There’s something about summer that gets even the workaholics amongst us dreaming about sunloungers, ice-cold cocktails and a glittering blue sea. Your idea of the quintessential sunny break might be chillaxing on the beach with family, exercising your adrenal glands in the mountains or grooving to cheesy tunes until dawn. Whatever your travel tipple of choice, though, sun is one ingredient you’ll need to bring the whole thing together.
Just a few hours in the air will take you from drizzly, grey London to some of Europe’s most sought-after beach destinations. If your goal is simply to feel the sand between your toes and bask in guaranteed sunshine, then head straight to Málaga. Urban gateway to the Costa del Sol, this fast-rejuvenating Spanish city is huddled around a charming little kernel of an old town and has several surprisingly idyllic beaches of its own.
West of the centre is a string of the region’s most famous and popular beach resorts – Fuengirola, Benalmádena and Torremolinos to name just a few – but head east and the high-rise developments are quickly replaced with sleepy white villages and deserted coves. Los Rubios is that preciously rare find – a long, sandy Spanish beach devoid of hotel crowding. For something even more secluded, climb down the steep cliff below the village of Maro near Nerja to reach an idyllic sand-and-shingle bay that never sees more than a few sunbathers at a time.
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If the prospect of lying on a beach all week gives you itchy feet, then why not invest your summer break with a theatrical flavour? Edinburgh is the place to be in August, when most of the culturally minded world descends on the city for a month-long celebration of theatre, comedy and general entertainment. Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the largest event of its kind on the planet, begins on 1 August and runs for three weeks, overlapping with the International Festival from the middle of the month onwards.
You’ll have to book in advance for the International Festival’s major offerings, but the best way to experience the Fringe is to listen to the street – talk to flyer-hawkers, other visitors and the chap sitting next to you in the pub to get their personal recommendations. Of course, it would be a crime to set foot in Scotland’s gastronomic capital without sampling its culinary delights. The Michelin-starred Kitchin (78 Commercial Quay, 0131 555 1755), with its French-Scottish crossover fare, achingly romantic Number One (1 Princes Street, 0131 557 6727) and chic contemporary restaurant 21212 (3 Royal Terrace, 0845 222 1212) are all paradises for the palate.
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Planning a summer holiday that’s at once über-relaxing and active enough to entertain the kids is a challenge faced by most parents. The answer could lie in Nantes: a lively Breton seaside city with a long line of knockout beaches just a short drive to the west of the bustling centre and plenty of entertainment on offer for all ages. The number one attraction for the kids here is the Machines de I’lle (Parc des Chantiers, +33 251 174 989), a circus-cum-amusement park based around a collection of fascinating animatronic animals. Explore Nantes’ former shipyards on the back of a life-sized mechanical elephant, ride the three-tier carousel or fly through the air on a heron with an 8-metre wingspan.
Just out of town, La Baule Beach is a stunning stretch of sand that scythes for 9 kilometres through a clear-blue sea. Named as one of the world’s most beautiful bays, it has a beach club where kids can try their hand at volleyball, table tennis and an array of watersports, as well as the Monkey Forest adventure park (D774 Guérande-Herbignac,+33 6 6084 4600) within striking distance. For the grown-ups, there’s the glitzy Casino Barrière (24 Esplanade Lucien Barrière, +33 2 4011 4828) and several thalassotherapy centres.
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There’s only one place to go in Europe if your plan is to combine searing sunshine with some serious partying, and that’s Ibiza. The Isla Blanca is the birthplace of rave – a sizzling symphony of emerald seas, white-sand beaches and world-renowned super clubs. The two major nightlife destinations are Ibiza Town on the southern coast and Sant Antoni in the west.
Walk the streets of either and you’ll pass a series of legendary names – among them Privilege (Urbanización San Rafael, +34 971 198 160), the largest nightclub on the planet, and decadent Amnesia (Carretera Ibiza a San Antonio, +34 971 198 041). The season runs from June to October, attracting an endless parade of talented DJs, chart-topping bands and celebrity revellers. If the party scene eventually palls, though, head north to the glorious area around Punta Galera, where you’ll discover why so much of Ibiza is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
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Forget the Mediterranean coast – if it’s balmy weather, crystal-clear waters and soul-soothing views you’re after, then Geneva is the place to be this summer. Strung along the shores of Lake Geneva with the Alps standing sentinel in the background, this fabulously located Swiss city really knows how to make the most of good weather. The art deco pools of the Bains des Pâquis (Quai du Mont-Blanc 30, +41 22 732 2974), with their 140-metre-high fountain, on-site hammam and lakeside beach, are where the cool cats head when the mercury rises.
For something both secluded and seriously special, the pint-sized beach at St-Saphorin is just a short journey away. Pedalos and motorboats can be hired from shore-side locations around the lake, with sailing lessons available at Société Nautique de Genève (Port Noir, +41 22 707 0500). For a real adrenaline hit, take an ultra-efficient train up into the Alps and stop off at the village of Veysonnaz to soak up the fantastical scenery that surrounds the Plateau du Trient glacier.
You can book flights to Geneva by clicking here.