, it’s the Amsterdam Tulip and Flower Festival. The country is famous for its tulips and, well, you’ll see a lot of them at this event.

In April (usually), it’s Easter. For the full spectacle, join the thousands of people who cram into St Peter’s Square, Vatican City, to take part in Mass led by none other than the Pope. Pretty cool. 

Stars of the White Knight Festival in Saint Petersburg is held in May; this is a huge cultural event with music, films, celebrations, and fireworks. Also in May is the very prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in London, when people get creative with their gardens.

Summer Festivals in Europe

Best Time to Visit Europe
My black eye from La Tomatina in Spain

It’s festival season across Europe – music festivals, that is. Glastonbury Festival takes place in June (check the schedule though; sometimes it misses a year). It’s also the Summer Solstice in June, so check your solar calendar then head to Stonehenge with the Wiccans.

Barcelona, Spain, hosts the huge Primavera – an international music festival to end all music festivals. It’s also the start of nightclub season in Ibiza; there are a whole host of events to get into here.

Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary, is actually one of the biggest music festivals in Europe. If you like festivals, fun, and music, then you shouldn’t miss this one! 

In July, if you’re brave enough, head to the streets of Pamplona, Spain, with other brave (or drunk) people for the insane Running of the Bulls. It’s a massive tradition that’s gone on for decades, if not centuries. Spain is also where you’ll find La Tomatina, an enormous food fight involving 25 tons of tomatoes. It takes place on the last Wednesday of August in Bunol, near Valencia.

Notting Hill Carnival is a celebration of Caribbean heritage and culture in London, taking place over the last weekend in August. It’s huge; it’s loud, it’s awesome.

Fall Festivals in Europe

The Catalan Festival is a celebration of Catalan tradition in the region. Head to Barcelona for the chance to see castellers – people who make gravity-defying human towers – not pyramids (they’re easy), but towers.

From the end of September through October is when Munich hosts the very famous Oktoberfest. Expect beer, bratwurst, and a lot of singing. Also in September, is the delicious Galway Seafood and Oyster Festival, an amazingly yummy time.

Oyster Festival
Enjoying the Galway Oyster Fest

If you’re into music, head to Paris and stay from late October to early November to catch cool live acts, talks, and DJ sets at the Pitchfork Festival. Another music festival is Airwaves in Iceland (early November). Towards mid-late November, Christmas Markets start up in many European cities like Vienna, Verona, Luxembourg, Helsinki, and Munich.


Quick Tips for Europe Travel


  • Currency: Varies from country to country. The Euro, €, is the most common. Check here for info. 
  • What to Pack: If you stick to a few elements you’ll fit in anywhere – jeans, t-shirt, watch, boots, and a sweater. At the beachwear shortcut board shorts or your favorite bikini – Europeans are, for the most part, not modest unless you are inside religious institutions. See our ultimate European packing list here.
  • Stay Connected: It is the law that all active SIM cards have free-roaming within the European Union. If you pick up a SIM card in Italy it will work in Austria and Spain now. You’ll face long-distance for phone calls, but data works just fine!
  • To beat the crowds of summer: Head to places that aren’t so well known. Bosnia and Herzegovina are great, so is Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Latvia. All these European destinations have a lot to offer without the crowds.
  • To beat the European heat: Stay out of Central and Southern Europe. Nordic countries will be your best bet for a mild summer.

Where to Travel in Europe


The Balkans

Hvar Island

One of the cheapest regions to travel in Europe. The Balkan countries include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, and sometimes Croatia…depending on who you ask.

The region is more recently known for the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s where many of the countries were involved.  The Balkans are filled with charming towns, stunning coastlines, rich history, monasteries, large forests, and rugged mountains. They’re quirky charismatic and cheap to travel we love the Balkans.


Baltic States

Tallinn, Estonia
Winter in Tallinn

Fascinating countries with medieval city centers, castles, sandy beaches, and picturesque lakes. The Baltic states typically refer to Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia and they are all quaint and rich in culture. This is the land of fairy tales and a world that feels several decades behind the rest of Europe. They’re affordable and pleasant without the headaches of more Eastern regions.


British Isles

The British Isles include Great Britain, Ireland, and a few other small British islands. Britain’s history is long and London is one of the capitals of the world and carries a massive amount of influence. Ireland remains a lovely countryside with charming locals, culture, sheep, castles and rolling hills. While the Scottish Highlands may be one of the most beautiful regions in Europe with a rich culture and strong national identity.


Central Europe

It’s a mixture of Germanic and Slavic culture smack in the middle of Europe. You’ll find historic towns, large forests, castles, amazing beer, countryside and large mountain ranges. If you want to see great cities and drink plenty of beer this is where you need to head!


Eastern Europe

Things to know in Serbia
Hiking in the Serbian countryside

Russia is a vast country that spans all the way east to the Pacific Ocean. Ukraine is diverse, with a lot to offer, from the beach resorts of the Black Sea to the beautiful cities Odessa, Lviv, and Kiev. Belarus is unique and the last dictatorship in Europe. While Romania houses Transylvania, yes that’s a real place not just a setting in Dracula.


Western Europe

Western Europe generally includes countries like Germany, France, Luxembourg, Austria, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland. Most of these countries use the Euro and all of them are significantly more expensive to travel around than the Balkans, the Mediterranean, or the Baltics. There’s a lot of great things to see here especially if you love history!


Greece, Turkey, & Cyprus

Each one will tell you that they share nothing in common, but they share everything in common. The Greeks and Turks have been warring for millennia, think Trojan War, but their two cultures are extremely similar.

They have gorgeous Mediterranean beaches, a wealth of history, a fresh Mediterranean diet, and plenty of sunshine. The hospitality here is taken seriously and you’ll find that no one treats a guest better than a Turk, Cypriot, or Greek.


The Mediterranean

Best Beaches in Europe - ITaly

This includes Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus, but also is thought of as Southern Italy, Spain, and Portugal. These are the best beach destinations in Europe and have fantastic cultures, history and most importantly – food.


Nordic Countries

Cabin — Dog Sled — Winter in Norway

Spectacular scenery of mountains, lakes, glaciers, geysers, waterfalls, and volcanoes with opportunity for outdoor life, known for the Viking Age around AD 1000. They’re some of the safest countries in the world with happy citizens, incredibly clean water, and crazy high prices.

Oh, and they’re freezing in the winter! Iceland, Greenland, Finland, Norway, the Faroe Islands, and Denmark are all usually associated as Nordic.

When is the Best Season to Travel to Europe?


High season (June – early September)

Many places in Europe suffer from extreme heat and overtourism during these months. Despite this, the summer is still high season in Europe and what many consider the best time to travel here. School holidays bring many American families over to cities like Florence, Paris, and Amsterdam. And there is the backpacker crowd on a gap year making their rounds around the continent. In other words, it’s busy – and expensive. Still, this is your best chance for sunny days, though in recent years it’s been brutally hot.

Shoulder Season (September, October, May, June)

Tourism is lower during this time, and temperatures aren’t brutally hot. Meaning better prices and fewer tourists. In my opinion, it’s the best time to travel around Europe.

Low Season (November-April):

Unless you’re on a ski holiday or it’s Christmas/New Year this is low season in Europe. It’s cold in many countries, some more than others. Still, it’s quiet, and nothing can quite beat that feeling of a nice winter day in Europe. Prices are at their lowest (except ski destinations or for the holidays), and you’ll likely be able to score some good deals!


When is the Best Time to Visit Europe?

Faroe Islands
Exploring the Faroe Islands

In my opinion the best time to travel to Europe is not in the high season. I don’t like crowds and I don’t like intense heat. That’s why I always choose to visit Europe in the shoulder season and winter season. May, early June, and September are my favorite times to visit Europe. That being said, sometimes you can’t help visiting in the summer when the kids get vacation time. In that case book early as places do sell out.

Best Time to Visit Europe on a Budget?

The Best Travel Backpacks For Europe
Backpacking around Poland

The cheapest time to visit Europe are November, December (besides the holidays), and January-April. Unless you are in Zermatt, Lech, or any other popular ski destinations this is the cheapest time to travel


Best Time to Visit Europe for Beaches?

Praia do Zavial 2 - Best Beaches in Algarve
Empty Beaches in Portugal in November

The best time to visit Europe for a beach holiday is between May and October. The further south you go the warmer it will be later in the year.

Between June and early September you’ll find crowds on most of the European beaches. Expect to pay for a chair to sit – maybe even for access to the beach depending on where. From October onwards you’ll find that things start to quiet down and the swimming is still good! That being said, many Northern Europeans are still chasing the sunshine during this time. We found beaches in Cyprus to be crazy busy still on October 31st!


Best Time to Visit Europe for Skiing and Snowboarding?

Dolomitin-Superski-Trentino-Ski-Alpe-Luisa
Snowboarding Holiday in Lech

The best time for skiing and snowboarding in Europe is between December and March. You’ll still get early and late season conditions in November and April however. Check out all the places we’ve snowboarded in Europe for winter holiday ideas.


Best Time for Backpacking Europe?

Best GoPro travel accessories
Hiking in Zakopane, Poland

Literally anytime is a good time to backpack Europe. If you’re backpacking through Europe I’m going to assume you’re on a bit of a budget meaning the cheapest time to travel is between September-May. That being said you can still score good deals on hostels and shared accommodation in the summer season – just expect some crowded dorm rooms.


What to Pack For Your Trip to Europe


Travel Insurance

We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country and it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverageSafetyWing is perfect for digital nomads. See our full review here!


Rain Jacket

Best Hiking Jackets REI Drypoint

It should go without saying that the weather can be a bit rainy, this is the most important item in your suitcase. You have two options for styles of rain jackets. The first one we recommend is a classic packable rain jacket made for hiking that is a solid choice for outdoor adventurers. The second option being a trench coat jacket for travel for those looking to maintain style while dodging puddles.


Sweater

The fleece sweater is a perfect layer when combined with an outer shell to keep you warm. For those with less time, a little bit of online shopping for wool sweaters will suffice. We picked up sweaters from Smartwool and love our stuff from Marine Layer.


Hiking Pants

prana stretch zion best hiking pants for men

Technical pants are water-resistant and dry quickly, not to mention they’re comfortable on long walks. They also make for an awesome pair of travel pants as many have become stylish these days with cuts like normal pants.


Boots

Vasque-Talus-Trek-Best-Hiking-Boot

There are some great hikes in Innsbruck packing a pair of good waterproof boots for hikes is crucial for protecting your feet. Good boots or hiking shoes here are essential. We’d suggest a high ankle boot, but you can go even further with “wellies” or muck boots.


Travel Water Bottle

Plastic pollution is a problem everywhere so it’s best not to contribute to the problem by buying plastic water bottles everywhere – plus the water from the taps in Innsbruck is perfectly safe to drink.

We’ve shifted to using an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well. However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottles for travel in our post.


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