For many of us, July represents the start of summer in earnest. It means time booked off work, suitcases packed, and passports safely tucked in pockets before heading to the airport to catch that flight somewhere new and interesting. But, where to go?

    Check out our intriguing list below where you’re sure to find a worthy destination for your July holidays. From fireworks and open-air music festivals to Segway city tours and island outposts in the Arctic Ocean, our list of where to go in the month of July is sure to have something to catch your eye.

    1

    Tokyo, Japan

    A vibrant city caught up in Olympic fever

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    The Olympic Torch is set to arrive in Tokyo in July as Japan plays host to the Olympic Games in the summer of 2020. The world-renowned athletics event is scheduled to kick-off on Friday 24 July, when visitors will get a chance to see some of the world’s greatest athletes compete for Olympic gold.

    July in Tokyo is a time of fireworks, festivals, and food. The Japanese mark the beginning of the season with fireworks displays that continue throughout the summer months. The largest of these is the Sumida Fireworks Festival held on the last weekend of July each year. If you like your lights a little quieter, Tokyo also plays host to the Mitama Matsuri festival in July. Held at the Yasukuni Shrine for 4 days in the middle of the month, the highlight of this festival is the display of 30,000 paper lanterns on the approach to the shrine. As the nation’s capital, you are assured the best in shopping, entertainment, and culture that Japan has to offer. If visiting in July, be sure to sample the delicious Matcha tea products that make a special limited summer appearance each year.

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    2

    Berlin, Germany

    Long summer days and pulsating nightlife in the German capital

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    One of Europe’s great capital cities, Berlin is bustling with activities for visitors to enjoy, from the rich cultural offerings of its museums and art galleries to its fine dining and world-renowned nightlife. The average temperature during July is a modest 18°C, but temperatures have been known to climb well up into the 30s. Summer offers visitors the chance to kick back in one of the city’s many beer gardens down by the River Spree to enjoy some hearty German fare washed down with a couple of Pils lagers. You’ll get a chance to unwind with the locals and soak at the atmosphere of this lively city.

    The annual Classic Open Air Berlin festival runs for 5 days in July and offers you the chance to enjoy live music performances in the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt square. With the agreeable weather and long, bright evenings, people-watching and unhurried strolls through the streets can be rewarding. This European centre of culture has much to offer visitors in the way of museums and art galleries too. The best of these can be found in the city’s historic heart at Museum Island, including Altes Museum – the oldest museum on the island, packed full of ancient Greek and Roman artefacts.

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    3

    Tuscany, Italy

    Ancient Italy and delicious cuisine

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    Tuscany has long been renowned for its distinct local culture, with a rich heritage apparent in everything from the architecture to the food and July is a great time to visit the region. In fact, it’s the hottest month of the year here, with daytime temperatures ranging from an average 28°C to 35°C. No surprise then that the warm temperatures see the streets of the region filled with many outdoor activities, from food festivals and medieval fairs to horse-racing and open-air antique markets.

    Some highlights of the month include The Palio in Siena, a unique horse race steeped in history that takes place just twice a year, including on the 2nd of July, and the Festival Puccini in Torre del Lago, the only festival in the world solely dedicated to the works of the great composer. If classical music isn’t your thing, you could also check out the annual Blues Festival in Seravezza.

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    4

    Boston, MA, USA

    Interesting history, fantastic food, and loads of sports

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    Boston kicks off July in style with enthusiastic 4th of July celebrations held throughout the city. A fireworks display over the Charles River and the July 4th Boston Pops concert being 2 of the stand-outs. Mid-summer is also slap bang in the middle of baseball season and if you want to catch a glimpse of Boston’s favourite sons, a trip to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox might be in order. If baseball isn’t your thing, you’ll find a wealth of music, food, and cultural events ongoing throughout the month.

    You can enjoy martial arts, dance displays, and Asian food at the Chinatown Main Street Festival. If you’re in the mood for pizza, you can sample savoury delights at the annual Boston Pizza Festival. With good summer weather, this is the perfect time to enjoy getting outdoors by taking a tour of the city to discover its long history.

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    5

    Svalbard, Norway

    See polar bears in the wild

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    The Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard is home to many interesting species of wildlife, such as Arctic foxes, polar bears, walruses, and bowhead whales. You will get a chance to view some of these in July while hiking in the mountains or taking a boat tour through the fjords. Other outdoor activities available include horse riding and dogsledding. Be under no illusion, this is extreme travel. You aren’t permitted to leave the main town of Longyearbyen without the protection of a rifle (or armed tour guide) due to the danger posed by polar bears. Even so, the town has several restaurants and an art gallery and museum for you to enjoy. This raw and wild group of islands are a 3-hour flight from the capital, Oslo.

    July in Svalbard may just be the best time to visit the area. It’s the warmest month on the archipelago for one, with average temperatures ranging from 4-6°C and visiting during summer will also afford you the surreal opportunity of seeing the midnight sun. Svalbard is the northernmost inhabited region of Europe and sees approximately 4 months of perpetual day.

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    Shane Mac Donnchaidh | Contributing Writer

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