What should go to the top of a packing list for Europe in summer? Seeing as this is the hottest time to visit the continent, you’ll be reaching for floral frocks, trusty summer shorts, and beachwear galore.
Choosing exactly what to wear in Europe in summer will depend on your specific destinations. Summer in Europe – June, July, and August – is the hottest time of year and the peak travel season.
This is the domain of Italian beach towns, Provençal wineries and lavender fields, drifting through sunny things to do in Nice, island hopping in Croatia, devouring platters of Greek meze, and scenic drives through the Spanish countryside.
Comfort is key when packing for a summer vacation or Eurail adventure in Europe. However, the Europeans are known for their style which means you’ll need to think beyond the usual denim cut-offs and tank tops (although that is more and more acceptable across Europe, depending on where you’re headed).
This guide focuses on what to pack for summer in Europe in the popular areas along the Mediterranean coastline. It works for a regular vacation to one destination or as part of a multi-country trip.
What to Pack for Summer in Europe?
Let’s assume your itinerary is focused on beach towns and rural villages with historic points of interest. The key thing is to pack lightweight clothing in breathable materials. Pack light and plan to launder your clothes on a regular basis. You will find plenty of options for places that you can either do your own laundry or drop it off and pick it up all folded and clean.
Linen, cotton, silk, and fabric blends based around these fabrics are best for Europe.
Summer in Europe is a popular time for hiking and cycling in the valleys. If you’re planning on hitting moderate or advanced trails, you’ll need to factor in the technical outdoorsy gear. Hiking boots and poles aren’t required for a casual Spain or France packing list.
Rain is less common at lowland destinations during summer. When it does rain, it can be a downpour. It’s best to check the forecast right before leaving and making a call on whether to pack an umbrella.
If you are planning on spending more time in European cities, this Barcelona packing list and general guide on what to wear in Italy in summer have lots of pointers. Both take into account the stylish tendencies that you’ll want to work into your packing list for Europe in summer.
There are also a couple of other standard items to include on your Europe summer packing list at the end of this post.
Packing List for Europe in Summer
If you are planning on traveling by plane, note that the cost of checking a bag often costs more than the flight ticket on budget airlines.
For that reason, the golden rule of spending summer in Europe is to pack light. Especially if you are going to be hopping around countries using Ryanair or Wizzair.
While it’s tempting to throw in a fresh outfit for every day of the week, you’ll regret it when you’re landed with a baggage surcharge (or sore shoulders). If you are only going to be in one country or you’re going to be traveling mostly by train, you can think about a larger suitcase. Just know that cobbled streets and rolling suitcases are not great friends.
Let’s crack on with what to pack for summer in Europe. First up, clothing.
Swimsuits, plural. Summer in Europe revolves around the water, whether that’s a Mediterranean beach resort or the lakes of northern Italy. Subject to the length of your trip and how much time you envision in the water, pack two or three bathing suits. If you’re packing for Ibiza or a Greek island, you can get away with a fourth.
Not all beaches in Europe are sandy. You may need to take care of your feet at rocky beaches. Aqua socks are worth taking if pebble beaches bother you. Likewise, a rashguard might come in handy if you’re planning on snorkeling or kayaking. Both are a must for children.
2. Dresses, dresses, dresses
Dresses are perfect for hot summers in Europe. They’ll keep you far cooler and save you from having to coordinate tops and bottoms when all you want to do is get out and explore (or dive into your book poolside). The best dresses for your Europe summer packing list will be made from natural fibers.
As with swimsuits, it’s best to pack a mixture of different styles. Consider packing a mini, midi, and maxi or just a couple of dresses of your preferred length.
This linen swing dress is lovely for pottering around cobbled old towns, wineries, and beachside promenades during the day. It’s quite loose-fitting which is ideal for the hottest months in southern Europe. For something dressier, this midi linen dress throws off an Italian vibe with its form-fitting silhouette and elegant stripes.
On the other hand, a boho maxi dress might feel more appropriate in rural areas or on outings where churches feature heavily on the schedule. When
Of course, if you’re not a fan of dresses you can “jump” right ahead into…
3. Jumpsuits, Rompers, or Playsuits
These dress alternatives are a fun way to step up your game while traveling Europe. As with dresses, they take the heat off coordinating a top and a bottom and feel more in keeping with the stylish Europeans.
This cotton utility romper is versatile enough for day or night and has the perk of multiple pockets for holding your phone and sunglasses. A patterned playsuit or tailored jumpsuit is great for what to wear in Europe in summer at night. These are perfect for beachside suppers and sunset sailing trips as they behave better than dresses in windy conditions.
4. Summer Shorts
There is a myth that Europeans don’t wear shorts. They do, only they tend to favor tailored styles over ripped denim cut-offs and sporty styles as a generalization.
However, if you’re married to your jean shorts, it’s totally fine to wear them in Europe – especially in Croatia, Spain, and the Greek islands. Just bear in mind that denim makes your luggage heavier and is a hindrance to wash (and dry) as part of a multi-country adventure.
Linen is a godsend when navigating any packing list for Europe in summer. It’s awesome for dresses, rompers, trousers, and shorts. These linen blend shorts will see you through day and night. Cotton crochet shorts are a lovely choice for leisurely days near the sea and road trip adventures.
5. Climate-friendly Tops
Once you’ve chosen your shorts, skirts, and pants, pick out a mix of tops. It makes sense to take a couple of tanks, t-shirts, and one or two dressier options. Again, stick to the golden triangle of packable, breathable, and versatile. Add a button-up blouse that’ll go with everything and serve as a jacket alternative.
6. Sandals and/or Flip-flops
In terms of what to wear in Europe in summer on your feet, sandals of some variety are essential. You might want to take a pair of dressy sandals plus a pair of flip-flops for pool and beach days. In order to save luggage space, it’s better to pack only one plus a pair of proper footwear.
Rainbow sandals are a one-stop shop that is packable, durable, and versatile to wear with anything. They have arch support yet are utterly stylish – and they come in designs for men too.
7. Canvas Pumps or Sneakers
Besides your sandals, you’ll still appreciate having a pair of closed-toe shoes or sneakers. Opt for a canvas design as these are more comfortable in hot temperatures and steer clear of hiking boots unless you’re heading to the Alps or the Dolomites. Keds are athletic and practical while being appropriate to wear on all occasions.
Formal footwear will just add weight to your luggage and isn’t likely to earn its space in your bag. However, a nice pair of espadrille wedge sandals will do the trick if you want something smarter for the evenings.
Protect your peepers by putting a decent pair of sunglasses on your packing list for Europe in summer. It doesn’t matter what style you choose provided they are polarized and have UV protection.
A sunhat is essential for European summer travel. They’re a faff to travel with but an oversized brim straw hat will offer unparalleled protection while you sunbathe on Marseille’s Mediterranean beaches or Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
If you’re planning on hopping countries, this Squishee straw sun hat crumples into your main luggage or day bag. It pops back to a wearable shape as and when you’re ready. It’s a bit of a splurge but it will protect you from harmful rays for decades.
10. Light Jacket and/or Sweater
A jacket isn’t going to get much wear in Europe in summer. However, nights can draw cooler while islands and coastal resorts are prone to breezes that may leave you reaching for something to cover your shoulders. As such, a light jacket should go on your packing list for Europe in the summer.
A simple denim jacket should coordinate just fine with the rest of your European outfits. If you will be on the move, either behind the wheel of a rental or on public transport, you’ll also appreciate a sweater.
A crewneck sweater will keep you feeling cozy when the air-con is switched on and while decompressing in a rental apartment with a glass of wine and a Netflix binge.
Europe Summer Packing List Essentials
In addition to the wearables, this is what to pack for summer in Europe.
11. Kindle e-Reader
Books will weigh you down while traveling in Europe. leave your paperback on your bed stand and pop an e-reader on your packing list for Europe in the summer. Only the Kindle Paperwhite will spare you from glare when reading at the beach or poolside. This latest model is water-resistant and guarantees up to 10 weeks of battery life with one charge.
The Kindle Daily Deal email blast is a great way to stockpile reading fodder on the cheap before you travel.
12. Microfiber Towel
Your accommodation will provide bathing towels but you’ll still need something for the beach. A microfiber travel towel is a general go-to for beach days. They’ll catch any rogue droplets and dry fast in between uses. It’ll come in handy for hitting the gym back home as well. If you can’t abide the material, pack a Turkish beach towel instead.
It’s easy enough to buy sunscreen anywhere in Europe but it’s handy to have some in your bag ready for touchdown. It’s especially important if you have sensitive skin and favor a particular brand. Badger mineral sunscreen is an organic choice for a snorkel-heavy itinerary. Neutrogena ultra sheer sunscreen is the most comfortable product on the market as it doesn’t get greasy.
14. Destination-appropriate Daybag
A small pack to cart around your daily bits and bobs is part and parcel of your packing list. In an ideal world, this bag will serve as your carry-on or personal item on the plane.
Avoid an overly large bag or anything made out of leather. Think about what you absolutely must have on your person and source a bag that’s just the right size. Something like this Fjällräven backpack or Herschel sling bag will work like a charm. These are roomy enough to carry sunscreen, water, and a towel. Throw in a foldable tote bag in case you buy anything while you’re out and about. This also doubles up as a beach bag.
This guide will help you figure out the best bag for Europe travel based on your intentions.
15. Reusable Water Bottle
It’s perfectly safe to drink tap water in most European destinations. Chuck a stainless steel water bottle in your knapsack and stay hydrated: that European sunshine is fierce. Just observe any signs that indicate otherwise and ask your hotel or host if there are any issues with the local water.
16. Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
Solid shampoo (and conditioner) bars are more practical when Interrailing around Europe. They’ll reduce your plastic waste and avoid security problems in your carry-on.
This two-pack of shampoo and conditioner bars are made using natural ingredients like rosemary leaf and mint oil that’ll leave your hair feeling nourished and shiny. The wooden soap holders are lovely to keep at home but you’ll appreciate this shampoo bar carry case while on the road.
17. Laundry Soap Sheets
Signing off with a final reminder to keep your luggage as light as possible. Substitute that extra pair of shorts for these laundry soap sheets. They dissolve in water and will keep your ultra-light packing list for Europe in summer spick and span. Throw in one of these silicone sink stoppers too on the chance that your hotel sink doesn’t have one.