Europe’s best places for late summer sun

Catch the last of the summer

Cathy Adams,Helen Coffey
Tuesday 10 September 2019 16:39 BST
Idyllic: Tinos is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, located in the Cyclades archipelago
Idyllic: Tinos is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, located in the Cyclades archipelago

September might have that delicious “back to school” feel, but if you’re not a fan of crunchy brown leaves and darker evenings, there are still plenty of places in Europe in which to prolong the summer. Here are some of the best places for capturing the last of the sun this autumn.

Tinos, Greece

Average September temperature: 23C

Glistening: pretty Tinos harbour

Greece rather has the monopoly when it comes to late summer sun, with good reason. Once the school holidays and crowds are over, both the mainland beaches and many islands switch back into Europe’s best Indian summer destination, with temperatures typically hovering around the mid-20s. Tiny Cycladic island Tinos, which sits coyly next to go-hard-or-go-home Mykonos, still feels like it’s yet to be unwrapped by the European summer crowds. The island is most famous for an annual pilgrimage – on 15 August – but things have changed fast with the recent arty opening of Xinara House, a villa run by a British husband-and-wife designer team that’s taken traditional Hellenistic style and given it a modern twist. It’s part of an awakening local scene on this island, which is also loved for its rich culinary heritage.

Toulouse, France

Average September temperature: 19C

Majestic: Toulouse is known as the pink city for its architecture

This pretty salmon-pink city in southwest France gets more than 2,000 hours of sunshine a year (take that, Brittany and Normandy). And unlike its more glam southeast counterparts, Toulouse retains a fun, studenty vibe, helped by cheap food and drink prices – here you can get change from €10 for a carafe of rose. This year marks 50 years since the first commercial Concorde flight took off from Toulouse (the city’s star corporate is planemaker Airbus) and the scientific heritage is still very much evident: a visit to the sprawling Halle de la Machine on the old airfield is a great introduction to this majestic city. As is sitting by the Garonne river watching the sunset, or sitting in the main Place du Capitole square facing off against the grand pink city hall.

Split, Croatia

Average September temperature: 21C

Picturesque: Split harbour and Marjan hill

Split is busy busy busy in the peak summer months, but by autumn the buzz starts to quieten down a little – which is when its medieval city, cutesy squares and seafront promenade are best explored. From Split it’s also easy to get a ferry across to the islands of Korcula, Hvar and Brac, which continue to dazzle with rocky coves, sparkling blue sea and scrubby green hills well into October.

Porto, Portugal

Average September temperature: 19C

Colourful Portugal’s second city Porto is sunny all autumn long

The greatest of all European second cities, Porto basks in the sun far later than just autumn (when this writer visited over New Year, the weather was almost warm enough to tan in). On the Porto side of the Douro river there’s the higgledly-piggledy district of Ribeira, stacked with houses in rainbow shades and big-ticket landmarks including the Se do Porto and the Bolsa Palace; while across the river are the port lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia, which represent a boozy afternoon well spent. Catch the fading sun at one of the waterfront bars that overlooks the double-decked arched Dom Luis bridge.

Mallorca, Spain

Average September temperature: 21C

Glistening: all Mallorcan beaches look like this

This travel writer’s personal favourite Balearic Island happens to have some of the most beautiful beaches around and enjoys warm weather well into autumn thanks to its Mediterranean climate. The two-week forecast shows temperatures in the high 20s and wall-to-wall sunshine. Head away from Palma (and the dreaded party resort of Magaluf) to the south east of the island for some of the prettiest coves that mercifully have remained largely undiscovered by tourists: Cala Figuera, Cala Llombards and Cala Santanyi, to name but a few.

Valletta, Malta

Average September temperature: 24C

Culture: explore historic Valletta

Malta’s capital, all sand-coloured stone and 16th-century elegance, makes for a fascinating visit at any time of year thanks to its winning combination of historical charm (it’s a Unesco World Heritage Site) and laidback ambience (cafes spilling out onto the street abound). Head there in early autumn, however, and you enjoy the best of both worlds: fewer tourists and slightly cooler temperatures than in the scorching summer months. Visiting the gold-leaf smothered St John’s Cathedral, built by the Knights of Malta, is a must, as is nipping over to the cute neighbouring island of Gozo.

Fez, Morocco

Average September temperature: 24C

Landmark: the mosque at Bab Guissa Gate in Fez

We’ll allow this one even though it’s not technically Europe (but still a short flight). Forget Marrakech, Fez – located in the north of Morocco – is the country’s cultural capital. It boasts the world’s largest living medieval medina district, where 9,000 alleyways wind their way among palaces, mosques and lively souks. After a wander, visitors can try their hand at traditional Farsi crafts with a workshop at Craft Draft, or experience the eclectic tastes of the city on a street-food tour with Plan-it Morocco.

Sicily, Italy

Average September temperature: 21C

Autumn sunshine: Harbour of Sciacca, Sicily

The largest island in the Mediterranean, just off the toe of Italy’s “boot” offers up stretches of golden sand from which you can still comfortably tan in September. For a more high-adrenaline experience, Sicily is also home to Mount Etna, one of Europe’s highest active volcanoes – the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo in Taormina can organise tailor-made Mount Etna tours for guests. Or else soak in the history at the Valley of the Temples, the ruins of seven Doric-style Greek temples.

Tirana, Albania

Average September temperature: 21C

Astonishing: view over Skanderberg Square in Tirana (Ryan Chatterton

The Independent has it on good authority that the transformation of Albania’s capital over the last four years is “nothing short of astounding”. Dozens of cafes, bars and restaurants, as well as shops, line the streets and alleyways of the revamped Blloku district, with great food and drink for incredibly reasonable prices. Elsewhere, the main square, Skanderbeg, has been extensively redeveloped into an attractive pedestrianised public space, while the end of the month brings two major events: Tirana International Art Fair (26-29 September) and Tirana International Film Festival (23-29 September).

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