Part 2: Summer in the Cities

The second of a three-part series spotlighting some of Europe’s must-see cities that really come alive in summer

Florence

Why go? For the beauty around every corner…the city is Italy’s open air art gallery.

The tourists arrive in droves in summer and it’s also Tuscany’s business hub, but you can’t beat watching the world go by at one of Florence’s al fresco trattorias on a warm July evening – that’s what Italian urban summers are all about. Arguably the country’s most stylish, sophisticated and cultural city, the Florentines love art, food, fashion and are proud of their history and the city literally swarms with tempting lunch and dinner options.

If you only have time for a bit of sightseeing, don’t miss the Palazzo Pitti. There are six separate museums, three of them dedicated to the decorative arts, and you can’t leave without taking a few pics of Duomo, one of the city’s most famous landmarks. And for a river view of Florence, cross the old bridge many an Italian restaurant is named after – Ponte Vecchio – you’ll still find gold and jewellery sellers displaying their goods along the bridge.

www.visitflorence.com

Athens

Why go? Three million visitors come to photograph the Acropolis each year (and to be accurate, the Parthenon is the famous monument, while the Acropolis is the flat-topped rock it’s built on).

One of Athens’ most romantic spots is Mount Lycabettus – escape the crowds, hop on a cable car up to the summit and soak up the best views of the city….you’ll be treated to a sparkling Aegean sea and thousands of twinkling lights down in the city on a warm jasmine-perfumed evening.

Stop off at one of the local tavernas for a plate of mezze on the way home – Monopolio Athinon (Ippothontidon 10) is a neighbourhood favourite, is reasonably priced and serves up delicious flaky cheese pies (tiropita) and slow roasted lamb with Greek herbs, mint, sage and chamomile. Lasagne lovers will like pastitsio (macaroni baked with mince meat, in a béchamel sauce) and on a hot night a horiatiki salata (village salad, with cucumber, tomatoes, feta and olives) makes a cooling main course.

Like the Italians, Athenians are late night revellers so most places stay open well into the early hours.

Matt Barrett’s guide to Athens: here

Amsterdam

Why go? Probably not for the weather which mimics the UK’s but if a walkable, laid back city where canals and elegant Amsterdam houses sound appealing you can’t beat Amsterdam as an easy come, easy go style of city.

Pedestrian-friendly Amsterdam is a cool capital in summer. It’s not nearly as hot as more southern cities and buzzes with café lifestyle.
If you’re hungry on the way back to your hotel, Amsterdam does a great chips-and-peanut sate sauce snack which they serve in paper cones. It’s refreshingly traffic free – there are more bikes than people or you can leave the bicycle behind and take a canal cruise, a romantic way to see the parts of the city other tours don’t reach.

And finally, for something completely different there’s Amsterdam’s famous Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market) which is open every day except Sundays on the Singel Canal (between Dam Square and Rembrandtplein). For die hard flower fans and gardeners, the Aalsmeer Flower Auction just outside the city is well worth visiting if you can get up early on holiday. It opens to the public at 7.30am.

www.holland.com

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