Where to buy a holiday home if you want to escape the summer heat

Gotland, Sweden
If you likely balmy temperatures of around 25C, Gotland is ideal, with its sandy beaches and pastel painted houses

Most people’s idea of packing for a summer holiday in Europe involves chucking swimwear, shorts and plenty of sun cream into a case.

When she visits her holiday home in France Lebby Eyres does all that – but she adds waterproofs and walking boots too.

Lebby, 53, and her husband Fred Guetin, 48, bought their 1780s stone house in the village of Orgelet, close to the border of France and Switzerland, back in 2011 as a family base close to Fred’s parents, who live in Burgundy.

The temperature in Orgelet, 85 miles north of Lyon, reaches a comfortable average 24C in high summer while hotspots like St Tropez are sizzling at an average 29C. “I really love the fact that it has four proper seasons,” said Lebby.

Traditionally when Brits buy an overseas property guaranteed sunshine is top of their wish list.

But global warming is starting to make life in many southern European hotspots uncomfortable, what with water supplies being turned off overnight in golfer’s paradise Sotogrande, Spain, because of water shortages, spring and summer wildfires in France and Spain, and flooding in Venice, Italy.

The realities of climate change mean smart second home buyers with an eye to the future need to start considering more northerly options as destinations where they can chill out without any such inconveniences.

Lebby Eyres, 53, and her husband Fred Guetin, 48, pictured in their garden, London
Lebby Eyres and her husband Fred Guetin invested in a 1780s stone house in Orgelet, France, where summer highs stay around a comfortable 24C

Lebby, a freelance journalist, Fred, a TV producer, and their two teenagers still visit their €175,000 (£150,000) house up to four times a year. In summer they can hang out at one of the beaches around the nearby Lac de Vouglans. Later in the year it is all about crisp forest walks and in January and February, skiing in the Jura mountains.

Despite its latitude, over the past 13 years Lebby has noticed the temperature in Jura changing – heatwaves are becoming more common, the ski season is getting shorter. “But it never gets really bad,” she said. “These stone houses were built to protect you from the cold in winter and they also protect you from the heat in summer.”

Even the fact that the region experiences an average 125 days of rain per year doesn’t bother Lebby, who appreciates the cool and the lush surroundings. “You just need to remember your rain gear,” she said.

Whether you are looking for a traditional seaside bolthole, a sophisticated city break or a get-away-from-it-all island retreat, northern Europe has a fantastic choice of second home options for buyers who don’t fancy frazzling themselves all summer long.

Island life: Gotland, Sweden

Gotland, Sweden
The Baltic island of Gotland was a favourite of Ingmar Bergman's and is a popular retreat for Swedes - Johner Images/Johner RF

This beautiful Baltic island is where the film director Ingmar Bergman lived and worked. For Swedes it represents a timeless and wholesome retreat from the real world, with its sandy beaches decorated with dramatic rock formations, pretty countryside, delectable pastel painted houses, and a surprisingly sophisticated range of bars, beach clubs, and restaurants.

Think Ibiza, but with less hard partying package tour holidaymakers, and less sunshine.

In 12 years selling property on Gotland, Sofia Erlandsdotter Dinneny of Home by Dean has only sold a handful of holiday homes to foreigners. “However I think that is beginning to change,” she said “Recently I sold a house to a European couple who were giving up their holiday home in Spain as it was too hot for them, who decided to buy on Gotland instead.

“Gotland has the most hours of sunshine in all of Sweden, it is a bit milder than the rest of the country, but the average temperature in summer is about at 25C.”

Getting to Gotland isn’t for the fainthearted, involving a flight to Stockholm followed by a three and a half hour ferry ride to Visby, the main town.

Most second home buyers opt for houses, said Dinneny, and a three bedroom property with a sea view would cost around £220,000. A view of the Baltic would up the cost to around £300,000.

Most owners offset costs by renting their properties out during the summer. A three bedroom house would fetch around £1,000 a week in summertime. Winter is a harder sell since it gets dark at around 3pm daily.

While Gotland’s temperature remains comfortable year round, even this location is not unscathed by climate change. A lack of rainfall has led to water shortages, and bans on watering gardens or filling pools. In the longer term, desalination of seawater is being explored as a solution.

Culture vultures: Bruges, Belgium

Bruges
Bruges has the draw of its culture and history, is easy to get to and has a climate similar to the UK's - tombaky/Getty Images

Known as the Venice of the north, Bruges is a spectacularly gorgeous medieval city filled with culture and history. The Unesco world heritage city is the perfect place for a stroll, to admire landmarks like the gothic Belfry of Bruges, the Basilica of the Holy Blood, as well as the quotidian splendour of Bruges’s brick gabled houses.

It is great for people watching, café hopping, is supremely walkable with excellent museums and art galleries, and has an evolving gastronomic scene.

“It is really authentic and we also have plenty of really delicious restaurants and a nice nightlife,” said estate agent Wout Nechelput of Immax Immobilien. “It is also very safe. We don’t have the problems that big cities have.”

It is also easy to get to with trains (Eurostar to Brussels and then a local train) taking about three and a half hours.

Weather wise Belgium is much like the UK. The mercury rises to an average 21C each August.

The most expensive place to live in Bruges is the Golden Triangle, the heart of the city stuffed with palaces, churches and designer stores. The area heaves with tourists in summer time and in December when the city’s Christmas markets are in full swing.

Nechelput suggests that a more pleasant and better value option is to shop for a home along one of the city’s many canals. You could pick up a two bedroom flat for around €450,000 or a three bedroom house for between €700,000 and €900,000.

Based on past performance Bruges looks like a solid property investment. Prices have grown year on year ever since 2011, and although that growth did stall in 2023, prices have increased by 2.75pc in the past three months, according to property portal Immoweb.

Less encouraging news for second home owners is that Bruges authorities have cracked down on holiday rentals to protect their tourist industry. Licenses to rent homes within the city’s ring road are no longer granted, said Nechelput. “They are really strict,” he said.

Best of both worlds: Rotterdam, Netherlands

Delfshaven is a borough of Rotterdam
Rotterdam is a great pick for second home owners who enjoy city vibes - Achim Thomae/Moment RF

A three-hour train journey from central London will deliver you straight into the heart of the Netherlands’ second city.

Cool in every sense of the word, Rotterdam’s average temperatures peak at 22C in July and August and it is a great option for second home owners who enjoy city vibes.

Heavily bombed during the Second World War, the city has been rebuilt with wow-factor modern architecture, world-class museums and galleries, and a highly efficient public transport system (metro, trams, and water taxis) to ferry you about.

Remko Schrijver, owner of Re/Max Totaal Makelaars, says the best neighbourhood to invest in right now is Katendrecht, a spit of land close to the centre of town surrounded on three sides by water. Once the city’s red light district, Katendrecht has been thoroughly cleaned up – King’s Cross style – and is now full of restaurants and bars.

“It is a very up and coming area,” said Schrijver. “The city has spent a lot of money on improvements, and they are working on preparing a huge city beach which will only make it better.”

If you prefer your beaches more au natural then Rotterdam can provide that too. A 40-minute metro ride will get you to Hoek van Holland – Rotterdam Beach. This wide expanse of sand, backed by dunes, is excellent for hiking or cycling, beach volleyball, surfing, and just chilling out.

Schrijver estimates a two bedroom flat in Katendrecht would cost you around €400,000. House prices in the Netherlands have doubled since 2008 but a series of interest rate hikes in 2022 reversed price growth. Since late last year, however, prices have begun to increase again, and a severe shortage of stock for sale means buyers have to compete for the best homes.

If you want your holiday home to pay its way when you are not in situ then you will have to be careful with what you buy. “In the Netherlands apartment buildings have homeowners’ associations, and they don’t like people to rent out to Airbnb,” advised Schrijver.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.