The best of times or the worst of times? As the month when Europeans traditionally flee their cities for extended vacations, August offers visitors to the continent a unique experience. IgoUgo travelers list the pros and cons of crossing the Atlantic in August. Of course, much depends on where in Europe you choose to visit, but certain things ring true across the board, and this advice will help you decide if Europe in August is for you—or if your perfect trip is a few months away.
You have your pick of cultural festivals and fairs: Many European cities are alive with outdoor events in August, none more famously than Edinburgh, which stages its International and Fringe Festivals August 8-31 and August 3-25, respectively. Red Mezz admits that “as a resident of the city, the festival is a whole new set of rules and isn’t always the best time of year to live in Edinburgh,” but says that “for the visitor, it could not be a more lively event, and with an incredible array of things to do, there will be no trouble in occupying yourself for a weekend or the whole month.” She also notes that “each year there is a noticeable increase in the amount of people that show up for the festival and the array of places they come from”—it’s an international scene, indeed. Of Germany, Joy S says, “May to September is a lovely time to visit. Sunny skies are likely and much of life moves outdoors. Biergartens and cafés bustle at all hours and outdoor events and festivals enliven towns and villages.”
Assuming you like your days sunny and warm, you practically get a good-weather guarantee: “Chateaux and gardens, sunflowers and vineyards: the Loire Valley in August is beautiful beyond words,” says c_seymour2002. If you’re looking for the urban experience, try Rome; July and August are hot in the Eternal City, Ron3925 concedes, but can be enjoyed if you “take breaks during the day.” And he and his innovative family found a fun way to keep cool: “The public water fountains saved us on several occasions,” he says.
An increase in tourists creates an air of energy and activity: August fan ccoppersmith writes that her honeymoon trip to Venice “was absolutely perfect.” She adds, “People warned us that it was too touristy and that the canals smell in the hot August sun, but neither was true. Yes, there were lots and lots of tourists. But for us, that didn't take away from the experience at all.” AnaMH recommends San Sebastian, Spain, saying, “visit during July and August to see this small town really jumping.” And n2dwoods loved Paris at summer’s end: “Though they say the locals all vacation in August, there are still plenty of tourists and things to do in the City of Light.” Left Bank devotee offtrack also triumphed over—enjoyed, even—the transient crowds of Paris in August: “Who goes to Paris in August? Turns out a whole lot of people. If you can successfully dodge those walking with maps outspread or if you're just looking to blend in, Paris can be lovely in August.”
Prices are at their peak: “Prices are sky-high and the place is swarming with tourists,” says T Puig Gros of August in his hometown of Barcelona. He recommends saving yourself some trouble by “going during the spring or late fall.”
Contending with heat and humidity can be hairy: T Puig Gros is equally frank about Barcelona’s summer weather. “August and September are generally bad choices,” he says, because “temperatures climb into the 90s and relative humidity is often 70% plus. Add the heat sink effect (the way urban areas retain the heat) and you also have high nighttime temperatures to contend with.”
You can’t escape hordes of tourists: Atlantan saraherose visited Rome in August “when all the Italians were on vacation,” and says that in order to deal with the tourists, “you should be prepared to maintain a healthy sense of humor, drink lots of water, and get comfortable with either waiting in a 4-hour line to get into the Vatican or with making up some story about how your child and husband are still inside and you have to get back in through the exit to find them.”
Some stores close for weeks: The arrondissements of Paris’ Left Bank are always offtrack’s neighborhoods of choice, but she warns to expect more café time than shopping excursions come August. She doesn’t recommend visiting then if you’re looking for a high-end Parisian shopping spree because “many stores close down for several weeks at least.”