In July, Europe is blessed with hot weather and reliable sunshine. It’s the best time to go abroad, whether you’re looking for an indulgent beach break, a fascinating new city to visit or an excellent British staycation.
Best for Mediterranean sun
It’s a little bit unfair to call Sardinia a ‘beach destination.’ Yes, there are seductive stretches of white sand and glistening waters – something that makes it an enduringly popular destination among Italians – but it’s also home to its own unique history and culture. Having said that, you will still find a beach so evocative that it was named an ‘Italian National Monument’ in 1995. Curiously, Cala Goloritzé, a lovely stretch of sand and pebbles, perfect for snorkelling and swimming, was only formed by a landslide as recently as 1962. Unreachable by road, a boat trip or a 90 minute hike is required to reach the beach, but as soon as you reach the clifftops overlooking this beautiful bay, you’ll realise it was worth the trip. Elsewhere, on the bay of Cala Gonone, you can find the Gulf of Orosei Natural Marine Reserve, with wild, untouched surroundings, as well as the relics of ancient civilisations, including the village of Tiscale, the Tomb of the Giants, and many pre-historic dolmens. It’s advisable to hire a car to reach some of the best spots.
In Corfu, sitting out to sea between the Greek mainland and Albania, you’ll never be far from sublime coastal scenery and fantastic holiday resorts. And if you’re more of a city break kind of person, you won’t be disappointed with the neo-classical architecture of Corfu Town, the Venetian forts and Parisian-style arcades. For a small entrance fee you can explore the island’s history and get a fantastic view over the town in the Old Fortress; afterwards you can head back down for a glass of ouzo and something to eat in one of the many pleasant bars and restaurants. To the north of the island, just by the busy resort of Sidári, you’ll find tall sandstone cliffs that have been eroded over time into otherworldly shapes. The most famous single formation among them is the Canal d’Amour (Greek: Kanáli tis Agápis), named for a legend telling that, by swimming the length of the channel, spurned lovers will win back the object of their affections.
Best for the British Isles
Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands (not technically part of the United Kingdom though ruled by Queen Elizabeth II) packs a lot into a small place. The island has a culture and history unique from Great Britain’s. For instance, the Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by Germany during the Second World War, and evidence of this is still in evidence, including at the strange and powerful Jersey War Tunnels, excavated by forced labour during the war, and today an intriguing and thought-provoking tourist attraction, filled with galleries and exhibits detailing the occupation. There are plenty of less sobering things to see, including the 13th-century Mont Orgueil Castle, Durrell Wildlife Park, and the pubs, restaurants and boutique shops of the charming capital, St. Helier. You won’t want to miss the fine food the island produces, either, particularly Jersey Royal potatoes and Jersey crab; you can also indulge yourself at three Michelin-starred restaurants.
Dorset is a county of highlights, from a famous coastline to charming towns and villages; it makes for a fine alternative to more well-known holiday destinations in Cornwall and Devon. You might visit Bournemouth, where you can find Boscombe Beach, with beach huts spruced up with vibrant colours by designer Wayne Hemingway – just make sure to bring your bucket and spade. Elsewhere, you could take a trip to the county’s most famous landmark, the natural limestone arch of Durdle Door, or explore Britain’s most desirable visit, Cerne Abbas, and see the chalk outline of the Cerne Abbas Giant etched into the hillside. If that’s not enough for your, there’s also the lively market town of Wimborne Minster in the east of the county, the home of the legendary Thomas Hardy in Dorchester, and the enchanting ruin of Corfe Castle with its Model Village – the perfect place to while away a few lazy hours for young and old alike. There’s plenty to appreciate in Dorset!
Best for weekends in Europe
Padua (Italian: Padova) is a medieval university city in the northeast corner of Italy, not far from Venice. Despite this proximity, Padua doesn’t suffer from the same glut of tourists, making it a more unique, relaxed city break destination. Brimming with the classical beauty we have come to except from Italy, there is no shortage of cultural and historical attractions, including the remarkable Giotto frescoes at the Capella degli Scrovegni, Padua’s answer to the Sistine Chapel, and St. Anthony’s enormous seven-domed basilica. Elsewhere, there are museums, Roman ruins, the world’s oldest botanic garden, or the narrow streets and little bars of the so-called ‘Jewish Ghetto’ quarter of Padua. Every July, the Sherwood Festival takes place outside the football stadium, hosting Italian and international bans every weekend. If music isn’t your thing, you could take a stroll around one of the city’s grand old markets, or take a seat in one of the central piazzas for a traditional spritz or aperitif.
Everyone has their own image of Berlin: for some, it’s a the intrigue and suspicion of a John Le Carré novel; for others it’s the seedy 1930s nightlife of Cabaret; for others still it’s the art rock of David Bowie’s Berlin years. The thing about the German capital is that you can still find a little bit of all of this. There are far too many highlights to name, but for us, there are a handful that are absolute must-visits. The first is the Museuminsel (Museum Island), home to the superlative Pergamon-Museum with its collection of ancient Greek and Middle Eastern art and architecture. Just across the river by the Berliner Dom is the DDR Museum, a fun little place where you can get a sense of East Berlin. The second highlight is the Olympiastadion, the showcase stadium of the 1936 Olympic Games, and today the home of Hertha Berlin football club. The third is to take a Trabi Safari, a tour of the city in a an iconic Trabant car, a rickety, noisy and dirty symbol of the communist past – and quite an unusual experience.
Looking to travel on a different month?
Durdle Door – image by Cycling Man via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Olympiastadion Berlin II – image by arianta via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Mont Orgueil – image by Claire Brownlow via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
The Old Fort from the New Fort – image by Badly Drawn Dad via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Piazza dei Signori – Padova, Italia – 9 Aprile 2012 – image by Giorgio Galeotti via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Cala Gonone Crop – image by Ben n Rebecca McIntyre via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Gorey Panorama – image by Mike Beales via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
In the streets of Padua – image by Pedro via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)