There’s a lot to be said for traveling to Europe during the summer.
Long days, lots of sunshine, and a vibrant atmosphere make summer the most popular time of year to travel to Europe’s hotspots.
But there are three extremely popular destinations that I’ve visited in both summer and winter — and I found winter to be the best time to visit by far.
Those three cities are:
- Venice, Italy
- Dubrovnik, Croatia
- Barcelona, Spain
These destinations have several things in common: the peak season for visiting is in the summer, they’re all incredibly popular destinations that draw millions of visitors each year, they’re all notoriously expensive, they’re all popular with cruise ships, and they’re all suffering from overtourism.
Here’s why winter is actually the best time to travel to these trending European destinations.
Venice is one of my favorite cities in all of Europe. It’s truly magical and enchanting, with its breathtaking architecture and hundreds of bridges and canals.
During the summer months, though, visiting Venice can feel like visiting an overcrowded theme park rather than a historic city. The crowds have gotten so bad that Venice will soon implement a visitor fee of 5 euros to enter the city on peak days.
But Venice in the winter is a completely different story. The crowds are nearly nonexistent, and although the weather can be chilly and overcast, it adds to the moody, mysterious atmosphere of the city.
Winter is also the best time to visit for lower prices, with average hotel prices dropping more than 50% compared to the summer months.
Dubrovnik is a stunning historic city on the Adriatic Sea, famous for its walled Old Town. This is a destination that has been exploding in popularity in recent years, with the summer of 2023 ushering in a new tourism record for Dubrovnik.
Like Venice, this is a city that has been suffering immensely from extreme crowds and overtourism. Dubrovnik has also seen skyrocketing prices in the past few years, especially after officially joining the Schengen Zone and adopting the euro as currency at the beginning of 2023.
Winter is my favorite time to visit Dubrovnik because there are very few tourists, and you can enjoy activities like walking the City Walls without shoulder-to-shoulder crowds.
It may be too cold to visit the beach or go swimming in the Adriatic Sea, but it’s still sunny and mild, with average temperatures in the high fifties during the winter.
Finally, Barcelona is another European hotspot I prefer visiting in the winter compared to the summer.
While there are certainly pros to visiting Barcelona in the summer — you can go to the beach, there are lots of concerts and festivals going on — there are also plenty of cons. Summer in Barcelona can be unbearably hot, and everything is extremely crowded.
This is because Barcelona is a major cruise port, so cruise tourists flood the city in the summer months (much like Venice and Dubrovnik.) It’s also peak season for tourism in general.
But Barcelona is very much a year-round city, so there’s no shortage of things to do during the winter. You can enjoy all that the city has to offer with far fewer crowds and lower prices. Plus Barcelona has a Mediterranean climate, so even during the winter, temperatures are often in the low sixties.
Surprisingly, Barcelona is also a great holiday destination. I love the city during the Christmas season, especially on Three Kings Day on January 6th, when there’s a huge parade.
European Hotspots Best Visited In Winter
Overall, Venice, Dubrovnik, and Barcelona are three European cities I definitely prefer visiting during the winter compared to the summer.
In the winter, you don’t have to deal with huge crowds, expensive prices, or extremely hot weather. You can enjoy these destinations without the hordes of cruise ship tourists and take advantage of lower off-season prices.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com