Big Cities, Great Escapes

When it’s just too darn hot, these are the go-to getaways for city dwellers around the world:

Big City: Sydney, Australia > Great Escape: Blue Mountains

Reaching into the air above the city’s western flank, the Blue Mountains are a haven for sweltering Sydneysiders. “I think of the mountains as a place that’s both wild and tame at the same time,” says Becca Grey, who has been visiting since her childhood days.

Big City: Florence or Pisa, Italy > Great Escape: Viareggio

Spend long enough in Viareggio and you might find yourself adopted by one of the many Italian families that descend on the town’s beach to escape steamy Florence or Pisa. As night falls, join the promenade along the city’s beachfront under the gaze of gently decaying grand hotels.

Big City: Boston, Massachusetts (U.S.A.) > Great Escape: Nantucket Island

Once a whaling community, now a summer home to wilting professionals lured from Boston and New York by the sea breezes, unspoiled beaches, and quaint clapboard houses. “You want to feel it with your feet: the dunes, the cobblestones,” says summer resident Brian Hurley.

Big City: Paris, France > Great Escape: Île de Ré

Wealthy Parisians escape to Île de Ré, an island off France’s Atlantic coast, in summer. Get away from it all as you bike past oyster farms, vineyards, and salt pans to the pretty village of La Flotte.

Big City: San Francisco, California (USA) > Great Escape: Point Reyes

The wild peninsula of Point Reyes is only an hour from San Francisco. “I love walking in the Pierce Point area as you’re almost guaranteed a glimpse of Point Reyes’ famed tule elk,” says local graphic designer Camilla Saufley-Mitchell.

Big City: Mumbai, India > Great Escape: Kashid

Kashid’s two miles of soft white sand offer a prospect more often associated with the tropical south of India than nearby Mumbai. The beach, whose high waves are perfect for surfing, beckons. For a truly authentic experience, stay in one of the local villagers’ cottages. They’re the best places to taste right Kashidi curry.

Big City: London, England (U.K.) > Great Escape: Brighton

A population of relaxed bohemians and energetic art students is swelled by day-trippers from London. “I love that tacky retro charm,” says Londoner Sam Kennedy. “Not to mention the fish-and-chips.”

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Big City: Beijing, China > Great Escape: Chengde

In days gone by it was the palace of the Manchu emperors. Today, Chengde is the playground of Beijing’s newly wealthy. The resort’s 120 palaces offer great views of artfully landscaped beauty spots.

Big City: Barcelona, Spain > Great Escape: Sitges

If many Med resorts are uptight and high-rolling, the freewheeling democratic spirit of Sitges near Barcelona is the antidote. Rub shoulders with the Catalan intelligentsia who live in the town’s famed modernist apartments; hang out with relaxed young Europeans squeezing in one last drink before the sun sets, and it’s time for dinner and more wine.

This article originally appeared in the National Geographic book Where the Locals Go: More Than 300 Places Around the World to Eat, Play, Shop, Celebrate, and Relax.

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