June is a wonderful month. At the beginning of summer, but not yet full, the parks and countryside are green and life is outside. European cities welcome summer with inviting café terraces, restaurant courtyards and parks that are open for picnics. Not to mention the coastal towns with their enticing beaches, which on a good day can be enjoyed as early as June.
I’ve picked a few cities that I personally love that will add a little more to your vacation this month. Be it the weather, the local area, or special events, they all give you an extra reason or two to choose them when you travel to Europe in June. Be it art, be it the midnight sun or the summer solstice, be it that the summer crowds haven’t quite arrived yet. There are many reasons to enjoy June in Europe. And especially in the following cities. Good Trip!
1. Oslo, Norway
Oslo is usually overlooked when it comes to city breaks in Europe. The fjords and northern delights attract visitors to Norway; Oslo is the closest international airport at best. But honestly, Oslo is one of my favorite cities in Europe. It has a great and relatively unusual history (Vikings, anyone?), But it’s modern in architecture and perspective. The city itself is full of culture, museums, art, restaurants and great places to watch the world go by after a day of sightseeing. And in summer every Norwegian is out and about to enjoy the long days and the warmth as long as he can. Sitting outside until midnight and it barely looks after 6 p.m. is great fun. Then there are the little beach or pontoon huts you’ll see on a harbor cruise where people swim and sunbathe and generally enjoy life.
Pro tip: Enjoy alfresco drinks and delicious fresh seafood at the many restaurants along Aker Brygge Marina.
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2. Vaduz, Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein is not only one of the smallest countries in the world, but also one of the few doubly landlocked countries, ie it is surrounded by other landlocked countries, in this case Switzerland and Austria. And that means it has a wonderful landscape with mountains and green valleys as well as the still young Rhine. But why is June such a good idea in the small capital Vaduz? Because the schools’ summer break has not yet started and you will pretty much have the scenery to yourself. Hiking and cycling are just wonderful in the area and Vaduz is a perfect starting point for your excursions.
Pro tip: On the other side of the Rhine is an old-looking, covered wooden bridge, in the middle of which you can stand with one foot in Liechtenstein and the other in Switzerland. Not something that can be done in every country.
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3. Aix-en-Provence, France
There are not many more atmospheric regions in the world than Provence in the south of France. The orange houses, all with quaint shutters, the cafe terraces, the markets that not only sell fresh produce, but also the oh-so-French accessories you might need in your home, from woven shopping baskets to cute dishes and some of St. Tropez inspired floating dresses and tops. And in June, especially in early June, the city was not yet overrun by the French who parted for their summer vacation and left the cities for Provence. And you’ll only have less than an hour’s drive through some of the most enchanting lavender-filled landscapes before relaxing on a Mediterranean coast.
Pro tip: Aix is Cezanne’s city and his personal history, inspiration and art are everywhere. You can follow the gold plaques on the sidewalk or take a Cezanne tour. Or, if you are a budding artist yourself, why not take a painting class?
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4. Bristol, UK
Bristol is a young and vibrant city and home to arguably the world’s most famous street artist: Banksy. Not resting on its Banksy laurels, however, Bristol has been nurturing artists for years and encouraging them to put murals on buildings or other unsightly walls, adding to the artistic vibe. And every June the Upfest Festival takes place along North Street, where almost every home is covered in art. Artists from all over the world gather, stalls sell crafts, street food and music, and the atmosphere is fantastic.
Pro tip: Did you know that Bristol has a Michelin-starred tapas restaurant? Paco Tapas serves excellent tapas that don’t cost the world, and you can sit on the terrace overlooking a small marina lined with pastel colored buildings.
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5. Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik is the gateway to the rest of the island, and despite the name Iceland, this harsh land is pretty beautiful even in summer. Not only because of the long days, but also because the usually either snow-capped or somewhat desolate landscape is green and the glaciers are still there, so you get the best of both worlds. Instead of the northern lights (a winter phenomenon), you will have the opportunity to see the midnight sun. After a few days in Reykjavik, rent a car and drive around the island. You don’t have to worry about snow and ice or the usual crowds. Iceland in June is just laid back, a little warmer than usual and great to explore.
Pro tip: Iceland is home to the largest puffin colony in the world. These cute birds can only be seen between May and August.
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6. Basel, Switzerland
Basel is pretty much a synonym for art, as in Art Basel, which is now a global art fair. Usually held in June, the city hosts a variety of art events, particularly the art fair, but also other venues that make the most of the amount of art that comes to the city. But don’t forget Basel itself: the Rhine hikes or the wonderful history and the many great art galleries and museums make art enthusiastic. Then there is of course the picturesque old town with the beautiful market right in front of a very red town hall.
Pro tip: The good people of Basel enjoy river swimming all year round, a very real thing on the Rhine that is safe and clean. You can join this local chase, which in June is just refreshing compared to downright freezing.
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7. Bilbao, Spain
Bilbao can get quite hot in summer, but in June you have that summery feeling and can sit outside and wear light clothing without the heat being oppressive. And every year on or around June 15, the date the city of Bilbao was founded in 1300, Gau Zuria is celebrated as the White Night. Stalls and open-air events are popping up all over the city, and many museums, galleries, cafes, and restaurants stay open all night creating a magical atmosphere. Just make sure you don’t have to check out of your hotel early the next morning as you want to sleep in it.
Pro tip: If you need a beach break from sightseeing, take metro line 1 to Plentzia, walk through the small town and head to Sopelana beach, where you can swim in the sea all day before heading into the frequent subway trips back to the city rise city. It takes about 40 minutes each way and only costs you a euro or two.
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8. Lake Como, Italy
Lake Como is a perfect summer vacation with the snow-capped mountains as a backdrop and palm-fringed shores and beautiful resorts around the lake. Rent a boat for the day, browse the superb properties of the rich and famous like George Clooney, and enjoy the relative calm before the crowd arrives in July. June is warm enough to take a dip and sunbathe on the beach, yet cool enough to do a bit of sightseeing. In addition, the Festival of San Giovanni takes place every June. A procession of boats sails to Isola Comacina, the only island in this lake, where fireworks illuminate the majestic Alps in the background. Music events complement the occasion.
Pro tip: Lake Como is a strange shape, similar to an upside-down Y, and the city of Como is right at the south end. Take some time figuring out where to stay, especially if you want a view of the island and the fireworks.
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9. Skagen, Denmark
Skagen is Denmark’s northernmost city and is a great place for Midsummer Solstice, or Saint Hans as it is locally known. The tradition goes back centuries and is celebrated with lots of food and drink, music and fun. On the Skagen beach Sønderstrand near Vippefyret, huge bonfires are lit every 23 June, often with wooden figures depicting burned witches. All traditions date back to pagan times.
In Skagen itself, you can explore shops selling typically Scandinavian-chic fashion and interior design, and stroll through the endless dunes to discover the works of art, churches and museums hidden within.
Pro tip: Skagen is located on the Skagerrak, a road that separates Denmark from Norway and Sweden and which is best explored by boat. There are lovely day cruises that will give you a great view of this unexplored region of Europe.