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.

Bled, Slovenia, Balkans

Summer sunbathing in Bled, Slovenia

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.

Ios, Greece

Ios, Greece

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.

Plitvice National Park, Croatia

Plitvice National Park, Croatia

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. You can get the details here about the gear you may need for your water adventures.

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.

Disneyland Paris

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.

Budapest and the Danube

Budapest and the Danube

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!

This post may contain compensated links, but all opinions are entirely my own, as always.

8 Responses

  1. I’d LOVE to sail the Mediterranean Kirstie! We spent summer in Cyprus 2 years ago. Being by the sea for a week in Paphos made me feel like I was spending time in a Med playground, with the yachts, high end eateries and crystal clear, peaceful waters. Definitely a dream like experience. Fab list!

    Ryan

  2. Sounds like a great list.

    I love live music events, especially when you just come across one while strolling around the world. Over here in Seville, live flamenco guitar music can be found all round the centre.

    Love the idea of a river cruise. Last time I went on one was in Portugal, but feels like such a long time ago now. I love river cruises which take you beyond the city and you can imagine how the whole city really lives. Ones with free beers are great too.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your tips! I want to travel for a few weeks in August and I needed some ideas.

  4. Didn’t know there are over 500 national parks in Europe. Its nice to know that these areas are protected for future posterity.

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