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If the thought of sticky sun cream and sand in strange places fills you with horror, head to one of these European cities for a summer holiday that offers more chic than just a beach.
Ranked as one of the happiest cities in the world based on the value they place on friends, family and generally enjoying life, Copenhagen is a shining example of the ideal city break and never better than in the height of summer. Best explored on foot, clean lines, light-filled spaces and design-driven heritage seep into coffee shops, concept stores and galleries around the city. Effortless style extends beyond the homegrown designer offering with a cluster of restaurants that regularly rank among the worlds best. Noma is the holy grail of Nordic cuisine, but given its credentials reservations are notoriously difficult to snag. Opt instead to try the seafood offering at Kødybens Fiskebar, which is much more diverse and just as good. Situated on the coast and a good alternative to the Danish Design Museum, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art divides rooms into hot (well-known artists) and cold (emerging artists) in an attempt to diversify guests experiences.
Known for its rhythmic flamenco shows and orange-scented streets, the Andalusian capital of Seville is a sun-soaked getaway combining Moorish architecture with tapas bars and an energetic late-night scene. A more peaceful alternative to the crowded Alćazar Palace, La Casa de Pilatos is a 15th-century palace that blends gothic renaissance and romantic styles across their perfumed gardens and rooms. Venture to Mercado de Feria to sample some local fish tapas before finishing off in the Alfalfa barrio where the liveliest of Seville’s bars operate. Order a bucket of mojitos from any of the buzzy joints that line Calle Perez Galdos and Plaza Alfalfa, then share among friends out on the cobbled streets. Stay in Hotel Boutique Elvira Plaza, its leafy terraces, palate of neutrals mixed with bohemian reclaimed bedside tables and headboards, plus its enchanting plaza location make for dreamy mini-break.
Shun the tourist-laden crowds this summer and head to Amsterdam’s cooler cousin, Rotterdam. Open-minded and with a sense of humour – evident in their treasured, giant erotic Santa sculpture – Rotterdam doesn’t take itself too seriously, encouraging visitors to embrace its eccentricity. Numerous urban renewal projects, such as Roodkapje, have transformed disused sections of the city. Located next to Rotterdam Central Station, it defines Rotterdam’s progressive nature with its communal living room, revolving calendar of punchy exhibitions and underground food, music and art laboratory. Other community-driven spaces include Aloha, a former swimming pool repackaged as a city park, rooftop terrace and foliage-filled coffee roasters. Then there’s Biergarten, an expansive sun-trap combining Dutch craft beers with enthusiastic DJs. Weird and wonderful aside, just a 30-minute boat ride is the UNESCO World Heritage Site Kinderdijk where the uniform rows of windmills offer the chance to capture that quintessential Dutch postcard.
While often visited during winter for the Christmas markets, Vienna in the summer will undoubtedly seduce. Grand, pastel-hued baroque townhouses that were once occupied by Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert line the streets leading to some of the most opulent and decadent architecture in Europe, best admired via a stroll on a summer day. Shooting to the top of any itinerary is the striking arched glass ceilings and tropical butterfly house of the Palmenhaus, one of the world’s largest botanical exhibitions. Despite its celebrated past, Vienna is by no means resting on its historical credentials. A mesh of emerging young designers and restaurateurs are diversifying Austria’s capital city. Neni dishes up baked eggs, yoghurt and candied nuts in homage to Israel street food found in Tel Aviv market bars, while local designer Barbara Linder launched Alila, an upmarket, sustainable brand specialises in upcycling Japanese vintage garments. One tradition that should be preserved is the devouring of a portion (box) of crispy, flaky strudel in the antiquated Café Prückel.
Since its 2013 UNESCO Capital of Culture title, France’s oldest city has dramatically increased its artistic offering, positioning itself as welcome alternative to the hot and crowded streets of Paris. with an emergence of modern art institutions. Next to the Museée des Civilisations de l’Europe et la Méditerranée, art enthusiasts should stop by the striking Villa Méditerranée. The waterfront building designed by Stefano Boeri boasts three multimedia exhibitions that overhang a sea pool, which is visible through the viewing galleries glass-panelled floor. Of course a stroll down Vieux Port, the focal point of Marseille, is a must, but for a less-commercial pastis aperitif experience head to Place des Pistoles. Navigate your way through the cobbled back streets before settling down in one of the numerous bars that occupy the leafy square. Leave the bustling port behind and venture out to the shiny shores of the Côte d’Azur. South of Marseille the Calanques (limestone cliff) stretch for 20 miles providing ample opportunity to stretch those legs. More relaxed patrons can rent a boat and dive between the cliffs inlets – word to the wise, a cooler box brimming with Provence rosé is considered obligatory.
After conquering the multi-coloured streets of Lisbon, Portugal’s bejewelled second city makes for a laid-back alternative. Favouring long lunches and afternoon strolls, Porto is a European city entering its prime – and nobody can argue with Portugal in the summer. Positioned on the steep banks of the Douro River, you’ll be met with numerous viewpoints that stretch across the top of the terracotta roofs and bold, primary-coloured facades. Ignoring any plans of a summer detox, dig in to Porto’s second most famous export, the francesinha. The meat-layered sandwich is smothered in melted cheese and hot tomato sauce; devour one at Yuko alongside litres of sangria, an unlikely, yet satisfying pairing. Occupying many of Porto’s historical buildings is a sea of hip drinking dens. Converted ceramics factory Flow is a stylish option with floor-to-ceilings windows and sparkling outdoor terrace. Claiming to be the first and only open-air bar in the city (not counting the numerous bars that spill out into the street come 3AM) olive tree filled Base is a manmade park boasting novelty seating, including a bath tub and several tractor tyres, alongside a disco soundtrack.
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