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The Best European Cities to Visit This Summer

  • Discover five of the best European cities to visit this summer – ideal for weekend breaks to extended European tours
  • Choose from Barcelona, Bologna, Passau, Paris and Lisbon and enjoy a sunshine break in these five great cities
  • Essential travel tips on what to see and what to do in summer, including summer temperatures and the chance of rain

Whether you’re planning a European tour or short weekend break, here’s our list of the best European cities to visit this summer. From Barcelona to Bologna, Passau to Paris and Lisbon, these five cities are perfect destinations to spend sunny summer days.

Five of the best European cities to visit in summer

Barcelona, Spain

Average daily high temperature (June to September): 25°C
Chance of rain (June to August): 8%

Temperatures can soar in the Catalonia capital of Barcelona, but it’s still one of the top European cities to visit in summer. You may find queues at popular attractions such as the Sagrada Família, so buy fast-track tickets in advance online. Alternatively, see Gaudi’s designs at Park Güell where there are plenty of shaded spots to provide shelter.

In the Gothic quarters, the tranquil cloister gardens of Barcelona Cathedral complete with its 13 geese is a cool stop-off on a hot day. Or head inside the Museu Picasso and wonder at an outstanding art collection.

Many would argue a holiday to Spain isn’t complete without a trip to the beach. Luckily, Barcelona is home to a stretch of golden sand that’s just a 10-minute walk from the city centre. More seaside resorts can be found along the nearby coast – all easily accessible by train. Those north on the Costa Brava benefits from the Tramuntana’s refreshing breeze.

There’s no shortage of venues in Barcelona to spend a balmy evening, either. Light and music displays take place at Montjuïc’s Magic Fountain from Wednesday to Sunday. And from June to October, rooftop concerts are performed on the terrace of the city’s iconic Casa Batlló.

best european cities to visit plaza real barcelona

Bologna, Italy

Average daily high temperature (June to September): 26°C
Chance of rain (June to August): 17%

Planning a holiday to Italy this summer? If you have already visited the tourist hotspots of Rome, Florence and Naples, head for beautiful Bologna, considered to be the country’s gastronomical capital. There’s a maze of shady atmospheric alleyways to explore, as well as two medieval leaning towers and Europe’s oldest university – Copernicus, Dante and Marconi are among its illustrious alumni.

With streets lined with fine food shops and discerning restaurants, retire inside during the heat of the day and savour the local cuisine. There will be Parma ham, wild boar, Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar on the menu. If you’re tempted to buy some foodie souvenirs to take home, don’t miss the weekly farmers’ market. During the summer months, it’s held on Monday evenings and Saturday mornings.

Film buffs should also note that Bologna is one of the best European cities to visit for an outdoor cinema experience. On 50 summer evenings throughout June, July and August, movies are shown on a giant screen in magnificent Piazza Maggiore. Watch classic silent films, as well as some international new releases – they’re all shown in their original language with English subtitles. What’s more, screenings are free.

best european cities to visit bologna

Passau, Germany

Average daily high temperature (June to September): 20°C
Chance of rain (June to August): 32%

If you’re planning a holiday to Germany, Passau is one of the best places to visit in July in Europe. The charming city, which sits at the point where river Danube meets the waters of the Inn and the Ilz, hosts several festivals at this time including the European Weeks Festival which celebrates Bavarian culture.

A popular destination on the itinerary of European river cruises, the city’s St Stephen’s Cathedral is a masterpiece of Italian baroque architecture and home to the world’s largest cathedral organ. Time your visit carefully and you could listen to a grand performance – the cathedral organist plays on some Thursday evenings throughout July and August. Book a holiday for summer 2020 and there’s also the opportunity to attend the famous Oberammergau Passion Play. The venue is around a three-hour drive away, but it’s a worthwhile journey as the unique production only takes place every 10 years.

Being a compact city, Passau doesn’t take much effort to explore – a bonus when the sun is shining. It’s ideal for a leisurely stroll around, perhaps popping into an art gallery, pottery studio or jewellers, or if you’re thirsty, a beer garden.

best european cities to visit elevated view on passau

Paris, France

Average daily high temperature (June to September): 22°C
Chance of rain (June to August): 25%

While some would argue that Paris is to be avoided in the summer, for many the French capital is one of the best places to visit in Europe in August. Temperatures can reach 25°C, which for some travellers is perfect. But if you’re feeling the heat, just hit the beach – as you would on a typical holiday to France. August in Paris offers the chance to enjoy Paris Plages – mini, artificial beaches complete with deckchairs and palm trees that pop up along the banks of the river Seine.

Of course, August is a popular holiday time, so expect to mingle with crowds at popular tourist attractions. However, you can find quieter periods to visit museums –  the Louvre stays open until 9.45pm on Wednesdays, Fridays and the first Saturday of each month. Avoid visiting on a Monday as the Musée d’Orsay is closed that day, which means everyone heads to the Louvre instead. The same happens at the Orsay on a Tuesday when the Louvre closes.

Many Parisians choose to escape the city during August, which can mean some cafés and restaurants are closed for a few weeks. But you’ll still find plenty of choice and a rare seat on the Métro.

best european cities to visit paris

Lisbon, Portugal

Average daily high temperature (June to September): 26°C
Chance of rain (June to August): 1%

When looking at summer holidays to Portugal, your first choice may not be Lisbon yet the capital is one of the top European cities to visit in summer on a short break. Lisbon, of course, will be hot, but the city’s close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean helps keep temperatures pleasant. If you’re keen to feel the breeze, head to Tagus river and Torre de Bélem, a 16th-century Byzantine and Gothic tower that’s been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The nearby Jardim tropical gardens can provide some welcome shade.

You’ll also find lower mercury readings in picturesque Sintra, a resort town nestled in pine-covered hills, easily accessible on a day trip from Lisbon. Here you can visit extravagant fairy-tale palaces and an ancient castle – avoid weekends and arrive as early as possible to dodge the queues.

Visit Lisbon in the summer and relax as the sun sets while listening to jazz. From 1-11 August, Jazz em Agosto highlights the music of some of the world’s best jazz players, who perform in an open-air auditorium. Alternatively, make your way to the bars of Bairro Alto and Alfama for a traditional fado recital.

best european cities to visit lisbon

Head to some of the best European cities to visit

Looking to explore Europe this summer? Explore the diverse range of cities, cultures and countries with Riviera Travel’s European holiday destinations 2019 for both river cruises and escorted tours.

Weather data courtesy of Weather Spark

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