10 Top-Rated Places to Visit in Europe in Summer

Written by Lindsay Tigar
Feb 20, 2019

When school is dismissed, the out-of-offices are rampant, and your thirst for sunshine runs wild, it's time to hitch a flight far away from your hometown. For most travelers, exploring European destinations is not only a must-do on their bucket list, but a lifelong journey with many cultures and cities to experience. Many of the best places to visit in Europe see all four seasons, offering a variety of perks depending on what month you choose for your touchdown.

For jet-setters eyeing bright sunshine and blue-skied views, you'll have plenty of choice. From the beach-meets-city vibe of Barcelona to the intriguing wonder of Istanbul's varied customs, a getaway across the Atlantic will tease your senses, while creating memories—and maybe some freckles. For more ideas, read our list of the top places to visit in Europe in summer.

1. Lisbon, Portugal

Old district of Alfama in Lisbon

No Europe 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 the nation's capital of Lisbon, 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.

Here, there are many historical buildings to stand in awe of—from Sao Jorge's Castle to the Santa Justa Lift and the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge. Though it is a walkable city, there are trolley cars—like in San Francisco!—if you grow weary. 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 desert.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Lisbon: Best Areas & Hotels

2. Dubrovnik, Croatia

Old Town Dubrovnik

Famous as a film location for the television series Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik, Croatia is so popular, it can be crowded if you visit during the middle of summer. 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 many structures 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 is ripe with restaurants, boutiques, and tours, all surrounded by an impressive stone wall, where many apartments have been carved into the side.

When you have exhausted yourself from sightseeing (and okay, pretending you're Jon Snow or Daenerys)—go for a dip in the sparkling blue Adriatic Sea, or take a ride on the cable car with 360-degree views of the city and the water.

Accommodation: Top-Rated Places to Stay in Dubrovnik

3. Reykjavik, Iceland

Summer in Reykjavik

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 blackout curtains so you can reap some rest, this season has some of the most beautiful, 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.

In addition to Mother Nature's works of art, the city of Reykjavik is the largest in the country, and serves as the capital. Here, you will find charming shops and restaurants with questionable fare—including shark—and a stunning concrete church, called Hallgrimskirkja. Most tourists also enjoy going for a whirl in the Perlan dome, which rotates to provide views of town, the ocean, and the countryside.

4. Budapest, Hungary

Aerial view of Budapest

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, either.

5. London, England

Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster

Since it can start to get mighty chilly as early as late August in London, hitch a redeye to The Smoke earlier in the season in May. The capital of both England and the United Kingdom, the city 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, 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!

Accommodation: Where to Stay in London: Best Areas & Hotels

6. Florence, Italy

View of Florence's Duomo and the city

Perhaps you're celebrating a summer honeymoon or anniversary—or you're just in a serious relationship with pasta. Whatever the cause that draws you to Italy, our best suggestion is to make sure Florence is on your list of places to visit in Europe. This town looks as if it was painted in watercolor and brought to real life, serving as the capital to the Tuscany region of the country.

Especially for those who are art fanatics, you can witness one-of-a-kind masterpieces in real life in Florence, including Michelangelo's David sculpture, Da Vinci's Annunciation and Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, and other remarkable works. When you aren't marveling at the countries that built this sun-kissed town, you'll fall deeper in love with the nightly sunsets that truly are breathtaking.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Florence: Best Areas & Hotels

7. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Tulips blooming along an Amsterdam canal

There's no need for public transportation, an Uber, or even your own two feet when you visit the capital of the Netherlands in the summer. Here, the preferred method of transportation is a bicycle. Rent a pair and head out with your travel buddy to explore the Golden Age that inspired the design of the city. From Anne Frank's house to the Van Gogh Museum and the many bridges, you won't have any trouble filling each day with adventure.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Amsterdam: Best Areas & Hotels

8. Prague, Czech Republic

Old Town Prague

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 have time and want to hike, Prague is also a great starting point for the Czech-Switzerland National Park near the German border.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Prague: Best Areas & Hotels

9. Barcelona, Spain

Park Güell

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 beach 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.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Barcelona: Best Areas & Hotels

10. Istanbul, Turkey

Blue Mosque in Istanbul

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. Istanbul is renowned for its flavorful street food, where you can expect notes of yogurt, eggs, eggplant, potatoes, and peppers alongside kebabs.

Accommodation: Top-Rated Places to Stay in Istanbul

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