A breakdown of the best time to visit Europe for weather, sightseeing, travel and outdoor activities. Start planning your trip to Europe with these essential travel insights.
When is the best time to go to Europe? What is the weather like in Europe? When is the best month for a beach holiday in Europe?
Best time to visit Europe for
Summer Vacations: The best months for a beach holiday in Europe are June through to September. You should be aware that August is the peak month for European tourism, and so is best avoided if you have the flexibility to choose another month instead. Personally, I love both June and September in Greece.
Backpacking: The best season to visit Europe for backpacking would be just after the peak August rush. September and October in the southern European countries will still be having great weather and much lower prices – essential for that backpacking budget!
City Sightseeing: The early summer or early autumn months are perfect for city sightseeing, especially in southern countries such as Italy and Greece. June and September are ideal for cities like Rome and Athens – It can be uncomfortably hot in August in these cities for some people.
Skiing: The best time of year to go to Europe for skiing is between the months of late November and mid-April. The best prices can be found in January, which is between the two peak weeks of the Christmas/New year break and the half-term school vacations in February.
Geographical Regions of Europe
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's keep in mind there's over 50 countries in Europe. With an area of 10.18 million km² and a population of 741.4 million, the weather is not going to be the same in all places at the same time.
For the purposes of this guide on when to visit Europe, we'll keep it simple and use the following geographical definitions:
Northern Europe: Includes roughly the UK, Germany, France, Baltic and Scandinavian Countries.
Southern Europe: Includes roughly the Balkan and Mediterranean countries.
You should note, that some countries such as France could be classed as both Northern and Mediterranean countries. C'est la vie!
Best Summer destinations in Europe
The southern countries in Europe are always going to have the hottest, driest summers. For beach holidays in the sun, perennial favourites such as Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Portugal, Malta, and Italy are the best destinations in Europe in the summer months.
For fewer crowds and a less-discovered atmosphere, Albania and Bulgaria are great choices of where to go in the summer in Europe.
Best Winter Destinations in Europe
Choosing the best European winter destinations will come down to what it is you are looking for. Here's some thoughts:
Best weather in Europe in winter: Again, it's going to be those southernmost countries which have the milder weather. Greece and Cyprus are generally the warmest European countries in winter.
Best European winter sport destinations: If you want to keep active through the winter months, then the Northern countries are typically great for winter sports. Norway and Sweden are obvious choices, and the ski resorts in the Alps are also world famous. For a lesser known skiing destination, look into Greece. Yes, there are winter ski resorts in Greece!
Meteorological Seasons in Europe
Europe has four distinct seasons, which are Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. These are defined as:
- Spring – 1st March until 31st May
- Summer – 1st June until 31st August
- Autumn – 1st September until 30 November
- Winter – 1st December until February 28th or 29th in a leap year
Each season has it's own weather types and the day time hours vary in length.
Seasonal Weather in Europe
Weather in Spring in Europe: This really is a cross-over period for countries. In the ski resorts there may be still snow enough to ski, but in other countries, things are starting to warm up nicely. The earliest I've taken a comfortable swim in Greece is April, although some brave souls swim all the year around!
The average temperatures during Spring in Europe are: Northern Europe with high temperatures of 14°C and low temperatures of 4°C, and Southern Europe with high temperatures of 18°C, and low temperatures of 7°C.
Weather in Summer in Europe: Things warm up nicely in the European summer. Of course, the Mediterranean countries have the best summer weather, but even central European countries like Germany and Hungary can be surprisingly hot.
The average temperatures during Summer in Europe are: Highs of 30°C, and lows 17°C for Southern Europe, whilst the Northern countries in Europe can expect temperatures between 24°C and 14°C during the summer.
Weather in Autumn in Europe: The temperatures start to fall away as autumn progresses. In the south of Europe, it's still possible to go swimming in the sea comfortably until the end of October. In the Northern countries though, the grey skies, wind and rain may have arrived.
The average temperatures in Autumn in Europe are: Highs of 14°C and lows of 7°C for the Northern countries, whilst in the south of the continent, countries experience temperatures ranges between 20°C and 10°C.
Weather in Winter in Europe: Shorter colder days are the hallmark of a European winter. In the very far north of the continent, the sun may not appear at all. Oslo in Norway can experience nights as long as 18 hours! In the south, there is more daylight but it's still cold!
The average temperatures during the Winter in Europe are: Highs of 5°C and lows of 0°C for the Northern countries, and highs of 7°C and lows 0°C in the South.
Travel Seasons in Europe
Whilst travel may follow the traditional seasonal patterns to some extent, there are better way to define the European travel seasons.
High Season: June through August is when the most people in Europe decide to travel. The biggest vacation period occurs in August, when it seems that literally everyone in Europe is on holiday and determined to head to every beach on the continent! You can expect hotel and travel prices in Europe to be more expensive in the high season.
Low Season: Typically the winter months, when less people are traveling is classed as low season. Of course, if you've been waiting for some decent snow to hit a ski slope, you'll find that winter sports destinations have their own high season. Christmas and the New Year period can be very expensive.
Shoulder season: Outside of the two seasons mentioned above, there's some travel bargains to be had. After living in Greece for five years, I always prefer to vacation in either June or September when the weather is still very nice and the prices for accommodation are lower.
Weather in Europe
In this section, we'll look at the weather in Europe by month.
Europe weather in January
Northern Europe weather in January: This is the coldest month of the year in Europe. It's also where the geography of the continent can make quite big weather and daylight hour differences between even the Northern countries. For example, snow will be a constant feature in the very north, while London may get just a smattering of snow.
According to Scandinavians, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. Take their advice, and pack lots of warm, waterproof clothing if traveling in the Northern countries of Europe in January!
Expect the average temperatures in January in Northern Europe to be around 5 degrees. Prepare for it to be lower!
Southern Europe weather in January: It's a little warmer in the Southern countries, especially the ones by the coast. The more central Balkan countries can have very cold weather though. In general, expect the temperatures in January in Southern Europe to be between 13°C and 7°C. The higher you go though, the colder it will get, so stay off the mountains if you haven't got the right clothing with you!
Countries with the best weather in Europe in January include: Cyprus and Greece (Crete and the Peloponnese).
Countries in Europe to go skiing in January: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, Andorra – even Greece!
Europe weather in February
Northern Europe weather in February:
Southern Europe weather in February: This can be a strange month for the Mediterranean countries. I remember when I first moved to Greece in February, it snowed the day after I arrived. The following year, at exactly the same time, I was showing my brother around the Acropolis wearing T-Shirt and shorts because it was so hot!
In terms of travel planning, pack for the worst and embrace the best when it happens. Also remember the daylight hours are still relatively short, and it will get colder at night even if the sun was shining during the day. Temperatures can range anywhere between 2°C and 20°C. On average, expect average high-temperatures of 13.9°C (57°F), and average low-temperatures of 6.8°C (44.2°F) in Southern Europe in February.
Countries with the best weather in Europe in February include Cyprus, Greece, parts of Italy, Spain and Portugal.
Countries to go skiing in Europe in February include Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, Andorra.
Europe weather in March
Northern Europe weather in March: Ice and snow is starting to melt in the more Northern and higher parts of Europe, and the temperatures are slowly but surely on the up and up. Berlin, which can be a very cold city, has temperature highs of 8°C and lows of 0°C in March. London does slightly more favourably with March temperatures measuring an average high of 12°C and average low of 6°C.
Southern Europe weather in March: You can really start to tell the difference between North and South countries in Europe in March. Whilst the weather in the South hasn't quite stabilized enough to be reliable yet, you're certainly going to get your fair share of warm days, especially in the Mediterranean countries. Daytime temperatures in Mediterranean Europe usually reach 15°C in March, falling to 8°C at night.
Countries with the best weather in Europe in March include Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
Europe weather in April
Northern Europe weather in April: It's definitely getting warmer, and depending on the year, Easter is just around the corner. Temperature wise, the first half of April is can be similar to March with a few random warm days thrown in for good measure. The highs of most Northern European cities are now at least double figures, but nighttime lows average at 5 degrees.
Southern Europe weather in April: Temperatures are continuing on the way up, with the average highs now reaching 20°C. You might find there are occasional showers and cold spells, but as the month carries on the weather becomes a lot more reliable and pleasant. Remember to pack your sunglasses – Even if it's not quite T-Shirt weather, the sun can be strong in the south in April!
Countries with the best weather in Europe in April include Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Italy, Spain and Portugal, coastal Albania and Croatia.
The April Europe weather is ideal for city sightseeing as well as outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling.
Europe weather in May
Northern Europe weather in May: The weather in May can be unpredictable with rainy days nestling side by side with sunny ones. In the far north, the sun can now still be visible at midnight which is quite an experience! Expect temperatures to range between 7°C at night to 17°C during the day.
Southern Europe weather in May: The worst of the rain and the cold is behind the far Southern countries in May, and it's starting to feel a lot more like summer. Average high temperatures of 25°C during the day may dip a bit lower at night, so bring a warmer top for the evenings. May is the typical month when most Greek try to get their first swim of the year in!
Countries with the best weather in Europe in May include Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Albania, Bulgaria, and Croatia.
May in Europe is an ideal month for outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling.
Europe weather in June
Northern Europe weather in June: The days are starting to get very long indeed, especially in the Northern most countries like Sweden and Norway. In Iceland, it's the start of 24 hour sunlight which will run through until July. Heatwaves start to hit cities such as Oslo, where temperatures can get to 30 degrees on some days.
Southern Europe weather in June: This is really the start of summer for the Mediterranean countries. The sea temperatures are more than warm enough to swim in, and sun bathing on the beach is so enjoyable you'll never want to leave. Average temperatures are around 30°C during the day, but it can get much hotter than that. The weather in June in southern Europe is just about right for dining outside late at night with little more than a T-shirt and shorts needed. For me, at least!
Countries with the best weather in Europe in June – Pretty much all of them. June is a really nice month to visit Europe.
Read: Greece in June
Europe weather in July
Northern Europe weather in July: Neck and neck with August as the warmest time of year for northern countries, July is the start of summer for places like the UK. On heatwave days, you can expect crowds to flock to beaches such as Bournemouth. Not every day is a hot one though, and temperatures average somewhere around 23 degrees during the day.
Southern Europe weather in July: It's starting to feel like living in an oven in some parts of the south. Athens in particular can be a very hot city, and you'll find the occasional day where temperatures shoot over 40 degrees. That's not the best time to be walking to the top of the Acropolis, hat's for sure!
Countries with the best weather in Europe in July are basically all of them.
Europe weather in August
Northern Europe weather in August: This can be a good month to visit the Northern countries, as everyone else seems to be heading south to the beach. Of course, if you are after a beach holiday, Northern countries are all a bit hit and miss, but for general touring and sightseeing August is great.
The August weather in Northern Europe is warm and pleasant. There are average daily temperatures between 21 and 23 degrees celsius.
Southern Europe weather in August: Crazy hot. Seriously. You can expect the cities to empty as everyone heads to the beach to cool down, and some countries even have a set holiday period to do this. Cities like Athens might be having temperatures of 40 degrees, but down by the beach, the sea breeze makes it a lot more tolerable.
Countries with the best weather in Europe in August include the more central countries, as the southern ones may be too hot for some people.
Europe weather in September
Northern Europe weather in September: At the beginning of the month, temperatures start to drop, with an average high temperature of 16°C, and lows of 7°C. The heaviest rains haven't started yet, but they will be on the way later in the month and into the following one.
Southern Europe weather in September: This is an ideal time to visit the Mediterranean countries. The August crowds have gone, and the temperatures in September in Europe still average around 29°C during the day.
Countries with the best weather in Europe in September – All the Mediterranean countries with beaches!
Europe weather in October
Northern Europe weather in October: The weather is starting to take a downturn in Northern Europe, with rain falling for 50% of the days during October. It's chillier as well, with an average temperature of just 7°C and highs rarely exceeding 10°C.
Southern Europe weather in October: In the south of Europe, October is really the last month of good weather. In Greece, you can be lucky to swim up until the end of the month comfortably. At the beginning of October you might see day time highs of 27 degrees, but by the end of the October, it might struggle to get past 24 degrees.
Countries with the best weather in Europe in October include Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Bulgaria, Malta. Check these best Greek islands in October.
Europe weather in November
Northern Europe weather in November: Winter is coming! The average temperature range bounces between highs of 4°C and lows of -1°C in the Scandinavian countries. In London, you'll get a split of 12° / 7°.
Southern Europe weather in November: Countries in the south of Europe will start to see cloudier days in November, with occasional rain and a chill in the air. At the beginning of November, day time highs of 20 degrees are still possible, but by the end of the month, 18 degrees is more normal during the day.
Countries with the best weather in Europe in November include the southern Mediterranean. You'll need to pack some warm clothes for the evening though.
Europe weather in December
Northern Europe weather in December: The far north is a great place to be if you like snow and wintry scenes. There's temperatures to match of course, with -2 degrees being an average.
Southern Europe weather in December: It's chilly in the south of the European continent in December. The Athens temperature in December averages 15° / 8°.
Countries with the best weather in Europe in December include Greece and Cyprus.
– Dave Briggs
Dave is a travel writer originally from the UK and now living in Greece. He started this travel blog in 2005, and over the years has written hundreds of travel blog posts about Europe and Greece in particular. He has a somewhat ambitious (perhaps impossible) goal of visiting every Greek island and writing about it.