Are you tired of being cooped up in a stuffy office all day? Do you crave adventure and the great outdoors? Look no further! Europe is filled with amazing destinations for outdoor activities that offer the perfect escape from the daily grind. From climbing the stunning peaks of the Dolomites to enjoying the crystal waters of Slovenia, there is something for every outdoor enthusiast.
Join me as I explore my 5 favorite cities for summer outdoor adventures in Europe. These destinations are perfect for anyone looking for a little bit of excitement in their travels.
1. Bled, Slovenia
Discover the picturesque town of Bled nestled in the heart of Slovenia’s Julian Alps. I stumbled upon it during my European tour and boy, it was stunning. A hidden gem, Bled is a fairy tale come to life, offering something for everyone, whether you’re a nature lover or an adrenaline junkie.
Despite its growing popularity, Bled remains relatively unknown compared to other European summer destinations. And the good news is, it’s even better in person than in photos! The water is a deep blue, the natural surroundings are pristine, and the architecture is charming. Summer is the best time to visit; the town comes alive as visitors flock to the lake for a swim, a picnic, and outdoor adventures in Europe in the Julian Alps.
The centerpiece of Bled is its lake, complete with a 15th-century church on a tiny island in the center, accessible by 99 stone steps. Ring the wishing bell at the church and make your dreams come true. You can kayak, row, go climbing, or take a traditional Slovenian Plenta boat to reach the island. The lake is big, but a walk around its perimeter only takes 2 hours and is well worth it.
Don’t miss the chance to take in the stunning views from some of the best viewpoints over the lake. No matter your athletic abilities, you won’t want to miss the opportunity, trust me.
For those seeking a peaceful retreat, consider a visit to Bohinj, another beautiful glacial lake located in the Julian Alps, within the Triglay National Park, and one of the largest and deepest lakes in Slovenia. Bled and Bohinj are only about 30 kilometers apart, and there are several options for making the journey between the two.
Just a quick note: Brown bears are present in the Julian Alps, including the area around Bohinj. Although they are shy and generally avoid human contact, it’s important to follow local guidelines to ensure your safety and the safety of the bear.
Oh, did I mention that Slovenia is famous for its wine? Nothing beats enjoying a delicious glass after a day of summer outdoor activities in Europe.
2. Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Lauterbrunnen, a charming village in the Swiss Alps, is just a short hour away from Switzerland’s capital city of Bern. This picturesque paradise is surrounded by 72 cascading waterfalls, towering cliffs, and snow-capped mountains making it an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true. Whether you prefer an adrenaline-fueled adventure or a peaceful scenic walk, there’s something for everyone in Lauterbrunnen.
Don’t miss the chance to witness the power of the waterfalls, including the Staubbach Falls which is one of the highest free-falling waterfalls in Europe, and the Trummelbach Falls located in Europe’s largest subterranean caves.
Take a train ride to the Jungfraujoch, known as the “Top of Europe,” to enjoy amazing views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers. This high-altitude mountain pass is situated at an elevation of over 3,000 meters and is the highest railway station in Europe.
And since you’re in Switzerland, take advantage of the opportunity to indulge in delicious food and other local delicacies. If you’re a foodie like me, you won’t want to miss this!
3. Innsbruck, Austria
If you’re looking for a city that has it all, then look check out Innsbruck, Austria! Nicknamed the “Capital of the Alps”, it is a must-visit summer destination for outdoor activities for any traveler. Unlike many other alpine regions, Innsbruck is quite easy to access, with its own local airport as well as train and bus connections from neighboring European cities.
Nestled in the Austrian Alps, Innsbruck is surrounded by stunning mountain landscapes that offer endless opportunities for summer outdoor adventures in Europe. Whether you enjoy skiing or snowboarding during the winter months or hiking, climbing and mountain biking during the summer, Innsbruck has something for every type of outdoor enthusiast. It’s not surprising that the city has been host to the Olympic Games in the past.
But don’t let its popularity fool you, Innsbruck is still a hidden gem that hasn’t yet been overrun by visitors, especially compared to other outdoor activities hotspots in Europe. If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, it’s easy to escape the city and find a peaceful forest path leading deep into the mountains.
Hiking enthusiasts, rejoice! There are plenty of trails to explore in the mountains surrounding Innsbruck, with routes for all skill levels. Check out the Zirbenweg and Goetheweg trails for a truly unforgettable experience.
Don’t miss out on taking a ride on the Hungerburg cable car up to the Nordkette mountain range. From the top, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the city and its surroundings.
And for the climbing enthusiasts out there, Innsbruck is the place for you! With state-of-the-art climbing centers, you can perfect your skills before tackling the real thing in the mountains.
4. Black Forest, Germany
The Black Forest in Germany is an enchanting destination, famous for its rolling hills, dense forests, and charming villages. And did you know it’s also the setting for some of the Brothers Grimm’s finest fairytales? That’s right, think Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and Hansel and Gretel.
The Black Forest is a paradise for hikers, stretching over 160 km with many trails to explore. Whether you’re looking to hike all year round, go on a family cycling tour, or enjoy a gourmet experience, the Black Forest has something for everyone. And when it comes to food, the area is truly exceptional, with several Michelin-starred restaurants offering some of the finest dining in the region
One thing you definitely can’t miss is trying an authentic German bakery. The Black Forest cake is a staple in almost every bakery in the region, so be sure to try a slice (or two). You’ll leave the region with a full belly and a happy heart, guaranteed!
And while you’re exploring the Black Forest, make sure to check out some popular towns like Triberg, Titisee-Neustadt, and Baden-Baden. You won’t regret it. Baden-Baden, for example, is famous for its natural hot springs, thermal baths, and relaxing spa culture.
5. The Dolomites, Italy
Last but not least: the Dolomites in Italy, a nature lover’s dream come true. Located in northeastern Italy, this mountain range boasts breathtaking vistas and offers a vast array of outdoor activities for all levels of experience. With over 2,000 mountains, including 18 prominent peaks and the tallest standing at over 3,000 meters, the Dolomites are an impressive sight.
The Dolomites are a beloved vacation spot for locals and travelers from Austria, Germany, France, and Italy, and are slowly gaining popularity with English and American visitors. The best time to visit depends on what activities you want to do and whether you want to avoid crowds, with May through June or October through November being the mildest with fewer people.
One of the most popular activities in the Dolomites is the via ferrata. These equipped routes are fixed with metal cables, ladders, and suspended bridges, and are considered something between hiking and rock climbing for an unforgettable experience with stunning views. Originally used during WWI to get soldiers to strategic positions, via ferratas are now one of the most popular outdoor activities in the Dolomites, with varying levels of difficulty.
Besides, the Dolomites offer a wealth of outdoor activities including hiking, mountain biking, as well as delicious cuisine. I mean, we are in Italy after all. With hundreds of kms of hiking trails for all skill levels, the region is also home to stunning lakes with dark forests and imposing rock towers reflecting on their surface.
And out of all the charming towns that dot the Dolomites, Cortina d’Ampezzo takes the cake. A mere 2-hour drive from the Venice airport will bring you to the stunning mountain village in the heart of the Italian Dolomites. For those who love nature with a side of good food and wine, Cortina is a must-visit on your summer holiday and outdoor adventures in Europe.
Final Thoughts on the Best Outdoor Adventures in Europe
As a traveler who loves outdoor activities and destinations, I must say that Bled, Lauterbrunnen, Innsbruck, Black Forest, and the Dolomites are some of the most beautiful outdoor spots in Europe and some of the best summer destinations for outdoor activities. But the truth is, there are so many hidden gems that I would need to write many more blog articles to cover them all. These places are simply my top 5!
From awe-inspiring climbing peaks to tranquil lakes, and charming villages, they offer everything a summer outdoor activities enthusiast could want. Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or just in search of some peace and tranquility, these destinations should not be missed.
Don’t wait any longer to book your next outdoor adventures in Europe! Get ready to be amazed by the beauty of this continent and pack your hiking boots for a trip you won’t forget.