City breaks may not be an obvious choice for summer escapes, but the warmer months can be a great time to explore some of the world’s great metropolises.
Alfresco events, cheaper prices, fewer crowds as the locals head off on holiday… there are a host of reasons why you should consider a city sojourn for August. To get you started, here’s our guide to the best summer city boltholes:
Why summer? Everyone talks about Paris in the springtime, but Paris in the summer can be just as charming. Throughout the season it plays host to a kaleidoscope of alfresco events, including an open-air cinema in Parc de la Villette and the famous Paris-Plage, which sees artificial beaches complete with sand, parasols and sun loungers set up along the banks of the Seine.
Stay at: opulent Hotel Particulier Montmartre, housed in a classical mansion. Its vast suites were styled by contemporary artists and its setting is secluded yet slap-bang in the middle of one of the city’s most popular areas – Montmartre. A big plus is its serene fountain-filled garden, where you can soak up some summer rays.
From £343 per room per night, based on 2 sharing on a bed and breakfast basis. This includes all taxes.
Why summer? London comes alive in summer, with flowering parks, crowded pavement cafés and a buzzing atmosphere. Enjoy picnics on Primrose Hill, splash around on a boating lake in one of the royal parks or swim in a Lido, take in a play at the Regent’s Park open-air theatre, or head for a gentle stroll along the banks of the Thames. And at the end of the day you can retreat to one of the capital’s stylish urban sanctuaries.
Stay at: perfectly positioned No 5 Maddox Street, in a great location just off Regent Street. The sleek, chic and discreet apartment-style suites have 1-3 bedrooms and are surprisingly peaceful; some even have sunny terraces for alfresco summer meals (cook for yourself in the swanky kitchens or order from the extensive meal delivery menu).
From £240 per suite per night, based on 2 sharing on an accommodation-only basis. This includes taxes, a welcome tray of chocolates, coffee, teas and fruit, a free bakery basket on Sundays, use of the DVD library, and a gym pass.
Why summer? Amsterdam is wonderfully laid-back at any time of year, but during the summer months it’s also blissfully quiet, as many of the locals go away on holiday. With leafy canal paths to wander and more than 400km of cycle tracks to pedal along, it’s the perfect place to make the most of long, balmy days.
Stay at: bijou Hotel Roemer, set inside a stylish red-brick townhouse. Enjoy its Zen-like courtyard garden, relish the fantastic central location, tuck into the complimentary bar snacks and drinks, and explore the lakes and lawns of nearby urban oasis Vondelpark.
From £149 (plus 5% tax) per room per night, based on 2 sharing on a bed and breakfast basis. This includes a free minibar and complimentary drinks and bar snacks in the afternoon and evening.
4. Rio de Janeiro
Why summer? Visitors normally flock to Rio for the Southern Hemisphere summer and the heady spectacle of February’s Carnaval, but come during the Northern Hemisphere summer and you’ll find fewer crowds and cheaper prices. Days are still warm enough for the beach, but with less rain and lower humidity – so perfect for sightseeing and visiting the iconic peaks of Corcovado and Sugarloaf Mountain.
Stay at: funky 3-bedroom self-catering pad Ipanema Penthouse, with 70s Bond-style interiors, a rooftop terrace with a private pool, and great sunset views of the twin peaks of Dois Irmãos. It’s only a few minutes’ walk from the beach and comes with maid service to whip up breakfast for you.
The whole apartment costs £352 per night in low season (April-September), based on 6 sharing on a bed and breakfast basis, with 7 nights for the price of 6 until 20 December 2011. This includes daily maid service, laundry and all taxes.
Why summer? Cars are banned inside the walls of this UNESCO-listed medieval city, so it’s a real pleasure to spend long summer days wandering from café to café along charming cobblestone streets. And during August, the city hosts a couple of famous festivals – the Dubrovnik Film Meeting (big screenings which draw the likes of Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman), and the Dubrovnik Summer Festival (theatre, opera, music and dance events at various open-air venues). Fancy a swim? Some of the best beaches in Europe lie just a short taxi ride away, so you can have the best of a beach and city break in one holiday.
Stay at: romantic The Pucic Palace, one of only 2 hotels located in the Old Town. It offers a candlelit rooftop terrace and stylish art-filled rooms, with a swanky private beach just 5 minutes away.
From £401 (plus 10% tax) per room per night, based on 2 sharing on a bed and breakfast basis.
Why summer? With long swathes of sandy beach, yacht-filled marinas, the futuristic City of Arts & Sciences and the lush green lung of the Turia Gardens, Valencia is wonderful in summer. Escape from the heat of the day with a lazy siesta, then join the exuberant Valencianos and party ‘till dawn.
Stay at: chic Hospes Palau de la Mar in the boutique-filled L’Eixample district. This sleek hotel is housed in conjoined 19th-century mansions, with a plant-filled patio, a soothing spa, and a cooling underground pool and Jacuzzi.
From £88 (plus 8% tax) per room per night, based on 2 sharing on an accommodation-only basis. Book at least 14 days in advance and get 10% off the best available rate.
Why summer? Cool Atlantic breezes make Lisbon much more bearable than many other southern European cities in the summer. Head there for fabulous fish restaurants, shaded squares, waterfront strolls and lots of history – plus lovely beaches a short drive away. During the first 2 weeks of August, the city holds its Ocean Festival, with many free events – concerts, street performances, museums open at night, and great exhibitions.
Stay at: 17th-century convent turned chic hotel York House, with contemporary rooms and a beautiful cloistered courtyard. Enjoy long lunches at its fabulous restaurant, chill out in your stylish and spacious bedroom, and tuck into breakfast on the sunny terrace.
From £114 per night, based on 2 sharing on an accommodation-only basis. This includes all taxes.
8. New York
Why summer? Summer in New York can be hot, hot, hot, but it’s a great time to make the most of Central Park. This vast chunk of greenery in the heart of Manhattan has lawns, boating lakes, ponds, horse-drawn carriages, merry-go-rounds, playgrounds and a zoo, with free music concerts and open-air theatre throughout the summer. What’s more, one of the park’s famous ice rinks turns into a fantastic outdoor swimming pool!
Stay at: fun and funky Room Mate Grace. This 70s-inspired no-frills boutique hotel is located just off Times Square and offers comfortable rooms, a pool with a swish swim-up bar, and early evening DJs.
From £146 (plus 14.75% tax) per room per night, based on 2 sharing on an accommodation-only basis. Book at least 7 days in advance and get a 10% discount.
Why summer? This vibrant city is idyllic in summer. Even on a drab day, the city seems to glow with the abundant light reflected off the water, giving the place a bright, fresh and open feel. Take boat trips around the islands in Stockholm’s archipelago, picnic in the green oasis of Djurgården, and enjoy alfresco drinks at Flyt – a downtown restaurant/bar on a pontoon that’s always packed on sunny days.
Stay at: elegantly simple Columbus Hotell in the heart of trendy Södermalm, with a pretty courtyard for breakfasts and afternoon tipples in the sun. It’s a light, calm and uplifting place to stay, thanks to its leafy setting and soothing interior décor.
From £96 per room per night, based on 2 sharing on a bed and breakfast basis. This includes all taxes.