For most Americans, the word “European” conjures images of ancient castles with limestone walls, sophisticated cuisine, art galleries, and – of course – the Eiffel Tower. Europe, however, has a rich heritage of fantastic beaches waiting to be discovered. In this list, we’ve gathered some of the best European beach vacations that will surely entrance sophisticated and discerning travelers.
Best for couples and families wanting to enjoy quiet sunsets, sunbathing, and taking Instagram snapshots.
Mallorca is a quintessential Mediterranean retreat, replete with craggy, sun-kissed cliffs, azure waters, and lush greenery. Es Calo des Moro, one of the most stunning beaches in this island, will enchant jaded pilgrims looking for a unique departure from the hustle and bustle of civilization. Tucked away in a cozy cove, it will take a bit of hiking to reach this area, but the effort will definitely be worth it.
Cala Formentor, another destination that tops the list for beach vacation spots, lies at the northwestern region of Mallorca. Flanked by a stunning vista of pine forests, this beach houses the Formentor Lighthouse, an active facility that serves as inspiration for many artists.
Perfect for passionate souls looking to channel their inner Hemingway during exciting fishing trips.
The Greek island of Corfu, once the site of historic battles, sieges, and invasions, has become a venerable sanctuary for those looking to spend the mornings catching Spanish mackerel, tuna, dolphinfish, and writer Ernest Hemingway’s favorite prey, swordfish. Meanwhile, the mythical bay of Palaiokastritsa will certainly astonish snorkeling enthusiasts with its vibrant coral reefs teeming with a myriad of underwater creatures.
This island’s boat tours and native cuisine will charm and delight families of all sizes.
Made famous by Francis Ford Coppola’s seminal work, “The Godfather,” the romantic island of Sicily is ideal for adventurous parents who want to expose their children to something more cultural than Disneyland. The popular crescent-shaped shoreline of Spiaggia di Cefalu is an hour’s train ride away from the fabled city of Palermo. This beach has no shortage of attractions aside from its blue-green waters and the medieval cathedral that houses a Byzantine mosaic of Christ Pantokrator. A short distance from the coastline lies Cefalu’s historic center, where families can shop for souvenirs, clothes, and the city’s world-renowned traditional Gelato ice cream.
Recreational divers and watersports aficionados will have a wild time in Algarve’s beaches.
Although celebrated as a top destination for religious sites, Algarve can also be classed as one of the best European beach vacations for tourists looking to find an adrenaline rush among the sleek and towering ocean swells. If you’re a laid-back surfer bro who just wants to chill after hanging ten, Praia da Amoreira offers a distinct charm that changes from day-to-day. Its waters generate decent but not overwhelming waves, and the bars and restaurants along the north and south regions of the beach provide delicious Portuguese dishes along with various refreshments. More daring surfers looking for a challenge can find their ideal playground at Praia do Beliche, a beach surrounded by massive cliffs, with strong winds and currents flowing during the warm summer months.
This coastal region of Spain is the ideal spot for kitesurfers and kayakers.
Long a refuge for prominent artists such as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, the rugged shores of Costa Brava have a handful of resorts and tourist sites that provide ample waters for canoeing and kayaking. Close to the French border is the Bay of Roses, which has three official areas dedicated to solely for kitesurfing. Those who wish to partake in more tranquil aquatic sightseeing tours can also join guided kayak expeditions that explore the hidden seaside caves located in Portlligat and Cala Montgo.
Newlyweds going on their honeymoon will fall in love all over again on the French Riviera.
For the perfect honeymoon, the Cote d’Azur region provides a superb romantic backdrop. Couples can walk hand-in-hand on the soft white sands of the Plage de Salis, where the elite Antibes Sailing School is situated. From here, chartered yachts can be rented to explore Langoustier Bay. Newlyweds looking for privacy and tranquillity can drop anchor and spend the night at Porquerolles, a protected anchorage where automobiles are strictly prohibited.
Croatia’s beaches are fringed with 1000 islands – a perfect getaway for island-hoppers.
The first thing that visitors notice on Croatian beaches is the almost complete absence of sand. Instead, the rugged and indented coastline of this ancient, unblemished country is filled with fine, smooth shingles, or small rocks and pebbles. This feature is a testament to Croatia’s pristine and untouched beauty, one that will attract adventurers who wish to explore the nearby unspoilt islands by motorboat or by snorkeling.
The Pakleni Islands’ beaches in Hvar are just a yacht’s ride away from the mainland, and it offers an otherworldly experience that includes a trip to Palmizana, a botanical wonderland stewarded by the illustrious Meneghello Family for almost a century. Another beach destination is Rajska Plaza, whose name roughly translates to “Paradise Beach,” which caters to families with little children due to its shallow and friendly depths.
Quiet, isolated, and confined from the rest of the world, Lisbon’s hidden beaches provide a spiritual sanctuary.
Named after the beloved Portuguese singer Amalia Rodriguez, the hidden beach called Praia da Amália is book-ended by jagged cliffs and lovingly showered by a cascading freshwater fall. Like its namesake, this beach conjures a mild and balmy atmosphere that will charm snowbirds and retirees. Nearby, the panoramic Praia da Adraga has a surfing camp and a dense walking trail along the beach’s cliffs that lead to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost tip of the Sintra Mountain Range.
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