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Visiting Europe In the Summer: What You Need to Know

School’s out, the sun’s out – it’s summer! You finally have a few weeks to take the dream vacation to Europe. Before you go, make sure you’re prepared for what to expect from summer in Europe.

1. Air Conditioning Is Not Used As Much As in the US

Europeans, in general, are much more tolerant of the heat than in the US. If you must have air conditioning, make sure to double check that your hotel offers it – and definitely check if you’re using AirBnB. For places that have AC, know that it won’t be turned down quite as much as it would in the US.

I heard many Europeans discuss that one of the problems Americans have is that it feels hotter because there are such extremes between the cold of the AC and the heat outside. Thus, Europeans keep the extremes far closer together.

Lake Como in the summer

2. You Will Encounter Crowds Everywhere

It’s the best time for you to head to Europe – and it’s the best time for everyone else to head there too! In the summer in Europe, you’ll find large crowds virtually everywhere. At the beaches, you’ll find Europeans on holiday. In the cities and at major landmarks, you’ll find foreigners on vacation. Wherever you go, plan for crowds.

Summer crowds at the Colosseum

3. Do Not Expect Air Conditioning on Trains

This is related to #1, but can come as a surprise to visitors. Most local trains in Europe do not have AC. If you’re taking a longer train or a high-speed train, you will generally have AC. But the local ones do not have it. If you’re headed to Italy, find out more about the trains in Italy.

The Eiffel Tower over the Seine

4. Many Major Cities Will Have Lots of Closures

Parisiennes, Athenians, Romans, and more will try to escape the heat of the city for the coolness of the sea, generally during July and August. You’ll find many places close while their owners are away, so double check that your must-sees will be available when you get there!

Amanda Plewes at the Parthenon in Greece.

5. There is a Big Difference Between North And South Europe

Climate-wise, you will encounter a big difference between places along the Mediterranean and those farther north. This seems like a no-brainer, but at the same time, it can be a surprise when you’re caught in a chill in London.

Seven Rila Lakes, Bulgaria

6. Ice Is Not Plentiful

In general, Europeans feel that a lot of ice will water down a drink too much, so they don’t frequently use ice in their drinks – or if they do, it’s a pretty minimal amount. Water is also not free at restaurants, so be prepared to budget for bottles of water throughout the day. Staying hydrated is a must for enjoying your trip!

Amanda Plewes at the original Olympic Stadium in Athens

7. Sunscreen is Quite Expensive in Europe

Compared to the US, sunscreen is quite a lot more expensive in Europe. Where in the US you can find budget bottles for $5 – $7, in Europe, the cheapest sunscreens tend to be about 11 euro (and that’s if you find it at a local drug store and not near tourist centers). Plan ahead, and make sure to bring enough for your trip.

Gardens in Varna, Bulgaria

8. Bring a Reusable Water Bottle

To cut down on plastic waste, consider bringing a reusable water bottle and filling it up at the hotel every morning. Most hotels have filtered water for guests, and the tap water is drinkable in most countries. (Double check before you go!)

Note also that carrying a water bottle around will likely mark you as an American. We are a generally well-hydrated bunch.

Pelesior Castle in Romania

9. Know That the Heat Feels Different Depending on Where You Are

This is another one that seems intuitive but can surprise you when you get there. Downtown Naples feels much hotter than Sorrento or the Amalfi Coast, yet they’re all generally about the same temperature on the thermometer. Rome might have the same reading as Naples, but Rome will feel hotter. Heat waves can also spring up out of anywhere, so be prepared for long days of heat!

Amanda Plewes at the baths in Budapest

10. Generally, European Beaches are Rocky

European beaches are absolutely stunning. But in general, know that they are rock beaches and not sand beaches. Throughout Italy, Croatia, and more, the gorgeous see-through water you admire is caused by rocks on the bottom – not sand. It’s worth adding money to your budget to rent a beach chair for the day, because laying out on the rocks isn’t nearly as comfortable as laying out on the sand!

Amanda Plewes at the beach in Cavtat, Croatia

Things to know before visiting Europe in the summer

One Comment

  • Carli Chapman

    Great reminders! I remember being shocked at the lack of AC – even in our apartment that we were renting. The city turned on the AC, and then later on, the heat, at specific times of the year. I’d never heard of such a thing – even as a Texan I was hot!

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