There has never been a better time to discover the real Europe
For those of us who love solitude, contemplation and escape, avoiding the crowds is an essential part of enjoying our travels. Of course, there’s some irony in being a traveler who complains about all the other tourists cluttering up the landscape, because of course, we’re all contributing to the crowd!
Yet now is the absolute BEST time to try and see Europe with fewer tourists than any other time in recent memory and get to know local people and places in a more authentic way. Responsible travel is possible and vaccinated guests have full access to restaurants, bars, museums, public transport and open EU borders for those who have one of the accepted 4 Covid vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, Astra Zaneca, and Johnson & Johnson.
Just look at this photo of Amsterdam from last week. You would NEVER see Warmoesstraat this empty in the middle of the day! The entire city was like this.
But if you can't get to Europe right now or want to give the Pandemic a little more time to clear out, there are ways to find those special spots.
The best-known places are always going to draw lots of people, and usually with good reason. So how can we see the sights without feeling like we’re stuck in a herd of camera-toting sheep? I take great pride in carefully scheduling a great travel plan...designed to minimize crowds and time in line and maximize enjoyment.
Here are my top ten tips for avoiding the worst of the vacation crowds:
1. Hire a local guide My very first suggestion is to hire a private guide, if your budget will allow. A highly rated guide (like my friend Henk of Special Amsterdam Tours) knows when the busiest places will have lulls in the crowds, and exactly where to go to soak in a city’s ambiance without being joined by thousands of others with the same idea.
I have several well-vetted private guides all over Europe that I use frequently for my clients. You will get so much more out of sights when you see them with a local guide who can make the history come to life. Your tour guide really DOES know it all!
2. Skip the line! Did you know you could do this?
A major benefit of using a travel agent who specializes in Europe (like yours truly) is that we often have the ability to help you skip right past a 2-hour long line-up and whisk you inside the attraction you’d rather not wait to see. Some of the most important spots with “skip the line” privileges are the Louvre and Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Vatican and Colosseum in Rome and the Accademia (to meet Michelangelo’s amazing David) in Florence.
...................................................................................................... 3. Take advantage of jet lag
What does that mean? Imagine you managed to stay up until 8pm after an overnight trans-Atlantic flight. Now it’s 5am the next day and you’re wide awake.
Get out of bed and go for a wander through near-empty streets as the city quietly stirs! Enjoy a coffee alongside locals on their way to work. Early morning can be a magical time to explore the streets of Europe.
My favourite time to walk around Berlin is early in the morning. It's stunning, quiet, and peaceful to the point you forget you are in a city.
4. Travel off-peak
Have you ever been to Paris in August? The locals have fled the city for their summer vacation, leaving the tourists to take it by storm.
A lot of stores, cafes and restaurants are closed.
Consider traveling in your destination’s shoulder season (May and September-October) – and avoid school holidays like the plague! If you are worried about taking your children out of school, get over it! A family trip to Europe will contribute so much more to their future than a “Perfect Attendance” award in 6th grade.
5. Do your research and plan museum visits accordingly
Many museums have “free” days once a month; these are always going to be busy days, and best to avoid. Some major attractions (e.g. London’s Tate Modern) stay open late one or two nights a week; visiting the gallery during these extended hours tends to offer a quieter experience.
6. Investigate “alternative” destinations
Everyone talks about the big ticket destinations – Rome, Paris, London, Prague – but there’s much magic to be found in Europe’s smaller cities. For instance, if you’re looking to experience Dutch culture, Leiden or Haarlem are beautiful and less crowded alternatives to Amsterdam. (I can suggest some great alternatives to the hustle-bustle where you will get the true “feel” of the country you are visiting)
Every Ama cruise combines beautifully with multi-city visits and you can get an additional 10% off by combining multiple cruises.