When it comes to the holidays that have it all, nothing beats a stay in a seaside city where you can spend your mornings sightseeing and filling up on culture and your afternoons relaxing on a beach and soaking up the sun. Europe is absolutely packed full of desirable destinations in this category and while we fully support visiting them all, we’ve compiled a list of five of the very best beach cities in Europe, so you know exactly where to go first.
Surf and Style in Biarritz
The birthplace of European surfing, Biarritz, on France’s Atlantic Coast, is a destination where laidback living meets high-end luxuries, where barefoot surfers live alongside billionaires and bichon frises. While there are many beaches to choose from in Biarritz, the main attraction is La Grande Plage, a stunning sandy beach lined with colourful beach tents, which are available to rent. Other highlights of the town include the luxurious Hotel du Palais, which overlooks the ocean, and the bustling Les Halles market which, if you get there early enough, has a mind-boggling array of fresh produce to choose from.
Romans and Relaxation in Split
Another coastal city that deserves a spot on any roundup of the best beach cities in Europe is Croatia’s second-largest city, Split. With a long and fascinating history, Split it is overflowing with interesting cultural sites such as Diocletian’s Palace and the Cathedral of Saint Dominus. Once you’ve had your fill of historic sites, take a stroll down the iconic Riva Promenade or head over to Bacvice Beach to soak up some rays before ending your day with a nightcap in one of the many buzzing bars.
Playa y Paella in Valencia
Home to an eclectic mix of Roman, modern, and even Gothic architecture, the Spanish city of Valencia is well worth a visit. In the city centre, explore the pretty old town and fill up on as much Paella as you can fit in your stomach (after all, Valencia is the birthplace of this famous Spanish dish). When you’re ready for a siesta, head to one of the soft sand beaches lapped by crystal-clear waters which span the eastern side of the city, sealing the deal in making Valencia a perfect coastal destination.
Bays and Battlements in Kotor
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, the medieval old town of Kotor in Montenegro is another strong contender when it comes to the best beach cities in Europe. Nestled in a secluded bay, the city is home to the only entirely preserved fortifications in the Mediterranean. Explore the impressive St Tryphon Cathedral or learn about the town’s history at the Maritime Museum before settling in for a delicious dinner at one of the town’s excellent restaurants or grills. And if all that doesn’t tempt you, perhaps the adorable cats that patrol the historic streets will.
Colours and Class in Portofino
Portofino may not technically be a city, but it is without a doubt one of Europe’s most beautiful coastal towns, so we’ve snuck it in at the end of our roundup of the best beach cities in Europe anyway. Located on the Italian Riviera, Portofino’s port is a hub for celebrities and artists alike and the brightly coloured houses that line the shore are one of the most memorable of the town’s countless attractions. While it may be more famous for its phenomenal food and glamorous guests, Portofino’s hidden beaches and coves are so beautiful it would be criminal to miss out on them.