Summer’s coming! And I’ve asked 14 other bloggers to share their favourite European travel destinations, and added one for myself! Although I’ve lived in Europe for a couple of years, I’ve spent a lot of time travelling in the shoulder seasons and in winter. It’s generally cheaper and you still get to have an amazing experience, usually with less crowds. BUT, really, some places are just too amazing to not go to in the summer, and here’s 15 of them.
Lake Ohrid, Macedonia
Dan from Traveling With Dan
Last year we were thinking of a short, close, cheap holiday in Europe (with a beach as a must). Pretty fast it was narrowed down to “South East Europe”, and the flights got us to Macedonia.
Macedonia has no sea, but…… it has a lake!
Lake Orhid was the destination, and it was beyond our expectations! The lake is surrounded by small towns (half of it belongs to Albania) and the biggest one in the area is Ohrid.
Ohrid is absolutely magical! We spent 5 amazing days while enjoying the lake shores, but it has so much more to offer.
The main street which leads from the town square to the port is a pedestrian street, dotted with fast food restaurants, shops, souvenir stalls, cafes and plenty of shops selling local fashion. Every evening the restaurants all around town fill up (both local and “western” ones) and the atmosphere is incredible.
If history and architecture is what you are after, there are lots of monestaries (some active) around town and the most scenic one, St Jovan Kaneo Monastery. If you are looking for a nice, no touristic getaway for this summer, This is the place for you! Absolutely magical!
Vivian From Miss HappyFeet
Being a rainbow-colors addict, it was no surprise that this charming resort town located at the foothills of Sintra Mountain became the highlight of my Summer trip to Portugal. From Lisbon, we took a train to Sintra and then hopped on a bus just outside of the train station to get to the castles.
My favorite structure in the city is the colorful 19th-century Romanticist palace— The Pena National Palace. The breathtaking vista from the castle is simply unforgettable and in my opinion, no one should leave the castle without a visit to the vintage chambers inside! Also, I loved walking on the Castle of the Moors. It reminded me of The Great Wall of China (The castle of the Moors is much smaller. ). From the Castle of Moors, one can catch a glimpse of the Pena National Palace sitting on a tremendous hill. However, it can be extremely windy in the summer, so don’t forget to layer up!
After a visit to Pena, we walked down the cobbled streets passing a beautiful garden to get to the city center. There stood another interesting looking medieval royal palace with 2 chimneys — the Town Palace. It is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and also an important landmark of Sintra.
Kate from Travel Far Eat Well
Lyon, France is often overlooked and bypassed for its more popular older sibling, Paris. It’s a shame Lyon doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, but this is also a good thing because Lyon isn’t yet overrun with tourists. Nestled in the Rhône-Alpes region of France between Paris and Marseille, I think Lyon is the perfect summer destination because it truly has something for every traveler. For the foodies, Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France so there’s no shortage of mouthwatering cuisine. Architecture lovers can appreciate the medieval and Renaissance architecture throughout Vieux Lyon and Fourvière.
For the history lovers, the Roman amphitheaters and top-notch museums will transport you back in time. Adventure seekers can roam through Vieux Lyon in search of traboules, the city’s secret passageways, which were once used by merchants and those wanting to avoid the authorities (my personal favorite!). If you just want to relax, spend an afternoon hanging out in Lyon’s largest park, Parc de la Tête d’Or. Lyon encompasses all the charm, history, and ambiance of Paris, but without the crowds. Great weather, rich culture, and exquisite cuisine make Lyon the perfect spot to escape the summer crowds and immerse yourself in French culture.
Virginie from Farm Boy & City Girl
Chris and I ended up in Sibenik by accident… and completely fell in love with it! We are digital nomads, always looking for nice places where we can live for a few months at a time. We knew we wanted to go to Croatia but didn’t have a specific city in mind. Until we found that one apartment that seemed like a good fit for us, in Sibenik… And we just booked it, not knowing anything about that place!
And when we got there, we were blown away! Sibenik is an old medieval town with a bunch of fortresses that you can visit. It has some of the nicest people, best food, and amazing views. The sunsets are also amazing there!
You’ll want to walk around town, eating gelatos and just get lost in the old city parts.
It’s not a popular destination for tourists, who usually skip Sibenik on their way to Split from Zadar, but if you can spare a couple of days, you’ll know why I fell in love with that beautiful city!
Christian from Unusual Traveler
Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, has to be the most underrated city in all of Europe, it´s not only one of the cheapest capital in western Europe.
It’s also the capital with the most sunny days in all of Europe with an average of 2799 sunny hours a year, with Athens in Greece on second place and Madrid the capital of Spain on third place.
The city center is the home to none more than half a million people, that makes the city not to crowded and you can walk everywhere in the city center easily by foot.
Ruben from Gamin Traveler
Odessa is a city located in South of Ukraine. It’s the major seaport and transportation located in the Northwestern shore of Black Sea. It was a very important port in the past. I was surprised at how great the beaches were in Odessa. White sand and blue water, it looked like Caribbean beaches. Although once you go and swim in the water, you will realize you are not in the Caribbean because the water is little bit cold, and not warm like the Caribbean waters.
Odessa is a great city to travel to, and not only for its beaches. It´s a big city where you can walk around and get lost. There is great architecture that you can enjoy in the city.. There are street markets where you can buy food and prices are quite cheap.
Odessa is in Ukraine but most of the people speak Russian. And in summer, there are many Russian travelers visiting the city, too. So, that´s another challenge if you want to travel to Odessa, to learn the basics of their language. Russian language is one of the most spoken languages in the world.
At night, you will find great nightlife near the beach. The city is full of restaurants and disco bars.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
AnnaMarie from Her Report
Amsterdam is a city for all seasons, but nothing beats the Dutch capital in the summertime when its streets and canals transform into a colorful phantasmagoria of activity and al fresco dining. Amsterdam is known for its some 300 festivals each year—foodie festivals, cultural carnivals and concerts (Indiestad, Holland Festival, Robeco Summer Nights, Grachtenfestival, etc)—the bulk of which happen in the summer months.
Likewise, a number of Amsterdam institutions feature classic films and new releases in open-air cinemas. And on warm days, you’ll also have the liberty of grilling in the some of Amsterdam’s parks—such as the world-famous Vondelpark, a central location brimming with joggers, cyclers and loungers in its many gardens, open lawns and lakes—or biking along the roads that hug winding canals.
The 17th century grand canals of Grachtengordel—Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht—are worth checking out, but even the smaller canals will guide you through the city’s gabled houses. If you’d prefer to boat instead of bike, Canal Bus offers both tours and hop-on-hop-off options, so you can ride it at your leisure and check out what Amsterdam has to offer on your own watch.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Claire from Claire’s Footsteps
An enchanting lake with a 17th century tower rising from the middle, Lake Bled is where fairytales are made. The scenery is enough of a reason to go; it’s one of those places where you really feel like you have stepped right into a postcard. But there’s loads of other reasons to visit this breathtaking lake – from kayaking to the island, cycling the diameter of it, to enjoying some of the finest Slovenian cuisine, many a fantastic day can be had at the lake. Don’t forget to hike up Bled castle – the country’s oldest castle – which looms above the lake. You’ll feel miles away from everyday life as you reach the summit where it is built; almost expecting to be in medieval Slovenia!
Lake Bled is magical all year round, but especially in the summer. Slovenia generally enjoys great summertime weather, and sunbathing and swimming in the lake are popular activities on a fine day – the more adventurous visitors swim to the island and back! It’s easy to reach from Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, and the destination makes for a wonderful stopover when you’re exploring Europe in the summer!
Julian from Globe Slice
Breathtaking beaches, a variety of incredible food, and cheap accommodations, all within a charmingly historic Portuguese coastal town. Lagos certainly sounds like an ideal European summer destination, right?
Each morning, the biggest decision you’ll have is which of Lagos’ 5 unique beaches to explore. A small strip of intimate shoreline, or a lounge chair overlooking sprawling golden sand? Decisions, decisions…
Outside of beach trips, Lagos still has plenty going on. The weathered cobblestone streets are overflowing with history, offering opportunities to tour ancient churches, fortresses, and even Europe’s first African slave market. Numerous smaller clothing and handicraft shops can also be found throughout town if you’re needing some retail therapy.
Lagos’ food scene has plenty of affordable options, though the delicious fresh seafood is where it’s at. Not a fish person? There’s also some amazing piri piri chicken in town, which is marinated in spices and grilled over charcoal.
Conveniently, Lagos is only a 4-hour train ride from Lisbon and easy to experience on foot. A 15-minute walk from the train station will put you in the center of town, where you can choose from a range of cheap hostels and luxurious hotels.
So, when are we going?
Nikki from This Travel Bugg
Some people spend the summer partying in Ibiza, or tanning their way around some swanky Greek islands. Me? I prefer to escape the summer heat at a nice Schwimmbad or a picturesque Alpine lake, because Innsbruck, Austria is one of my absolute favorite places in Europe during the summer.
Innsbruck is a small university city, tucked away in the middle of the Austrian Alps; it’s beautiful and quaint, historic but trendy, and small enough to visit completely on foot. It’s also a bit off the tourist trail, which makes it a great place to grab a schnaps with the local Tyroleans – some of the friendliest people I’ve met in Europe!
Some of my favorite things to do around Innsbruck: take the gondola up to the top of the Hafelekar peak for an amazing view of the mountains and city, snack on an apple strudel and coffee at one of many cafés around town, and escape the city center for a stroll around the peaceful Hofgarten to enjoy a drink in the beer garden.
With the Inn River running right through the middle of town, and mountains surrounding on both sides, Innsbruck might be an unusual pick for a summer getaway. But its natural beauty, pleasant weather, and mountain charm have made it one of my favorite places to return to during my summers in Europe.
The Amalfi Coast, Italy
Jolene from Wanderlust Storytellers
The Amalfi coast in Italy must be one of my favourite destinations in the world! We spent a glorious honeymoon there in the Italian summer, road tripping down the glorious, dramatic coastline. Suffice to say that there is no surprise why this spectacular part of Italy also happens to be one of the world’s most popular and beautiful tourist destinations. The coastline is dramatic, featuring narrow, zigzagging, cliff-hugging roads. Breathtaking views come up around the various bends and corners, overlooking the gorgeous Mediterranean waters. With so many little towns to explore, this destination is truly one to get lost in!
With the hot summer months on the Amalfi Coast, there are ample ways to cool yourself down. Why not try a dip in the pretty chilly Mediterranean, don’t forget to turn around and observe the cascades of buildings climbing up the mountains. And of course you cannot go to Italy and not simply indulge in all the delicious varieties of Gelatos. We also treated ourselves to some fresh lemon drinks, such a refreshing way to cool down and revive. The perfect place for and European summer holiday? We think so!! And we can’t wait to return!
Laura from Wander With Laura
The city of Paris holds a unique charm with each season but in summer, it draws you in and threatens never to let you go. The heat which can feel stifling in other large cities lends itself perfectly to lazy days indulging in all the delights of the French capital. Just picture yourself strolling down the Seine River towards the Eiffel Tower with the sun on your face and delicious ice cream in hand – heaven, right?
Waking up to the sunshine in one of the most visited cities in the world instantly puts a smile on your face and there’s no better way to wake up than by enjoying a coffee and pastry at a cute patisserie. Summer afternoons under the tower itself are perfectly relaxed as you join couples, friends and families enjoying picnics and even bottles of champagne in its shadow. Seeing Paris from above is a particularly stunning vision but skip the Eiffel Tower lines and take the winding stairs up the Arc de Triomphe or Notre Dame instead. The beautiful architecture provides Instagram opportunities at every turn and there are endless attractions where you can learn more about the history of Paris. Bon voyage!
Criz from Crizzy Kiss
My favorite European summer destination is Crete in Greece. It is the largest island in Greece and one of the most popular holiday destinations in Greece. Actually, me and my boyfriend didn’t know that Crete is a popular holiday destination until we got there. We just happened to book it in last minute and surprisingly, it turned out to be a fantastic adventure.
We discovered that Crete is famous for its amazing turquoise crystal clear waters, its beautiful mountains, and some historical sites where you can find the remnants of Roman and Turkish historical monuments.
The food, the warm hospitality of the locals, their culture and the amazing people we meet there both the local and foreign tourists, are definitely some of the things we love the most in Crete. The locals are literally laid-back, so don’t be surprised if you can’t find some of the hotel personnel totally available from 12 noon to 02:00 pm.
Despite many people are coming to this beautiful Crete, the prices have remained affordable and the natural resources are well taken care of. In fact, there may areas of the islands/islets are environmentally protected.
Crete is definitely a place where you look forward to coming back.
Vik from I am Vagabond
Let me start by saying that any city in Switzerland is gorgeous and will provide plenty of beautiful scenery and opportunities to indulge in great food and some very cool shopping experience.
What sets Zurich apart is the fact that it is Switzerland’s largest city located in the center of Switzerland and known as it’s economic and cultural hub.
Most European capitals are within 2-3 hours from Zurich by plane. It also has the largest railway station in Switzerland with direct connections to other Swiss cities and nearby countries.
This gorgeous city on Lake Zurich also provides excellent public transit and free bike rental system, although it is perfectly arranged for sightseeing on foot especially in summer time.
This is a former Roman city and there’s a lot for you to marvel at. Dozens of museums, historical squares, well-preserved old town, churches, medieval and Renaissance buildings and artworks and a lot more.
Oh, and how can I miss sweet temptations. Sprüngli House,the confectioner’s café on Paradeplatz is a favorite stop for locals and tourists alike. If you can resist the beautifully displayed truffles, cakes, and macarons you are a stronger person than I ever will be.
Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park, Spain
I had a hard time choosing my own favourite European summer destination! I realised I’ve travelled far more in winter in Europe than I have in summer, but the summer travel I have done I loved. I could have named Split in Croatia, or any of the places we stopped on Sail Croatia. Then who could pass by Santorini or Mykonos in Greece? Or Rome?! There’s a lot of love for Portugal on this list, and most of the other southern countries go Europe, but what about my current home, Spain?
In the end, I decided that I owe it to Spain to name it my favourite summer destination. It’s not for the faint of heart, with scorching temperatures in July and August. Choose somewhere with a beach to cool off from the heat, but don’t miss the inland cities if you can help it. My favourite place I’ve discovered that’s a little off the beaten track would have to be Cabo de Gata Natural Park. Stay in Almeria, or in a city in the park itself, but whatever you do take advantage of the amazing scenery and beaches. Snorkel, swim, dive, kayak or paddle board in the crystal clear waters. Inhale beer, summer wine and gazpacho to cool off, and don’t forget to nibble on tapas too. Here’s a guide to the not to be missed beaches of Cabo de Gata!
What would you add to this list? Do you agree?
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