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When the daytrippers leave.....

I'm not a big fan of crowds but many sights in Europe I wish to see are popular. Very popular. And overrun with tourists during the day.

On my current trip, I visited two places that were completely different during the day and during the night.

Colmar and Carcassonne are tourist meccas during the day. Crowds reminding me of subway trains at rush hour and tacky souvenir shops are the norm.

But at night, when the daytrippers leave, these places change. I was able to walk around the towns by myself often not seeing another person or just hearing footsteps in the distance. I could imagine what it was like to walk down the cobblestone streets when tour buses, cruise ships or snow globes weren't even a thought.

Venice is another place that changes at night. Once the daytrippers leave, the locals come out and the ambiance changes.

Then you see the real cities. You won't find this in any guideboo or something that gets checked off on a "must see" list. It has to be experienced.

Are there any places in Europe you have found to give you the same experience?

Posted by
3224 posts

Several. Oxford and St Andrews are two that I've spent a lot of time in and the difference is huge. But basically any popular day trip town will be the same.

Posted by
419 posts

Toledo, Spain.

Definitely thins out in the evenings, so is worth staying 1-2 nights if you can.
Sit on a bench in Plaza del Ayuntamiento and gaze at the floodlit cathedral while enjoying mazapan from Santo Tomé confectioners.

Posted by
5557 posts

Many of the Scottish islands, Cadiz, Dubrovnik, Venice, Mont St Michel and most cruise ports in summer.

Posted by
2719 posts

Yes. I’ve noticed it for better and possibly worse.

Venice - it’s insane in the popular areas during the day but magical at night! However, even in midday walking several blocks away from something famous into the winding back streets gets you well away from the crowds. It’s a different world. Still, Venice is best early morning or evening. By evening, it doesn’t have to be late night, even 5-6PM is less crowded but the lighting at later night is beautiful. It’s still populated there are plenty of evening activities and restaurants, people are out enjoying San Marco instead of jostling crowds.
Everyone going to Venice should do whatever it takes to stay in Venice proper, day trips really, really don’t do it justice.

Toledo, Spain - this is where my “for worse” comes from. Opinions will strongly vary but I found it too dead at night. A lot of places closed, there was not much going on and it felt too isolated to me. This was in May several years ago, so not off season or pandemic related. I’m sure other people find it peaceful, and I do like peace and quiet. But I also like the energy of a not-overcrowded but still populated evening walk, stopping in to places for a drink or snack, that kind of thing. If a place is totally dominated by day trippers you can loose that. Toledo is the only place I’ve seen that, but I assume it exists elsewhere too.

Posted by
1309 posts

This is especially true for smaller places, the kind that most tours and independent travellers feel only have enough sights for a few hours.
Hallstatt, Austria; Rothenburg, Germany; Brugge, Belgium come to mind.

Posted by
10060 posts

That is a major reason we plan long stays in many places. A week in Venice gives one the chance to experience some of those uncrowded times. Ditto for Colmar and Paris: A far better experience than a hurried 2 or 3 night stay. Off season is another way to avoid the masses. Paris in March, Florence in January, Assisi and Venice in early December, Rome from November to March are all places we have enjoyed, allowing us to gorge on museums and stroll uninhibited through towns and cities.

Posted by
4009 posts

My top picks has already been mentioned, so I’ll add Windsor and Bath in England, and Erice in Sicily.

Posted by
828 posts

We spent a night in Toledo, Spain in September 2017, and found it to be so beautiful and peaceful, but not dead, in the evening. We ate outdoors near Plaza de Zocodover, and then walked through the plaza, bought gelato, and enjoyed the ambiance. The tour buses were gone and there were families doing what we were doing, eating gelato, little children riding their bikes. It was so pleasant.

And we had a similar experience in Cordoba, Spain, having spent 2 nights there. The crowds and tour buses were gone in the evenings, and we enjoyed walking through the Juderia without the crowds, and strolling across the Roman Bridge, where again we saw mainly young families out for an evening walk, children riding their bikes, eating ice cream, etc. A very different experience from the day time. When giving advice about itineraries, I always recommend spending a night or two in Cordoba.

Posted by
1202 posts

Agree with the observations about Colmar and Venice (haven't been to Carcassonne). I like to get up early and wander around as well as stay out late. Even in larger places like Paris I've found I can usually avoid the crowds during these hours (except near transit hubs). Once in Marrakesh, Morocco my taxi driver and me were the only people in the Jemaa el-Fnaa but it was about 3:00 am.

Posted by
2473 posts

The two that come to mind for me are Rothenburg in Germany and Cesky Krumlov in Czech Republic. We stayed 2 nights in each place and the evenings were lovely. I think the Nightwatchman’s tour in Rothenburg is probably the best walking tour we have ever taken. To me, it is a don’t miss and it is in the evening.

Posted by
2334 posts

Carcassonne is my absolute highlight for getting there before/after the crowds. I had the place to myself after 9pm in early June a few years ago and then I was up before the sun the next morning and got some incredible photos as the sun rose, making the walls a brilliant orange.

We took a ghost tour in Venice one evening; the ghost stories weren't that great but the guide took us through a few narrow and twisting routes and told us to imagine what is was like to be walking in Venice 500 years ago when there was limited artificial light. It was an interesting perspective.

Your strategy is a good one for Burano as well. We're early risers anyway so we got there at about 9am and had the place to ourselves until about 11:00. Got some awesome photos without all those pesky tourists in the way.

Posted by
4479 posts

I agree about Colmar, Carcassonne, Venice, Toledo, Hallstatt and also St. Wolfgang, Ravenna, Montepulciano & even staying overnight on the tiny Isola Bella (island at Stresa)

I really wanted to hear classical Spanish guitar, and our first night of our Spain trip, we were in Toledo. Yes, it was very quiet at night which allowed us to hear a guitar in the distance. A man was playing beautifully in the cathedral plaza - a memorable auditory & visual experience.

Montepulciano was also almost too quiet at night up at the top piazza but lovely.

I know many participants recommend day trips over staying a short amount at several locations. If my husband is traveling with me, that is his preference, also. But, if I’m traveling solo, I absolutely love being in each location 1-2 nights (more for larger cities). Even the less crowded towns have a different ambiance in the evening.

Another huge advantage is that the early mornings are perfect for photography! I’ve had several people ask how I have been able to take photos in popular locations without people in them. Staying overnight gives me that opportunity.

Posted by
2719 posts

I’ll chime in again with my experience in Hallstatt. We actually stayed 2 nights, but that’s because we got in very late and left very early, so only one actual day and usable evening. Worth it. I especially liked early morning here, walking around shortly after sunrise was beautiful. Evening was quiet but not dead. Maybe a little too quiet, but in the natural setting it worked.

Judging from all the other reports on Toledo, I’m wondering if there was something going on when we were there. I don’t know what would make a place unusually dead in nice spring weather but that was my experience.

Posted by
2611 posts

There are several in Spain... Cordoba, Girona, Segovia, Salamanca, Toledo, Cuenca, Tarragona... all worth an overnight in my opinion.

Regarding Toledo being "dead" after dark, it depends on when in the year you go. I was there around Christmas, and it was incredibly lively after dark, with a number of Christmas markets dotting the city and food/hot chocolate stalls around ever corner. Christmas is a very familial time for us in Spain, many people living in the big cities will return to their home town/village for the holidays, like Toledo.

Posted by
2097 posts

Mont. St. Michel is worth an overnight stay to experience this special place when the day trippers leave. Our RS tour arrived later in the day and had an orientation tour and the group was split up and stayed in different lodgings. My room was spartan not unlike what I imagine a monk’s cell to be, contributing to the atmosphere of the island. We had a lovely dinner and enjoyed wandering the streets and admiring the views.

Posted by
3224 posts

most cruise ports in summer

True, any popular cruise port will be very different when there are no ships there.

Posted by
828 posts

Barbara, I agree with you about Cesky Krumlov. We spent 2 nights there as well and the evenings are wonderful! I remember sitting outside at night, having drinks with my family, and just loving the view of the illuminated castle! Spectacular!

Posted by
1222 posts

Some of the touristy places we've visited are more atmospheric at certain times of the day. The best? Our first visit to Rothenburg, and once, basing in Montepulciano, we did an overnight stay in Assisi so that we could hit Norcia the next day: Assisi is drop-dead gorgeous in the evenings and early mornings.

Posted by
2334 posts

Dubrovnik. It was actually a stop on cruise, but we were off the ship and into town by 7am and had the walls to ourselves when they opened up at 8:00. It wasn't until we'd walked the entire route back to the beginning that we realized everyone else had finally arrived. I can't imagine how unenjoyable that walk would have been if we'd waited until 10:00.

Posted by
1780 posts

Wow - this brings back a memory from Brugge. We stayed 2 nights. One morning we were up and walking facing the train station just as the first tourists of the day were arriving. It was like watching a tidal wave come towards us.

Posted by
199 posts

Helgoland.

It's an island. Boats arrive around late morning-lunch time and stay until late afternoon.

The day trippers walk the cliff route. Do that in the morning or late afternoon, and while the day trippers are there, do the bunker tour (if you speak German or have a translator or maybe just go anyway because it's cool) or go to the other island, Düne, and see the seals. Heck, do a full beach day. Or visit the museums. But do make a lunch plan because lunch during the day can be tricky with all the day trippers.

Posted by
13564 posts

The most dramatic instance of this that I have experienced is Cesky Krumlov. You cant walk down the street till the busses leave. Oh, another good one is Kotor after the tour boats leave.

Posted by
285 posts

We were in Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore) in August. My favorite time of day was going out in the morning when the street was nearly empty, save for people in their shops getting ready for the day. When we hiked, the trails were empty at 8:00 too. Amazing!

Posted by
4694 posts

We were in Santorini during COVID-19 when no cruise ships were around and only Europeans were allowed in. We had the place to ourselves and it was lovely. That said, I'll never go back as I've seen pictures of how things normally are there.