Travelling Europe in summer: top five stunning destinations for 2023

Best rooftop bars in Sydney, The Butler Potts

From eating you way around the best tapas restaurants in Madrid and Barcelona to swimming in Hvar’s turquoise waters, these are the top five european destinations for Australian travellers to make the most of summer in Europe during the Aussie winter.

With a territory that stretches over 44 countries, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains, and from Norway’s Svalbard archipelago to Malta and remote Greek islands, Europe is a continent of great geographical, meteorological, cultural, and linguistic diversity. What’s more, it’s on the other side of the equator, making it a go-to if you’re not fond of the Aussie winter.

So, if you’re planning on travelling europe in summer, we’ve gone beyond the bucket-list capitals that are Paris and London, and rounded up five cities that are the ultimate encapsulation of Europe in summer.


Rome’s sweet and self-indulgent pace – best described as ‘la dolce vita’, hidden cobbled streets where one can easily escape the crowds, and acclaimed gastronomy and aperitivo ritual make it a summer hit, whether you’re a culture vulture or not.

travelling Europe in summer, the Colosseum in Rome

Things to do:

Relive the roar of the crowd at the Colosseum, gaze heavenwards at the Pantheon, toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain, and pay homage to the Vatican’s holy treasures. You can also look further than the historic centre to explore the lesser-known Ostiense – a revamped factories and warehouse district where you can walk along the Via del Porto Fluviale to contemplate murals and stop at one of the many bars and cafes for an aperitivo.

Where to stay:

The brand-new five-star Six Senses Rome has taken over an 18th-century historical building. Restored to its original splendour with a contemporary twist, including a modern take on ancient Roman baths at the spa, you’ll find it just a few steps away from the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain.

Families can look forward to their stay at Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel where connecting rooms as well as a kids’ club offering activities such as pizza-making, gladiator training, and treasure hunts in Villa Borghese await.

Where to eat:

Michelin-green-starred Mater Terrae restaurant will change your views on plant-based, low-waste dining with its artistically plated seasonal dishes. The experience is further elevated with stunning views of Rome’s historic centre.

A popular Trastevere tavern, Nannarella plates up all the Roman classics you can dream of – artichokes, saltimbocca alla Romana, hearty meatballs, and carbonara. There’s a long queue after 7pm but it lives up to the hype.

Those with adventurous palates can book a table at Jacopa, the modern bistro shining a new light on Rome’s offal culinary tradition. Beef tail, triple salami, and sweetbreads are paired with an enticing selection of Italian wines, including biodynamic labels produced using natural materials and composts.


As one of the world’s oldest cities, Athens boasts several must-visit archaeological sites. The addition of a local cuisine scene bursting with local spices and fresh seafood from the Mediterranean, an underrated nightlife, and the proximity of the Athens Riviera make it a popular summer destination.   

Things to do:

Take it to heavenly heights at the Acropolis, sprint your way around the Panathenaic Stadium, wander the National Garden, snap pictures of Anafiotika’s white houses, admire the sunset from the top of Mount Lycabettus, and party the night away at the clubs of Gazi or the ouzeries of Psiri. The Athens Riviera, where beaches and rocky coves await, is just a 30-minute ride away from the city centre.

Where to stay:

Dubbed the grande dame of Athens, the five-star Hotel Grande Bretagne, a Luxury Collection Hotel boasts antique furniture, a rooftop pool, and panoramic views of the city. Get up early and head to the roof garden for breakfast served with a sunrise over the original Olympic stadium.

On the doorstep of the National Archaeological Museum, Radisson Blu Park Hotel has family rooms, a rooftop pool, and a breakfast buffet, and you’ll love it if you’re travelling with kids – who stay at no extra cost if they’re under 12.

A cool, industrial-style four-star hotel Ergon House is also a foodie haven. The 38 rooms sit above a marketplace where you’ll find a local greengrocer, butchery, bakery, fishmongers, and more. Pick out your own food to cook (or have cooked for you) in the communal kitchen or head to the rooftop for farm-to-table Greek cuisine.

Where to eat:

A two-Michelin- and Michelin-green-starred restaurant Delta offers a Scandinavian take on terroir-led Greek cuisine. You’ll also be stunned by the panoramic sea views.

Forward-thinking Greek cuisine elevated with modern techniques and Acropolis views from the rooftop have won Hytra a Michelin star.

Popular among locals and tourists alike for its authentic atmosphere, Klimataria is a century-old tavern where you’ll enjoy home-style Greek cuisine to the sound of live music.


Known as ‘the soul of Spain’, the Spanish capital is brimming with life during the long summer days. The Veranos de la Villa festival brings a jam-packed agenda of cultural events and leisure offerings to the city during July and August, and there’s also interesting boutiques for you to explore, mighty art collections to admire, and traditional tapas to indulge in.

Puerta del Sol in Madrid

Things to do:

The majority of the city’s bucket-list sites are located in its historical centre. Put on a pair of comfortable shoes and hit the pavement, from Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor to the Royal Palace and El Retiro Park, with stops at Reina Sofia Museum – home to Picasso’s Guernica – and the Prado Museum. For tapas, look no further than Mercado de San Miguel.

Where to stay:

A five-star belle époque hotel entirely renovated in 2021, Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid has long attracted royalty and A-listers with its gleaming parquet flooring, plush furniture, and two-Michelin-starred restaurant Deessa helmed by iconic chef Quique Dacosta.

Sitting comfortably near the famous Puerta del Sol, The Madrid EDITION ticks all the boxes, from its trademark buzzing public spaces to the pool bar and rooftop terrace.

Where to eat:

An institution for Madrid’s movers and shakers, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants-listed DiverXO offers a punk and abstract art take on Spanish cuisine. Add to that Asian influences and the result is as irreverent as the telegenic chef David Muñoz.

Botin was founded in 1725, making it the world’s oldest restaurant still in operation. It’s renowned for its rustic charm and traditional cuisine. You must try its suckling pig cooked over wood fire.

La Tasquería revisits Spain’s offal tradition in an industrial setting and buzzing atmosphere. Will you dare try one of its specialties? They include cow’s tongue and veal tripe playfully presented and served the tapas way. Meals are complemented by a choice of Madrid wines.


A frenzy of bite-sized meals, swarming cobblestone streets, wild Gaudí-designed architectural sights, and sweltering days under the Iberian sun – any trip to Barcelona is a sensory thriller.

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Things to do:

Get your Gaudí fix at Park Güell, admire the spires of the Sagrada Família, spend a morning at Museu Picasso which houses more than 4,000 of Picasso’s artworks, step back in time in the Gothic Quarter where you can wander around the palm-tree-dotted Plaça Reial with its Gaudí-designed streetlamps, and shop at the independent stores on Carrer d’Avinyó. A stop at La Boqueria – Barcelona’s famous food market – is also a must.

Where to stay:

Located just steps from the bustling Passeig de Gràcia, Claris Hotel & Spa strikes one with its eclectic approach to design – with precious artworks, archaeological finds, and ancient rugs found in each guest room. Spend the siesta hours on the rooftop where you can lounge around the pool.

Designed by Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, W Barcelona is an emblematic sail-like sight rising above the sand of Barceloneta Beach. In true W style, you can expect bold interior design and a vibrant atmosphere.

Where to eat:

The two-Michelin-starred Disfrutar proudly carries the influence of legendary restaurant El Bulli – its three founding chefs all worked there. With the presentation of your food as an event, the restaurant offers five playful tasting menus, recently featuring dishes such as hare bonbons and gazpacho sandwiches, to choose from.

Can Boneta is a tiny gem where locals in the know converge. You can expect to be served homestyle Catalan fare including variations of the famous bikini sandwich.

Chef Arnau Muñío plates up powerhouse Catalan-Asian fusion dishes that have made his unassuming dining counter, DIREKTE Boqueria, once a market stall, one of the trendiest dining spots in town.


Located off Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, Hvar is an island that combines architectural wonders, lush nature, picturesque beaches, and a lively nightlife. It claims the title of ‘sunniest island in Europe’ and you shouldn’t be surprised to stumble upon celebrities – Jay-Z and Beyoncé have been spotted in its waters more than once.

Things to do:

Take in the views of Hvar town from the 16th-century Fortica Fortress, explore the old streets of Stari Grad – one of the first settlements on the Adriatic Coast with churches dating back to as far as 300 BC, taste your way around the wineries of the UNESCO-listed Stari Grad Plain, laze on the picturesque beaches of Dubovica and Pokonji dol Beach, and party the night away at Hvar’s infamous clubs.

Where to stay:

Book a balcony room or suite at the five-star Palace Elisabeth. Set in a Venetian-era heritage building overlooking St Stephen’s square, it’s home to a fine-dining Mediterranean restaurant, a spa, an indoor pool with sundeck overlooking Hvar Bay, and a lounge terrace.

Pharos, Hvar Bayhill Hotel is an eco-conscious, contemporary, and fun hotel found on a small hill, a 10-minute walk from Hvar town’s harbour. Its affordable price point and party vibes going on at the pool make it popular among millennials and partygoers.

Where to eat:

Take a taxi boat from Hvar harbour to access Zori Timeless, located on the island of Palmižana. You’ll be treated to fine dining by the sea under the palm trees. Fresh daily catch, Dalmatian scampi, and grilled octopus are the order of the day.

A family-owned restaurant hidden in Hvar’s old town, Grande Luna is where you’ll sample traditional Dalmatian cuisine under the starry sky. A recommended dish is the traditional gregada, a fish, and potato stew.

A ten-minute walk from Split’s Diocletian’s Palace, the Michelin Bib Gourmand-awarded Šug offers a modern take on authentic Dalmatian food. Try the beef cheek or the ‘à la peka’ octopus – served on potatoes.

With Westpac concierge, you’ll have a team of travel specialists on hand to help plan every aspect of your next Europe trip. Did you know this service is free to a select group of Westpac cardholders? Westpac concierge gives you access to exclusive offers and benefits on flights, hotels, restaurants, and beyond. 

Aude Camus

Parisian-born Aude visited her first restaurant aged just a few days old – now she's always ready for her next meal. When not interviewing award-winning chefs or looking for a new restaurant to visit, you’ll find her planning her next getaway from Hong Kong where she’s lived since 2015. Her travel writing has appeared in online publications such as Destination Deluxe and The Hotel Journal, and she runs a lifestyle platform for French expats living in Hong Kong.

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