Best Times to Visit European Cities for Budget Travelers: A Month-by-Month Guide

As summer approaches, many Americans are eager to travel to Europe for a vacation.

However, the question of affordability looms large. Summers in Europe can be crowded, hot, and expensive due to high tourist numbers, pushing up rates as locals escape to rural areas and beaches – not the ideal time for a visit.

A tower in the city
Already pricey Paris will be almost untouchable this summer with the arrival of the 2024 OlympicsD Lentz

Adding to the expense this year is hosting the 2024 Olympics in Paris during July and August. This event will affect Paris and other nearby destinations like the French wine regions, the Cote d’Azur, and cities such as London, Brussels, and Amsterdam – all easily reachable by rail and likely to increase visitor numbers.

A bridge over water with a building in the background in Budapest
Shoulder season travel to Budapest can save you hefty money on flightsRudyBalasko

For those planning a trip, it might be wise to consider travelling before or after the summer rush. A new study supports this approach, highlighting significant savings for travellers who opt for the shoulder season instead of peak times.

Boats on the water next to buildings
Copenhagen is another city where shoulder season travel can save you a princely sum Jan Kostelnik

For instance, Paris can offer reasonable rates outside of peak travel periods. Radical Storage’s analysis reveals that during the shoulder season, travellers can save an impressive average of 60.3% on hotel stays, a significant cost factor in Paris, where peak season nightly rates average $866. In contrast, waiting for the shoulder season sees rates drop to $344, resulting in a substantial $522 discount.

For travellers seeking budget-friendly options, here are the most economical times of the year to visit popular European cities:

  • Athens: April
  • Barcelona: April
  • Brussels: April
  • Copenhagen: April
  • Florence: April
  • Frankfurt: April
  • Milan: April
  • Munich: April
  • Prague: April
  • Venice: April
  • Vienna: April
  • Berlin: May
  • Edinburgh: May
  • Madrid: September
  • Nice: September
  • Amsterdam: October
  • Budapest: October
  • Dublin: October
  • Lisbon: October
  • London: October
  • Paris: October
  • Stockholm: October
  • Zurich: October
  • Rome: November

These months typically offer reduced rates for accommodations and flights and fewer crowds, making them ideal for cost-conscious travellers exploring Europe.

The definition of shoulder season can vary by destination. Still, it generally refers to the period between peak and off-peak seasons when crowds and prices are lower, yet the weather remains favourable for tourism.

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A study shows that travelling slightly outside peak times can save Europe bound money

According to the study, visiting Europe during the shoulder season means cost savings and reduces crowds while enjoying pleasant weather suitable for exploring.

The study analyzed data from Google Flights and hotel prices across various destinations to determine the best times for European travel. Aside from discovering great deals in Paris, they also found significant flight price drops to Budapest during the off-season, plummeting to 56.6% of peak season highs, as reported by Thrillist.

Brian KinneyShutterstock

Although Budapest showcased impressive price drops, it wasn’t the best overall deal. Peak pricing from the US to cities like Stockholm averaged around $778, dropping to $537 during shoulder season – a notable 30.9% reduction.

The authors recommended the best shoulder season months to visit several popular European cities as part of their findings.

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