The best beaches in Europe

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 10.06.2024

This article is inspired by our Rough Guides guidebooks — your essential guides for travelling the world.

1. The turquoise waters of Porthcurno, UK

The closest Britain gets to beach paradise is in Cornwall, off of the Atlantic coast. With turquoise waters that glint in the sunshine and golden sand, Porthcurno is one of the most famous beaches in the UK. High cliffs on either side enclose and protect the bay. The swimming is great, too, with kiddies safe in shallow pools and experienced swimmers catered for by the steep shelf and deep water.


Porthcurno, one of the more incredible beaches in the UK © Shutterstock

2. The beach nature reserve of Torre Guaceto, Italy

Italy generally falls foul to overcrowded beaches lined with packed bars and restaurants, but Torre Guaceto in Puglia is a bit different. This beautiful wild beach is in a protected nature reserve. It is quite difficult to get to — often leaving the wild beach overlooked by the masses. The water is clean, the sand pristine and the plant life intriguing.

Find accommodation near Torre Guaceto reserve.

Italy is full of gorgeous places to visit. Why stop at the beach? Read our guide to the most beautiful places in Italy.


The secret beach of Torre Guaceto Reserve © Shutterstock

3. The sand dunes of Ramla Bay, Gozo

Gozo is known for its excellent scuba diving. However, if you prefer your holidays on sand rather than deep underwater then Ramla Bay is the spot to head for. These pink sand beaches are the largest on the island and are equipped with pretty dunes blanketed with tamarisk.

    Where to stay near Ramla Bay:

  • For luxury on a budget: Paradise Bay Resort. This super resort offers seaside views and is a great value for the price.
  • For a relaxing stay: Solana Hotel and Spa. With a bellini buffet and onsite spa, this hotel is a fantastic place to take a beach holiday.

Ramla Bay is one of the best beaches in Europe © Shutterstock

4. The moody black sand of Vik, Iceland

Black-sand beaches are always a tiny bit disconcerting, and Vik Beach in southern Iceland is no exception. This is the wettest part of the country, so you’ll be lucky to visit on a dry day, but even in the rain, it’s a magnificent sight. Dark cliffs bear down as waves crash against the inky basalt sand. Vik is one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe.

Find your accommodation in Vik, Iceland.

Beautiful rock formation on a black volcanic beach at Cape Dyrholaey, the most southern point of Iceland © Filip Fuxa/Shutterstock

The beautiful black sandy beaches of Iceland © Filip Fuxa/Shutterstock

5. Ploumanac'h, France

Ploumanac’h is on Brittany’s so-called Pink Granite Coast, and it’s where you’ll find dinky Plage de St-Guirec, a wonderful crescent of yellow sand framed by peculiarly shaped, pink-tinged rocks. Shrimping and sunbathing are the activities to do here, and there’s great hiking along the coastal cliffs. This is one of the best beaches in Europe for wild nature lovers.

Ready to see the most spectacular beaches that France has to offer? Our tailor-made trip service makes travelling easy by taking care of the planning and booking. Our French Riviera trip allows you to immerse yourself in the Mediterranean lifestyle with a five-day trip soaking up the sun. Our trips are crafted by local travel experts and are completely customisable.

Landscape on the Pink Granite Coast in northern Brittany on the municipality of Perros-Guirec, France, with the Ploumanac'h lighthouse © olrat/Shutterstock

Pink granite with a few pink sand beaches, Ploumanac’h, France © olrat/Shutterstock

6. For young families — Cala Turqueta, Menorca

Away from the blustery winds that make the windsurfers so happy in the north of the island, Cala Turqueta sits on the southwestern coast of the flat Balearic island of Menorca. It’s a beautiful beach with stunning white sand that’s more than pristine, and its shallow waters make it perfect for young families. Come in the evening for a breathtaking sunset.

View of the famous beach Cala Turqueta. (Focus on foreground, people on the beach in blur). Menorca, Balearic islands, Spain © Artyart/Shutterstock

Cala Turqueta. Menorca, one of the best beaches in Europe © Artyart/Shutterstock

7. For heavenly white sand beaches — Platja de Ses Illetes, Formentera

South of Ibiza, the small Balearic island of Formentera has many beautiful beaches. Illetes, which extends from La Savina to Espalmador, is a quiet beach with fine white sand. The water is perfect for swimming and splashing – warm and shallow and clear. Easily one of the best beaches in Europe and a great place to spend a holiday.

Find accommodation in Formentera on any budget.

Platja de ses Illetes, a heavenly beach in Formentera (Balearic Islands) © Laura PI/Shutterstock

Platja de ses Illetes, one of the most heavenly secret beaches in Formentera © Laura PI/Shutterstock

8. The coloured beach huts of Falsterbo, Sweden

A chic and smart beach resort on the southwestern tip of Sweden, Falsterbo has ridiculously white sand. You'll want to bring your sunglasses to avoid the glare! You'll also find here the cutest beachside huts you'll ever see. It is a nearly secret and quiet beach, thanks to the ban on jet skis and motorboats. Don't miss the excellent ice cream shops nearby.

Find accommodation near Falsterbo, Sweden.

Colourful beach huts, Falsterbo, Sweden

Beach facilities at Falsterbo, a sublime beach located in Sweden © Tomas Lissaker/Shutterstock

9. Palanga, Lithuania

Palanga is the busiest and most popular seaside resort in Lithuania, and with good reason. This large, golden sand beach and glorious, undulating sand dunes are a sight to see. If you like parties, you'll want to come in summer, when the resort's population explodes and the beach parties never stop.

Find accommodation in Palanga, Lithuania.


Palanga is one of the best beaches in Europe © Dmitrii Iarusov/Shutterstock

10. Playa de la Concha, Spain

One of the world’s best city beaches, Playa de la Concha is a fantastic strip of yellow sand where locals and tourists hang out on hot summer days. It might be busy in season, but people-watching is part of the fun. If you’re after a post-swim snack, look no further – the city is also famous for its wonderful pinxtos (Basque tapas). Or enjoy one of the many beach bars.

Want to avoid the tourism of Southern Spain? Our tailor-made trip service makes travelling easy by taking care of the planning and booking. Our Northern Spanish trip takes you to beautiful beaches in the North Coast, away from the touristy southern areas. Our trips are completely customisable and crafted by local travel experts.

San Sebastian, Spain © Botond Horvath/Shutterstock

The blue lagoon of the heavenly beach in Playa de la Concha, Spain © Botond Horvath/Shutterstock

11. Watch dolphins at Troia, Portugal

Portugal does pure, unadulterated beach extremely well. And Troia, stretching 18km just south of Lisbon, is no exception. Kick off your sandals and sink your feet into the soft white sand as the sun shines. Dive into the inviting waves. Or, enjoy watching dolphins cavorting not far from shore. Troia is easily one of the best beaches in Europe.

Find accommodations in Troia and experience the incredible beaches.

Paradise and desert beach in Troia, Setubal, Portugal © Miguel Couto/Shutterstock

This paradise sandy beach is one of the best beaches in Europe (Troia, Portugal ) © Miguel Couto/Shutterstock

12. Find fluttering friends at Butterfly Valley, Turkey

Beautiful Butterfly Valley is difficult to access – a steep walk down cliffs or a boat trip – but all this contributes to its undeveloped charm. A deep canyon licked by azure water, it’s named for its fluttery inhabitants who appear between June and September. If you can’t quite tear yourself away, it’s possible to stay overnight in basic wooden huts. Butterfly valley is known for being one of the best secret beaches in Europe.

Find accommodations near Butterfly Valley in Turkey

Butterfly Valley ( Kelebekler Vadisi ) view in Fethiye Town of Turkey © Najdet Duzen/Shutterstock

The wild beaches of Butterfly Valley © Najdet Duzen/Shutterstock

13. Spot turtles at Lara, Cyprus

If you’re lucky, you might glimpse evidence of loggerheads and green turtles. Drawn to the seclusion of lovely Lara Beach on the northwestern coast of Cyprus, this is where the creatures choose to nest. It’s tough to reach via a long bumpy road but the peace and serenity are most certainly worth the trek. This beautiful sandy beach is one of our favourite beaches in Europe.

Panorama of Lara beach one of the most beautiful of Cyprus island ©  Claudio Soldi/Shutterstock

Panorama of Lara beach one of the most beautiful of Cyprus island © Claudio Soldi/Shutterstock

14. The wild beaches of Rabbit, Sicily

People wax lyrical about Rabbit Beach on the southern coast of Sicily. The water has a blue-green hue, the sand is a startling white and there are few facilities to disturb the serenity. Yes, it's difficult to reach but once you get here, you'll be thanking yourself. This sublime beach is worth a visit.

Find a stay nearby Rabbit Beach in Sicily.

Lampedusa Island Sicily - Rabbit Beach and Rabbit Island Lampedusa © jackbolla/Shutterstock

Lampedusa Island Sicily - Rabbit Beach and Rabbit Island Lampedusa © jackbolla/Shutterstock

15. See the rock formations of Playa de las Catedrales, Spain

Incredible rock formations that resemble flying buttresses lend this beach its grandiose name, “the beach of the cathedrals”. This wild beach is off the northwestern coast of Spain located in Galicia. Come when the tide is low for the best views of the spiked rocks, arches and caves.

Browse thousands of accommodations in Galicia.

View of Playa de las Catedrales in Ribadeo, Galicia, Spain © Carlos Sanchez Benayas/Shutterstock

View of Playa de las Catedrales in Ribadeo, Galicia, Spain © Carlos Sanchez Benayas/Shutterstock

16. Surf in Biarritz, France

The Basque country’s favourite beach, that’s got a strong surfing heritage due to its wind conditions and powerful waves. The waves make swimming here a bracing affair, but if you’re equipped with a surfboard and the know-how, then you can’t go wrong. Biarritz is one of the dream beaches for water sports.

France has many summer holidays to offer. Don't miss our guide to the best beaches in France.

Find the stay of your dreams and browse accommodations in Biarritz, France.

Biarritz Grande Plage, France © Thomas Dutour/Shutterstock

Biarritz Grande Plage, France © Thomas Dutour/Shutterstock

17. Indulge at Sylt, Germany

Sylt’s nickname, the “German Hamptons” speaks volumes for the place: genteel and sophisticated, with a clientele to match. The island on Germany’s North Sea coast has a fabulously long stretch of immaculate fine sandy beach. If posh restaurants and glitzy boutiques aren’t your thing, escape to the sand dunes with a bucket and spade.

Find your perfect accommodation in Sylt, Germany.

Sylt at the North Sea, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany © Thorsten Schier/Shutterstock

Sylt at the North Sea, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany © Thorsten Schier/Shutterstock

18. Myrtos, Greece — one of the best beaches in Europe

A frequent winner of the “best beach in the world” award, Myrtos Beach on the island of Kefalonia has impossibly blue waters. A visit here will imprint on the visitor’s mind probably forever. This gentle white pebble beach is an idyllic spot for a peaceful swim and sunbathing.

With over 200 fantastic islands in Greece, it can be overwhelming to know which ones to visit. Our tailor-made trip service takes the stress out of planning and booking. Our Greek Island Hopping Honeymoon trip takes you through Milos, Naxos, and the best beaches that the Greek Islands have to offer.


© Shutterstock

19. The golden sands of Golden Sands, Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s best seaside resort, with the purest sand and very clear water. Big and boisterous with a casino, mini-golf, water parks, and fairground rides nearby. Not to mention all the accompanying hotels and bars, the resort is an extremely popular summer spot for Bulgarians.

Find your perfect stay in Golden Sands, Bulgaria.

Panoramic view of Golden Sands beach (Zlatni Piasci) in Bulgaria © Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock

Panoramic view of Golden Sands beach (Zlatni Piasci) in Bulgaria © Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock

20. The private coves of Brela, Croatia

With its long coastline and diminutive islands, it’s no surprise that Croatia is a veritable honey pot of beaches – each one vying for position of best beach. Bol on the island of Brac might be the most famous, but little Brela, on the mainland opposite, is a less touristy, more relaxed option, studded with private coves fringed with pine trees.

Curious to see what other beaches Croatia has to offer? Don't miss our guide to the best beaches in Croatia.

Brela beach, Croatia © lukaszimilena/Shutterstock

Brela beach, Croatia © lukaszimilena/Shutterstock

21. The shipwreck beach of Rhossili Bay, Wales

On a sunny day at Rhossili Bay, you could be in the Mediterranean, so they say. At low tide there’s a huge swathe of lovely sand, and the cliffs that surround the beach are green and lush, home to chattering sea birds. Take time to hunt out the wreck of the Helvetia, shipwrecked here in 1887.

Find accommodation in the Gower peninsula near Rhossili Bay.

Rhossili Bay, Wales, UK © Steve Mann/Shutterstock

Rhossili Bay, Wales, UK © Steve Mann/Shutterstock

22. Meet the cows of Plage de Saleccia, Corsica

The French island of Corsica has plenty of exquisite beaches, but Plage de Saleccia in the north is often touted to be the best. Crystal clear water and pale, fine sand do attract the crowds (and cows) in high summer but the surroundings more than make up for “beaucoup du monde”.

Plage de Saleccia, Corsica ©  Mathieu CRON/Shutterstock

Plage de Saleccia, Corsica © Mathieu CRON/Shutterstock

23. The pink sand beaches of Elafonisi, Crete

A strawberries-and-cream beach, with gorgeous pinky sand that’s made of thousands of broken shells. It lines the “island” of Elafonisi, the southwesternmost point of Crete. Certain bits are busier than others, but it’s perfectly possible to find a quiet and secluded cove. Turquoise waters and baby-soft sand are the rewards for your search.

Ready to visit the largest of the Greek islands? Our tailor-made trip service makes travelling easy by taking care of the planning and booking. Our Along the Coast of Crete trip takes you through Crete's best beaches and cultural sites.

Elafonissi beach in Crete © Shutterstock

Elafonsi, one of the best beaches in Europe © Shutterstock

24. Goat beach or Porto Katsiki Beach, Greece

Porto Katsiki (translated means "Port of the Goat") gets its name from it's from its steep surrounding cliffsides. Located on Lefkada, this beach formally was only accessible to goats. However, now one can visit the beach through a dizzying array of staircases. This beach is popular and for good reason. The water here is startingly blue and calm. It's recommended to come in the morning to snag a good place in the smooth sand.

Greece has so many fantastic beaches with crystal clear waters, we can hardly mention them all here. Don't miss our guide to the best beaches in Greece.

Porto Katsiki beach, Lefkada island, Greece © Shutterstock

Porto Katsiki beach, one of the best beaches in Europe © Shutterstock

This list could truly go on. There are countless fantastic beaches to visit in Europe. Ready to start planning your trip? Check out the Rough Guide to Greece, Rough Guide to Spain, or any of our other Rough Guides. Read more about the best time to go, the best places to visit and best things to do in Europe.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Europe without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

We may earn 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.

Top image © Swellphotography/Shutterstock

Ready to travel and discover

Get support from our local experts for
stress-free planning & worry-free travels

Plan my trip ⤍