Best Places in Europe to Go This Summer
April 12th, 2011
By this point most people have made their summer travel plans for the year – but if you’re one of the people for whom advance planning isn’t really in your genetic code, you might still be looking for a place to go this summer.
European travel always reaches its peak during the summer months, for a couple of good reasons – reliably warm weather through most of the continent and reliably long chunks of time off from school and work. Unfortunately, since so many other people flock to Europe during the summer you also run into extra large crowds and higher prices than usual.
Those things aren’t enough to stop people from going to Europe, however, so if Europe is on your radar for this summer – and you’d like to get the most bang for your buck – here are a few locations worth considering for a trip in the summer of 2011.
London is in the news quite a bit right now, so it’s likely that the U.K. has crossed your mind more than once. The trouble is that if you’re looking for a trip right now, you’re running into all kinds of Royal Wedding chaos (including even higher prices than there would otherwise be for London at this time of year). Visiting the United Kingdom this summer means skipping the Royal Wedding hubbub, but there are still some great summer festivals to enjoy.
The Glastonbury Music Festival runs from June 22-26 this year, and it’s one of the top music and arts festivals in the world – particularly if you’re into new age stuff, which is quite popular in the area. Further north, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe takes over the city of Edinburgh for almost the entire month of August with all kinds of performances – theatre, music, dance, and street shows.
Sports fans will want to make a beeline for London in late June/early July for the Wimbledon Championships, and even those who aren’t interested in a particular summer festival can enjoy the best weather the U.K. offers all year long (this is especially true the further north you go).
As the top European draw, France hardly needs to be on a list like this encouraging visitors in the high summer season – and, to be perfectly frank, a visit to France in either of the shoulder seasons has the potential to be downright fantastic. What the other seasons lack, however, are two of the biggest events on the French calendar each year, both of which occur in July.
To start with, even those who aren’t sports nuts will have heard of the Tour de France, the world’s most famous bike race. The race snakes its way through the country for three weeks during July, and even if you’re in France for completely different reasons it can be incredibly fun to get caught up in the mini-festivals that follow the Tour from town to town. Even the smallest villages along the route come out to party on the day the riders pass through, despite the fact that much of the time they’ve come and gone in the space of fifteen minutes.
The bigger party, however, is Bastille Day – France’s biggest national holiday falls on July 14th, and it’s one of the few days on which Paris closes the busy Champs-Elysees boulevard (on Bastille Day, it’s for a huge military parade). There are fireworks displays throughout France on Bastille Day, and local celebrations from Paris to Provence and everywhere in between. No matter where you are on July 14th, plan to be French for a day and party with the locals.
>> Find cheap flights to Paris
Truth be told, a visit to Scandinavia at just about any time of year isn’t exactly a bargain hunter’s dream come true. Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are expensive year-round, even during the winter, but it’s precisely because of the weather that a summer trip to Scandinavia is worth the splurge.
While the winter months may not be as harsh and cold as you might expect given how far north Scandinavia is, they’re cold enough – and, more to the point, dark enough – that a summer visit is much more pleasant. Sure, you’ll miss out on the Northern Lights by avoiding a winter trip, but summer visitors get the pleasure of experiencing daylight for all but a few hours every day. Get far enough north and you’ll even get to experience the midnight sun.
The weather brings out the summer festivals in Scandinavia, including several music festivals in July alone, so it’s always worth checking with the local tourism office to find out what’s going on when you’re in town – even if you haven’t traveled for a specific event.
You might have raised an eyebrow when you saw the header of “Albania,” but forget everything you think you know about the country and focus on this – it’s a budget travel paradise that will, at different points, make you think you’re in Italy, Greece, Croatia – or any number of other incredibly beautiful and historic European countries.
Albania enjoys a long stretch of coastline on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, and a glimpse of the spectacularly blue waters off the country’s beaches is enough to make many travelers dig the bikini out of the closet and start searching for flights. This country is more than just gorgeous beaches, however, with historic city centers and Roman ruins to explore, not to mention great food.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of all of this to the intrepid traveler, of course, is that the pricetag is so low – even during what is the European high season of summer, Albania’s a bargain.
You’d think that given its position in Western Europe right next door to one of the biggest draws on the continent, Portugal wouldn’t be thought of as the forgotten step-child – and yet, it is. Portugal may be significantly smaller than Spain, its neighbor to the east, but the small country packs quite a punch.
Portugal’s narrow shape means a huge part of its border is along the Atlantic Ocean (great for beach lovers) – and as soon as you get inland you’ve got thick forests or mountains or both. There’s an understandable Spanish influence here, but the culture – including the food – has a twist all its own.
People stopping in several countries during a summer Europe trip will appreciate that Portugal is on the euro just like much of Western Europe, making it easier on travelers who don’t have to worry about multiple currencies – but you’ll be able to keep more of those euros in your pocket in Portugal.
>> Find cheap flights to Lisbon
photo by 2Tales