Heading for the beach this summer? Think again. Summer is one of the most exciting times to visit a city – this is the moment when the urban jungle bristles with the pent-up energy of winter’s hibernation. You can’t beat mojitos and caipirinhas with friends on a sunny roof terrace, or an outdoor concert rocking out to favourite bands. Summer in the city? It’s the only place to be.
New York is the quintessential year-round destination, but there’s something to be said for summer in this city, when the events calendar goes into overdrive.
Immerse yourself by going to a festival. Hip hop festival Afro Punk Fest (Commodore Barry Park), in late August, has had the likes of Janelle Monáe and Erykah Badu headlining. The free Seaport Music Festival (Pier 16 South Seaport) features more indie music, with bands playing every weekend in June. Culture lovers will enjoy River to River Festival, where for one month (mid-June to mid-July), 150 art installations take place all over Lower Manhattan.
July sees NYC Restaurant Week hit the city, with over 300 restaurants participating in cheap lunch and dinner deals, including the acclaimed Red Rooster (310 Lenox Avenue, 212 792 9001), where you can fill up on Harlem-style soul food, and seafood shack The John Dory Oyster Bar (1196 Broadway, 212 792 9000), with its great-value oyster happy hour from 5pm to 7pm. Fans of food markets will love SmorgasBar (South Street Seaport), an offshoot of Brooklyn Flea with a dozen great food stalls open until October. Grab smoothies, hot dogs and lobster rolls for the perfect pick-me-up.
They say Paris is best in springtime but it’s the summer when the chic city really lets go. August is quiet but the rest of summer is a riot of sporting triumphs and good old-fashioned fun.
The first signs of summer come in the form of the ‘Paris Plages’. Every July, a 3.5-kilometre beach is created on the banks of the Seine, decorated with palm trees, hammocks and deck chairs. Soak up the rays, or get active with a game of boules. Another must-do is ‘Cinéma en plein air’ (Parc de la Villette), when open-air film screenings take place in the balmy evenings. Take a blanket, a bottle of wine, and sit back and relax as the sun goes down. Trendy types will like new cultural centre Wanderlust (32 Quai d’Austerlitz, 01 7074 4174), where cool locals can be found smoking on the city’s largest terrace.
The major event on France’s summer sporting calendar is the Tour de France, and in Paris, the only place to be is the Champs Elysées. Cheer on as those muscle-bound cyclists make a final dash for the line – the atmosphere is electric and emotional. For a less intensive workout of your own, walk down to Square Tino Rossi and Quai St Bernard to join salsa and tango dancers moving to mesmerising Latin rhythms on the quayside.
‘School’s out for summer’ goes the Alice Cooper song, and when those golden rays hit London, it may as well be the soundtrack to the entire city. Summer is when London really comes alive.
Visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to pairing vistas with vodkas. Sip fancy cocktails at Kensington Roof Gardens (99 Kensington High Street, 020 7368 3993) while enjoying views over West London – just keep an eye out for the roof-dwelling pink flamingos. The slick rooftop bar at the Norman Foster-designed ME London hotel (336-337 The Strand, 020 7395 3400) is a great late night alternative, open until 3am on the weekends. South of the river is hipster favourite Frank’s Café (10th Floor Peckham Multistorey Car Park, 95A Rye Lane), where they make a mean Negroni from July to September.
To explore London, hire a bike through the Barclays bike-share programme. The blue upright bikes are a cheap and easy way to navigate the city, with docking stations all over the central areas, and bikes free to rent for the first 30 minutes of any journey.
Sweden’s high northern latitude means that come June, Stockholm is bathed in around 18 hours of sunlight a day. As a result, if there’s one place to enjoy a glorious summer, it’s Stockholm.
Spread out over 14 islands, water is as much a part of Stockholm’s DNA as dry land. Start orientation with a day’s boat tour around the capital and further out into the archipelago. Closer to home, there are plenty of outdoor beaches worthy of a dip. Smedsuddsbadet (Rålambshovsparken) is a favourite with locals and is packed with families at the weekend. Saltsjöbadens Friluftsbad (Torben Gruts väg 8, 08 717 0552), only open during the summer, is a wooden bath house that’s over a century old, but despite recent modernisation it still retains its characterful feel, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to sea.
Midsummer in Stockholm is celebrated with the kind of gusto usually reserved for Christmas. Many decamp to rural summer cabins but stay in town to see traditional celebrations in action at the Skansen open-air museum (Djurgårdsslätten 49, 08 442 8000), with men and women in costume dancing around the maypole and singing ancient folk songs. Or try Vasaparken, where Swedish pancakes are served before festivities begin at midday.
A favourite for hen and stag dos, the Dutch city has a bit of a notorious reputation, but a plethora of recent museum openings mean summer’s the perfect time to do a bit of cultural sightseeing.
A trio of newly reopened museums means the city is now firing on all cultural cylinders. First stop: the Rijksmuseum (Museumstraat 1, 020 6621440), which has reopened its doors after a decade-long renovation. The linchpin of Dutch art is home to Old Masters including Rembrandt and Vermeer, while the newly revamped Stedelijk Museum (Museumplein 10, 020 573 2911) houses a never-before-seen industrial design collection. See Van Gogh’s oeuvre at his eponymous museum (Paulus Potterstraat 7, 020 570 5200), which has over 700 drawings and paintings.
Public parks are all well and good, but Amsterdam’s best green spaces are hidden away from prying eyes. Tucked away in the innermost circle of the canal, Begijnhof (Catharinastraat 45, 076 521 1276) is a former convent whose calm inner courtyard makes a wonderful sanctuary from the rambunctious city. Alternatively, snoop to your heart’s content on ‘Open Tuinen Dagen’ (Open Garden Days), on the third weekend of June, when a €15 ticket gets you entry into 25 private gardens normally hidden behind the imposing facades of