No holiday in the sun is complete without a side of gorgeous beach. Plush white sands, ample space to stretch out underneath a thatched umbrella and the sound of the waves lapping lightly are all the makings of a relaxing getaway.
Europe is packed with beaches that fit this bill, and regardless of what vibes you’re after – family-friendly, nudist or watersport-heavy – you’ll be treated to miles of options.
But don’t let the incredible number of choices overwhelm you. Planning your beachy getaway is supposed to be fun. To help, we’ve assembled a list of our top paradise picks in Europe.
- Navagio Beach, Zakynthos, Greece
Nicknamed ‘Smugglers Beach’ for the ship once wrecked on this coast (that’s still there, might we add) while smuggling cigarettes, Navagio’s white sands are framed by sheer limestone cliffs and accessed only by boat, giving it a supreme sense of exclusivity.
- Oludeniz Beach, Oludeniz, Turkey
You’ve never seen blue waters quite like those at Oludeniz. The beach here is pebbled and wraps around a lagoon, which is a national nature reserve, so you won’t see beachside hotels or noisy restaurants here – you’ll just get lots of delicious peace and quiet.
- Porto Katsiki Beach, Lefkada, Greece
A long stretch of sand curving around a basin, Porto Katsiki beach is stationed at the base of rocky cliffs. It’s accessible by a steep staircase, which leads to sunloungers and parasols.
- Praia Marinha Beach, Algarve, Portugal
One of Portugal’s most stunning spots, this beach is lined with honey-coloured cliffs and has been awarded the Portuguese Ministry of the Environment’s Golden Award for its top natural qualities.
- Our Lady Beach, Porquerolles, France
Packed with activity, these shores stretch for 40 kilometres and are backed by shady pine trees. There are a number of spots brimming with family-friendly beaches plus more private patches for rest and relaxation.
- Playa de ses Illetes, Formentera, Spain
Laws against beachfront properties keep these untouched white sands the picture of peaceful. Playa de Ses Illetes is an incredible spot to catch an afternoon siesta, as luxury yachts bob on the horizon amid views of Ibiza in the distance.
- Cala Comte, Ibiza, Spain
Broken into three separate beaches – two rife with activity, from watersports to children splashing in the waves, and one mostly used by nudists – Cala Comte is a top spot for catching sunsets along the Ibizan coast.
- Playa de Cofete, Morro del Jable, Spain
This massive beach always feels empty, even when packed with people – that’s because it’s astonishingly wide in size, and the fact that it’s dwarfed by nearby mountains. Suffice to say you won’t be fighting for that pristine patch of sand, as there’s plenty to go around.
- Iztuzu Beach, Dalyan, Turkey
This long, lounger-lined stretch of shore is a nesting place for turtles and is surrounded by rolling green hills that only add to the peaceful atmosphere.
- Playa de Muro, Majorca, Spain
Playa de Muro is a quintessential Spanish beach, with busy white sands packed with families and sunbathers, mountains rising in the distance and an idyllic mini dock extending far out to sea.
- Sarakiniko Beach, Milos, Greece
Sarakiniko’s shores are small, but they’re surrounded by rolling hills of blanched pumice stone. Walking across this chalky terrain will make you feel like you’re hiking on the moon.
- Cala Mariolu, Baunei, Italy
Scores of tiny fish will flank you when entering the waters on this beautiful beach, which is nestled in a rocky cove. It’s a great spot to bring your snorkelling gear, but the waters are so clear, you might not need it.
- Playa de las Cathedrales, Galicia, Spain
This awe-inspiring beach gets its name from the towering rock formations lining its shores. If you come when the tide is low, you’ll be treated to unrivalled views of the arches and craggy rocks overhead.
- Falsterbo Beach, Skane, Sweden
Lined with ice-cream-coloured beach huts and white sand that’s so bright, it practically glows, Falsterbo is a quiet spot that’s made even quieter by its ban on jet skis and motorboats.
- Cala Turqueta, Menorca, Spain
This part of the ‘windy island’ is sheltered from its famous blustery gales. The shelter, coupled with the beach’s shallow waters, this make Cala Turqueta a safe family spot.
- Porthcurno, Cornwall, United Kingdom
Yes, England has its own almost-tropical beach! Tucked away amid green hills along Cornwall’s scenic coast, Porthcurno is a teeny spot with steep sand shelves and some shallow sand pockets for kids.
- Vik Beach, Vik, Iceland
Not your typical beach, Vik boasts black sand shores that are steeped in folklore. At low tide, you can explore the nearby caves made from cooled lava or the mounds of salt said to be the remains of Icelandic trolls.
- Cala Luna, Sardinia, Italy
To get to this secluded beach, you’ll have to take a steep hike or boat trip, but once you reach the white shores, it’ll all be worth it. Cala Luna is a top spot for exploring, as the waters are warm for snorkelling or scuba diving, and there are small caves tucked into the cliffside.
- Zlatni Rat, Island of Brac, Croatia
Also known as the Golden Horn, Zlatni Rat is a rite of passage when visiting Croatia. Its pebbled beach changes its shape based on the tides and wind, so no two visits are the same. The western end is reserved for nudists, while the strong winds make for great windsurfing and sailing conditions.
- Myrtos Beach, Kefalonia, Greece
Lying between the limestone cliffs of Agia Dynati and Kalon Oros, this beach ranges from pebbles to white sands. It’s reachable via a steep, winding road, where at the bottom, sunloungers and tranquil shores await.
- Rabbit Beach, Sicily, Italy
This horseshoe-shaped basin is known for the loggerhead turtles that lay their eggs on these shores, so if you’re lucky you might spot a shell or two dipping into the clear waters. The beach is popular with humans too, who come for sunbathing and relaxing under the umbrellas springing up on the sand.
- Sylt Beach, Island of Sylt, Germany
Not only are these long, white sands decked with strange beach chairs – think futuristic, wicker pods – but they’re also lined with luxurious spa resorts and upscale restaurants.
- Sveti Stefan Beach, Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
Often a playground of the rich and famous, Sveti Stefan beach frames a tiny islet that’s since become the site of a five-star hotel. The beach itself is made of reddish pebbles and is decked with posh umbrellas and sun loungers, making it the ultimate treat for an exotic, waterfront holiday.
- Elafonissi Beach, Elafonissi, Greece
Speckled with reefs and rock formations, Elafonissi is a truly idyllic beach on the island of Crete. Thatched umbrellas on the white sands are made for lounging, and can often feel like their own tiny islands, as when the tide is high, they’re surrounded by crystalline waters.
- Kleopatra Beach, Alanya, Turkey
Much appreciated for its cleanliness and dark blue waters, Kleopatra Beach is packed with all the necessities for a day at the beach – warm waters for swimming, loungers for sunbathing, volleyball nets for on-the-shore activity and lightly lapping waves for watersports.
- Fig Tree Bay, Protaras, Cyprus
Fig Tree Bay sees a lot of activity in the high season, as it’s lined with rows and rows of sunbeds, as well as a lively boardwalk. The waters are shallow well into the sea, making it a great spot for waders and children.
- Lloret Beach, Costa Brava, Spain
Lined with cafes and overlooked by a medieval castle, Lloret Beach is almost always alive with activity. It’s also bordered by a scenic footpath that will treat you to views of sites along Lloret de Mar‘s beautiful coast.
- La Pelosa Beach, Stintino, Italy
This stretch of coast is sought-out for scuba diving, though there are plenty of sunbathers and families that come just for relaxation. There’s also a medieval tower on a little island in the distance.
- Palombaggia Beach, Porto-Vecchio, France
One of the most scenic in the area, Palombaggia Beach is backed by pine trees and laden with shores whose shallow shelves seem to stretch for miles. Restaurants nearby make it a great spot for an all-day excursion, or you can stake your claim on the white sands and just enjoy the view.
- Maspalomas Beach, Gran Canaria, Spain
The shores in Maspalomas are made up of vast, sweeping sand dunes that are overlooked by a historic lighthouse. The family-friendly beach connects all the way to Playa del Ingles, with a nudist area along the way.