The best places to visit in Europe for summer 2019

Want a cheap holiday for some European sunshine? These are the most affordable places to visit for summer sun in 2019.

Whether you want a beach break or a cultural weekend away, when the sun shines it’s always better. According to the European Sunshine Index by Compare the Market, these are the best-value places to visit in Europe for summer sun in 2019.

1. Crete, Greece

If you’re looking for the cheapest summer sun in Europe for 2019, look no further than the Greek island of Crete. This lovely little isle has highs of 29°C throughout July, and with just £12 per hour of sunshine it’s by far the best-value summer sun destination in Europe according to the study.

Crete sits in the Mediterranean Sea, meaning a swim is serene experience rather than the tortuous trial of taking a dip in the Atlantic, and there are exceptional walking trails and gorges to explore for inland active types.

Stay here: Ikaros Beach Resort & Spa

2. Istanbul, Turkey

Turkey’s star city is a spectacular place for a long weekend. Spend an morning haggling at the Grand Bazaar, take a sunset cruise on the Bosphorus and grab a fresh fish sandwich at the harbour as the fishing boats come in – they’ll grill it right on board for you.

Book it: Spend two weeks on tour in Turkey and Greece with Riviera Travel

Istanbul has something for everyone, whether it’s a brilliant art museum or a beautiful mosque to admire. Plus, there’s accommodation for all budgets and plenty of rooftop pools for sunning yourself when you need some downtime.

Stay here: Wyndham Grand

3. Budapest, Hungary

The ultimate spa city, Budapest is a brilliant option for a relaxing break. Residents first discovered the hot springs beneath Buda and Pest in the 1800s, and today millions of people come each year to enjoy their supposedly healing properties.

The most famous is the outdoor Szechenyi Baths, superb in summer and atmospheric in winter, but the Gellért Baths are a quieter, more elegant experience. For culture vultures, head to the beautiful Great Synagogue or the intriguing Memento Park, where more than 40 statues of depicting communist leaders lay rejected by the public spaces they were once in.

Stay here: Hotel Gellért

Book it: Riviera Travel’s Budapest to the Black Sea river cruise takes in this gorgeous city.

4. Rhodes, Greece

The largest of the Dodecanese Islands is a superb summer sun break. Greece remains one of the most affordable places for a holiday, and Rhodes has it all – ancient history, modern glitzy resorts and beautiful countryside.

Mandraki is the cosmopolitan centre, with plenty of cafes, clubs and restaurants, and the Old Town of Rhodes has all the history you could want (including some first-century floor mosaics at The Palace of the Grandmaster). Brilliant beach resorts include Faliraki, Lindos and Kolymbia.

Stay here: Esperos Village Blue & Spa

Book it: Riviera Travel has some stunning holidays to Greece taking in a number of these excellent-value destinations.

5. Rome, Italy

There’s so much to see in Rome, you’d need an entire summer to do it all. If you don’t have that, though, enjoy a walk through history at the city’s key Roman sights – the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Forum – before entering Vatican City to see the much-revered Sistine Chapel.

Make the most of the summer sunshine at the many parks and gardens throughout the city – we love the landscaped grounds at Villa Borghese, or the Botanical Gardens, overlooked by the 17th-century Palazzo Corsini. Cool down with a gelato as you stroll.

Stay here: DOM Hotel Roma

Book it: Explore Ancient and Baroque Rome with Riviera Travel’s five-day break

6. Florence, Italy

The ultimate city of art, Florence is essentially a living gallery. Its stunning architecture – the centrepiece being the striking Duomo – and collection of museums housing world-famous Renaissance paintings make this an art-lover’s dream destination.

Read more: The best vineyard tours and wine-tasting holidays

Head for the Uffizi, where some of da Vinci’s finest works are kept, then beeline for a small trattoria to indulge on some fresh pasta or pizza. You’re in Italy, so don’t miss a chance to taste some of the country’s finest wines, too.

Stay here: Al Palazzo del Marchese di Camugliano Residenza d’Epoca

Book it: Pair a weekend break in Florence with a trip around Tuscany with Riviera Travel

7. Vienna, Austria

Austria’s capital sits on the mighty Danube river and enjoys balmy summers with temperatures hovering around 19°C. The city’s open-air food market is one of the highlights, offering all sorts of Viennese delights and international cuisines.

The ornate Hofburg Palace is another must-visit, with its brilliant art collection from the likes of Klimt and Dürer. Vienna was also home to musical genius Mozart and you can visit his very apartment for an insight into the famous composer’s life.

Stay here: The Guesthouse

Book it: Embark on Riviera Travel’s escorted tour around Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna

8. St Petersburg, Russia

Russia might not be your first thought for summer sunshine, but it can get pretty sweltering in the elegant city of St Petersburg. The city’s pretty canals are reminiscent of Venice, lined with colourful buildings and cobbled pavements.

Grandeur abounds here, with palaces like the pink-hued Stroganov and sunny-yellow Pavlovsk setting the standard for regal residences. The Hermitage, best admired from the river before exploring its interiors, is a vast gallery with an enormous collection of world-class art – St Petersburg’s unmissable museum.

Stay here: Domina St Petersburg

9. Santorini, Greece

Greece’s most iconic destination, Santorini is instantly recognisable for its white terraced houses overlooking the richly blue ocean. It gets incredibly busy here in the height of summer, so you’ll get the best deals and experience either side of peak season (July through August).

The best stretch of sand here is the 4km stretch along the coastal village of Perivolos, where there’s watersports galore (think jet-skis and banana boats) and a host of beach bars serving up refreshing cocktails.

Stay here: White Harmony Suites

10. Corfu, Greece

This gorgeous greek island is one of the most popular destinations in Europe for summer sun, and best-value according to Compare the Market. Rugged mountains dot its interior, and beach resorts for all budgets hug its pretty coastline. There are yellow sandy beaches, gorgeous azure waters, and little Greek tavernas serving up the freshest catch of the day.

History buffs will love a visit to the 13th-century Old Fort (Palaio Frourio) and the UNESCO-listed centre of Corfu town, where neoclassical stately buildings, such as the Palace of St Michael or Liston Arcade, give a regal feel.

Stay here: Divani Corfu Palace Hotel