This blog post was updated on October 26, 2018.
I got a call from my sister in Belgium, bemoaning the fact that nothing was open in Bruges. She and her husband were discovering the country seemed to be on holiday for the next few weeks. Europe throughout anytime of the year can be a gamble of when basics like supermarkets or ordinary attractions are open. In Italy for example, there are daily nap hours when the shops shut down. On Sundays in most countries in Europe, it can be hard to find anything open to keep the traveler occupied.
For the traveler like my sister and her husband, this can pose a problem. You want to see, do and eat, but the country is shutting down for whatever reason. Here are ideas on how to keep busy even when it seems the streets of Europe are empty and finding a grocery store open on a Sunday is harder than finding an ice cube in hell.
Check Major Museum Hours: Even if it seems like all of Europe is closed for a holiday or on the weekend, travelers should always check the major museums in town for their operating hours. Generally you can find museums in Europe that are open despite certain holidays or on Sundays. When I am traveling in Europe, I try to save museum visits for Sundays for this very reason. It gives the traveler an activity when the choice of attractions can be quite limited.
Appreciate the Great Outdoors: In Germany, when the shops and restaurants shut down on Sunday, many Germans take to the great outdoors. You can do this across the continent during holidays or on the weekends. Natural attractions can be appreciated no matter the hour or day of the week. Travelers in cities in Europe can still experience the great outdoors by finding the main gardens and parks in town for a stroll.
Look For Supermarkets Open on Sundays and Holidays on the Outskirts: Every Sunday when I studied abroad in Sicily, I would make my way to the outskirts of town to the biggest supermarket. It was the only place that you could buy food on a Sunday. Across Europe, you will find these bigger supermarkets generally on the outskirts of town. These are your best bets for finding food on a Sunday or holidays in Europe.
Explore The Cathedrals and Churches: When it is a holiday in Europe or just a Sunday, the one place that you can count on to be open is the town church or cathedral. Sundays and holidays are actually prime times to see the cathedrals of Europe. You can experience the music of the choir and the traditions of faith from one church to the next and one country to the other.
Embrace it and Be European: For some travelers, it can be hard to understand shops closing in the middle of the day or restaurants closed up for weeks on holiday. However if you are amidst a Europe that has shut down for the day, week or month, embrace it. This is the time to relax, stroll the streets and get lost on lazy drives.
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