Europe is a massive place with so many countries offering so many unique experiences. Deciding when to visit European countries is crucial in your experience and can determine how long you spend at each place. Winter is not my favourite time of year because I am too busy focusing on the cold and not enjoying the place I am in. A few years ago we spent our New Year week in France, a day trip into Paris over this time was possibly the coldest I have ever been. There were heat craters in the footpaths all throughout the city and I found myself standing on them every chance I could.
Picking what time to visit Europe and which countries to go to is extremely important. I have been to Europe through all four seasons so I am here to tell you the best times to go to which countries.
Winter Mid December – March
Spring Mid March – June
Summer Mid June – August
Autumn Mid September – December
Summer – Peak Season
Summer in Europe can be all the way from sweltering heat to a cool summer breeze. If the heat isn’t your strong point then maybe avoid places like Italy and Greece through the summer season. Remember summer is Europe’s peak season and it does get extremely busy. Trying to arrange your trip as early or as late into the season as you can will help you to avoid large crowds.
Tip: Avoid the roads on the 15th of August, traffic is at it’s peak then because for the locals it is school/summer break.
UK – The UK on average is a cold place to be any time of the year, so if you hate the cold but are itching to visit the UK, the summer time is the best time for you. The warmest the UK has been as a whole was 14 Degrees, still making it a chilly visit but so worth it. I know 14 Degrees may not be cold, but I am Australian.
Italy – For me, I see Italy as a summer destination as gelato is a must on a hot summers day. If you are visiting Italy for the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum, then I would suggest go in summer or any other season besides winter. During winter, there is construction all over Rome as winter is not their peak season and they use this time for maintenance. So if it is your first time in Italy, you will be disappointed visiting such a beautiful historic place in the winter time, so I suggest going through summer.
Austria – Austria is the most beautiful country in Summer with their blossoming flowers and endless green hills supplying visitors with views for miles and miles out. Salzburg is one of my favourite places in Europe, it offers so many unique experiences. I loved this city during the summer time, they have festivals in the town centre and walking the local mountains is worth it with a spectacular view over the city.
Munich and Amsterdam – These two places are in a cooler climate and tend to not get as hot, but again making them popular places to visit. If you want to travel in the summer time but can not stand the heat, then these destinations are ideal for you.
French Rivera – The French Rivera is best visited in summer but before August. This is because August is school break and summer vacation throughout most of Europe and the French Rivera is a go to summer location. Visiting the French Rivera is ideally better before August, as the crowds are also a lot lower and you are actually able to get a spot on the beach.
Spring and Autumn – Shoulder Season
Shoulder season is a smart time to travel Europe as it is outside the peak season making the crowds less intense, and the temperature is a perfect mix of heat and a cool breeze. Through shoulder season, the weather can be unpredictable, so packing both winter and summer clothes is ideal as one day it could be extremely hot and the next it could be raining.
Tip: Day light doesn’t last as long as the summer season, but the light is still around longer then if you were to go in winter.
Spain – Spain is one of the hottest places in Europe, so visiting this country in the colder seasons is best and plus you miss all the crowds visiting this time. Lining up to enter the Sagrada de Familia? No problem.
Portugal – March is known as the most beautiful time to visit this country, lack of crowds and warm weather makes it an ideal European destination during shoulder season. If you like to do the Hop-on-Hop-offs in different cities, then visiting Portugal during this time is ideal as crowds are low.
Greece – Greece is a very popular place to visit in the summer time of Europe, so visiting Greece in shoulder season is worth the investment. Sailing around the Islands, touring Athens and even exploring the cities like Santorini and Ios is quicker because you won’t be stuck behind large amounts of people.
Winter – Off Season
Europe without a doubt can be very, very, very, very cold. If the cold isn’t for you then I would suggest not travelling Europe through winter at all. You can still ski during the other seasons, so keep in mind winter is not your only option if this is what you are travelling to Europe for. Although, if you hate crowds, then this is the perfect time for you to travel Europe as there are minimal crowds and you won’t have to wait for hours on end to go up the Eiffel Tower.
Tip: If you are a budget traveller, look into coming to Europe at this time as airfares, transport and tourist attractions aren’s as expensive – well most of the time.
Venice – Im putting this city on this list as Venice in the other seasons is PACKED and crossing the Rialto Bridge is a mess in itself. I went to Venice in shoulder season where it was beyond busy and you had to wait hours to hop on board a gondola. Want to have Venice all to yourself? Come during winter and walk the streets without being pushed and shoved.
Germany, Austria and France – Although these countries are gorgeous during the other months, they are equally picturesque during winter. Why? Christmas markets. Places like Rothenburg Ob De Tauber, Vienna and Avignon have the most amazing Christmas markets making you feel like winter is truly worth it in Europe. I assure you, you will see nothing else like it and minus the crowds, it really isn’t all that bad.
London – London is also a winter destination for me, as Hyde Park has a Christmas Wonderland opening around the end of November. London is beautiful in the winter time, even though it is freezing cold.
NOTE: Winter in Europe, you will lose day light by 4pm – 5pm so be prepared for shorter days.
What are you favourite European countries by the season?