Europe is always a good idea, but the continent really comes alive as temperatures rise. And while Paris, Rome and Barcelona are perennial favourites, improved travel options and access to a wealth of online information means these slightly more off-the-beaten-path options are a great choice for a summer getaway.
Get to the Maltese capital of Valletta quick. The photogenic city has been named the 2018 European Capital of Culture, and its people are celebrating with a host of festivals, parties and activities. The island also features plenty of historic architecture, remnants of the Knights of Malta, military history, and crystal blue waters perfect for diving and snorkelling.
France is a popular destination, but pretty Corsica is a less-trafficked island that boasts Mediterranean vibes – and a split personality. Expect Monaco-like superyachts and designer stores in posh Porto Vecchio towards the south, as well as isolated bay and hilltop stone towns in the laidback north. There’s plenty of geographical diversity here as well, from coastal cities and beaches to mountain ridges and verdant valleys, but don’t forget to explore the island’s distinctly local culture through its food, wine and music.
The Polish capital has broken through its gritty past to become a charming place with hipster vibes. There are art galleries, dive bars and craft breweries aplenty, and when the temperatures soar in the summertime, the city turns into one big celebration, with backyard bars and street parties to head to. There’s a burgeoning restaurant scene too, along with diverse architectural sites that range from Gothic churches to Soviet-era blocks.
This scenic archipelago – an autonomous region of Portugal – sits on the site where the European, American and African tectonic plates meet. It’s is filled with dramatic landscapes, picturesque fishing villages, springs, grottos and caverns. There are three UNESCO-heritage biospheres here, so you’ll also find beaches where you might spot whales and dolphins, as well as wetland reserves. There’s plenty to do if you’re outdoorsy, from various water sports, to hiking, horse-riding and mountain-biking.
Often overlooked in favour of Barcelona, Madrid and Seville, Spain’s fifth-largest city is worth a few days of your time. The historic city boasts majestic architecture – like the Moorish Aljafeira palace – Roman ruins, and plenty of art by home-grown talent Francisco Goya. In the summer, take advantage of the city’s brilliant tapas and bar scene, and the open-air public pools.
Tourism to Croatia has picked up recently thanks to its starring role in Game of Thrones, but while you’re visiting the hotspots of Dubrovnik, Hvar and Split, don’t forget to make time for the Plitvice Lakes. This sprawling national park features 16 terraced lakes – and waterfalls – spread over some 300 sq km. In the summer, it bursts into colour with lush greenery and crystal blue waters. There’s no swimming allowed, though.
Dracula may be fictional, but Vlad Tepes, the bloodthirsty 15th century count who inspired him, was real. Follow in his footsteps by visiting Romania filled with storybook-worthy sights. Start at Bran Castle, then head to Snagov Monastery, before seeing the 16th century royal capital of Targoviste and the UNESCO-listed alleys of Sighisoara’s old town. There are also plenty of other quaint villages and natural landscapes to explore, all of which look best in the bright summer sunshine.
The English capital is a fantastic year-round destination. But in the summer – and yes, London does have one, although it’s difficult to predict precisely when it hits – the city hosts numerous cultural experiences that are worth exploring. Just in case the fantastic food scene, bar culture, and architecture weren’t enough. This summer, London’s best museums are hosting exhibitions of works by Picasso, Monet and Frida Khalo, and Buckingham Palace will open its State Rooms to the public. Not enough? There’s The King and I and Hamilton in the West End theatres, and several outdoor festivals like Underbelly to look for.
With its museums, clubs, architecture and history, Berlin is great at any time of year. But the city truly shines in the summer as locals enjoy the balmy weather outdoors. Go biking or swimming in the city’s lakes and rivers, while away evenings on the roof terraces, beer gardens and beach bars that only open in summer, and party hard at raucous outdoor music festivals. Don’t miss the plentiful street food fairs and markets, where you’ll get your fill while enjoying the sunshine.
With almost 24 hours of sunlight during the summer, Sweden is a choice destination during the warmer months. In Gothenburg, do as locals do and spend long days sunbathing by canals, and hanging at outdoor parties when the sun goes down. There’s also neoclassical architecture, craft cocktails, and an exquisite foodie scene. And since Gothenburg boasts its own archipelago, you can also spend the summer island-hopping.