Beat the heat: the ‘cool’ European destinations to visit in summer 2024

Cool down from those Mediterranean heavyweights with these breezy spots (Getty)
Cool down from those Mediterranean heavyweights with these breezy spots (Getty)

Shade seekers can rejoice, holiday travel trends are changing and tan-refreshing, sunbed-stewing summer getaways are on the decline.

In light of the ongoing climate crisis, Brits – habitually inclined to boil abroad – are redirecting their wanderlust to European shores where they won’t be a prisoner to a hotel room’s air-conditioning or sweat over the midday UV index.

The shift to more moderate climates comes as no surprise. A furnace of Mediterranean holiday heavyweights, from Rhodes to Gran Canaria, were ablaze with wildfires during peak travel season 2023, and temperatures are continuing to break record highs year on year.

Now’s the time to swap searing Andalusia in mainland Spain for the cooler Canaries, trade Portugal’s Algarve for Poland’s Baltic coast, and replace big-hitting Greek islands with German variations.

With chasing scorching sun on the backburner, here are the destinations bringing a breeze to summer holidays from wind-whipped islands to northern Europe’s fine coastline.

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Ostend, Belgium

Belgium’s 68km coastline is scattered with sand, seafood and Flemish culture (Getty)
Belgium’s 68km coastline is scattered with sand, seafood and Flemish culture (Getty)
  • Average high in August: 21C

  • Average low in August: 15C

Though best known for its chocolate, beer and the hub of EU democracy that is Brussels, it would be foolish to turn your nose up at Belgium’s beach resorts. Let Flanders’s largest, Ostend, sweep you away to its golden sands this summer for mornings spent kitesurfing and afternoons filled with fresh oysters on the Albert I Promenade – all without the need to retreat from the heat.

La Gomera, Canary Islands

Swap sweltering mainland Spain for the milder Canaries this summer (Getty)
Swap sweltering mainland Spain for the milder Canaries this summer (Getty)
  • Average high in August: 28C

  • Average low in August: 21C

While mainland Spain sizzles, an Atlantic onshore breeze blows through the Canary Islands, blessing balmy year-round La Gomera with inviting 20C days for holidaymakers to indulge in hiking, black-sand bathing and foodie feasts of melon lobster and marmalade rabbit. The bearable heat doesn’t sacrifice sunshine, with around nine hours of vitamin D on offer in August.

Tartu, Estonia

The 2024 Capital of Culture makes for a cool city break (in two senses of the word) (Getty)
The 2024 Capital of Culture makes for a cool city break (in two senses of the word) (Getty)
  • Average high in August: 21C

  • Average low in August: 11C

Inevitably laden with sweaty vista climbs, winding refreshment queues and daily step tallies in the thousands, comfort is key on a city break, and the 2024 Capital of Culture, Tartu has just the climate for exploring Estonia. There is an elegant Town Hall Square primed for mass kissing events (yes, really), the sleek Estonian National Museum, and timber barges on the Emajõgi River for a sailor’s view of the peaceful landscape.

Sopot, Poland

Poland’s Baltic coast is just the right level of balmy for a beach break (Getty)
Poland’s Baltic coast is just the right level of balmy for a beach break (Getty)
  • Average high in August: 22C

  • Average low in August: 12C

Seafront Sopot, in the Tricity region of the “Baltic Riviera”, is an affordable alternative to the beloved big names further south and at its warmest come August. A short train ride from all the history of Gdansk, 4km of tempting beaches, Europe’s longest wooden pier and stylish health spas dot the fairy tale-esque facades and locals hail Sopot for its beachfront nightlife scene and, of course, decadent waffles.

Sylt, Germany

The North Frisian Islands’ microclimate and pale sands are popular with German travellers in the know (Getty)
The North Frisian Islands’ microclimate and pale sands are popular with German travellers in the know (Getty)
  • Average high in August: 20C

  • Average low in August: 16C

A magnet for the German elite, the North Frisian Islands’ mild microclimate, pinstriped strandkorbs (hooded wicker seats wide enough for two) and pristine pale sands understandably attract travellers to Sylt’s west coast. A Michelin-rosette gastronomy scene, thatched cottages and lighthouse-scattered peninsulas make this balmy under-the-radar beach break one to add to your list.

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Bled’s inviting glacial waters will help you keep your cool (Getty)
Bled’s inviting glacial waters will help you keep your cool (Getty)
  • Average high in August: 28C

  • Average low in August: 16C

Slovenia’s most famous attraction sparkles under the summer sun and Lake Bled’s inviting turquoise glacial waters will help you keep your cool on climbs up to the medieval Bled Castle and romantic rows around the fantasy island. Where the legendary lakes of Garda and Como sweat with crowds in Italy, Bled’s slice of the Julian Alps, though inevitably busy, offers forest trails suited for secluded alpine hikes.

Machico, Madeira

Machico was Madeira’s capital for a brief time during the 15th century (Getty)
Machico was Madeira’s capital for a brief time during the 15th century (Getty)
  • Average high in August: 26C

  • Average low in August: 21C

Leave the scorching Algarve for a more temperate Atlantic alternative on Portugal’s Madeira archipelago. Sandwiched between mountains, far east Machico has a wave-battered artificial beach with golden grains imported from Africa, well-groomed gardens and a vision of terracotta roofs dotting its landscape.

Pori, Finland

Windsurf, birdwatch and barbecue on Finland’s west coast Yyteri Beach (Getty)
Windsurf, birdwatch and barbecue on Finland’s west coast Yyteri Beach (Getty)
  • Average high in August: 21C

  • Average low in August: 12C

On Finland’s west coast, the city of Pori is a centre for jazz music, Finnish street eats (including porilainen, an elevated sausage sandwich), and, star of Scandinavia, Yyteri Beach: 6km of white sand geared for windsurfing, bird watching, beach volleyball and barbecues. With the Kokemäenjoki River and Bothnian Sea National Park, this diverse destination has mastered sub-30C summer culture.

Haarlem, Netherlands

Amsterdam’s less-crowded neighbour serves a slice of Dutch cool (Getty Images)
Amsterdam’s less-crowded neighbour serves a slice of Dutch cool (Getty Images)
  • Average high in August: 19C

  • Average low in August: 15C

Head to Haarlem for tulips, vinyls, hidden hofje courtyards and a fair share of canals. Amsterdam’s less-crowded neighbour serves a slice of Dutch cool without the sweaty shoulder brushes with strangers. It has a popular shopping scene as well as a brewing culture backdating to the 14th century, and active pursuits can be found in the Zuid-Kennemerland National Park.

Skagen, Denmark

Denmark’s northernmost town has art museums and fine dining to rival Copenhagen (Getty)
Denmark’s northernmost town has art museums and fine dining to rival Copenhagen (Getty)
  • Average high in August: 19C

  • Average low in August: 13C

On Denmark’s northeastern peninsula, the port town of Skagen has art museums and fine dining to rival the country’s effortlessly cool capital Copenhagen. Whisps of cloud paint the skies and wild nature patrols the pale grains of the Grenen sandbar that straddles the Baltic and North Sea. Better still, August’s T-shirt and light-layers weather is ideal for exploring this stretch of the Rabjerg Mile – a migrating coastal sand dune.

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