Europe is one of our favorite destinations. What’s not to love? Good food, great wine, rich in culture, and…long lines. C’est la vie, unfortunately. But just because there tend to be dense crowds competing for entrance to popular tourist attractions, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to wait in them.
For those of you who love culture but don’t want to wait around, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the amount of time you spend in line. In some cases, you can even eliminate the wait altogether! Here are 7 key ways to avoid crowds and long lines when traveling to Europe.
1. Get up early…
Getting up and out between 6 and 9 am is ideal for sightseeing. Earlier times mean less wait and more experience with actual locals, giving you a calmer impression of the city or location you’re visiting. There will also likely be less kids around, which can sometimes be a disruptive element in places like museums or art galleries.
2. …and stay out late
Check to see if any of your destination’s attractions have a late night option! There’s typically a night of the week where museums are open later than average, allowing you to experience an attraction with less of a crowd.
3. This is especially true for very popular destinations
Avoid bus tour groups. Big name destinations get crowded with tour groups, so getting to a site right as it opens (or even a little before) can mean the difference between waiting for five minutes and waiting an hour, or more.
4. Use those self-service kiosks whenever possible
We’re always surprised by how few people seem to take advantage of the self-serve ticket kiosks. This is likely due to the fact that it’s a fairly new addition to most venues and they are often located in strange, out-of-the way places, however you can usually reduce your wait time by using a self-serve system. It pays to do a little research ahead of time as to whether or not your destination has one of these helpful digital ticket dispensers.
5. Skip the front door
This is another example of a little research coming in handy. If you’re going to a tourist destination, see if there’s a side entrance that can save you some time. The Louvre is a great example. While that famous glass pyramid is pretty, there’s actually a side entrance called the Portes des Lions which is far quicker than the main one.
6. Ignore elevators…and take the stairs instead!
Elevators can reduce some leg work, but taking the stairs instead of waiting for elevators, shuttles, or trams can actually be much faster. The line for the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tour is famously long, but if you take the stairs you’ll reach the top much quicker, even if slightly more out of breath.
7. Book a skip-the-line tour
If you’re experiencing a city with a tour guide, they can often do the leg work for you. Small group tours that work with specific locations move much quicker due to the guide’s advance planning, plus you can skip the lines and have an expert there to tell you all about it. This is much preferable to standing around waiting to buy a ticket.