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Summer has finally arrived and it’s time for that well-deserved holiday. Whether you’re in the market for a family getaway, a solo escape or a trip with friends, Europe is filled with sunny, warm destinations to visit in July. While the Caribbean, Central America and some parts of Asia are battling rainy season and it’s winter in most of Latin America, Europe’s beaches, cities and islands are at their peak. If you’re based in the UK, here are six great places you should visit this July.

Eastern and Southern Sicily

Cablecars of Taormina
Cablecars of Taormina in Sicily, Italy. (Photo by Michal Baran / Getty Images)

Sicilian summers are steaming hot, but you can cool off at some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Scala dei Turchi (the Stairs of Turk) made TPG’s 2018 beach hotlist for its impressive limestone staircase that juts into the sea. And this year’s selection of best European beaches included Rabbit Beach, on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, which is known for its population of loggerhead turtles.

While 2018’s Italian Capital of Culture was Palermo in the north of Sicily, this year, it’s all about the southern and eastern sides, especially the coastal cities of Taormina, Siracusa and Ortigia. Siracusa’s Greek Theatre season goes through July 13, and nearby, the Ortigia Film Festival will take place from July 13 to 20. Taormina’s film festival goes through July 6, taking place in the stunning outdoor Teatro Antico — an ancient Greek theatre dating back to the 3rd century BC.

Take a break from the culture to check out Taormina’s Isola Bella: an island that lives up to its ‘beautiful’ name with clear waters and rocky hills. Heading inland, wine lovers can sip their way through the Nero D’Avola country, one of Italy’s most up-and-coming wine regions.

Although Mount Etna recently erupted again, both nearby areas and air traffic are operating as normal. From London, easyJet operates a number of flights from Gatwick (LGW) and Luton (LTN), but you can also fly nonstop on British Airways using 8,500 (off-peak) or 10,000 (peak) Avios for Euro Traveller or 17,000 (off-peak) or 10,000 (peak) Avios for Club Europe.

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Roman Amphitheatre in Plovdiv
Roman Amphitheatre in Plovdiv. (Photo by Evgeni Dinev Photography / Getty Images)

There’s no better time than to visit 2019’s European Capital of Culture than, well, 2019! The second-largest city in Bulgaria, Plovdiv is also one of the oldest in Europe. Exploring the old town is like traveling back in time, with ancient medieval walls and a Roman stadium hidden underneath Main Street. Some of the best restaurants, culture and nightlife can be found in the Kapana district, often referred to as The Trap because of its winding streets that are easy to get lost in.

One of the most interesting attractions is the Roman Theatre, which dates back to 1 AD but is still in use today. July is one of the best times of year to enjoy a concert inside the theatre, which can hold up to 7,000 spectators. Some of the events to see this July include operas, jazz symphonies, ballets such as Swan Lake and the Plovdiv Etno Festival. And thanks to its Culture Capital status, the city boasts other events in July, too, such as design and dance workshops, art exhibitions, concerts, Balkan pride exhibitions, street festivals, youth events and more.

Ryanair is the only airline to operate a nonstop flight from London (STN) to Plovdiv (PDV). But, you can choose your low-cost carrier en route to Sofia, as Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air all operate flights there from various UK hubs, and the capital is just under a two hour drive from Plovdiv.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago skyline from lake with boats
Chicago, IL. (Photo by anderm / Getty Images)

July is one of the best months of the year to visit this Midwestern metropolis. And thanks to the great weather, July is the month of festivals, starting with the Fourth of July fireworks on Navy Pier.

Chicago’s festivals often revolve around food: There’s the Windy City Ribfest from July 4 to 7; the Windy City Smokeout from July 12 to 14; the Tacos and Tamale Festival from July 19 to 21, the Chinatown Fair on July 21; the Chicago Margarita Festival from July 27 to 28; and even the Bloody Mary Fest on July 28. But the most important festival devoted to cuisine is the famous Taste of Chicago, where 82 different food vendors will set up shop along the lakefront alongside many musical acts. So come hungry!

The city’s beaches are a great way to beat the heat post- or pre-festival. North Avenue Beach is one of the most famous, and Oak Street Beach is a close second. Ohio Street Beach is small, but is a nice break after a morning spent exploring Navy Pier.

Arrive in the Windy City on Norwegian from London (LGW) nonstop. Or, if you have Iberia Avios to burn, the airline just started operating their brand-new A350 aircraft between Madrid and Chicago.

Brussels, Belgium

Triumphal Arch Cinquantenaire Parc Brussels, Belgium
The Triumphal Arch in Cinquantenaire Parc in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by anmalkov / Getty Images)

The weather in Brussels is downright delightful in July. Enjoy the mild temperatures at the Tomorrowland Festival, which is one of the largest electronic music festivals in the world (July 19 to 21 and again from July 26 to 28). The festival is located just outside Brussels (a 40-minute drive) in a city called Boom.

Brussels opens up a piece of its history each July, too. Every summer, the Royal Palace of Brussels welcomes visitors from July 22 through September. Take the opportunity to explore some of the rooms, the grounds and the art collection, which includes portraits of Napoleon, at this special Belgium landmark.

The Parc Du Cinquantenaire is especially lovely in July as well, and locals come out to enjoy a picnic along the green. Complete with monuments, play areas for children and a bubbling fountain, it’s the perfect spot for a relaxing afternoon. Travellers should also consider a quick day trip to Ghent for the Ghent Festival (July 13 to 22), which includes street markets, free concerts in several of the city squares and a carnival for kids.

Fly Brussels Airlines or British Airways nonstop from London Heathrow (LHR) to Brussels (BRU). If you have British Airways Avios, award tickets are as low as 4,000 (off-peak) or 4,500 (peak) Avios in Euro Traveller and 7,750 (off-peak) or 9,000 (peak) Avios in Club Europe.

Ibiza, Spain

Cala Xuclar, Cove, Ibiza, Spain
Cala Xuclar, Ibiza. (Photo by L.Apolli AidBC / Getty Images)

Over the past few years, Ibiza has started to change. While the electronic music and party scene remain one of the best in the world, many other parts of the island are slowly transforming into high-end, luxury escapes.

New additions this season are the Bless Hotel, part of the Leading Hotels of the World group. Opened June 1, the design hotel focuses on unique experiences, such as bathology (where soap butlers will advise you on which bath soaps will best benefit your skin type). Another trendy addition to the luxury hotel scene is the W Ibiza, scheduled to open in July 2019. The hotel, which is located in the chic Santa Eulalia area, will have a rooftop lounge and an infinity pool with ocean views.

AvGeeks should head to Playa d’en Bossa, where you can sun, cocktail in hand, as you admire planes flying low over the beach before landing at the Ibiza Airport (IBZ). For a serene cove, try Cala Olivera or Cala Xuclar. Those wanting more communal vibes should head to Benirras, which is known for its hippy, relaxed atmosphere, especially on Sundays in July when the drumming festivals take place.

Getting there is easy, especially since British Airways has increased its summer service to Ibiza to 10 times weekly from London Heathrow (LHR). Award tickets cost 6,500 (off-peak) or 7,500 (peak) Avios in Euro Traveller and 12,750 (off-peak) or 15,000 (peak) Avios in Club Europe.

Verona, Italy

Juliets Courtyard Casa di Giulietti Verona Italy
The courtyard of Juliet’s house in Verona, Italy. (Photo by NickNick ko / Getty Images)

Verona is home to Shakespeare’s most famous love story, “Romeo and Juliet.” Visitors can actually visit Juliet’s home and see the balcony where all the magic was said to have happened. And while holidaymakers are invading the nearby, overcrowded tourist hotspot of Venice, Verona is a wonderful respite from the crowds.

The city’s most famous non-Shakespearian attraction is the Arena, a Roman amphitheatre dating back to the 1st century. The Arena rivals Rome’s Colosseum as it’s in spectacular condition. In fact, it’s still in use today, and July is prime opera season. Tickets are available for July performances of Carmen, Aida, Il Trovatore, La Traviata and more. Intermixed with opera are some more modern-style concerts, like acts from King Crimson (July 8) and Mark Knopfler (July 22).

Verona is also a short drive away from one of Italy’s most famous lakes: Garda. If charming lakeside villages and pebbled, freshwater beaches aren’t enticing enough, head over to Castello di Moniga del Garda on July 7 to 9 for Italia in Rosa, one of Italy’s largest rosé wine festivals. There are 150 different tasting options available, and you’ll sip them alongside the lake and the towering castle during sunset.

Ryanair and Jet2 both fly nonstop from London (STN) to Verona (VRN). TUI, easyJet and British Airways all fly nonstop from London Gatwick (LGW). Award flights on British Airways cost 6,500 (off-peak) or 7,500 (peak) Avios in Euro Traveller and 12,750 (off-peak) or 15,000 (peak) Avios in Club Europe.

Featured photo of the Cala d’Hort beach in Ibiza, Spain by Alex Tihonovs/EyeEm / Getty Images.

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