The best beach holidays in Europe

Mary Novakovich

written by
Mary Novakovich

updated 05.06.2024

For a relatively small continent, Europe has some extraordinary coastlines. Their variety is dizzying, from sheltered rocky coves fringed with olive trees to vast stretches of soft sandy beaches. Whittling down the list of possible beach holidays in Europe can be tough, so here are a few places that will get you in the mood for lazy days in the sun.

1. Find paradise in Rab, Croatia

Sandy beaches are a rarity in Croatia, but on this small island in the Kvarner Gulf, you’ve got 22 to choose from.

Rab’s aptly named Rajska Plaža (Paradise Beach)  on the Lopar Peninsula is a good place to start for relaxing beach holidays in Europe. It's got a 1.5km sweep of sand and clear shallow waters. 

Or take a half-hour hike through woods to reach Sahara Beach in a sheltered inlet – a popular spot for naturists. The town of Rab featuring four distinctive bell towers and quaint cobblestone streets.

Find more accommodation options on Rab Island. Or see how to discover the Dalmation Coast by sailboat.

Tower in Rab City. Rab Island, Croatia © Marcelino Macone/Shutterstock

Tower in Rab City. Rab Island, Croatia © Marcelino Macone/Shutterstock

2. Take the plunge into Tropea, Italy

It’s hard to find beach holidays in Europe with a more dramatic backdrop than Tropea’s steep cliffs, where brightly coloured houses cling on, seemingly in defiance of gravity. Down in Italy’s toe, Calabria’s prettiest town hovers over several sandy beaches as well as a rocky promontory topped by the church of Santa Maria dell’Isola.

Calabria is one of Italy’s least developed regions, and its warmth comes not just from the southern sun and the famously spicy cuisine, but from the people too.

Find more accommodation options near Tropea.

Best beaches of Italy and beautiful town- Tropea in Calabria © leoks/Shutterstock

Best beach holidays in Europee: Tropea in Calabria © leoks/Shutterstock

3. Find peace on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast

Just north of Bulgaria’s border with Turkey are some of the country’s least developed beaches. You can start in the small village of Sinemorets and work your way down the indented coast, where quiet golden-sand beaches are surrounded by protected nature reserves and pine forests. 

Bring your own picnic to the secluded sands of Lipite Beach and Silistar Beach, as you won’t find the bars and clubs that dominate the resorts further north. This is a fantastic place to bask in the sun and relax.

Find more accommodation options near Sinemorets.

Veleka beach in the Sinemorets town in Bulgaria © trabantos/Shutterstock

Veleka Beach in the Sinemorets town in Bulgaria © trabantos/Shutterstock

4. Spin those wheels in Ile de Ré, France

Everyone’s on a bike on this chilled-out French Atlantic island, where 100km of cycle trails wind past sandy beaches, vineyards, salt pans and pine forests. 

Head inland where oyster beds hint at the gorgeous seafood on offer at the food market in the village of La Flotte. After a day on the dunes at Sainte-Marie-de-Ré’s beach, try one of the quayside cafés in St-Martin-de-Ré.

Find more accommodation options to stay on Ile de Ré.

Plage de la Conche situated at Ile de Re, France © trabantos/Shutterstock

Plage de la Conche situated at Ile de Re, France © trabantos/Shutterstock

5. Chill out in Paxos, Greece

If you're looking for a lush and largely untouched getaway, Paxí (Paxos) might just be your spot. This tiny island, measuring just 12km by 4km, doesn't boast the best beaches or historical sites, but it has carved out a special place in Greece’s tourist scene.

Paxí has become a top pick for beach holidays in Europe, though it's best to steer clear during the high season.

Yachting enthusiasts love it here, and their spending has given the island a chic, upscale vibe, making it one of the priciest destinations in the Ionian islands. The capital, Gáïos, feels quite cosmopolitan with its delis and boutiques. For a more local feel, head to the northern towns of Lákka and Longós, which are favorites among devoted Paxí fans. And for the best swimming, don't miss Paxí’s little sister island, Andípaxi.

Or see what other accommodation is available on Paxos.

Paxos island, Greece © IM_photo/Shutterstock

Paxos Island, Greece © IM_photo/Shutterstock

6. Go back in time in Norfolk, England

Norfolk’s North Sea coast might not have the balmy climate of its Continental counterparts, but the 6km of Holkham Beach’s soft and often empty sands are very tempting all the same. 

While here, rent a bike and check out the Norfolk Coast Cycleway along the coast to Wells-next-the-Sea, where rustic beach huts give the area an old-fashioned charm.

Find more accommodation options in Norfolk.

Sands Dunes on Holkham Beach, Norfolk © Margaret Clavell/Shutterstock

Sands Dunes on Holkham Beach, Norfolk © Margaret Clavell/Shutterstock

7. The beaches of the Algarve in Portugal

With some of the country’s safest and loveliest beaches and a year-round warm climate, it's no wonder the Algarve is a top choice for beach holidays in Europe. This popularity does come with a downside, as the coast from Faro to Albufeira is quite developed. But even in these areas, the beaches and facilities are excellent.

Elsewhere in the Algarve, particularly around Sagres and Tavira, you'll find more charming surroundings with laid-back resorts and minimal development.

Ready to take your trip? You can skip the hassle of planning and let us handle the booking. Our Algarvian Experience trip is a great way to  taste local produce, drinks and traditional dishes, and visit heritage sites.

Or find accommodation at any budget in the Algarve.

Beach of Camilo, Algarve, Portugal © Shutterstock

The beach of Camilo, Algarve, Portugal © Shutterstock

8. The Canary Islands for a classic beach vacation 

The Canary Islands' golden sandy beaches might be their main draw, but there's so much more to explore. You'll find natural volcanic rock pools and hidden coves that can only be reached by boat or on foot.

It may be a cliché, but it is nonetheless true, that there is something for everyone. The diversity of landscapes on the islands is quite amazing.

You can discover snow-capped mountains, lush green valleys, deserts, towering cliffs, and stunning beaches with golden or black sand, sometimes all on the same island. The volcanic nature of the Canaries means there's never a dull moment.

Or browse other accommodation options on the Canary Islands.

 Maspalomas beach and lighthouse at sunset © Valery Bareta/Shutterstock

Maspalomas Beach and lighthouse at sunset © Valery Bareta/Shutterstock

9. Lose yourself in Languedoc, France

The windswept coast of France’s Languedoc region seems endless, stretching from the Camargue to the Spanish border, where it technically becomes Roussillon. Even in the peak of summer, you'll find plenty of sandy beaches to enjoy.

Cap d’Agde offers a lively atmosphere and family-friendly attractions, while the medieval town of Aigues-Mortes provides a historical backdrop to the nearby beaches. The region is also known for its excellent wines, with many vineyards open for tours and tastings.

Or see more options for accommodation in Languedoc.

Plage de l’Espiguette  © Pixelheld/Shutterstock

Plage de l’Espiguette © Pixelheld/Shutterstock

10. Go wild in Galicia, Spain

The Costa da Morte in Spain’s northwestern tip might be known as the Coast of Death – thanks to a few too many nineteenth-century shipwrecks – but its beaches are heavenly. 

This rugged coastline is known for its stunning beaches like Playa de las Catedrales — famous for its dramatic rock formations.  Galicia’s seafood, particularly octopus and shellfish, is a culinary delight.

See more accommodation options to stay in Galicia, Spain.

Beach of the Cathedrals in Lugo. Galicia, Spain © Shutterstock

Beach of the Cathedrals in Lugo. Galicia, Spain © Shutterstock

11. For an lively beach holiday: Ayia Napa, Cyprus

Ayia Napa is not to everybody’s taste. If you want peace and quiet, to commune with nature, or to get to grips with traditional Cypriot life, go somewhere else. But if you’re young – or feel young - and want the company of people of your own age and lots of stuff to do, this is one of the best beach holidays in Europe.

Though much of the resort’s appeal is down to its nightlife, there’s now a lot more to it than that. Its remarkably compact centre sits behind a surprisingly charming small harbour (Limanaki) with some fine stretches of sand, notably Nissi beach, running west from here.

Find more accommodation options in Ayia Napa.

Parasailing over the Mediterranean sea, Ayia Napa, Cyprus © Shutterstock

Parasailing over the Mediterranean Sea, Ayia Napa, Cyprus © Shutterstock

12. Relax in the tranquil villages of Costa Brava, Spain

The Costa Brava stretches from Barcelona to the French border, offering beautiful coves, charming villages, and lively resorts. Lloret de Mar is known for its nightlife, while Tossa de Mar offers a more relaxed atmosphere with its medieval castle and beautiful beaches. 

The region’s coastline is ideal for exploring by boat or hiking the coastal trails. We recommend extending your trip by taking a road trip along the south Spanish coast.

Find more accommodation options in Costa Brava.

Tossa de Mar, Costa Brava, Spain © Shutterstock

Tossa de Mar, Costa Brava, Spain © Shutterstock

13. Escape to Symi Island, Greece

Symi, a gem in the Dodecanese, is known for its neoclassical architecture and clear waters. The island's harbor is often considered one of the most picturesque in Greece, with colorful houses cascading down the hillside.

Symi's beaches are equally enchanting, with many offering secluded, tranquil spots ideal for relaxation. Among them, Agios Georgios Dysalonas stands out, accessible only by boat, making it a perfect destination for those seeking a beach holiday away from the crowds.

Or find your perfect accommodation in Symi.

Symi island in Greece © Shutterstock

Symi Island in Greece © Shutterstock

14. For the bucket list: The Amalfi Coast in Italy

The Amalfi Coast is famous for its dramatic cliffs, azure waters, and charming towns. Positano, with its pastel-colored houses cascading down the cliffs, is one of the most iconic spots and a favorite among photographers.

The local cuisine is a highlight of any visit. You’ll find dishes featuring fresh seafood like anchovies, clams, and octopus, often served with pasta.

The Amalfi Coast is also home to beautiful hiking trails, such as the Sentiero degli Dei (Path of the Gods), which offers stunning panoramic views of the coastline.

Or browse a range of accommodation on the Amalfi Coast.

Cetara, Amalfi Coast © Shutterstock

Cetara, Amalfi Coast © Shutterstock

15. For a luxurious European beach holiday: Northern Sardinia

Northern Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda is famous for its clear waters, beautiful beaches, and upscale resorts. Porto Cervo is the heart of this luxurious area, offering high-end shopping and dining. 

For those looking to connect with nature, the La Maddalena Archipelago is a must-visit. This group of islands offers breathtaking beaches and excellent snorkeling opportunities. The largest island in the archipelago, La Maddalena offers picturesque beaches like Spiaggia di Bassa Trinità and Spiaggia del Relitto.

Or find your perfect accommodation in Northern Sardinia.

Stairways to stalactite cave of Neptune Grotto in Alghero in Sardinia ©  Prashant_Agrawal/Shutterstock

Neptune Grotto in Alghero in Sardinia ©  Prashant_Agrawal/Shutterstock

16. For a beach holiday with history: Kiyikoy, Turkey

Kıyıköy is a small fishing village on the Black Sea coast, offering a peaceful retreat with unspoiled beaches and lush forests. 

The village is home to ancient ruins, including the Byzantine Kıyıköy Fortress (with it's stunning views) and the Rock Monastery. The surrounding area is perfect for hiking and exploring the natural beauty of the region. 

Far from the crowds and noise of urban life, Kıyıköy exudes a tranquil ambiance that will invite you to slow down, and relax.

Find your perfect accommodation in Kiyikoy.

Empty beach in the Black Sea town of Kiyikoy © Shutterstock

Empty beach in the Black Sea town of Kiyikoy © Shutterstock

17. Gozo, Malta for diving and more

Gozo, Malta's charming sister island, is the second-largest island in the Maltese archipelago. This island is known for its rugged coastline and beautiful beaches like Ramla Bay, with its distinctive red sand. 

One of the island's most iconic sights is the Ġgantija Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the oldest freestanding structures in the world, dating back over 5,000 years.

Gozo's coastline is dotted with secluded bays and crystal-clear waters, making it a haven for snorkelers and divers. The Blue Hole, a natural rock formation leading to a deep underwater cave system, is a favorite spot for diving.

Also, see what other accommodation Gozo has to offer or explore our comprehensive guide on the best areas to stay in Malta.


Mixta Cave in Gozo, Malta © Shutterstock

18. For a slow paced holiday: Assos in Greece

Assos is a picturesque village on the island of Cephalonia, featuring a charming harbor, clear waters, and beautiful beaches. The village is dominated by the ruins of a Venetian castle, offering stunning views over the Ionian Sea. 

The slow pace of village life, coupled with the breathtaking natural surroundings, creates the perfect setting for a peaceful Greek island holiday. 

Find a stay for you and your family near Assos.


Assos village in Greece © Shutterstock

19. Plage de Palombaggia for a shoulder season holiday

Plage de Palombaggia is one of Corsica’s most famous beaches, offering fine white sand, clear turquoise waters, and a stunning backdrop of pine trees and mountains. The beach is ideal for swimming and water sports, and the surrounding area offers excellent hiking trails.

Palombaggia is particularly popular during the summer months when tourists flock to Corsica to enjoy its warm Mediterranean climate and stunning beaches. Though the summer months can be a bit crowded, the shoulder seasons are absolutely fantastic. 

Or find your favourite accommodation near Plage de Palombaggia.


Palombaggia, Corsica, France © Shutterstock

20. For a pink getaway: Elafonissi Beach, Crete

Elafonissi Beach, located on the southwestern coast of Crete, is known shallow turquoise waters. The beach is a natural wonder, with a lagoon that is perfect for swimming and snorkeling. 

One of the most distinctive features of Elafonissi Beach is its pink sand, created by the presence of crushed seashells and coral.

The surrounding area has been designated as a protected nature reserve to conserve its unique ecosystem and biodiversity.

Or browse the best accommodation near Elafonissi Beach.

Elafonissi beach in Crete © Shutterstock

Best beach holidays in Europe: Elafonissi Beach © Shutterstock

Planning your European beach holiday

Ready to hit the beach? With our tailor made trip service you can skip the hassle of planning and booking and instead relax and enjoy your holiday. Our trips are designed by local travel experts and are completely customisable to your preferences. See some of our existing itineraries for inspiration. 

  • Croatia's Best Kept Secret (8 days): Surrounded by an archipelago of other islands and islets, the island of Vis is simple, sleepy and authentic.
  • Secluded Villa in Greece (9 days): Stay in a secluded private villa with magnificent views to the sea and explore this beautiful corner of Mainland Greece
  • Southern France (10 days): Start your tour in the coastal city of Marseille, exploring Cassis on the way.

Dreaming of more travel options? Discover our selection of the best holiday destinations around the world.

We may earn a commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Mary Novakovich

written by
Mary Novakovich

updated 05.06.2024

Mary is an award-winning travel journalist with a particular interest in France, Italy, Croatia and Serbia. When she's not writing about food and culture, she's on a mountain somewhere writing about skiing and hiking. Follow her @mary_novakovich on Twitter and @marynovakovich on Instagram.

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