How to Plan the Best European Summer Trip Ever: 9 Ideas
It’s no wonder many of my all-time favorite travel memories took place in the summer: the warm weather, abundant sunshine, verdant landscapes, and long, vibrant nights are the ingredients to a magical trip. And in my humble opinion, there’s no place quite like Europe when it comes to summer travel. The cities are buzzing, the sun keeps shining well into the evening, and some of the continent’s best attractions are more accessible than ever.
If you’re thinking about planning a trip to Europe this summer, I can guarantee you’ll love every moment of it. Wondering where to go and what to do, though? Here are nine of my favorite ideas for the perfect European summer vacation.
Get Your Timing Right
There’s something about summer that makes people want to celebrate, so it’s only natural that Europe’s calendar is jam-packed during the summer months. From national holidays to cultural fairs to music festivals, there’s something big happening in some corner of Europe just about every day of the summer. Get into a wine fight in Haro, Spain and stick around the north of the country for the Running of the Bulls. Celebrate Bastille Day in style or witness the Tour de France firsthand. Check out the unique creations of Austria’s Bodypainting Festival…and that’s just to name a few. There’s never a dull moment in Europe’s summer, so find the events that appeal to you most, and plan your trip accordingly.
Sail the Mediterranean
As the summer heat settles in, where better to cool off than the Mediterranean Sea? Even if you’ve never spent a day in your life on a sailboat, tour companies like www.sailingholidays.com offer trips in which a crew takes care of all the important stuff while you sit back and relax—or they can even teach you how to sail yourself. Float around the Greek Islands or sail around the shores of Croatia or go wherever floats your boat (ha). Soak up the Mediterranean sunshine while eating the region’s best cuisine and tasting its finest wine. If that doesn’t shout “vacation,” I don’t know what does.
Pitch a Tent
Considering Europe is the world’s most densely populated continent, it should come as no surprise that most European trips revolve around visiting the major cities and capitals. But did you know that Europe is also home to more than 10,000 campgrounds? See a different side of Europe and get up close and personal with some of the continent’s stunning natural landscapes by planning a camping trip. Eurocampings offers listings and reviews of many of Europe’s campsites so you can plan ahead. And if you’re not quite ready to rough it, you can always rent a campervan and travel from campsite to campsite and even from country to country.
Visit the National Parks
Yes, it’s densely populated, but did you know that there are nearly 500 national parks across Europe? Even if you opt for a roof over your head instead of camping, plenty of Europe’s national parks can be explored on day trips. As the country with the highest percentage of land devoted to national parks (12.1%), Iceland simply can’t be beat if you’re looking to get out into nature. France, meanwhile, has the most national park-dedicated land by square kilometer, making it another fantastic choice. And for something a bit more off the beaten path, this list has some stunning suggestions.
Get (Water) Sporty
If you’re looking for another great way to cool off this summer, there’s no shortage of water sports to be found across Europe. Plan your vacation around kayaking, rafting, snorkeling, scuba diving, waterskiing, tubing, or whatever your heart desires. Europe isn’t often seen as the adventure capital of the world, at least not compared to places like Costa Rica or Thailand, but all of these experiences can be found throughout the region, giving you a chance to cool off while checking out some unbelievable views.
Bring out Your Inner Child
Whether you’re traveling with family or are just a big old kid at heart (I say as a proud Disneyland Annual Passholder), amusement parks can be a total ball. Summer is the perfect time to visit these, as some of Europe’s most popular parks open only during the summer, while others are open year-round but have longer hours or additional features like complimentary shuttle buses during the warm months. Some of Europe’s most popular theme parks include Alton Towers in Staffordshire, England (one of the inspirations for Roller Coaster Tycoon, I might add!), Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, and, of course, Disneyland Paris.
Rent a Beach House
Not an adrenaline junkie? No worries; you’ll find plenty of rest and relaxation gathering your friends or family and renting a house on the beach (or in the mountains or wherever you please!). There are tons of super cool abodes on Airbnb, and, depending on your destination, you should be able to find an accommodation that fits your budget, whatever it may be. If you’re looking for the perfect combination of sunny weather, good prices, and lovely scenery, look no further than Spain’s Costa del Sol or the Canary or Balearic Islands. Ummm set me up somewhere like this one, please.
Embark on a River Cruise
One of the best ways to see several European cities in one trip while keeping your schedule breezy is to join a river cruise. Most cruises take you down the Danube, Rhine, or Seine, stopping at cities like Vienna, Budapest, and Paris along the way. Everything you need for a relaxing vacation (accommodation, transportation, food, drinks, entertainment…the works!) is right there on the ship, and by day you can get out and immerse yourself in some of Europe’s most unforgettable cities. It’s a fantastic way to get a “best of” tour of the continent, especially if you haven’t seen much of Europe before, and summer is the perfect time to go.
Enjoy Live Music
Europe goes nuts for live music in the summer. Many of the world’s most popular musicians make their way to Europe for the summer leg of their tour, and there are more music festivals than you could dream of. Some of the biggest festivals, featuring the globe’s hottest acts, include Belgium’s Tomorrowland, Barcelona and Porto’s Primavera Sound, and England’s Glastonbury Festival. No matter your taste in music, you’ll find something that speaks to you. Even if you can’t make it to a major concert, keep an ear out for street performers and live music sessions at bars and—they seem to be everywhere during the summer.
Whether you’re a backpacker or a luxury traveler, whether you prefer your summers relaxing or action-packed, and whether you’re flying solo or have your family in tow, there’s something in store for you in Europe in the summer. Wherever you go and whatever you do, may this summer be your best summer yet!