After a summer filled with headlines about iconic European sights buckling under the pressure of overtourism and moronic tourists running amok on the continent, it’s now more obvious than ever that you need to arrive in Europe with a game plan to avoid some of the most crowded situations.
How do you go about pulling it off?
Well, you could only go to destinations that are completely off the beaten path. Which is effective—and really fun—but also something that probably isn’t going to happen until somebody’s second or third trip across the pond.
You could also visit in the dead of winter. A move that will greatly reduce the amount of fellow tourists you’ll bump up against. The downside: you’ll miss the best of Europe as many attractions are closed and some of its most charming small towns are essentially shuttered. Plus, it’s cold.
Or, you could just set your alarm for the crack of dawn and take an early morning walk.
Look, I enjoy sleeping in on vacation just as much as the next traveler, but getting up early is one of the last remaining sure-fire, locked in stone, gua-ran-teed ways of having some of Europe’s most romantic cities and scenic spots almost all to yourself.
(For the record, I’m talking six or seven-something o’clock, here.)
I know it’s pretty early, but the rewards of waking up and taking a stroll through a historic city center or rural beauty spot far outweigh the cost of those extra couple of hours of sleep.
Gamla Stan, Stockholm (Photo via Hans Brunk)
Case in point is a recent trip of mine to Stockholm, Sweden. Gamla Stan—the city’s famed Old Town—sits on an island all its own and it is unbelievably beautiful. It’s also very, very crowded with tourists. We’re not talking Venice numbers here (this is Scandinavia after all), but enough to try your patience.
So I activated my early morning “escape the crowds” plan and it worked like a charm.
My wife and I got into Gamla Stan somewhere in the 7 a.m. hour and the place was a deserted dream come true.
Squares that had been teeming with tour groups the day before sat empty except for a solitary sea gull. Cute little cobbled alleyways that had been filled with social media photoshoots the day before were quiet and chock full of charm.
Stortorget Square in Stockholm, Sweden in the morning. (Photo Credit: Scott Hartbeck)
The early morning mist was also very atmospheric.
Sure, there were a few people milling about, but somehow they only ended up adding to the enchanting atmosphere.
The city worker watering the flowers near the fountain in historic—and Insta famous—Stortorget Square.
The parent giving a child a piggyback ride up the steps of the much-photographed & visited Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, the skinniest alley-street in Stockholm.
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The French Riviera is the strip of the Mediterranean coast that stretches from the town of Hyères to Menton, and the jewel in the crown that is the Azure Coast is the city of Nice. Famous for its sunshine, lively markets, colorful buildings, lovely beaches, and for being a celebrity magnet, Nice is also a good base for visiting the region. From there, you can take a quick train to Monaco, Cannes, or a longer trip to very chic St. Tropez. To make your trip to the Mediterranean a vacation to remember, book one of the best hotels in Nice, France, some of which have views and decors that will blow your socks off.
Nice is one of the most popular holiday destinations on the French Riviera. The Côte d’Azur city lies on the Baie des Anges, 20 miles from the Italian border. This means not only can you cross the border for a day trip, but Nice also has a distinct hybrid culture of French and Italian influence. It has a pleasant year-round climate and is the second-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast. It is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe and a charming Old Town with quaint streets lined with colorful buildings, shops, and galleries. The gritty, yet opulent city has attracted many famous artists over the years and is a haven for foodies.
Germany’s “Gateway to the World” sits astride one of Europe’s largest ports, a network of canals, and two picturesque lakes. The Elbe connects Hamburg to the North Sea while neighborhoods fan out on either side of the riverside. Neustadt (New Town), Altstadt (Old Town), and St. Georg mark the downtown core. In terms of where to stay in Hamburg, you can cast the net far and wide thanks to the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, and ferry services. These top-rated Airbnbs in Hamburg give you the choice of harborfront or suburban living in this underrated German city.
Philadelphia is the sixth-largest city in the US (and the biggest in Pennsylvania), home to the Phillies and Eagles sports teams, delicious Philly cheesesteaks, museums, music venues and tons of American history. So what's the best way to get around and experience it all?
The Nordic region has so much to offer the culinary traveler, from wild-caught salmon and reindeer stews to cardamom pastries and Scandinavia’s distinctly savory spirit, aquavit. One culinary treat lesser-known outside the region is the cloudberry.
Hot on the heels of releasing its new domestic schedule—which includes connections to a slew of cities known for their access to the outdoors—Delta Air Lines has announced its updated lineup of transatlantic flights for summer 2024, complete with routes not flown in years.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tapped into the quiet pleasures of staying put in one place—especially when it comes to hotels. Because while I’ve done more than my fair share of jam-packed travel itineraries, lately I’m happy to hunker down and make the most of my temporary home away from home.
In this series, Lonely Planet’s team of writers and editors answers your travel problems and provides tips and hacks to help you plan a hassle-free trip. Marco Ferrarese, a Penang-based expert in offbeat travel, has the answers to this Thailand-related query.
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