Low season travel in Europe - running approximately November through March - has a lot going for it.
Also known as off peak or off season travel, winter travel in Europe is viewed by a host of experienced globetrotters as the best season to travel to Europe.
Especially, when looking for value, cultural events, and the real Europe.
The crowds of tourists are gone. Airfares and hotel rates are lower, having dropped by at least 25-30 percent. And often more.
Low season trains, buses, and local transportation are easy to find and pleasantly empty of the marauding crowds of more popular travel seasons.
Meals, heavy in local tradition, are hearty and warming. Regional specialties are proffered everywhere, while local wines and beer flow freely and proudly.
Off season Europe is the best time to experience the local cuisines you’ve heard about and read about at their culinary best!
In low season travel, the real Europe becomes more open and more personal.
The barriers between natives and tourists slip away.
With more time spent indoors, you have both the privilege and the opportunity to strike up conversations with the locals.
To learn what makes them tick...to understand how their lives differ from yours. And how very much you have in common.
Winter in Europe is the cultural season, with exciting seasonal and regional events [for Europeans - not tourists] everywhere you go.
For many, choosing off season travel to Europe is the only decision they make for when to travel the Continent.
But low season travel on the Continent has its downside.
The days are short. It’s cold. Really cold. It can be windy, rainy, and drizzly, as well.
In fact, the defining character of winter European travel is the weather.
You must go prepared. Dress for warmth, with layers and layers you can add or remove, as needed.
Jackets are less cumbersome than coats. Lightweight fleece or down not only insulate you from inclimate weather, they double as pillows or blankets on planes and trains.
The rainy season in Europe begins in Fall and continues until Spring. Shoes and outerwear must be able to hold up to wet, damp conditions.
Europeans tend to dress more formally than U.S. travelers do, especially in winter. Include a scarf, a tie, or a nice sweater to your casual travel clothes, and you’ll fit right in.
Jeans, while a staple of American culture, are too casual for indoor winter events in Europe. Wear them sparingly - if at all.
Make sure your shoes are travel hearty, dark, and subdued - but worthy of an inside gathering. Never wear athletic shoes or sneakers.
Europeans can spot a tourist a mile away by their shoes.
Travel in low season Europe enables you to explore the sights and attractions more freely and intimately than during peak season.
Not only can you see more and do more with the smaller tourist crowds and non-existent entrance lines, but you'll gain a more meaningful appreciation of what you came to see.
Imagine just you and Rembrandt communing over his life-sized masterpiece, The Night Watch, without 30 or 40 other tourists jostling for a better view.
Take your time as you stand front and center of this huge work of genius.
Allow your mind to absorb the light, the shadows, the move-ment of figures so carefully crafted.
Watch them come to life, with you a tran-sient member of the party.
Or linger one on one, face to face, with Leonardo’s smaller mysterious muse, the Mona Lisa.
Relish the beauty of her face, a perfect golden ratio.
Look deep into her eyes to catch a fleeting glimpse of her soul that you alone can see, unharried by the non-existent throngs behind you.
What stirring did she evoke in DaVinci’s brush, that makes her still the emissary of his great talent?
Low season travel in Europe allows you time to stop and savor what you travelled to see.
It gives you opportunity to go beyond the hurried glances of busier travel times to find the heart of the artist, and what he was trying to say.
When you travel in off season Europe, you'll find attractions with shorter hours. Some may close altogether, especially in smaller towns or rural areas.
But easy access and lack of crowds will more than make up for briefer opening times.
In major cities you still have more to do than you can possibly accomplish. The great museums welcome you with open galleries and rooms free of chatter.
City transportation schedules may be reduced, but are still frequent and easily accessible.
Tourist bureaus may have shortened hours, but are open, staffed, and fully stocked with materials to guide and inform you.
In low season, Europe is more business like, with that special sense of old world charm you came to see - without the flood of shorts and athletic shoes.
To escape the worst of Europe’s winter weather, head south. Remember those countries surrounding the Mediterranean? In winter, they’re much more mild than their northern counterparts.
Spain, Portugal, Greece, and southern Italy are moderate and comfortable in low season Europe.
Though many beach resorts are closed, with some hotels shuttered for repairs, there are bargains galore for those remaining open.
You can rev up your personal scale of luxury for far less, while easily finding hoteliers receptive to a bit of negotiation.
Ireland is perfect for off season travel. Warmed by North Atlantic Gulf Stream currents, Ireland in low season is mild and refreshingly green, with none of the hassles of busier tourist months.
A little damp perhaps. But what better reason for an Irish Coffee?
Choosing low season for winter Europe travel will give you a perspective of European culture you won't find during more hectic travel seasons.
Is it the best season to travel to Europe? That’s up to you. But a lot of seasoned travelers think it is.
For more information on how to choose the best season to travel Europe, check the following pages:
Travel in Peak Season is not for the faint of heart. Learn how to deal with the crowds, the costs, and the chaos of the peak travel season in Europe.
Travel in Shoulder Season is the best of all worlds. The crowds are gone, the prices down, and the weather’s fine. Learn how to take advantage of Europe’s finest travel season.