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The Badeschiff pool in Berlin at night during a heat wave in Europe.
visitberlin/Philip Koschel

6 Ways to Cope with a Summer Heat Wave in Europe

Calling Europe a “hot” destination this year has little to do with trends; when Paris hit 109 degrees in July, it marked the city’s hottest day on record—shattering the previous record by five degrees. And the worst may not be over: August could be even hotter, and heat waves in Europe, where fewer than five percent of homes have air conditioning, seem to be getting more common overall.

To those of you who have European itineraries for this summer set in concrete, I offer sympathy. For those of you who are planning a Europe visit this summer with some flexibility, I offer some suggestions:

How to Travel in a Heat Wave in Europe

  1. Head north: It’s almost always cooler the farther north you go in Europe, but in a really tough hot spell, you might have to go a long way north. For example, in the U.K., even central Scotland may not be far enough to avoid punishing heat. Generally, though, northern locales like Scandinavia are usually a better idea than southern Italy, France or Spain when it comes to avoiding a heat wave in Europe.
  1. Head for an island or the coast: Coastal areas and islands are typically cooler than central continental areas, and especially cities. The problem with this strategy is that those areas are popular with locals, so you could have a tough time finding accommodations.
  2. Head for the slopes: In midsummer, ski areas aren’t as apt to be booked up by locals as shore areas, but they are often above the heat in terms of elevation. To avoid a bad heat wave in Europe’s south of Spain, for example, I once headed for the Sierra Nevada Ski Area.
  3. Head south (sometimes) for air conditioning: This sounds counter-intuitive, but if you’re staying in a rental or a mid-range hotel, you’re more likely to encounter air-conditioning in the south of most hot locales (France, Italy, or Spain) than in the north. Of course, check the hotel or rental amenities online first to make sure the property has it.
  1. Head for the countryside in an air-conditioned rental car: The countryside is almost always cooler than a big city. When I first started driving in Europe, cars with air-conditioning were rare and very expensive, but these days they’re common—and inexpensive—almost everywhere and standard in hot climates. And a good way to break away from the hot city.
  2. Head for the pool: Many European cities are unavoidably hot, save for air-conditioned shops and hotels, and their public pools. A public swimming spot can be a great way to meet locals and enjoy a hidden gem of the city; for example, Berlin’s Badeschiff (pictured at top) is a floating swimming pool in the Spree River that provides a skyline view.

Readers: Are you concerned about encountering a heat wave in Europe this summer? Comment below on how you’ll cope.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

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