Europe's best beaches

Forget Lloret de Mar, head for Europe's lesser-known beach beauties

Europe's best beaches Chia beach, Sardinia - © www.discover-sardinia.com
By Chris Moss

Think you know all the best beaches in Europe? Think again. White sandy stretches can be found in Germany, Corsica, Brittany and Poland, undeveloped coastlines in Turkey and an environmental award-winning beach in Bulgaria.

Beaches in Bulgaria

Golden Sands beach

The soft golden sand here is reputed to be the best in Europe. The resort was built in the late 1950s and sits less than 16 kilometres away from the city of Varna, a resort town filled with lots of good-value hotels and camping spots. Golden Sands has received numerous awards for its environmental awareness; the water and beach are closely monitored for toxins and there is solar-powered transportation on offer.

Useful website

The Bulgarian tourist board (www.bulgariantouristboard.com) provides information on places to visit and activities including beaches and skiing.

Beaches in Corsica

Pinarello beach

Craggy coves, herb-scented slopes and white sands are the natural draws of the bay at Pinarello. With a handful of seafood restaurants, an old church and a couple of jetties stretching into the clear water, this is small-scale, idyllic Mediterranean beach life.

Useful website

Visit Corsica (www.visit-corsica.com/en/) provides information about accommodation and activities including seaside breaks.

Beaches in Croatia

Baska Voda beach

The Blue Flag Baska Voda beach, which sits in the lee of the pink-hued Biokovo Mountains, is one of Croatia’s undoubted hotspots. The Krka National Park and the island of Hvar, with its cool harbourside bars and superb architecture, are all within easy reach.

Read our dedicated Croatia guide – includes information on Dubrovnik, Split, Osijek, Zadar, Pula, Zagreb and Rijeka.

Beaches in France

Pentrez Plage beach, Brittany

With its rock pools, foaming surf and acres of white sand, this is the kind of beach you visit to kick footballs, hunt for crabs and fly kites.

Useful website

The official Brittany tourism website (www.brittanytourism.com) offers information on restaurants, leisure and beauty spots.

Grand Plage beach, Biarritz

The two casinos (the Barrière and the Bellevue), tuxedoed waiters, waterfront fashion boutiques and ageing hotels remind you that Biarritz is a veteran resort as well as a hub for young surfers: find a pitch on the Grand Plage (Big Beach) alongside moneyed French bathers and tuck into Basque cuisine at lunchtime.

Useful website

For basic, but useful information on getting there, where to stay and things to do, visit www.biarritz.fr.

Read more about France's perfect places

Beaches in Germany

Kampen beach, Sylt

This white-sand beach, with its backdrop of red cliffs and its bracing air, is on the fashionable North Sea island of Sylt. Go native and grab yourself a Strandkorb (giant wicker beach chair).

Useful website

The German tourist board's website has information, if limited, on Germany's coastal destinations, as well as other activities and events (www.germany-tourism.co.uk).

Beaches in Gran Canaria

Maspalomas beach

Gigantic wind-sculpted sand dunes form a stunning backdrop to this wonderful stretch of golden sand, divided into four areas – the largest of which is popular with families.

Useful website

The official tourism website (www.grancanaria.com) provides information on the island's beaches as well as maps and other activities.

Beaches in Greece

Myrtos beach, Kefalonia

Perhaps the most dramatic of all the Ionian beaches, this is a huge sweep of white limestone pebbles, set in a deep, wide bay. Viewed from the road above, it forms the perfect crescent that you might recognise from the covers of countless guidebooks.

Erimoupolis beach, Crete

Lying at the very northern tip of Eastern Crete, tucked between rugged rocks and an ancient cemetery, Erimoupolis is named after the ‘abandoned town’ of Itanos, the ruins of which you have to pass on your way to the beach.

Read more about Greek island escapes

Beaches in Italy

Priaia del Fuoco beach

This romantic beach is hidden away at the end of the Capo Vaticano coast, the tip of the bunion on the toe of southern Calabria. Accessible only by boat or by a very precipitous path, this rocky cove has pashmina-soft sand and steep shelving, and is gently lapped by aquamarine waters.

Mondello Lido beach, Sicily

Near the small fishing village of Mondello on the Mediterranean, lies Mondello Lido, just nine kilometres from Palermo, Sicily’s vibrant capital. Its wide white sandy beach runs for two kilometres from Monte Pellegrino to Monte Gallo. Mondello’s bars, cafés, nightclubs and hotels line the shore.

Read more about Italy's perfect places

Useful website

Visit the Italian tourist board's website (www.italiantourism.com) for maps and information about Italy's regions.

Beaches in Malta

Ramla Bay beach, Gozo

A half-hour ferry ride from the main island, Gozo is steeped in Roman history; the fiery orange sands of Ramla Bay are hidden away at the bottom of a fertile valley.

Useful website

Visit Malta (www.visitmalta.com) has handy information about Maltese island attractions, getting around and the weather.

Beaches in Poland

Sopot beach

Is the water cold? Yes, it’s absolutely Baltic. But Sopot, one of three coastal cities in the Tri-City area (aka the Polish Riviera), has long been the beach to be seen at for tourists from Poland and Germany. Beer gardens and vodka bars line the main street of Monte Cassino, while volleyball nets decorate the bleached white sands – and the air temperature is often in the high 20s.

Beaches in Portugal

Sagres beach, Algarve

This fine undeveloped beach is backed by orange cliffs, with impressive rollers attracting surfers from all over. The small town of Sagres is the gateway to the Alentejo – Portugal’s agricultural heartland – and the wild scrub of the Costa Vicentina Natural Park.

Visit Portugal (www.visitportugal.com) is a useful resource for information on hotels, restaurants and entertainment in Portugal.

Sesimbra beach

An atmospheric fishing port an hour’s drive from the capital. Although not undeveloped, Sesimbra is still authentic, its long beachfront lined with cafés and restaurants where sardines sizzle on charcoal grills. The south-facing shoreline is safe for swimming, and there is an old harbour where fish is sold at daily auctions.

Beaches in Sardinia

Chia beach

A slice of the Caribbean a little closer to home, with towering dunes, crystalline waters flanked by juniper trees and traces of the ancient Phoenician city of Bithia, on which Chia now stands.

Beaches in Spain

La Manga del Mar Menor beach

Europe’s largest salt-water coastal lagoon – known locally as the Little Sea – offers warm, shallow waters and beautiful sandy beaches for families with young children.

Es Trenc beach, Mallorca

Three kilometres of unspoilt beach backed by natural dunes provide a habitat for sea thistle and pine and tamarind trees. The protected strip has sugar-cube white sand, clear water, and, at one end, a naturist area in which to bare all.

Valencia beach

Just a short taxi ride from Spain’s third city is a long, golden stretch of sand lined with tavernas serving top-notch paella. When you tire of soaking up the rays, head into town for culture, bar-hopping and some great boutiques.

Useful website

The Spanish tourist board site (www.tourspain.co.uk) has information on all Spanish beaches and coastlines.

Beaches in Turkey

Turquoise Coast beach, Patara

This 19-kilometre stretch of soft-sanded Mediterranean coastline is flanked by huge mountains of sand; a nesting area for the endangered loggerhead turtle, it has remained undeveloped thanks to its national park status.

Read about Turkey's most romantic places

Useful website

Visit www.gototurkey.co.uk for more information on beaches in Turkey.

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