You have, I’m sure, heard the dire warning (perhaps even from me): Do Not Travel To Europe In The Summer. The crowds! The heat! The misery!
And yet: having just returned from Europe in the height of summer, I have to admit, it has its advantages. (August in France brings its own challenges, as many French people go on their own vacations, but let’s assume for purposes of this argument that you’re traveling in June or July.)
The crowds are real, yes. But except in a few tourist hotspots, I didn’t find them overwhelming. You can mitigate this problem by planning ahead: purchase admission tickets online in advance where possible (thus avoiding long ticket queues) and research the least crowded time of day to visit (often first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon). Masses of people are also good motivation to veer off the beaten path onto side streets and less-explored nooks and crannies of a city – which are often the best parts of a trip.
The heat is real, too. I’m going to devote a separate post to coping with that. Suffice to say for now that if I, of low heat tolerance, can survive 100 degrees in Florence, so can you!
What’s the upside then? With all those extra visitors, the atmosphere is considerably more lively than at other times of the year. There’s just more going on: concerts, markets, festivals. (Over the course of my trip, I stumbled upon a full orchestra playing in a public square and no less than two outdoor laser-light shows.) Café tables spill into sidewalks and squares. Shops are full to bursting with merchandise (and often good sales). Street performers – who are drawn to the crowds like tourists are drawn to the Mona Lisa – provide entertainment on every block.
And of course, summer brings long days, all the better to enjoy everything there is to do. While I was in northern France, the sun didn’t set until 9:45pm and it wasn’t completely dark until 10:30. This can mess up your bedtime if you’re not paying attention, but otherwise, it’s a delight to have extra daylight for exploring.
So if your schedule only allows you to travel in the summer, don’t worry: the prospect of a summer vacation in Europe doesn’t have to be ominous after all. And anyway, it’s Europe – I’ll take it any day of the year.