Europe is home to some of the world’s most incredible museums and monuments, visited by millions of tourists each year. But when you visit one of them on a summer day, it may feel like you’re standing in line behind all those millions of people at once.
The Best Places to Skip the Line in Europe
Is surveying Paris from the Eiffel Tower or admiring the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican worth a two-hour wait? Sure — but why stand in those lines if you don’t have to? Below are eight popular European attractions where buying a skip-the-line ticket is well worth the advance planning.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Schwangau
Neuschwanstein is the ultimate fairy-tale castle, in a spectacular location high in Germany’s Bavarian Alps. Wait times can be longer than an hour during busy periods, and if you haven’t reserved an entry time in advance, you could be locked out for hours until the next available time slot. Buy your tickets at the Hohenschwangau website.
Vatican Museums, Rome
The Vatican Museums are chock-a-block with incredible statues, paintings and artifacts — not to mention the famous Sistine Chapel ceiling. It’s common for visitors to wait two hours or more to get in, and not just in the summertime; Rome is popular all year long. Buy your tickets at the Vatican Museums website.
Eiffel Tower, Paris
According to a City A.M. report, the average traveler waits a whopping two hours to visit the Eiffel Tower. Buy your ticket online in advance, and you’ll skip the line at the ticket counters. There are two admission options: one that takes you to the second floor and one that goes all the way to the top. (You can also take the stairs to the second floor.) Buy your tickets at the Eiffel Tower website.
Long lines, hot sun and lack of shade make waiting to visit the historic jewel of Athens a punishing prospect during the busy summer months. One way to skip the line is to buy a special ticket package that includes other popular sites such as Hadrian’s Library and the Ancient Agora of Athens; you can purchase the joint ticket at one of the other sites, which have much smaller lines. (See info here.) If you’re not interested in the other sites, though, you can book an advance ticket — or a tour with skip-the-line privileges — through Viator (SmarterTravel’s sister site) or GetYourGuide.
Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh
Looming over the Scottish capital, Edinburgh Castle protects centuries of history within its sturdy stone walls. Its popularity means that queues can stretch up to an hour at the busiest times of year; fortunately, you can buy tickets in advance at the Edinburgh Castle website that are good for entry during a certain time block on the day you select.
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
This ornate basilica just might be the world’s most popular unfinished building. Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece has been under construction for more than a century, with an estimated completion date of 2026. Despite the lingering scaffolding, visitors flock to the church in massive numbers, with an average wait time of an hour and a half, according to City A.M. Buy your tickets at the Sagrada Familia website.
London Eye, London
Dreaming of a lofty ride in London’s famous Ferris wheel? You’ll spend an average of 2.5 hours queueing, according to City A.M. Fortunately, you can buy your ticket in advance at the London Eye website (which offers a variety of tickets and packages).
State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
It would take days, not hours, to see all the treasures in St. Petersburg’s most famous museum, so don’t waste any time standing in the line to get in — which some travelers have reported can be as long as two or three hours. You can buy an admission ticket online in advance and wander the galleries at your leisure; you may also want to consider booking a private guided tour, which sometimes includes early access before the museum opens to the public. Buy your tickets at the Hermitage website.