7 amazing European destinations you must visit this summer
You'd think, having made a job out of travel over the last couple of years that our bucket list would gradually be getting smaller. Nope. We’ve discovered that the irony of travel, is that the more places we visit and the more people we meet, even more places are scribbled down in the margins of our travel diaries, typed into the notes of our phones, and bookmarked on our browsers.
In fact, the old quote ‘I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list’ has never rung truer. After moving to London and beginning to explore more of the European continent, our list is longer than ever – and we wouldn’t have it any other way!
Often, our travels also double up as research for you guys, to help guide you along on your own travels. Exploring the heart and soul of a destination is tough, we’re not going to lie (jokes - that’s the best part!), but sometimes the hardest part of your trip is actually narrowing down where you want to go. Throw in some summer weather and the various delights of Europe and you’ve got yourself a tricky decision-making process! After all, Europe and summer go together like Aperol Spritz and Italy, galleries and France, scenery and the Alps, history and… ok you get the drift.
What we’re trying to say, is Europe and warm weather are meant to be together, just like the following places are meant to be on your 2017 European summer bucket list.
OUR ULTIMATE EUROPEAN SUMMER BUCKET LIST FOR 2017
There’s no skirting around the fact that London’s had a tough time in recent months, but putting world politics and tragic events aside: this city is still the place to be in summer. What London lacks in the beaches of the Mediterranean it makes up for in general vibe. Brits love the sun because they never see it, so when warmer days finally arrive (believe it or not, they do exist – as we write this it’s actually 30C outside!), absolutely everyone is out making the most of it.
The potential for fun in London is endless; keep it chilled and enjoy some ciders with your mates at one of the many parks, party on down at famed festivals like Lovebox, and South West Four, jump aboard the train to Brighton to work on your classic British tan (read: burn) and some quintessential fish and chips, get traditional and indulge in some strawberries and cream at Wimbledon, or take in a day’s cricket at Lords if you’re into that kind of thing. However you decide to spend your days, you’ll be surrounded by happy Brits up for anything and everything just because it’s summer - and that’s the best part.
If Rome hasn’t made your European summer bucket list, you’re doing it all wrong! This is the place where modern civilisation really kicked into gear, and pretty much everything you encounter in your day-to-day life today has been inspired in part by the Roman Empire.
Language, government, architecture, our plumbing systems, even concrete is all thanks to those sandal-heeled Romans. Then there are the 2000-year-old ruins (the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Parthenon should get you started), and the fact that you’re literally walking in the footsteps of Julius Caesar.
Then there’s the stunning Trevi Fountain, The Vatican, Castel Sant’Angelo, Capitoline Hill, the Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona. Mix it up with the energetic buzz of a modern city going about its day and you’ve got yourself a pretty fascinating place. For evening fun, the hip Trastevere district is the place to be for cool bars, delicious street food, impromptu market shopping and entertaining street performances.
But if you’ve read all of the above and you’re still not convinced, go to Rome because Rome has ice cream. All of the ice cream. How else will you cool down in summer?!
#3 LAKE BLED
Getting outside is good for the body and mind, and chances are that after a few weeks traipsing around Europe, eating and drinking too much, a little health break is exactly what you’ll need. In fact, it’s exactly what we needed after 6 weeks in Europe last year with one of our favourite travel brands (shout out, Geckos Adventures!). We craved some green spaces, some fresh air, and some stunning natural landscapes after the hustle and bustle of Europe’s cities.
Enter: Slovenia’s Lake Bled. Basically, Bled is like that opening scene in the Sound of Music, where Maria’s singing her happy little heart out in the ridiculously attractive Alps (and you’re sitting on your couch in your tracksuit, tub of ice cream in hand, wondering how it could all be real).
But not only is it ridiculously beautiful, it’s a haven for outdoor activities. Hike or mountain bike through any of the surrounding mountains, white water raft down the Emerald River, canyon through the surrounding Triglav National Park or swim in Lake Bled, Bohinj or any of the surrounding rivers.
#4 CINQUE TERRE
Admittedly summer is the busy period here, so you’ll definitely be sharing the place with a few others. But if you time your visit and activities right, there’s much fun to be had. Because who doesn’t want to see a patchwork of multi-coloured fishing villages nestled into jagged coastline on the Mediterranean?!
If you feel like stretching your legs, the hike from Monterosso to Corniglia that takes you through the cliffside Cinque Terre National Park is ridiculously stunning. You’ll pass through the most picturesque of all the villages, Vernazza, where a quick swim, a paper cone full of delicious seafood, and basil ice cream are all on offer. Yes, basil ice-cream. This is not a drill.
Unfortunately, the hiking trails are closed between Riomaggiore and Manarola, and Manarola and Corniglia until 2018/9, but you can still jump aboard the train and continue your exploring all the way to Riomaggiore. Here, you can finish your day with Italy’s favourite drink, the Aperol Spritz, some pesto pizza (this is the home of pesto, after all!) and a beautiful, mediterranean sunset. Convinced? Goooood.
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We’ll admit we were pleasantly surprised by Bucharest. It certainly wasn’t atop our European bucket list before we visited, but now we can’t recommend it highly enough.
Often touted as ‘the new Berlin’, Bucharest is very much its own city; Parisian style meets urban decay, and a heady mix of Latin spirit, Balkan passion, communist and capitalist fusion, and the perfect place to escape the crowds of Paris or Rome, while enjoying the best of Europe.
Book your tickets now and relax in its many expansive parks, walk the charming, yet decaying old town, sip coffee in hipster cafes, chat to friendly locals, sip gin in hidden garden bars, feast on its surprisingly good cuisine, and gain an understanding of its recent communist past.
We’d longed to visit Porto, and from the moment we finally laid eyes on her we knew it was love at first sight. History is all around in this UNESCO World Heritage Ribeira district, and through the rabbit-warren alleyways wafts the scent of delicious coastal cuisine, and Porto’s greatest export, Port.
The famous Douro river, the epicentre of this once thriving port city, provides the most beautiful backdrop to sunset strolls, or a lazy cruise along the river. Miles of beaches lie within touching distance to the city centre via a rickety old tram, so those keen on a midday swim will be able to dive straight into the Atlantic.
There’s so much to do in Portugal’s second city, but for us, the best thing about Porto was taking the days as it comes. No need to rush here; wile away the days doing whatever you like. Eat all the Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese tarts), drink all the white sangria, stumble through alleyways tipsy, watch the sunset from hidden vantage points, meander through the gardens, get lost in Livraria Lello (the Harry Potter bookstore)... the choice is well and truly yours!
Hands up if you’ve heard of Menorca? No, not Mallorca, Menorca? We thought so. Neither had we, and then we visited. Sure, the Croatian coastline and Greek Islands get all the Mediterranean attention, and rightly so, they’re undeniably amazing. BUT, Menorca is quite literally paradise. It’s home to over 70 Caribbean-esque beaches and coves; fine white sand, the most ridiculous shade of turquoise water, and some of the prettiest coastal scenery. Our tip is the Cala Macarelleta, which is so perfect you’ll start believing in miracles.
If you can drag yourself away from the stunning beaches, the island is small enough to explore in a couple of days. The main towns of Ciutadella and Mahon are picture-postcard colourful, and deserving of your undivided attention. If you’re a lover of the outdoors, Menorca has many great walking and cycling tracks. Enjoy a sundowner at Cova d'en Xoroi, a bar set in a series of caves carved into the cliff‐face, perched above crystal clear waters, and try a traditional Pomada (Menorca’s version of Gin and Tonic).