The continent of Europe is the world’s most popular travel destination. More than 672 million people visited in in 2017—almost double the arrivals to Asia, the next most popular continent. And, the list of the top ten most-visited countries in the world is dominated by European countries: France, Spain, Italy, UK, Turkey, and Germany.
It’s no surprise, then, that we frequently get questions related to finding cheap flights to Europe. To help answer some of them, we’ve created this detailed guide. From where to go and when, to which airlines to fly and the best city for a layover, here’s what you need to know about finding cheap flights to Europe.
What you’ll pay for a plane ticket to Europe will depend on dozens of factors, including (but not limited to) where you’re flying to and from, what time of year you go, when you buy, and whether or not you’ve bought at the right time and snagged a good deal. However, we can give you some general averages for regular prices (see below for deal prices) for roundtrip flights to Europe based on what we’ve seen logging thousands of hours of flight searching.
Note: all prices listed are for roundtrip flights in USD.
While the regular prices listed above are what you might pay, the roundtrip prices below are deal prices—what we think you should pay if you’ve got at least a little flexibility, and what Scott's Cheap Flights members typically pay when they snag the deals we send out.
That’s a broad question with an entire continent full of possibilities, and the answer will depend on a lot of factors personal to you. You could take this question to the 80,000+ members of our Travel Community to get personalized advice, but here’s a little bit of general info to get you started.
If you’re looking to check off bucket-list items, consider the big-name cities: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Athens, Prague, Dublin, Rome, Berlin. If you prefer to go left when everyone else goes right, look at less-trodden cities like Bucharest, Ljubljana, Porto, Warsaw, and Zagreb.
In general, northern Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltics, Russia, and the former Soviet countries will all be colder in winter and milder in summer. Southern Europe is hotter in the summer and much milder in winter. Of course, even within countries there’s variation. It might be sweltering in Paris in July, while in the mountain town of Chamonix it’s refreshingly cool.
If you want to visit multiple cities in Europe, you can often book an open-jaw flight for the same price as a roundtrip flight. This allows you to fly into one city and out of the another. For example, you could fly into Barcelona, take the train to Madrid, and fly home from there.
In general, Scandinavia, the UK, and western Europe are the most expensive regions to visit in Europe. According to Numbeo’s cost of living index, the most expensive countries in Europe are Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark, Ireland, France, Netherlands, Belgium, and Finland.
Countries in southern and eastern Europe and the Balkans tend to be less expensive. Numbeo lists the cheapest countries in Europe as: Ukraine, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Belarus, Turkey, Serbia, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Albania.
Again, though, it can vary a bit within each country; in Russia, for example, St. Petersburg and Moscow are much more expensive than smaller towns. And, even in the more expensive countries you can often cut costs by taking public transportation, staying in an Airbnb or hostel, and cooking some of your own meals.
US citizens do not need a visa to travel to Europe. The US is one of 60 countries currently allowed visa-free travel to Europe (though beginning in 2021, there will be a fee and online pre-registration required).
Citizens of the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and dozens of other countries can only stay in the Schengen Area of Europe for a period of 90 days within a 180-day period, unless they have a visa that allows a longer stay.
However, you can stay longer on the continent by breaking up your time between Schengen and non-Schengen countries. For example, you could stay 90 days in the Schengen Area, spend 90 days in one or more countries outside the Schengen area (depending on their specific rules) and then return to the Schengen area for another 90 days.
Some of the busiest airports in Europe include hubs like London Heathrow Airport, (LHR) Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS), Iceland’s Keflavik Airport (KEF), Milan’s Malpensa Airport (MXP), Frankfurt am Main Airport (FRA), Munich Airport (MUC), Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD), Barcelona-El Prat (BCN), and Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino (FCO).
Istanbul's Ataturk Airport (IST) is also very popular, though in 2019 the bulk of operations are moving to the new Istanbul Airport (ISL; which is expected to see even more passengers).
This is another tricky question with a complicated answer; just because an airport has some of the lowest prices on average, it doesn’t mean it offers the best prices for your particular trip.
We can say that, overall, in 2018, we saw the most deals to: Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, Milan, Rome, Barcelona, London, Frankfurt, Zurich and Munich. We also saw a lot of deals to Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, Vienna, and Berlin.
Of course, it also varies a bit by where you’re coming from and when you’re traveling. If we look at just flights from the US and Canada, the same 15 airports saw the most deals in 2018 so those are good places to start your search, but it’s always wise to check multiple options. Even if there are great prices from Austin to London in May, from Houston it might be better to fly to Amsterdam, for example.
While we have data that says that, on average, it’s cheaper to fly to certain European cities, we can’t definitively say it’ll be cheaper to fly to that city for your specific trip, so always compare prices. Google Flights makes it easy to do this with its map view, which shows the prices for an entire region for your specific dates, or for a week or two-week trip in a given month. You can also search up to seven airports in one go. See our Google Flights tutorial for more.
Again, this depends quite a bit on your personal preferences, but in broad strokes:
High season in Europe is June through August as well as the Christmas and New Year holidays. Low season is November through February (excluding the holidays).
Everything else—March through May and September through October—is considered shoulder season.
Much of Europe is Christian, and Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Easter are celebrated widely throughout the continent. Observation of Easter can vary; some countries celebrate only on Sunday while others take nearly a week to celebrate Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are also celebrated throughout Europe.
Other holidays, like independence days and bank holidays, vary by country; there’s St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, Queen’s Day in the Netherlands, Hogmanay in Scotland, and Bastille Day in France, to name a few. Every country also has its own major festivals, which, depending on the size and scope, can impact travelers. Some of the biggest European festivals include Germany’s Oktoberfest in Munich, Carnival in Venice, Spain’s San Fermin (the Running of the Bulls) in Pamplona, France’s Cannes Film Festival, and many, many more.
In general, the cheapest time to fly to Europe is from January–April and September–early-December. We see the most deals available in January and February from most departure regions (from Latin America we also see a lot of deals in March and May).
Skyscanner data says the cheapest month to fly to Europe is January, but again, the answer isn’t quite that simple. As mentioned, we see a lot of deals for travel in January, but that doesn’t mean the cheapest price you’ll find for your specific routing will be for travel in January; we’ve seen some amazing deals pop up for all other months of the year, too.
There is no specific month, week, day, or time of day that the best prices are available for booking. In general, the best time to book an international flight is 2-6 months in advance of travel. That doesn’t mean you should just blindly book as soon as you’re in that window, though—wait for a good deal, and then act quickly when you see one.
We’ve broken this section into major airlines and budget airlines. The budget airlines generally offer a no-frills experience but lower prices. The major airlines are full-service airlines and flagship and legacy carriers. In general, the economy class on these airlines includes a checked bag and advance seat assignment. However, some of these carriers have also begun to offer basic economy fares to compete with the budget airlines. In exchange for the lowest price, you’ll give up (or pay extra) for things like meals, checked luggage, and advance seat selection.
It’s wise to compare prices on all options to see not only which has the lowest price, but which offers the best value for your particular needs.
From the US and Canada, some of the full-service airlines that fly to Europe are: Aer Lingus, Aeroflot, Air Canada, Air France, Air Italy, Air New Zealand, Air Serbia, Air Tahiti Nui, Air Transat, Alitalia, American Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Azores Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Condor, Delta Airlines, Emirates, Eurowings, Finnair, Iberia, Icelandair, Jet Airways, KLM, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS, Singapore Airlines, SWISS, TAP Air Portugal, Thomas Cook, TUI, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, WestJet, and XL Airways.
From Asia, some of the full-service airlines that fly to Europe are: Aeroflot, Air China, Air France, Air Italy, Asiana, ANA, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Eurowings, EVA Air, Finnair, Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Jet Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Kuwait Airways, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Philippine Airlines, SAS, Sichuan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, SWISS, Turkish Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and Xiamen Airlines.
From Latin America and the Caribbean, some of the full-service airlines that fly to Europe are: Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air France, Avianca, British Airways, Copa Airlines, Eurowings, Iberia, KLM, LATAM, Lufthansa, SWISS, TUI, and Virgin Atlantic.
From Africa and the Middle East, some of the full-service airlines that fly to Europe are: Aeroflot, Air France, Air Italy, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, El Al, Egypt Air, Etihad Airways, Iberia, KLM, Kuwait Airways, LOT Polish Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, RwandAir, South African Airways, SWISS, Turkish Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic.
From Australia and New Zealand, some of the full-service airlines that fly to Europe are: Air New Zealand, British Airways, China Airlines, China Southern, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Vietnam Airlines, and Virgin Australia.
From the US and Canada, LEVEL and Norwegian are among the budget airlines that fly to Europe, and both make our list of the best budget airlines to fly from the US.
From Latin America, some budget airline options include Air Europe and Norwegian. Unfortunately, there aren’t any budget airlines flying from sub-Saharan Africa, but from Morocco, Ryanair offers very competitive pricing.
From Asia, some of the budget airlines that fly to Europe include FlyDubai, Pegasus Airlines, and Scoot. Scoot is also a great option for flights from Australia to Europe.
While there’s no one airline that will always be the cheapest, the following airlines often have good deals.
From the US and Canada, we see the most deals to Europe on American, United, Delta, Air Canada, British Airways and Lufthansa.
From Latin America, we see the most deals to Europe on United, Iberia, Lufthansa, Air Canada, Swiss, TUI, and Eurowings.
From Africa, it varies significantly by route, but in general we see the most deals on flights to Europe on Turkish Airlines, Kenya Airways, KLM, Air France, TAP Air Portugal, Ethiopian and Iberia.
From Asia, we see the most deals to Europe on Qatar, Turkish, Aeroflot, KLM, Lufthansa, Oman Air, China Southern, though this can vary quite a bit by region. For example, we see the most deals from East Asia on China Southern, the most deals from Thailand on Eurowings, and the most deals from Southern Asia on Kuwait Airways and Qatar.
From Australia and New Zealand, we see the most deals to Europe on China Southern and Etihad.
Of course, you’ll notice that in many cases these are also the airlines that operate the most flights to Europe and serve the most the most airports. More flights means more chances for deals.
If you’re looking for the absolute cheapest way to get from your home airport to Europe, we have two tips for you: (1) flexibility is key and (2) two roundtrip flights are often cheaper than one.
First, you need to be flexible. If you’re only looking at flights to one destination, you may not find the cheapest options. The more flexible you can be with location (and dates), the greater your chances of scoring a great deal.
Second, in some cases, it’s much cheaper to buy two sets of roundtrip tickets: one from your home airport to the continent and another from your entry airport to your final destination.
For example, a flight from NYC to Dubrovnik, Croatia, with a connection in London could cost $1,200 in high season. But a flight from NYC to London could cost as little as $500. From London, you can hop on a budget airline and fly to Croatia for less than $200. You end up spending $700 in two separate transactions instead of $1,200 in one, and you can add a long layover in London if you like.
That’s not the only perk of this hack, which we often refer to “the Greek islands trick.” It also allows you to break up your purchases (you don’t have to buy both sets of flights at the same time) and if you aren’t sure exactly where you want to go, you have time to figure it out. In most cases you will need to break this up into two transactions. Flight search engines typically won't let you book two non-partner airlines in a single transaction, so you have to do the legwork yourself to find the best deal.
You can read more about how to find the cheapest flight anywhere, and remember, you might find that a train or bus connection is actually a faster or more economical way to complete your journey once in Europe. You can use Rome2Rio to compare options.
Ask ten different people this question and you'll likely get ten different answers based on personal preference. We considered (1) how likely it is you’ll find a deal to this airport, (2) how likely it is you’ll have a layover or the option to add a long layover in this airport, and (3) how quickly and easily you can get from the airport to the city and back.
Based on those criteria, here are our recommendations for where to spend your layover in Europe.
Amsterdam, Zurich, Barcelona, Lisbon, Frankfurt, Stockholm, and Brussels can all be reached in about 15 minutes by train or taxi from their respective airports. The trains run reliably, and once you’re in the city it’s easy to connect to the local metro (or walk) to main attractions so you can see a lot in a short amount of time. From Helsinki or Madrid it takes a bit more time to get from the airport to the city (about 30 minutes) but it’s still easy to do on a longer layover.
London and Paris are also great choices, depending on the airport you’re flying in and out of.
In London, the Heathrow Express train whisks passengers from London Heathrow (LHR) to London’s Paddington Station in just 20 minutes and the trains come every few minutes. Gatwick Airport (LGW) is slightly farther, but still doable depending on the length of your layover; the trip takes about 30 minutes but trains only come every 15 minutes. Avoid Stansted (STN) if you’re looking to do a single day layover; the trip from the airport takes 45 minutes and the trains only come every 15, so you’ll eat up a lot of time in transit.
In Paris, it takes about 35 minutes to travel by RER train from Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) to the Gare du Nord train station, and trains come every 15 minutes. Orly Airport (ORY) is actually closer, but the journey takes about the same amount of time. Avoid Paris-Beauvais Airport (BVA) for a shorter layover; there’s no direct train, but there is a bus that takes about an hour to make the 40-mile journey.
It’s not quite as easy to get from Istanbul’s airports (either Ataturk or the new Istanbul Airport, which are 25 and 45 minutes from the city by taxi without traffic—and in Istanbul, there’s always traffic), so a short layover isn’t recommended, but if you’re flying Turkish Airlines and you find yourself with a layover in Istanbul of at least 20 hours, you may quality for a free hotel room.
Reykjavik is also pretty far from Keflavik airport (about 45 minutes by bus), but it is close to the famous Blue Lagoon and a few hours is plenty of time to leave the airport, travel by bus to the hot spring, and relax for an hour or two. The Blue Lagoon does reach capacity, though, so be sure to make reservations.