Best time of year to visit central Europe

One of the most often asked questions by tourists to tour guides like myself is the simple question of what time of year is the best time to visit. Depending on when this comes up in the tour, my answer can vary (as in how much time I have to answer, on walking tours you don’t necessarily have time to answer things in detail). I’m a tour guide of Germany and Austria with several years of experience monitoring ideal conditions for tourists.

The simple answer would be either early September or the middle of October. If neither of those works out, then spring would be the next best choice, with hesitation.

The main things people are worried about are the weather, crowds, and museum opening hours.

I think it’s fairly common sense that late spring or early fall would have the ideal weather for the average tourist. In southern Germany and Austria, the highest amount of rainfall is during the middle of the summer, so June, July and August are rather wet. Most of the time between November and April it hovers around freezing, making it not very pleasant for wandering around new cities.

As far as crowds are concerned, those are also very much predictable. I would try to avoid spring break periods, and since different schools have them at different times, it’s difficult to guess and so from February until late April, there could be peak season crowds because of spring breakers, depending on your luck. May, June, July, and August are the busiest times, as well as the most expensive times to visit the region. One last thought on crowds is that since I live in Munich, crowds heading to and from the Oktoberfest make everything in the general region extremely busy as well.

A little tip to go along with that Oktoberfest comment: the crowds leave Munich nearly over night, which means if you come the week after Oktoberfest ends, Munich is empty. (Also, note that the Oktoberfest is at the end of September, and ENDS the first weekend in October)

Museum opening hours are of course the best during the peak times, but it is a little more general than that. April through September has the best opening hours for museums. Going along with that, fountains are covered by what I like to refer to as “large wooden huts”, which greatly diminishes the beauty of many of the cities in the region, from November until April.

In summary, the absolute best time to visit central Europe, based on weather, crowds, and opening hours, is early September. The next best in my opinion would be October, followed by late spring.

Mike Richardson – the professional tourist

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  1. Hank Jude Boudreaux says:

    I would certainly agree with you in large part, but there are lots of charms to visiting in the winter. We travelled much of central europe this past Christmas/New Year’s and while it was a bit cold and the days were short, it was very enchanting to be there for the Christmas markets and other year-end celebrations. It was also much less crowded than many other times of the year.

  2. James Trotta says:

    Some readers may remember that I was in Munich for the Christmas market. If you want to see that market you have to go in December but it is crazy cold, at least it was for me.

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