No doubt, August is the busiest month in Europe, with most Europeans being on holiday and looking to make the most of their free time. When thinking about August’s holiday destinations in Europe, you might find yourself overwhelmed with the range of choices.
It seems that vibrant festivals and unique events happen everywhere at the same time, all in interesting locations where there’s plenty of other cool things to do. If you want to take part in the joyful summer atmosphere in Europe, here are our recommendations for August.
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Best places to go in Europe in August 2020
Buñol, Spain for La Tomatina
26th of August 2020
The small Spanish town Buñol, near Valencia, is one of the best places to visit in Europe in August, and that for an incredibly special reason: La Tomatina. With tens of thousands of people throwing ripe tomatoes at each other in the streets, La Tomatina is certainly the biggest and craziest food fights in the world and the most unique event you could attend in Europe.
It is uncertain how the tradition of the tomato fight began, but it has been going strong for decades and attracts visitors from all corners of the world, all eager to take part in this wacky and messy adventure. To avoid overcrowding, an official ticketing system was implemented, which limited the number of participants to only 20,000.
If you want to have your share of fun at La Tomatina, make sure to book your ticket in advance. Since the event lasts only a couple of hours, you can also spend some time in charming Valencia to enjoy the unique architecture of the City of Arts and Sciences and the impressive Oceanogràfic, the biggest aquarium in Europe.
Siena Italy for the Second Palio of Siena
16th of August 2020
Every summer, the Tuscan city of Siena holds two traditional horse races, known as Palio, in the historic Piazza del Campo. The Second Palio, called Palio dell’Assunta or Palio delle Contrade, takes place on the holiday of the Virgin Mary, on the 16th of August.
Held annually since 1644, this is one of the most authentic Italian traditions and a famous sporting event, which creates an electric atmosphere in Siena. The race reunites competitors from the 17 quarters, or contradas, of the city, who compete against each other in an attempt to bring the prize to their contrada.
Thousands of residents and tourists fill the piazza to support their quarter. The fastest rider wins the Palio, a symbolic piece of cloth that marks his victory. He is honored by his quarter, and the day ends in joyful celebrations. Surprisingly, the race lasts up to 90 seconds, but the festivities begin three days before the race and include banquets, parades, and all kinds of celebrations.
Locals wave flags, and music and singing continue day and night. The medieval architecture of Siena will make the immersion into this historic tradition even more delightful, and at the end of Palio, you can explore the magnificent rolling hills of Tuscany, dotted by castles and countryside palazzos.
Check out 45 things to do in Tuscany here.
Salzburg, Austria for the Salzburg Festival
18th of July 2020 – 30th of August 2020
The Salzburg Festival is arguably one of the most prestigious musical events in the world. Held every year in Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, the festival invites the world’s best and most famous opera singers, musicians, conductors and orchestras to perform in the Baroque historic center of Salzburg.
More than 90 years since it was founded, the Salzburg Festival brings together today the most distinguished personalities from the world of classical music. The festival has a broad artistic program that includes concerts, opera, and drama, while the productions range from classical works to modern interpretations and avant-garde experiments.
Every year, there are new opera productions on the program. The house band is the outstanding Vienna Philharmonic. Visitors who come to Salzburg for the festival are pleasantly surprised to discover the picturesque surroundings and the abundance of activities that the city offers, including lake excursions or golfing.
Where to stay in Salzburg
This 5-star hotel dates back to 1377 and is perfectly located in the heart of Salzburg’s Old Town. The hotel was recently renovated and it’s centrally located to the sights.
This traditional hotel is conveniently located near Mirabell Palace. The Vier Jahreszeiten is within walking distance to the train station and Old Town.
Edinburgh, Scotland for the Festival Fringe
7th of August 2020 – 31st of August 2020
There are few events like the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Both organizers and participants agree that this is the largest and most inclusive celebration of arts and culture in the world. Lasting three weeks every August, the festival transforms Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, into a hub of creativity and artistic freedom.
The festival makes room for a massive number of artists and performers and prepares for the hundreds of stages in different venues. With over 50,000 performances, there are shows to match all tastes and expectations. This iconic arts festival welcomes both famous names from the world of entertainment and unknown artists looking to expand their careers.
With a focus on theatre and comedy, the range of performances is exceptional and includes cabaret, dance, musicals, opera, exhibition, stand-up comedy, spoken word, and live concerts.
Where to stay in Edinburgh
Macdonald Holyrood Hotel is located at the base of the Royal Mile, behind the Scottish Parliament building. Its central location is great for those in Edinburgh on business or pleasure. The 157-room hotel features an award-winning spa, extensive wine cellar, and excellent views of the Old Town.
Hotel Indigo is a locally owned boutique hotel, located in New Town’s York Square. It is just steps from Waverley Station and a tram stop in St. Andrew’s Square, making it an ideal location for both business and leisure travelers. Rooms at this charming hotel are individually designed and reflect the history and culture of this ancient capital city.
Check out how to spend 3 days in Edinburgh here.
London, England for the Notting Hill Carnival
30th of August 2020 – 31st of August 2020
A multi-day celebration of London’s Caribbean communities, Notting Hill Carnival is the largest street festival in Europe, with around one to two million participants every year. This colorful event brings the best of Caribbean heritage and culture to the streets of London, and visitors will discover fantastic dance performances, live music, delicious Caribbean food, dazzling parades, and beautiful costumes.
Celebrating the tropical Caribbean islands can only be an explosion of vibrant energy, and Notting Hill Carnival is nothing but a spectacle of colors, sounds, and flavors, which exposes visitors to the multicultural character of London.
The carnival is free and any party lovers are more than welcome to enjoy the energetic atmosphere, while discovering the best live music on several different stages and sampling incredible foods, such as seasoned jerk chicken or goat stew.
Where to stay in London
This superb hotel in the Kensington and Chelsea borough of London is chic and cosmopolitan and is ideal for those visiting the museums around South Kensington. Both the rooms and the facilities of the hotel are sophisticated and stylish, with quirky décor and a fantastic restaurant adding to the experience.
The Novatel at Canary Wharf offers everything you expect of a smart chain hotel: contemporary design, comfortable rooms and a 24h front desk for added convenience. This property also boasts a stunning rooftop bar with 360-degree views of the city which makes it well worth a visit!
Check out my post: a 7 day London itinerary for more things to do in London.
Bristol, England for the International Balloon Fiesta
6th of August 2020 – 9th of August 2020
The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is a spectacular event as Bristol brings to its skyline over a hundred hot air balloons from all over the world. Considered the largest annual meeting of hot air balloons and a decades-old tradition, the festival is truly a sight to be seen.
Held at Ashton Court Estate, it lasts four days, and it is a completely free experience. A first ascent of the balloons happens at dawn when participants can enjoy a simple breakfast of tea and toast while watching the rise of the balloons.
Besides the fantastic view of hot air balloons covering the sky, there are many activities available, including fairground rides, trade stalls visits, and plenty of other entertainment from local musicians. At night, the balloons light up the sky and the festival ends with fireworks.
There are many attractions outside the festival grounds as well. Since Bristol is one of the most interesting cities in England, a sightseeing tour to places such as the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery or Clifton Suspension Bridge is highly recommended.
My friends and I stayed at the Beech House Apartments, located about halfway between the city centre and Clifton Village. Our experience at the luxury serviced apartments was great, and I highly recommend it to visitors to Bristol.
The Hotel du Vin offers 18th-century architecture with a contemporary twist on the hotel life. Rooms are more like lofts, with crisp Egyptian cotton sheets and deep soaking tubs in the exquisite bathrooms. The hotel is perfect for families or couples, and its location in the city center makes it also ideal for travelers on business.
Check out how to spend a weekend in Bristol.
Zurich, Switzerland for the Street Parade
8th of August 2020
If you’re wondering where to go to Europe in August for the best party of the year, the answer is Zurich. In the summer, the picturesque Swiss city hosts the Street Parade, an effervescent techno party that takes over the entire city.
Focused on electronic music, such as techno, trance, or drum & bass, the Street Parade Zurich invites hundreds of thousands of fans to come and party around the city’s gorgeous lake basin. Large, enthusiastic crowds transform Zurich into the most vibrant place in Europe for a day, and the atmosphere is that of an incredible outdoor party, with people dancing and hundreds of DJ’s making music on multiple stages.
Music blasts uninterruptedly from the amazing sound systems. After the parade, parties go on night and day in the many clubs of the city. When tired of partying, guests can also enjoy the charming attractions of Zurich, from museums to natural sights.
Where to stay in Zurich
This 3 -star hotel is perfectly located in the city center of Zurich, on the Limmat river and just 400 m away from Zurich’s main train station. It offers clean rooms with free wi-fi and bathroom toiletries. Other amenities include tea and coffee making facilities, a safe and a minibar. Click here for more information and the latest prices.
If you are looking for a 5-star hotel Baur au Lac is the one. Located in its own private park in the heart of the city it offers great views of Lake Zurich. It offers luxurious rooms with free Wi-Fi and minibar use. Other amenities include a fitness centre, 2 restaurants, one of which was awarded 1 Michelin star and 18 points by Gault Millau. Click here for more information and the latest prices.
You might be interested in: 2 days in Zurich.
Helsinki, Finland for the Helsinki Festival
20th of August 2020 – 6th of September 2020
The largest multi-arts festival in Finland takes place in Helsinki every summer. With the goal of making art accessible to everyone, the festival has a broad program, which includes classical music, jazz and pop concerts, theatre, contemporary dance, film screenings, children’s events, and not only.
The events take place all throughout the city, and many international artists are invited to perform alongside Finnish artists. Many performances are free, either at the large festival tent, usually built in one of the city parks, or at other venues. This annual celebration of the arts culminates with the Night of the Arts, the most intense and interesting part of the program.
Celebrating every form of culture and art, the Helsinki Festival is the biggest cultural event in Finland in terms of visitors and numbers of performances and events, but Helsinki also deserves your attention. Sitting on a peninsula, the Finnish capital is beautiful, cool, and unpretentious, offering visitors plenty of things to do.
August in Europe might be crowded and hot, but it is the most interesting month on the continent due to the eclectic range of festivals, concerts, events, and historic traditions that cannot be found elsewhere. If you decide to come to Europe in August, there’s surely something that will impress you.
Check out how to spend one day in Helsinki.
You might also like to check out: The best places to go in Europe in September 2020.