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Six European city hotspots to enjoy this summer

The perfect summer city break hits that sweet spot of being not too hot and not too busy, easy on the eye as well as easy to get around – and served with a generous dollop of culture, activities and ice-cream stops. From a less touristy Greek gem to a picturesque Turkish wonder, here are the places to stay and play right now

01/07/2022Updated 02/05/2023

Sunbathing on the small beach in Kaleiçi, Antalya’s old town (Alamy). Opening image: the old harbour and marina of Kaleiçi (Alamy)

Antalya, Turkey

If you like your cities pretty, ancient Antalya is Turkey’s pageant queen – set on a stretch of ocean known as the Turquoise Coast (no prizes for guessing why) and flanked by snow-capped mountains. Its heart is Kaleiçi, the tiny old quarter that descends to a yacht-dotted harbour via 44 stairs. Must sees? The ornate arches of Hadrian’s Gate, built to commemorate the Roman emperor’s visit. The Archaeological Museum’s Hall of Gods, with statues of Zeus, Athena and Aphrodite (plus a kids’ section). Then buy a locally made towel from Aydede Turkish Towels and cool off on Konyaalti beach and its four miles of sand.

Eat: Jumbo prawns at cliff-edge Arma Restaurant

Sleep: Lara Barut Collection’s Bayou Villas are XL-luxe

Play: Snap spectacular sunsets from Hıdırlık Tower in Karaalioğlu Park

Rhodes Old Town’s cobbled streets are adorned with archways (Getty Images)

Rhodes Town, Greece

Think Greek cities, think Athens. Yet the island of Rhodes’ Unesco World Heritage-listed capital is quieter, doesn’t scrimp on culture (it even has its own acropolis), and boasts a beach scene. Rhodes Town has twin personalities. The new town exudes upbeat resort vibes: boutique shops and water-facing bars, wide streets with parks and Venetian architecture. The old town is the quieter, wiser type, all twisting lanes and ruins hiding behind vast walls. Visit the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, stroll the Street of the Knights and refuel at To Marouli – a hipster vegan joint renowned for seducing carnivores.

Eat: Skewered lamb among lemon trees at Marco Polo Mansion

Sleep: Mitsis Grand Hotel Beach Hotel is a five-star beach-front city resort

Play: Concept store OhDeer.me sells playful island-inspired souvenirs: earrings, tees, tote bags

The Triple Bridge is a group of three bridges across the Ljubljanica River (Eugene Kuznetsov)

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Slovenia’s serenely green capital is one of Europe’s smallest in size, but largest for fairy-tale beauty. Imagine red-roofed houses, a backdrop of mountains and cappuccino-foam clouds and a Rapunzel-esque castle atop a hill. (The castle’s bar even serves wines made from vines in its grounds. Heavenly, indeed.) Ljubljana is a fascinating place. In 2007, it began banning all cars from the centre and has been recognised as a European Green Capital. There are also Michelin-starred restaurants (reserve Restavracija Strelec, stat), Unesco-recognised landmarks by prized architect Jože Plečnik, and a centuries-old puppet theatre scene for kids and big kids alike.

Eat: Kranjska klobasa, a feisty little sausage dipped in mustard and horseradish

Sleep: Art Deco Hotel Cubo for all the greats: food, service, duvets

Play: Tone glutes on 186 miles of cycle routes

The Old Library at Trinity College Dublin (Dave Herring)

Dublin, Ireland

August is balmy by Dublin standards – hitting 19°C – with long, light days, Irish music festivals and stalwart indoor attractions, should downpours strike. Dublin excels at the old and the Instagrammable. Avid readers can tour impressive libraries, such as Marsh’s and the Old Library of Trinity College Dublin, or browse the Winding Stair Bookshop and Temple Bar Markets – a weekend institution for selling art, crafts and rare editions. For cheeky tipples (when in Ireland…), take a pilgrimage to the mother tap at Guinness Storehouse – the stout’s HQ, or visit Teeling – a small-batch whiskey distillery. Outdoors, take in live music on Grafton Street and people-watch from St Stephen’s Green.

Eat: Wild Atlantic salmon at slick Restaurant Six

Stay: Ranelagh’s The Devlin has a 44-seat cinema and Dyson hairdryers 

Play: Get a chilling guided tour at former prison Kilmainham Gaol

Different civilisations intertwine on the ancient streets of Limassol (Getty Images) 

Limassol, Cyprus

Limassol is energetic, modern and glitzy – but also sleepy if you know where to look. Away from the marina, Limassol Old Town (Lemesos) is a summer explorer’s wonderland of cute cobbled streets and one-off boutiques. This is the real Limassol – and its castle, built around 1000AD, is the star. Though there’s a galaxy of ancient discoveries, including the ruins of Amathus – a city-kingdom that now gives its name to its five-star neighbour, Amathus Beach Hotel. You’ll also find a zoo, a motor museum and a 20-stop wine route across Limassol’s wine-making villages. The annual wine festival, held in the Municipal Gardens, falls in late August.

Eat: Karatello Tavern’s marvellous meze plates

Sleep: Crowne Plaza Limassol is the closest beach hotel to the old town

Play: There are cool pools, and then there’s Fasouri Watermania Waterpark

A traditional rabelo boat on the Douro river, Porto (Rodrigo Cardoso)

Porto, Portugal

Dismiss Porto as Lisbon’s little brother at your peril. Its artistic side rivals the big boys’: from statement-making street art to walls gleaming in blue azulejos tiles, from São Bento station – perhaps the world’s prettiest train station – to Igreja do Carmo church. It’s a shopper’s paradise for artisanal stores, such as the artfully packaged beauty brand Claus Porto. Love books? Lello bookstore reportedly inspired the Harry Potter novels, while Café Candelabro serves white port and tonics (a P&T?) alongside second-hand tomes. Michelin-starred Antiqvvm is the name to drop for dinner. Water lovers will lap up Piscinas de Marés – two tidal pools (one for adults, one for kids) by architect Siza Vieira.

Eat: A bell sounds when Manteigaria’s insane nata (custard tarts) leave the oven

Sleep: Elegant Casa da Companhia boasts vaulted ceilings and a spa

Play: Climb Torre dos Clérigos for 75m-high views

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