Europe is suffering through one of the driest periods in modern day meteorology. It has never been so hot and dry for such a long period of time. If you’re currently traveling through Europe or have plans to travel to Italy or Spain or France, or the Netherlands or Germany in the next summer, then this post is for you. Here are 15 cool tips to survive the heat wave in Europe!
Heat Wave in Europe
A summer in Europe typically consists of long days with plenty of sunshine. But we also have rain, and clouds and wind. Normal temperatures range from 18 degrees to 25 degrees Celsius (64 to 77 Fahrenheit) in Northern Europe, like Sweden, England, Germany and the Netherlands. 22 to 30 degrees (72 to 86 Fahrenheit) are no exception for Southern Europe like France, Spain and Italy. In Eastern Europe temperatures can rise even further. Nothing special.
But for the past 2 months, we haven’t had a drop of rain and the heat continues and temperatures rise. 36 degrees (97 Fahrenheit) for Northern Europe and upwards for Southern Europe. How to handle such heat in Europe?
What is a heat wave?
A heatwave is an extended period of hot weather relative
to the expected conditions of the area at that time of year.
Like this? Share this infographic about European Heat Wave
1. Avoid the hottest hours of the day
Health organisations advise to avoid the heat of the day between 11 am and 3 pm. This is when the sun shines fiercest, but in large urban areas like Paris and Rome, temperatures are actually higher around 5 and 6 pm. Midday it can be a cool 25 degrees, where tea- time greets you with 32 degrees. I’d try to avoid the hottest hours of the day. Check your weather app to see the different times.
2. Stay hydrated
Drink! And I don’t mean alcohol. Keep alcohol consumption low, but other fluid intake above average. Try to avoid sugary drinks but good alternatives are real lemonade, ginger smoothies and good old plain water. Eat vegetables and fruits that contain a lot of water. For example, watermelon, cucumber and celery. Find more fruits and veggies with high water content here.
And eat gelato of course! I went on a quest to stay cool AND find the best ice cream of Cinque Terre. You can also use crushed ice to even cool down more.
Be careful with tap water though. If water has stood still in the pipes for a long time, it can go bad quickly. Also if you’re not used to the local water, it’s better to drink bottled water. Bring your own water bottle, or use iodine tables or a life straw if you’re going camping.
3. Refresh yourself
Splash water in your face or put your feet into a bucket of water. Your neck, wrists and ankles are body parts that distribute the coolness the quickest. If you feel overheated, drain a bandana or scarf in tepid water and wrap it around your neck. Did you bring your cooling wristband? No worries, you can always put a cool washcloth on your wrists to cool down.
Don’t put a frozen icepack or ice-cold water on your body as it can cause frostbite. Your bodies’ reaction will be to preserve as much heat as possible, so better use cool and tepid water instead.
4. Upgrade to rooms with AC
If you travel to Europe during a heat wave, it might be the moment to splurge. Now is not the time to try out that budget 20-bed dorm room. If you can, upgrade to an accommodation with air-conditioning. Check for recent ratings mentioning if the AC functions or not. I always use Booking.com for my hotel and apartment bookings in Europe as they have a good rating and customer experience system in place.
If AC is not an option, then keep the windows and curtains of your hotel room closed during the day. Turn off all electrical devices and only open the windows when the outside temperature has dropped. If possible, stay on a lower floor. This prevents long hot elevator rides (or climbing numerous stair cases) and the bottom of the building is usually cooler than the top floors.
5. Travel by train or bus
I hate airports. Sitting in an airport for 3 hours before my flight, being patted down by security and stuffy waiting rooms are not my idea of comfortable travel. Europe has an elaborate bus and train network that gets you almost anywhere!
Most modern trains in Europe have AC and bring you right to the center of town. No need for stuffy airport departures but whizzing through Europe the cool style!
6. Head to Northern Europe
If you’re plans are not set in stone just yet, you might want to consider to ditch overheated Spain and head north. Iceland, Ireland, Norway and Finland are hot for the time of year, but considerably cooler than +40 degrees (+104 Fahrenheit) in in-land Portugal and Spain.
Find the coolest place in Europe with this map of the weather forecast in Europe.
7. Leave the concrete jungle and head for the greenery instead
If you can’t change destinations when you travel during a European heat wave, you might need to tweak your travel plans. Big cities with loads of concrete conserve the heat and release it during the evening. Making for hot sticky nights and even hotter days the next morning.
Plenty of big cities have city parks, hills, shaded areas and more greenery to enjoy. Visit the botanic garden and wander around the shaded park. Paris & Amsterdam have some artificial beaches set up to enjoy in the city. Rome had plenty of outdoor activities like a bike tour of the Via Appia or a day trip to Ostia Antica.
8. Cover up in thin flowing cloths
It can be tempting to take off all your cloths to cool down. If you can’t show a little skin in summer, when can you? However, bare arms and legs run a higher risk of sunburn, plus you’re banned from any (cool) religious monuments to enter.
The cities in Europe are no place to wander around in your bikini tops or swim shorts. Wear thin, flowy cloths. Better a size too big than something that sticks to your skin or pinches your thighs. Don’t choose synthetic fabrics as they make you sweat easily and start to smell after 5 seconds.
Now is the moment to wear that floppy hat. No, not just for the gram, to shade your face from the sun.
9. Hydrate your skin with cooled moisturizer or after-sun cream
Don’t just hydrate yourself by drinking plenty of fluids, also take good care of your skin. Sweaty skin, covered in clothes all day need a breather at night. Make sure to also hydrate your skin enough. For an instant cooling effect, pop your skin moisturizer in the fridge for an hour or so or just cooling after-sun lotion. Aloe Vera always does the trick for me.
10. Cool off at a waterpark or fountain (if allowed)
Did you know many cities have cool attractions like waterparks? Or aqua parks? Play around in the water all day, go from the highest slide and go tubbing in your floaty device! The Illa Fantasia Waterpark near Barcelona is a great option to avoid the heat wave in Spain.
Not possible or too expensive? Some cities have water fountains or sprinklers to enjoy. I’m not saying to dive in the first fountain you see. Some are monuments or even dangerous, but many cities have these cool water sprouts where you can run around, cool off and just have fun (with the kids.)
11. Avoid waiting in line, buy skip the line tickets online
Waiting in line is never a good idea in my book, but especially not during a heat wave in Europe. Standing for hours in the blistering sun can be avoided as many big attractions have skip the line tickets.
Some come at an extra fee of 2 or 3 euros but others are the exact same price. All you have to do is go online and purchase in advance.
Notorious are the lines around the Vatican, waiting to get in the museum. I just buy skip-the-line Vatican tickets online, walk straight passed all the people waiting and enjoy the grandeur that is air-conditioning (and fine art of course).
12. Take a siesta
Siesta! The best invention ever if you ask me. In some countries of Europe, siesta is an official afternoon break where banks, sights and stores can be closed for 2 to up to 5 hours! But even when it’s not an official siesta, take some afternoon chill time during the hottest hours of the day.
Have a late lunch and then just relax. You don’t necessary have to go to the hotel and take a nap, just relax for a couple of hours, sit back, save your energy and try to avoid exhausting yourself.
13. Cut your day in 2 halves
Explore the European city, like Florence, on foot in the morning. Walking is exhausting, especially in severe heat but before 11am it usually isn’t that bad. The shadows of buildings cover most of the streets and temperatures are not soaring just yet.
After a long (long!) siesta, you can go back out and be active again. In summer, the sun doesn’t go down in Europe until 9 or even 10 pm so there is still plenty of time to explore. Check opening times of sights you want to see; some stay open until late.
14. Museums and churches are your best friends in Europe during a heat wave
Museums usually have air-conditioning and churches are often very cool because of the small windows, tall ceilings and meter thick walls. These can be a great refuge when the summer heat gets to you. Find the best churches in Rome to visit here.
15. Stay healthy during the heat wave
Always a good idea when you travel, but especially during a heat wave in Europe. Watch out for the people you’re traveling with. Check up on yourself and others. Watch for the signs of heat stroke, like shortness of breath, dizziness and extreme lethargy. Find more symptoms for heat stroke and sun strokes here.
Literally watch each other’s backs and check for sunburns. Did you and your travel partner put on enough sunscreen? Are there any signs of sunburn? I always use Nivea sun protection factor 30 or even Ambre Solaire Sensitive Expert+ factor 50 when I travel but even then I get heat rashes that need to be treated.
In case you do get struck by a heatstroke, try to cool down with above mentioned tips of crushed ice and cool cloth on your wrist or bandana around your head or neck. If things don’t improve, seek medical help.
A few things NOT to do during a European heat wave
Ok, I can’t help myself. Besides these 15 cool tips on how to survive the heat wave, I also have some things you shouldn’t do:
Don’t dive into just any water
It can be very tempting to cool off in lakes, ponds and water pits but not all are safe. Due to the long period of dryness, combined with the extreme heat, open water can be unhealthy. Still standing water and nice temperatures are the perfect breeding ground for the toxic blue algae. Follow local advice if you can swim somewhere or not.
More about healthy bathing in Europe, here.
Be careful around rivers and beaches
Maybe its normal to go swimming in the river near your house, but if you travel in Europe, you’re not familiar with the waters. Currents and commercial traffic on the rivers in Europe can cause for dangerous situations when you want to go for a swim.
Wind can be heavy on the beaches of Europe. Nice if you want to cool off, but strong winds cause for strong currents. Combined with the tides, this may cause you to drift together with your floatie to open sea. Of course, you can always buy a new pink flamingo floating device, but it's a bit of a dangerous predicament.
For both situations, follow local advice and only go swimming when its safe or there are lifeguards on call. They will advise you when it’s safe to cool off in the water.
Travel to Europe in a heat wave
Will you travel to Europe during summer? Did you check the weather forecast? Luckily, you now have all the tips you need to survive a heat wave in Europe and keep things cool.
Have you ever suffered from a heat stroke? Or changed your plans due to the weather forecast? Share it in the comment sections below.
Probe around the Globe uses affiliate links. If you purchase something via one of my links, I’ll earn a small commission. This comes at no extra cost to you.