London in the summer is true bliss. The rooftop bars and a surprising number of parks and green spaces could have you convinced there’s nowhere better to be. You might be right, but there’s no need to ignore that travel bug if it’s bitten you. There are plenty of cities within easy reach of London and the surrounding areas.
Jet off for your city break and you’ll fly over some of Europe’s best scenery, seeing nothing but clouds and the back of someone’s headrest. Instead, travel Europe by train and bag a window seat.
1. Cologne (Köln), Germany
Shortest travel time from London: 4h 11m
Fares range from: €52 - €519
Cologne may feature on lists of best Christmas markets, but this Rhine city buzzes with life all summer long. Parks and gardens overlooking the river are packed with street entertainers, picnic-eaters and locals.
Explore the cobbled streets of the atmospheric Old Town and step inside the imposing Dom, the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe and Germany’s most-visited attraction. Don’t forget to call in at the city’s popular Chocolate Museum to stock up on supplies for the train journey back to London.
2. Paris, France
Shortest travel time from London: 2h 16m
Fares range from: €33 - €293
Probably the easiest European journey from the UK, trains from London to Paris take just over two hours on the Eurostar. And, even better, you can book the same great Eurostar fares in an instant using your Trainline account. Book securely with all your favourite payment methods, including Apple Pay and PayPal and, in just a few taps, you can whizz your way through the Channel Tunnel at 186mph.
Go and take your obligatory snap in front of the Eiffel Tower and read up on our guide to the quirky and unusual places in Paris for some lesser-known things to do.
Once you’re in Paris, the rest of Europe is your oyster. These cities are within easy reach of the French capital.
3. Caen, Normandy Region, France
Shortest travel time from Paris: 1h 50m
Fares range from: €9 - €124
Gare St Lazare has great train connections, making Normandy an easy long-weekender from Paris. Caen’s walled chateau and historic abbey are a good starting point, you can then mosey over to the famous Bayeux tapestry, which is only up the road. Beach lovers will be happy to know it’s not far from the coast, so you can catch some summer rays if the weather’s good.
Brush up on your history by making a stop in at the Caen Memorial Museum, it’s said to be the best World War Two museum in the whole of France.
4. Avignon, France
Shortest travel time from Paris: 2h 36m
Fares range from: €10 - €206
To guarantee the sun, you’re best to head south, and with direct Eurostar connections from London as well as frequent TGVs from Paris, Avignon’s our pick. Its Palais des Papes, the largest Gothic palace ever built, is the city’s flagship landmark and one which hosts sound and light shows towards the end of summer. And, if you ever sang the song at school, you’ll want to dance sur le pont too. The bridge from the song is the Pont St-Bénezet, completed in 1185.
Shortest travel time from Paris: 0h 39m
Fares range from: €10 - €144
Historic Reims is bursting with must-see landmarks, three of them are recognised by UNESCO – the cathedral, the Palace of Tau and Saint Remi Basilica.
But, this region is best known for its fizz and Épernay, Champagne central, is so close you can almost hear the corks popping. In summer, not only can you tour the cellars of such well-known names as Veuve Clicquot and Taittinger, but the weather’s sunny enough to hire a bicycle and ride out to the vineyards on the edge of town.