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From Cape Town to Madrid: 5 capital cities that are perfect summer destinations

From Cape Town to Madrid: 5 capital cities that are perfect summer destinations

Cape Town, the capital of South Africa, is home to over 987,000 people

Ah, summer. If you live in the UK at least, the word can only mean one thing: that day in June we all look forward to when Sainsbury’s runs out of disposal BBQs and it’s finally acceptable to get your knees out in public.

So, as the days get longer and the nights shorter, we’re looking further afield – specifically, at LateRooms.com‘s countdown of five top summer destinations…

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1 Madrid, Spain

Barcelona can keep its Gaudí and beaches. Madrid is the beating heart of Spain.

Spain’s numero uno for a great summer boasts a deliriously fun nightlife, unrivaled art, top museums, more fantastic restaurants and food markets than you can shake a chorizo at, and a certain hard-to-find, old-world elegance that is missing from many of Europe’s most popular cities.

Mid-May brings the start of ‘Fiesta de San Isidro’, Madrid’s largest festival, where revelers dance in traditional finery and sample tasty local dishes. Music and dancing is everywhere with flamenco, zarzuelas and Latin rhythms happening at concerts all over the city.

If you’re not the type who squirms at a bit of hot red blooded action, then head to Las Ventas, the largest and most revered bullfighting ring in the country. Grab your tickets in advance, practice a good old ‘olé’ or two, but leave the bright red onesie at home, yeah?

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2 Dublin, Ireland

You’d be mad not to head over for a good old helping of craic this summer.

They had the sense to vote in same-sex marriage in 2015 and uber-friendly Dubliners not only ensure a hearty welcoming, but also a lively scene for gay men and women, with a plethora of nightclubs, pubs and saunas to choose from.

If festivals are your thing, there’s a great line-up over the summer months, including everything from jazz to comedy, and of course the pinnacle of the Irish gay festival calendar, Dublin Pride, that takes place 22-26 June.

Away from Dublin, there’s the harbor-side city of Cork, a colorful and lively little place. And if you fancy something a little more adventurous, why not head over to the west coast for some of Europe’s top surfing. Perfect if you look great in a wet-suit or just admire those who do.

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3 Cape Town, South Africa

We’ve gone a little further afield for this shout out. Known as the ‘pink city’, this is truly the gay capital of Africa, with a thriving LGBTI scene and a multitude of venues catering specifically to the community.

South Africa legalized gay marriages in 2006 and since then an entire wedding planning industry has sprung up. Getting married in Cape Town can be a spectacular affair and with it illegal to discriminate against people because of their gender or sexual orientation, you’ll always be warmly welcomed.

And the warmness doesn’t end there. Not only is Cape Town a thriving cosmopolitan destination, but you’re on the doorstep of some amazing scenery, beaches and outdoor sporting opportunities. A little hike up Table Mountain? A spot of pre-breakfast kite surfing? Why not.

But one of our favorite Cape Town attractions just has to be the amazing Boulders Beach. With its wind-sheltered bays and safe, sandy shores, it’s home to a breeding colony of over 2,000 endangered African penguins. YES. PENGUINS. For the best penguin-viewing experience, Foxy Beach (aren’t their beach names just brilliant?) is the place to be, just a short stroll from Boulders. The boardwalks will take you to within meters of these awesome birds.

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4 Stockholm, Sweden

They call this the Venice of the north and with the city spread out over 14 islands and boasting 57 bridges, we can certainly see where they’re coming from. Very relaxed and liberal, Stockholm has a jumping gay scene with LBGTI-friendly establishments throughout the city.

Their highlight of the summer calendar is ‘midsommar’ (happening on 24 June) , a national holiday in Sweden, a massive excuse to party, and Sweden’s way of marking the official start of summer. Head further out of Stockholm or even to some of Scandinavia’s more northerly destinations and you’re treated to midnight sun and 24 hours of daylight, but even in Stockholm the sky will be strangely light well after bedtime. It’s a great time to be a tourist, with public spaces transformed into street parties (the best happening at ‘Skansen’, Stockholm’s open-air museum). You’ll find plenty of opportunities to join the locals and try pickled herrings, washed down with beer and schnapps and worked off by dancing.

If endless summer parties aren’t your thing then what about four hours of live euro pop? Get those homemade scorecards ready and prepare to shout ‘nil pwa’, as this year’s Eurovision Song Contest finals are hosted in Stockholm from 10-14 May.

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5 Amsterdam, Netherlands

If you only needed one reason to make Amsterdam a major feature of your summer this year, then EuroPride has to be it. Lasting for two weeks, (yes, two weeks!), there’s all manner of festivities taking place with the highlight surely the world famous Canal Parade rocking the boat from the 5-7 August.

If you’re still capable of standing after all that, there’s so much more happening around the Dutch capital this summer.

Why not swap your cup of party juice for a big fat helping of culture? Just outside the city is the preserved, historical area of significance, Zaanse Schans. A photographer’s dream, (just hope for a bit of mood-setting mist), you’ll find not only a quaint traditional village set on the Zaan River but a series of fully restored and working traditional windmills. It’s only an hour out of the city so you have no excuse at all to miss this gem.

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For more information, head to LateRooms.com.