Multiproxy reconstructions of monthly and seasonal surface temperature fields for Europe back to 1500 show that the late 20th- and early 21st-century European climate is very likely (>95% confidence level) warmer than that of any time during the past 500 years. This agrees with findings for the entire Northern Hemisphere. European winter average temperatures during the period 1500 to 1900 were reduced by approximately 0.5 degrees C (0.25 degrees C for annual mean temperatures) compared to the 20th century. Summer temperatures did not experience systematic century-scale cooling relative to present conditions. The coldest European winter was 1708/1709; 2003 was by far the hottest summer.