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I'm going to assume that this trip to Europe will be the only time I'll ever be able to visit Europe. I'll be there for about 1-1.5 months. However, I'm debating if I should visit during the spring months instead. I'm afraid that traveling during winter because I might miss views the views or trouble with flights because of snow.

I'll be traveling in Europe mostly for sightseeing of historical landmarks such as cathedrals and visiting art museums. But I would also like mix in some outdoor activities, e.g. - a multiple day hike in Central Europe. Doing this in the more brisk weather isn't really an issue as long as it actually can be hiked without the need of special equipment such as snow shoes and goggles.

I've also read that in southern France, some shops, festivals, and attractions are closed during the winter. Seeing that of the 1.5 months, 1.5 weeks will be spent in France alone, I'm just not entirely sure how much I will be missing out on as I've never been to France.

The reason why I'm considering to travel during November/December is because there will be less people and prices will be lower (or so I've heard).

Although I realize there are both upsides and downsides, and that this is may be seen as a vague question, I'm ultimately looking for pros and cons as I want to make sure there's something I haven't missed that may otherwise cause me to travel during April/May. For now, these are the destinations I can say I will be traveling to with certainty:

  • France
  • England
  • Scotland
  • Germany
  • Northern Italy

I might travel to Greece or Switzerland (won't be skiing), but for now, I'm unsure.

So are there any reasons why I should travel in Spring instead? Or why traveling in winter would be advised against? The cold weather I don't mind as much (assuming it's not freezing).

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Mark Mayo, Marcel C., Dirty-flow, Ankur Banerjee Jul 30 '13 at 12:30

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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this is quite subjective. It depends why you're going, and I highly recommend you edit your question to include this. For example, if you were going for a skiing trip, winter would be ideal, as would it if you wanted to experience German Christmas markets, dark nights in St Petersburg and so on. For now, I'm voting to close, as in its present form the question is too vague, and subjective. –  Mark Mayo Jul 30 '13 at 0:58
    
@MarkMayo Is that better or should I add some more? –  MarkE Jul 30 '13 at 1:41
    
I'm happy with it now, hopefully others will be too. I was in Normandy in January one year, FREEZING ;) –  Mark Mayo Jul 30 '13 at 1:48
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I think the thing that bugging me more is that the daytime is less in the winter. ( only 5-6 hours ) This means you tend to travel more in the dark. For other reason (shop will be closed, etc ) that you mentioned just now, I think it does not really matter. Anyway, winter in Europe means there will be winter/christmas market everywhere selling foods and souvenirs. –  Rudy Gunawan Jul 30 '13 at 3:40
    
in case you want to wear vibram ( I saw your other question ), I think you should wear thicker shoes. –  Rudy Gunawan Jul 30 '13 at 7:51

2 Answers 2

The answer to this question really depends on what part of Europe you're going to and what you plan to do. Southern Europe, such as France and Greece which you mention, is relatively mild in winter. As long as you're not planning to go hiking in the alps, then you should be fine. Museums and cathedrals and the like will all be open throughout winter. Remember, people actually live in these places!

Germany and Switzerland will be cold in winter and expect snow, but if you're okay with that then there is no reason why you could not visit. I spent half a winter in Denmark and it was fine apart from the very short days, and I was out and about every day. By the way, Christmas and New Years in Europe is a lot of fun! If you can, make friends with some locals and try to get yourself invited along to whatever they're doing.

I've been hiking in the Peaks district (yes, up a mountain) in the UK in the middle of winter in normal hiking clothes and it was exhilarating (so was warming up by the fire at the pub afterwards). You just need to think a little differently, and do some research before you get there!

The only real problem I can imagine is if you're unlucky enough to get blizzard conditions, which unfortunately are becoming more common with climate change. Extreme weather events can disrupt transport by cutting off roads, making airport runways unusable and so on. Keep an eye on the news while you're there.

And of course, if you like skiing, then winter is the perfect time! On the other hand, some outdoor activities will naturally be unavailable, and I think you just have to use common sense here. You can't do a river cruise if a river is frozen over! Do your research before you go, decide which countries you want to visit, and from there, narrow it down to specific towns/cities and attractions you like to see.

Once you have your list, Wikipedia is a good resource for typical climate indication, and if you want to visit specific attractions you can always check their website or give them a call. Also, I can't recommend Lonely Planet highly enough - let them do the hard work for you.

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A quick list of pros and cons based on my opinion:

November-December

Pros:

  • Not 'normally' too cold than Jan-Feb. But this can be subjective, and gets cold fast as your approach Dec

  • Prices are significantly cheaper than summer periods

  • Less crowds, especially Rome and Paris
  • Less 'smelly' and rubbish in cities
  • May get snow in France, Germany, Switzerland. This can be nice if you travel by rail too.
  • Christmas markets

Cons:

  • Prices could actually start to increase for some things (e.g. ski resorts etc)
  • Less daylight hours
  • Some small markets may be closed, but most will still be open
  • Not ideal for beaches e.g. Greece
  • Outdoor hikes will require more gear and preparation - could be a pro if you enjoy that sort of thing

April-May

Pros:

  • Generally warmer, milder version of summer (and gets warmer as you go towards May)
  • Not quite peak season, so less busy than summer
  • Longer daylight hours

Cons:

  • This year, April was exceptionally cold, and snowed in London
  • Usually more tourists/crowds than in Nov-Dec for the touristy destinations, especially Rome, Paris

Conclusion

I don't think its better to go during Spring, just different. Going in spring will certainly give you the more "traditional" experience.

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