20 Top-Rated Places to Visit in Europe in Summer
While many of the best places to visit in Europe experience all four seasons, summer's optimal weather makes it a favorite time for vacations. Visiting during summertime means that you don't have to bundle up when traveling. You can shed some layers and bask in glorious sunshine.
Warm, long days enhance your vacation experience. It's a joy to walk around the charming historic towns in nice weather; dine alfresco at outdoor cafés or restaurant terraces; and sunbathe on sandy beaches.
If you love sunshine and blue skies, you'll have plenty of choices. From the beach-meets-city vibe of Barcelona to the intriguing architecture and spectacular Mediterranean scenery of Istanbul, the appeal of each destination on this list is undeniable.
Of course, you will want to visit all the famous tourist landmarks on your European vacation. During summer, you also have the chance to see the parks and gardens in full bloom and experience the holiday atmosphere of the seaside resorts during the high season.
Summer is the perfect time for sightseeing and relaxing while creating memories. For more ideas, read our list of the top places to visit in Europe in the summer.
- 1. Lisbon, Portugal
- 2. Dubrovnik, Croatia
- 3. Reykjavik, Iceland
- 4. The Azores, Portugal
- 5. Crete, Greece
- 6. French Riviera, France
- 7. Rome, Italy
- 8. Paris, France
- 9. Biarritz, France
- 10. London, England
- 11. Tenerife, Spain
- 12. Edinburgh, Scotland
- 13. Madrid, Spain
- 14. Florence, Italy
- 15. Amsterdam, Netherlands
- 16. Prague, Czech Republic
- 17. Barcelona, Spain
- 18. Budapest, Hungary
- 19. Istanbul, Turkey
- 20. Rhodes, Greece
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, Lisbon forces you to get moving. Be prepared to walk 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.
Here, there are many historical buildings to stand in awe of – from the Castelo de São Jorge (Saint George's Castle) to the Santa Justa Lift and the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge. Parque Eduardo VII is the city's largest park, and it offers arguably the best view of Praça Marquês do Pombal, Avenida da Liberdade, and the sparkling Targus River.
Make sure to carve out time for a quick beach trip 20 minutes away, and to feast on pastel de nata, the country's delicious dessert. Refurbished in 2018, the lovely Doca de Santo restaurant offers tasty fare almost as impressive as its river views.
Read More: Lisbon Itineraries for Travelers
2. 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. 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.
In addition to the sights that you'll recognize if you're a Game Of Thrones fan – including Gothic Rector's Palace – this easy-to-navigate city features many buildings preserved from the 16th century. The Old Town brims with restaurants, boutiques, and tours, all surrounded by the impressive stone wall, where many apartments have been carved into the side.
When you have exhausted yourself from sightseeing go for a dip in the sparkling blue Adriatic Sea at one of Dubrovnik's beaches or take a ride on the cable car with 360-degree views of the city and the water.
A quick, 10-minute ferry ride will get you to the picturesque island, Lokrum, where you can take in the scenic views, wander around the botanical garden and nature preserve, and visit the 11th-century Benedictine monastery.
3. 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. Summer is a great time to visit Iceland for two reasons: the chance to see the Northern Lights and 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 to help you sleep at night, then visiting during summer has many advantages. For instance, the hiking trails and overlooks are gorgeous at this time of year. Picture colorful fields of greens and flowers, blue skies juxtaposed against the Blue Lagoon healing waters, and near-perfect 60- to 70-degree weather.
In addition to Mother Nature's works of art, Iceland offers urban culture. Reykjavik, the capital, is the largest city in the country. Here, you will find charming shops and restaurants with questionable fare – including shark – and a stunning concrete church, called Hallgrímskirkja. One of the most enjoyable things to do in Reykjavik is dine at the Perlan museum's restaurant, which rotates to provide views of the town, the ocean, and the countryside.
Read More: Iceland Road Trip: Driving the Ring Road
Accommodation: Best Resorts in Iceland
4. 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.
São Miguel is the largest of the Azores islands, a true beauty bursting with adventure and plenty of tourist attractions in Ponta Delgada, its capital. On this and the other luscious isles, prepare to be wildly entertained. From biking to paragliding to hiking to spelunking, there are so many fun things to do in the Azores, especially during summer's high season.
Keep your eye out for majestic blue lagoons, volcanic craters, and towering mountains so astounding, you'll need to stop to catch your breath.
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.
Crete's soft, sandy beaches are unmissable, especially if you're looking for a way to soak up summer's warm rays. If you only have time to visit one (which would be a true shame), put Elafonissi Beach at the top of your list of must-visit beaches in Crete. It's one of the best pink sand beaches in the world and is located only two hours from the tourist-favorite city, Chania.
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. French Riviera, France
This legendary stretch of coastline offers everything you need for the perfect summertime vacation: beautiful beaches, quaint coastal towns, fabulous art museums, and endless views of the deep blue Mediterranean Sea. The tourist attractions of the French Riviera appeal to anyone who loves culture along with an amazing beach vacation scene.
The French Riviera (known as the Côte d'Azur in French) extends from Menton, near the Italian border to Saint-Tropez near Marseille (although the region's boundaries are not set in stone). Famous for its sunshine and upscale seaside resorts (Cannes, Nice, Saint-Tropez), the French Riviera epitomizes the allure of the South of France.
Although the coastline is synonymous with glamour, the French Riviera overlaps with the more laid-back region of Provence. Several Provençal towns such as Saint-Tropez, Cassis, Antibes, and Fréjus are considered part of both regions. Two of the French Riviera/Provençal region's must-see villages include Saint-Paul de Vence, a fascinating walled medieval town, and Èze, a medieval hilltop town with a magnificent botanical garden (Jardin Exotique) and sweeping coastal vistas.
Be sure to plan ahead if you're going to visit the French Riviera during the summer, which is the high season for both French holiday-goers and international travelers. Hotels tend to raise their rates and quickly become fully booked in June, July, and August.
7. 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 summertime 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.
Read More: Top-Rated Churches in Rome
8. Paris, France
There's a lot to love about Paris! The Eiffel Tower, the romantic Seine River scenery, the amazing museums, shopping, nightlife, and fine cuisine. Summer only adds reasons to visit: long days to linger at outdoor cafés and wander through the leafy green parks and flower-filled gardens; balmy evenings to appreciate late dinners and cultural performances.
Yes, you'll be looking at higher rates on things like hotels, flights, and tourist attractions, but the added expenses are 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 allows you to enjoy recreational activities, like outdoor movies, dancing at an open-air concert, or watching bikers roll into town during the Tour de France.
With the sun shining and roses blooming, summertime in Paris gives you a taste of la vie en rose. Plus, the summer season packs an impressive schedule of events and festivals.
Tip: If possible, visit during June or July rather than August. Most Parisians leave the city in August (which can give the city the feel of a tourist take-over) so the city's ambiance changes. Also, many shops and restaurants are closed in August.
9. Biarritz, France
Biarritz is the ultimate place for a beach vacation in France and manages to retain its air of elegance during summertime, despite the crowds. While other seaside resorts in Europe suffer from over-tourism, Biarritz feels refreshing and refined even in the high season.
Set along the Bay of Biscay, the sublime sandy beaches of Biarritz are wide enough and the scenery is wild enough to keep your focus on nature, rather than the fact that you're sitting in a line-up of tightly packed lounge chairs.
The main tourist beaches in Biarritz are spacious and feature amenities such as striped beach tents, cafés, and lifeguard supervision. Besides the classic beaches, there are also surfer beaches and family-friendly beaches with calm waters.
Other attractions and things to do in Biarritz during summertime include visiting the Biarritz Aquarium, strolling along the seaside, and gourmet dining. Thanks to the city's aristocratic heritage, two historic tea salons (the Miremont and Maison Dodin) serve exquisite traditional French pâtisserie and afternoon tea.
10. 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 70s and even 80s) and air-conditioning is rare, so dress accordingly.
The capital of both England and the United Kingdom, London offers a mix of modern conveniences and tradition. It's also one of the most influential cities 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.
On a particularly lovely day, the city's greens (including the infamous Hyde Park) are swarmed by Londoners perfecting their tans. Grab food from a local restaurant and enjoy it in the park (like Kensington Gardens, Kew Gardens, or St James's Park) to make the most of the good weather.
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.
Grab a 99 from an ice cream truck to cool off. This traditional English treat features soft-serve vanilla ice cream that is topped with a chocolate Flake bar.
11. 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 beaches during summer, but you'd be amiss to skip the other attractions of Tenerife, including 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 the summer. Be sure to book your hotel and dinner reservations well in advance.
12. Edinburgh, Scotland
Summer in Edinburgh is a magical time. The daytime highs hover around 19 degrees Celsius. The mild temperatures allow you to comfortably explore the city's tourist attractions on foot.
Edinburgh Castle is a must-see, particularly when the sun is shining. This iconic landmark is one of the top tourist sites in Scotland. During summer, you have the chance to admire the lush vegetation climbing the hill to the castle, and its blooming gardens.
June, July, and August are perfect months to wander Edinburgh's best parks. Pack a picnic lunch, 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.
Read More: Top-Rated Day Trips from Edinburgh
13. 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 Festival takes place in early July. This event gives you the chance to rock out to some of their favorite performers in a large, open-air venue.
When you've had enough of exploring Madrid's busy streets and tourist attractions, hop in a bus, train, or rental car to explore the many day-trip-worthy sites and towns nearby. If you have time for just one excursion, head to Toledo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
14. 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 the 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. The public piazzas include masterpieces of sculpture, while the city's museums 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 picture-perfect spots in Europe. This iconic bridge is graced by colorful shops adorned with shutters, selling touristy kitsch to the millions of visitors that cross it each year.
Other unmissable sights include the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Piazza Duomo, which are impossible to miss. Climb the claustrophobia-inducing 463-step stairway to the top of the Duomo for the best views of Florence. (You must book a time slot to climb the Duomo.)
15. 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 summer is too late to enjoy the spectacular tulip displays and Tulip Festival, it's the perfect time for outdoor exploration. You will enjoy wandering the city streets and walking or cycling alongside the canals. Summer weather also allows for alfresco dining on restaurant patios.
16. 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.
Prague boasts incredible historic monuments and cultural attractions. 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. To find something special to take home with you, spend some time shopping in Prague.
If you have time and want to hike, Prague is also a great starting point for the Bohemian Switzerland National Park near the German border.
17. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is a beautiful Mediterranean city that buzzes with energy year-round, but during the summer it really comes to life! 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 around town.
From the fantastical Sagrada Familia church to the infamous Park Güell, designed by Antoni Gaudí, the tourist attractions of Barcelona reveal 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.
18. Budapest, Hungary
If you are budget-minded and curious about history, Budapest is sure to delight you. 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.
Besides its tourist attractions, gourmet cuisine is another reason to visit Budapest. The city's foodie scene includes many fusion restaurants that blend European and Eastern cuisines.
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 fabulous views, take a cable car or the Budapest Eye, a Ferris wheel-like attraction, which is popular with tourists. To learn more about the city's history, head to the Hungarian Jewish Museum or the Budapest History Museum.
19. 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. Western travelers may be intrigued by the city's distinctive Eastern culture and Islamic influences. However, this city has always been at a crossroads and its ancient monuments tell the stories of the many rulers of its past.
Most tourists enjoy the UNESCO-listed Old City, where various districts offer different cultural and culinary delights – 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 converted into a mosque.
Istanbul is renowned for its street food scene, where you can sample flavorful delicacies prepared from local ingredients such as yogurt, eggs, eggplant, potatoes, and peppers alongside kebabs.
Read More: Best Beaches near Istanbul
20. Rhodes, Greece
If you're searching for gorgeous scenery and fascinating sights, look no further than Rhodes Town 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 UNESCO-listed Old Town is a delightful maze of winding streets, hidden alleyways, and dramatic architecture dating back to the Byzantine era. It is housed within a crescent-shaped fort and packed with 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.
Lindos lies a short way from Rhodes. One of the top tourist attractions of Greece, this picturesque village is home to an archeological site and the iconic Acropolis of Lindos.