16 of the Best Beach Cities in Europe
Some travelers want to have it all — rich cultural experiences, fine dining, upscale shopping — and lazy hours spent sunning, swimming, or strolling along the beach.
Many of Europe’s finest cities aren’t just popular for their art museums or raging nightlife scenes: They’re also home to some of the most beautiful beaches on Earth.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe—to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, food, friendliness, shopping, and overall value.
Of Barcelona, one T+L reader said: “It has everything [you] could want in a city — plus a gorgeous beach.” Other readers agreed, hailing the Spanish city’s “fantastic mix of city, history, and beaches.”
Even Dublin, which is best known for its breweries and cobblestoned streets, was celebrated for its “friendly people, amazing culture, beaches, shopping, and fantastic food.” Ireland may not be known for sunbathing weather of swimmable waters, but its rugged coastline is just as beautiful as the better-known urban beaches of Rio de Janeiro or Sydney.
From the balmy, turquoise waters of the Mediterranean to the frothy waves of the Atlantic, these are T+L readers’ favorite European beach cities.
16. Nice, France
Join locals for summer on the French Riviera — also known as the Côte d’Azur. Favorites include the year-round Plage Beau Rivage and Blue Beach.
15. Split, Croatia
The medieval port city’s mild weather is ideal for travelers interested in sailing, and travelers can easily find quiet, isolated beaches on the islands scattered around the Dalmation Coast.
14. Tallinn, Estonia
Charming Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, has beautiful beaches that are swallowed gradually by the warm waters of the shallow Baltic Sea. Visit in June for 24-hours of sunshine and temperatures are just as favorable.
13. Copenhagen, Denmark
Travelers loved biking along Copenhagen’s sandy beaches and waterfront parks.
12. Trieste, Italy
Could this be the next Portofino? This buzzy Italian city on the edge of the Adriatic has an impossibly blue bay rimmed with beaches.
11. Dubrovnik, Croatia
One of the best beaches in all of Croatia, Dubrovnik’s popular Banje Beach is close to the city’s Old Town, and boasts plenty of beach clubs.
10. Bodrum, Turkey
“Beaches are great,” said one T+L reader. “It’s the cleanest part of the Mediterranean, and people are friendly.
9. Galway, Ireland
The best way to experience County Galway’s distinctly Irish, wild coastline? Spend a weekend at the cozy Dolphin Beach House.
8. Bruges, Belgium
Europeans have long known that Belgium’s ample coast is a beautiful — and convenient — beach destination. Bruges is only 15-minutes (by public transport) from the popular resort town of Ostend.
7. Porto, Portugal
For a quintessential, sandy beach day, head to the nearby beaches of Praia de Matosinhos or Praia do Ourigo.
6. Dublin, Ireland
Yes, Dublin has beaches. Beautiful beaches. Skip crowded Sandycove and head instead to Tower Bay Beach, just 30 minutes north of Dublin City.
5. Lisbon, Portugal
Heading to one of Lisbon’s beaches? One reader recommended the “lovely beaches” of Cascáis — a wealthy coastal town in the suburbs of Lisbon.
4. Venice, Italy
If you’ve maxed out on museums and piazzas, spend an afternoon at Lido Beach. Visitors can take a vaporetto to this seven-mile island in the Venetian Lagoon. Do it right with a negroni in hand.
3. Istanbul, Turkey
Whether you stay in the city or head to one of the nearby islands, Istanbul’s upscale beaches are a perfect place to cool down on a hot summer day.
2. San Sebastian, Spain
“The beauty of the city and its location are what makes San Sebatian a wonderful tourist destination,” raved a T+L reader. “You can spend hours just strolling the streets window shopping, or walk along the various beaches for a different vibe.”