City breaks, Europe

If you are looking for a city break where you can keep cool in the height of summer but still enjoy long hours of daylight why not try one of the Northern European favourites? Even if the temperatures do soar, these cities are full of cool museums and churches where you can escape the midsummer sun.

Prague

Prague is a real fairy tale city of beautiful spires and pretty squares. Its fascinating history adds to its attraction for visitors although its popularity has made it more expensive over the last 10 years. However there are still bargains to be had in hotels and its still cheaper than the established western capitals like Rome and Paris. Must see attractions include the Charles Bridge, the Old Town Square with its Astronomical Clock and pretty Church of our Lady at Tyn, Prague Castle and the Jewish Quarter with its ancient cemetery. For food make sure you try the hearty stews and dumplings that are typical of Czech cuisine. Accommodation is more picturesque near the Old Town square  but tends to be more pricey but over in the more modern Wenceslas Square, bargains can be found. For music lovers, July in Prague is ideal with the Prague Proms running until the 20th and the Old Town square hosting the Bohemia Jazz Fest over 10th and 11th.

Antwerp

Antwerp is a small city with a big personality. It looks beautiful with its timeless architecture set in cobbled lanes around the awe inspiring 16th century Cathedral of Our Lady with its glorious 123 metre high steeple. Over 200 years in construction and containing great works by Rubens, the Cathedral is top of everyones list to see for first time visitors.  The city has leafy squares and quiet areas amongst the huge number of bustling cafe’s bars and boutiques. Antwerp has a reputation as a fashion hub and attracts all the top designers and along with that, the fashionista’s who want to shop and play there. A good shopping trip starts in the streets around the historic centre, moving south west for the fashion area of town and eastward for the famed Diamond Centre of the city with opportunities to buy antiques, bric-a-brac, books, luxury gifts and pretty much anything else in between. Antwerp is also proud of its culture and its is packed with museum, art and theatre experiences with something for everyone. Rubens House, is one of the most popular, designed by the artist himself and occupied by him and his family for more than 25 years, its now a fabulous museum housing a large collection of this son of the city. There is a wide selection of places to stay and whatever your budget a discount may be obtained by booking via the Antwerp Tourist Office. July is the height of the Antwerp Summer Festival with free open air concerts of all music genres, dance, theatre, and films shows in riverside locations and side shows all over town showing this pocket sized gem at its very best.

Oslo

The Norwegian capital is part bustling city, part beautiful port, and part historic centre. It’s setting at the top of the Oslo Fjord is simply stunning, especially on a warm summers day. The 13th century Ankershus Fortress and castle overlooking the port is  great to explore on such a day as you get great views of the sailing boats and cruise ships across the side sparkling expanse of water while you walk amongst the ancient buildings and explore the museums. Further in to the centre of the town are the19th century building of the Parliament , the National Theatre and the Royal Palace all set near the city gardens and greens and open for tours. The city also celebrates its art connections with museums of its national artist Mucnh and playwright Ibsen. To make the most of the fjord on a summers day you can book boat tours or mini cruises through a number of operators. Oslo is not inexpensive but there is a great range of accommodation including superb camping facilities that can bring the cost of your trip down. If travelling with the family towards the end of May you will be able to see the extravaganza that is the Norway Cup, a football tournament for teens with 30,000 participants from across the globe. The event is celebrated with a big parade and show on the opening day and lots of side show fun throughout. The 2013 cup starts on 28th July.