Best summer destinations in Europe

Joanne Owen

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 01.05.2024

Wondering where to head this summer for your perfect break? Our run-down of the best summer destinations in Europe has you covered, whether you’re seeking a chic sojourn in the sun or adventures in the great outdoors. There’s plenty here if you’re travelling with kids, too, or fancy sampling the continent’s finest food and wine. Read on for inspiration that’ll have you reaching for your passport.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guides guidebooks — your essential guides for exploring the world.

13. Bay of Kotor: best for dramatic scenery

Perched on the edge of a majestic bay, Kotor is the undisputed jewel of Montenegro’s crown. 

Though no longer exactly Europe’s best-kept secret, Kotor’s (modest) rise in popularity hasn't dimmed its timeless delights. By which we mean the cobbled alleyways and secluded piazzas of its medieval Old Town, with its town walls overlooked by monumental peaks.

Visiting for the first time? Read our first-timer's guide to Montenegro, and wise up on the best things to do in Montenegro. You'll also find inspiration in the Montenegro itineraries curated by our local experts.

For example, our Montenegro Adventure will see you experience the country's lakes and mountains in exhilarating style, while also offering the chance to explore Kotor's cultural hotspots.

Where to stay in Montenegro

Browse more accommodation options in the Bay of Kotor.

Things not to miss: Kotor bay, Montenegro.

Kotor Bay, Montenegro © Shutterstock

12. French Riviera: best for glamour

The Côte d’Azur polarises opinion like few places in France. To some, it remains the most glamorous of all Mediterranean playgrounds. To others, it’s an overdeveloped victim of its own hype.

On balance, though, it's impossible to deny the remarkable beauty of the hills, and the impossibly blue water. It's also clear why the region's light has drawn so many artists, and why visiting the French Riviera remains one of the best things to do in France.

Editor's tip: to experience more of France, check out our walking tour itinerary that'll see you explore less-crowded areas.

Where to stay on the French Riviera

Explore more accommodation options on the French Riviera.

Saint Tropez, Cote'd Azure, France © Shutterstock

Saint Tropez, Cote'd Azure, France © Shutterstock

11. Azores Islands: best for natural beauty

Looking for a European summer destination that delivers stacks of natural beauty? The Azores offer just that. 

A volcanic archipelago that intersects Eurasian, North American and African plates, its nine islands are lush, and laden with lakes and waterfalls. That and bubbling hot springs and flowery meadows. 

In addition, the Azores offer year-round warm weather, and an inviting unhurried vibe.

It's also a top spot for adventures. Inland, take your pick from cycling, hiking canyoning. Meanwhile, the coast is ripe for whale and dolphin-watching experiences, with satisfying surf off spectacular sandy beaches.

Editor's tip: if you're into nature and adventure, take inspiration from our Azores Wild Nature trip.

Where to stay in the Azores

Browse more accommodation options in the Azores.

Angra do Heroismo z Alto da Memoria, Terceira, Azores, Portugal © Francesco Bonino/Shutterstock

Angra do Heroismo, Terceira, Azores, Portugal © Francesco Bonino/Shutterstock

10. Balearic Islands: best all-rounders

East of the Spanish mainland, the four main Balearic IslandsIbiza, Formentera, Mallorca and Menorca – are distinct from the rest of Spain, and from each other.

For example, Ibiza Town is loaded with historic attractions, and also remains hugely popular with clubbers and LGBTQ+ visitors. Meanwhile, the north of the island retains an old school bohemian atmosphere.

For a more rustic vibe, try tiny Formentera — it's not for nothing it's known as Ibiza's unspoiled sister

Meanwhile Mallorca — the largest Balearic island — has long cast-off its rep being a place overrun by hard-boozing Brits. These days, it draws more visitors to its fantastic hiking and cycling trails. That said, the island's beaches remain a great reason to visit.

Editor's tip: discover the best Balearic Island for different travel experiences.

Where to stay on the Balearic Islands

The City Palma de Majorca from a bird's eye view © Olga Yatsenko/Shutterstock

Palma de Majorca © Olga Yatsenko/Shutterstock

9. Greece: best for history and island magic 

Boasting historic sites spanning four millennia, an incredible coastline, and over 200 beautiful islands, it’s little wonder Greece is one of the best summer destinations in Europe. 

Kicking off in the capital, Athens is a city that melds the magic of ancient myth with the energy of a modern metropolis. 

With the iconic Acropolis —  voted one of best places on earth — looming large over the city, and family-friendly tavernas serving tasty Greek food, it's a vibrant starting point for summer vacations.

When it comes to choosing where to find the best break for sand, sea and sun, read up on the best beaches in Greece, and the best Greek islands. We have to say, even though it's hugely popular, witnessing a a Santorini sunset remains one of the best things to do in Greece

Editor's tip: to blend the best of both worlds (island sun and history), see our customisable Historic and Mythological Cyclades itinerary. It includes Santorini and Mykonos.

Where to stay in Greece

The iconic blue-domed churches of Oia, Santorini

Santorini – one of the best summer destinations in Europe © Shutterstock

8. Italy: best for romance

Narrowly missing out on the top spot in our reader survey of the most beautiful country in the world, Italy is hard to beat when it comes to offering opportunities to indulge in adulterated romance. 

From Tuscany’s rolling hills and vineyards, and the dazzling Amalfi coast, to romance-rich cities like RomeFlorence and Venice, Italy isn’t short of beautiful places that'll help you realise your dreams of La Dolce Vita.

Beyond the mainland, islands like Sicily and Sardinia offer seclusion and a bounty of beautiful Italian beaches

Looking for romantic inspiration? Consider taking a custom-made trip to the Italian lakes, or a romantic break in Venice. Or how about a longer tour that includes three dreamy cities of the Italian Renaissance.

Where to stay in Italy

Tuscany road with cypress tree © Shutterstock

The romance of Tuscany's rolling hills – hard to beat in summer © Shutterstock

7. Andalucia: best for foodies and fiestas

For foodies, Spain is one of the best summer destinations in Europe, with Andalucía (arguably) best showcasing the country’s food.

The region’s three most significant cities — GranadaSeville and Córdoba — also display Spain’s Moorish architecture at its most magnificent, providing awe-inspiring backdrops for al fresco dining.

Editor's tip: to make the most of your time in the region, see our customisable best of Andalućia trip, or give your tastebuds a treat on a culinary break in Seville.

Where to stay in Andalucia


Andalucía is known for its flamboyant flamenco traditions and fine food © Shutterstock

6. Switzerland: best for scenery and cycling

Our survey of the most beautiful countries in the world saw Switzerland praised for its “spectacular scenery” and “beautiful spotless cities". It’s also one of the best summer destinations in Europe. 

Switzerland sparkles at pretty much every turn, with dozens of ways to enjoy exhilarating outdoor experiences

While adventurers will want to hike the Eiger in the spectacular Jungfrau region, you could also be inspired by scenery from a quaint mountain train.

That said, there’s no better way to experience Switzerland’s mountain passes than on your bike. 

Running between Italian-speaking Airolo and German-speaking Uri, the epic St. Gotthard Pass is hard to beat. Expect hair-raising hairpin bends, mountain villages, and, uniquely for the Swiss Alps, bone-shaking cobblestones. 

Switzerland’s urban hotspots are as sparkling as its lakes and ice-capped mountains. Head to well-heeled Geneva for museums, scenic shopping and Old Town charm. Meanwhile, cosmopolitan Zurich offers café culture and nightlife in sublime surroundings.

Editor's tip: check out our guidebook and, given that Switzerland has four official languages — German, French, Italian, and Romansch — you might also want to search our range of phrasebooks

Where to stay in Switzerland


Switzerland's awe-inspiring scenery is sure to stop you in your tracks © Shutterstock

5. Portugal: best for world-class water sports

Portugal’s expansive coastline makes it a hotspot for water sports, with the Algarve boasting the country’s most sheltered — and popular — sandy beaches. 

In fact, this area is home to many of the best beaches in Portugal.  

Not keen on crowds? Discover where you can get off the tourist trail in Portugal, and take an off-the-beaten-track tour of North Portugal.

Undecided about where to go? See our guide to Porto vs. Lisbon, and read up on the best things to do in Portugal.

Where to stay in Portugal


Wild water sports await in Nazare, Portugal © Shutterstock

4. Sweden: best for midsummer festival fun

Sweden is a glorious destination for travellers seeking space, serenity and sports around the year. That said, experiencing the midsummer solstice celebrations provides a mix of magic and mayhem you’ll never forget.

Celebrated across the weekend closest to the 24th of June, Sweden’s midsummer celebrations spark a mass exodus from towns and cities as everyone heads to the countryside and coasts. 

Dalarna, the island of Öland, and the Bohuslän coast are among the most popular spots. 

As for what to expect, maypoles are erected in gardens and parks as gigantic fertility symbols, while trestle tables buckle under the weight of huge feasts. 

The party extends long into the light night, with much dancing and drinking enjoyed to the tune of accordions and fiddles.

Editor's tip: for year-round inspiration, read up on the best things to do in Sweden.

Where to stay in Sweden

Nice Little Houses and Luxury Cottages on Stockholm's archipelago © ROUSSELLE Xavier/Shutterstock

Stockholm's archipelago attracts thousands of fun-loving midsummer celebrants © ROUSSELLE Xavier/Shutterstock

3. Slovenia: best for caves, castles and coastline

Kicking off in Slovenia's elegant capital, Ljubljana, is a convenient base from which to visit a host of the country’s attractions. This city has its own hilltop 15th-century castle to explore before you venture further afield.

On that subject, Lake Bled is an absolute must-visit. A mere 50 minutes from the capital, this mirror-like expanse of water boasts a fairy tale island and cliff-top castle, with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains.

Around 53 kilometres from Ljubljana, visiting Postojna Caves is another unmissable day trip. On arrival, you’ll board a train that’ll transport you to a sublime subterranean world, culminating in a show-stopping, cathedral-like chamber. 

A few kilometres northwest of Postojna caves, sixteenth-century Predjama Castle is a precariously-sited feat of architectural wonder. It’s built into and around an elevated cave entrance in the centre of a dramatic karst landscape.

Beyond its undeniably beautiful interior, Slovenia’s coastline might be short, but it’s incredibly sweet and varied. 

From picturesque Piran to the spa town of Portorož — which is oft-described as Slovenia’s answer to the French Riviera — Slovenia’s coastline has much to commend it

Editor's tip: to experience Slovenia in all its majesty, book a customisable treasures of Slovenia trip.  

Where to stay in Slovenia

Slovenia, Julian Alps, Gorenjska, Reflection of Santa Maria Church on Lake Bled

Bleeding beautiful — Lake Bled, Slovenia © Shutterstock

2. Iceland: best for adventure

As revealed in our guide to the best places to visit in the summer in Iceland, the country is stacked with adventure experiences — from ice and lava-caving, to glacier hiking and intercontinental snorkelling. 

As a result, it's clear why Iceland made it into our run-down of the world’s best adventure holiday destinations, and all done against spectacular backdrops of glaciers, fjords and mighty volcanoes. See for yourself in our gallery

While serious hikers will want to tackle Iceland’s most extreme trail, you could opt to enjoy less challenging walks to cascading waterfalls and bubbling hot springs.

Talking of springs, before you go, read up on Iceland’s best hot pools, and the dos and don'ts of Icelandic spas. It's fair to say, taking the plunge is among the best things to do in Iceland

Editor's tip: want to mix adventure with wildlife-watching and cultural experiences? See our our customisable trips to Iceland’s enchanting east, or the wild west.

Where to stay in Iceland


Dyrholaey beach © Shutterstock

1. Croatia: best for sailing and island-hopping

With its gorgeous Adriatic coast offering over 200km of brilliantly blue sea and more than 1000 islands, Croatia is one of Europe’s top sailing destinations. 

For chic bars, fun nightlife and fine food, head to handsome Hvar Island. You'll certainly be able to enjoy some of Croatia's top foodie experiences here.

Given that the islands are home to many of the best beaches in Croatia, you might want to learn how to make the most of island-hopping in Croatia.

Sailing and island exploration aside, Croatia is also an excellent destination for adventure-seekers and culture vultures, as revealed in our run-down of the best things to do in Croatia

Editor's tip: been there, done that? Croatia has plenty of unusual things to do, among them visiting the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia's capital of cool.

Where to stay in Croatia

City Harbour of the town of Hvar, on the island of Hvar, the Adriatic coast of Croatia © rustamank/Shutterstock

Hvar, Croatia © rustamank/Shutterstock

Ready to start planning your trip? Search the Rough Guides Shop to find the perfect guide to enhance your summer in Europe. 

Alternatively, to forgo the faff of planning and booking your break, use our tailor-made trip service.

Joanne Owen

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 01.05.2024

Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

Planning your own trip? Prepare for your trip

Use Rough Guides' trusted partners for great rates

Ready to travel and discover

Get support from our local experts for
stress-free planning & worry-free travels

Plan my trip ⤍