August city breaks for a sensational summer

Ah, summer. It's the time to strip down to lighter clothes and bask in the warm weather… and possibly go on a city break or 2. When planning your summertime getaway, remember to book a holiday home too. Staying in a self-catering, well-placed holiday letting can save you lots of money on transport and meals out, especially if you're travelling with a bigger group.

City-and-beach breaks for sightseeing and sun seeking

For most travellers, summertime equals beach time, which means the popular seaside destinations often get incredibly busy and crowded. Don't fret, there are places where you can work on your tan without jostling for space on the sand. If you're planning a city break in July or August and want to squeeze in some time on the coast, consider visiting Valencia or Lisbon, where holiday rentals offer proximity to both urban and unspoilt beaches.

Viva Valencia: a city with cultural sights and seaside spots

Set on the southeastern coast of Spain, Valencia is the country's third-largest city and a more relaxed, less crowded alternative to Madrid and Barcelona. Families will enjoy a trip to the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, a mammoth attraction that encompasses an IMAX theatre and Europe's largest oceanographic aquarium. Meanwhile, history buffs can visit the UNESCO-listed Llotja de la Seda, a medieval building used for the silk trade. If you just want to lay by the beach, La Malvarrosa and Las Arenas are the closest spots to the city, but you can also go to windy El Saler for water sports or unspoilt La Devesa for calm waters and a quiet, beautiful setting.

Lisbon offers heaps of history with a side of vitamin sea

Kill 2 birds with one stone in Lisbon, where you'll find a famously fairy tale–like cityscape and a coastline with a variety of beaches. The capital city of Portugal ranks among the oldest cities in Western Europe. History buffs won't want to miss the Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery, which share World Heritage Site status, and Alfama, Lisbon's oldest district. Sao Jorge Castle provides panoramic city views. Beach-wise, Carcavelos is the most accessible by public transport, so it's also the busiest. Escape the crowds by making the quick drive to Costa da Caparica's 18-mile stretch of beaches, which are more popular with locals than travellers.

Family-friendly city breaks in August

Looking for destinations to delight both kids and grown-ups? Visit Edinburgh when the Fringe is in full swing, or ride the roller coasters in Copenhagen. Travel expenses on family city breaks can quickly pile up, so you can save on lodging by staying in a holiday rental. Spacious, self-catering lettings are always a plus, and more so if you choose a location that keeps transport costs low.

Copenhagen offers amusement parks and animal encounters

Copenhagen consistently ranks among the happiest cities in the world, so you can expect an easy-going atmosphere that's great for a family holiday. Topping the list of kid-friendly attractions are the oldest amusement parks in the world, Dyrehavsbakken and Tivoli Gardens, both of which offer an array of rides for tots and older thrill seekers alike. Then, enjoy close encounters with cold-water creatures at the National Aquarium Denmark, Den Bla Planet, the largest aquarium in northern Europe. After a couple of action-packed days, slow down the pace with picnics at parks like King's Garden.

Enjoy tons of entertainment during the Edinburgh Fringe

Edinburgh makes for a fun-filled, family-friendly August city break that's closer to home. The hilly Scottish capital comes alive during the summer, thanks to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that takes over the city for most of August. This is the world's largest arts festival, and hundreds of venues in town play host to thousands of shows, including many child-friendly programmes. There's also no shortage of street entertainment from acrobats, magicians, bagpipe players and more. Enjoy the festive atmosphere while walking around and spot attractions like Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish National Gallery.

Alternative city breaks to get away from the crowds

It won't come as a surprise that Europe's key capital cities teem with travellers on city breaks in May and throughout the summer. The massive crowds and endless queues can put a damper on an otherwise sunny holiday (quite literally), so why not visit some second cities instead? You'll still get a generous serving of culture, history and architecture, and if you prefer your holidays chilled-out, you'll have a much better time.

Ogle Rotterdam's outlandish landmarks

Rotterdam is characterised by cutting-edge architecture and a rich maritime heritage – the city's port is the largest in Europe and one of the busiest in the world. Visit the Maritime Museum for a deep dive into the harbour's history, or swing by architectural gems like the quirky Cube Houses and the modernist Huis Sonneveld, a museum in a 1930s home. Don't forget to check out the Cool District – go during the day so you can appreciate the colourful street art and maybe sip a coffee in one of the chic cafes, then come back after dark for the hip and lively bars.

Breathe in the vibrant atmosphere in Brno

Brno, the Czech Republic's second largest city and the biggest in Moravia, has a compact city centre that's filled to the brim with historical landmarks, beautiful architectural features and lively restaurants and bars. Top sights include UNESCO-listed Villa Tugendhat, a modernist attraction designed by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and the storied Spilberk Castle, a former fortress and prison that now houses the city museum. Svoboda Square is the city's main square, but if you want to drink where the locals drink, hit the cafes, pubs and wine cellars in lively Jakubske Namesti square instead.