European Summer Destinations
With summer in full swing, now’s a fantastic time to visit Europe, a continent brimming with vibrant beaches, pristine mountain getaways and luxurious resorts. The problem? With 28 countries in the European Union, each with breathtaking scenery and unique history and culture, there’s almost too much to choose from.
But don’t fret: We’re here to help by sharing the best summer destination in each European country — locations where you can beat the heat (and the crowds), find off-the-beaten path adventures, and unwind in seaside villages, medieval towns and national parks.
Italy - Lounge in the Sun in Apulia
While it’s tempting to head for a nearby island, mainland Italy offers a wide variety of options to work on your tan. The region of Apulia (known as Puglia in Italian) is famous for being on the heel of Italy’s boot, and boasts the country’s longest coastline, fabulous weather and two seas — the Ionian and Adriatic.
Pescoluse, which some call Italy’s Maldives, is one of the area’s best beaches. With waters that glisten and soft white sand, plus a vibe that’s informal and relaxed, life here is molto buono.
France - Have a More-than-Nice Time in Nice
Yes, Nice is crowded and expensive, but it remains French Riviera’s crown jewel. Its beaches rank among the best in the world, and there’s nothing like swimming in the gorgeous Mediterranean while palm trees sway and crowds buzz.
Even if you’re not a beach-goer, Nice’s history and culture make it an ideal getaway. History buffs will enjoy Old Town’s collection of baroque churches, while party-goers will want to dance at one of the city’s vibrant clubs until the sun comes up over the sea.
Greece - Watch the Sun Set in Santorini
Though touristy, Santorini remains one of the most stunning spots in Greece. With epic sunsets and really blue waters, this is an island that spoils. You can spend the day sailing in the caldera of a volcano, or lounge on a black or red sand beach, then wander the hospitable hilltop village of Oia and admire the classic white houses.
With top-notch restaurants, wineries and hotels, on top of a lavish landscape, Santorini always leaves you craving more.
Spain - Kick Back in Palamós
An hour north of Barcelona and far from the crowds is Costa Brava, a secluded coastal region with long stretches of golden sand, pink rocks and some of the finest water in the Mediterranean. Among the region’s crown jewels is Palamós, a small fishing town boasting relaxing beaches and beautiful coves.
Here, you can sail, scuba dive, hike or do nothing at all. Old Town emphasizes a laid-back, village atmosphere, with mom-and-pop shops and restaurants serving scrumptious tapas and the town’s famed prawns.
Sweden - Embrace Your Inner Artist in Halmstad
Halmstad, on Sweden’ west coast, attracts visitors with its temperate climate and sandy beaches. Tylösand Strand, with four miles of white sand, is a popular choice for its dunes and rolling North Sea waves. Further inland, The Nissan River provides an ideal backdrop for jogging or strolling.
The city is also a hit with art-lovers, who have their pick of several wonderful galleries. At the Galgberget nature reserve, you can also check out innovative art work in a bucolic, farmhouse setting.
Germany - Enjoy Watersports at Lake Constance
Cities such as Berlin and Munich may see the majority of Germany’s tourism, but Lake Constance is pure delight in the summer. This sprawling lake (Central Europe’s third largest) measures almost 40 miles and reaches depths of over 800 feet. The lake is shared between Germany, Switzerland and Austria, so you can visit all three countries in one day.
The lake offers a variety of watersports, while the surrounding area is dotted with attractive castles, alpine hills and villages, including Meersburg, home to Germany’s oldest castle.
Ireland - Go Green at Inch Beach
Ultra green and incredibly scenic, it’s hard to pick a best summer spot in Ireland. But Inch Beach, well, inches out the competition. With three miles of coastline, it’s the quintessential place to bring a book and veg out after visiting nearby Ring of Kerry.
Surfers love riding the waves, and dolphins and sea otters are often spotted splashing around in the bay. After a fun-filled day, enjoy fresh oysters and other hearty offerings at Sammy’s Cafe.
The Netherlands - Combine the Coast with Culture in Scheveningen
When summer comes around, Scheveningen is a haven for sun-lovers. Located just 15 minutes from The Hague, home to the U.N.’s International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, it’s easy to combine a day at the beach with a city tour.
Scheveningen’s beaches are an ideal place to tan, surf the waves and jet-ski. There are also countless cafes and restaurants, an aquarium, casinos and cinemas.
United Kingdom - Let Loose at Brighton Beach
Hip, bohemian, artsy, LGBT-friendly and rich with history, Brighton Beach is one of the most outrageous, and most fun, cities in the United Kingdom. Have fish and chips on the beach or grab an ice cream and hit the iconic pier, both great for people watching.
Getting lost in The Lanes, a maze of alleyways in the historic quarter, is a shopper’s delight. Fans of eye-popping architecture will want to beeline for The Royal Pavilion. If you’d prefer something quieter, walk among the famous Seven Sisters chalk cliffs in nearby Birling Gap, or visit quaint and cobblestoned Rye, a haven for artists and (allegedly) one of the UK’s most haunted spots.
Austria - Take a Dip in Wörthersee
Austria’s rugged southern region of Carinthia has soaring peaks, rolling hills and sparkling mountain lakes, plus charming medieval villages and castles. But its standout sight is Wörthersee, its largest lake, thermally heated to a comfortable 80 degrees and perfect for swimming, sailing and windsurfing.
The lake is also used for the swimming portion of Ironman Austria, a famed triathlon, and offers areas where visitors can bathe or camp au natural.
Poland - Find Out Why Two Gs are Better than One in Gdansk and Gdynia
Located on Poland’s Baltic coast, Gdansk is a seaside community that was pummeled during WWII and has rebounded into one of the country’s most attractive destinations. In the summertime, you can rent a yacht and sail in picturesque Puck Bay or hang out on the beach.
Nearby Gdynia is home to the legendary summertime Open’er Festival, a four-day music event featuring the world’s biggest music stars and indie artists. Everyone from Snoop Dog to Radiohead have performed here. Gdansk is also home to colorful markets where you can get major bargains on amber, the city’s main export.
Hungary - Set Sail at Lake Balaton
An hour south of Budapest, Lake Balaton is Central Europe’s largest lake, measuring an astounding 50 miles long. Its gentle, warm waters are perfect for swimming, and the area is one of Europe’s top sailing spots.
In the village of Tihany, be sure visit the Benedictine Abbey and sample the area’s sublime wines. The lake is also surrounded by volcanic mountains, thermal spa resorts and lavender fields.
Portugal - Beat the Crowds in Guincho
Lisbon is lovely, but overflowing with tourists; instead, head to Guincho, just 30 minutes away. Here, you’ll find long stretches of golden sand and massive waves crashing in from the Atlantic Ocean.
Surfing and bodyboarding are the prime activities, but it’s also easy to relax and enjoy the ocean breeze. Dunes leading to high, dramatic cliffs offer amazing views of Cabo da Roca, mainland Europe’s most western point.
Belgium - Visit Einstein in De Haan
De Haan, a beach village on the Flanders coast, is the perfect place to enjoy a stress-free holiday by the sea. Cool off with a dip in the water, or grab waffles and ice cream from one of the many beach vendors.
Other highlights include a life-size statue of Albert Einstein, who once fled from the Nazis here, and a stunning coastal tram. The world’s longest, it journeys 68 kilometers and makes 70 stops. At just 2 euros a ride, it’s a Belgium bargain.
Croatia - Shop and Stroll in Split
To visit Split, Croatia’s second largest city, is to stand at the crossroads of past and present. Take your pick of beautiful beaches, wander along The Riva, a waterfront promenade, and be sure to check out Diocletian's Palace. Built by the Romans in the 4th century, this former imperial palace is now a maze of alleyways filled with shops, bars and restaurants.
For more history, you can view ancient artifacts at the the Split Archaeological Museum.
Finland - Celebrate the Outdoors in Wild Taiga
After long, dark winters, summer is all about the outdoors in Finland. Wild Taiga, near the Russian border, offers ultra-fresh air, encounters with bears, wolves, lynx and reindeer, and hiking with huskies.
Hossa National Park has excellent trails along boardwalk-covered wetlands. With nearly 24 hours of sunlight and a plethora of lakes, campsites and saunas, Wild Taiga country will inspire you to silence your cell phone and enjoy the call of the wild.
Bulgaria - Nerd Out on History in Nessebar
Dating back 3,000 years, Nessebar is a UNESCO World Heritage area where you can visit over 40 holy sites, some dating back to the Middle Ages, and stroll along ancient stone walls.
Cozy beach-side alleys are filled with bars and restaurants, and the city offers a collection of festivals including the Vintage Cars Festival, Balkan Festival of Children's Cinema, and Sea Strings Music Festival.
Cyprus - Take to the Sea in Ayia Napa
A sun-soaked destination brimming with culture and historical significance, Cyprus is in general an ideal place to spend the summer. But to enjoy one of the best resort towns, head to Ayia Napa on the southeast coast, where stunning Mediterranean beaches and delicious seafood like calamari and octopus await.
Nissi Beach, with its crystal-clear waters, is a great spot to enjoy a lazy day with a book or your favorite music, or partake in sailing, windsurfing or waterskiing. Ayia Napa’s beautiful monastery is also a sight to behold.
Czech Republic - Explore the Bohemian Forest
The landlocked Czech Republic may not scream summer, but the Šumava mountain range is a bucolic and peaceful place to escape the heat and enjoy a “Bohemian Forest” (Fun fact: that’s Šumava’s English translation).
Šumava National Park is a protected landscape and biosphere reserve that features open green spaces, streams and eight glacier lakes. One of the most notable, Lipno Lake, is a popular canoeing spot. You’ll also want to keep your eyes open for deer, elk, otters, lynxes and other wildlife.
Luxembourg - Hike in the Steps of Victor Hugo in Vianden
Luxembourg is often eclipsed by its neighbors, but the town of Vianden is as scenic as they come. Nestled on the banks of the Our river, Vianden was established as a 9th century feudal manor complete with a medieval city wall and studded guard towers — and life today pretty much still feels the same.
Fans of “Les Miserables” can trace the steps of famous former resident Victor Hugo. Great hiking trails reward you with panoramic views, but you can also save the steps and ride a chairlift to admire the sweeping countryside.
Romania - Connect with Royalty in the Prahova River Valley
Romania’s Prahova Valley works hard to undo the (incredibly inaccurate) Dracula-isms associated with the country. A popular destination for mountain lovers, the region has stunning natural landscapes, exhilarating hiking and biking trails, and five-star resorts.
The area shares close ties with Romania’s royal family, whose grace and glamour is on full display at gorgeous Peles Castle, which was once used as a summer retreat by King Carol I, and the Sinaia Casino, a site known for hosting over-the-top gatherings for the European elite.
Denmark - Unplug with Artists in Skagen
Skagen, called “The Top of Denmark,” is far removed from just about everything — in the best possible way. This fishing town attracts artists, who love the incredible natural light, and is a great place to unplug. Recommended activities include bicycling past picturesque beaches, yellow houses and dramatic landscapes, and stopping at a cafe for Skagen’s famed herring.
In Grenen, just north of Skagen, Kattegat (the waters between Denmark and Sweden) meets the North Sea — one of the few places in the world where you can put you feet in two different seas at the same time.
Estonia - Live Your Best Resort Life in Pärnu
For Estonians and global visitors alike, Pärnu is summer. A medieval city that’s morphed into a summertime resort, it has luxurious beaches, numerous bars and restaurants, and sprawling parks to keep you entertained, well-fed and, most of all, relaxed.
“Fun in the sun” is what this city is all about, with water skiing, yachting and kayaking down the Pärnu river among the activities offered. Children will be entertained by the city’s expansive playgrounds, while adults can recharge at top-notch spas.
Lithuania - Experience Palanga’s Pulse
In the summer, Palanaga, the largest seaside town in Lithuania, shines. An influx of people brings an electric energy to Basanaviciaus Street, where restaurants and cafes turn into concert venues, and lights, fountains and sunsets dazzle the crowds.
Palanaga’s beach is long and plentiful, and its unique sand dunes help visitors get some sun without worrying about wind.
Slovakia - Get High off the Beauty of the High Tatra Mountains
Pretty Propad, an entry point to Slovakia’s High Tatra Mountains, has a well-earned reputation as the country’s premier summer spot. The town entices visitors with historical baroque architecture and renowned spas. If you’re looking for something more active, enjoy biking paths, water tobogganing and the city’s favorite activity, roller skating.
A visit to High Tatras National Park rewards you with majestic peaks, turquoise mountain lakes and waterfalls. Take a breath and enjoy the especially clean air.
Malta - Take in Views at Golden Bay
Like Cyprus, Malta is a year-round hotspot. With influences from the Phoenicians, Romans, Carthaginians, Byzantines, Arabs and the British, the island’s cultural heritage shines as bright as its sun.
Plus, beaches are highly rated with excellent water quality. Golden Bay, Malta’s largest beach, has calm waters and awe-inspiring views of the area’s dramatic cliffs. This family-friendly getaway is a popular spot to float in the water, have a barbeque or go horseback riding.
Latvia - Relax at Jurmala’s Legendary Spas
The go-to seaside resort in Latvia, Jurmala packs a punch with miles of sandy beaches, swaying pine trees and fresh air — all just 15 minutes from Riga’s airport. Locals and tourists flock here in the summer months to chill out on the beach or visit one of the area’s famed spas, where services include mineral soaks and mud baths.
A huge waterpark offers family-friendly fun, while music lovers can’t get enough of Dzintari Concert Hall, a historic building that features renowned symphony, opera, pop and jazz acts.
Slovenia - Step into a Real-Life Fairy-Tale at Lake Bled
One of Slovenia’s most popular sites, Lake Bled is picture-perfect. Couples love its abundant charm, while adventure-seekers enjoy hiking, biking and canoeing in emerald waters. With its dramatic views of the Julian Alps and a Disney-style castle perched on a rocky cliff, the locale evokes a fantastical fairy tale.
Meanwhile, nearby Vintgar Gorge (fun fact: Vintgar is the Slovenian word for gorge) attracts visitors with natural beauty, waterfalls, pools and cascades.