Europe is not often associated with sunshine. When people imagine the European cities of London, Hamburg, Dublin or Reykjavik, they’ll often imagine them dull in the rain or cloud. However, this is not the case for all European cities. In fact, some cities are some of the sunniest and warmest in the world, making for a great retreat to soak up the sun and top up on vitamin D. We’ve put together a list of the best cities for sun to help you better plan your sunny escape, which includes some well-known sunny favourites along with some alternative destinations you may not be aware of and, of course, the cheapest cities in Europe for sun.
1. Valletta, Malta - For year-round sun
The capital of Malta, Valletta is well-known for being one of the sunniest cities in Europe. The city not only ranks number 1 in Europe for the most sunny hours annually (2,957 hours), but also features in position 1 or 2 for each individual month and is also top of the list for the hottest city in Europe, with an annual average of 22°C. This means that Valletta is a great summer destination to guarantee great weather, but will also make for a great winter retreat to get away from the winter blues.
On the hottest summer days when sunlight is at its highest, head to one of the nearby beaches to enjoy the great weather. Choose from the popular Mellieħa Bay, the largest sandy beach (complete with lifeguards, sunbeds and water sports) or Għajn Tuffieħa for a quiet beach retreat, left untouched by tourism. If you’re visiting in the winter, only some will be able to brave a swim in the December average air temperature of 17°C, whereas most will feel more comfortable exploring the history and culture in Valletta, where the winter temperatures are perfect for walking and exploring.
Top Tip: If you’re thinking of planning a holiday to Valletta, make sure you read our ‘Local’s Guide to Malta’ for tips on where to go, what to see and what to eat!
Andorra la Vella is a city nestled in a green valley near the Andorran Pyrenees, located just 10 km from the Catalonian border. Andorra la Vella is a city that’s not often associated with sunny weather—and for good reason. For most of the year, Andorra receives pretty mediocre sunshine, however, winter is when this destination really shines through. Andorra ranks within the top 10 for December through February at 359 hours of sunshine, making it a great destination for winter sun. What makes this even better is that Andorra la Vella is often a stopping point to the skiing destinations within the Pyrenees, meaning you can catch some rays before wrapping up for the snow in ski suits.
There are plenty of things to do for a short trip in Andorra de la Vella, from the great shopping scene to the historic quarter, the Barri Antic, complete with buildings in the traditional Catalonian style. If you’re stuck with things to do, the high location in the mountains sets it up for some great hikes where you can get impressive views and panoramas of the surrounding valley.
The nearest airport to Andorra la Vella is Carcassonne Airport (CCF), which is around a three hour drive away. Ryanair is currently the only airline that flies to this airport, with direct flights from the UK, Portugal, Ireland and Belgium. If you do not plan to hire a car, then it may be better to fly to Barcelona El Prat Airport (BCN) which is connected to Andorra la Vella via public transport. This airport also has a greater choice of airlines such as Eurowings, Iberia, Level and Vueling. You could also pair your trip to Andorra la Vella with a weekend in nearby Barcelona in Spain, which is another city great for sun with 2,524 annual hours!
3. Podgorica, Montenegro - For cheap sunshine
Podgorica is one destination on this list that many readers may not have heard of, which may have something to do with its five name changes. Although Montenegro’s capital is not known for beautiful architecture, its mixed history has resulted in an interesting mix of architecture from the Ottoman Empire, Eastern bloc buildings and also European styles.
However, Podgorica is not only an interesting place culturally, but also one of the best cities to top up your tan—with some flights even costing less than a fake tan! Flight prices, however, are not where the bargains end - when you get there, the prices of food, drink and accommodation will seem unbelievably cheap, especially when compared to neighbouring countries of Croatia. Podgorica performs well year-round in terms of hours of sunshine, being in the top 10 for annual (2,480 hours), summer (848) and autumn hours (582). In addition, the city ranks joint-second for average annual hottest temperature of 21°C! One of the best ways to enjoy the sun in Podgorica is by enjoying the recently-added pedestrian walkways which snake through the city.
People asking for guaranteed sunny destinations in Europe will often be directed to Greece, and for good reason! The Greek capital of Athens ranks in fourth place for annual sunshine at 2,771 hours, and also has an annual average temperature of 22°C.
If you’ve already ticked-off the obvious attractions of the Acropolis, Parthenon, Temple of Poseidon, the Panathenaic Stadium and the Plaka District, take a break from the sun in the green oasis of the National Gardens or cool off in one of the many museums. With good weather and temperatures guaranteed year-round, plan a day to the beach with the peace of mind that you won't get caught in the rain or chill. Be sure to check out the options of Kavouri, Voula or Edem for great beach day trips.
5. Skopje, Macedonia - for the cheapest European (and some of the world) sunshine
Macedonia was mentioned in our blog about the cheapest countries in Europe, as the 12th cheapest country in the whole world, meaning you can bag a bargain when going there! In addition, the capital city of Skopje ranks 11th for annual sun with 2,339 hours, performing well in every season with an annual average temperature of 18°C. Therefore, you can enjoy the sunshine in Skopje, with the comfort that you’re not breaking the bank in doing so.
Some people may not have heard of Skopje, and far less will have actually been there. However, this is predicted to change as the city has invested a lot in tourism as part of the urban project named ‘Skopje 2014’, in a hope to become a trendy up-and-coming destination. This project focused on the monumental and historical aspects of the city, which is plentiful due to its history with as early as the Neolithic era, but also more recently history with the Ottomans, in the Balkan War and also as part of Yugoslavia. Cultural and historical must-sees in Skopje include the Old Bazaar, the 15th century Kameni Most (stone bridge), Debar Maalo and the Tvrdina Kale Fortress.
Lisbon is another well-known sunny city in Europe, that performs well year-round including in winter (6th with 437 hours). It places third for annual sunshine (2,799 hours) and also performs well for average temperature at joint second place with daily average of 21°C. This means that no matter when you’re planning to visit Lisbon, you’re highly likely to get sunny weather with comfortable temperatures.
Lisbon has many impressive attractions and things to see, all of which are much better seen on a beautiful sunny day. From simply strolling the streets of Bairro Alto to a sunny rooftop bar such as PARK or being in the mountains for Sintra, Lisbon looks its best from every angle in the sun, which is guaranteed most of the year. If you’re looking to capture this city’s beauty on camera, be sure to check out our blog on the most Instagrammable spots in Lisbon.
Sunlight hours and annual average temperature data taken from Current Results. Data given in yearly averages for the number of hours that are sunny, with the data collected over 30 years. Cities included are those which are capitals and also cities with a population of over one million people.
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