Europe comes to life in May. The snow has melted, the trees have blossomed and the cafes have arranged outdoor seating. If you’re wondering when to book your trip or just need some reassurance that you picked the right month to travel, you’ve come to the right place. May is a wonderful time to explore Europe for many reasons.
1. The weather
The weather is usually perfect for those who like mild, sunny days and blue skies. May is the Goldilocks of months: not too hot, not too cold, but just the right temperature. Plus, there are more hours of daylight to go exploring in the fresh air. What a great feeling to not be drenched in sweat as you clamber up to the Acropolis and, likewise, no slipping and sliding on the icy cobbled streets of a medieval citadel. Of course, there will be the odd rainy day and chilly night, but pack a compact umbrella and layers of clothing and you’re all set!
2. Less crowded
The great thing about May is that there are fewer tourists, but still enough to create a good atmosphere. It hasn’t got that bleak, ghost town feel of the off-season, but at the same time fewer visitors mean short queues and more space at museums and other sites. Impulsive travelers also get the bonus of being less organized as there is less need to book public transport and popular tourist sites in advance.
3. Flights and accommodation are cheaper
Flight prices usually start to increase at the beginning of June, and you might be able to get some good deals in May. This only applies if you plan in advance, last minute bookings are likely to be expensive whatever the month.
Accommodation is definitely an area where you can save big bucks because the lack of tourists to compete with gives you more bargaining power. Hotels often have early season discounts, but if you can’t find a cheap deal online, try and negotiate with hotel staff when you arrive.
4. Perfect for hiking
No month can compete with May if your favorite color is green — the local flora has reached optimum lushness after all those April showers. If you enjoy nature and hiking, now is a great time to go, in terms of both weather and scenery. Many hikes in Southern Europe are just too uncomfortable or dangerous to do in mid-summer due to the oppressive heat and risk of dehydration. During spring, mountain glaciers are in full-scale melting mode and the results are stunning. Head to Norway, known as the “Land of a Thousand Waterfalls” if waterfalls are your thing.
5. Perfect for beaches
For those who like their getaways a little less active, then May is also a great time to hit the beach. The weather is mild in most of Europe but can get quite hot down on the Mediterranean coast, so even the most ardent sun-worshipers should be placated. The beaches are usually cleaner at the beginning of summer and the sea is less polluted by all the tourist residue such as sunscreen and litter from last year’s swimmers.
6. Perfect for cities
The month of May is perfect for nearly every kind of European holiday except skiing. In cities you get the best of both worlds. On sunny days, you can stroll the streets and sit at terrace cafes, and on rainy days, do all the indoors cultural activities like museums and churches.
7. Happy locals
Everyone loves spring time and that includes the locals. People just seem to have more energy and be more optimistic now that winter is over. This is particularly true in tourist resorts that are only open six months a year, where the workers have just finished a long winter break. These waiters, tour guides and hotel staff are welcoming, enthusiastic and friendly. Fast forward five months and imagine how exhausted and bored they are after working 12-hour days, with barely a day off, sometimes doing split shifts … you can see how their attitude may have changed. In May, you meet the locals at their best.
It’s the start of festival season and there is an abundance of them in Europe. There are quite a few music festivals, and one of the best is Primavera Sound near Barcelona, unless you prefer classical, in which case you should head to Prague’s Spring International Music Festival. Venice Biennale and Vienna Festival can cover all your arts and culture needs, whilst the Hay Festival in Wales is a mecca for bibliophiles. The UK hosts an eclectic range of festivals, from cheese-rolling at Cooper’s Hill to Chelsea Flower Show. However, the most famous festival is in Cannes. Although, if you choose to go there, all the preceding information about budget and crowds become redundant.
May in a nutshell
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why a May time visit to Europe should be on your agenda. It’s a vibrant month of color and blossoms, and the perfect time to chill out on a beach or meet locals at a festival. May really is the best time to avoid the extremes of summer and winter. The reasonable prices and agreeable weather alone should be enough to tempt most people, so what are you waiting for?