11 Toughest Cities to Book an Airbnb (and Tips on When to Visit)

by Kam Bain
Thursday, August 20 2015

Nearly 10 million people joined the Airbnb platform as guests in 2014. This surge in new users has made booking an Airbnb in many major cities much more competitive.

Beyond Pricing looks at the 11 toughest cities to book an Airbnb and gives tips on the best times to visit.


1. San Francisco

As the birthplace of Airbnb, it comes as no surprise that San Franciscan visitors pride themselves on staying in Airbnbs. Whether they are in town for the Outside Lands Music Festival or to attend the Dreamforce conference, casual and business travelers are turning to Airbnb to supplement the relatively small number of hotel rooms in the city.

High Season: May-September
Low Season: November-February
Major Events: Dreamforce, Outside Lands, WWDC, Google I/O
Travel Advice: If you are looking to visit San Francisco for any of the events above, you need to book an Airbnb months and months in advance, and even still, getting a nice place at a reasonable rate will be difficult. However, if you want to visit the city as merely a tourist, you can take advantage of the oversupply of Airbnb markets on the units during the winter holidays and find yourself a nice place for an unusually low San Francisco rate.


2. New York City

The Big Apple is by far the largest Airbnb market in the United States, and second on the global market behind Paris. New York City has been a battleground for sharing economy companies and the government. Airbnb has even set up a dedicated NYC focused website to brag about the $1.15 billion in economic activity that the company claims to have brought to NYC. Airbnbs in New York offer tourists a greater scope of accommodation, with 82% of the listings on the market listed in the boroughs outside of midtown Manhattan.

High Season: April-June, September-October
Low Season: January-March
Major Events: New Year’s Eve, Easter, Labor Day, New York City Fashion Week, Belmont Stakes, Ninth Avenue International Film Festival, Westminster Kennel Club Show, New York Film Festival, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Travel Advice: Not surprisingly, the NYC market is very seasonal with a much larger quantity of visitors into the city during the months with better weather: April, May, September, and October. Occupancy reaches almost 85% during these month, an occupancy rate even hotels strive to reach. However, if you’re willing to brave the cold, you can score some great deals in January-March at some of the many classy NYC apartments available on Airbnb.


3. Berlin

Whether it’s to view the vast collections in the Museumsinsel or visit the iconic Reichstag, European visitors turn to Berlin in the masses for their summer holiday. Behind only Paris, France, and Barcelona, the Berlin Airbnb market is the 4th largest in Europe and offers tourists additional accommodation options during the popular summer holiday season in Europe.

High Season: May-August
Low Season: September-October, January-March
Major Events: New Year’s Eve, Berlin Marathon, Berlin Fashion Week, Beer Festival, Carnival of Cultures, Berlin International Film Festival
Travel Advice: Berlin boasts over 80% in Airbnb occupancy nearly every weekend during the popular summer travel months. If you can take time off during the week, trips during weeekdays will offer you some amazing deals on both Airbnbs and hotels. Similar to NYC, if you like the German winters, January-March is a great time to find a luxury German vacation rental for a significantly discounted rate. With the exception of the Berlin Marathon, September and October are also low periods in the Berlin accommodation market bringing Airbnb and hotel prices down during those months.


4. Copenhagen

Often referred to as the “most livable city in the world”, Copenhagen residents love Airbnb. The Danish capital has roughly the same amount of Airbnbs as Los Angeles, despite being only 1/7 the size in terms of population. This culturally rich city is an ideal travel destination for international visitors (almost the entire population speaks flawless English) acting as a bridge between mainland Europe and its Scandinavian neighbors.

High Season: April-June, August
Low Season: October, January
Major Events: Copenhagen Carnival, Copenhagen Marathon, Copenhagen Pride Festival, European Beer Festival, Constitution Day
Travel Advice: The high late-spring occupancy in Copenhagen is reflective of the beauty of the city during April through June as the streets come alive as citizens and tourists alike enjoy the temperate weather with art fairs and music festivals in the streets. However, you can save some money by visiting this progressive Danish capital during September and October to enjoy a few of the many incredible events hosted by Copenhagen including the Blues Festival (September) and Night of Culture (October).


5. Los Angeles

Whether it’s to soak up the sun on Venice Beach or ride in a convertible along the Sunset strip, Los Angeles maintains its status as one of the premier vacation destinations in the world. The warm summer LA weather attracts people all over the world, although the city’s climate is more than comfortable for the entire calendar year.

High Season: June-August
Low Season: September-December
Major Events: Los Angeles Marathon, LA Art Show, July 4th, New Year’s Eve, LA Pride, The Academy Awards
Travel Advice: Peak tourist season is during the summer months, specifically July and August, although these aren’t actually the best times to visit the City of Angels. Early spring and fall bring mild mid 70 degree Fahrenheit weather with some of the best events the city has to offer including the LA Marathon, the Oscars, and the LA Auto Show. Los Angeles traditionally experiences a later summer with most locals claiming September is actually the nicest month of the year. This is good news for those looking to catch some sun before the winter months as occupancy and prices for hotels and Airbnbs in Los Angeles are lowest in September.


6. Amsterdam

Although Venice is often given credit as the premier city of canals, Amsterdam’s geographical landscape is breathtaking as bike lanes and public transport criss cross around the grid of canals. The Dutch capital is known for its cultural and economic influence on the rest of Europe while attracting visitors from around the globe with its picturesque windmills and architecture as well as cultural landmarks such as the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House.

High Season: April-June
Low Season: September-October, January-February
Major Events: Holland Festival, Koningsdag, New Year’s Eve, Amsterdam Pride, Liberation Day, Jordaan Festival
Travel Advice: Winter in Amsterdam is brutal, with short, cold, and dark days. The Airbnb occupancy in Amsterdam during winter reflect this as occupancy for Airbnbs stays consistently under 60%. However, the data above shows that as the tulips begin to bloom in the spring, Amsterdam becomes alive with visitors in the spring throughout the end of summer. With occupancy soaring over 90% for both Airbnbs and hotels in Amsterdam, you’ll need to book a room early if you plan to make a trip to Amsterdam during high-season. Amsterdam is known as an expensive city to visit, so if you are looking for a cheap trip to Amsterdam you likely will have to brave the colder winter months of January and February to experience this gem of a city.


7. Sydney

Despite its sibling city Melbourne ranking as the The Economist’s best city to live in last year, Sydney is by far the most happening Airbnb tourist city in Australia. Sydney attracts tourists from all over the world with its world-renowned monuments like the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, iconic beaches such as Bondi Beach, and cultural experiences including the Glebe Markets and Royal Botanic Garden.

High Season: November-March
Low Season: May-June, September-October
Major Events: International Food Festival, Harbour Party, Sydney Festival, Australia Day, Royal Easter Show, Design Week, Winter Festival
Travel Advice: Sydney’s weather is like that of Los Angeles, pleasant year-round. November through February is by far Sydney’s busiest time for tourism, attracting millions during its summer months with weather and events such as the Harbour Party, Sydney Festival, Australia Day, and Tropfest all occurring during this high-season. Unlike most other markets on this list, it’s best to make a trip during May or June to score a deal in Sydney when hotel and Airbnb prices drop to their lowest of the year primarily as a result of limited sunlight (roughly ~10 hours during July) despite maintaining comfortable temperatures.


8. Paris

Paris is the crown-jewel of Airbnb, providing over 50,000 listings to the platform. That’s more Airbnb listings in Paris alone than Miami, Milan, San Francisco, Istanbul, and Tel Aviv combined. The City of Light is a bucket-list destination for millions around the world as over 33 million tourists flock to Paris every year. Paris has endless amounts of culture to share with its visitors including iconic museums including The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and Centre Pompidou. Monuments such as the Eiffel Tower, Marché Bastille, and Canal St-Martin provide boundless memories for the millions of tourists that visit France’s capital city.

High Season: April-June, September
Low Season: August, October, January-February
Major Events: Tour de France, Bastille Day, Prix de l’Arce de Triomphe, International Marathon of Paris, French Open Tennis Championship, VE Day, New Year’s Eve
Travel Advice: Despite its beautiful imagery in the snow, Paris winters see cold days with temperatures hovering around or below freezing, bringing hotel and Airbnb nightly rates down drastically. Like most other European cities, the high-season of Paris is April through June. Hotels have been known to increase rates drastically in August, which is the opposite from what Airbnb demand shows us above. If you are looking to visit Paris in August, you’ll be able to find some incredible deals on Airbnb as occupancy drops off the cliff to less than 45% for most of the month.


9. London

With nearly 30,000 Airbnb listings, London comes in as Airbnb’s third largest market behind Paris and New York City. Roughly 17 million people travel to London on a yearly basis to explore the many attractions the UK capital has to offer. Tourists walk the famous River Thames to snap selfies in front of Big Ben, ride the London Eye, and check out the famous Tower Bridge. Airbnb has offered a unique opportunity for London tourists to experience a more authentic British holiday with thousands of listings outside of the traditional tourist centers in London.

High Season: April-July
Low Season: September-October, January
Major Events: Virgin London Marathon, London Parade, London Fashion Week, Wimbledon, Museums at Night, Guy Fawkes’ Night, New Year’s Eve
Travel Advice: London is filled with tourists year round, but high-season every year falls during April through August. Airbnb occupancy during these busy months tend to stay consistently over 70%, although the weekend to weekday difference in early summer is significant making hotels and Airbnbs the most expensive during early summer weekends. Despite manageable weather well into early October, London Airbnb low-season is from August-October. If you are planning a trip to London and have flexible dates, this low season will save your wallet and offer beautiful scenery of The Square Mile as autumn brings colorful British landscapes and more than comfortable weather with the ever-present chance of gloomy London skies.


10. Montreal

Canada’s second largest city takes the honor of Canada’s most happening Airbnb city, with around 8,000 active listings on the marketplace. Montreal was named North America’s leading host city for international association events, and their eclectic and French influenced population are bullish on the Airbnb movement provide additional accommodation for the many art and music attractions that take place in Montreal every year such as Igloofest, the World Film Festival, International Jazz Festival, Montréal en Lumiére, and Osheaga.

High Season: July-August
Low Season: October-February
Major Events: Vue sur la Reléve Festival, Grand Prix of Canada, Montreal International Jazz Fest, International Tango Festival, World Film Festival, POP Montreal
Travel Advice: Like many cities on this list, the high-season and low-season fall pretty much perfectly in line with the quality of the weather. Montreal is exemplary of this, primarily due to its extreme winters. Despite the cold, Montreal does not sleep during the winter and you can score a cheap hotel room or Airbnb for one of Montreal’s many winter events including Old Montreal’s Extravaganza, Igloofest, and the Montreal Snow Festival. The winter also offers pristine skiing conditions at one of the many ski resort towns immediately outside of Montreal. Summer months bring incredibly agreeable weather to Montreal, and with it, scores of tourists and higher Airbnb and hotel prices as a result.


11. Barcelona

With over 15,000 Airbnb listings, Barcelona dominates the Spanish Airbnb market with more than twice as many listings as its national rival Madrid. Despite complications with regulators in the city, Barcelona continues to be a favorite destination city for Airbnb users who visit the Catalonian capital to watch the famous FC Barcelona team, view the architecture of the distinguished Antoni Gaudí including La Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, or explore the bustling streets around La Rambla.

High Season: April-August
Low Season: September-February
Major Events: Sónar, El Grec, Festa Major de Gràcia, La Diada de Catalunya, Fira de Santa Llúcia, La Mercé, Three Kings Day, Holy Week
Travel Advice: Barcelona follows a similar seasonality model to other European cities, with the high-season occurring every year during the summer months, with an emphasis on weekends. Summer is beautiful along the Barcelona coastline, but it is not cheap as hotels and Airbnb hosts are aware of this peak season and increase nightly rates as a result. Unlike most other popular European cities for travel, Barcelona’s weather stays comfortable year round. You’ll be able to find great deals on Airbnb from October to March where occupancy (with the exception of New Year’s Eve) stays well below 50%. Traveling during these months will also allow you to experience Barcelona without hoards of tourists crowding many of Barcelona’s most famous monuments.


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