A sweltering heat wave has been sweeping through Europe in recent days, with extreme temperatures causing treacherous conditions, including everything from the airport runway and railroad tracks damage to wildfires in mountains and surrounding cities.
Record temperatures “have been broken in many places” in Europe, according to AccuWeather meteorologist Joe Curtis. “The new records set in the United Kingdom were particularly notable,” Curtis says, referring to Eastern England’s peak of 104.5 degrees Fahrenheit on July 19. “All-time temperature records were not only exceeded, but completely shattered by several degrees in a country where reliable weather records date back more than 150 years.”
Thankfully, earlier this week in the UK, Ireland, and northern France temperatures began to dip. But areas in Portugal, Spain, Italy, and southeastern France are still dealing with ongoing heat and soaring temperatures, according to Curtis.
For travelers, the scorching weather has caused train delays and cancellations as well as stifling conditions in airport terminals on a continent where air conditioning isn’t as plentiful—or as strong—as many Americans are accustomed to. “It is usually not US-movie theater style AC where you need a sweater and blanket, but it’s cooler inside than outside,” President and Founder of Inside Europe Travel Experiences Sandra Weinacht, who is currently in France, says.
With nearly two months of summer travel time still on the books, here’s what you need to know about how the heat wave is affecting some of the hardest-hit countries in Europe.
The UK is “currently seeing some relief,” Curtis says, noting southern and eastern regions will still be in the 75 to 85 degree Fahrenheit range “which is above average, but no records are expected to be broken, and it will not be nearly as hot as earlier this week.”
While those may seem like average summer temperatures for most of the US, the UK’s capital is usually “pleasantly mild” according to Laura Citron, CEO of London & Partners, which runs Visit London. (A climate scientist says the average highs are between 68 and 77.)
Citron points visitors to London’s Cool Spaces map, highlighting both indoor and outdoor areas that offer some respite, as well as the 4,000 free water refill locations to keep folks hydrated. Although air conditioning was installed on the first tube trains in 2010, the system still isn’t fully equipped. Travelers will find cooling systems on a 192 trains on The Circle, Hammersmith & City, District, and Metropolitan lines, in addition to the new Elizabeth Line, which opened in May 2022.
Even if they’re not near a beach, tourists can find places in the city to take a dip and cool off, Citron says. “Visitors can head to London Royal Docks in East London or Hampstead Heath Ponds in North London for a spot of wild swimming, or swim a length at one of London’s lidos. The London Aquatics Center at Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, home of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic games, also makes for an impressive place to take a dip on a hot day.”
Italy’s daily temperatures will remain high into the weekend, with Curtis forecasting northern and central areas in the 100 to 105 degree Fahrenheit region, and real-feels ranging up to a sweltering 110 degrees. Earlier this year, the country launched Operation Thermostat, an initiative that restricts temperature settings to no lower than 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit). So even air-conditioned spaces will be warmer that Americans may be used to.