After living in Europe for over seven years, I’m an off-season travel veteran. My husband and I quickly learned the art of off season travel for two big reasons. Off season travel is less expensive, and it’s a heck of a lot less crowded. We long ago gave up traveling in the high season to pretty much anywhere that draws packs of tourists in the high season. That big change likely came right after trying to peer between six iPads to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. There’s a particular kind of frustration that comes with being caught in a pack of tourists so big you can’t see the thing you came to see in the first place!

These are five European spots that are much more enjoyable and peaceful in the off season.

Dubrovnik

With the rise in popularity of Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik is becoming more and more popular, especially in the summertime. The Adriatic is the perfect turquoise blue and water sports abound. But surprisingly enough, the busy season in the Croatian city is only July and August, leaving September, October, May and June for the rest of us. The weather is still warm, the crowds are sparse, and that blue sea still sparkles. We arrived in mid-April and the weather was warm enough that my husband still insisted on a dip in the sea – and he wasn’t the only one!

Rome

Rome’s crowds are up there with London and Paris – it can be a total zoo in the summer months, when temperatures are soaring and there isn’t much shade, let alone water, to be found. Instead, try Rome in the winter. The comfort-food cuisine is perfect for the colder months, and you’ll stay toasty walking the cobbled streets in a scarf and light coat.

Dublin

Dublin’s crowds can’t compete with those in Rome, but neither can the weather. Dublin’s weather is downright unpredictable all year round. Even in the summertime, the best you could hope for would be sunshine and 65 degree weather. If the weather doesn’t cooperate? 40’s and blustery rain. So if you’re going to pay airfare to the Emerald Isle, opt for September or October. The evenings are still long and the country has been known to get a lovely bout of sunshine in the autumn months.

Venice

For a city that functions without any cars, Venice can get extremely congested (and sometimes smelly!) in the summer months. And for a city that’s so photogenic, you want to go when the light is best for photos – autumn or spring. Take advantage of the peaceful nooks and alleyways and capture that gondola the first time around, without waiting for that pack of tourists to mosey on by out of your shot!

Vienna

Few people realize that Vienna is simply chock full of lilac bushes, making springtime the best time to visit the Austrian capital. The Easter markets around the city, with colorful hand painted egg decorations and chocolate bunnies, are a delight to stroll through in the sunshine. Just make sure you rent one of the public bikes and cycle slowly through the parks and palace grounds, taking in the scent of spring!

Emily Westbrooks

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