17 Ways to Escape the Crowds in Europe

It’s no secret that tourism has impacted Europe, from Venice’s polluted lagoons to the congested streets of Copenhagen. But you don’t have to skip Europe’s top cities entirely to have an authentic experience. Our local authors have a few tips to help you minimize your footprint, avoid crowds, and see a new side of Europe.

In Milan:

Piazza Duomo in Milan. Photo © Lindsey Davison.

Travel in the off-season:

To avoid the hordes of tourists, sweltering temperatures, and long lines, visit Milan and the nearby lakes in April, May, September, or October, when the weather is warm but not miserably hot. Before the summer season is in full swing, you can avoid many of the families traveling with children during summer break.

Get outside the city:

Wander the medieval village of Orta San Giulio and the charming colorful lake island, Isola Giulio. To enjoy outdoor adventures without crowds, head to Lake Molveno.

For more Milan travel tips, check out:

Hit a less-visited museum:

Due to the plethora of attractions in Milan’s city center, the Museum of the 20th Century is often overlooked, so it’s a great place to escape the crowds and noise for a few hours. If you’re an art buff, consider this place a must-see, as you won’t find a greater and more diverse modern art collection anywhere else in Italy.

Opt for a different view:

The rooftop of the Duomo, though a singularly impressive experience, is almost always full of people. For a less crowded view of the city skyline and Alps, try Branca Tower.

Discover the local-favorite gardens:

While most tourists go to Parco Sempione, Indro Montanelli Public Gardens offers a more local experience. Walk along wide paths or enjoy some time on its benches, as the journalist for whom the park is named was said to do.

Find a moment of quiet contemplation:

Monumental Cemetery of Milan is the resting place for many of Milan’s elite, including poets, politicians, and actors. Under the radar of many tourists, it’s a beautiful and illuminating place.

In Copenhagen:

Copenhagen's popular Nyhavn district.
Copenhagen’s popular Nyhavn district. Photo © Michael Barrett.

Hit the sweet spot of shoulder season:

The fall and spring shoulder months—particularly September and May—can be great times to visit, hitting a good balance between crowd sizes, temperature, and daylight hours.

Get out of town:

Escape to the small island of Møn for stargazing, abundant birdlife, hiking, and local history.

Curious about Copenhagen?

Wait until the last minute:

Crowds at the popular Kronberg Castle increase on weekends and during the summer as well as during the middle of the day. Visit during the last hour before closure to enjoy a relatively deserted Kronborg. Similarly, for shorter lines at Bakken, the world’s oldest amusement park, queue up after the peak times—normally between noon and 2pm.

Or be the first one there:

For beautiful views of the sound (and plenty of space to move around!), head to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art on a weekday morning.

In Venice:

The Grand Canal in Venice. Photo © aapsky / iStock.

Head south on the Lido de Venezia:

Exploring the Lido is the perfect antidote for tired feet (and crowd fatigue). Most of the 17,000 inhabitants on this island just east of Venice live in the northern half of the island, closer to Venice and the main vaporetto station. Instead, explore the two smaller localities of Malamocco and Alberoni in the south, which are quieter and attract fewer visitors. You can reach both by bus or bike.

Escape to a sparsely-populated island:

Take a day trip off the beaten path to Torcello, an island at the northern end of the Venetian lagoon. Stroll along a canal and through rural scenery away from the crowds.

Start planning your Venice vacation today:

Leave the Lagoon and opt for a lake:

Lake Garda is a great side trip for visitors to Venice who want a breath of fresh air. On the north end of the lake, dodge the crowds who are seeking views from the top of the Bastion and hike up to Santa Barbara Church instead—it offers stunning panoramic views of Riva and the northern part of Lake Garda. On the southeast side of the lake, don’t miss Bardolino; you’ll find a quieter, local vibe, and just north of the village, you’ll enjoy the beautiful, nature-oriented Punta San Vigilio peninsula. Pro tip: Visit in the spring or late summer if you want to avoid crowds.

In Florence:

Cityscape of Florence
Florence. Photo © SerrNovik / iStock.

Duck down an alley to a hidden piazza:

Chiasso dei Baroncelli, adjacent to Loggia Lanzi, is closer to an alley than a street and is the perfect escape from the crowds in the square. If you walk to the end, turn right, and continue through the intersection along Borgo Santi Apostoli. You’ll arrive at Piazza Santa Trinità where street musicians perform throughout the day and night.

Discover a quintessential Tuscan town:

Halfway between Florence and Lucca, Pistoia is like mini version of Florence, but without the heavy presence of tourism. Pistoia has been in Florence’s shadow since the 14th century, and its illustrious neighbor has influenced its architecture, culture, and even the character of its inhabitants. The cities look and feel a lot alike, but the streets of Pistoia are refreshingly free of tour groups and souvenir shops. Here, it’s possible to explore the historic center, view monuments, and observe the everyday urban activity of locals in total tranquility.

Hike to Basilica San Miniato al Monte:

This church marks the highest point in Florence and provides undisturbed views of the skyline. Be sure to take the quiet back route up the hillside to avoid the crowds.

Spend the night at a palatial estate fit for a Medici:

You don’t have to travel far from Florence to leave the crowds behind and immerse yourself in green fields, olive groves, or vineyards. Torre di Bellosguardo, a grand historic residence surrounded by lush gardens, is barely ten minutes from the center by car yet a world away. On the grounds is a bountiful vegetable patch that supplies the kitchen, and owner Ana Franchetti can show guests how to transform seasonal ingredients into traditional local dishes.

Feeling inspired by Florence?

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