22 Best May destinations in Europe for 2017

Those looking for ideal destinations in Europe for the month of May have nearly endless choices. The May weather is warm enough to be nearly perfect in all but the most northern cities, and yet tourist crowds are still small since many people can’t get away until June or later.

Even though it’s “warm” in most of Europe in May, the only places warm enough for sunbathing are in the far south and the Mediterranean. Those looking for a hot-weather destination in May should be thinking about Asia or the Caribbean.

Europe’s best May beach destinations

Costa del Sol/Malaga, Spain

  • May avg high: 75F/24C
  • May avg low: 56F/13C
  • May avg precip: 0.9″/2.3cm

May is the first month of the year that southern Spain has reliable enough warm days that you can book a beach trip for sunbathing. Most people have at least heard of Spain’s famous Costa del Sol, which is a group of beach towns just west of Malaga and the Malaga Airport. Each town has its own vibe and style, with Marbella being the most famous and most upscale of them.

Since the season doesn’t really begin until June, hotel and apartment rental prices in this area can be very good in May. And cheap flights into Malaga are easy to find on various discount airlines all over Europe in May. If you are coming from North America it’s probably cheaper to fly into Madrid or Barcelona and then book a separate flight from there to Malaga.


Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

  • May avg high: 75F/24C
  • May avg low: 64F/18C
  • May avg precip: 0.2″/0.5cm

The Canary Islands are warm pretty much all year round, and May is one of the better months because it’s warm enough for sunbathing but still not so warm that it can get uncomfortable. Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands, and the most popular island for English speaking tourists, but you could get similar weather in any of them.

Hotels and apartment rentals are good deals in Tenerife all year round. The best area that usually has the best weather in Tenerife is along the southwest corner of the island, in Los Cristianos and up the coast from there. Flights into either Tenerife airport are pretty cheap from the European continent. Often the flights into the North Airport are cheaper, and there is a public bus that connects it with the South Airport in one hour.


Antalya, Turkey

  • May avg high: 79F/26C
  • May avg low: 58F/14C
  • May avg precip: 1.3″/3.3cm

Antalya isn’t technically in Europe, but nearly all the guests who come here are European and it’s a fairly short flight from many large European cities. This is a historic city with interesting sights and ruins on display in the Old Town center, but most people who come here head straight to one of the larger beach hotels in either direction from the city center.

The value at hotels here is excellent, especially as the value of the Turkish Lira has struggled recently. Some areas in greater Antalya are popular with certain nationalities, so that’s worth looking into if you prefer to fit in. There are beaches where Germans or Brits or Russians or Swedes dominate, particularly at all-inclusive resorts.


Non-beach destinations that are nice in May

Rome, Italy

  • May avg high: 72F/22C
  • May avg low: 53F/12C
  • May avg precip: 1.3″/3.3cm

The warmest summer days in Rome can be brutal, but May is pretty much lovely from start to finish so it’s the ideal time to come. Many of the famous sights here are outdoors, so being able to see them in pleasant and dry weather is a huge plus, and you get that all month long in May.

The busy tourist season in Italy starts in June, so May is really the perfect month to visit as you’ll get cheaper flights, cheaper hotels, and smaller crowds even though the weather is perfect. If you have extra days you might consider taking a train down to Sorrento for a few days along the Amalfi Coast nearby, which is also wonderful this time of year.


Florence, Italy

  • May avg high: 74F/23C
  • May avg low: 52F/11C
  • May avg precip: 2.9″/7.3cm

For most people who start their first Italy visit in Rome, the wonderful Tuscan city of Florence is their next stop. You get a bit more rainfall in this area, but it’s still dry most of the time here, and most of the sights here are indoors anyway.

Since Rome can feel a bit chaotic, it’s nice to linger in Florence if you have extra days. You can do a day trip to Pisa or Siena from here, as well as the Cinque Terre. There are also some very nice hill towns just a short train ride away, so Florence is an ideal hub for sightseeing in the central Italy region.


Venice, Italy

  • May avg high: 70F/21C
  • May avg low: 54F/12C
  • May avg precip: 2.7″/6.8cm

If you are going to Rome and Florence then you should head next to Venice. The May temperatures are very pleasant, which will help you deal with the crowds here. The key to a good Venice visit is to stay for one or two nights on the main island so you can do most of your sightseeing in the early morning and evenings, before or after the day-trippers are here.

Hotels on the main island are understandably more expensive than those on the mainland, but they are worth it at least for one night to avoid the crowds. The main sights can be seen in less than a day, and it’s so crowded that you really won’t want to linger for more than two days, although Venice is so unforgettable that no one regrets a visit.


Split, Croatia

  • May avg high: 72F/22C
  • May avg low: 59F/15C
  • May avg precip: 2.2″/5.5cm

As far as Croatian cities are concerned, Dubrovnik, is far better known, but Split is really the better choice for most visitors. Dubrovnik is a popular cruise port with a small (and stunning) walled city at its core, so it’s far more crowded and expensive than Split, which is actually a bit older with more interesting sights.

Split is also the main travel hub along the Croatian coast, as the train comes here but doesn’t reach Dubrovnik. There are also ferries in Split that can take you to the various nearby islands. The May weather may not be warm enough for sunbathing every day, but on some days it will be. And since the main tourist season doesn’t start until June, hotel prices and apartment rentals (called sobes here) are very reasonable.


Paris, France

  • May avg high: 68F/20C
  • May avg low: 53F/12C
  • May avg precip: 2.4″/6.0cm

Paris is farther north than you might realize, so it’s cooler in May than most of Europe, but it’s still pretty much a perfect month to visit. This city is popular all year with tourists from all over the world, but the May crowds are lighter than the June crowds, so it’s easier to hit the main sights in less time. Speaking of that, if you want to see the famous sights in a few days you should consider a Paris Pass.

Hotel prices are moderate in May, but this is also a major business capital so many of the 4-star hotels in the city center will be full for most of the month. You should be able to stay reasonably in non-business neighborhoods such as the glorious Rue Cler or the more edgy Montmartre.


Nice, France

  • May avg high: 68F/20C
  • May avg low: 56F/13C
  • May avg precip: 1.9″/4.8cm

Visitors who fly into Paris and want to see something else in France will often end up in Nice. This Mediterranean city is packed all summer with French people on their annual holidays, but that doesn’t start until late June, so May is a perfect time to visit.

The city of Nice itself is a very worthwhile destination, but it’s also a great stop because it’s a 20-minute train ride from Cannes to the west and from Monaco to the east. Both of those cities are fascinating day trips, yet the hotels in both are quite expensive so Nice is the ideal base.


London, England

  • May avg high: 63F/17C
  • May avg low: 48F/9C
  • May avg precip: 2.0″/5.0cm

London is famous for having only a few good weeks of weather each year, so the best you can hope for is to avoid the coldest and rainiest months. May is a very good month to visit because the crowds are smaller than they are in summer, and yet the weather is still warm enough and the days are long enough to do whatever you like.

Flights into London are particularly cheap for Americans these days, so it’s an ideal first stop for a European vacation. You can easily take the Eurostar train from here to Paris in a bit over two hours, and then be in Amsterdam in a bit over 3 hours from there. London hotels are expensive all year round, but you should have a better chance of finding a decent deal in May compared to July or August. The London Pass can be a good choice for those who want to do a lot of sightseeing in a short time.


Barcelona, Spain

  • May avg high: 69F/21C
  • May avg low: 54F/12C
  • May avg precip: 2.3″/5.8cm

You might expect Barcelona to be warmer in May than the temperatures listed above, but it’s farther north than you might expect, even though it’s on the Mediterranean. This city has become so popular with tourists that visiting in a mild-weather month is best because it’s easier to deal with the crowds at Sagrada Familia and along the Rambla than in summer.

Flights into Barcelona can be cheap, especially from within Europe, but even from the US and Canada the fares are reasonable. If you are visiting Barcelona you should really also visit Madrid (see below) and get there on the high-speed train in only 3 hours. Both cities are huge and quite different from one another.


Madrid, Spain

  • May avg high: 71F/22C
  • May avg low: 51F/11C
  • May avg precip: 2.0″/5.0cm

In recent years it’s Barcelona (above) that has taken most of the spotlight in Spain, but Madrid is still a gorgeous and fascinating capital city. You should absolutely plan on spending about 3 days in each of them because they are so different and both so filled with worthwhile sights.

The May weather is pleasant enough for sightseeing in the day, and the evenings are mild enough that staying out late is still comfortable if you bring a jacket or sweater. You can get to nearby Toledo on a short train ride so it’s a popular day trip, and connections to Seville and Granada are also good so Madrid is an ideal hub for a full visit to Spain.


Lisbon, Portugal

  • May avg high: 71F/22C
  • May avg low: 56F/13C
  • May avg precip: 2.2″/5.5cm

Speaking of the Iberian Peninsula, Lisbon might be the most underrated capital in Europe. The remote location makes it difficult to combine with other cities unless you fly in or take the night train from Madrid. But those who do make the trip are rewarded with a lovely and interesting city that is also an unusual bargain.

Hotels and hostels in Lisbon are known for high quality at moderate prices, and May is one of the better month for deals before summer begins. The warm but not hot weather is also ideal for sightseeing in this hilly town. This is a good city to start a Europe tour in this month, because temperatures will get warmer as you move north and east as June approaches.


Berlin, Germany

  • May avg high: 66F/19C
  • May avg low: 48F/9C
  • May avg precip: 2.1″/5.3cm

Berlin is another huge tourism success story for Europe, as it’s now one of the continent’s most popular cities for holidays. The May weather might look a bit chilly, but it is pleasant enough and very nice as you avoid the even larger crowds starting in June.

There are a lot of outdoor attractions in Berlin, but at least May is a fairly dry month so you should be able to spend all day outside and be comfortable. One of Berlin’s many charms is that it’s one of the cheapest capital cities in western Europe. Hotel deals here are still quite good, especially in the areas of the former East.


Amsterdam, Netherlands

  • May avg high: 61F/16C
  • May avg low: 46F/8C
  • May avg precip: 2.0″/5.0cm

Those temperatures above might not look too appealing, but Amsterdam is another city that is so crowded from June through August that it can feel unbearable at times. May is a perfect month to come for decent temperatures and moderate rainfall. This is mostly an indoor city, but of course you’ll want to do a canal tour and perhaps a walking tour, so you can schedule those on the best weather days of your stay.

Flights into Amsterdam can be reasonable from all over the world. And if you are already in Europe you’ll find that trains here are wonderful. The high-speed train from Paris takes only a bit over 3 hours, and Berlin is only a bit over 5 hours away.


Krakow, Poland

  • May avg high: 68F/20C
  • May avg low: 48F/9C
  • May avg precip: 2.2″/5.5cm

We consider Krakow to be Europe’s best big city travel bargain, and May is a great month to visit before the larger summer crowds descend on the place. There are a few cheaper large big cities in Europe, but none of them are this nice or interesting. Krakow has also become popular with the party crowd who fly in for weekend breaks to enjoy the cheap hotels, food, and drinks.

One of the reasons that Krakow isn’t even more crowded is that the trains are still fairly slow in this part of Europe, and the closest other large cities are Prague and Budapest. For that reason you might want to fly into Krakow, but you can also consider buses because they are usually cheaper and often just as fast as trains around here.


Istanbul, Turkey

  • May avg high: 71F/22C
  • May avg low: 54F/12C
  • May avg precip: 1.3″/3.3cm

Many of us grew up with an image of Istanbul being surrounded by desert, but it’s actually on a similar latitude to Rome and Barcelona, so the May temperatures here are still mild. Easily one of the most fascinating and historic cities in the world, Istanbul had become somewhat expensive for a few years, but a fall in the currency here and drop in visits due to a few political protests have put it back into the bargain category.

Hotel prices in Istanbul in 2017 are now shockingly low, and restaurant prices are very reasonable as well. You’ll be amazed at how far your tourism fund goes in Turkey, as every other place is even cheaper than Istanbul. Consider a visit to the stunning Cappadocia area if you’ve got 2 or 3 extra days.


Prague, Czech Republic

  • May avg high: 66F/19C
  • May avg low: 47F/8C
  • May avg precip: 3.0″/7.5cm

The May temperatures in Prague don’t look great, and it does rain a bit this month. Still, the crowds in Prague have gotten so out of hand in summer that you’ll be far better off visiting before the main crush begins in June. The main sightseeing corridor in Prague is now almost like Venice in that it can be exhausting during peak season, so May is more enjoyable.

While Prague hotel prices have gone up in recent years, it’s still possible to get a well located hotel with good rates. And food here is still cheap as long as you avoid the most touristy places with the big English-language menus out front. If you have 2 or 3 more days in your trip you should consider a side trip to the wonderful small town of Cesky Krumlov, which is 3 hours away on a scenic bus ride or train.


Budapest, Hungary

  • May avg high: 71F/22C
  • May avg low: 51F/11C
  • May avg precip: 2.5″/6.3cm

If Krakow is our best big-city bargain in Europe, Budapest is probably right behind it. The May temperatures are warm enough for sightseeing and the hotel rates here this month are still very modest. As long as you stay a bit away from the river, you can get excellent bargains in both accommodation and food.

The nightlife in Budapest is also a highlight, even for those who speak no Hungarian. The famous “ruin pubs” are like nothing you’ve seen before, with several forms of entertainment going on at all times, along with cheap drink prices.


Athens, Greece

  • May avg high: 79F/26C
  • May avg low: 57F/14C
  • May avg precip: 0.9″/2.3cm

The month of May is perfect in Athens as it’s plenty warm enough to enjoy the outdoor sights such as the Acropolis, but not yet so hot and crowded that it can get miserable. May is also the first month of the year that visiting the Greek Islands is worthwhile, so many people will spend 2 or 3 days in Athens and then take a ferry or flight to an island for some serious relaxation.

Greece has hundreds of islands with hotels and tourism, spread over a large area. There are a few within a short ferry ride to Athens, but the most famous ones are farther out. If this is your first visit to Greece you should consider Santorini, Mykonos, or Rhodes. They are the most popular and can be reached by ferry or air.


Valletta, Malta

  • May avg high: 72F/22C
  • May avg low: 59F/15C
  • May avg precip: 0.5″/1.3cm

If you aren’t British or Maltese, you might not know much about this former British possession. This small group of islands is located just south of Sicily, and it has some of Europe’s best year-round weather. There aren’t many sandy beaches on these islands, but there is plenty of sunshine and places to enjoy it.

The value in Malta is also very good, as you can get hotels and meals even in the tourist-friendly areas such as Sliema at very appealing prices. Valletta itself is the small historic capital district with only a few hotels, so most people stay elsewhere on the coast and visit Valletta for a few hours here and there.


Interlaken, Switzerland

  • May avg high: 66F/19C
  • May avg low: 46F/8C
  • May avg precip: 4.8″/12.0cm

Many people know they want to visit somewhere in Switzerland, but they aren’t sure where. That’s the main reason I wrote an article called where to go in Switzerland on a short visit. If you are thinking about Switzerland I hope you read it, but the short version is that you should probably head to the Interlaken area, and also Lucerne if you have more than 3 days or so.

Interlaken is Switzerland’s top outdoor sports capital, with skiing and snowboarding for almost half the year, as well as hiking and paragliding among other things for the rest of the year. May is usually too late to ski, but a perfect time for the non-snow adventure activities. The Alps views here are the best in Europe, particularly the Schilthorn cable car and observation deck, and the Jungfraujoch railway.




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