The Best Beaches in Europe

Beach at the Blue & Green Vilalara Thalassa Resort/Oyster

While you don’t necessarily need the sun to enjoy a beautiful beach, warm weather is a big part of the appeal of relaxing by the water. Europe has a range of climates, but summer in much of the continent is over before you know it, which is all the more reason to hit the shore sooner rather than later. From the open and expansive sands of the Welsh coast to the stunning Sardinian seaside to the gorgeous Greek islands, Europe’s beaches are not only beautiful, but also diverse in their natural charms. With that in mind, here are 10 of the best beaches that the continent has to offer. 

Cassis Calanques, France

Prashant Ram/Flickr

Located a short drive from Marseille, the Cassis Calanques offer a picture-perfect scene. Walk along the coastal path out of Cassis harbor, over the steep grey rocks, and you’ll be met with a view of bright blue water. Clamber down and stake out a spot on the small pebbled beach. Or, make like a local and find a place to plop down on the rocks that hang over the cove. Those who are brave enough can even take the plunge into the refreshing Mediterranean. 

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Barafundle Bay, Wales

rhedeg.co.uk/Flickr

You might need to don a wetsuit when getting into the cold water here, but it’s worth it to enjoy the spectacular open beaches of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Specifically, Barafundle Bay offers one of the most iconic examples of the region’s expansive beauty. Backed by dunes and pine trees, the stunning golden sand and pristine water are only accessible by a half-mile walk across the clifftops -- enough to deter the crowds. This relative isolation means that the area is fairly quiet, but also that there aren’t many facilities nearby.

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Cala Goloritze, Sardinia

//Karri/Flickr

Created by a landslide in 1962, the stunning fine-pebbled beach of Cala Goloritze was made a UNESCO site in 1995. Getting there will take some effort, as the beach is located at the foot of a cliff on the north side of Sardinia. Hop in the car and drive to the closest car park, where you’ll find a bar serving refreshments to prepare you for the one-and-a-half hour coastal walk to the beach. If the walk is too much, consider taking a boat to the cove. Just keep in mind that shuttle boats can’t dock at the cove due to local environmental laws, which means you’ll have to swim up to the beach. Whatever your preferred route is, bragging rights will be in order.

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Praia de Marinha, Portugal

Stròlic Furlàn - Davide Gabino/Flickr

Voted one of the best beaches in the world, Praia de Marinha is a gorgeous sight in the Algarve. The scene reveals steep cliffs, jagged rock formations jutting from the sea, golden sand, and clear water that’s popular for snorkeling. Arriving at the beach, however, can be a little tough. The drive to Praia de Marinha, along with the scramble down the coastal path to reach it, means that it can often be found free of the crowds that tend to spoil some the best beaches in the area. 

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Ile de Re, France

Martina Roell/Flickr

In the summer, do like the Parisian locals and flee the clogging city heat for Ile De Re. Located near La Rochelle, the rustic villages throughout the island offer a sophisticated take on the traditional French seaside holiday. Known as the White Island, the destination also provides approximately six miles of white sand stretching down the southern coast. Stake out a spot and watch the waves roll in. To top it off, the island is covered by over 62 miles of cycle paths, so bicycle is the preferred mode of transportation.

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Navagio Beach, Zakynthos

Nataša Stuper/Flickr

You’ve likely seen images of Navagio Beach even if you’re not quite sure where it’s located. The iconic sight of a freighter ship wedged into the sand makes this secluded cove on the island of Zakynthos one of the most famous beaches in Greece. Most pictures will showcase a deserted arc of white sand met by sparkling turquoise water -- a tranquil patch of calm among the island’s busy beaches. This is because the beach, also known as Smuggler’s Cove, is only reachable by boat (it’s simple to hire on the island). Steep limestone cliffs keep out the crowds for the most part, but you will find the beach busy during the peak season. 

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Cala Macarella, Minorca

Sönke Biehl/Flickr

A short drive (depart from the town of Ciutadella) or a fun, leisurely boat trip make getting to Cala Macarella, one of Minorca’s most picturesque beaches, a doddle. A refined way to enjoy the curving, 492-foot stretch of sand is from the back of a 40-foot schooner. (Swim to the beach in between snorkeling sessions.) Alternatively, there’s plenty of parking nearby. If you choose this option, make the journey down the cliffs and through the pretty pines onto the sand. Bring your own picnic rather than waiting in line at the beach bar, as the area can get crowded during the peak summer season. If the island is too packed, there are other stretches of sand to explore for those who enjoy a short hike. 

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Woolacombe Beach, England

Becks/Flickr

Regularly voted as one of Britain’s best beaches by TripAdvisor, Woolacombe Beach is a three-mile stretch of sand on the coast of Devon. Visitors flock to the well-patrolled beach throughout summer to make the most of its rolling waves, flat sand, and secluded dunes that lie beyond the hills. The gentle waves make it a popular spot for surfing, but it’s also a great place to go rock pooling when the tide is out. 

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Jagodna Bay, Croatia

Danilo Tic/Flickr

Located near the village of Sveta Nedjelja, on the island of Hvar, Jagodna Bay is a welcome refuge from the busier beaches in the area. A favorite with visitors from all over Europe, Hvar is a summer hot spot with stunning old towns and equally beautiful shingle beaches. To discover that gorgeous travel brochure scene you’ve built up in your mind, you’ll have to clamber your way to the cove of Jagodna. A narrow path leads down the rocky slopes, through the pine forests, and finally opens up to the cove, which spotlights crystal clear water. Not so much a secret spot as one that takes a little effort to reach, Jagodna Bay is worth your time and energy.

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Myrtos Beach, Cephalonia

Darko/Flickr

Featured in the bestselling book “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin,” Myrtos Beach is one of the most famous in Greece, and also one of its best. The one-mile stretch of sand on the island of Cephalonia makes for an arresting sight that is never spoiled by boats, water sports buzzing along the shore, or commercial development. This is because permanent structures are banned (bring your own food and drinks) and swimming is the only sport permitted, keeping it clean and serene for those who like their beaches untouched. 

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