The Cheapest Destinations (and Months) For A Summer Trip To Europe

School’s (almost) out for summer—which means it’s time to start planning a getaway. If Europe is on your agenda, Travel + Leisure has you covered with lots of ways to save money as you plan. But the very first step is knowing how to be in the right place at the right time.

For that, we’ve rounded up data-driven suggestions from Booking.com. According to their insights, Americans are most likely to head to the continent’s capitals: London, Paris, and Rome. There are more cost-effective destinations—and we’ll get to that in a second—but if you’re also keen to visit one of the Big Three, then you ought to plan on visiting in August for the best prices across the board. Doing so will save you 24 percent off compared to a June or July trip, but be prepared for lots of stores to be closed—much of Europe is also on vacation that month.

Hitting alternative destinations is a smarter way to save. That’s why we’ve partnered with Booking.com to select European cities that might not be on the list of America’s most popular summer getaways, but should be. We’ve also figured out the cheapest month to visit and ideal traveler profile (groups, couples, families, or solo).

But don’t forget about saving on flights, too. To do that, book your tickets eight to ten weeks out from your trip—that’s when historic data from Kayak shows you’ll get the best deal. Consider extra charges from budget airlines (which could cover anything and everything, down to choosing a basic seat), baggage weight restrictions (in case you’re planning to bring home a haul), and transit costs if you’re flying to a secondary airport. And don’t overlook airline-specific, obscure fees, like forgetting your printed RyanAir boarding pass at home (it can cost you $30 to have it reprinted at the airport). More of these tips can be found right here.

Stockholm

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Stockholm

Cheapest month to go: July

Best for: Solo travelers

Why book it: This city has such a vibrant café culture, you’ll feel like a local just by settling in with a journal, coffee, and a kardemmumabuller (translation: a supremely delicious, only-in-Sweden variety of the cinnamon bun made with plenty of cardamom instead.) Going in July means a 16 percent saving over trips in June, when summer prices are at their peak—and it also means long days of Scandinavian sun. While you’re there, be sure to hit the coast for fresh-from-the-fishermen shellfish, usually piled high on rye toast.

Positano

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Positano

Best month to go: June

Best for: Couples

Why book it: You can break the bank staying at a hotel like Le Sirenuse—a global standard setter for service and style. But you can make up some of the difference by traveling in June rather than July, when prices max out in this seaside stunner of a destination.

Prague

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Prague

Cheapest month to go: July

Best for: Groups

Why book it: July brings tons of cultural events to Prague—everything from the supersized Bohemia Jazz Fest to a staging of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in the same theater where it first premiered in 1787. Stay in the beautiful new Boho Hotel, which just opened in December with minimalist, grey-on-white interiors in the historic city center.

Madrid

Sylvain SONNET

Madrid

Cheapest month to go: August

Best for: Groups

Why book it: Going in August means you’ll encounter pretty hot temperatures and some store closures in Madrid—but you’ll also save 21 percent over a trip in June. The good news is that if you’re smart about planning, neither of those two caveats will get in your way. For one thing, museums like the Prado are still open—and have far fewer crowds (along with plenty of air conditioning). And there’s always plenty of gazpacho and sangria to keep you cool, nearly anywhere you look.

Ben Miller

Cheapest month to go: August

Best for: Couples

Why book it: If you’re never climbed to the top of the Duomo and surveyed a city of terracotta rooftops from 375 feet in the air, you simply haven’t lived. Spend a few days in this intimate, manageable city before whiling away a romantic weekend in the surrounding Tuscan countryside, where wine tastings and hillside picnics make for the most romantic of getaways. Bonus: traveling in August means you’ll save 24 percent compared to a trip in the peak month of June.

Krakôw

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Krakôw

Cheapest month to go: July

Best for: Solo travelers

Why book it: After many years of flying under the radar, Poland’s second city is taking a turn in the spotlight—it’s even ranked in the top 10 T+L’s World’s Best Cities. Credit the renaissance to a young generation of creative thinkers, ready to infuse the city’s medieval buildings with a vibrant new energy. (The city’s stunning architecture largely survived WWII due to a series of failed air raids.) Rub elbows with the city’s emerging tech crowd at places like Pauza, a locally beloved bar on the second floor of a former tenement house.

Berlin

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Berlin

Cheapest month to go: August

Best for: Groups

Why book it: Nobody seems to understand why Berlin is so affordable in August; unlike other capitals that shut down for the month, Berlin is at its most alive this month. Get tickets to the International Beer Festival or Dance in August—both events that draw continental crowds—and book yourself in to Das Stue, our favorite design-driven property in town, for a true bucket list trip.

Edinburgh

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Edinburgh

Cheapest month to go: June

Best for: Groups

Why book it: August is Festival month in Edinburgh, when the city’s calendar of events is as packed as its hotel rooms. Going in June will save you a whopping 29 percent, and there’s still tons to do. After you’ve made your way through the city’s main sights, head straight to picture-perfect Victoria Street, a curved, cobblestone street right off the George IV Bridge, where you’ll find Cuttea Sark, the city’s best place to buy tea. (Get the Blue Lady black tea with grapefruit essence. It’s a perfect souvenir.)

Dubrovnik

© 2015 Callum Hyland

Dubrovnik

Cheapest month to go: June

Best for: Families

Why book it: While Europe’s who’s who spend their summers yachting up the Dalmatian Coast, you can live the fabulous life in this stunningly preserved seaside city. Stay in the 19-room Pučić Palace, take a dip in one of the city’s pristine beaches, and walk the walls of the medieval fortress at sunset. Need a clue on why those historic ramifications look so familiar? Dubrovnik’s Old Town makes many a cameo in Game of Thrones.

Bruges, Belgium

David santiago Garcia

Bruges, Belgium

Cheapest month to go: July

Best for: Couples

Why book it: You’ll feel like you’ve walked into a fairy tale when you see the 13th-century architecture that makes Bruges one of the most charming places on earth. For a breath of modernity in a city that’s all about the beautifully aged, stay at The Van Cleef. Once home to the legendary Van Cleef family, the 700-year-old estate has been updated as a boutique hotel where the whimsical design can only be characterized as a riotous, perfectly layered mash-up of patterns and colors.

Barcelona

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Barcelona

Cheapest month to go: August

Best for: Families

Why book it: Barcelona offers great value all summer—and despite the fact that August offers the best prices, traveling in June or July will only cost you three percent more. Roam L’Eixample, with its fabulously over-the-top Gaudi buildings, and pop into La Boqueria market for a feast that’ll only cost a few bucks. Then collapse into bed at Casa Bonay, undoubtedly the most stylish new hotel in town.

Amsterdam

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Amsterdam

Cheapest month to go: July

Best for: Groups

Why book it: Strolling the canals is perfect for a romantic couples’ retreat, but Amsterdam has tons to offer for groups. Check out world-class museums like the Rijksmuseum (complete with a hot new restaurant), stay at ultra-hip hotels like the Hoxton, and hit the Nine Streets district for amazing shopping. The more hands you’ve got, the more bags you can hold.

Dublin

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Dublin

Cheapest month to go: August

Best for: Families

Why book it: The Guinness capital of the world, for families? Believe it. Dublin has Europe’s largest enclosed urban park just west of its downtown core—the 1,700-acre Phoenix Park includes gardens, tree-lined boulevards, a zoo, and a tea parlor. (The city also has a great children’s museum and aquarium.) Be sure to tack on a stay at Ashford Castle, where everyone (adults included!) can feel pampered as royalty.

Lisbon

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Lisbon

Cheapest month to go: August

Best for: Couples

Why book it: It’s always been a strong candidate where affordable European destinations are concerned, but Lisbon isn’t just attractive for its value. It’s also an emerging design mecca, with tons of artisans putting a modern spin on traditional wares (we’re talking hats, shoes, jewelry—the fun stuff). Be advised that June is the most expensive summer month to travel, when a trip costs 14 percent more than it does in August.

Source: Travel + Leisure

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