The 2020 travel season was not what anyone expected. That is why we are looking ahead. Although it is difficult to predict how travel will look like in the aftermath of the COVID-19, we know how travel looked like before the pandemic. At Avoid Crowds we have been predicting how busy tourist destinations get for almost 2 years. We do this by combining tourism data with information about events, cruise ship arrivals, public holidays and much more. We have day to day crowd predictions for most major European destinations. You can find the daily crowd predictor here. For this overview we combine our crowd prediction data with climate or weather forecasts. Combined these two sets of data form our overview of best time to travel Europe in 2021.
Before we can write about the best time to visit Europe, we should realise that Europe is more than just one destination. The best time to visit Europe depends on what you want to do. While January might not be a good month to visit an island in Greece, it is the best month to go on a ski vacation in the Alps. In this overview, we will try to give travel advise for several different regions in Europe. If you already know your destination, we also have an overview of the best time to visit for multiple individual cities such as Rome, Amsterdam, Dubrovnik or Venice.
Best time to travel to Europe in 2021
Large European cities (eg. Rome, Paris or London): Shoulder season (March to June – September to October)
Alps: January to March for winter sports, July or August for a summer vacation
Mediterranean: April to early October. Be aware that July and August can be too busy.
Nordics & Baltics: May to September
Eastern Europe: May to September
January is good month for winter sports
January in Europe means winter time on the entire continent. Winters in Europe are cold and depending on where you are, either wet or snowy. The Mediterranean in the south will be cold and wet while the alps and Nordics are covered in snow for months. Western Europe, including France, London and Amsterdam, will be cold, wet and windy. The upside of traveling to Europe in January is that it is not too busy. On average we see some of the lowest crowds of the year. But that of course has a good reason: the weather. Which in some parts of the continent is just the reason to travel: winter sports.
If you travel to Europe for a winter sports vacation, January is the best time to travel. Both the Alps and the Nordic countries will be covered in snow meaning that all resorts will be open. Another advantage of skiing in January is that it is a relatively quiet month. For the ski season, especially in the Alps, there are two peak seasons: Christmas and February. During Christmas, many families living in areas where there is hardly any snow, for example in Germany or the Netherlands, will fulfil their need for a white Christmas by spending their holidays in the Alps. Meanwhile, school vacations across the continent will make February the second busiest period to ski.
Large European cities: (Very) quiet but the weather can be cold, windy and wet.
Alps: Great month for skiing: lots of snow and smaller crowds than in December or February.
Mediterranean: Even in the Mediterranean area, adverse weather conditions can be a reason not to travel.
Nordics & Baltics: January is not a great time to travel to the Nordics or Baltics: temperatures will be well below freezing point. Upside: no crowds at all.
Eastern Europe: Cold weather stops most people from traveling to the eastern part of the continent in January.
February in Europe is cold and busy in the Alps
Traveling to Europe in February is not the best idea if you do not like to ski or if you are not used to cold rain. In some parts of Europe, it can even rain horizontally. It happens when temperatures are just above freezing point, it rains and strong wind is blowing that cold rain in another trajectory. That wind can be so strong that it destroys umbrellas and blows bicycles over. Although this only happens in coastal areas like the Netherlands, parts of Great Britain or Denmark, it is reason enough for us not to travel in February.
February is also not the perfect month for a ski trip to the Alps. School vacations in countries like Germany will make ski resorts busier than January or March. If you are lucky with the weather, February can be a good month to do city trips to large European cities such as Paris or Rome. If you are unlucky it will be wet and cold.
Large European cities: Low crowds, potentially bad weather.
Alps: Great ski conditions but larger crowds than January or March.
Mediterranean: Still winter and therefore not great for travel.
Nordics & Baltics: winter cold makes it attractive if you seek snow, otherwise best to avoid.
Eastern Europe: Still winter and therefore not great for travel.
March is a slow travel month in Europe
Except for winter sports, March is not a popular month to travel in Europe. Most destinations are quiet as there are no or limited school vacations on the continent. There are also no public holidays. Meanwhile, the weather across Europe is not yet that great. Snow, rain and wind can make several parts of the continent feel cold.
March is the last month for winter sports in the lower skiing areas. Although many ski areas will remain open until around Easter, it is getting quieter and less snowy each week. The season in the southern parts of Europe will slowly start to kick off in March but remains relatively quiet. The season the North and East of Europe will not yet start until May. For the first time cruise ships will start to reposition from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean.
Large European cities: when spring starts early, March can be the perfect month to travel to cities like Paris, London or Madrid. There will be few crowds but if the weather does not play along it can be cold and wet.
Alps: March is the last true winter sports month in the Alps. All ski areas will be open while the crazy big February crowds have now left the mountains.
Mediterranean: March marks the beginning of low season in the Mediterranean. Only a few cruise ships and a small number of tourists will be visiting destinations in the area.
Nordics & Baltics: low season with cold weather and potentially bad weather.
Eastern Europe: low season with cold weather and potentially bad weather.
In April, weather across Europe starts to improve and the travel season kicks off
While the weather is improving, the size of the crowds in Europe’s main tourist destinations are getting bigger well. It will become especially busy around the Easter holidays. During Easter, almost the entire continent has a few days off and it can be very busy. This especially has an effect on larger cities and amusement parks. Many cruise ships have now also repositioned from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean. This causes temporary surges in crowds in many coastal destinations.
Large European cities: April is shoulder season in most European cities. Weekends surrounding religious holidays such as Easter are best to be avoided.
Alps: Last month for skiing. Usually most ski resorts close after the Easter weekend. Higher situated areas might remain open.
Mediterranean: first month where cruise traffic picks up quickly. Except for the Easter weekend, most destinations remain quiet.
Nordics & Baltics: cruise season slowly starts to pick up in northern Europe in April. Weather is now also improving quickly. Crowds are still low.
Eastern Europe: Season slowly starts to pick up in April.
May is a good month to travel in Europe but occasionally gets very busy
For most destinations, May is a good month to travel. Temperatures are increasing rapidly and rain clouds stay away. Although there are some bad weather days, the average temperature is rising each week. The beginning of the month can be busy as some public holidays (Labour day) and sporadic school vacations allow Europeans to travel. Other holidays that will make Europe feel (extremely) busy are Pentecost and Ascension.
Large European cities: It can be busy around public holidays but overall, May is a good month to visit larger European cities in 2021 with relatively good weather and small(er) crowds. Keep an eye on religious holidays as these can make these destinations feel very crowded.
Alps: Spring brings small crowds but also almost nothing to do in the mountains. Hiking season is starting in the region.
Mediterranean: depends on the destination. Some will be busier than other: for example Croatian coastal areas are relatively quiet while Italian destinations can already be very busy. The weather in May is already great with high average temperatures and not so many wet rainy days.
Nordics & Baltics: Spring time is still relatively cold but there are hardly other tourists traveling to the North of Europe. Only in the larger cities can it be relatively busy.
Eastern Europe: May is a good month to travel to Eastern Europe. The weather is improving quickly while the larger tourist crowds are not yet finding their way in the east.
June is the last month before Europe’s peak season
Although it is getting busier across Europe quickly, June is not yet peak season. Although some destinations will fee overcrowded, it is not as busy as it will be later in the summer. Mostly the main or most well-known tourist attractions are affected by overtourism in this period. This means that destinations like Venice, Paris, London and Amsterdam will already be busy.
Lesser known destinations, or destinations outside the big(ger) cities will not yet be too busy. Amusement parks are also still relatively quiet. The beginning of the month is definitely better than the second part of the month when some European countries are already away from school. Especially southern European countries have long school vacations that already start in June. Please be aware that the UEFA EURO 2020 football competition will take place in June and July as it has been rescheduled due to COVID-19. The tournament will be organized in host cities in different countries while the finals take place in London.
Large European cities: It can get busy on some weekends in June. Keep and eye on big events such as UEFA EURO 2020 which will take place in multiple European cities.
Alps: June is a good month to travel to the Alps in 2021. Expect good weather with relatively small crowds.
Mediterranean: although cruise traffic is now peaking, June is still a good month to travel to the Mediterranean.
Nordics & Baltics: June is the perfect month to travel to the Nordics and Baltics.
Eastern Europe: June brings good weather to Eastern Europe while crowds are still relatively small.
July marks the start of peak season in Europe
Although July is not as busy as August, it is already peak season. While the crowds start off at acceptable levels early in the month, it gets extremely busy by the end of July. Local events and cruise ship arrivals can make it even busier on some dates. We advise you to use our day to day crowd prediction tool to see what days are better than others.
Although it is difficult to predict how travel will look like after COVID-19, we expact that all regions in Europe will be busy in July 2021. Hotel prices and flights will be at their highest levels of the year. Only the beginning of August is busier than July. We recommend that you visit lesser known destinations and plan ahead by buying tickets to major attractions well ahead of time.
Large European cities: peak season. Be aware that the UEFA EURO 2020 football tournament will be organized this summer. Finals take place in July which can make some destinations very crowded. London hosts both semi-finals and the final. Meanwhile, the Tour de France’s final stage and domestic holidays make Paris busy on several days.
Alps: peak season for summer tourism.
Mediterranean: peak season.
Nordics & Baltics: peak season.
Eastern Europe: peak season but except for some major tourist hotspots, still manageable.
In August peak season peaks
European peak season is at its worst in August. Even after the coronavirus, we expect an incredibly busy August in 2021. You should prepare for unacceptable large crowds at Europe’s major tourist destinations and attractions. The weather is at its best with limited rain across the European continent and the warmest temperatures of the year. If you can, we advise against traveling in August 2021.
Similar to July, all regions in Europe will be busy. Hotel prices and flights will be at their highest point of the year. If you are able to travel during another month, we would recommend doing so. We also recommend that you visit lesser known destinations and plan ahead by buying tickets to major attractions well ahead of time.
Large European cities: peak season.
Alps: peak season for summer tourism.
Mediterranean: peak season.
Nordics & Baltics: peak season.
Eastern Europe: peak season but except for some major tourist hotspots, still manageable.
September remains busy in Europe, the weather is still good
Overall September is a very good time to travel. There will be smaller crowds while the weather is still fantastic. There are fewer crowds as kids are in school and the majority of people back in their jobs. Peak season is over. However, September is busier than it was in the past.
September is the last good month to visit the Alps, Nordics, Baltics or eastern Europe. For larger cities or the Mediterranean, September is still peak season. Early September can be as busy as some weeks in August. Especially the weekends can be extremely crowded in larger European cities like Venice or Amsterdam.
Large European cities: although peak season is over you should still expect large cities and main tourist hotspots to be busy. Especially weekends are busy.
Alps: if you are lucky with the weather, September can be a good month to travel to the Alps with low crowds and nice weather.
Mediterranean: September weather in the Mediterranean is fantastic while most of the crowds have now left the southern part of Europe.
Nordics & Baltics: It cools down quickly after the summer months in the Baltics. September is the last month of the year where traveling to the Nordics or Baltics is still recommended.
Eastern Europe: low crowds and overall good weather.
October is becoming the perfect slow season month to travel in Europe
We believe October has become the perfect month to travel through Europe. With most children in school and their parents at work, you can expect smaller crowds. ‘Thanks’ to global warming, the weather is much warmer and drier than in the past. This combination of fewer people and fewer rainy days, makes October the 21st century perfect travel month. Please be aware that school vacations in some countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, can make it busy from time to time.
Large European cities: perfect month to travel with fewer people and relatively good weather.
Alps: not so great month to travel as major attractions close down this month.
Mediterranean: although it is not as warm as the hot summer months, the weather can still be good in October. Meanwhile, the larger tourist crowds have left the Mediterranean. We believe it is the perfect month to travel through Southern Europe.
Nordics & Baltics: while the weather is still warm in other parts of Europe, this is not always the case in northern parts of the continent. Crowds are in fact smaller.
Eastern Europe: quiet month in terms of travel. You have to be lucky with the weather.
November is Europe’s slowest travel month
November is the slowest month of the year if you are traveling to Europe. Although there are almost now crowds, you have to be lucky with the weather. Autumn storms, rain and Acqua Alta (floods in for example Venice) occurred in November last year (2019). If you are not planning on an outdoor vacation and do not mind some rain, November is a good month to travel through Europe.
Although the weather is always unpredictable, it is especially unpredictable in November. Global warming is changing the climate of the continent so quickly, that it is extremely hard to predict how the weather can be in November. In general, it could be a good month to travel to larger European cities as there are hardly any other tourists. Crowds are very low in November and as a result, hotel prices tend to drop in November before increasing again in December.
Large European cities: It can be cold and wet but there are also good days. Crowds in November are low in almost all large European cities. If you are lucky with the weather November can be a great month to visit Paris or London.
Alps: November is probably the slowest month in the Alps. Except from some glaciers, no ski areas are opened to the public.
Mediterranean: Global climate change is making November weather in the Mediterranean highly unpredictable. Meanwhile, tourists mostly stay away making November a relatively quiet month in the Mediterranean.
Nordics & Baltics: The weather in the Nordics and Baltics make November a bad month to travel. It usually rains and the temperatures are dropping quickly. An occasional storm can make the experience even worse.
Eastern Europe: November is not a popular month to travel in Europe. It is especially a slow month in most of Eastern Europe as the weather is making the area cold and wet.
In December, European travel picks up again
In December, the travel season in Europe picks up again. Especially the second half of the month will be busier. This is because almost all European countries have school vacations during the weeks surrounding Christmas. Weekend trips to destinations like London or Paris are very popular throughout the month. Add in domestic day trippers and large crowds doing Christmas shopping, you should expect large crowds if you plan on visiting these larger cities.
You can expect similar large crowds in destinations known for Christmas markets such as Germany’s larger cities. Meanwhile, the winter sports season kicks off around Christmas. Outside the bigger European destinations and ski resorts, December is a slow month for travel in Europe. Weather wise it is one of the wettest months of the year with rain in almost all areas. Keep an eye on weather forecasts in mountainous and coastal areas as winter storms can cause major disruptions.
Large European cities: Christmas markets, shopping crowds in the weekends and not so great weather. You have to be lucky with the weather and avoid shopping during the weekends if you want to enjoy a city trip in Europe in December 2021.
Alps: The ski season in the Alps starts in December and ends in April. Around Christmas, it can be extremely busy in and around the main ski resort towns. Early in the month is relatively good. Only the higher areas come with (almost) guaranteed snow: lower areas will have to work hard on making sure they can open before Christmas.
Mediterranean: It is low season in the Mediterranean in December. Except for some city trippers to destinations like Rome or Barcelona, you shouldn’t expect big crowds. There is a reason for this: bad weather. It can be cold and wet even in the most southern parts of Europe. There is also a limited hike in travel to islands like Mallorca and Ibiza. The Canary islands are a popular destination as . well.
Nordics & Baltics: It is very cold in the Nordics in December. Expect lots of snow and temperatures well below freezing point. Crowds, except for winter sports areas, will be low.
Eastern Europe: Low crowds and bad weather make Eastern Europe not the most attractive destination to travel to in December 2021.