European Summer 2017
Countries: Spain, France, Italy, Britain, Hungary, Croatia, Germany
Planning on spending your summer 2017 traveling across Europe? Here’s my annual mock itinerary sharing exactly how I would do just that. It might seem counter intuitive for a spontaneous traveler like myself to have such a detailed plan, but think of this as simply a starting point. You never know where this European summer may take you!
July 1st-5th Barcelona
Fly into Barcelona to begin your European summer adventure! Barcelona is a great starting point because it is an international city that still infuses a strong Spanish culture even though it is part of Catalonia. You will arrive during the Grec Festival or the Barcelona Summer Festival which celebrates music, dance, and theater throughout the entire month of July. The program is on the website or you could go to one of the tourist info booths (there is one on Las Ramblas and one in Plaza Jaume I in the Gothic Quarter) for the schedule of events. There is so much to do in the city and I have written about it extensively since I lived there during my study abroad. Explore the Gothic Quarter, eat until your stomach is tapped out on tapas, admire the Gaudi architecture, and drink the night away. Here is an itinerary which details exactly what to do with the 5 days you have there.
July 6th-8th Pamplona and San Fermin/Running of the Bulls
Now the European summer fun truly begins as you make your way to your first major festival, San Fermin also known as Running of the Bulls! The festival takes place in Pamplona, Spain which is a smaller city in the north of Spain. First and foremost, no matter what, make sure you have some sort of accommodation secured. It can be in another city or at a campsite 30 km away, just have something set so you don’t end up like I did…story here. The direct bus http://www.monbus.es/en from Barcelona to Pamplona is about 27 euros and takes between 5 and 6 hours; so, if you want to be in Pamplona for the opening ceremonies of the Running of the Bulls, you should probably take the bus up on the 5th. Personally, I don’t think the opening ceremonies are a necessity considering the festivities literally never stop. The bull runs begin each day at 8 AM but expect to be there a few hours prior to stake out your spot. Would I recommend running with the bulls the following morning or watching first and then making the decision? That’s a tough one. If you watch from the Plaza del Toros (like I did), you probably won’t ever want to run, but then again, if you do observe, you will have a better understanding of what goes on.
July 9th San Sebastian
Book a train for about 15 euros to explore the incredible city of San Sebastian. This is one of my absolute favorite cities in Spain, so I had to sneak it into this itinerary. Grab a hold of Rick Steve’s pintxos bar crawl to have some of, if not the best, food of your life and relax on the beautiful beaches. I just looked on Hostelworld, and while I haven’t personally stayed here, the reviews for the Kangaroo Hostel are stellar.
July 10th Bilbao
So you’ll probably fall in love with San Sebastian and want to stay an extra day, but if you are anything like me and like to pack in every possible thing you can see, head to Bilbao via Alsa bus (only 6 euros) and have dinner in the Old City. The Guggenheim is closed on Mondays, but you could always take a later flight out on the 11th, should you want to visit the following morning, Tuesday the 11th. There are some great spots on Airbnb for reasonable prices if you want your alone time as it looks like hostels are at a similar price point for this night.
July 11th Fly to Paris
Spend the morning in Bilbao visiting the Guggenheim museum before you head to the airport on a flight to Paris for your next European summer destination. I apologize in advance because there are no direct flights to Paris from Bilbao except for one that is already $500+dollars on Google Flights. But, there are a few one-stop flights on Iberia and and Vueling for a reasonable price. I particularly like the $138 flight on Vueling at 6:35 PM that is a duration of 4h 55m. As for accommodation, I would recommend Airbnb in Paris as there are a multitude of options for prices that are more reasonable than hostels.
July 12th-16th Paris and Bastille Day
Is this your first time visiting the city of Paris? If so, then you must walk down the Champs-Elysées, visit the Louvre, and stroll across a bridge on the river Seine. There are a million Paris itineraries online, so I am not going to go too in depth here about that. But, what I will discuss is the night of the 13th and the day of the 14th and the celebrations that ensue for Bastille Day or French National Day. On the night of the 13th, each arrondissement hosts its own firemen’s ball, so head to whichever one you like/whichever is most convenient and dance the night away. Prepare for an early wakeup time though to catch the Bastille Day military parade around 10:00 AM. Spend the day picnicking near the Eiffel Tower before the fireworks show later that night. If you’re a Paris veteran and are coming strictly for Bastille Day celebrations, then I recommend a day trip to Giverny to see Monet’s house. Other than that, just do your thang because it’s Paris and I feel like everyone has strong opinions of what they want to do in the City of Light.
July 16th-July 22nd Train to Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, and Tour de France
I think this would be an excellent time to head down to the French countryside and explore some of the smaller cities in France. It’s a bit more of an off-the-beaten path European summer adventure as opposed to some of the major cities we have visited thus far. Aix-en-Provence hosts the International Festival of Lyric Art and Avignon celebrates an arts festival as well called the Festival d’Avignon. So roadtrip, blablacar (a popular ride sharing service), or take the train down to Aix-en-Provence and make this city your home base while you venture out and explore this region of France. Spend a day at the festival in Avignon, visit the lavender fields for that Instagram photo, and watch the bikers pedal past during the Tour de France on the 21st as bikers zoom by the region of Embrun / Salon-de-Provence during stage 19.
July 22nd- August 1st Italy
So there is a bit of a lull in festivals late-July. The Secret Garden Party takes place in England but that’s already sold out, so a moot point. This would be a great time to meet up with friends or family that are visiting; but, if you’re on your own, why not forge ahead and take this time to go to Italy?! First-timers, I suggest doing a 10-day trip through Rome, Florence, and Venice. You could take the Ryanair flight leaving Marseilles on the 22nd at 7:05 PM that lands in Rome because it is a non-stop flight and super cheap. For those of you who have been to Italy before, I am sure you still have some places left to explore as it’s a country that can be revisited time and time again. My favorite cities are Florence and Cinque Terre but I really want to visit Lake Como, Amalfi, Positano, and Capri which will hopefully happen in October. Italy is such a simple place for travelers to get around (use the train) and to find accommodation, so it’s the perfect country to go to when you want to travel spontaneously.
August 1st-7th Edinburgh and Edinburgh International Festival/Fringe Festival
Fly on Ryanair or easyJet’s nonstop flight from Milan to Edinburgh for one of the world’s largest arts and cultural festivals, the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. While the festival is held for 3 weeks in August, you will actually be there right at the beginning of it all. I personally have not been, but from what I’ve read, you want to have an idea in mind of what you want to see. But, you do not want to plan too much in advance because the festival works better if you kind of go with the flow of it all. I would recommend booking a hostel in Edinburgh because I think it would be more fun to go to shows and walk around the festivals areas with a group of people as opposed to exploring by yourself during this lively time in Edinburgh. Don’t forget to intermittently include some sightseeing each day throughout your time in Scotland. And be sure to visit a castle or two!
August 7th-13th Budapest and Sziget Festival
Fly from Edinburgh to Budapest (there is a nonstop on Jet2) on the 7th. I love the city of Budapest. So. Much. Just had to put that out there. Take a dip in the thermal baths, go on a walking tour to learn the rich history of the city, and spend the night at a bar that has yet to be restored from the bombings of World War II. The Sziget music festival in Budapest starts on August 9th and goes for a full 7 days. Personally, I can’t do a music festival for more than like a day, but that’s just me. There are a bunch of different passes available on the website, but the one I chose for this itinerary is the 3-day weekend pass with Wiz Khalifa, Kasabian, Macklemore, and Ryan Lewis. FYI!, P!nk is playing on the 9th and The Chainsmokers are on the 13th so plan accordingly depending on your musical preferences. You can choose to either camp and be in the thick of things or stay in Budapest which btw is super cheap and only 30/40 minutes away from the festival. Basically, it all comes down to how involved in the festival you would like to be.
August 13th-23rd Croatia
There aren’t too many festivals during the end of August in Europe aside from some music festivals in England during the Bank Holiday weekend. Therefore, let’s continue our European summer with some more sightseeing. Since Budapest is so close to Croatia, I thought it would be fun to include a 10-day trip from Zagreb to Dubrovnik during your European summer. I did this exact trip in 2015 and created an itinerary that I think will be quite helpful. To get from Budapest to Zagreb, you can take the Deutsche Bahn train, Flixbus bus for around 30 euros, or blablacar.
August 23rd-28th Berlin
Full disclosure: At this point, you would have a few days to kill, so I literally typed in Dubrovnik —> Europe on Google Flights and found that a flight to Berlin on the 23rd is the cheapest ticket. When you consider that Dubrovnik is a notoriously expensive airport to fly from, why not right? The flight I found is about $91 on Eurowings leaving at 7:40 PM. Berlin is another fairly simple city to explore with tons of culture so enjoy the next few days to sightsee and take in all the history of Germany’s capital city.
August 28th-30th Barcelona and La Tomatina in Bunol, Spain
As soon as I saw that Berlin was the cheapest city to fly to from Dubrovnik, I also checked to see how much it would be to fly back to Barcelona on the 28th of August and the cost was only around 70/80 dollars! There are a plethora of budget airlines that fly between these two major cities. Don’t get too comfortable being back in Barcelona though. Before the European summer trip concludes, you are going to head up north one last time to Valencia, Spain for the world’s largest tomato fight. La Tomatina is always held on the last Wednesday in August (in this case August 30th) and begins at 11:00 AM, lasting about an hour. The actual tomato fight is in the tiny town of Bunol, Spain, but accommodation is incredibly scarce, so it makes sense to stay in Valencia which is a bigger city and only 30 minutes out. Be sure to wear clothes that you don’t mind throwing away after (everyone wears white), get there early morning, and bring a waterproof camera for the adventure. Parties continue for a few hours after, so depending on when your flight is on the 31st, you could either stay the night again in Valencia, or head back to Barcelona for the night. The Renfe train is about 3 hours and the Alsa bus closer to 4.
August 31st European Summer into September????
Made it back to Barcelona? Hasta Luego! Head off onto your next adventure!
Interested in reading my personal experience during one of my personal European summer adventures? Here you go!
Do you have any suggestions for European summer 2017? If so, please share in the comments below!