The best summer holiday destinations in Europe aren't always the ones that are plastered across billboards and postcards. These have their appeal. With beautiful beaches and restaurants and scenery, it's easy to see why they are always spoken about with a dreamy, starry-eyed desire for these destinations to be part of your summer holiday plans.
But this isn't to everyone's liking. With their fame come heaving summer crowds and flotillas of gin palaces descending upon their shores. That is why we have included some quieter, subtler destinations that don't always see the attention they deserve on the international holiday scene. Europe is teeming with wonderful places to visit, so we have curated a list of the 6 best destinations, big and small, famous and underrated, for you to visit on your summer holidays.
Our best vacation spots in Europe: three famous and three underrated destinations
The stars of the best holiday destinations in Europe
The unassuming wonders of the best holiday destinations in Europe
On the Greek Island of Mykonos
Mykonos is a picturesque behemoth of the summer holiday scene. Its whitewashed towns and vibrant nightlife have added to its summer popularity, but it remains a beautiful place to spend your holidays. Choose to spend your days floating in the turquoise shallows of the Aegean Sea or unwinding in your villa's swimming pool before feasting on the Mediterranean's finest foods in a taverna. Mealtime in Greece is about community and sharing.
Be sure to try the Kopanisti after a refreshing aperitif of Ouzo and share a crisp and light bottle of Greek wine. When the sun begins to set on another languid day in paradise, the island comes to life.
Summer months on the shores of Lake Como
Lake Como boasts a different kind of summer; sophistication and glamour ooze from the banks of the lake and the hearts of the towns. Life moves at a gentler pace beneath the soft gaze of these lofty peaks, where the water slowly ripples and laps against the fringes of grand villas and quaint towns. Take a boat on the lake and drift between estates and towns, taking in the views of the mountains and the Renaissance architecture, occasionally disembarking to amble around the many gardens that spill down towards the lake from haughty villas.
For the most spectacular views, take the funicular to the town of Brunate overlooking Como, where the cathedral peers over the rooftops. Once back in the valley, head to the serene embrace of Michelin-starred Kitchen for the most creative Italian dishes.
Sandy beaches and trendy clubs in St Tropez
St Tropez is ol' reliable for the international jet-set crowd and with good, nay excellent, reason, it's easily one of the best summer holiday destinations in Europe, if not the world. But that also comes with its own price tag: during the peak season, St Tropez can get very busy. This does little to distract from the area's beauty, however. Head to a day on the sands of Pampelonne Beach - St Tropez's heralded gem that is home to some of the most renowned and glamorous beach clubs.
Since the halcyon days of the 1950s, when Brigitte Bardot and her cast members were shooting alongside the shimmering sea of St Tropez for And God Created Woman, stalwarts such as Le Club 55 have been serving their customers in a trendy but laid-back atmosphere. It's not only the glamour of the man-made features of St Tropez that lead to its popularity, but also its natural beauty.
On the beautiful beaches of Cap Ferret and Arcachon
On the lesser-known West Coast of France, facing out over the Atlantic that ebbs and flows into the quiet backwater of Arcachon basin, you will find an idyllic addition to our list of the best summer destinations in Europe. Here, you will lose yourself amongst the pines in your grand log cabin villa, before emerging onto a wide and soft beach that is perennially changing with the tides. The towns are known for oyster harvesting, and scattered around the basin and on the beaches you will find quaint restaurants serving the freshest oysters served with wines from the nearby Bordeaux wine region.
Head to Bistro'50 for lunch before making your way to Dune du Pilat - the tallest sand dune in Europe that promises stunning sunset views over both land and sea. In these coastal towns, you can live an adventurous life, a life of discovery, whilst living in luxury and feeling more like an in-the-know visitor to these welcoming parts.
A surfer's paradise: summer holidays in Biarritz
The waves crash and foam and curl against the golden sand of Biarritz's La Grande Plage, where surfers of all levels flock to make the most of the Atlantic swell that slams against the southwest of France. After a day of frolicking in the sea and basking in the summer sun, a cocktail in The Beach House is essential. With all of the elegance of the Basque country, where royals have been visiting for centuries, alongside the added Bohemian touches brought by the surfing community, Biarritz flaunts an effortlessly laid-back aura in a beautiful setting.
While it is a small town, there is still plenty to do and see in the area. To the south Saint-Jean-de-Luz boasts its beautiful church - the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church where King Louis XIV was married to Marie-Thérèse of Spain. The rich history and breathtaking scenery make it one of the relatively unexplored features on our list of the best summer destinations in Europe.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Chateaux in Normandy
Dramatic coastal cliffs, chalky white, hanging over turbulent pastel-blue waters, and rolling green pastures characterise this stunning and bucolic region of France. While Normandy is popular amongst Parisians, it hasn't made it yet as one of the most famous of our best summer destinations in Europe. However, in the height of summer, the beach towns of Deauville and Trouville are still alive with people and flourishing culture and tradition. With a local cider and some camembert packed into your picnic basket, set off for the cliffs around Étretat for a light snack on the lush grass followed by moules marinières in La Flotille. Or simply recline on one of the long, wide beaches.
One of the most breathtaking scenes you will find in France if not Europe is the magical Mont Saint-Michel that seems to float in dream-like splendour on the sweeping bay. The tidal island has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.
With Le Collectionist, you can experience the freedom to explore these luxury holiday destinations that, with fame or without it, feature on our list of the best summer destinations in Europe.