Keeping cool in the city this summer

by cathy.baldwin

Summer can be a great time to take a city break as the crowds are thinner and the locals tend to be more laidback and sociable. However, if the heat becomes too oppressive for sightseeing, or you just need a few hours to cool off and relax, where should you retreat to? Read valuable insider advice from our destination experts below.

“London’s parks make it one of the world’s greenest capital cities. In seriously hot weather head to the shady trees of north London’s Hampstead Heath. It’s hilly enough to catch any breeze that’s going - great views from Parliament Hill too.”

“When the temperature rises, smart New Yorkers duck into one of the super air-conditioned spots in town like the beautiful landmark of the New York Public library. But if you want to stay out of doors head to Central Park’s Mall where stately elms always provide a good dose of shade, and cool.”

“The Parc de St-Cloud is a grandiose park, with all the lawns, woodland, terraces, gravel paths and perspectives à la française sans the château burnt down in 1870. A favourite place for picnicking, kicking a football, cycling and for the view of Paris across the river.”

“The Parc de la Ciutadella, in the Born, is wonderfully shady, with wide expanses of grass to picnic on, a lake with rowboats for hire and a couple of kioskos for when nothing but a cold beer will do.”

“There’s a lot to be said for cool, dark church interiors when it hits 40°C. My favourites are Greek-rite Santa Maria del Cosmedin (famous for its stone ‘Mouth of Truth’ mask), mosaic studded Santa Prassede and Santa Maria del Popolo with its Caravaggios.”

“On a warm, summer's weekend, virtually every blade of grass in the Vondelpark, the city's main central park, is covered with semi-naked Amsterdammers sunning themselves, playing with Frisbees, strumming guitars, drinking cans of Heineken, smoking joints. It's as if the Sixties never went away."

“Take a picnic to the Retiro park, find a shady spot, and lie back to watch the buskers, mime artists and clowns performing by the lake, while people practise tai chi or play chess under the trees.”

“Escape Venice’s summer fug beneath the umbrella pine-filled park by the vaporetto stop at Sant’Elena, where a breeze from the lagoon makes evening aperitivi in particular a delight. There’s playground equipment for the kids, and table pavements at parkside bars. Bliss.”


"In Nice, take a wander up to the Mont-Boron park – a wild, forested headland where sea-breezes draw the sting from the heat. Or, at the other end of town, try the lovely Phoénix gardens. Right next door is the Museum of Asiatic Arts – ‘cool’ in both senses of the word and some 37 times more interesting than it sounds. There’s exotic tea to be tasted and, at 3pm on Sundays, a full Japanese tea ceremony. Book this ahead on 0033 492 293702."


"In Monaco, head for beautiful Princess Grace rose gardens in the Fontvieille district – or the cavernous and classical Oceanographic museum up in Monaco old town. There are as many fish swimming here as there are in the Med outside, and they’re far better displayed."

Cannes and Marseille

"If in Cannes or Marseille take a ferry for the wind in your hair – and a trip to the islands. Off Cannes, Ste Marguérite and, especially, the monastery-owned St Honorat get you out of the resort’s hurly-burly to quieter, better places. From Marseille’s Old Port, the boat will chug you to the Ile d’If (where the fictional Count of Monte-Cristo was fictionally imprisoned) and onto Ratonneau and Pomègues for walking, wild creek bathing and lunch."

St Tropez

"In St Tropez it is, of course, not enough to be cool. You have to be cold. So amble just out of town to the Ice bar at the Kube Hotel (Route de St Tropez, Gassin). This is exactly what it days it is – a bar made from ice. It’s like drinking in a deep-freeze. This is apparently a very today thing to do, though heaven alone knows why. Difficult to be any cooler, mind."

Do you have any tips on staying cool in the city this summer? If so, leave your suggestions below.