For many travellers looking to have some low-key time away from their busy lives, there is no better season to travel than summer. As thousands and thousands of tourists descend upon only the largest and most advertised resorts, usually by the sea or other bodies of water to wipe away at least a portion of oppressive heat, many places get left behind.
What this means for the least crowded European cities in summer is that they might get some surprise visits! Unbeknownst to many, there’s quite a decent number of people trying to spend their summer vacation unhindered by crowds. All over Europe, there are uncrowded cities that are more than easy-going, providing an alternative to trampled seaside resorts.
You’ll find these kinds of cities in almost every country, as there are always those that attract more attention from tourists than others. Moreover, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to avoid the crowds – summer in Europe can get really difficult. So, instead of having your vacation spoiled by ceaseless hordes of visitors, plan ahead and choose one of the destinations that are bound to have fewer crowds and more quality time.
10 European Summer Travel Destinations That Avoid the Crowds
Norway is one of the least crowded destinations in summer. Especially the city of Bergen, which has somewhat of a bad, obnoxious reputation for its rainy weather. Despite the unfortunate weather conditions that act as a repellant for many a tourist wanting to have a hot, summer vacation, the city is more than live, with gorgeous sights to behold around every corner.
The most iconic landmark in this northern city is Bryggen, a port and a commercial hub dating back to the glory of Hanseatic league. Its wooden walkways, houses and warehouses are survivors of more than a single fire. Today, UNESCO World Heritage Site takes the task of protecting this historic masterpiece upon themselves. They’re doing an amazing job, by the by. Hanseatic Museum is the perfect go-to for visitors wanting to learn more about Bergen’s grand history.
Unlike what you would expect of a rain-ridden city, Bergen is a lively, cosmopolitan place with spectacular museums (and a whole lot of them), modern restaurants and cuisine to die for. Their seafood is exquisite, and enough to fuel any experience-hungry explorer. Speaking of exploring, take a funicular all the way to the top of the nearby Mt Fløyen and marvel at breathtaking views of Bergen. There are also well-beaten hiking trails to go on and discover the area surrounding Bergen.
Considering how iconic Swiss Alps are for winter holidays, it’s no wonder that this country gets far less love during summer months. Switzerland doesn’t strike most people as a great summer getaway, making it one of the least crowded destinations in Europe. However, the reasons for this are largely unfounded.
Even though most travellers find Switzerland to be more suited for skiing, ice climbing and sledging, cities such as Zurich and Lucerne get visitors during summer nonetheless. Bern, on the other hand, does not, leaving more than enough room for you! The capital of Switzerland itself, Bern is home to so many museums, churches and restaurants that you wouldn’t believe.
Places like the Museum of Fine Arts and Bern Historical Museum are worth the visit on their own. The former has a great collection of more than 3,000 paintings and thousands upon thousands of photographs, while the latter houses a section dedicated to Albert Einstein’s work that he’s done during his stay in Bern. Besides museums, you’ll also get to meet their three local bears that live in a park. They have quite a large walled off area to themselves, a symbol of Bern since the 12th century.
Bern Cathedral is the largest structure of the kind in Switzerland, upgraded and built upon over the course of years. If you’d like to see where Swiss people practised democracy throughout the years, visit the magnificent Bundeshaus.
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
One of the smallest countries in the world, but with history as rich as it gets, Luxembourg City often gets left behind during the summer. While people go south searching for warm climates and foaming sea, Luxembourg gets no crowds whatsoever.
It’s not easy getting started with this city. Every nook and cranny have some historic potential that needs to be revealed. Some of the older, more historic remnants are Passerelle Viaduct and Beaufort Castle. Passerelle has become known as the Old Bridge and it connects to the city centre. It’s a marvellous structure worthy of visiting, taking the sights in from the top (and then some photographs).
Beaufort Castle is an amazing, time-weathered structure. Even though it fell into disrepair, it’s still well worth the visit. Palais Grand-Ducal is a charming structure dating back to the 16th century. It’s where the Grand Duke, the commander-in-chief of Luxembourg resides. The palace itself is a mix of different architectural styles, it is quite appealing and worthy of a visit.
Not so far from Bern is the city of Lyon. One of the largest French cities, it is also one of the least crowded destinations in France.
Visiting this beautiful country is always a difficult task. It is difficult because there isn’t enough time to see everything, there never is. We’ll start you off with Vieux Lyon, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city. Here, you’ll see how truly charming this area is, with many cafes, souvenir shops and other trivialities. Above Vieux Lyon, Fourvière Basilica overshadows the rest of the city. This Basilica is surrounded by several other churches, and together, they form a religious conclave of great significance to the spiritual life in Lyon.
Gallo-Roman Museum contains several artefacts such as Lyon Tablet that portray the history of this land in a much clearer light. This museum is a very peculiar sight, reminiscent of brutalist architecture and partly dug in the side of the hill. It leads to an ancient theatre of impressive size, well-maintained for most of its history.
Some other notable places to visit are Echternach Benedictine Abbey and the town of Echternach itself. You can find it near the German border, on the bank of River Sûre.
Even though it is not really one of the least crowded European cities in summer, Valencia still has fewer visitors than Madrid or Barcelona. A smaller number of people means more opportunities for peace and high-quality photography!
Known as one of the most modern Spanish cities, Valencia boasts a truly marvellous display of architecture. Futuristic City of Arts and Sciences is probably the best-known representative of such a unique building style. The construction of the complex was finished in 2005. Today, it hosts an IMAX Cinema, a planetarium and a botanical garden with several endemic species. There are so many things to do here that you could probably spend your entire vacation in the City of Arts and Sciences and not budge a single centimetre.
However, if you do decide that you’d like to see something else as well, try the Oceanogràfic. There are more than 500 aquatic species on the display here. The entire complex is divided into 10 different water biomes, housing animals native to said biomes.
It would be highly unlikely to visit a European city that doesn’t have at least one Gothic church to show. The same goes for Valencia, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that you can visit Gothic structures such as El Miguelete and Valencia Cathedral. The latter is a mix of multiple styles that were added as the time passed, but Gothicism is still widely prevalent.
Portugal is still largely unscathed by tourist crowds. You can usually spot a small group of visitors here and there, with some parts getting more tourists than others. However, compared to Spain, Portugal is still an uncrowded gem, an equally beautiful gem that is worth more than a single visit!
Porto’s riverside area is a rich tapestry of colours and old buildings. Cais de Ribeira, as it is called, was a centrepiece of contemporary Portugal’s wealth. This mercantile hub is today dotted with a large number of bars, restaurants and cafes, all gazing at the impressive Luís I Bridge. Much like the riverside influence the rising economy of Porto, this bridge dealt an industrial hand to the citizens.
Before you think that Porto is all about old docks and bridges, take a look at Casa da Música. This futuristic structure is the home to many a music festival in Portugal. And this is just scratching the surface of Porto’s rich cultural heritage. Visiting Soares dos Reis National Museum, Muralha Fernandina, Museu Romântico da Quinta da Macieirinha and Church of Santa Clara will leave you speechless.
Porto is a well-rounded experience that will let you have it all: great wine, plenty of cultural sites, and a valuable lesson in history.
Oftentimes, tourists forget about Baltic countries altogether, as if they didn’t exist. In fact, Riga, the capital of Latvia, is one of the most beautiful European destinations in the east.
What catches the eye at first is the overwhelming amount of Art Noveau buildings that decorate this fine city. Moreover, it has got the largest concentration of such architecture in the world. Walking down Albert Street will reveal a huge collection of Art Noveau structures if you’re into architecture.
After that, you can drop by the town square. It is a gorgeous place with colourful, picturesque buildings that are too hard not to photograph. House of the Blackheads dominates the town square with its unusual shape that’s not unlike a shrine. This House is a continuation of the story about the Hanseatic league and the importance of such commercial centres. For a beautiful display of magnificence of Orthodox architecture visit the Nativity of Christ Cathedral. This white and gold structure was unfortunately ravaged by communists. Locals are still trying to restore as much of its old glory and priceless artwork, but it is a long and arduous process.
Communism wasn’t completely detrimental to this city though. In Riga Motor Museum you can see some of the finest specimens of automobiles from the Soviet era, including Moskvich and Volga.
On a final note, we’d like to say that Baltic countries are undeservingly forgotten by tourists. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any, but there’s definitely room for improvement – and a lot of room for new tourists.
Galway, or the City of the Tribes as it’s called, should be one of the European cities that you visit this summer. Not only is it going to be far less crowded than Dublin, but it will also introduce you to an equally beautiful part of Ireland and its tradition.
When it comes to religious and cultural sites, Galway doesn’t fall behind any European metropolis, not even a little. There’s a fair share of churches, museums and castles that you can visit, and so much local cuisine to taste. As we’ve already predicted, the Gothic style has crept in here as well, this time in the form of Galway Cathedral, albeit only slightly. This great cathedral has more of a Romanesque je ne sais quai. St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church is another place of worship no less magnanimous than the cathedral. Lynch’s Castle is a white limestone fortification, like many other buildings in Galway. The reason for that is the overabundance of limestone in the land.
Eyre Square is the central area of the city, dominated by the Quincentennial Fountain. Fourteen flags posted here represent the fourteen tribes of Galway that ruled over this city. They were basically families with a lot of economic and political influence until the 19th century.
Transylvania is one of the most mysterious, remote places to visit. What better place to start than the medieval city of Brasov and its dark history.
Walking down the historic streets of Brasov could be more than enough for a lot of people. You’ll get to see the rustic buildings, beautiful passages and gates ornated with Gothic symbols. Just wandering around Brasov can be as fulfilling as joining an organized tour and listening to all the stories.
Read more: Quiet Holiday Destinations in Europe
But, if you’re looking to see some specific places and locales, then start off by visiting Black and White towers. These two medieval towers aren’t really different in colour, but they do provide an incredible view of the city. Across from where you’re standing, you’ll be able to spot what appears to be a Hollywood sign. Don’t be fooled though, you’re still in Romania! The sign says ‘Brasov’ and it’s an excellent reason to hike up the Tampa Mountain. Of course, if you’re not feeling it, just take a cable car up there instead.
Brasov city square is a gorgeous congregation of medieval buildings that have seen some difficult times. The square used to be the prefered place to execute someone, hence the aforementioned dark history!
Just like Valencia or Galway, Naples is also often forgotten due to the dominant presence of constantly advertised tourist metropolises. But, having Rome, Milan and Venice nearby is no good reason to skip the visit to Naples.
Let’s start with some cheerful sights to see, and then we’ll move on to more violent events that surround the history of Naples. Cappella Sansevero is a must-see chapel with the most stunning interior that you’ve ever seen. Ancient sculptures and frescoes decorate the inner sanctum, telling the story of unyielding piety. Naples National Archaeological Museum to the north hosts amazing marble statues and artefacts dating back to Roman and Greek era. It’s also quite spacious! The reason for that might be that soldiers resided here at the time.
Now, onto some more malevolent happenings in the history of Naples. As you probably already know, Naples lies in close proximity to Mount Vesuvius, the fearsome volcano that erupted almost 2,000 years ago and annihilated settlements known as Pompeii and Herculaneum. Find an organized tour from Naples and visit all of these locales. You probably won’t have any trouble finding a tour since Naples is going to be among the least crowded European cities in summer.
Unfortunately, it’s getting progressively more difficult to dodge crowds when you’re travelling to any remotely interesting place. It will take more than a small measure of patience and perseverance to visit destinations you want.
Most cities on this list are already getting decent numbers of tourists coming through each year – a number that keeps increasing. However, they’re still going to be among the least crowded cities this year. What this means for the future of tourism is that it’s going to become impossible to avoid crowds. Sure, you can always go to some long forgotten village on the outskirts of the world, but that is not the point. You can do that locally, without paying a lot of money to travel to another country.
Read more: Best Non Touristy Places to Visit in Europe
The solution we propose: get up early during your vacation. Maybe it’s not the thing that you wanted to hear, but waking up early will let you see everything you want relatively peacefully. That way, you still get to travel, go sightseeing without losing your patience and visit destinations of importance!