Europe comes alive in the summer. There’s an energy and vibrancy that radiates through much of the continent when the sun reappears after a long winter. Whether you’re looking for that ultimate beach holiday or just to soak up the summery atmosphere of your favorite cities, it’s a great time to board a train with your rail pass and head off to make brand new memories. Here are 5 places for an unforgettable summer in Europe.
Summer in Europe
1. Porto, Portugal
Porto’s moderate climate makes it possible to have an enjoyable visit year-round. But when the temperatures rise between May and September, the city really comes to life. Summer rain is possible but unlikely, the heat is pleasant but bearable, and when it gets a little too hot there’s a wide selection of unpretentious beaches to choose from where you can cool off. There are also several events that take place throughout the warmer months that pull crowds from across the continent.
How to get there: There are regular regional trains to Porto from most local destinations, including a direct train from Lisbon. There are also daily trains from Madrid.
Must-see: Porto once again plays host to NOS Primavera Sound festival in 2016, featuring top local and international acts.
Insider tip: Summer is the most popular time of the year in Porto. Book ahead and avoid the main tourist areas for accommodation if you’re budget conscious.
2. Stockholm, Sweden
Sweden will bring a new perspective to your summer in Europe. Sub-zero temperatures and alarmingly short days dominate much of the Swedish year. So it’s totally understandable that the Swedes enthusiastically come out to play when the sun does. This translates into a vibrant, energetic atmosphere that will follow you around throughout your stay. June, July, and August are packed full of festivals and popular events.
How to get there: Sweden has an extensive rail network, and Stockholm is accessible from most major cities. Your Eurail Pass is valid with trains on the State Railways (SJ) and with several private operators.
Must-see: Visit the popular Mälarpaviljongen bar – it’s only open for the summer.
Insider tip: If you’re looking for true refreshment, go swimming at Hellasgården.
3. Dugi Otok, Croatia
Croatia’s coastline brims with tourists during summer, and for good reason – the sublime weather, beautiful beaches, and characterful cities are best enjoyed with ample sunshine. But when the busloads of tourists start to overwhelm, hop aboard a ferry for a more tranquil Croatian experience. There are several islands to choose from along the Dalmatian Coast, but the untouched Dugi Otok is starting to win fans in search of accessible solitude.
How to get there: There are daily trains to Zadar from Zagreb that connect in Knin. From Zadar, there are three daily ferries to Dugi Otok that take approximately 90 minutes.
Must-see: Saharun Beach, on the island’s northern-most tip, is one of the most spectacular and unspoiled in all of Croatia.
Insider tip: Visit the Veli Rate lighthouse for the best views – ask nicely, and the lighthouse keeper may let you climb the 200 odd stairs the top.
4. Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
The Alps are famous for dramatic winterscapes and pristine skiing conditions, but the summer months present an altogether different side. Rivers increase in pace as the high-altitude snow begins to melt, deep green fields sprout up at the foot of sheer cliffs, and the clattering of cowbells fill the air. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the peaceful yet accessible valley of Lauterbrunnen.
Here you’ll find beautiful hikes towards the snowcapped peaks that leave from the valley floor and enthusiastic base jumpers that leap from the cliffs above. For the tamer adventurers, there are tranquil walks along the valley floor dotted with icy waterfalls and rickety bridges.
How to get there: Frequent trains run to nearby Interlaken from across Switzerland. Take the train to Interlaken Ost, and connect to the narrow gauge lines leading up into the valley.
Must-see: A hike up to the nearly 10,000-foot high Schilthorn is a truly memorable experience. If you’re not up for the epic trek you can opt for the somewhat pricey gondola that will whisk you to the stunning views without the effort.
Insider tip: Combine a trip to Lauterbrunnen with a ride on the Golden Pass Express – it’s one of the most scenic rides in Europe, passes through nearby Interlaken, and is included in your Eurail Global Pass.
5. Capri, Italy
Capri is one of the most beautiful – and popular – islands in Europe. For this reason it can get a little bit chaotic over summer. But this is for good reason. The charming island, just a short ferry ride from the Italian mainland, is home to several pristine beaches, emerald blue waters, and some of the most epic sunsets you can imagine. While prices may escalate over the peak months, most of the island’s top attractions – the beaches, walks, and stunning views – won’t cost you a cent.
How to get there: Regular trains run to Naples and Sorrento from both the north and south of Italy. From there, high-speed ferries cross to the island and back several times a day.
Must-see: Take a walk to Via Krupp – a dramatic series of switchback paths that descend an impossible cliff to the beaches below. First prize is a gentle walk down the path. But even if it’s closed, the views from above are almost as rewarding.
Insider tip: There are several ferries that cross from the mainland each day, most of which take the same amount of time but cost different prices. Research the best prices and departure times before you get to the port.
Bonus tips for summer in Europe
- Summer in Europe is peak season, so it’s important to book early and plan ahead.
- Make sure you reserve seats on trains that require Eurail Pass holders make reservations.
- Prices escalate during this time of year, so look for accommodation options just outside the main tourist centers.
- Staying a short walk or bus ride away from the action can save you hundreds of euros in accommodation costs.
- Pack smartly and avoid carrying excess luggage – it’s easier to pack light in summer, and you’ll thank yourself when you’re trekking through a sweltering city with only a small backpack.
- Don’t forget to include the usual summer essentials of sunscreen, hats, and water bottles.
- If you’re heading to the beach, a lightweight sarong can double as a towel and blanket.
While summer in Europe may require a bit of planning, it can also be the most vibrant and exciting time to be there. Bars and restaurants overflow onto the streets, people walk with an extra spring in their step, and beaches buzz with enthusiastic sun-seekers. All of this translates into a truly memorable European summer rail holiday. See it all with a Eurail Global Pass.