10 of the Best Places to Visit in May

Getting Around By Timothy Nelson March 22, 2017

Between the unbeatable weather and off-peak prices in many desirable parts of the world, the hardest part about traveling in May might be deciding where to go. Do you want to explore Scandinavia after a long winter or hit the dramatic coastlines of the Mediterranean? Is a major metropolis beckoning before the oppressive summer heat or would you prefer to unwind in a rustic, old world city? We’ve rounded up the best destinations to visit in May to make the decision easier for you.

Warming up to Northern Europe

Copenhagen, Denmark


With a regal past with a chic present, Copenhagen exudes cosmopolitan class. After a long winter, May means warmer days, making it the best time to bike your way past Copenhagen’s canals, historic landmarks and hip enclaves.

Perfect for: Cyclists and culture vultures

Average May Weather: 45 – 60 degrees, 11 days of precipitation

What to do

  • Snap photos of the colorful homes of Nyhavn Harbor, then hop on a boat tour to see canal-side landmarks like the Black Diamond library and Little Mermaid statue
  • Hop on one of the rides at Tivoli Gardens, an enchanting amusement park that dates all the way back to 1843
  • Browse the expansive collection of European art at the Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery of Denmark)
  • Snack on street foods from around the world at Papirøen market
  • Walk through Christiania, an offbeat, autonomous community where freedom and self-expression flourish

Bergen, Norway


From the wharfs of Bryggen to the famous fjords, there’s no better place to celebrate Syttende Mai, Norway’s Constitution Day, than in the country’s second-largest city.

Perfect for: Seeing Norway’s nature, history, and culture all in one place

Average May Weather: 44 – 59 degrees, 14 days of precipitation

What to do

  • Embark on a ferry tour of nearby Nærøyfjorden fjord, where snow-capped mountains rise above the glacial waterways
  • Join in the Syttende Mai celebrations on May 17th, a national holiday when Norwegians don traditional clothing, wave flags and sip local Akvavit snaps to celebrate their heritage
  • Walk along Bryggen wharf, the city’s commercial hub since the 14th century
  • See the expressionist work of Edvard Munch and his contemporaries at Kode 3
  • Hike or take a funicular up Fløyen for a photo of the scenic Bergen Peninsula

May around the Mediterranean

Marseille, France


Though once considered seedy, the port town of Marseille has blossomed into an attractive destination. It might lack the luxurious amenities you’ll find elsewhere along the Riviera, but it makes up for that with history, culture, and outdoor adventure.

Perfect for: An alternative to the Riviera’s gaudy resort towns  

Average May Weather: 55 – 72 degrees, 5 days of rainfall

What to do

  • Check out the Musée des Civilisations de L’Europe et de la Méditerranée, which fuses art, history, archaeology and anthropology
  • Enjoy lunch outdoors at one of the bars and cafes along Vieux Port’s southern quay
  • Ferry your way to Chateau D’If, an island prison that stars in Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Hike down the rocky trails of Calanques National Park
  • Visit Notre-Dame de la Garde, a hilltop Catholic basilica with 360-degree views of Marseille

Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv_in_May

Jerusalem gets most of the attention when it comes to Israeli travel, but between its beaches, active party scene, and Bauhaus buildings, this white city by the sea is worth a trip.

Perfect for: Investigating Israel’s past and present along the Mediterranean coast

Average May Weather: 65 – 77 degrees, 1 day of rainfall

What to do

  • Watch the sun set over the Mediterranean from the Tayelet boardwalk by Frishman Beach
  • Wander the alleys of Old Jaffa, where biblical-era landmarks mingle with modern cafes and art galleries
  • Learn about the establishment of the Israeli state at the Palmach Museum
  • See the world’s largest collection of Israeli paintings and sculptures at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
  • Visit religious sites like the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George and the 12th century El-Chodr mosque in nearby Lod




Every May, the world’s best drivers descend on Monaco for the Grand Prix, but there’s far more to this European principality than fast cars. From coastal views to grand casinos, this place is proof that big things come in small packages.

Perfect for: Card sharks and racing fans

Average May Weather: 59 – 67 degree, 5 days of rainfall

What to do

  • Throw on your poker face for table games at the lavish Casino Monte Carlo
  • Watch Formula One drivers zip through the Circuit de Monaco during the Monaco Grand Prix on the final weekend of May
  • Spend a sunny day on Larvotto Beach
  • Spot exotic fish and aquatic life at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco
  • Observe the midday changing of the guard at the Prince’s Palace

Valletta, Malta


Originally settled by the knights of St. John in the 16th century, capital Valletta is an excellent starting point for your exploration of Malta. Sunny skies and warm Mediterranean breezes make May an excellent time to visit.

Perfect for: Island life steeped in history

Average May Weather: 62 – 76 degrees, 3 days of rainfall

What to do

  • Descend into the marble tombs of St. John’s Co-Cathedral
  • Wind your way through the narrow streets of Mdina, a walled city dating back to the Phoenicians
  • Take in the bioluminescent glow of the Blue Grotto caves
  • Admire a harbor view from the peaceful refuge of the Upper Barrakka Gardens
  • Tour your way from City Gate to the 16th century fortifications that surround Valetta, built by the Knights of St. John to repel Ottoman invaders


May in a Major Metropolis

São Paulo, Brazil


São Paulo has the largest population of any urban center in the western hemisphere, but don’t let its size intimidate you. Those willing to navigate its busy streets will find world-class art, a melting pot of cultures and a seemingly endless supply of things to see and do.

Perfect for: Experiencing South America at its liveliest

Average May Weather:  57 – 73 degrees, 6 days of rainfall

What to do

  • Stroll through the museums, playing fields, and pavilions of Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo’s hub of recreation and culture
  • Learn the history of the “beautiful game” at the Museu do Futebol, or cheer on the hometown team at Allianz Parque
  • Walk down Paulista Avenue to see the financial centers, cultural institutions and shops that line the city’s main thoroughfare
  • Admire the impressionist paintings and sculptures at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art
  • Catch a show at the Theator Municipal, a Parisian-style performing arts space and one of São Paulo’s great architectural accomplishments

Shanghai, China


Opening up to European trade in the 19th century made Shanghai the primary financial hub in the Asia-Pacific region. While it’s modern glamour is striking, the city hasn’t let go of its old-world heritage just yet.

Perfect for: Seeing how China’s past and present coexist

Average May Weather: 63 – 77 degrees, 10 days of rainfall

What to Do

  • Walk past old colonial trading houses and stunning skyscrapers on the Bund Boardwalk
  • Relax among the goldfish ponds and peaceful pavilions in Old City’s Yu Garden
  • See the seven-story pagoda at the Buddhist Longhua Temple
  • Amble the tree-lined streets of the Former French Concession, a 19th century expat neighborhood
  • Examine the intersection of art and politics at the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre


The Best of the Balkan Peninsula

Bucharest, Romania


A former eastern bloc capital situated where European sophistication meets the rugged charm of the Balkans, Bucharest is home to plenty of hidden beauty— especially when springtime’s bloom softens its edges.

Perfect for: Finding unexpected elegance in a post-communist capital

Average May Weather: 49 – 75 degrees, 12 days of rainfall

What to do:

  • Visit the open-air Village Museum for an education on Romanian culture, customs, and folklore
  • Tour the grandiose Palace of Parliament, a nearly four million square foot structure built during the tail end of Romania’s communist era
  • Paddle boat in the lake of Cismigu Gardens
  • Day trip to Lake Snagov, a mysterious island monastery and alleged tomb of Vlad the Impaler
  • Drink and dance your way through the bars, pubs, and clubs of Old Town


Istanbul, Turkey


From Byzantine landmarks to modern marketplaces, this alluring city where east meets west is truly a sight to behold.  While Istanbul is a big hit with retirees, you don’t have to quit your day job to take in everything

Perfect for: Architecture lovers and discount shoppers

Average May Weather: 54 – 68 degrees, 8 days of rainfall

What to do

  • Haggle at the Grand Bazaar, a massive market full of shiny trinkets and artisanal wares
  • Gaze at the domed ceiling of the Hagia Sophia, a former Greek Orthodox church and mosque
  • Explore the Topkapi palace, an opulent residence used by Ottoman sultans through the 19th century
  • View Egyptian sarcophagi and other pre-Ottoman relics at the Archaeology Museums
  • Enjoy dinner with a view in the restaurant at the top of Galata Tower, a Medieval tower in the Genoese citadel