Where to go in Europe during the shoulder season

February 19, 2015

At this point, most of us have already taken our right-of-passage summer “Eurotrip.” We fondly remember the Eiffel Tower in all its glory, the Seine at night, the Leaning Tower and the Colosseum. What we don’t fondly remember were the crowds.

Considering March is quickly approaching, it’s almost time for that European sweet spot, in between the bad weather and immense summer crowds–shoulder season, as it’s often called. In honor of this oasis, we offer you a few good picks for a Europe you may not already know, ones with exceptionally pleasant weather, less-stressed locals, and as always, vibrant culture.

The Greek Isles

The Greek Isles’ off-season isn’t your normal off-season. The weather stays at a fairly constant 70 degrees, making this destination one of the perfect places to kick back and enjoy the Aegean Sea. Play a few rounds of golf, indulge in fresh seafood, or sight-see. Watch the Santorini sunset, visit the Blue Grotto on Kastelorizo, surrealistically illuminated by the sun or walk the beaches of Milos with their sands dotted with red, yellow, white and gray volcanic rocks. As if that’s not enough, Athens is just a hop, skip and a jump away. Pack a versatile polo and some chino shorts and you’re set.

Santorini

Algarve, Portugal

A country that can easily be looked over by the American tourist, Portugal’s southern-most province boasts over 300 days of sunshine per year. Bordering the Atlantic Ocean, many well-seasoned travelers often prefer this coastal province in its off-season. In the summer, Algarve can be downright hot, with temperatures in the mid-80s, yet the region’s low season, from September until May, offers more than pleasant climates, ranging from no lower than 60 degrees to the high 70s. Bask among impressive rock formations set against some of the deepest blue green waters you will ever see, swim with dolphins, or swim to the end of the world in Sagres. Either way, better pack your Panama.

Prainha Faro

Tuscany

With temperatures in the 70s, early spring is an excellent time to visit Tuscany. Beat the summer tourists and enjoy this wine country’s rolling hills as they were intended. Although the region houses the historical meccas of Florence and Siena, consider strapping on some white tennies or boats shoes and exploring the villas of the Garfagnana Valley and the piazzas of Lucca in style. Crack open a bottle of Chianti and explore the Italian region at your own leisure. Or see what all the hype is about at the restored castle resort, the Hotel Castello di Casole

   Volterra

Provence, France

The name of this area in the south of France says it all. Comprised of quaint country towns, France’s Provence region is best known for its summer fields ablaze with lavender. Lavender or not, it’s also another good visit during the European shoulder season, so long as you pack your cardigan. Venture east and soak up the sun on the Côte d’Azur along the French Riviera, explore the colorful Nice, or go west and roam through the historic Avignon. The village of Gordes offers breathtaking panoramic views, while the waterside cafes of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorge ooze French provincial holiday.

Gorges du Verdon