For many travelers, exploring European destinations is not only a bucket list item, but a lifelong quest. With so many regions and cities to experience, it could take years to see them all. The best time of year to advance on your European journey is summer. While many of the best places to visit in Europe experience all four seasons, summer’s optimal weather makes it easy to get around, shed some layers, and bask in glorious sunshine on antiquated terraces and soft, sandy beaches.
We are providing you some of the best of the best places to visit in this year in summer.
1. Lisbon, Portugal
No European trip is complete without a visit to Lisbon. Generous and enthusiastic by nature, the Portuguese will welcome you with warm smiles and hearty meals. Thanks to an uptick in direct flights in recent years, accessing Spain’s neighbor has never been easier – or more affordable.
When you fly into this Portuguese capital, get ready for a workout: known as the city of seven hills, you can expect to go up and down, down and up – and repeat. Don’t worry, hop-on-hop-off buses and trolleys – like in San Francisco – make it easy to give your legs a break.
2. Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik may not be the first place that comes to mind when you’re considering places to visit in Europe, but it should definitely be on your list. While many people fly to Iceland in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights, some travelers choose the summer for endless sunshine. And by endless, we really do mean never-ending: from mid-April to mid-August, there is no darkness in Reykjavik, due to its geographical position.
If you don’t mind using blackout curtains so you can reap some rest, this season has some of the most gorgeous hiking trails and overlooks. Picture this: colorful fields of greens and flowers, blue skies juxtaposed against the Blue Lagoon healing waters, and near-perfect 60- to 70-degree weather.
3. The Azores, Portugal
Despite the area’s vast size, the nine isles that make up the Azores are somewhat hidden gems off Portugal’s main coast. These verdant isles are magical and serene, home to UNESCO World Heritage sights, hot springs, gushing geysers, bubbling mud pots, dark caves, and romantic grottos. Visit in summer for the most optimal weather conditions for exploring the outdoor wonders.
Keep your eye out for majestic blue lagoons, volcanic craters, and towering mountains so astounding, you’ll need to stop to catch your breath.
4. Dubrovnik, Croatia
It’s easy to see why Dubrovnik has been dubbed the “Pearl of the Adriatic.” Surrounded by ancient stone walls and peppered with orange-tiled roofs, this southeastern Croatian gem is one of the most stunning cities on the Dalmatian Coast, and one of the best places to visit in Europe in summer. No wonder the television series Game of Thrones chose this as one of its shooting locations.
Dubrovnik’s old-world beauty, captivating tourist attractions (the view from atop Mount Srd is unbeatable), and popular day cruises to the Elafiti Islands make this a hot spot for travelers during summer. And don’t forget the food – it’s almost impossible to pick a bad restaurant. To avoid the crowds, try to plan your trip at the very start or end of the high season, running from May to September, for less shoulder-to-shoulder action.
5. Crete, Greece
It’s easy to see why Crete is deemed one of the best places to visit in Europe in summer. This Greek beauty is a haven for travelers who love fresh food, historic tales, archeological sites, and the stunning vista of bright azure waves lapping volcanic shores.
Travel in late June if you’re hoping to avoid the summer crowds. July and August boast impeccable weather, which means you’ll be clamoring for space on the tourist-laden streets and standing in lines at Crete’s top tourist attractions.
Popular tourist towns on Crete include Chania, Agio Nikolaos, and Rethymnon. Many people fly into the city of Heraklion, which is also worth exploring, even if just to see the Palace of Knossos, one of the top archeological sites in Greece.
6. Rome, Italy
Rome is a romantic place to travel in Europe during any season, but the sticky, sweet summer is one of the best times to visit the Italian capital. Rome is a unique city that seamlessly combines historic architecture, tourist attractions, and modern culture, not to mention drool-worthy food.
No matter when you visit, carve out time for a trip to the Colosseum, the capital’s most famous, and recognizable, attraction. Be warned that the summer-time lines can be long, so pack sunblock, a hat, and water for use while you wait your turn to wander around this intriguing site.
After you’ve lunched on pasta in an open-air patio, people-watched by the Trevi Fountain, and savored gelato near Piazza Navona, head to the city’s best museums and palaces to soak up the history (and some air-conditioning) that permeates the ancient walls.
7. Paris, France
There’s a lot to love about Paris! Although hot and humid at times (particularly in August), this popular destination is one of the best places to visit in Europe in summer.
Yes, you’ll be looking at higher rates on things like hotels, flights, and tourist attractions, but being able to leave sweater weather behind while you see the sites makes the added expenses more than worthwhile. In fact, the weather between June and August is practically parfait (a.k.a. perfect) with highs in the upper 70s.
In addition to dining en plein air (a.k.a. outside), summer’s climate opens up a bevy of enjoyable activities to enjoy in Paris–like lying on the beach, watching outdoor movies, dancing at an open-air concert, or watching bikers roll into town during the Tour de France.
8. London, England
Since it can start to get chilly as early as late August in London, we suggest catching a redeye to The Smoke in June or July. Since schools don’t get out until early to mid-June, you’ll fight fewer crowds if you visit before then. It’s been known to get quite sweaty at this time of year (into the high 20s and even 30s) and air-conditioning is rare, so dress accordingly.
The capital of both England and the United Kingdom, London is a healthy mix of modern conveniences and tradition, and serves as one of the most influential hubs on the planet. You’ll want a handful of days here, especially since there is so much to see: Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, The Shard, Buckingham Palace, Borough Market, The Tower of London, and the list goes on.
Even if you roll your eyes at the idea, a hop-on, hop-off bus is ideal to get around quickly and without confusion. For city-slickers with street cred, navigating the tube and bus system is easy enough, too. Who knows, you might even get lucky and catch a glimpse of the queen if she’s in town.
9. Tenerife, Spain
Tenerife tops the list of the best places to get married in the world. Once you catch sight of its magnificent sandy beaches, dazzling cerulean waves, and lush nature reserves, you’ll understand why: it’s utterly romantic.
A hot spot for travelers to Europe in summer, Tenerife is one of the best places to visit in the Canary Islands. Most visitors spend the majority of their time digging their toes into the soft sand during summer, but you’d be amiss to skip a visit to the remarkable Teide National Park. Pack comfy walking shoes and plenty of water if you’re planning to hike this volcano, the third highest in the world.
During summer in Tenerife, you can expect dry, sunny skies with temperatures sometimes tipping the thermometer over the 28-degree Celsius mark. You’ll be sharing the streets with many other tourists from across the globe since this is one of the best places to visit in Europe in summer, so it’s best to book your hotel and dinner reservations well in advance.
10. Edinburgh, Scotland
Summer in Edinburgh is a magical time. While you won’t likely sweat (highs hover around 19 degrees Celsius), these ideal temperatures make it easy to spend a full day comfortably exploring the city’s best tourist attractions.
Edinburgh Castle is a must-see, particularly when the sun is shining. An unmissable icon towering above the city, this historic spot is one of the top tourist sites in Scotland. Summer presents visitors with the opportunity to admire the lush vegetation climbing the hill to the castle, and its blooming gardens highlighted by bright blue skies.
June, July, and August are perfect months to wander Edinburg’s best parks. Be sure to pack a picnic, so you can stay even longer to fully enjoy the fresh air and picturesque surroundings.
Don’t miss the Royal Mile, the gorgeous streets that connect Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Window shop, people watch, or grab a cuppa in one of the charming cafés.
11. Madrid, Spain
We’re not going to lie, summer in Madrid can be hot. We’re talking sweat dripping down your back long after the sun sets hot. Don’t let temps in the high 80s Fahrenheit (30-plus Celsius) scare you, Madrid is still one of the best places to visit in Europe in summer.
This Spanish gem offers food so good, you’ll beg for seconds, lively music to entice you to dance in the streets, and a bevy of museums and galleries to explore. Insider’s tip: June and July are the best summer months to visit; some shop owners take the month of August off.
The Mad Cool music festival takes place in early July, offering guests a chance to rock out to some of their favorite performers in a large, open-air venue.
12. Florence, Italy
Perhaps you’re celebrating a honeymoon or anniversary – or maybe you’re in a serious relationship with pasta. Whatever your reason for visiting Italy, our best suggestion is to make sure Florence is on your list of places to visit in Europe in summer.
This romantic Italian wonderland looks as if it was painted in watercolor and brought to life in order to serve as the capital of Tuscany.
Art fanatics will rejoice in the one-of-a-kind masterpieces bursting onto the scene. Walking down these historic cobblestone streets will get you to masterpieces that include, Michelangelo’s David sculpture, while the city’s renowned art galleries will introduce you to phenomenal works like, Da Vinci’s Annunciation and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, among others.
The Ponte Vecchio Bridge is one of the most amorous and picturesque spots in Europe. Arguably the most recognized and photographed attraction in Florence, this iconic bridge is graced by colorful shops adorned with shutters, selling touristy kitsch to the millions of visitors that cross it each year.
13. Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Netherlands prides itself on being eco-friendly. Not surprisingly given the country’s flat and scenic terrain, the preferred mode of Dutch transport is a bicycle. The country boasts 32,000 kilometers of cycling trails, and it’s said that every Dutch person owns two bikes. You’ll see thousands of them on the roads of its capital, Amsterdam, especially in summer.
While getting around on public transportation is a cinch, you won’t need to bother with trains or buses if you rent a bike during your trip. But if you’re crossing the street as a pedestrian, be sure to look both ways – many cyclists zoom straight through.
Slow down as you pass the city’s impressive houses, hearkening back to the Golden Age in their canal-hugging splendor. Take a cruise along the waterways to pass under the inspiring bridges, and examine the townhomes from a different vantage point.
While on land, don’t miss the sprawling Rijksmuseum, magnificent Van Gogh Museum, and the humbling Anne Frank House. While summer is too late to enjoy the spectacular tulip displays (late March plays host to the unmissable Tulip Festival, which extends until early May), there is plenty of beauty to be had wandering along the canals, popping in and out of shops, and enjoying a meal on a patio.
14. Prague, Czech Republic
Light on the wallet but heavy on culture, Prague is one of those cities that attracts every type of traveler: from backpackers and nomads to honeymooning couples and the over 50 crowd. With a rich history tied to communism, much of Prague is still being developed and refined. The distinctive Old Town contains centuries of buildings, and a new square features modern construction.
When you’re in town, consider renting a bike to get around, or take the easy-to-navigate public transportation system. Spend a day admiring Gothic churches, the Astronomical Clock, and of course, walk across the Charles Bridge and make a wish for whatever is to come. If you’re looking for something special to take home with you, spend some time shopping in Prague.
15. Barcelona, Spain
During the summer, this rose-colored city becomes vibrant with colors, attracting tourists and locals alike to its shores. Especially during June and July, you won’t be able to resist soaking up the sun’s rays on the beaches after a morning of sightseeing about town.
From the fantastical Sagrada Familia church to the infamous Park Güell, designed by Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona is a rare mix of historical significance and modern practices. As you walk or pedal through neighborhoods, you can stop for tapas, or do as the Spaniards do and take a siesta back at your hotel or Airbnb.
16. Budapest, Hungary
For those who are budget-minded and curious about history, Budapest is one of the best European cities to visit. It’s easy enough to fly into or access by train, and you will feel as if you stepped back in time as you wander through the Gothic, cobblestone streets.
The city’s foodie scene has started to stir since many fusion restaurants marrying western and eastern cuisine have attracted critics, so you won’t leave hungry.
When you’re touring through town, it’s recommended to explore both districts – Buda and Pest (get it?) – which are separated by the notable Chain Bridge.
For those who want to see the view from the top, you can take a cable car or the Budapest Eye, a Ferris wheel-like attraction, which is popular with tourists. If you are intrigued to learn more of the city’s history, don’t miss out on the Jewish or Budapest History Museum.
17. Istanbul, Turkey
Technically on the border of Asia and Europe, since it’s laid across the Bosphorus Strait, this Turkish city is not to be missed. Though it is not as advanced as some other European destinations, its antiquity tells the stories of the many rulers of its past.
Most tourists enjoy the Old City, where various districts offer different cultural and culinary touches – from Egyptian to Roman. Topkapi Palace is one of the top places to visit in Istanbul, closely followed by Aya Sofya, a Byzantine masterpiece constructed as a church and later a mosque.
Istanbul is renowned for its flavorful street food, where you can expect notes of yogurt, eggs, eggplant, potatoes, and peppers alongside kebabs.
18. Rhodes, Greece
If you’re searching for a gorgeous backdrop to your summer vacay, look no further than the breathtaking Rhodes in Greece. Pristine beaches line the shore of this historic masterpiece, the largest of the Dodecanese Islands, while the town rises above, abloom in vibrant colors, the scent of food so delicious, you’ll want to snack all day long.
The UNESCO-listed Old Town is a delightful maze of winding streets, hidden alleyways, and dramatic architecture dating back to beyond the Byzantine era. It is housed within a crescent-shaped fort and is the place to be for those looking for shops and restaurants. This is also where you’ll find the majestic Palace of the Grand Masters. The area can get quite crowded during the summer months, so be warned.
19. Porto – Portugal
This is where you must come if you are seeking solace on your vacation in summer in Europe. Located in the northwest Portugal, the coastal gem of Porto is one of the must see places in Europe in summer. Being the second largest city in Portugal, Porto is one city which is world-renowned for its port wine and enjoys the credit of having inspired the country to coin its name, Portugal. From beaches and the colorful building to its rich history, Porto is indeed a magical city with a buzzing nightlife.
20. Isle of Skye – Scotland
This is the perfect place to make peace with nature this summer in Europe. Majestic mountains and high-rising cliffs are the highlights of Isle of Skye, the much famed and the second largest of all islands in Scotland. Located in the archipelago of Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Skye is also known for its medieval castles, picture-perfect fishing villages, and the best nightlife in Europe summer. True to its name, Isle of Skye is indeed a place that can make anyone feel dreamy and enchanted.