Weather can be a significant factor in how much you enjoy a particular place – warm enough temperatures that allow you to jump in that clear, blue sea; autumn leaves that make historic buildings and countryside even more magical; or Christmas markets to warm you in the bitter cold of winter.
To help you plan the best Europe itinerary based on the season, we’ve compiled a list of places to visit depending on when your holiday period falls – or when you can find the cheapest flights.
Spring – north-west Europe
After a long, cold winter, the arrival of spring sees Europe defrost and venture outside. Spring means more in some places than others – mainly those countries where the cold is the worst, and the days are the shortest and gloomiest.
The likes of the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany and Belgium are beautiful at this time of year. Bright, young green leaves begin to sprout, the days become much longer (reaching their peak in the first month of summer, June), and flowers pop up around the cities and throughout the countryside. People dress in fewer layers, linger in sunny terrace cafes and are generally in a better mood, making this is a much livelier, more interesting time to visit these countries.
Spring is, of course, also the season of flowers, when you can visit the famed Keukenhof just outside Amsterdam to see a splendid but short-lived display of tulips, or cycle through fields of the iconic Dutch flower.
Summer – southern Europe
From Portugal in the far west of Europe’s south, right across to Turkey, the southern part of the continent is at its intoxicating best in summer. Temperatures on both land and in the sea rise, making it the perfect time for a beach getaway, whether you prefer to island hop around Greece or sail the stunning Croatian coast.
Many of these places are fascinating no matter the season, with historic cities and dramatic landscapes that can be appreciated any time of year, but nothing beats being able to cool down with a swim on the Amalfi Coast after a few days pounding the hot pavement in Rome.
Autumn – eastern Europe
Countries such as Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine and Estonia are perhaps best enjoyed in autumn after the hectic peak tourist season has run its course. The streets are emptier and lines to attractions are shorter, but the weather is still mild and pleasant enough for wandering cobblestoned streets and marvelling at the spectacular architecture found in the region. These are also countries that experience a beautiful changing of leaves that adds something special.
September through November is an ideal time to attend one of Budapest’s famous SPArties, where you can party in historical thermal baths that keep you warm and toasty despite the decreasing temperatures.
Winter – central and northern Europe
For snow bunnies there is obviously no better time than winter to visit the likes of Switzerland, Austria and France, where prime ski slopes await. Further north, Christmas markets begin to pop up in the town square of every German city and town. Vienna is also a great place to browse Christmas markets, with over 20 official markets in the city, some of which date back as far as the 13th century.
Scandinavia may have the shortest days this time of year, but they know how to do winter, so you will find oodles of comfort food amid snowy streets and, depending how far north you travel, the magical Northern Lights.
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Courtney Gahan is an Aussie serial expat, traveller and freelance writer who has bartered with Moroccan marketeers, seen the sun rise at Angkor Wat and elbowed her way through crowds on NYE in NYC. Currently based in Amsterdam.