Lonely Planet Writer

Is this the world's best summer city?

When summer rolls into town, some cities empty as the temperature rises to less-than-pleasant heights, while others transform, shedding their winter coats and emerging as sleek, gorgeous summer models filled with charms and comforts that were barely evident only weeks earlier.

Summer City

Among the many cities that come alive in the summer, which is the very best? That is, which city should be crowned the World's Best Summer City?*

We put this question to our Facebook and Twitter followers, and the debate heated up like a dashboard on a hot summer day. Should it be a city that is cold most of the year and only warms up for a short, glorious period? Or should it be a city that is nice almost any time of year, but gets truly spectacular in summer? The votes tell the story:

Summer Cities poll results

The top two vote-getters were Barcelona and Sydney, two cities that could easily be described as year-round destinations. At the peak of summer, both cities can also be unpleasantly hot, overly expensive and crowded, which is why Lonely Planet guidebook authors generally recommend visiting a bit earlier or later in the year.

Voters started talking some sense at 3rd place: Montreal, London, Chicago – now these are cities that really come alive in the summer. These cities wait for months for the dreary cold winter to disappear, and then explode in fits (and festivals) of joy that last throughout the summer months. It has been said that London is the most beautiful city on earth when the sun is shining, mostly because it's such a novelty. After enduring months of grey drizzle, the argument becomes rather convincing.

All of these are world-class cities, but can one of them truly be called the World's Best Summer City? Nope. According to Lonely Planet Travel Editor Robert Reid, voters simply forgot to vote for the real winner: Irkutsk. (Just kidding. His actual pick is Reykjavik.)

(*Rejected titles included 'Sultan of Summer', 'Estival Empress', 'Monarch of Months that Are Warm' and 'Toasty Tycoon'.)