Best summer destinations in Europe
Whether you want to explore a city in the sunshine or hit the beach, these European summer getaways each have their own charm.
Summer in Europe is iconic for a reason. Relaxed, indulgent and incredibly beautiful everywhere you look, it’s no wonder people travel from all over the world to experience summer here.
Obviously known for its glittering beaches and coastal towns, Europe’s cities also offer great weather and better conditions for exploring come summer. So whether you’re looking to visit glamorous cities or charming towns, eat fresh seafood or try local specialties, sun worship or visit world-famous museums — this list of best summer destinations in Europe will help you map out an epic summer adventure, or pick the perfect destination for your summer holiday.
Fair warning! Featuring both classic favourites as well as under-the-radar destinations, be prepared for serious wanderlust and some new bucket-list items. You don’t have to worry about reading about Greece or the Amalfi coast one more time here! In fact, there are some serious budget-friendly options for both beach and city trips.
Before you book: Top 5 tips for travelling to Europe in the summer
Before you dive headfirst into our list of best places to visit in Europe in summer, you’re going to want to remember these tips.
- Europe's peak season is summer, so book as much in advance as you can
- Always keep an eye on your belongings – crowded tourist spots are a prime location for pick pockets and scammers
- For city stays, the amenities at hotels are totally convenient, while apartments provide great flexibility for beach trips
- Plan your sightseeing in advance and get comfortable shoes
- Avoid peak times when possible, and try to visit less popular attractions
City guide to best summer destinations in Europe
Whether you like it hot or want to keep it cool, this ultimate list of best summer European destinations — city edition — has something for everyone. From pleasant park days in Edinburg to the heated beaches and nightlife of Barcelona, we’re showing you summer in the city is far from overrated.
Highlights: Vibrant neighbourhoods, architectural wonders and famous Spanish food.
One of Europe’s hottest summer destinations — both literally and figuratively — summer in the city of Barcelona is vibrant, tasty and full of fun. Of course, you have to visit classics like Sagrada Familia Church and the Gothic Quarter. And after, you can cool off with a stroll through Parc Guell or kick back on Bogatell Beach. The vineyards surrounding Barcelona are a beautiful way to try the local wine, but kicking back on a shady terrace for a tasting is just as fun. Come evening, turn up the heat once again at any of the city’s famous bars or clubs.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Highlights: Great weather, beautiful architecture and parks, canals tours
Amsterdam is beautiful year-round, but exploring this notoriously rainy city in the summer sun is definitely a highlight. Start your day with a coffee and stroll in the Jordan with shopping in the nearby Nine Streets, then hop on a boat tour through the famous canals. A picnic in Vondelpark is the perfect way to simultaneously relax and feel like a local. And if it gets really hot, join the Amsterdammers at a local swim spot, like the one at Nemo, where you have great views of Centraal Station. If you’re not a swimmer, try cooling off at the Heineken Experience.
Prague, Czech Republic
Highlights: Rich history, gothic churches, light on the wallet
Sunny, summer Prague is a sight to behold. You’ll usually find locals kicking back at the beautiful Riegrovy Sady park, which is also the city’s most famous beer garden, or riding pedal boats down the river. Saturday’s the Náplavka transforms into a market, and throughout the summer you’ll find countless concerts and festivals here, too. But don’t forget to see the Prage’s most famous sights, too, like the old town, Charles Bridge and the Astronomical Clock.
Highlights: Comfortable weather, fresh air, picnics in picturesque surroundings
Edinburgh in summer is perfect for those who don’t appreciate the heat. Here, you’ll have relatively good weather without being sweaty, allowing you to comfortably stroll between the Edinburgh Castle, Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Calton Hill. Be sure to pop into the famous Princess Street Gardens, too, which are particularly lush this time of year. Not only are the views amazing, but it’s the perfect spot for a picnic. Be sure to wash it down with a traditional Scottish whiskey tasting or some local craft beers.
Highlights: Rich history, light on the wallet, diverse food scene
Budapest is captivating year-round, but in the summer, there are some really special ways to enjoy this city that you just can’t do the rest of the year. To cool off, ride the outdoor wave pool (the first of its kind in the world) at the Gellért Spa or grab drinks and listen to music at the urban beach PONTOON. Every weekend in July, Budapest’s Liberty Bridge is even transformed from a traffic artery to a pedestrian space where you can do everything from take morning yoga classes or sip the local fizzy favourite, Fröccs — also known as wine spritzers — at sunset.
Beach guide to best summer destinations in Europe
For those who would rather hit the beach than wander through the city — we’ve got your back. From iconic coastlines in France and Italy to under the radar destinations in Albania and Greece, we’ve compiled the ultimate list of best summer destinations in Europe on the beach. There’s also something for everyone — from sun-worshipers to those who can’t wait to celebrate summer and party.
Where: Located in the southwestern corner of Portugal
Highlights: Rugged beauty, low prices and phenomenal rock formations, caves, arches, rocky cliffs along the coast
Turquoise waters kiss the golden beaches and steep cliffsides of the Algarve, painting epic, colourful summer seascapes. Head here to bounce between the city beaches around Lagos like the Ponta da Piedade viewpoint or Praia da Dona Ana. A road trip is recommended so you can stop at all the cities down the coast, too, like Faro to hit the beach or nearby islands, and Tavira to try the local tuna and explore the beauty of their nature preserve.
Costa del Sol, Spain
Where: Located between Malaga and Gibraltar
Highlights: Cheaper than the coasts of France or Italy
East of the Algarve, on the coastline of Spain’s Andalusia, you’ll find the Costa del Sol, one of the best summer destinations in Europe. The perfect reprieve after visiting the inland cities of Seville and Granada, these golden beaches will welcome you with fabulous beaches and delicious foods like the garlicy ajo blanco and pescaíto frito, which is a deliciously salty, fried fish of the day. Don’t miss the seafood paella, either! Marbella and Malaga are two of the most popular destinations on the Costa del Sol, but destinations like Estepona Nerja with the famous Playa de Maro are totally worth checking out, too.
Balearic Islands, Spain
Where: Located off east coast of Spain
Highlights: Beach parties and epic nightlife with the balance of quiet towns, beautiful beaches and epic viewpoints
Spain’s Balearic islands offer something different for every type of traveller. While Ibiza is known for its thumping nightlife, in recent years, there’s actually been an infusion of wellness retreats, promoting a more relaxed visit to this island where you typically go to be seen. Mallorca is the largest of the islands, and while it also has great nightlife in the capital Palma, it’s also known for its charming stone villages, Roman and Moorish remains and picturesque beaches. Menorca is by far the most laid back of the islands, known for its relaxed pace, incredible scenery and far fewer travellers.
French Riviera, France
Where: From St. Tropez to Cannes to Nice to Menton
Highlights: Iconic, exclusive beaches, incredible beauty, historic cities and yachts
Summer in the French Riviera kicks off with Cannes in May, ushering in a season of fabulous indulgence that makes this region one of the best summer destinations in Europe. From chilled champagne buckets under perfectly pin-striped umbrellas to fine dining and exclusive parties, this European beach destination is for those who want to splash out in cities like Cannes, Saint-Tropez, Nice, Antibes, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and even the tiny, posh, nearby country of Monaco. But there’s much more laid-back beaches and coastlines to enjoy here, too, like Eze and the utterly unspoilt Cassis.
Where: South of Italy
Highlights: Phenomenal Italian beach towns, excellent food and wine, a stunning volcano, and low prices compared to rest of Italy
It doesn’t get more Mediterranean than summer in Sicily. Known for its old-world charm and delicious foods like cannoli, plump Gambero red prawns, citrus-infused dishes, Sicily has its own unique identity that’s unlike anywhere else in Italy. Did you know that ice cream was invented here, too? When you realize how hot it is here, you’ll understand why. In between cooling down with local gelato in towns like Val di Noto, Palermo and Taormina, also be sure to hit the beaches of Cefalu and Avola.
Dalmatian Coast, Croatia
Where: Stretching from northern Zadar to Dubrovnik
Highlights: Crystal clear waters, charming port towns, verdant countryside, sparkling coastlines, delicious seafood
Parts of the Dalmatian coast still feel like a secret — which is quite hard to come across in Europe these days. Here, you can still find totally empty, secluded coves and quiet fishing villages with mom and pop restaurants where the cups overflow with world-class local wine. Of course, Dubrovnik is a must for all history junkies and Game of Throne fans, and Split is known for its ancient streets and beaches. But, the islands off the coast are some of the most beautiful destinations off this coastline. Hvar is glamorous and thumping with bars, while Vis boasts one of the world’s most famous beaches, Stiniva. Other favourites include the lush Mljet, which has two saltwater lakes you can hike or bike to, and Korcula which is known for its vineyards. After your visit, you’ll understand why this is one of the best places to visit in Europe in summer.
Albanian Riviera, Albania
Where: North-eastern Ionian Sea
Highlights: Under the radar, stunning beaches, plenty of beach towns to choose from
If you’re looking to beat the crowds on the French Riveria and the Amalfi coast, why not head somewhere totally under the radar like the Albanian Riviera? Not only does this coast boast beaches that are just as beautiful with white sands and turquoise waters, but it has rich history, like the Butrint Archaeological Site and National Park which dates back to the ancient Greek and Roman times. As for beaches, Ksamil, which is known as the ‘Ionian Pearl’ is a must-see, as is the famous blue water spring ‘Blue Eye’ which is a natural phenomenon.
Turquoise Coast, Turkey
Where: Southwest Turkey, from Fethiye to Antalya
Highlights: Lush green mountains, crystal clear blue seas, picturesque small towns, majestic ruins and low prices
One final European beach destination that you might not know about is Turkey’s Turquoise Coast. Also known as the Turkish Riviera, this coastline is far less crowded than some of Europe’s top summer destinations, but no less beautiful. Here, ancient pine forests and golden cliffs sprawl out into deep azure seas and shallow, turquoise waters. It’s a beautiful contrast that invites you to enjoy it via cosmopolitan cities like Bodrum to beach towns like Antalya or Oludeniz. As one of the lesser-known places to visit in Europe in summer, you’re sure to have a beautiful and unique experience here.
So, where are you spending your summer holiday?
As you can see, you’re totally spoiled for choice when it comes to European summer destinations. Whether you’re looking for a glamourous beach getaway in France or a pleasant city break in Edinburgh, you can’t really go wrong celebrating summer in Europe.
And for those of you looking to spend summer in the city, we hope to see you around! We’ve got hotels across Europe — from Florence to Amsterdam, Vienna to Paris and more. Plus, we’re giving students an extra discount this summer on all our hotels. Use the code CITYTRIP to save between €40 and €58 a night. Learn more about the deal here.
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