4 of the ‘coolest’ cities to explore in Europe this Summer

Many of Europe’s cities can be far too hot for comfort during the height of Summer, especially if you are planning to take a long shopping list of must-see sights and attractions. But for those who would still like a distinctly urban experience, perhaps with children in tow during the school holidays, we would recommend a break in any of these ‘cool’ cities.

Stockholm, Sweden

Sweden’s capital is a jigsaw of fourteen islands afloat on the silver waters of the Baltic. You can swim right in from of the City Hall, rent a canoe for an inner city paddle, fish for salmon opposite the Royal Palace and sail on a fleet of ferries that connect Stockholm to myriad heavenly islands.

Stockholm Old Town, Sweden

Stockholm has all the advantages of a metropolis – designer shopping, historic architecture, hip hotels, lots of museums and stacks of restaurants and cafés – yet with all the advantages of small-town living.

On a hot weekend, you might like to hop on a boat to an island; Stockholm is the gateway to the world’s largest archipelago. Fjaderholmarna, the nearest of the 24,000 confetti of granite, moss, reed and pine outcrops, has an aquarium, a gish smoker, a handful of craft shops housed in old fishermen’s huts and the Rokeriet – perfect for lunch with tables on a veranda right beside the water.

Where to stay: Nobis Hotel, a marriage of two 19th century buildings presiding over a beautiful square with an enticing blend of traditional look and contemporary Scandinavian flair.

Palma, Majorca

The vast majority that fly to thus largest of the Balearic islands for their Summer vacation immediately turn their back on its capital and head straight for the beach. Their loss! Palma is an authentic Spanish city with an immense Gothic mountain of a cathedral, the Arab Baths – legacy of Moorish times and hidden labyrinth of dark alleys, a colourfully busy harbour, palm-lined promenades and a wide choice of excellent eateries (try calle Apuntadores for the best of many tapas bars).

Palma Cathedral, Majorca

Join the Mallorquins as they take their evening paseo along El Borne, the plane-tree-shaded main thoroughfare, and you will know you’re in Spain.

Where to stay: Hotel Palacio Ca Sa Galesa, a 16th century palace with twelve rooms but an extensive collection of antiques and contemporary works of art. It also has a rooftop sun terrace, with good views of the cathedral and an indoor pool.

Bordeaux, France

Facing the Atlantic and cooled by onshore breezes, the ‘wine capital’ of France is a good Summer bet, especially for those who prefer to travel by fast train rather than fly – the TGV from Paris takes just over three hours.

Bordeaux, France

This elegant city combines fine 18th century architecture with restored docks and quays, as well as historic quartier that is easily explored on foot, specific highlights include the Musee des Beaux-Arts and the Sunday morning market along the Quai des Chartons.

Where to stay: Grand Hotel de Bordeaux in the heart of the ‘Golden Triangle’ shopping district, with a classic fine-dining restaurant and brasserie. It also has an excellent spa and, perfect for the Summer, a rooftop swimming pool.

Bruges, Belgium

An old favourite with British weekenders, Bruges is a medieval masterpiece of guild houses, palaces, cobbled streets, canals and bridges. You can will also find lots of welcoming bars and restaurants, as well as musuems stocked with Dutch masters – the Van Eycks and Memlings in the Groeninge arguably top the bill.

Bruges, Belgium

Where to stay: Hotel Duke’s Palace, once the home of the Dukes of Burgundy and in a quiet location close to the Markt (Market Square) at the heart of Bruges. It has a private garden, adding to its Summer appeal, as well as an indoor swimming pool and spa.

Nick Van Gruisen is Managing Director of The Ultimate Travel Company.

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