May in Eastern Europe: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

The Hungarian Parliament on the Danube River at Sunset in Budapest, Hungary
Istvan Kadar Photography / Getty Images

May is a lovely time of year to visit Eastern Europe because it offers many of the benefits of the summer season without its inconveniences—like higher airfare rates and impenetrable crowds. The spring weather is typically mild, with scattered showers throughout the month, and you can generally find cheap travel deals and accommodations across the region.

Additionally, major cities across Eastern Europe offer a wide variety of annual events each May. From the Chopin Festival in Warsaw's Royal Lazienki Park to the Rosalia wine festival in Budapest, there are plenty of great events taking place this month where locals and tourists alike can experience Eastern European culture, cuisine, and performances.

Eastern Europe Weather in May

Prague Castle and city, Prague, Central Bohemia, Czech Republic
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Although the temperatures across the region only get warmer as the month progresses, the weather in May can be a little unpredictable when it comes to rain and temperature. For instance, the northern countries like Lithuania and Latvia are typically cooler yet drier than southern countries like Hungary and the Czech Republic.

In Budapest, Warsaw, Krakow, and Prague, the temperature is perfect for sightseeing because it's neither too cold nor too hot; however, most days are cloudy and get rainier toward the end of the month. Meanwhile, the weather in Vilnius and St. Petersburg still gets a little chilly at night but stays relatively warm and dry throughout the day. Overall, though, the region is mostly overcast and sees rainfall on half the days in May, so come prepared for light to moderate rain at least once during your stay.

What to Pack

Chain bridge of Budapest , Hungary
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While the weather varies a little depending on where you're visiting in Eastern Europe, what you'll need for your trip stays about the same no matter where you go. Layering is important if you plan to stay out late as overnight temperatures can drop significantly in some parts of the region. Pack long and short-sleeved shirts, pants, and shorts as well as a pullover sweater or light jacket in case you get chilly. Also, bring waterproof shoes and a light raincoat for the occasional May showers.

May Events in Eastern Europe

Balloons over Vilnius
 Angel Villalba / Getty Images

With several national holidays like the Czech Republic's Liberation Day and several student-oriented festivals, the events calendar in Eastern Europe in May is all about celebrating local traditions. Fortunately, Eastern Europeans welcome visitors to experience their customs, and there are plenty of great festivals and events to discover across the region—from the Rosalia wine festival in Budapest to the White Nights festival in St. Petersburg.

  • Rosalia: This event is Hungary's only festival dedicated to rosé wines, sparkling wines, and champagnes, held in Budapest each May.
  • Gourmet Festival: This prestigious gastro event features chocolate, cheese, sausages, and more of the best that Budapest has to offer.
  • Prague International Music Festival: This biannual event welcomes performers from around the world to take the stage in Prague each May and October.
  • Czech Beer Festival: The largest beer festival in the region, this celebration takes place in Prague each May and features dozens of local breweries from the Czech Republic.
  • Prague Food Festival: This celebration of Czech cuisine features street food vendors alongside culinary artists for a weekend of events.
  • Chopin Festival: On Sundays starting in mid-May, Royal Lazienki Park in Warsaw is filled with beautiful classical music by Fryderyk Chopin, Poland’s most famous composer.
  • Slovak Food Festival: Bratislava's biggest picnic is held annually at the Bratislava Castle, the former home of the Hungarian crown jewels.
  • Jewenalia: This festival is a celebration for students before their summer exams that features concerts and parades throughout Krakow but based around the city's historic center.
  • Skamba Skamba Kankliai: This traditional folk music festival is held in Lithuania's capital city of Vilnius over several weeks in May each year.
  • White Nights Festival: This festival, primarily based in St. Petersburg, offers a wide range of concerts and performances that pay homage to the eerie light that lingers over much of Eastern Europe in May and July.

May Travel Tips

Slovakia, Bratislava, view to Michaels Gate at the old town
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  • Many cities across Eastern Europe host summer free music events in city parks, most of which start around mid-to-late May.
  • Airfare, hotel rooms, and even admission to some attractions are generally cheaper in early May before the tourist crowds arrive for the summer season.
  • Unfortunately, street scammers in major tourist hubs start to come out as the weather warms up, so keep your valuables close to you while in public squares and parks—especially around tourist attractions.
  • Although it rains 15 days out of the month across Eastern Europe on average, showers are typically brief. Bring a compact umbrella you can tuck into your bag for sudden spring storms.