Summer is well and truly here, and what better way to enjoy it than a city break? Right on our doorstep, the European capitals and major cities brim with history, buzz with culture and clink with fabulous places to drink and dine, and each city is completely unique from the next. Be it taking a dip in cool harbours, hiking up to hilltop castles or cycling along a network of pretty canals, we’ve got you covered for a summer of urban hedonism. Vibrant, quirky and free spirited – these cities are best enjoyed with the warm sun on your skin and a cool beer in hand…
Danes are consistently ranked as the happiest in the world and Copenhagen often tops the rankings of World’s Most Liveable City, and during the buzz of summer its easy to see why. The clean blue harbour will be filled with good-looking people dipping and diving, and the streets are awash with festivities. Do like the locals do and hop on a bicycle to explore the city, serenely pedalling over the bridges of its canals and through the cobblestoned streets of the historic city centre, then park up the bike in a one of the many lush parks and spend the afternoon picnicking.
Dotted with baroque palaces and rococo cathedrals with pops of contemporary structures, architecture buffs will rejoice. Make sure to ramp up that Instagram ammunition by seeing the colourful waterfront houses of Nyhavn and a lovely wander out of the centre to the Little Mermaid statue. Take a winding walk up the Rundetaarn for spectacular views over the city or stop off in the Tivoli Gardens for hair-raising rollercoaster rides and amusements.
Copenhagen is the epitome of Scandi-cool, and must-trys while in the city are the central market Torvehallerne to sample top-quality local produce, and a night out in the former meatpacking district, packed with cool restaurants and edgy bars where a young crowd party into the night. Copenhagen really blooms in the warmer months, and the rest of the world simply pales in comparison.
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The handsome Portuguese capital hums to the sounds of Fado during summer. Perched on the hillside at the mouth of the river Tagus, you will find striking vistas from any of the numerous verandas and sun traps that dot the city. Views are best enjoyed while sipping a glass of port or fruity ginjinha as string music reverberates around.
Jumping on one of the bright-yellow trams that wind through the hills is a great way of seeing the city, and on balmy evenings it wont be hard to scout out a delightful restaurant with street side terrace to tuck into some hearty traditional fare paired with fine local wines. Well-known in Europe for its great value, visitors rave about the city’s celebrated coffee, breads and seafood that remain top quality yet reasonably priced.
An absolute must while in Lisbon is sampling a Pastel de Nata (egg custard tart). These little treats can be found all over the city, and are best enjoyed fresh from the oven of a traditional padaria. The gooey crunch of that first bite of puff pastry and cinnamon-laced custard will have you coming back for more.
Top attractions include the historic Alfama district with its narrow hilly streets and stairways speckled with public art and crowned by the city’s magnificent cathedral, the grand waterfront square Praça de Comércio, and the striking Torre de Belém in its Gothic glory. Alternatively, join the hip locals by heading to any one of the beautiful beaches nearby, surfboard in tow, for a cool off in the waves.
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From the Berlin Wall to the Brandenburg Gate, the Victory Column to Checkpoint Charlie – it’s undeniable that some of the world’s most fascinating historical monuments are here in Berlin. The city’s chequered history has been the inspiration for countless works of art, architecture, literature and museums. The harrowing Holocaust Memorial is not to be missed.
Summer is bliss in the German capital. Rooftop bars buzz with merry revellers, riverside parks teem with bronzing beauties and the lakes that surround the city fill with joyous swimmers and boaters.
Famous around the world for its wild nightlife, the city throbs from dusk til dawn any night of the week, and then continues through the day as well. Dubbed the techno capital of Europe and with clubs with no real closing time, if you want to experience an unparalleled party scene, then Berlin is the place for you.
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Amsterdam is certainly a city like no other. As narrow buildings jostle for space by the waterbanks, a stream of boats glide past on its web of canals and a tide of bakeries send inviting whiffs of freshly-made delights into the air. While it is notorious for its Red-Light district and hazy coffee shops, there is so much more to the city than its sordid reputation.
Cycling is synonymous with Amsterdam, and the city caters brilliantly for getting around on two wheels. With festivities cropping up all over the city during the summer months, the outdoors are where to be when the sun is shining. Be sure to join the locals in picnicking in the park or bronzing at an urban beach.
Taking a trip on the canals is a great way to see the city from another perspective. You’ll cruise past royal palaces, ornate cathedrals and the jumble of 17th-century gabled houses from the city’s Golden Age. The jewel in the crown is perhaps the Van Gogh Museum, showcasing the artist’s world-famous Sunflowers amongst other works. Be sure to stop off for a cooling beer from a stemmed glass and some crunchy bitterballen – delicious breaded and deep-fried balls of minced beef and buttery roux, dipped in mustard.
Well known for its progressive attitude, the city’s brand and motto Iamsterdam is a symbol of inclusion for everybody – visitors and locals alike – promoting the laid-back lifestyle of its people and joyful atmosphere of the city. The huge sign that moves around the city is a bustling place for photo opportunities.
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The Scottish capital is a glorious blend of old and new, from the gothic, crooked warren of the Old Town to the grand Regency streets of the New Town and the stunning views from the volcanic crag of Arthur’s Seat to its regenerated shopping districts and world-class contemporary galleries.
Lorded over by the medieval Edinburgh Castle which houses the ancient crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny, the city plays host to countless cultural hotspots including theatres, museums, parks, monuments and memorials. Be sure to try some hearty local dishes such as haggis, neeps and tatties or famous Scottish smoked salmon. Meals are best accompanied by local ale or finished off with whiskey. Proud locals won’t hesitate for a second to let you know that Scottish whiskey is the world’s best.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the world’s largest arts festival spanning all of August and sees thousands of performers, artists, actors and comedians entertain, impress and shock throngs of crowds. Hosted in hundreds of venues all over the city, no doubt you’ll catch some famous faces whose careers began here, or be the first to scout out some fresh new talent that all the world will have heard of in the near future.
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3,000 years of fascinating history supply this city’s endless intrigue. Playing a pivotal role in global civilisation, art, literature, politics and religion throughout millennia, Italy’s hot-blooded capital continues to this day to draw curious travellers and captivate romantic couples.
Home of ancient dynasties, Rome brims with historical ruins, Renaissance chapels, and ornate treasures. A visit to the illustrious Coliseum and flinging a coin in the Trevi Fountain for luck are essential activities. Now a vibrant cosmopolitan centre, the city remains a leader of fashion, food and fine art trends.
It would be criminal not to sample the superb pizza and pasta in the Italian capital’s hole-in-the-wall trattorias, and family-run gelaterias will ensure you are spoilt for choice of lip-smacking treats. The city is flecked with beautiful courtyards, perfect for imbibing sharp aperitivos and al fresco dining where you’ll rub shoulders with movie stars and models. In Rome, everybody can have a slice of la dolce vita lifestyle.
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Consistently ranked among the most beautiful cities in the world, Barcelona is the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia. Celebrated for its unique modernist architecture, much of it created by the great Gaudi, everywhere you look in this magnificent metropolis is a sight for sore eyes. A seaside hangout for gluttons, history buffs and culture vultures alike, Barcelona’s striking cityscapes, spirited nightlife and vibrant cultural offerings are a testament to the city’s enduring bohemian spirit.
The city is jam-packed with beautiful buildings, world-class shopping and palaces of the high arts. A leisurely amble around the city centre’s grid of streets is an absolute necessity to take in the sights in the heat of summer. The fantastical Sagrada Familia basilica, begun 130 years ago, is a masterpiece of art nouveau and modernist architecture that remains unfinished to this day. The image of its gothic revival towers that resemble pillars of molten wax is a strong part of Barcelona’s identity.
Known all over the world for its top-quality cuisine, a trip to Barcelona would be incomplete without visiting La Boqueria market for tantalising tapas, or head down the water for the most authentic and delicious paella.
Make sure to catch a show of lights at the Magic Fountain and take in elevated views over the city from the magnificent Park Guell. When the mercury rises, cool off at one of the many beaches along the city’s shimmering coastline.