The days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer, and you’re dying for a holiday. Summer is right around the corner — and so are our top cultural seaside cities to visit.
1. San Francisco
San Francisco has been the ideal summertime destination for free-spirited folks ever since it was cool to throw peace signs and wear yellow tinted shades. And while the summer of love has long passed, you’ll still love summer in San Fran.
The City by the Bay has always been a hotbed for American counterculture. The SFMoMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) has that same rebellious outlook on society — which makes for a great modern art collection. And then there’s the stop you can’t not make while in San Francisco: the timeless Golden Gate Bridge. The world’s most photographed bridge is best enjoyed on a bay cruise — or while cycling.
This stunning port city along the Costa del Sol is a perfect cocktail of medieval history and modern highrise. The newly renovated historic center is home to trendy bars and fine dining restaurants, as well as a gorgeous Gothic Cathedral and an imposing 11th-century castle.
Málaga’s famous ‘mile of art’ attracts the best of the art world, with both the State Russian Museum and the Centre Pompidou choosing it for their first overseas venture. The Collection of the Russian Museum gives you a great overview of Russian art, from Kandinsky to Malevich — while the Centre Pompidou Málaga has varying exhibitions with world-class artworks from the likes of Van Gogh, Magritte, and Picasso.
This Mediterranean seaside city comes with an endless array of delicious tapas, exquisite wines, and daring architectural designs. Barcelona is famous for its unique cityscape, formed by Catalan Modernisme. That might not ring a bell, but the name Gaudí certainly will.
And so will the pinnacle of his work: the Sagrada Familia. Construction of this monumental church won’t be completed until 2026, but the Sagrada Familia is already Barcelona’s most iconic and popular site. For more things Gaudí, visit his Casa Battló. With a rooftop arched like a dragon’s back, scaled walls, and skeletal windows, Casa Battló is as unusual as you’ll ever find an apartment building.
Subtropical Miami equals white sandy beaches, turquoise seawater, and arching palm trees. Pair those elements with a Latin American influence on culture and cuisine, a gorgeous natural environment (the Everglades!), and humid summer heat — and you’ve got yourself America’s most exotic city.
Miami has all the fun activities to put a tropical spell on you. Visit Jungle Island to get up close to wildlife and swim at Miami’s only private beach: Parrot Cove! Or how about going floral at the Flamingo Gardens? These botanical gardens are home to Florida’s native flora and fauna, as well as other (even more) exotic animals. For those wanting to experience nature free and untamed, there’s the ultimate way to see Floridian wildlife: by taking an airboat ride right into the heart of the Everglades!
This once-mighty trade port is known as la Superba, or the Proud. When you see its medieval city center, you’ll understand exactly why. Not only was Genoa one of the wealthiest and most influential cities of Europe during much of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, but its aristocracy also knew how to flaunt its riches.
The early aristocrats of Genoa were so wealthy, they built a whole neighborhood of palaces. Visit the sumptuous Rolli Palaces with a professional tour guide to get a detailed view on life as a Genoan member of the high society. Or explore the medieval historic center with an audio guide — and hear all about days past while you stroll through town at your own pace.
The capital of Europe’s southern peninsula is full of jaw-dropping sceneries. Lisbon’s iconic seven hills make for ideal vantage points for a cityscape of pastel-colored rooftops, webs of winding cobblestone alleys, and looming gothic castles — all with the stunning backdrop of the Tejo river mouth.
Plus, there are more ways to take in Lisbon’s beauty. Tram 28 takes you right past the most famous sights of this hilly city, and with this hop-on hop-off tram ticket you can easily experience Lisbon in 24 hours. Or take in Lisbon from the distance of the Sintra Mountains — with the added bonus of getting to visit the colorful Pena Palace.
Of all our listed seaside cities to visit this summer, La Serenissima has the most intimate relation with the ocean — the city’s called ‘the Bride of the Sea’, after all. Built atop 118 small islands in the Venetian lagoon, water flows freely through the city’s Grand Canal and intimate alleyways.
That’s why the best way to explore Venice is with a classic gondola ride along small canals and under narrow bridges. On land, visit Piazza San Marco to relive the days of the glorious Republic of Venice — still clearly visible in the image of St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace.