15 Best Places to Visit in Europe in May

Little else compares to spending summer in Europe, but it can sometimes be a bit too crowded. That’s why I love visiting in May.

It’s the ideal time to explore some of the continent’s most popular destinations without rubbing shoulders with thousands of other tourists. And because it’s shoulder season, you’ll get the added bonus of saving money on travel costs. This time of year also brings amazing weather that is absolutely perfect for sightseeing.

So if you’ve been looking for a sign to go to Europe in May, then let this be it!

Let’s dive into my favorite destinations:

Table of Contents

My Top 5 Favorite Places in Europe to Visit in May:

  • Best in Europe for Solo Female Travel: London
  • Best in Europe for Hiking: Iceland
  • Best in Europe for Budget Travel: Prague
  • Best in Europe for Day Trips: Brussels
  • Best in Europe for Food: Italy

1. London, England

White London taxi in front of a red double-decker bus driving around Piccadilly Circus with British flags in the foreground.

London is always a good idea, but May in particular brings enjoyable weather and, finally, some sunshine! You’ll still want to bring a small umbrella in case of the occasional spring rain shower, though. These are usually short-lived, so if it does rain, you can just pop into a shop or café and wait it out.

In addition to visiting the city’s attractions, like Big Ben, the London Eye, the Shard, and grand museums, the Chelsea Flower Show also takes place in May! This globally renowned annual festival is held on Sloane Street, where the most impressive and creative floral displays are showcased. It’s a must-see if in London in May.

The British capital is also one of my top picks for solo female travel in Europe, and is a good starting point for first-time travelers.

2. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Croatia has become such a popular tourist destination that summers can get quite busy. For this reason, I recommend going during shoulder season. May, in particular, is a fantastic time to explore the country’s most famous park, Plitvice Lakes. While it’s possible to see the park in one day, I suggest spending the night to really soak in the beauty of the lakes.

May offers mild temperatures that make hiking there extra enjoyable. The weather is typically sunny, and the trails are much less crowded than during peak season. Plus, tickets to the park are nearly half the price of what they cost in the summer, so visiting in May is a no-brainer!

It’s also worth checking out Rastoke, a nearby village and former mill town that was built over a series of cascading waterfalls.

3. Vintgar Gorge, Slovenia

You’ve probably heard travelers raving about Lake Bled in Slovenia, but did you know about the nearby Vintgar Gorge? Located in Triglav National Park, just 2.5 miles west of Bled, Vintgar is a 820-foot-deep gorge that has been carved out by the piercing blue Radovna River. It’s a beautiful location to hike and spend time outdoors.

The highlight of Vintgar Gorge is the mile-long wooden walkway that leads you through the narrowest part of the gorge, hovering over countless rushing falls and waterways. The path offers breathtaking views of the river and surrounding cliffs, and takes only about 1.5 hours to complete, depending on your pace.

So if you’re planning to go to Lake Bled, be sure to add Vintgar Gorge to your Slovenia itinerary too!

4. Brussels, Belgium

Brussels is a great year-round destination, but in May, the weather is nice, nature is in full bloom, and activities around town are plentiful. This time of year is even more special because of the annual Iris Festival that is celebrated at the beginning of the month. The holiday, unique to the region of Brussels, brings with it numerous free concerts and street entertainment as locals celebrate the blooming of the iris flower.

May is also a wonderful time to take day trips from Brussels to Bruges and Ghent, two nearby cities that look like they were plucked straight out of a medieval fairytale.

5. Iceland

After a long winter, Iceland begins to gear up for its summer season in May. This is the time when locals and tourists can finally enjoy the warmer weather and longer days. With the sun barely setting, there’s plenty of daylight, which means more time for exploring!

While Iceland may not be known for its sunny climate, it does have its own distinctive charm during this time of year. The snow-covered landscapes start to melt away, revealing lush green fields and colorful wildflowers. One of the most fun ways to experience Iceland in May is by road-tripping on the famous Ring Road, an 828-mile route on which you’ll pass by scenic waterfalls, glacial lagoons, and other iconic sites.

If you love adventure, make time for some of Iceland’s epic hikes, like the Fimmvörðuháls Hike and the Laugavegur Trail.

6. Cappadocia, Turkey

If you’ve got a hot-air balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey, on your bucket list, then you’ll want to head there in May! Cappadocia is one of the most famous destinations in the world for hot-air balloon rides, and for good reason: the unusual landscape of fairy chimneys and rock formations provides a stunning backdrop as you glide through the sky.

May is the perfect time to visit, because the weather is mild, and there are fewer tourists compared to the peak summer season. While daytime temperatures are warm enough for outdoor activities, the mornings and nights can still be a bit chilly this month, so make sure to pack some layers

7. Malta

If you love sunny days and cool nights, Malta is the place to be in May. This Mediterranean island is known for its beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and interesting melting pot of cultures.

While you likely won’t be doing much swimming in May, as the water temperature will still be on the chillier side, there are still plenty of other activities available. The weather this month is warm but not too hot, making it ideal for exploring the island’s many towns and villages. Plus, there are plenty of festivals and events during this time as well, so you won’t be short of things to do.

One must-do activity is sampling street food. This street food walking tour gives you a glimpse into the local food scene. You’ll get to sample traditional Maltese dishes like pastizzi, a savory pastry filled with mushy peas and curry; and ftira, a delicious flatbread topped with fresh tomatoes and tuna.

8. Algarve, Portugal

Things start to warm up in May along Portugal’s southern coast, making it one of the best months to visit the Algarve. With the rainy season coming to an end, you’ll have plenty of sunny days to enjoy the incredible beaches and picturesque cliffs, including some of Portugal’s famous rock formations, like Ponta da Piedade. And while swimming in the Atlantic might not be in the cards, you can still sunbathe while having the beach practically to yourself!

Aside from its beautiful coastline, the Algarve also has charming towns and villages to explore. Lagos, with its historic buildings and quaint streets, is one of the best places to visit in Europe. So you definitely won’t want to miss it!

9. Florence, Italy

Florence is one of Italy’s most popular destinations, and there’s no better time to go than in May. Think art festivals, open-air dining, and lots of sunshine. Plus, with the peak tourist season not yet in full swing, you’ll be able to explore all of Florence’s famous attractions without having to battle large crowds.

When in Florence, be sure to stop by the Piazza del Duomo, where you can climb up to the top of the bell tower for epic views of the city. And if you love chasing sunsets, head over to Piazzale Michelangelo, where you can watch the sun dip behind the Ponte Vecchio, the Arno River, and the Duomo.

10. Amsterdam, Netherlands

May in Amsterdam is a beautiful time to visit. The city comes alive with vibrant tulips in full bloom and warm, pleasant weather. It’s one of the best months to explore the charming streets and canals — without the heavy tourist crowds.

While in Amsterdam, you’ll definitely want to do as the locals do and cruise around the city on two wheels! If you don’t feel comfortable renting a bike and exploring on your own, you can take a guided bike tour, like this one.

I recommend going to Amsterdam in the first half of May, when the Keukenhof Gardens are open. This is the world’s most beautiful spring garden, in which over seven million flower bulbs are planted each year. It’s truly a sight to behold and shouldn’t be missed. Plus, you can snap some pretty amazing photos here!

11. Oslo, Norway

If you want to feel like a local and get ahead of the summer crowds, then a May jaunt to Norway is a solid choice. This month brings the true start of spring, with gorgeous green scenery and longer days for enjoying the low-key atmosphere.

Affordable accommodation options are an added bonus that come with visiting Norway in May, as prices tend to be lower than during the peak summer season. Plus, with fewer tourists around, you can fully immerse yourself in the local culture and experience authentic Norwegian activities like biking. This guided bike tour of Oslo is a great way to explore the city like a local!

12. Côte d’Azur, France

The Côte d’Azur, also known as the French Riviera, is a popular destination all year round. But if you’re looking for a more laid-back and authentic experience, then May is one of the top months to visit. The summer tourists have yet to arrive, allowing you to fully indulge in the relaxed atmosphere of this beautiful region.

One of the best ways to experience the French Riviera thisi month is by taking a road trip along the coast. The balmy weather means you can roll down your windows and feel the warm breeze as you drive through the charming towns of Nice, Cannes, and other smaller villages that dot the coast.

But if you want a truly unforgettable experience, book a fun adventure like this three-wheel-vehicle tour!

13. Amalfi Coast, Italy

The Amalfi Coast is one of the most picturesque destinations in Italy, and May is the ultimate time to visit. With temperatures ranging from 68 to 77 °F, it’s ideal for sightseeing and exploring the beautiful coastal towns without the summer tourists. If you love the outdoors, definitely save some time for hiking the Path of the Gods

While swimming may not be an option due to chilly waters, you can truly soak in the beauty of the area during this time of year. One of my favorite towns along the coast is Ravello, known for its romantic atmosphere and two historic castles. Another must-visit town is Amalfi itself, home to a stunning cathedral and charming shops. Don’t forget to try the local lemon sorbet, served in a huge lemon, for a refreshing treat.

14. Prague, Czechia

Prague is an awesome and cheap European city any time of the year, but May is particularly special because of the warm weather and blooming gardens. Go toward the end of the month and you’ll be greeted by 68 °F temperatures during the day; nights can be a bit cooler, so make sure you pack a light jacket.

Crowds are few this month, making this the best time to admire the city’s stunning architecture, including the iconic Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, and the impressive Prague Castle. For a unique experience, take a boat tour down the Vltava River and see all of Prague’s famous sights from a different perspective. 

15. Madrid, Spain

Spain is one of the best places to travel solo in Europe, and May in particular is a wonderful time to visit Madrid. The city comes alive with colorful flowers, the weather is fabulous, and the days are longer, allowing for more time to explore the city.

One of the highlights is on the 15th, which marks the celebration of San Isidro Labrador, the city’s patron saint. This festival is a major event in Madrid, with various activities and events taking place throughout town. From concerts to traditional dances and delicious food, it’s a real treat for visitors.

Even outside the festival, Madrid offers tons of other attractions that shouldn’t be missed. And don’t forget, no trip to Spain is complete without trying some authentic tapas and sipping on a refreshing sangria!

You’ve probably guessed already that I love visiting places during shoulder season to avoid crowds, and Europe is no exception. Sure, summer is gorgeous on the continent, but May offers milder weather, smaller crowds, and lower prices in many destinations.

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