Best summer destinations in Europe

written by Joanne Owen

updated 11.07.2023

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 bright 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 visiting the world.

13. Bay of Kotor: best summer holiday destination for history

Beguiling historic centre on a bay circled by gargantuan cliffs. Perched on the edge of a majestic bay, the medieval Old Town of Kotor is the undisputed jewel in Montenegro’s crown. Though no longer Europe’s best-kept secret, Kotor’s sudden elevation to the tour bus league has failed to dim the timeless delights of its maze of cobbled alleyways and secluded piazzas.

Enclosing cafés and churches galore, the town walls are peered down upon by a series of hulking peaks. Down below, a harbour now bustling with sleek yachts marks the end of the Bay of Kotor, made fjord-like by the thousand-metre cliffs that rise almost vertically from the serene waters.

Going to visit Montenegro for the first time? Explore our in-depth first-timer's guide to Montenegro. And for even more information read our guide to the best things to do in Montenegro and have a look at Montenegro itineraries, created by our local experts.

Things not to miss: Kotor bay, Montenegro.

Kotor Bay, Montenegro © Shutterstock

Discover more accommodation options to stay in the Bay of Kotor.

    What to do in Kotor:

  • Explore the Bay of Kotor on a speedboat cruise. Visit a former submarine base, see the fortress on the island of Mamulu, stop at the Our Lady of the Rocks artificial island and swim in the Blue Cave.

    Montenegro travel tips and tours with Rough Guides:

  • This is exactly what it sounds like - a Montenegro Adventure that will take you across the small, yet magical country and allow you to explore its beauty from the stunning coast on the South to the mountains and lakes on the North.
  • And if you want to cover more than one destination at a time, you have a chance to experience the beauty of the Balkans during this 10-day-multiple-country trip.

12. French Riviera: best for glamorous resorts

The Côte d’Azur polarizes 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.

Yet at its best – in the gaps between the urban sprawl, on the islands, is the remarkable beauty of the hills, the impossibly blue water after which the coast is named and in the special light that drew so many artists to paint here. It is without a doubt one of the best things to do in France.

As the summer playground of Europe’s youthful rich, St-Tropez is among the most overhyped spots in the Mediterranean. It remains undeniably glamorous. Its vast yachts and infamous champagne “spray” parties create an air of hedonistic excess in high summer.

Saint Tropez, Cote'd Azure, France © Shutterstock

Saint Tropez, Cote'd Azure, France © Shutterstock

Explore the abundance of accommodation options on the French Riviera.

    What to do on French Riviera:

  • Discover the beauty of Saint-Tropez as you kayak in the Mediterranean Sea. Snorkel in the clear waters, see colourful marine life, and jump off a 3-meter cliff if you dare.

    France travel tips and tours with Rough Guides:

  • For a complete introduction to the country take our active walking tour out of the way in France. Several unique day excursions connect you with local Parisians to show you their city and way of life.
  • And for a unique foodie experience, check out this tailor-made Tasting Eastern France tour. Start your trip in Lyon with some unique food tours before setting off on a 4-day walk across the Beaujolais region. Almost every day ends with a wine tasting in your guesthouse, soothing for body and soul.

11. Azores Islands: great place for natural beauty

Never considered holidays to the Azores? Think again. It's a chain of nine Atlantic islands — a volcanic archipelago which intersects Eurasian, North American and African plates.

Looking for the best summer destinations in Europe for natural beauty? The Azores is just that. These lush islands hide lakes and waterfalls. Expect bubbling hot springs and stunning flowery meadows. Plus Azores weather is warm year-round. The islands' population is around 250k. The unhurried pace of life makes holidays to the Azores even more appealing.

It's also the place for adventures, you can cycle, canyon or hike inland. Offshore there're opportunities for whale or dolphin watching. And surfing is easy and enjoyable on the Azores' spectacular sandy beaches.

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

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

Find more accommodation options to stay in the Azores.

    What to do in the Azores:

  • Join an exciting marine wildlife tour with biologists and naturalist guides, to see and learn more about whales, dolphins, turtles, fish, birds, and the marine biodiversity of the Azores Islands.

    Portugal travel tips and tours with Rough Guides:

  • Get ready to discover what the largest island of the Azores, São Miguel, has to offer in this short Azores Wild Nature trip. You will get to swim with wild dolphins, abseil or jump down waterfalls, ride a mountain bike through the Sete Cidades and relax in a natural spa.
  • Looking for a classic Portugal experience? Beginning in Lisbon and ending in Porto, this Cultural Portugal trip will take you to the delightful wine region of Douro, the mountain range of Serra do Bussaco and the romantic town of Sintra.

10. Balearic Islands: the best summer destination in the Mediterranean Sea

East of the Spanish mainland, the four chief Balearic IslandsIbiza, Formentera, Mallorca and Menorca – maintain a character distinct from the rest of Spain and from each other.

Ibiza is wholly unique: its capital Ibiza Town is loaded with historic interest and is a draw for thousands of clubbers and LGBTQ visitors, while the north of the island has a distinctly bohemian character. Tiny Formentera has even better beaches than its neighbour and makes up in rustic charm what it lacks in cultural interest.

Mallorca, the largest Balearic island, has long since overcome its image as little more than the sun, booze and high-rise hotels. These days it is better known as one of the best summer destinations in Europe for stunning mountain scenery, fantastic hiking and cycling trail.

And finally, to the east, there’s Menorca – more subdued in its clientele, and here, at least, the modern resorts are kept at a safe distance from the two main towns. The capital Maó boasts the deepest harbour in the Med and the charming, pocket-sized port of Ciutadella.

With a mild Mediterranean climate and year-round sunshine, all four islands are particularly lovely in the winter months when they are at their quietest and most picturesque.

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

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

    What to do on the Balearic Islands:

  • Explore the breathtaking beaches of Formentera and Ibiza on an all-inclusive boat trip and spend the afternoon in Formentera. Jump into the crystal clear water, relax on sunbeds while sipping on drinks, and enjoy a sunset dinner with fresh local food.

9. Greece: best for beach lovers and history buffs 

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

Sand, sea and sun lovers will want to read up on the best Greek islands and the best beaches in Greece. If you fancy seeing cultural sights alongside soaking up the sun, scoot to Santorini. Here you can relax on a range of beautiful Greek beaches after visiting Akrotiri, the Greek Pompeii.

Experiencing a Santorini sunset is by far one of the best things to do in Greece

The iconic blue-domed churches of Oia, Santorini

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

Then there’s Athens. Where ancient myth meets 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 you need to try. 

For more inspiration, read our travel tips for Greece, and check out The Rough Guide to Greece

    What to do in Greece:

  • For a stunning city-to-sea experience, tour the Saronic Islands from Athens

    Greece trips and tours with Rough Guides:

  • Spoilt for choice? You’ll find ideas in our suggested Greece itineraries
  • From immersing yourself in the history and myth of the sunny Cyclades Islands to a road trip around Classical Greece — you'll find that Greece delivers sun and culture in equally dazzling measure

8. Italy: the perfect destination 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 the best summer destinations in Europe offering adulterated romance. 

From Tuscany’s rolling hills and vineyards to 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.

It’s a country that invites pleasure, with stunning islands like Sicily and Sardinia on which to enjoy the seclusion and bounty of beautiful Italian beaches. Not to mention the country's many eating and drinking experiences.

Tuscany road with cypress tree © Shutterstock

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

Check out our guidebooks about Italy, or start with our guide to the best things to do in Italy.

    7. Spain: best for food and fiestas

    For foodies, Spain is one of the best summer destinations in Europe. From Seville’s sensational tapas to Jambugo’s jamón, to the seafood of Cádiz, foodies will find plenty to satisfy their appetite. For a taster, read our guide. However, if there’s one area of Spain that best showcases the country’s food and fiestas, it is Andalucía.


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

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

    Sun and sand-seekers: don't miss the best beaches in Spain.

    Top tip: take any chance you get to chow down churros in Madrid, one of the best street foods in the world


    Tempting Spanish tapas © Shutterstock

    For more info and inspiration, explore our guidebooks to Spain, and see our guide to the best things to do in Spain. 

    6. Switzerland: the perfect place 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 awe-inspiring scenery is sure to stop you in your tracks © Shutterstock

    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

    For more Swiss inspiration, check out our pictorial guidebook. Given that Switzerland has four official languages — German, French, Italian, and Romansch — you might also want to search our range of phrasebooks

    5. Portugal: best for world-class water sports and wine

    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.  Don't like crowds? Discover where you can get off the tourist trail in Portugal.

    While the eastern Algarve is blessed with warm coves to swim in, the western coast has magnificent expanses of beach that face the mighty Atlantic Ocean, making for thrilling surfing and wind-surfing experiences – this is Portugal at its most exhilarating.  


    Wild water sports await in Nazare, Portugal © Shutterstock

    Chances are, you’ll need something to soak up all that world-class wine, so you’d do well to read up on the best restaurants in Portugal. This is a country that's packed with excellent eating and drinking experiences.

    Undecided about where to fly? See our guide to of Porto vs. Lisbon — or see our guide to the best things to do in Portugal.

      What to do in Portugal:

    • Based in Lisbon? Discover Sintra’s beauty, history and romantic Pena Palace, and the stunning coastlines of Cabo da Roca and Cascais
    • From Porto, we recommend taking a relaxing river cruise to a duo of Douro Valley vineyards

      Portugal trips and tours with Rough Guides:

    • Like to avoid crowds? Take an off-the-beaten-track tour of North Portugal from Porto — think fine wine (of course) and opportunities to wind down in lesser-visited beauty spots
    • No trip to Portugal would be complete without enjoying the country’s wine and port. To do exactly that while exploring stunning countryside scenery, you could book a wine-focused tour of the Douro Valley.

    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 celebration 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. 

    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 dancing and drinking accompanied by accordions and fiddles.

    From where to go, to what to expect, discover more about Sweden’s unforgettable midsummer celebrations. And for inspiration for visiting Sweden at any time of year, read our guide to the best things to do 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

    Midsummer festivities aside, visiting Sweden in summer also means enjoying walks through forests and fragrant meadows, and fun lake-based activities. And Sweden's not short of fascinating cities, either. Stylish Stockholm offers great opportunities for rewarding day trips, while easy-going Gothenburg boasts a glorious Old Town and excellent museums and galleries. 

    Keen to start planning your summer in Sweden? Read up on the best things to do in Sweden, and get your hands on a copy of The Rough Guide to Sweden.

      What to do in Sweden: 

    • Wildlife lovers based in Stockholm won’t want to miss taking a nature trip with a campfire dinner to see moose, deer, wild boars, hares, badgers, foxes and plenty of birds

    3. Slovenia: perfect summer destination for caves, castles and coastline

    Happily, Slovenia's elegant capital, Ljubljana, is a charming, 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.

    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.

    Perhaps most magical of all is the fact that Lake Bled somehow retains its atmosphere no matter how many visitors rock up for summer water sports, winter ice skating, and year-round enchantment.

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

    Bleeding beautiful — Lake Bled, Slovenia © Shutterstock

    Visiting Postojna Caves and Postjama Castle in southwest Slovenia, around 53 kilometres from Ljubljana, is another unmissable day trip. On arrival at the cave system, you’ll board a train that’ll transport you to a sublime subterranean world (Fraggle Rock, eat your heart out), 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. Discover the diversity of Slovenia’s coastline, from picturesque Piran to the spa town of Portorož, often described as Slovenia’s answer to the French Riviera.


    Piran makes it plain to see why Slovenia is one of the best countries in Europe for summer © Shutterstock

    If you’re interested in nature and ecology, you’ll want to know why there’s a buzz about Slovenia’s bee tourism

    Want more inspiration? Find out about the best things to do in Slovenia, and dig into The Rough Guide to Slovenia.

      What to do in Slovenia: 

    • For ease, book a guided tour to Postojna Caves and Postjama Castle – and you can do the same for Lake Bled

      Slovenia trips and tours with Rough Guides:

    • To experience Slovenia in all its majesty — from the caves and castles of its stunning interior to that sublime coastline — you could consider booking a customisable treasures of Slovenia trip.  

    The incredible Postojna Caves, Slovenia © Shutterstock

    2. Iceland: the most unique place to visit in Europe in the summer

    There’s a reason Iceland made it into our run-down of the world’s best adventure holidays. In fact, there is a tonne of experiences to tempt adventurers to visit — from ice and lava-caving to glacier hiking and intercontinental snorkelling, and all against spectacular backdrops of glaciers, fjords and mighty volcanoes. See for yourself in our gallery

    Serious hikers will want to tackle Iceland’s most extreme trail. Alternatively, if you like to mix adventure with wildlife-watching and cultural experiences, check out our customisable trips to Iceland’s enchanting east, or the wild west, where cascading waterfalls and bubbling hot springs await. 


    Dyrholaey black sand volcanic beach © Shutterstock

    Talking of springs, before you go, read up on Iceland’s best hot pools, and the dos and don'ts of Icelandic spas. Taking the plunge is among the best things to do in Iceland. For more information, check out our guide for the best things to see in the summer in Iceland.

    Alternatively, to take the hassle out of booking your accommodation (and everything else, for that matter), take a look at our Iceland itineraries

      What to do in Iceland:

    • Take a snorkelling adventure between the tectonic plates of North America and Europe at the Silfra Fissure

    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 to stop off on, Croatia is one of Europe’s top sailing destinations. This is just one of the factors that make it the best summer destination in Europe.

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

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

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

    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

    Been there, done that? For those who like to get off the beaten track, Croatia has plenty of unusual things to do, among them visiting the zany Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia's capital of cool.

      What to do in Croatia:

    • Staying in a Croatian city doesn’t mean missing out on island-hopping adventures. You could, for example, cruise from Split to Hvar and Pakleni Islands

      Croatia trips and tours with Rough Guides

    • Try a tailor-made Dalmatia sailing trip — ideal for newbie navigators who want to enjoy exploring all those Adriatic islands.

    Ready to pack that suitcase? Search the Rough Guides Shop to find the perfect guidebook or ebook to enhance your summer in Europe. Counting the pennies? Leaving a bit earlier? Explore our guide to the best places to visit in spring.

    Alternatively, to be freed from the stress of planning and booking your break, find out why taking a tailor-made trip makes perfect sense.

    We may earn a commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

    Header image: the Algarve, Portugal © Shutterstock

    Joanne Owen

    written by Joanne Owen

    updated 11.07.2023

    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 ⤍