Being in Europe During a Heat Wave: Tips to Stay Cool
Heading to Europe this summer? You may get caught in one of Europe’s epic heat waves. I was in central Europe from July through most of August and let me tell you, it can get insanely hot. You don’t want the heat to zap your energy and take away from sightseeing so here are some top tips for beating the heat while traveling through Europe in the summer.
What to Wear During a Summer Trip to Europe
I packed everything into a carry-on, which meant I couldn’t pack much for a 6-week Europe trip and I had to fit in a wardrobe that would cover chilly nights on the top of the Dolomite mountains to hot days spent touring major cities. I packed my two go-to travel dresses, cap sleeve polyester dresses from REI that hit my knees – a convenient option to have for lunch at a nice restaurant or touring a cathedral with dress codes, plus had a secret pocket I like to put credit cards in. Yet I was soon to learn polyester = hot and uncomfortable during summer in Europe.
Those two dresses still got a lot of wear, but as weather crept into the triple digits, there were two items of clothing that became my go-to outfit (I was doing a lot of laundry in the sink): a loose, breezy cotton top that I literally stuck into my suitcase at the very last minute (thank goodness) and some baggy terry shorts. I stuck a loose scarf in my day pack in case we ended up anywhere I needed to cover my shoulders and chest. We didn’t do much shopping on the trip, but if we had, I would have bought more loose cotton shirts to wear and a couple pairs of wrinkle-free linen shorts.
Bottom Line: The looser and lighter the clothing, the better. The tank top I pretty much lived in over there was made by Splendid (their cotton is soooo soft) and this top by them looks great for exploring Europe.
What to Drink
I became a white wine connoisseur during my time in Europe last summer. I don’t dislike white wine, but I generally prefer red. However, when it’s 98 degrees outside, the last thing I want is a heavy red so a glass of moderately cold white wine became my go-to drink. Luckily, central Europe is home to really great whites, particularly those cultivated in Bratislava and Austria. A big cold beer is also refreshing, both to drink and to press against your forehead. (See image at beginning of this post of me in no-air-conditioning Bratislava.) Not wanting to drink alcohol? Try an iced caffe, which in most countries in Europe is a coffee made with ice cream — mmm, cold, refreshing, and yummy. You’re not going to find a lot of ice cubes in drinks in Europe, so find an ice cold one where you can.
There’s also that important lifeline called water. Drink a TON of it. And then drink some more. It’s worth it to budget in some money to buy refrigerated bottles throughout the day. Yes, filling up a bottle to bring with you is going to save you a few bucks, but chugging down lukewarm water when it’s hot is not going to cool you down to your core. One tip is to buy the large water at lunch (which usually isn’t that much more than a small one) and then if you have any leftover pour it into your water bottle. Ask for a small bucket of ice to keep the water chilled throughout lunch.
Start Your Day Early
As the day goes on, it usually gets hotter with the peak being late afternoon. To avoid the hottest time of day, start sightseeing early in the morning. Most churches open to the public early – sometimes as early as 7am, so you can start your sightseeing there and then make your way to the sites that have later admission times. Then head back to your hotel for a nap later. You’ll quickly realize there’s a reason why siesta is still popular in many parts of Europe.
Summer in Europe is Better with Air Conditioning
Book hotels with air conditioning. This can sometimes be trickier than you may think in Europe. Most reputable hotels that don’t have air conditioning will be sure that rooms are outfitted with plenty of fans and windows that open to let in (hopefully) cool breezes at night, but you’ll generally be more comfortable somewhere with air conditioning. I stayed in a couple hotels that didn’t have air conditioning and was still able to sleep fine due to the fans.
The only place not having air conditioning didn’t work out so great was the Airbnb I did in Bratislava. Not only was this the hottest few days of the trip, we also were in an upstairs room with little cross breeze and it was soooo hot. The hostess was lovely and we stayed in an amazing location so we definitely didn’t mind staying there overall, but we also didn’t sleep too well those two nights. At one point I poured water on my head in the middle of the night to try to cool myself down. So yes, air conditioning, or at least a very powerful fan is a must when booking accommodations.
Find Some Time for the Beach
Depending how much time you have, arrange some time to head to a body of water during your time in Europe. Such a location is not too far from most major cities and after days of touring hot cosmopolitan areas, you’ll head home feeling re-energized and refreshed if you finish your trip off with a couple days by the sea or a lake. The islands of Croatia are a great place to head as is lovely Lake Bled in Ljubljana. Bring a paper book (remember those?) so you can read near — or in — the water without worrying about your tablet or kindle getting wet. This is a classic travel book to read that is hilarious and you can leave it behind when you’re finished for someone else to enjoy while they take their mind off how hot they are in Europe!
Here are a few other items I brought with me during my summer in Europe:
Note: This post was originally published on July 7, 2014 and updated on July 19, 2016.
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