The European continent has quite an intimidatingly long coastline that is not to be taken so lightly. For that very reason, choosing the best cities in Europe with beaches is no easy task that requires a good bit of planning.

Whether you prefer the immensity of the ocean to the west or Mediterranian and Adriatic coastline is of no relevance. Each and every corner of this old, but beautiful continent holds a decent amount of cultural significance, natural beauty and clean, well-preserved waters.

If instead, you value your comfort and peace more than what body of water you’re swimming in, you will have no trouble whatsoever trying to find the right place for you. Rivieras of Europe beckon you closer, traveller.

A Beach at Dusk in Barcelona, Spain

Lisbon, Portugal

Few people consider Lisbon to be the place with some fantastic beaches and a great summer destination. Who would, considering how many museums and incredible historical landmarks this city exposes.

Regardless of its legendary culture, Lisbon boasts some of the most breathtaking, sprawling beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see. Among some of the most prominent sunbathing, chill beach spots is the Oeiras-Estoril-Cascais Coastline to the west of Lisbon. This lovely place is the number one choice for many tourists looking to take a break from the otherwise crowded cityscape of Lisbon.

Read more: Avoid Tourist Crowds in Europe

Its warm golden sands greet the weary traveller’s feet and provide them with the well-deserved rest. Not only is this gorgeous beach so relaxed and welcoming but it is also quite decently connected to the centre of Lisbon with the help of regular train departures.

Cascais Beach in Lisbon, Portugal

Another great getaway on a hot summer day is the Costa da Caparica. This coastline located to the south of Lisbon sees far less traffic than the aforementioned one. It is equally easy to access, with regular bus rides and even a train during the summer months that lead directly to it. There’s no better spot to toss your surfboard into the water and challenge the waves coming in from the Atlantic.

Barcelona, Spain

Unlike our previous entry, Barcelona has a better reputation when it comes to beaches, and for a good reason.

Beaches in Europe come in different types, sizes and levels of cleanliness, but few can hold their own against the best of what Barcelona has to offer. The city’s sandy coastline stretches over tens of kilometres and attracts thousands of tourists each year. The most recognizable entrant would be the Barceloneta Beach, a crowded, bustling nightmare for those looking to avoid touristy beaches. Sure, you’ll get to see a lot of street performers and artists along the way, but say goodbye to any real relaxation.

Urban Beaches of Barcelona in Spain

If you’re in the mood for a more cosmopolitan place, check out the Mar Bella Beach. We’ll just go ahead and inform you that it’s got a nudist section, representative of Barcelona’s liberal spirit. Mar Bella is a unique place that best describes what urban beaches look like. Naturally, there are always a couple of places you could go with the goal of avoiding the crowds. In Barcelona’s case, Caldetes Beach is as secluded and peaceful as it gets near a large city such as this one.

When you have enough time, take a train ride down to Garraf Beach for a different experience altogether. This lovely pocket of sand is surrounded by rolling, green hills and is quite a refreshing sight to see.

Nice, France

Oh, the lovely French Riviera evokes such nostalgic thoughts. It charms and enchants without exception, which especially holds true for Nice France.

After such a romantic opening, it would be very difficult to dissuade someone from visiting Nice. In fact, there is no reason why you shouldn’t! However, what most of the people who’ve visited its illustrious beaches will tell you, Nice is, in almost all places, extremely crowded. Unless you’re willing to go quite a distance to some less than accessible beaches, you’ll have to learn to get along with all the other beachgoers and rowdy families.

A Long Sandy Beach in Nice, France

Castel Plage sits right beneath the towering Castle Hill, its private beds available for rent to any visitors. Keeping the crowds in mind, you might also have to reserve your own spot beforehand. Opéra Plage and La Galet are both private beaches, but there’s a big difference between them. The former has a much longer history and some of the older visitors of this European beach might remember it as Opéra Pavillion. Expect to get the full service if you decided to visit it, including, but not limited to, mind-bending beach massages. If you harbour a certain distaste for private beaches, fear not, as you’re more than welcome at the gorgeous La Reserve public beach.

Trieste, Italy

Gulf of Trieste is a tucked-away gem of the Italian coastline. It’s one of the best places to spend the summer holidays in Europe.

Starting with El Pedocin, beaches of Trieste have as much history and culture to them as any museum. This relic of a different time is 114 years old and is one of the last destinations in Europe where men are walled of from their female counterparts. There have been multiple attempts and propositions to tear down that wall Reagan-style, but they’ve been refused by both men and women. Maybe they enjoy separate beaches, or maybe it’s a historical landmark that needs to remain as is. Visit it, then judge it for yourself.

A Bench on the Beach in Trieste, Italy

Some more inclusive beaches in Trieste are Barcola and Sistiana. Lovely, pristine waters and quiet, crowd-free beaches, Barcola, Sistiana and Topolini are well-worth the visit to this, the most remote part of Italy. Some would say that it’s even more remote and less touristy than Sicily.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or what kind of beaches you prefer, Trieste has a long history of satisfied beachgoers and tourists, and is one of the most iconic European beaches.

Split, Croatia

Not that far from Trieste in Italy, you’ll find Split, easily one of the best cities in Europe with beaches.

What’s so great about this place is that the entire coastline of this Croatian city has some amazing sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, something that is highly unusual considering the proximity of a city. Its shores are constantly bathed by the Adriatic Sea and its gorgeous waves of clean water. One of the best places to enjoy this nature’s blessing is Trstenik Beach. If you didn’t know any better, you could even get lost in the beauty of it all and feel like you’re in Barbados.

Hook by the Sea in Split, Croatia

Trstenik Beach is not the only place for some sunbathing and salinizing your body in the sea, but it’s definitely one of the best spots to do so. Other honourable mentions include Bačvice, Bene and Kaštelet, the last one of them being located just outside of a gallery of one of Croatia’s prominent artists.

Of all the Croatian cities by the sea, Split is probably the most beautiful one, but it doesn’t get nearly as much love as Dubrovnik. Keep that in mind the next time you’re in the neighbourhood.

Budva, Montenegro

One of the beach destinations in Europe that is still largely unknown to the European populace is Montenegro, more specifically one of its greatest coastline cities Budva.

Budva has got it all – a historic old town whose beauty will leave you speechless, coastline of about 38 kilometres dotted with breathtakingly charming beaches and a lively modern town. Of course, we’re going to start the review of Budva Riviera with Bečići Beach. Winner of the 1935 Grand Prix in Paris, this beach is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best in Europe. Much like the rest of the beaches in Budva, it’s got a lot of energy to it, best reflected in the number of beach clubs that keep cropping up.

Waves at the Beach in Budva, Montenegro

The runner-up is Slovenska Beach, which is almost as beautiful as the previous one, with the equally noisy hustle and bustle coming from many bars, clubs and restaurants. Besides these, Jaz and Mogren beaches are also worthwhile, with such a comfy vibe that allows visitors to rest and relax as much as they like. Most of the beaches in Montenegro are partitioned into the public and hotel-owned ones, so make sure to find exactly what you need.

Even though you’ll be too busy hitting the beaches and having the time of your life, try and make some room for getting to know Montenegro better. If you have some time to spare, visiting Kotor and the rest of Montenegran coastline will enrich you for the rest of your life. There’s more than just a little charm to be found in the Adriatic.

Athens, Greece

There can be no such thing as talk of the best beaches in Europe without mentioning Greece at least once.

This time, we’ll mention Athens which often gets misplaced when talking about the best beaches in Greece. In our humble opinion, there is no reason for that whatsoever. Sure, the capital cities can sometimes have overcrowded, dirty and inhospitable beaches, but not Athens. All it takes is a bit of digging around to find its hidden gems.

The gem closest to the city centre is Edem. For a beach that’s literally inside the city, it sure exposes some amazing swimming and sunbathing locations. It’s largely clean and unspoiled, with warm, sandy beaches lulling visitors into taking a rejuvenating nap right there. During the high season, Greece is reasonably expensive and overpopulated, and most of all – extremely hot. For that reason, you might want to set out in the direction of Kavouri, a spectacular beach on a peninsula just outside of Athens. There’s plenty of shade here thanks to all the pine trees that provide cover from the sun’s whipping rays.

Read more: Greek islands map

Voula in the south is a great party destination. Besides offering a mind-numbingly gorgeous coastline, it’s often home to performers and singers who come to make sure you’re having the time of your life.

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul walks the thin line between being a European and an Asian city. Beachgoers, however, wouldn’t care one way or another.

Demircikoy region in the northern part of Istanbul serves as a host to many of the great beaches in this part of Turkey. One of the most prominent beaches in the area is Uzunya Beach, a camper haven and a very romantic getaway.

In the same corner of Istanbul, you’ll also come across the picturesque Dalia Beach, the adventure-seeker haven. It’s the perfect place to indulge yourself in water-based activities and delicious Turkish cuisine (one at a time). Considering how remote Dalia Beach Club truly is, it also comes off as a much-wanted city break.

Beach Beds in Istanbul, Turkey

Many people who visit Europe for summer holidays also bring their families with them. That being said, Babylon Beach in Istanbul is the only place you really need to consider. Warm sand, plenty of activities and sports available at hand guarantee a day well-spent.

Istanbul is a huge city with lots and lots of beaches, but also with a lot of culture and history attached. Spend at least a day learning about the illustrious Ottoman Empire.

Bruges, Belgium

When you think about European cities with beaches, Bruges is far from the first name that comes to mind. Regardless of its anonymity, this city in Belgium boasts some of the most majestic beaches in the area.

Not only does it have beaches at all, but they’re also quite beautiful. Some even say they’re reminiscent of the Spanish coastline, but that’s highly unlikely. Sandy shores near Ostend, the most important ferry harbour in the area, are more than relaxing. During summer months, Raversijde sees not a small number of people visiting with their families. The same goes for Mariakerke and other peaceful beaches near Bruges.

Read more: 10 Cheapest Cities in Western Europe

Probably the best-known resort in the area, Zeebrugge is a place filled with history. As you might have guessed from this article, we love to combine learning and growing with pleasure, and this is exactly what you’re going to find in Zeebrugge.

As we’ve already stated, Bruges doesn’t come off as one of the best cities in Europe with beaches, but it really is and it deserves a spot on this list.

Dublin, Ireland

Most people conjure up images of green fields and rocky cliffs when they’re thinking about Ireland. Believe or not, Dublin has some of the finest beaches in Europe and we’ll tell you which ones they are.

Killiney is a beach that definitely deserves a spot on this list. However, it’s not your run-of-the-mill white sand beach as you might’ve seen in Phuket or in the Caribbean Sea. No, Killiney is a rocky beach that’s not too kind towards people trying to relax or run. But its beauty is not to be dismissed so easily, as it’s a real treat for sore eyes.

If you’re not convinced with our promises of magical sights to behold then grab a kayak paddle and head out to Dalkey Island just of the coast of Dublin. Now, this is where all the gorgeous sandy beaches await you, and this is most likely the place where you’ll spend most of your stay in Ireland.

Read more: Relaxing Holiday Destinations for Couples

The last but not the least is Portrane Beach, a sandy haven with hidden away coves that beg to be found and enjoyed by eager visitors. One of the most amazing coves that your adventuring spirit can guide you to sits right under the Martello Tower. James Joyce is known for having spent quite some time working on Ulysses from this very tower. For any traveller calling themselves a literature buff, Martello Tower and Portrane Beach are a visit that you can’t afford to miss. So the next time you’re in Ireland, think about the beaches of Dublin and giving them at least a pinch of your time. You won’t regret it.

Martello Tower near Dublin in Ireland

Where to Go?

With such an incredible palette of coastlines and rivieras, choosing the right travel destination for you and your family is not going to be an easy task this summer.

Are you going to opt for a cheaper version? Budget travelling is more than possible, especially in countries washed by the waters of the Adriatic Sea. Are you looking for that perfect destination in the west? No problem, as France, Spain and Portugal all have a myriad of cities on coasts of most stunning seas and oceans. Are you young at heart and want cities with beaches where the parties shake the skies above? You can get that almost anywhere.

All you have to do now is ask yourself the right questions. Find what it is that you want this summer, and Europe will deliver. The truth be told, most of the beaches look alike, with only subtle differences to them. It’s the little things that you need to pinpoint, and that is what this article was all about.