If you're thinking about a trip to Europe in November, you are no doubt weighing the pros and cons. A major plus: There aren't as many crowds and everything is cheaper, from flights to hotel rooms and possibly train tickets. A significant concern: the weather. Europe is generally colder sooner than the United States, and November could be chilly and wet most of the time in some locations. For culture vultures, fall brings the start of arts seasons across Europe. Whether November in Europe is a good choice for you largely depends on your reasons for going and how much you are bothered by less than mild weather.
The weather in November changes depending on which European country (and region) you're visiting. In general, the average high temperature across the continent is between 40 and 60-degrees and the average low is around 30 to 50-degrees. However, in northern areas, such as Scandinavia, Poland, and Germany, snow and freezing temps can be common in November. If chilly November is a negative for you but you are limited to traveling to Europe during that month, think about a trip to Southern Europe, where it's still relatively mild. The Greek island of Crete, for example, has daily highs averaging 68 degrees and lows of 56 in November. Southern Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Croatia, and Greece can all be fine in November.
There are a ton of good reasons to visit Europe in November, namely the lower price tag.
- It's affordable. You will get cheaper airfare and hotel rates than you'll find in the very high season. However, transportation, food, and entrance tickets will all cost the same as they do in August. Your rental car might cost the same, but you might have to pay extra for snow tires or chains, which is a requirement in some countries. Rail passes will cost the same, but there might be money-saving specials and promotions to certain destinations available at the train station ticket window or online.
- There will be fewer tourists. The summer crowds will have gone so the bonus is that you will have the entire city to yourself. On the other hand, certain seasonal activities may not be available, especially in less populated destinations.
- The (real) cultural activities have begun. Sure, on a steaming August afternoon someone might herd sweating tourists into a historic building in Vienna to listen to a Mozart pop concert given by music students, but as the weather gets cold, the venues for professional art performances open up, and that's a real treat in the major cities. Besides, after a performance at the Vienna State Opera Hall you can slide over to a historic cafe for a drink to warm you up.
However, there are some concerns to keep in mind, especially for fair-weather folks.
- The light. The slanting light of winter and the brooding skies can make for some fine landscape photography. But, of course, there's less of it in late fall and winter. Europe is further north than you think; days can get very short by November. On November 1, the sun sets in Paris around 5:30 p.m. By the end of the month, it's dark after 4:57 p.m.
- You'll have to pack large. Sweaters, jackets, boots, and long sleeves take up way more room in your luggage than typical summer clothing, and they take far longer to dry if you're used to washing a few things in the hotel sink.
How to See the Northern Lights
The northern lights, more formally known as the aurora borealis, are a natural light phenomenon caused by the effect of the sun's magnetic activity on electron particles. It is one of the most beautiful sights on the planet and only possible close to or in the Arctic Circle during the winter. The best viewing of the northern lights is in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Scotland.
The big enemy to viewing the northern lights is cloud cover, so check that your tour guide will allow you to repeat your trip for free the next day if cloud cover thwarts your chances of seeing them (most tours will do this).
- Spain: This is the jazz festival season, with events happening in Barcelona, Madrid, and Granada. There's also the "Arrastre de los Cacharros," or "dragging of the pots and pans" in Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife. Compare prices on the best hotel deals in Spain on TripAdvisor.
- France: Armistice is an important event in France with memorials at the sites of famous World War I battles. Also, the new Beaujolais wine is opened and tasted around the country on the third Thursday of the month. Check rates on the best hotel deals in Paris.
- Italy: There's a jazz festival in Rome, as well as a truffle festival in Piedmont. The Italian opera season kicks off in November, too. Find a good deal on hotels in Italy on TripAdvisor.
- United Kingdom: Gather around bonfires and watch fireworks to celebrate Guy Fawkes' Night around the country. It commemorates a failed attack on the Houses of Parliament. Check out the best hotel deals in London on TripAdvisor.
- Scandinavia: November is also the start of "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" season. In Scandinavia you can celebrate the night before St. Martin's Day. Fruit, candy, and nuts are typical Sint-Maarten treats in the Netherlands.
- Czech Republic: The Czechs celebrate their Velvet Revolution in November. See the best hotel deals in Prague on TripAdvisor.
- Germany: Check out the DOM open-air funfair in Hamburg, the electronic music festival Berlin Music Days, or the Berlin Jazz Festival. All Saints' Day is celebrated on November 1, and you might want to see a performance of "Don Juan Tenorio" on All Saints' Day in Spain. In Germany it's a little different; the first two days of November are Allerheiligen (Nov. 1) and Allerseelen (Nov. 2). Related to Halloween, these two holy days are devoted to all of the saints (known and unknown) and to all of the “faithful departed,” respectively. Check rates hotel deals in Berlin on TripAdvisor.
Summer food is different from winter food. So while you might enjoy simply grilled meats and raw garden vegetables on the terrace in the summer, slow-cooked stews and root vegetables are what people are eating by the roaring fireplace as winter looms. If you allow yourself to go with the flow, you won't have any problems with fall and winter menus. And if you like truffles, the winter white truffle is best, and they start showing up in November. Most of the truffle fairs and festivals are held then, and that's a good reason for a November vacation all by itself.
Travel Tips and Resources
Late fall and winter is the time to visit large cities. Make sure to brush up on the best way to get around.
- European cities are packed with attractions and have adequate public transportation in case the weather makes walking miserable. Cabs and the metro can get you around a big city.
- Trains can relieve you of the dangerous bits of bad-weather driving. Don't just think of trains as a way to move from city to city with your baggage; they can also take you to different places for a day trip.
- Renting an apartment with its own heat control can keep you warm and make you feel like you are part of things.