The new year has just started, but it’s not too early to start thinking about your summer travel plans. If you haven’t spent a summer in Europe, why wait? For many travelers, summer is the best time to visit – the kids are out of school and the summer weather across Europe is typically great, making it a draw if you live somewhere that gets a bit chilly during spring, fall and winter. The continent and its neighboring islands offer everything a traveler could possibly want, from fantastic food to beautiful scenery. Here are our recommendations for the best summer destinations in Europe.
Although Iceland isn’t geographically linked to Europe, it’s unmistakably European in culture and identity. Reykjavik is a thoroughly modern and thoroughly charming city; here you’ll find world-class dining, a thriving arts and literature scene, and a humming nightlife.
“Nightlife” is probably not the best word – during the summer months, Iceland’s northern location gives it up to 24 hours of daylight from the end of May to the beginning of August. That means you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore the waterfalls and glaciers of Iceland’s stunning summer-green countryside.
And while it’s not exactly a tropical paradise – after all, Iceland is above the Arctic Circle, you’ll be surprised by the mild summer weather; temperatures typically hover in the low to mid 60’s.
The sunny hills and coasts of Spain are a perfect summer destination. For the quintessential Spanish experience, head for Barcelona and the Costa Brava. The city of Barcelona has everything: here you’ll encounter classic architecture that reflects the country’s unique history, folded into one of Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities.
Leave the city and head up the Costa Brava, where beautiful seashores and friendly villages await.
For a different Spanish experience, there’s nothing like a sojourn into Basque country. There’s nothing like snacking on local goat cheese while walking the emerald slopes of the Pyrénees.
Let’s be honest – when you think of summer in Europe, you picture France’s legendary wine-growing regions.
As well you should; Provence and the Dordogne Valley are two of the best-known and best-loved destinations in France and are a great and relaxing alternative to a summer trip to Paris.
In the Dordogne, you can explore the classic city of Bordeaux and the surrounding vineyards; as you head into the valley, you’ll encounter medieval castles and quiet riverside villages. Provence offers lovely scenery and a relaxed French country lifestyle that’s inspired artists like Vincent Van Gogh and travel writers like Peter Mayle.
Both regions are a must for lovers of great food and wine; from crisp rosés to robust reds, there’s nothing like drinking French wine in France.
During summer, the entire country of Italy seemingly turns into a resort. Warm sunny days and an abundance of water, matched with the welcoming exuberance of your new Italian friends, make Italy a great destination for summer European travel.
Head north to the Italian lake country, where you can take in the sights of Milan and Bellagio, or spend a lazy afternoon sipping a Campari and soda on a boat.
The Amalfi coast offers some of the most spectacular views in all of Europe; you can easily spend hours looking out at the ocean from the balcony of your cliffside hotel in Positano, or from the very top of the island of Capri.
On the islands of Sardinia and Corsica, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped out of time and back into a simpler era, wandering through rustic villages that have remained unchanged for centuries. Wherever you go in Italy during the summer, expect warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine; the weather is one of the country’s biggest draws.
Warm weather, beautiful waters – you’re probably sensing a theme here. Italy’s Mediterranean companion Greece is also a fantastic summer destination, for many of the same reasons. The Greek Isles, however, are something special.
For those who like being on the water, there’s nothing like being a modern-day Odysseus, sailing from one beautiful Aegean island to the next. (If you don’t think of yourself as a seafarer, don’t worry – the waters of the Aegean are amazingly calm.)
You’ll certainly feel like you’ve stepped into a story by Homer, as you walk through ancient Greek temples, amphitheaters, and monuments. For a taste of Greece’s legendary hospitality, you’ll want to spend some time enjoying the delicious foods and wines in the towns of Heraklion, Santorini and Oia.
PRAGUE AND BUDAPEST
If you’re looking for a more urban European summer vacation, head to the central part of the continent. Often overlooked during the summertime, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic are a treasure trove of great scenery, culture and food – and best of all, the weather is lovely, with mild temperatures and plenty of sunshine. You’ll definitely want to spend some time walking country footpaths through the hills and along the beautiful riverbanks.
Prague is one of the world’s greatest cities, retaining its classic, Old European architecture and offering incredible museums, galleries and music venues.
Budapest gives you, quite literally, two cities in one. The Danube River runs right through the heart of the city, dividing it into two; Buda and Pest, the two halves, are connected by a series of incredibly beautiful bridges.
Buda has a quieter, more classic feel, with beautiful Buda Castle dominating the hilly landscape. You’ll find Pest to be more bustling and vibrant; of the two sections, it’s the more modern, with plenty of shopping, dining and nightlife.
Europe has a lot to offer summer travelers, from seaside villages to bustling cities. And while summer in Europe means an influx of visitors, it’s still a great time to go, especially if you’ve never been. As you make travel plans for the year, keep in mind that it’s always good to make your plans early; hotels and flights can book up quickly. If you’re looking to have the best possible European summer vacation, Classic Journeys can help!