Imagine waiting to see Mona Lisa in the Louvre and being blocked by obnoxious tourists who have no sense of queuing. Or battling with hordes of people with their selfie-sticks for a little space to stand on Prague’s Charles Bridge.
For most families with school-aged kids, the only available time to take a grand European vacation is during summer. The problem is, summer months can be annoying with the crowds and lines. The good news is, there are destinations where the crowds are bearable, and the locals are more accommodating. Here are five:
1. Olomouc, Czech Republic
Olomouc is the second largest National Historic Reserve in the Czech Republic; the first is overcrowded Prague. Located in the heart of Moravia, it takes around two hours 39 minutes to drive from Prague to Olomouc. It’s only two hours and 37 minutes’ drive from Krakow, Poland.
Family-friendly Olomouc is the best choice for anyone looking for a destination with historical sites, museums, theaters, parks, cafés and local specialty beer and food.
Olomouc’s important historical sites include the UNESCO listed Holy Trinity Column (in the Upper Square), Olomouc Town Hall, Archbishop Palace, Olomouc Castle and an Astronomical Clock too.
Just like Prague, Olomouc has its Astronomical Clock, originally built during the medieval era. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in 1945 and the only original part left is the clock mechanism from 1898.
2. Mondsee, Austria
Mondsee is a lakeside town located on Lake Mondsee, one of 76 lakes in Austria’s Salzkammergut region. Mondsee is best known for its church, Basilika St. Michael where Captain von Trapp and Maria from the Sound of Music got married.
Summer is the best time to enjoy Mondsee. The warmer weather calls for live performances, marching bands, and outdoor dining. Other activities include sailing, windsurfing, water skiing, beach volleyball and more.
Mondsee is about 19 miles from Salzburg. You can combine Mondsee and Salzburg for your European summer vacation.
3. Evora, Portugal
Evora is Portugal’s most well-preserved medieval city. This museum city is a UNESCO heritage site and was an important Roman town. Per UNESCO it reached its golden age in the 15th century when it became the residence of the Portuguese kings.
The crowds are fewer in Evora in summer compared to Lisbon and Porto. Some of the town highlights are the 16th to the 18th century whitewashed houses decorated with azulejos (terracotta tiles) and wrought-iron balconies, Evora Roman Temple, Evora Cathedral, King Manuel Palace, and Chapel of the Bones.
Besides the famous historical sites, Evora also serves as the gateway to the cork farms, wineries, handicrafts (like pottery) and hillside towns of the Alentejo region. It is only a one and a half hour drive from Lisbon.
4. Vaduz, Liechtenstein
Instead of staying in Zurich, you can drive an hour and stay in Vaduz, a city in Liechtenstein. Combine your tour of Liechtenstein, one of the smallest countries in the world with the quaint mountain and lakeside towns along the banana-shaped Lake Zurich.
When in Vaduz, take a walk up the hill to Vaduz castle for a view of the city, visit the Liechtenstein Art Museum, Treasure Chamber Liechtenstein and stroll on Stadtle, Vaduz’s center and promenade with shops, hotels, and restaurants. Most people make a stop to the post office for their stamps.
A 14-minute drive from Vaduz will bring you to Maienfeld, Enjoy a day trip to Heidi Land. Heidi Land was inspired by Heidi, a story written by Johanna Spyri. Check out Heidi House in Heidi Village, Heidi Trail to Heidi Alp and the Restaurant Heidihof serving authentic food from the region. Even if you’re not a fan of Heidi, you will love the alpine lakes, mountains, valley, meadows, waterfalls, caves and gorges in the area.
Heidi’s village is only open during the summer months. Other attractions in this region include the Werdenberg Castle and the oldest houses of Switzerland in Werdenberg. Werdenberg Castle was founded by Count Rudolf I around 1230. Per MySwitzerland.com, the famous places to visit around Lake Zurich are:
• Alpamare in Pfaffikon with the largest covered park in Europe
• Islands of Ufenau and Lutzelau near Rapperswil
• Wooden footbridge across the lake between Rapperswil and Hurden
• The baroque church in Lachen
• The famous Lindt & Sprungli chocolate factory in Kilchberg
• Zurich’s sights, shopping, and cultural centers
5. Bratislava, Slovakia
Often lost in the shadow of Prague, Vienna, and Budapest, Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia makes up for in authenticity and friendliness what it lacks in publicity. That’s good news for travelers.
Read 5 Reasons Why You Need to Visit Bratislava, Slovakia and find out why.
Do you have a favorite European summer destination?