From sun-drenched festivals to waterside relaxation and all manner of family fun, Europe is full of city break possibilities as the days lengthen (Photo: Getty Images)

From sun-drenched festivals to waterside relaxation and family activities, Europe is full of city break opportunities as the days lengthen. Home to stunning architecture and a rich range of cultures and cuisines, piazzas, parks and promenades come into their own during the warmer months. Here's how to see the very best of Europe's cities on an unforgettable urban break.

Dine al fresco under crystal-clear Mediterranean skies

As the days lengthen, Italy offers an unrivalled mix of Renaissance architecture, delicious cuisine and balmy nights, with Rome the heart of Italian culture for over 2,500 years. At The St. Regis Rome, you’re a short walk from the Piazza di Trevi and innumerable terrace cafes and osterias. The hotel’s own Lumen Garden becomes a vibrant Roman piazza on Sundays, with live music to accompany your aperitivo, with a range of Roman delicacies.

Eating al fresco is a big part of life all over Greece, and Athens does it fabulously well, with magnificent historic sights forming the backdrop to everyday life. At the Hotel Grand Bretagne, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Athens, the GB Roof Garden Restaurant has breathtaking views of the gently lit Acropolis. Enjoy a plate of grilled calamari and smoked fish roe sauce as you soak up centuries of Grecian culture.

Make a splash in Barcelona and the French Riviera

Coast of Barcelona, Spain

Spain boasts over 5,000 miles of coastline, offering an array of stunning beaches along both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean (Photo: Getty Images)

Get the best of both worlds with a sea and city break on Spain’s coast, where Barcelona sits proudly as Catalonia’s capital of art and culture. The W Barcelona is located on the beachfront along the famous Barceloneta boardwalk, with rooms offering views of the Mediterranean. Cool down at the hotel’s WET pool and terrace, and enjoy the change in atmosphere as days make way for music-filled nights with DJs and signature cocktails.

Or visit the French Riviera for the very best in sumptuous beachside settings. Savour the Côte d’Azur lifestyle at Le Méridien Nice, with the cobbled streets and restaurants of the old town a gentle stroll away. The sea or hotel rooftop pool are on hand though when immersion in water and laid-back, sun-filled days are all you want.

Soak up the splendour of European vistas, gardens and rivers

Alpine garden, Jardin des Plantes, Paris

The Alpine Garden, nestled within the historic Jardin des Plantes in Paris, showcases a diverse collection of high-altitude plants (Photo: Getty Images)

Even on an urban break, Mother Nature is close at hand. For the best natural settings to watch the sun set in Athens, head to Mount Lycabettus or Filopappou Hill. Equidistant between them is King George, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Athens, on Syntagma Square opposite the beautiful National Garden, filled with shaded groves and walkways.

Belgium’s northerly position gives it a relatively gentle summer climate – ideal for those who favour longer walks or picnics. Stay at the Ghent Marriott Hotel, a beautiful 15th-century building in the old centre, that blends medieval features with chic interior splendour on the banks of the River Lys. Glide by on a boat tour, marvelling at Ghent’s intricate architectural façades for ultimate tranquillity.

In Paris, cobbled and leafy side streets offer a world away from busier thoroughfares, while verdant garden and woodland areas provide a multitude of ways to fully immerse in nature. At the Jardin des Plantes, enjoy the botanical gardens, from alpine to rose and rock – and stay nearby at the Courtyard Paris Gare de Lyon.

Wrap yourself in wellness from Istanbul to Vienna

Runners along the coast of Istanbul, Turkey

The Turkish coast offers a captivating blend of natural beauty, making it an ideal location for exercise (Photo: Getty Images)

When you need some wellness, Türkiye is just the place. A run along Istanbul's Bosphorus will have your heart racing and endorphins flowing. Then, for pampering, visit the Orient Occident Hotel Istanbul, Autograph Collection which puts you in the old quarter, near some of the most historic hammams, or opt for an Ayurvedic treatment at the hotel. The Ultimate Spa Escape at the waterside JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus includes a traditional hammam experience, too. 

With Austria’s love of the great outdoors, it’s no surprise that lively capital Vienna has natural lidos on the River Danube for swimming and sandy beach days. To really spoil yourself, head to the Golden Tree Spa at the Vienna Marriott Hotel, and book a massage or a Finnish sauna session. Europe is brimming over with wonderful spas, like The Westin Resort, Costa Navarino in Greece, so you’ll really be spoilt for choice.

Hop from Dutch flower festivals to French ‘Fête de la musique’

Crowd attending a music festval in Blythborough

Europe is home to some of the biggest music festivals in the world, including Lollapalooza, Tomorrowland and Glastonbury (Photo: Getty Images) 

Nothing says fine weather like music festivals and fields of blooms. Flower culture has strong roots in The Netherlands, with its famous spring flower festival a short hop from Amsterdam. Stay at the W Amsterdam, and take a flower tour – the hotel will help you arrange it. For those who want to really get their festival vibe on, grab a tent and head south to Awakenings in Hilvarenbeek, over the border into Belgium for Tomorrowland or to Berlin’s Lollapalooza. If camping's not for you, you can do some festivals in style – combine Sónar with a stay at Le Méridien Barcelona, for instance.

 

In France, the lavender fields are celebrated in festivals across Provence, and combine with mimosa, orange blossom and jasmine to create a heady mix. Visit the International Perfume Museum in Grasse and discover how the region became the European centre of fragrance production. The Renaissance Aix-en-Provence Hotel makes the perfect base for exploring. Don’t miss the Fête de la Musique either, celebrated all over France, but especially in Nice, where musical performances and more herald June’s solstice. 

Enchant the family with puppet theatres and Roman history

A family in St. Peter's Square, Rome, Italy

During summer in Rome, children can engage in immersive educational experiences that bring Roman history to life (Photo: Getty Images)

With the warmer months encouraging outdoor fun, kids' activities rightly take centre stage. The Ghent Festivities are ten days in July that celebrate food, music and dance. For children specifically, the huge fairground, Giants of Ghent and The House of Alijn puppet theatre are sure to delight. The Residence Inn Ghent is a longer-stay hotel that offers all the comforts of a hotel with a fully equipped kitchen and food delivery service – a perfect home from home.

Rome for kids is a history lesson come alive. At Gruppo Storico Romano: Gladiator for a Day, there’s an arena for gladiatorial action and even the chance to participate. Welcome to Rome’s multimedia exhibits take youngsters through a timeline of Roman history. A stay at The Westin Excelsior, Rome puts you close to Villa Borghese – not only is this Rome’s most beautiful gardens but it's filled with child-friendly activities, too, not least San Carlino, the puppet theatre on the aptly named Viale dei Bambini. 

Enjoy cultural riches from Berlin to Barcelona

Spree River and Berliner Dom, Berlin, Germany

The Spree River flows through the heart of Berlin, providing a picturesque backdrop for the iconic Berliner Dom (Photo: Getty Images)

Summer sees Catalonians come out to practise their world-famous human towers, or castells, with several teams based in Barcelona. When you’re not gasping at this UNESCO-listed spectacle, you have galleries and Gaudí to keep you busy. Stay at Cotton House Hotel, Autograph Collection and you’re right on the Plaça de Catalunya, in the centre of Barcelona’s beating heart.

German capital Berlin thrives on culture, and the East Side Gallery’s permanent open-air murals pay homage to recent history on the wall that once divided the city. Just off Potsdamer Platz, the JW Marriott Hotel Berlin is centrally located for accessing the city’s major sites, from the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag building to Berlin’s vast array of museums.

A stay at the Hotel Imperial, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Vienna puts you in the heart of Austria’s cultural centre, where Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss still provide the soundtrack to musical soirees in the city’s thriving music and dance halls. The hotel itself, with antiques, a butler service and marble bathrooms enshrines the elegance of a bygone era.

Party the night away in Europe’s liveliest neighbourhoods

Canal, Amsterdam

Amsterdam is renowned for its vibrant nightlife scene, offering a plethora of options for partying the night away (Photo: Getty Images) 

Overlooking Amsterdam's IJ River, Sir Adam Hotel, Amsterdam, A Member of Design Hotels is situated in the impressive A’DAM Tower. Sharing the building with hip music and creative design companies, there's a buzz around the place, from the open, ‘living’ reception area, to the revolving rooftop restaurant and 360-degree observation deck. You can even dance the night away at Madam, Amsterdam’s highest nightclub, and enjoy stunning views of the city. You can also revel in waterfront views at the Moxy Amsterdam Houthavens – for added fun, check-in is at the bar, which is the hub and heart of the hotel.

Arguably the nightlife capital of Europe, Berlin guarantees regular new openings, all-night clubbing and options for every taste. With its plush red interiors and sumptuous design, Provocateur, Berlin, A Member of Design Hotels is the perfect base for a bit of glamour and decadent fun, while the stylish Moxy Berlin Ostbahnhof lies close to some of the city's best clubs.


Published: April 19, 2024

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