Summer is considered the high season of travel for a lot of reasons. Kids are out of school, the weather is great and people are on the hunt for adventure! One of my favorite places to spend the summer months is Europe, but there are certain cities I avoid at all costs during the summer. Unlike my list of European cities that are best in the summer, these cities are ones I highly suggest skipping if you find yourself in Europe in the summer time. They are often crowded, hot, and unenjoyable. You will spend half your trip waiting in lines and end up spending exponentially more money. These cities are all wonderful travel destinations, but I definitely recommend visiting at another time of year.
I loved Rome the first time I visited in November 2013. The city was beautiful and full of history and I loved the trip. One of the best part was that the city was not even a little bit crowded. We did not have to wait to get into the Vatican Museum, we were able to visit the Spanish steps without being surrounded by tourists and I even got a decent photo at the Trevi Fountain. When I visited again the following summer, I loathed the city. It was too hot, too crowded, and exponentially less enjoyable. In November, my friends and I had be able to stay in a nice hotel in a central location for a low price. In the summer, my grandmother and I were further out in a less nice hotel for more money.
The other factor that made me hate Rome in the summer time was the heat. Italy can get very warm in the summer and Rome is no exception. When I had visited in November, it was cool and the weather was great. The summer is hot and humid and miserable. When you add in the large number of additional visitors to the city in the summertime, it just makes it a far less enjoyable experience. Do yourself a favor and skip Rome on your summer trip. Visit in the Fall or Spring and it will be much better! Avoid the crowds and the price increases of the high season and plan your trip at another time of the year.
I really love Paris as a city. It has some of the beat museums in the world, delicious food, and the city itself is beautiful. However, it is unbearably crowded in the summertime. Even in the off-season you still encounter your fair share of annoying tourist groups, especially in popular places like the Louvre and Versailles. In the summer, these groups take on a whole new life. Going to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa in July? Good Luck! You will likely have to elbow your way past about 100 other people just to get a click look before someone else elbows you out of their way.
My advice? Visit in the Spring! I have been to Paris twice, once in July and once at the beginning of April. Both had their positives and negatives, but overall I loved my spring visit much more. In the Spring, I encountered far fewer lines to get into museums, had more breathing room in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles AND the weather was cool but not quite cold, although it did rain a good bit. In the summer, I was lucky enough to be in Paris for Bastille day, but visiting any attraction was like trying to fight your way through a black friday crowd at the mall. Another issue I had with summer in Paris was the heat. It gets quite warm and there is a general lack of air conditioning. Overall, I loved my spring visit so much more and highly recommend skipping Paris in the summer and heading there in the spring instead!
I feel a bit like a traitor by saying you should skip London in the summertime. London is hands down one of my favorite European cities and I would even call it one of my all time favorite cities. It is beautiful and full of culture and history and great pubs and so much more. All that aside, I do not love London in the summer. Like most European cities in the summer, it is crowded and hot. The underground becomes insufferable in July and August. You can legitimately get heat stroke on your morning commute and that is just a no go for me. I also really enjoy London’s many museums, but not when they are wall to wall packed with people. Seeing the Rosetta Stone in July is nearly impossible, and it is also harder to get tickets to various theater shows in the summer time.
I actually love different things about every season in London. In the fall, the beauty of the leaves changing colors and the cool weather make wandering the city one of my favorite activities. I love the winter time for beautiful holiday decorations around the city and the cold weather that is perfect for sipping some tea in a cafe and reading a great book. Spring is my absolute favorite because the weather is amazing and everything seems new again after the cold of winter. Summer definitely has its moments(such as summer shows at the Globe), but is my least favorite of the seasons.
Of all the European cities I have visited, Barcelona is actually one of my least favorite all around. My trip there was marred with issues and the city just wasn’t enjoyable for me and I have spoken with fellow travelers and heard it is even worse in the summer! The one saving grace of the time I spent in Barcelona was that it was spring and therefore the weather was amazing. It wasn’t too hot or cold and it was still sunny every day. If I had dealt with the many snafus of my trip on top of summer heat I would have hated every minute of the trip!
My recommendation is to visit when I did: the beginning of April. The weather is warm enough to enjoy the sunshine and the beach, but it’s not peak tourist season yet. You will still need to pre-book your tickets to popular attractions, like the Sagrada Familia or Parc Guell, but there will be less competition. The Spring is also ideal for walking tours of the city which I highly recommend. Most walking tours are given at a very low cost and are the best way to get to know the city. In the summertime, these tours can be given in sweltering heat, so I feel like it’s better to visit in the Spring to avoid that issue.
Some people may yell at me for including Istanbul on a list of European cities, but half of it is on the european continent! Plus Turkey wants to join the EU so I feel like this is a good categorization. Anyways, back to Istanbul. Istanbul is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful cities I have visited. My mom actually spent a good amount of time in Turkey growing up, so I was beyond excited to visit this country I had heard so much about. What she didn’t mention? The terrible combination of expected modesty and summer heat! One thing that sets Istanbul apart from most European cities is that Turkey is a predominantly muslim nation. While this generally has little effect on the daily lives of travelers in Turkey, it does come into play with their clothing. For many of the famous religious sites(the blue mosque in particular) there are strict clothing stipulations. This means adhering to a more modest dress code, which can be a bit rough in the summer heat.
A good friend of mine let me in a secret for the best time to visit Istanbul: winter! She went in February and said the city was perfect! It was a bit chilly, but not miserably cold and the main attractions had little to no crowds. This meant she could enjoy everything the city had to offer with less hassle. Also, since it was cold outside anyways, she didn’t have to over think every outfit she wore. She also told me that since it was the off-season, she was able to get a great deal on certain tours in the city!
While I love each of the cities mentioned above(except Barcelona), there are definitely places I aim to avoid in the summertime. Besides, there are plenty of great european cities that are perfect for summer travel!
From one Misguided Millennial to the world, this has been my thoughts on which cities in europe to avoid in the summer!