The Best Beaches in Europe

We often think of Europe as ideal for city getaways. Trips to museums, culture, operas. If we think about nature we think of cliffs and mountains and fields of wildflowers. But Europe is chock-full of beautiful beaches, too—and sometimes in the most surprising places. I asked travel bloggers to send me their candidates for the best beaches in Europe, and here’s what they said.

The Best Beaches in Europe

The Danish Riviera – Denmark

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Some of the best beaches in Europe are in Denmark on the Danish Riviera, the famed north coast of Denmark. I particularly love the beaches in Hornbæk, which is a popular summer vacation destination for Danish families.

I was last in Hornbæk in June for Sankt Hans, the Midsummer celebration held every year. Sankt Hans is celebrated primarily on the beautiful beaches (or a lake if there’s no beach nearby). They build a large bonfire and place atop it the figure of a witch! The whole town gathers as the bonfire is lit when the sun goes down, and everyone watches as the “witch” is ceremonially burned. A traditional hymn is also sung – midsommervise. The somewhat archaic tradition of ceremonial witch burning is frowned on by some, but I found a really interesting and fun event.

Beaches on the north coast of Denmark are quite beautiful with strong surf most of the year. The sand is great, but the water can be a bit cold until later in summer. The cold water doesn’t deter most Danes though! Most of the beaches on Denmark’s north coast don’t get too crowded, and they’re very family-friendly. And good to know—many of Denmark’s beaches are clothing-optional or topless.

Gomati Beach – Lemnos Island, Greece

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Lemnos is one of the Greek islands situated in the middle of the northern Aegean Sea. Even though it is a pretty big island, not many tourists go there due to the fact that a ferry trip from the mainland or from another island to Lemnos lasts at least 5 h. This means that beaches in Lemnos island are never crowded and a great place to go if you like secluded summer destinations.

Gomati Beach stands in the northern part of Lemnos Island and it is located in the bay with the same name. There’s only an off-road that goes down to the beach while the surrounding scenery features sand dunes, dramatic rocks, and olive orchards. I was there in July and a few campers lined the beach while a few locals pitched their tents in the same area. The water had perfect temperature, it was shallow, and the sea bed had fine sand. The beach has a beach-bar, sunbeds, and sun-umbrellas and is by far one of the best beaches in Lemnos. It never gets crowded as the access is pretty difficult but once you get there, you find the paradise on earth.

Costa Rei – Sardinia, Italy

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Costa Rei is one of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia, as well as one of the best beaches in Europe. It’s located on the southern eastern coast of Sardinia, about an hour drive from the main city, Cagliari. This long stretch of fine, golden sand and marvelously clear water, which is occasionally dotted by rock formations, is an absolutely blissful place to spend the summer holidays. 

The beach is easily accessible in various points, making it perfect for families with children as well as for disabled people. There are a few kiosks where you can get a drink, gelato or a meal, and rent things such as umbrella and sun beds. Some kiosks also offer pedal boat rental, fun activities such as tubing, and organize boat tours along the coast. 

When the wind blows, Costa Rei is a good kite- and windsurfing location—though on those occasions the beach isn’t really that great as sand flies everywhere.

Costa Rei is beautiful year round. If you are looking to spend long days at the beach, June and July are the best months, though the water is still quite cold in June. August gets crowded—though never overwhelming. There are fewer people in September, which is when the water is at its warmest but the day are getting shorter. 

Cambrils, Costa Daurada, Spain

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Cambrils, on Spain’s sunny Costa Daurada coastline, is a fun resort area benefiting from beautiful sweeping, golden beaches that gently slope into the crystal waters of the Mediterranean. The whole of this coastline has wonderful sand; “Daurada” means golden and is a reference to the beautiful golden beaches.

We visited at the end of May, when the season was really only just beginning. The beaches were empty and the water was a touch on the cold side. But the hotels were fully open, but if we were to go again, we’d give it a few more weeks. Mid-June would be perfect—nice and quiet out of school holidays, but with temperatures that would make entice some serious sunbathing!

The beaches have been awarded the Blue Flag classification, so you know they’re nice and clean. And there are loads of activities based around the beach, from watersports to trampolining and playgrounds. There’s lots for families too—a short distance from the beach are fantastic water parks, theme parks and (if you fancy something more educational) UNESCO protected monasteries and medieval villages.

Cambrils is a great beach destination whether you’re with your family or not. We’d definitely recommend checking it out!

Scheveningen Beach, Netherlands

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When you think of the Netherlands one of the last things you think of is beaches. Where in reality, the Netherlands has quite a few beaches that are all very beautiful. The most beautiful and popular beach in the Netherlands is Scheveningen Beach in The Hague. It is located in Zuid-Holland (South Holland) right along the ocean and is the perfect day trip. Due to its location, the water is always freezing, but the fine, soft sand makes up for it. The best months for this beach are June, July and August because Dutch weather isn’t that great year-round.

The top of the beach is lined with shops, restaurants and bars. Scheveningen even has a rainbow pier and a Ferris wheel. One of the absolute best things to do on a hot day in the Netherlands is to head to this beach with some drinks and friends to enjoy the weather while laying out in the soft sand. Scheveningen beach does get pretty busy during the summer season, but that’s part of what attracts me to it most. The buzzing, youthful atmosphere it holds is really special.

Also, if you can’t lay out in the sun all day and prefer some adventure you can also find some fun activates to do here such as surfing or bungee jumping from the pier! Heading to Scheveningen Beach is something I highly suggest if you’re looking for a great beach in Europe!

The Cinque Terre, Italy

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The Cinque Terre is found on the North West coast of Italy and comprises of five towns; Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The coastline, surrounding hills and five towns make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cinque Terre National Park. This beautiful area boasts dramatic cliff lines, colourful fishing villages, an incredibly picturesque walking track and for the weary walkers a 19th century train to ferry visitors and locals alike between the towns. What makes the Cinque Terre so unique, is that cars are not allowed into the villages.

We traveled to the Cinque Terre in July, the week before the European summer holidays officially began, the crowds were low, the water was warm but pleasantly refreshing given the hot temperatures we experienced. We spent a day walking the spectacular coastline from Riomaggiore through to Monterosso, stopping in at each village to explore, swim and taste some local delights. The hike is not for the faint-hearted, in some parts it is quite challenging, but absolutely worth every step! By early afternoon we reached my favorite village to swim, Monterosso, a beautiful beach where we spent the afternoon swimming in the crystal clear, deep, buoyant waters, while enjoying the multiple cafes and restaurants which serve all of your Italian favorites!

La Concha Beach, San Sebastian (Spain)

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San Sebastian is one of the best cities to visit in Spain, and that is due in part to Playa de la Concha. One of, if not the most beautiful city beach in Europe, La Concha is a crescent-shaped beach reminiscent of a seashell. Because it’s well over 1km long, this is the perfect place for a long and relaxing walk along the coastline year round. And since it’s so spacious, it rarely gets crowded, even in summer. I visited San Sebastian in June, and the weather was balmy and the water was warm and just perfect for a swim.

La Concha is extra special because it formed between two mountains covered with lush green vegetation. This means the views from and of the beach are surreal. It also means that the beach is protected from strong winds year-round, the waters are quiet and you can adventure into the sea for many meters. So people of all ages and even children can enjoy it! Eventually, when you are tired of sunbathing under a striped parasol, you can leave the sandy beach behind and swim all the way to the Santa Clara Island. Or you can simply take a boat.

Sandvesanden, Karmøy, Norway

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Norway is known for its fabulous fjords and scenic vistas, for the Northern lights and the midnight sun, and for its rich Viking history and the Nordic Gods. However, what Norway isn’t so well-known for is its beautiful beaches.

Just a five-minute drive north of the historic fishing town of Skudeneshavn, on the island of Karmøy, you will find Sandvesanden, one of the most stunning beaches in Norway. This beautiful white sand beach is nestled by outcrops of rock and on the coastal path surrounding it, wildflowers complete its picturesque appeal.

We were there in June and the weather was surprisingly warm. Apparently, it was the warmest summer in forty years. There were a few people sunbathing on the beach but unlike the packed cities of Oslo and Bergen, and the well-trodden Lofoten Islands, this part of Norway is still very much undiscovered by tourists. One word of warning, though the turquoise sea is enticing, as soon as your toes hit the icy cold water you know you are going to be in for a very refreshing swim indeed.

Platja del Cabanyal, Las Arenas, Spain

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Platja del Cabanyal is one of the best beaches in Europe. It’s located in Spain’s coastal and historic city Valencia. Platja del Cabanyal has a beautiful palm lined promenade, plenty of nearby restaurants, volley-ball courts and soft white sands. You can rent a lounge chair at this beach for under 6 euros.

The waters here are clean, clear and temperate. The Mediterranean climate makes Valencia a great place to visit May through October. Although, the months of May and October are great times to miss the crowds.

Valencia is one of Spain’s most popular summertime destinations. You can easily fly into Valencia’s international airport or arrive by high speed train from many European cities. The train ride from Madrid to Valencia is only 2 hours! You can get to Platja del Cabanyal from Valencia’s city center in less than a 15 minute cab ride. 

Sveti Stefan, Montenegro

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Montenegro’s most famous landmark, Sveti Stefan, also has several of the most spectacular beaches in Europe. Better yet, you can enjoy them like a celebrity—with complete privacy. The islet has been transformed from a sleepy fishing village into a lavish private resort run by luxury hotel and resort chain Aman. Both guests and visitors alike can recline on the pebble beaches of both Sveti Stefan Beach right in front of the hotel or King’s Beach (also known as Milocer Beach). The only catch, visitors have to pay a fee of 100 and 120 Euro respectively for the day. Queen’s Beach, right in front of the spa, is a private beach and is only accessed by guests. 

I would say that Sveti Stefan is one of the prettiest beaches in Montenegro due to the iconic views, the pinkish pebbles and the deep turquoise waters. The calm waters and fishermen give it a calm and distilled atmosphere. King’s Beach, with Villa Milocer looking over it, is surrounded by lush greenery and has a regal feel, making it an easy contender for the best beach in Europe. I was there in September 2018 and the water was lukewarm. And due to the high fee there was barely any other soul in sight other than a few guests.  

San Fruttuoso, Italy

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My favorite beach in Europe is the tiny San Fruttuoso beach on the Italian Riviera. The beach can only be accessed by boat or on foot (read about how to do the hike from Portofino here). It’s set on a tiny bay surrounded by steep, forested hills. The beach is small and pebbly, but filled with deck chairs and umbrellas that are available for rent. It can get crowded in summer, but I was there in mid-September and it was busy but not packed.

The water is emerald green and crystal clear. The Mediterranean can be cool, but after a two-hour hike from Portofino, it was deliciously refreshing.  There are a couple of seafood restaurants and a casual food counter for lunch. If you want a break from the beach, there is a small museum in the 10th century monastery that dominates the tiny cove. This hidden beach is in an incredibly beautiful setting, is fun to get to, and has all you need for a great day trip. Boats leave from Rapallo stopping at Santa Margherita and Portofino, Camogli and the Cinque Terre.

Cuxhaven, Germany

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Portugal, Spain, Italy – there are many countries that come to mind when thinking about the best beaches in Europe. But Germany?! Most international visitors think of mountains and rivers when coming to Germany – many even think the country is landlocked. Hence, it has access to two seas with a coastline longer than the Portuguese one. There are endless beaches and beautiful islands, my favorite being scattered in the North Sea.

The National Park Wadden Sea stretches from Den Helder in the Netherlands along the German Westcoast all the way up to Esbjerg in Denmark, is world’s largest contiguous Wadden areal and on the UNESCO world heritage list. With this come some amazing phenomenons like the fact that during low tide you can hike across the mudflats to sandbars and pay the frolicking gray seals a visit. In two places, at Cuxhaven and on the North Frisian island of Föhr, it is even possible to hike across the tideland approximately ten miles to a neighboring island.

To enjoy this phenomenon, I’d suggest staying for a couple of days at the coastal town of Cuxhaven which can be reached from Hamburg or Bremen in less than two hours. When the tide is high, you can enjoy the beach in one of the typical north German wicker chairs and take a refreshing dip in the cold waves. As the tide gets low, join a guided hike to the island of Neuwerk – you’ll be practically walking on water.

Luskentyre Beach, Scotland

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In the Outer Hebrides, a far flung corner of the British Isles, lies a vast network of beaches to rival any you’d find in the Mediterranean. And of all the beaches it has to offer, Luskentyre on the Isle of Harris is surely the most stunning.

With endless soft white sand and sparkling turquoise water surrounded by dark barren peaks – a reminder that you’re not in the tropics after all – it doesn’t get more dramatic than this.

I struck gold when I went here last June. It was in the middle of a heat wave and the temperature was a balmy 25 C. But generally it doesn’t get above 20 and a sunny day is somewhat of a luxury. This beach isn’t about lounging and tanning – it’s all about raw beauty. And as you can imagine, the water is always freezing!

But even in this amazing spell of weather I still had the whole stretch beach to myself. There were campervans dotted around the road that winds past it, but no one had ventured onto the sand. There’s just so much beach to go round.

Visiting the Best Beaches in Europe

As you can gather from reading, the best time to head to beaches in Europe is later in the summer. July-September are typically the warmest months in Europe. And many are located near your main cities, making them an easy side trip off a longer vacation. So when you’re planning your summer holiday, make sure to keep in mind the beautiful beaches of Europe!