Newsflash: Europe is hot and cheap for summer.
Traveler interest to Europe is spiking this summer. This trend started at the beginning of the year when our data showed that from over 1.5 billion searches, 7 of the top 10 hottest travel destinations were all locations in Europe. Couple this with the fact that this summer flight prices to select European cities are the lowest we’ve seen in 3 years. That means: there’s no better time than now to book your trip. But you may be wondering where to go. While the mainstays of Paris and Barcelona are great starter cities, here are 4 alternatives that will put you ahead of the travel curve.
It’s easy to compare Barcelona and Valencia: both have equally stunning architecture, incredible food and scenic beaches. But with traveler interest up 63% for summer, Valencia is clearly becoming the new star of Spain. While there, your high school Spanish will serve you well in basic conversation, but you’ll quickly realize that signs and landmarks are using a language that’s not exactly Spanish and sounds more like Portuguese. This is Valenciana, a dialect/language unique to the region. The Spanish “mercado” becomes “mercat” or “calle” becomes “carrer” — you’ll quickly get used to it. Another thing you’ll get used to? Paella. This famous regional dish is served at almost all local restaurants, but we recommend the one at Navarro Restaurant. Be forewarned: Navarro is only open from 1:30pm-4pm and closed on Sundays. If you’re after some beach time, La Malvarrosa is the city’s more popular beach, but if you take the metro out a bit, Port Saplaya gives you all the sand time you want, without the crowds. Otherwise, you can’t miss sights like the futuristic Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (an opera house-science museum-aquarium hybrid) or the infamous Holy Grail at the city’s main cathedral.
Portugal seems to be Europe’s latest hotspot, taking the spotlight from Iceland. And while Lisbon made our 2018 Top 10 Trending Destinations list, for summer it’s Porto that’s on the rise. Up 48% in interest, it’s time to start planning your vacation to the city on the sea. Your first stop should be the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, a beautiful open space built atop a bluff with fresh flowers in bloom all summer long. Continue your tour with a stop at Livraria Lello, generally referred to as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. Claus Porto is a perfect spot to pick up souvenirs and gifts that are as colorful as the city itself. And, of course, no vacation to Porto would be complete without sampling their famous beverage. Take a walk across the Dom Luis I Bridge (#thoseviews) to Vila Nova de Gaia. This area is home to amazing boutiques where you can taste Port wine all evening long. We recommend you visit the Croft Port wine cellar, where you can sip out on the terrace or among the barrels.
While Paris is still the city of light and dreams, Marseille is like its edgy younger sibling that is finally coming into its own. With a 45% increase in interest among summer travelers, it’s time to make theis Mediterranean city your next stop. Start your day with a pastry at Patisserie Sylvain Depuichaffray. Then, visit the Noailles neighborhood to get spices, nuts and dried fruits at Saladin World of Spices or a new pair of kicks at Corner Street. For dining and sightseeing, you’ll want to head to Old Port. Get classy at Une Table au Sud — a Michelin-starred restaurant that sources local ingredients for all their dishes. Just be sure to order their bouillabaisse, the chef’s take on the city’s traditional fish soup. Walk La Corniche, a paved trail along the shore. From there, you’ll have a perfect view of Chateau d’If (famous for its portrayal in Alexander Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo). You should also make a point to visit the Musee des Beaux Artes, an art museum set inside a stunning castle-like building (go get those Insta-snaps).
Santorini may be the stuff of Instagram-dreams, but it’s also one of the summer’s hottest trends. With an 68% increase in interest, it’s our #1 trending destination for the season. So skip Athen’s cosmopolitan vibe for Santorini’s beachiness. Here, you won’t find the non-stop party that you get in other islands like Mykonos and Ios. Use this to your advantage: take time in Santorini to relax and rejuvenate. Get your spa on by chartering a boat off the coast of Fira to the volcanic hot springs and mud bath. Or go to Fish Spa Kangal for a fish pedicure. Find your Atlantis by visiting Akrotiri where, for around $6, you can explore an archaeological excavation site. Take time to unwind at Santo Winery, where even the most amateur oenophiles can take on a tasting of up to 18 wines (!). And no trip to Greece is complete without visiting a traditional taverna and ordering some regional dishes like fava me Koukia (mashed fava beans) or saganaki (fried cheese in filo dough, covered in honey).
Interest is up to several other under-the-radar European cities this summer. Find the least expensive fare from your home airport to destinations across the pond. But wherever this summer takes you, we’re here to find you the right flight or hotel, so you’re confident you’re planning the perfect trip.
All data is based on YoY median airfares conducted from KAYAK US and is intended to be used as a guide. Travel dates are May 25, 2018 – September 3, 2018, and search dates are May 9, 2017 – May 9, 2018. All flights considered are economy, round-trip. Prices and availability subject to change.