After the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a good chance you are dreaming of a European vacation. Even with the pandemic raging in 2020, over 2.3 million North American travelers headed for Western Europe. Meanwhile, just over 2 million travelers chose to visit the central countries of Europe that same year from North America.
Now that the world is getting back to normal and the worst parts of the COVID-19 pandemic are behind us (fingers crossed), travel and tourism is slowly returning. Of course, the numbers are not back to pre-pandemic levels, but tourists from all over the globe are now booking vacations abroad to explore the world once more.
If you want to avoid Europe’s busiest tourist destinations, then you will want to steer clear of these locations. Yet, if you want to explore these amazing destinations, this article will help you avoid the crowds to enjoy your vacation even more.
In this article we will use stats from 2019 as it was the last year prior to the pandemic that saw travel at its fullest.
1. London, England – 19.6 million tourists
London is one of the world’s great cities. It combines history with a modern vibe that is unmatched by many locations. London is different than any other city in the United Kingdom. It is full of hustle and bustle, but provides charm with its architecture and atmosphere.
After flying into Heathrow Airport, which handled 80.9 million passengers in 2019, head into the city to explore its quaint streets, cafes, and pubs. West London attracts many tourists thanks to Westminster Abbey, the River Thames, and a plethora of world-class museums. The museums alone will provide you with hours of activities and most of these galleries are free to explore.
You can reach London from many of the major international airports in North America. New York, Toronto, and many more fly direct to the Big Smoke. It takes just eight hours to fly from New York to London, meaning you can set off at night in the United States and arrive in London just as the sun is coming up.
To avoid tourists and still get excellent weather, head for London between March and May. The weather will be warming and the trees blooming. Summer is peak tourist season which drives prices up around the city.
2. Paris, France – 19.1 million tourists
Just behind London in Europe’s busiest tourist destinations is Paris. The City of Love continues to be a major tourist destination thanks to its incredible attractions including the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Notre Dame Cathedral.
Once the sun goes down, Paris comes alive with nightlife. The clubs, bars, and cafes heave with people coming and going. If you want to spend all night enjoying the city’s nightlife, then you have plenty of opportunities. Yet, if you want to retire early to your accommodation to spend the next day sightseeing and shopping, then you have that option too.
Like London, you can fly direct to Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport to reach Paris. Flights from North America, South America, Asia, and Africa connect the European city to other parts of the world. In addition, there are plenty of flights every day from Paris to major European cities, allowing you to travel to other parts of the continent.
3. Istanbul, Turkey – 14.7 million tourists
If you want to visit a city that truly does not sleep, then Istanbul is the place to go. Behind the hustle and bustle of Istanbul is one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe. Its mosques, temples, and palaces are gorgeous. It would take you days to explore all of these incredible sites, so book a long holiday in the Turkish city.
Istanbul isn’t just about history, which it has a lot of. You will find modern Istanbul to be incredibly welcoming and full of charm. Istanbul offers travelers a much different vibe that London and Paris. It straddles Europe and Asia, and provides a flare all its own. Istanbul has residents from all over the globe, which have made it a truly unique melting pot.
You can reach Istanbul direct from major airports around the world. Although it may not be quite as easy to reach as London or Paris, it is worth it once you arrive. Nearly as busy as Istanbul is another Turkish city, Anatalya. The Turkish coastal city is flush with resorts and welcomed 13.3 million travelers in 2019.
4. Rome, Italy – 10.3 million tourists
Rome offers so much to travelers including history, culture, and food. Why wouldn’t you want to visit Rome? The Italian capital is busy all year-round with tourists, but its peak season is in summertime (June through August).
Not only is it busy with tourists and prices at their highest, but the summer weather can be intense. Avoid the crowds by booking a trip to Rome in the offseason. Even in the cool, rainy weather, Rome is beautiful. In fact, the cool, rainy weather gives it a completely different feel.
Rome is iconic with its historical sites. Nothing in the world compares to visiting the coliseum or wandering through the pantheon. You can dine on pizza just outside these centuries’ old venues or sip wine under the stars as Vespas speed by your outdoor cafe.
5. Prague, Czech Republic – 9.6 million tourists
Prague was once the capital of Europe’s stag and hen party (bachelor and bachelorette party) scene. It still gets plenty of tourists on the weekends for pre-marriage trips, yet, at the same time, more and more travelers are visiting Prague for its history and culture.
The Czech city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its architecture dates back centuries and includes buildings from the Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, and Art Nouveau periods. A trip to Prague is a journey back in time. Its quaint, narrow streets lead to grand buildings. It can feel like you are in a fairytale.
Charles Bridge is one of the must-see sites. The 14th-century structure provides you with incredible city views. The Old Town Square is alive with history. Its Astronomical Clock dates back to the 1400s. If you have had enough history and culture, then explore Prague’s incredible nightlife after dark. The city is filled with pubs, bars, clubs, and restaurants that explode with life.