The sun is shining, everyone has Wimbledon fever, and pub gardens and patios are overflowing come 5pm on a weekday. It can only mean summer is here. With the school holidays soon coming around, thoughts soon turn to where to spend last minute vacation time. Here’s my pick of the top summer holiday destinations in Europe for this year.
Long gone are the days when Ibiza was only for the hardcore party loving types (although there’s certainly still there if you want it). Nowadays, there’s a much more sophisticated vibe to the White Isle, with excellent cuisine, yoga retreats, boho boutiques, and much more. With such variety for virtually any ages, it remains one of the top summer holiday destinations in Europe. Here are some Ibiza highlights:
- Sipping ice cold cocktails at the island’s many hip beach clubs. Check out Cala Bassa and Cotton Beach Club.
- Catching a glorious sunset at one of the viewpoints to iconic Es Vedra.
- Swimming or snorkelling in the clear waters of one of the many coves and beaches, from Cala D’Hort to Agua Blanca.
- Sailing to stunning Formentera or S’Espalmador for the unbelievably blue waters.
- Enjoying the world-class nightlife at one of the many superclubs, from Ushuaia to Pacha.
Albania is perhaps not the most obvious of top summer holiday destinations, but hear me out. Attracting a growing interest from tourists, it’s important to travel here soon to dodge the crowds. The country boasts some of the most glorious beaches, lakes, mountains, and beyond, in an increasingly safe capacity. It offers some beautiful scenery off the beaten track that won’t stay secret for long. Here are some Albania highlights:
- Head to the Albanian Riviera for some of the most beautiful beaches you’ve seen, including Ksamil with its stunning blue waters.
- Experience the fun and diverse nightlife of the holiday town of Saranda.
- Plan a trip to the unique natural spring of the Blue Eye in Theth.
- Climb the majestic Ceraunian Mountains of Llogara National Park for gorgeous views across the Albanian Riviera.
- Take a dip or kayak in the beautiful lakes, including the Grand Park of Tirana for its magical panoramas of the church and countryside.
Often considered Croatia’s lesser known sister, Montenegro is a small Balkan country famed for its stunning variety of landscapes. Whether you prefer countryside, beaches, towns or lakes, you’ll see dozens of breathtaking vistas. Explore beautiful Kotor Bay, adventure out into the mountains and lakes, or traverse down the coastline beaches. Just make sure you do it before the crowds of Croatian tourist discover it all. Here are some Montenegro highlights:
- Climb the 1,350 steps up to the fortifications in Kotor for a priceless view over the bay and beyond.
- Sail through Lake Skadar and soak in the fabulous scenery around you close to the border of Albania.
- Ogle at the exquisite and tiny island of Our Lady of the Rocks and its unique community.
- Lounge on the stunning beaches of the Budva Riviera.
- Sample island life in a villa on beautiful Sveti Stefan.
The ultra glamorous and party island of Greece, Mykonos is a hotspot for world-class DJs and private yachts. Whether you fancy a relaxed break enjoying wine with a fabulous sunrise, or clubbing until the early hours, it’s a top summer holiday destination. The chic beach clubs and world class restaurants are nothing to be sniffed at either. Outside of the glitz and glam, Mykonos has a beautiful rustic vibe that’s in keeping with Cyclades, making it one of the top summer holiday destinations. Here are some Mykonos highlights:
- Head to Mykonos village to spot the iconic windmills which are a symbol of the Cycladic island.
- Get cultural at the archaeological site of Delos, with ancient Greek temples, mosaics, and fascinating ruins.
- Relax on the stunning beaches and swim in the crystal clear waters.
- Party until the early hours at Cavo Paradiso, with top DJ residences from the likes of Steve Aoki and Armin van Buuren.
- Relax at Little Venice and soak up the whitewashed buildings and phenomenal sunsets with a cocktail or two.
Situated on the Bodrum Peninsula, this Turkish city benefits from plenty of prime real estate along the stunning Aegean coast. Here, historic monuments blend with gorgeous beaches to make it a top summer holiday destination. Bodrum Castle stands proud over the rest of the city, and the water is never far. Visitors can explore the adorable seaside towns, and the fun doesn’t stop in the day thanks to Bodrum’s impressive nightlife. Here are some Bodrum highlights:
- Visit Bodrum Castle on its waterfront position, and check out its unique underwater archaeology museum.
- Sail around the beautiful Bodrum coast on a boat tour.
- Sunbathe in Bardakci Cove for stunning views over the beaches and exotic palm trees.
- Relax on a beautiful Bodrum beach – visit Yahsi Beach for relaxation while sipping a cocktail on the sand.
- Take a step back in time at the Halicarnassus Mausoleum, where you can explore runs that date back to 350 BC.
With a prime position in the Mediterranean Sea, the Italian island of Sardinia is a true European gem. Its 2000km of coastline and beaches make it a top summer holiday destination for relaxation with gorgeous surroundings. For those craving a little more action, Sardinia’s rugged interior has mountains for exploring, as well as Bronze Age ruins and structures to explore. Here are some Sardinia highlights:
- Lounge on the stunning beaches with crystal clear waters – Cala Mariolu is not one to be missed.
- Explore Neptune’s Grotto – take the steps down into the oceanfront cave and spot stalactites over the lakes.
- Spot the unique fortification structures of Su Nuraxi di Barumini, which date back to 2,000 BC.
- See Europe’s very own Grand Canyon with a trip to Gorrupu Gorge, where you can explore it on foot or by Jeep.
- Hike the mountains of the Supramonte range for panoramic vistas over canyons and archaeological sites.
Isles of Scilly, UK
Just off the stunning Cornish coast in England, you’ll find the under-discovered Isles of Scilly. There’s a whole treasure chest of delights to explore in this subtropical archipelago. From sandy beaches to shipwrecks, to castles, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Don’t miss the wildlife either – dolphins and puffins are regular visitors to this beautiful region, and help make it a top summer holiday destination. Here are some Isles of Scilly highlights:
- Explore the stunning variety of subtropical plants in Tresco Abbey Garden, which dates back to 1830.
- Take a coastal walk across the stunning white sandy beaches of the isle of Gugh.
- Climb Bryher’s Watch Hill for an amazing view all the way across the entire archipelago.
- Eat some of the freshest fish in a remote restaurant on the isle of St Agnes.
- Cycle around the entire isle of St Mary’s to take in the incredible historic sites of the Isles of Scilly.
Nestled between its glamorous neighbours of Cannes and Nice on the French Riviera, Antibes has a true beauty of its own. Whether you go for the glitz of the yachts and fine dining restaurants, its fabulous beaches, or its rich history, it’s a top summer holiday destination for anyone. There are hiking trails galore, and some of the most stunning palm fringed stretches of promenade. Here are some Antibes highlights:
- Live like an A-Lister at luxurious Cap D’Antibes, by dining at the restaurants and walking to the lighthouse for great views.
- Browse the impressive Picasso collection at the Musee Picasso in the chateau where the artist himself once lived.
- Purchase fresh, local ingredients for lunch at the Provençal markets.
- Visit the gorgeous gardens of the Jardin botanique de la Villa Thuret and stroll among acres of exotic flowers and plants.
- Lounge like the locals on a Côte d’Azur beach – Plage de la Garoupe and Plage de la Gravette are particularly gorgeous.
One of Portugal’s most beautiful cities, Porto lies on the coast in the north of the country. A city famous for its tasty namesake port production, it’s also full of history and fascinating culture. Visitors can wander the cobbled streets and explore unique Portuguese architecture and design. With fishing villages serving up the freshest of seafood, you can expect some culinary delights also. Here are some Porto highlights:
- Climb the Clerigos Tower in Baixa for one of the most spectacular views of the city from 75 metres up.
- See the iconic red staircase of the Livraria Lello, which served as inspiration to JK Rowling for Harry Potter.
- Walk along the cobbled streets of Ribeira along the Douro and spot the colourful houses and quirks of the city.
- Head to the Porto Wine Cellars in nearby Gaia to learn about the history of port, and of course, do some tasting.
- Discover the unique interiors of São Bento Train Station, with its twenty thousand intricate tiles that took eleven years to complete.
High in the stunning Bernese Alps of Switzerland, you’ll find Grindelwald. Despite its top reputation for skiing, Grindelwald’s also a top summer holiday destination. Whether you prefer mountainous hikes with incredible vistas, or relaxed days spent near a lake, it has it all. Take the mountain railway for a little altitude, then go and explore the famous nightlife of Grindelwald. Here are some Grindelwald highlights:
- Take the Jungfrau Railway up to Jungfraujoch for majestic views of Eiger and beyond.
- Swim in the two lakes of Interlaken, or indulge in some watersports.
- Browse the many shops and restaurants of Grindelwald’s pretty town centre.
- Marvel at the glaciers of Gletscherschlucht which forms part of the canyon, with its gorge and waterfall.
- Adventurers can tackle the Schwarzhorn, a six hour hike up from First to Goss Scheidegg mountains.
There’s my list of recommendations for the top summer holiday destinations in Europe! What are your summer holiday recommendations?