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The Advantages of Travelling Europe in the Low-Season

By alison - February 24, 2012 (Updated: November 20, 2014)

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Glorious Greece.
Travelling Europe in the Low-Season

This photo would not be possible if we weren’t travelling Europe in the Low-Season

While hordes of tourists descend on Europe’s most popular cities from June to September, we prefer to take advantage of the benefits offered by travelling in the low-season.

I’m writing this post from a hotel in Athens, Greece, on a sunny February morning. We’ve been in this bustling city for several days now but we’ve seen few other tourists. They are here of course, but not in the teeming numbers that will tromp through the Acropolis in a few months. This is one of the main reasons we love to travel Europe in the low season.

Fewer Tourists in the Low-Season

For us, the main advantage of visiting European cities during the low-season is the reduced number of other travellers. We love having popular tourist attractions virtually to ourselves. It makes photography so much easier and we rarely have to stand in line.

The few other tourists who are around tend to be as laid-back as we are. It’s much easier to strike up conversations with the only other travellers you come across.

Yesterday we visited Athens Panathinaiko Stadium, the site of the very first Olympic Games. We only had to share this huge space with half a dozen other people. We were able to enjoy standing on the winners’ podium and have our photos taken by a couple of other off-season travellers. This would be next to impossible, without queuing for an hour, during the peak-season.

Athens Panathinaiko Stadium

Just us and a handful of other tourists at Athens Panathinaiko Stadium

We tend to get much better service from hotel staff, taxi drivers, guides and shop keepers, who aren’t as harried as they are during peak-season. They take more time to reveal their city to us and share their local insights. We’re able to experience the city as the locals do and not just how the guidebook tells us we should.

Cheaper Rates in the Low-Season

Of course price is a huge advantage to travelling in the low-season. Tour operators, airlines and hotels offer deep discounts to fill seats and rooms during their quiet periods. Our hotel in Athens was about 2/3 of the cost of the same room during the summer.

There are often last minute sales at seriously low prices, for those who are willing to be flexible about their travel destination and/or their dates. If you’re able to travel on short notice, you can score great deals on charter flights and package holidays, simply by watching the sales.

If you like to shop while you travel, you can expect better deals on souvenirs too. Shop keepers will be more willing to bargain when they know thirty other tourists won’t be following you into their store.

Disadvantages to Low-Season Travel

There are, of course, down-sides to travelling in the off-season.

The weather can be unpredictable and the hours of daylight are shorter in the winter. Europe was hit with a cold snap this year which led to snow in destinations we normally consider tropical. Extreme weather can also wreak havoc on flight and train schedules and delays can put a damper on your travel plans.

Despite forecasting the coldest day of the year in Athens during our stay, we still found strolling around the sunny city, perfectly tolerable. In fact, we prefer doing our outdoor sightseeing when it’s a bit cooler, rather than over-heating in the sun. (Maybe that’s just the Canadian in us coming out.)

Travelling in the low-season requires a bit more flexibility. It’s a good idea to plan both indoor and outdoor activities. If the weather turns bad, visit a museum; if the sun comes out, stroll the city streets.

Off-season travel can also mean limited hours at some attractions and even closures at smaller sites. If there is something you are dying to visit, double check the off-season opening times, before you plan your trip.

Of course, we realise not everyone can travel in the low-season… that’s why it’s the low-season after all.

School holiday schedules are the biggest hurdle for families with children. Depending on your job, you may only be able to take your holidays at certain times of the year.

Acropolis, Athens, Greece

We hardly had to share this view of the Acropolis with anyone else.

But we’re surprised how many people could travel outside of the peak-season and just choose not to.

For us, the advantages of travelling in the low-season far outweigh the disadvantages. With a little flexibility, exploring Europe during off-peak times can offer many rewards.

When is your favourite time to travel? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Alison

Alison

Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu. She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She is currently slow travelling through Europe in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison
Today I'm sharing one of my favourite new discoveries in New Brunswick / Nouveau-Brunswick, the Jardin Botanique... https://t.co/fCt4TxYUa9 - 4 days ago

8 comments

  1. Comment by Paul

    Paul February 24, 2012 at 11:23

    I love Athens in low season too. I find it more cosy. I went there last year in February too ! Great post, thanks

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison February 24, 2012 at 13:28

      It is a nice time to visit and so much more laid back and cosy as you said 🙂

  2. Comment by Nivia

    Nivia February 24, 2012 at 13:10

    LOVED IT!!!! 🙂

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison February 24, 2012 at 13:28

      Thanks Nivia!

  3. Comment by Amy

    Amy February 24, 2012 at 14:12

    I love that photo of the Acropolis! Gorgeous! Glad you guys had a nice trip.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison February 24, 2012 at 14:27

      Thank you! We hiked to the top of one of the nearby hills and had a great view just before sunset.

  4. Comment by Nicole Basaraba

    Nicole Basaraba February 24, 2012 at 16:52

    I’m so down for travelling in the low-season. The crowds in the bigger cities pretty much ruin the experience for me. I always compare it to being a heard of cows and you can’t see anything over everyone’s heads. 🙂 The only thing that I miss when visiting a place in the winter months is that I don’t get to see it in its full glory. For example, I’ve never been to Paris in summer so I don’t know what it looks like with the trees in full blume.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison February 24, 2012 at 17:04

      I completely agree Nicole! When you’re short like me, crowds make enjoying cities impossible. As for Paris in the summer, I have seen it and personally I think it’s much more beautiful in the spring when the flowers are all in bloom. By the time summer rolls around everything gets pretty crispy. It’s also lovely in the fall before it turns cold and rainy.

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