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How to avoid the crowds in Europe on your next adventure travel holiday

crowds at the vatican in rome, italy

You have read the reports in the press of perhaps spoken to friends who just returned: Europe is busy this summer. It seems many people on their first trip after the pandemic are still looking for a familiar place to ease back into travel.

Here are our tips and tricks on how to avoid the crowds in Europe on your next adventure travel holiday.

Church of Saint John the Theologian, Ohrid
Church of Saint John, Lake Ohrid - photo Margie C.

1) go off the beaten track

Many travellers to Europe will head for the Instagram-worthy scenic highlights - Cinque Terre, Lake Como, Santorini - to name but a few. But travel a little further afield and you can have a place to yourself. Here are ten fabulous regions in Europe you have never heard of but you should travel to

2) visit smaller cities

Most of the reports you will hear about busy places will originate in cities like Rome and Barcelona or cruise ports like Venice and Dubrovnik. Instead of going to the heavy-hitters, consider smaller or lesser-known alternatives - visit Utrecht instead of Amsterdam, Girona instead of Barcelona or Naples instead of Rome

Spring blossom and cyclist on the Danube cycle path
Spring time on the Danube cycle path

3) travel off-season

When I cycled along the Danube this past spring I was very deliberate in choosing an early departure date. It allowed me to enjoy mostly lovely weather while avoiding the crowds that come with the May holiday in central Europe. Likewise in Greece I travelled before Easter, the traditional start of the tourist season in much of southern Europe.

4) visit early in the morning or late afternoon

When on holiday most people don't get started with their day until 10 or 11am. This means early birds get the worm - get up early and beat the crowds. I had a wonderful time wandering around Vienna one early morning when the light was soft and the only people out and about were locals on their way to work.

Likewise, late afternoon most travellers will have had enough and you can have a place to yourself.

5) travel on a small-group tour

Our small-group tours are led by expert tour leaders assisted by local guides who know how and when to avoid the crowds. They will take you to hidden viewpoints, forgotten neighbourhoods or local restaurants and to popular sites when the crowds have gone home.

View over the Danube, Dürnstein, Austria
View over the Danube, Dürnstein

6) take a hike

On my trip along the Danube I left Dürnstein, a popular stop on the river cruise circuit, to hike up a hill where I had a magnificent view, followed by lunch in a local taverna. I had the place all to myself. The overwhelming majority of visitors to Europe are on package tours, river cruises or their own sightseeing holidays. Most of them can't be bothered to walk the extra mile and get away from the crowds. Here are ten hiking and walking trips in forgotten corners of Europe and ten European hikes you can only do in summer

7) go east young woman!

Stunning scenery, sensational artistic and culinary diversity, a wide range of cultures and languages and a history that stretches across millennia - you will find all of it in Europe.

And while Western Europe has been firmly established on the traveller's map, Eastern Europe is far-less visited by North Americans. Yet it has as much to offer as the western part, and in most places you feel like you travelled back in time. Here are six trips that have you discover Eastern Europe.

a quiet park in Budapest, Hungary
My quiet park in Budapest

8) find some time to contemplate

Whether you are on a small group tour, one of our fabulous self-guided holidays or travelling by yourself, be sure to find a quiet space to sit and contemplate. In Budapest I came across a gem of a park set in the midst of a bustling neighbourhood and I just sat there on a bench, watching a few local people enjoying a coffee break.

After an hour by myself I was ready again to take on the city and its crowds.

9) wait for the rain

I remember a visit to San Gimignano, one of the most popular spots in Tuscany. The crowds were maddening! Then the most wonderful thing happened: it started to pour. I took shelter under an archway and watched as the crowds made a beeline home. Half an hour later the sun came out and I had the place to myself.

10) take a side street

Those of you who have travelled with us know this as our guides and tour leader excel at this: when walking around a place like Siena, be sure to duck down an alleyway or a forgotten street, into a hidden courtyard. Find out what lies beyond the touristy streets lined with shops selling cheap souvenirs. That is where 95% of tourists hang out - go beyond and find a whole world opening up to you!

Galleria Borghese, Rome
Galleria Borghese, Rome

11) prebook your tickets Of course there are times when you just have to see a particular sight. Who would want to go to Andalucia without seeing the Alhambra or Rome and not see the Vatican Museums or Galleria Borghese. In those cases I recommend you prebook your entrance tickets - it will allow you to pick a time slot and you will not have to wait with the majority of tourists who forget to do this. Ask me or check your pre-departure information for weblinks to official ticket purchasing websites.

And the best time to go?

Wherever you go or whenever you visit, you will have an amazing time in Europe. The best time to visit Scandinavia is in summer. The rest of Europe can be enjoyed spring, summer and fall. Summers get hot around the Mediterranean and in the Balkans - winters there are cool but quiet. Iceland is popular in summer for the outdoors and in winter for the northern lights.

Click here to find the perfect trip for you!


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