Skip Paris this summer and explore these 3 European cities instead

written by Liz Carr June 28, 2024

Paris, France: the City of Love, the City of Lights and the city with ‘top things to do’ reaching into the dozens. But if a trip to the heart of France is high on your bucket list, summer 2024 may present some logistical challenges when it comes to enjoying a classic Paris itinerary.

2024 Olympics

With Paris as the chosen host for the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer, visitors will need to consider the three Cs: cost, crowds and closures.

A predicted 15 million tourists will descend on the city in July, ensuring transportation, restaurants and attractions will be packed to the brim (meaning you can bid adieu to a solo selfie with the Mona Lisa). Get ready for some sticker shock as Olympic surge pricing will see bus and metro fares doubling in price, accommodation rates skyrocketing, and meals and snacks coming at a premium.

Starting in early July, the construction of temporary competition venues will restrict vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic in popular areas like The Place de la Concorde and the Trocadéro Gardens. Metro stations at Concorde, Tuileries and Champs Elysées Clémenceau will also be closed in July and August. The seven temporary event sites are set to be dismantled in October, meaning you can expect disruptions well into the autumn months.

Expect higher prices and bigger crowds at Parisian eateries in the summertime.

So, if you’re looking to have that once-in-a-lifetime Paris trip complete with quiet mornings at patisseries, slow strolls along the Seine and lazy afternoons in the Louvre, the best advice is to avoid the summer months or choose a lesser-visited but equally amazing European city. Did somebody say Paris dupes?

With our new range of rail trips, exploring Europe from Paris has never been easier. Here are 3 trips that will get you away from the crowds and into some of the region’s other iconic cities.

For the foodies: swap Paris for Barcelona

Trip: Paris to Madrid by Rail

Paris is renowned for its food scene, but in the high heat of summer, French fare isn’t always the lightest option. So why not save the truffle pasta and confit de canard for a fall or winter trip and hop on the train to Spain instead.

A perfect evening of tapas with friends.

Spaniards have perfected the art of warm-weather dining, serving flavourful cured meats, artfully chilled soups and small plates that won’t leave you overstuffed. And when it’s really hot, nothing goes together better than a warm summer afternoon and a cold glass of cava or a clara, a refreshing mix of light beer and lemon soda. Plus, if you have a big lunch, it’s only polite to lean into the Spanish art of the siesta and take a long afternoon nap.

Take a tapas tour in Barcelona with Urban Adventures

For the exhibit explorers: swap the Louvre for the Rijksmuseum

Trip: Paris to Berlin

Every year, millions of art lovers make the pilgrimage to the Louvre to see iconic works of art like the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. It’s the most famous museum in the world, and in the summertime, it is arguably the most crowded. There are tons of online guides offering strategies for visiting in the summer to avoid hours-long queues and crushing crowds, but if you’re actually interested in appreciating the art (and not just the air conditioning), it may be a wiser choice to visit in the off-season.

A visit to the Louvre is a must… in the off-season.

So all aboard art lovers, the train is leaving Paris and heading for Amsterdam to visit the Rijksmuseum, the Louvre of the Netherlands. The Rijksmuseum houses work by Van Gogh and Vermeer and the museum’s most notable piece, Rembrandt’s legendary painting “The Night Watch.” With far fewer visitors per summer than the Louvre, you’ll be able to wander through the museum’s 80 rooms at a leisurely pace.

Since you won’t spend hours battling crowds, you’ll have plenty of time to check out Amsterdam’s many beer halls to cool down with a refreshing brew.

For the boat buffs: swap the Seine for the Danube

Trip: Express to the Orient: Paris to Istanbul

Warm temps and long, sun-filled days make river cruises an ideal summer activity. And while some of Paris’ most iconic sites, like the Eiffel Tower and the Musée d’Orsay, are visible from the Seine, the boats often sell out quickly (sometimes days or weeks in advance) during the high season. Starting in early July 2024, cruise routes in the Seine will be paused for Olympic swimming events that will take place in the river until mid-August.

So, if scenic boat rides are high on the list, head to Budapest instead and trade a cruise down the Seine for one on the Danube. These leisurely river cruises provide some epic views of Budapest’s architecture, including the riverside Parliament Building, the Castle District and the bridges linking Buda to Pest. Opt for an after-dark boat ride to see the city sparkle and finish the night at one of the iconic ruin bars.

The banks of the Seine won’t be empty until the fall

A trip to Paris is a must, at least once in a lifetime. But savvy travellers know that there’s something to be said for visiting lesser-known cities during the peak summer months – especially in Europe. So while you’re perfecting your dream off-season Paris itinerary, spend the summer crossing some alternative European destinations off the list.

Need to pivot your Paris plans? Check out last-minute deals on Intrepid trips.

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