Across Europe’s major cities and in its famous tourist hotspots, the summer travel season means many things to many people.  But if you’re headed for one of these perennially favoured hubs, this time of year is certain to mean one thing and one thing alone: crowds.  Yet even in the very peak of the high season, there are still plenty of tranquil corners of Europe just waiting to be explored — because with the right mindset, a less frenetic experience can easily be yours.  And so, it’s time to get off of the beaten track to discover the many calmer, quieter destinations that the continent has to offer. 


Peace and Tranquillity: Strategies and Tactics

Pragmatism and strategy are two concepts that you don’t normally associate with a tranquil holiday, but when it comes to finding your own little haven in Europe this summer, both ideas come in handy. First and foremost, it pays to be honest with yourself; if the thought of a crowded metropolis doesn’t appeal to you, it’s probably time to re-think your choice of destination (if possible).  But if you really do want some kind of urban vibe, it’s worth considering second cities and smaller urban areas (i.e., swapping London for Liverpool, Amsterdam for The Hague, Vienna for Graz, etc.) for a less stressful experience.  

But if the final choice of destination isn’t within your control and you absolutely cannot avoid heading to any of the continent’s most visited cities or areas — Paris, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, etc. — then the next best thing is to head for the outskirts or suburbs of these major cities.  Not only do these lower-key areas mean that you’re well away from the intensity of a city centre, but you may also find that they offer better rates on quality accommodation and a more intimate and authentic view of local life.  While these outer areas are typically home to spacious parks and large-scale family-friendly attractions, there are instances where the hinterlands of a city can in fact put travellers much closer to major points of interest.  London’s Hampton Court Palace, Madrid’s El Escorial, and Paris’s Palace of Versailles are all solid examples of major attractions that are much more easily reached from neighbourhoods on the outskirts of their respective urban areas rather than the city centre.

Another tactic is to perhaps ‘flip’ a destination inside-out.  That is, if you find yourself at an overcrowded coastal or island destination during the height of summer, head inland to a quieter spot or — even better — try and find out in advance of your trip where locals head to during their summer holidays.  If you really aren’t keen on crowds, anything is worth consideration.  


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At a personal level, these tactics mean that each and every traveller has the power to subtly shape their experience to suit their needs, their circumstances, and their temperament.  In the practical sense, these strategies also mean that there is no need to go to extreme lengths or inconveniently far-flung corners of the continent for tranquillity.  Having said that, it’s always good to have options and alternatives, a point that’s especially true when you think about some of the continent’s busier destinations.  Take Venice, for example.  If you absolutely have your heart set on this corner of Italy but simply can’t cope with the crowds, the city of Chioggia — at the opposite end of the Venetian Lagoon — boasts pretty mediaeval architecture, pastel-coloured buildings and an intricate network of canals.  Further afield, the picturesque city of Bruges — often referred to as “The Venice of the North” — is famed for its waterways and is home to notable works of Flemish art and sculpture.  

With more or less the entire continent on holiday, Europe’s beaches and islands — and especially the Mediterranean region — can get exceptionally busy.  For example, while France’s Cote d’Azur is always popular, the country’s northern and western coasts — namely those of Normandy, Brittany, and Aquitaine — offer a quieter beach experience.  In Italy, it’s worth swapping the ever-popular Rimini for any of the equally enjoyable beaches in the lesser-visited nearby regions of Le Marche or Puglia.  Other safe bets for a Mediterranean holiday include coastal Albania, Spain’s Costa de la Luz region, Italy’s Aeolian Islands, and the Maltese island of Gozo.  For an entirely different seaside experience, the genteel Polish city of Sopot is the perfect place for a dip in the bracing Baltic. 

The sea, the city, or somewhere in-between — nothing is off-limits in Europe this summer.  With an open mind and a willingness to embrace something a bit different, you’ll be sure to find a little haven of tranquillity, a place that’s just perfect for you.