Travel

The best things to do in Europe for every season

Dutch windmills and tulips in Zaanstad, Netherlands Spring brings blooming tulips to the Netherlands, making it a top European destination for that season.

Europe is so big, so diverse, and so packed with cultural and natural wonders that the continent ranks among the world’s top year-round destinations.

Of course, “destination” is painted in pretty broad strokes when you’re talking about Europe in general, but part of this corner of the world’s appeal is the variety of experiences you can have with such closely packed countries and such a collection of wildly different scenery.

If you’re trying to figure out the “best” time to visit Europe, keep in mind that the main criterion on that count is when the trip makes the most logistical sense for you. Any time of year you can dedicate to a European getaway—whether the height of summer or the dead of winter—can work. To help you get started planning, here’s an inspirational roundup of some of the best things to see and do in Europe each season!

Summer: Peak season

The Croatian city of Dubrovnik as seen from the south along the beach.

Dubrovnik is one of the main attractions on Croatia's Adriatic coast, and a popular summer destination.

Hit the beaches

From the South of France, Sicily, and Croatia’s Adriatic shores to the sands of Mallorca and the Greek Islands, beachgoing is a summer no-brainer for Europeans and foreigners alike. 

Go hiking

From the green glacial valleys of the Alps and the high pastures of the Pyrenees to the oak and beech woods of the Apennines, the mythic shoulders of Mount Olympus, and endless dazzling Mediterranean coves and headlands, summer’s prime time to hoof it around Europe’s gorgeous natural scenery.

Fireworks at the Eiffel Tower for Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, France

The annual Bastille Day celebration in Paris includes fireworks at the Eiffel Tower.

Take in a festival

Festivals are a year-round affair in Europe, of course, but no question there’s an all-out smorgasbord of them in summer. From the hip and youthful masses at Tomorrowland in Boom, Belgium, Exit in Novi Sad, Serbia, and Denmark’s Roskilde Festival to the Montreuz Jazz Festival, the Eiffel Tower fireworks and other France-wide celebrations of Bastille Day, and Pamplona’s iconic Running of the Bulls, take your pick!

Sip at an open-air cafe

Whether it’s a glass of wine in Paris, an espresso in Rome, or a little sangria in Madrid, joining the locals at a street cafe is another of those quintessential summer experiences in much of Europe.

A cruise ship makes its way through a fjord in Norway

A cruise is a convenient way to see some of Norway's many scenic fjords.

Take a Norwegian cruise

Take advantage of that oh-so-generous Midnight Sun and goggle at the unreasonably gorgeous fjords of Norway’s coast, or the thrilling Arctic wildlife of Svalbard.

Fall: Shoulder season

Bicycles on a bridge over a canal in Amsterdam in autumn.

Biking is a great way to see bike-friendly European cities in autumn.

Take a bike tour

Europe is a fabulous place to see by bicycle, and much of the continent experiences the perfect weather for a cycling tour in fall.

Visit a vineyard

The same friendly weather makes vineyard-hopping among Europe’s esteemed wine regions, from Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley to Tuscany and Slovenia’s Drava, a dreamy joy.

The exterior of the Hofbrauhaus am Platzl in Munich at night

The Hofbrauhaus am Platzl is Munich's most famous beer hall.

Mark Oktoberfest in a beer garden

You can’t go bigger or better than Munich’s original, but you’ll find lots of places to raise a pint (or one of many outrageously more voluminous beer vessels) for Oktoberfest elsewhere in Bavaria and Germany in general, including Berlin.

Winter: "Off" season

A chalet on a ski slope in the Alps

The winter Alps offer skiing as well as sightseeing.

Go skiing

If you’re a downhill devotee, winter’s definitely not the “off-season” in Europe for you! You won’t find more legendary ski slopes than those in the Alps, after all.

See the northern lights

Scandinavia offers some of the best viewing anywhere in the world for the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights—whether you’re taking them in on your own or joining one of many special northern lights tours.

A Christmas Market in Old Town Prague, seen from above at night

Christmas markets originated in Germany, but today they can be found in many other places, such as Prague.

Shop (and sip) in a traditional Christmas market

Holiday magic’s just about overflowing at a traditional Christmas market (Christkindlmarkt) in Germany or Austria, as is the mulled wine.

Explore some of the world's best museums & cathedrals

The weather’s maybe on the dank or even bone-chilling side, and meanwhile the bulk of your fellow tourists are waiting till next summer to join you: What better time to explore the indoor splendor of the Uffizi, the Louvre, Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum—not to mention the cathedrals in Chartres, Cologne, Seville, and beyond.

Spring: Shoulder season

A view of houses on the Greek island of Kefalonia

Kefalonia is one of the many Greek islands that see smaller crowds in spring compared to summer.

Cruise the Greek islands

The Mediterranean temps may still be nippy, but you might well trade the possibility of a swim for the lesser crowds and gorgeous green of the postcard-perfect Greek Islands in their spring guise.

Wander a royal garden

Swoon over the blooms of Europe’s famous royal landscaping—from the Gardens of Versailles to Keukenhof in the Netherlands—in full vernal splendor.

The Acropolis in Athens with a flowering tree in the foreground

The Acropolis in Athens is less crowded (but just as scenic) in spring.

Pay your respects to the iconic archaeological & historical sites

Hit up the Athenian Acropolis, the Colosseum of Rome, the mindboggling ruins of Pompeii in spring, and you’re likely to enjoy that much more elbow room than a summertime visit would grant.

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