Summer is a gorgeous time for a city break in Europe. Amsterdam is one of my favorites because all summer long there are events and music to enjoy and a pleasant breeze from the sea keeps canal trips fresh, even at night. The Dutch are a friendly people who love nothing better than having fun, partying all night long, dancing, and drinking, but summer is also the perfect time for enjoying all the beautiful sights this cosmopolitan city has to offer. The warm summer weather also brings out flowers everywhere, even if the tulip season is over.
But, Amsterdam is only one of my favorite European cities to visit in the summer. My other favorites are Dublin, Budapest, Prague, Malaga, my home town Berlin, and Lisbon. All for a different reason which I will lay out in detail so that you can make your own choice which one will become your personal favorite come next summer.
After the long COVID restrictions and lockdowns and the rather cold winters that have afflicted many parts of Europe this year, summer is the season we are all looking forward to, and summer city breaks are the best ways to have the best of all worlds.
But, don’t get carried away with the packing; some of these cities may be located in hot countries like Italy, Spain, or Portugal, while others, like Ireland and the Netherlands, can have the occasional cool or even rainy day in summer, so be prepared.
As I have already mentioned, Amsterdam likes to party. June sees a much-loved festival, the Bacchus Wine festival in Amsterdam Bos in Amstelveen. The website is in Dutch and the dates can change, but it’s a superb event for wine and music lovers. Wines from all over the world are on offer, to be expertly paired by sommeliers, and communal tables invite attendees to make fast friends as a good time is had by everybody.
Tulip season may be over, but Amsterdam in full summer bloom can be enjoyed in the Hortus Botanicus with its exotic plants and greenhouses, or take a train to the spectacular sculpture garden of Singer Laren.
My favorite summer thrill in Amsterdam is actually located in hip Amsterdam Noord, and it’s the A’DAM Tower. Twenty-two stories high overlooking the cruise ship port, you find cafes, bars, and, most thrillingly, Europe’s highest swing, which propels you out into thin air. Never fear, you are well attached to your seat.
Should there be the odd rainy day, there are over 50 museums to take refuge in and indulge in art and culture of all kinds.
There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy sunny days in and on the water by going on a boat trip along the canals (day or night) or planning a day at one of Amsterdam’s sandy beaches. The largest and most popular is Zaandvort, but there are city beaches, too.
It is well known that it rains a lot in Ireland, so take advantage of the driest months: June to August. The streets are filled with festivals; you can explore the many sights of the city on foot, walk along the River Liffey, visit Trinity College, and mingle with the locals at the popular Bloom Garden Festival or the Street Feast. All the while, sample Dublin’s hearty food and as many pints of Guinness as you fancy in the cozy pubs.
Budapest in the summer is a delight for several reasons. The mighty River Danube that flows through the city invites countless boat trips to admire the impressive skyline from the water. Beach life in Budapest is well represented; there are baths and pools on the river, but my favorites are Margaret Island and Lake Lupa.
The Japanese Garden and the Musical Fountain will delight you, but the top summer attraction is the Budapest Summer Festival on Margaret Island, also known as the island of freedom. Another summer festival is the Sziget Festival, one of Europe’s largest pop music festivals.
For a summer beach day, the facilities of Lake Lupa are ideal. A natural, white beach on a pretty lake close to Budapest offers you all the amenities you can expect.
Budapest has a growing reputation as a party town, and in the summer even more so than in the winter. The nightlife is hopping with predominantly young people dancing the night away. This means that the clubs and pubs can become quite crowded. If you don’t mind that, you will have a great time with the Budapest nightlife.
Another advantage of visiting in the summer is that you won’t freeze on your walks along the Danube or your hikes in the surrounding mountains and that public transport is easier. Morning rush hour traffic is less, and as the students are on holiday the buses and trams are much emptier.
Malaga is located in Andalusia in the south of Spain — a large port town on the Mediterranean Sea. It can get quite hot in the summer, but there is often a cool breeze from the sea, and many palm-studded parks, broad avenues, and historical buildings lend shade. Given the high temperatures, the people of Malaga do their walks and promenades in the evenings and wisely stay indoors during the heat of the day. My favorite evening walk is to stroll up to the Gibralfaro, the fortress that dominates the city.
I also like to drive along the beaches and resorts that reflect the glitz and glamour of the Costa del Sol.
If you are interested in art and want to escape the heat for a while and avoid long lines at the world-famous museums, summer is the time to visit Malaga as people prefer the beach over culture. A very cute and interesting museum is the glass museum.
Malaga is easy to reach because it has a huge international airport and several motorways along the coast and leading inland.
As I mentioned before, Berlin, the capital of Germany, is my hometown, and I love to visit in the summer. The weather is generally fine and warm, although there can be the odd shower.
Berlin is a huge city, and what I love most is the abundance of woods, parks, and water, that can keep you happily outdoors all day long.
With some 3,000 lakes and rivers in and around Berlin, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to taking a refreshing summer dip. The classic is the Wannsee with a beach, sailing, swimming, and every imaginable water sport. A very special experience in the summer is to go on a boat trip to the Spreewald just outside Berlin.
Pro Tip: When you are in Berlin in the summer, you can’t miss drinking the typical Berlin summer drink, Weisse mit Schuss. This is ice-cold wheat beer served in a glass as big as a bowl with a shot of raspberry syrup added. Very refreshing.
Another must is to go on the River Havel boat tour around the historic museum island.
Summers in Prague are usually mild and warm, although there can be the occasional heat wave and there is not much AC, so plan accordingly. Prague is a city very much visited by tourists, so when visiting the most important sights, like the Old Town Square and the Astrological Clock, go early, even at 8 a.m. You will avoid the longest lines. When visiting Prague castle, do the opposite: Go in the evening and enjoy a night walking castle tour.
A walk across the Charles Bridge is a must and you can do that at any time, but preferably not during the midday heat.
Prague has several cool parks to enjoy in the summer and they all have beer gardens, so you won’t go thirsty. The greenest and liveliest is Stromovka Park with attractions for kids. The river that flows through Prague and under the Charles Bridge is called the Vlatova and there are several lovely boat trips available.
As far as beaches and resorts are concerned, there is only one, and it is called Zlute Lazne Beach Resort. There’s not much to say about it apart from it having some chairs, sand, and beach activities.
Pro Tip: A fun activity is the Game of Prague. It is an interactive, city-wide scavenger hunt where clues are provided. It takes several hours and is an entertaining team-building exercise perfect for anyone traveling with a group.
Lisbon in the summer is hot, and that does not only refer to the weather. Being by the sea, there is of course always a cool breeze, but walking through the city center will certainly make you break a sweat. So, what I love about Lisbon in summer, apart from enjoying the rooftop bars and terraces, is the nightlife of Bairro Alto and the beaches of Estoril.
Above all, I love to attend the various world-famous festivals. They span from jazz to religious festivals to fados. Here are the ones going on all summer: NOS Alive and Jazz Em Agosto. These events are worth suffering from a bit of daytime heat. But you can always head out to the beaches of Estoril or Cascais or, further afield, to the Algarve.