40 Things You Need to Know Before Your First Trip To Europe

What’s the best time to go to Europe?

Under no circumstances are you to ever go to Rome in August. Or Paris. Or really any big city in Italy, France, or Spain. Everything’s closed because most locals consider August an off-month and flee. It’s hot, and it’s price-gouged for tourists because they’re the only people around. If August is the window you have to work with and you simply must go to one of these countries, try Sardinia or Bunol.

Generally, Europe is diverse enough in climate and culture that there’s no single best time to visit. I’d recommend trying a lot of the hotter, southern places in the off-season — so, not summer. The Cyclades in Greece is the most beloved off-season recommendation I can give you, but Zermatt, Switzerland — at the foot of the Matterhorn — is among the most charming, storybook resort towns you’ll ever see under a soft blanket of snow. I am also contractually obligated at this juncture to ask if you’ve considered going to Reykjavik. (Have you? Iceland can be cheaper than you think.)

In college I studied in Prague, arriving from Texas in the dead of winter. It was January — empty, bleak, brutally cold, and I fucking loved it. Everything looked severe and Gothic and mysterious and smelled like chimney smoke. There was room to explore and hole up in quiet bars with the locals, who generally seemed relaxed and maybe even a little bit friendly? Then June hit and it was Disneyland-on-steroids, Old Town was like the mall on the day before Christmas, and I saw how radically a flood of foreigners can alter the pace and color of everyday life in a place. Which is all to say, no matter where you go there will always be tourists — you’re there, after all — but if you can time it so there as few of you as possible, do that. — Keller Powell.