Tips for visiting Europe in peak season
Mid-year is one of the most popular times for Australians to visit Europe. Unfortunately, it’s also peak season. Whether you’re visiting Paris, Venice, Rome, Barcelona, Budapest, London or Madrid, these tips will help you avoid the crowds, have fun and save money when you’re visiting Europe in peak season.
Buy online tickets
Buy admission tickets to popular attractions online and enter through the ‘Visitors with Tickets’ queue. The line for those with pre-purchased tickets is usually much shorter than the ticket booth queue.
Visit attractions off-peak
If you want to avoid large groups, visit between 12pm and 2pm which most bus tours stop at an ‘authentic’ restaurant for lunch. Major galleries often have extended opening hours during peak season which many visitors don’t know about. Visit after dinner to beat the crowds.
Avoid family favourites on weekends
Local families also love attractions like The Making of Harry Potter at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London. Whether you’re travelling with or without kids, try to visit these mid-week. Residents add to the crush and push visitor numbers sky high during weekends.
Book tours in advance
Some of the best (and cheapest) tours sell out early. For example, the Underground and Belvedere Tour of the Colosseum available via the official government website can book out three months in advance. And that’s not during peak season. Don’t leave tour bookings too late or you could miss out.
Reserve a seat on trains
Just because you have a train ticket, doesn’t mean you will get a seat. Check if it is possible to pre-reserve a seat on trips that are longer than one hour. This is especially important if you are visiting destinations such as seaside towns which are also popular with locals.
Stay out of town
If you are visiting a major city, staying in an outer suburb can save money and your sanity. Choose a spot with good public transport to the CBD and a friendly local vibe.
Skip the regular tourist trail
Don’t follow the crowds when it comes to ‘must see’ regions. Why not consider a lesser-known town in Tuscany such as beautiful Pitigliano or Sorano?
Allow extra time in your itinerary
Large tourist numbers can increase the time it takes to get to, and experience, major attractions. Plan to see just one thing per day and allow extra time so you don’t have to rush. It can also be wise to resign yourself to the fact it’s going to be busy. If you’re expecting crowds, you won’t mind so much.
Watch your belongings
Keep a close eye on your belongings during peak season, especially at train stations and major attractions. Crowds make it easier for pickpockets to slip valuables out of your pocket or bag unless you know how to avoid getting robbed overseas.
Visit out of hours
Some iconic tourist sights which don’t require a ticket, like the Trevi Fountain in Rome or Széchenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest, can be visited 24 hours a day. Drop by early or late to beat the crowds.
It is not uncommon to see tourists wilting in the height of summer. Soaring temperatures can take a toll if you don’t stay hydrated. Carry a bottle of water and remember to drink it. No one wants to be the person who faints in the middle of a walking tour.
Sit down and enjoy the show
Sit down at a café in a popular square or near one of the city’s most famous sights and just watch. You’re sure to see some amazing and amusing things as locals and tourists put on a show that is yours to enjoy for the cost of an espresso, gelato or glass of wine.
Disclosure: The writer visited Europe in peak season and survived (just!). She hopes the above tips help to make your peak season trip more enjoyable.
If you are heading to Europe and want some information to help you plan the perfect trip, you might find our airport stopover tips, overseas safety advice, travel planning tips, and advice for avoiding scams helpful.