Ok we might not be the Caribbean or the Indian Ocean but Europe has some brilliant beaches, and before you think they are all in the Mediterranean, they aren’t! So where are the best beaches in Europe, and which are the best European beaches for swimming or for views?
Sicily, perfect if you’re looking for laid-back charm
Whilst Sicily is known for its rocky terrain, famous volcano and fascinating history, it also has some pretty epic beaches.
Sicily boasts over 900 miles of coastline so it’s no surprise it’s home to some of the best beaches in the Mediterranean. San Vito lo Capo is one of the best loved, especially by families, it is characterised by golden sand and shallow deep-blue waters so is a popular spot for swimmers.
Lungomare di Cefalù is great for those looking to immerse themselves into a designated beach town, it is within easy reach of Palermo, just over an hour on the train. This golden sand beach is back by traditional Sicilian houses which hide charming back streets lined with places to eat, so it’s always easy to find somewhere to buy a gelato!
Scopello in the sleepy north west of the island is a popular site for bathers. Despite its lack of sand, it really provides some of the most beautiful views on the island.
Scala dei Turchi is great for those who love dramatic scenery. This beach near Agrigento in Sicily’s south is reminiscent of a moonscape, featuring rock cliffs that have formed ripples in a wave-like shape due to years of sea erosion.
Cornwall, UK, yes you read that right, the UK has amazing beaches too!
Most of us in the UK are already aware that Cornwall is home to the best beaches in England, but also in Europe. Think crystal clear waters, sandy beaches and a buzzing surf scene (and when do I mention the incredible seafood?!).
Kynance Cove has been listed as one of the best beaches in the world due to its white sand, beautiful cliffs and crystal clear water. Porthcurno Beach is one that could easily be confused with the Caribbean, this is an excellent one for children thanks to high cliffs that shelter the beach from the wind.
Summerleaze Beach in Bude on the northern Cornish coast is well-known within the surfer community and provides incredible nature walks along the cliffs, there is also a sea pool here for swimmers and surf lessons for kids.
If you’re looking for a day out with a walk along the beach or some time laying in the sun, St Ives Beach is a great choice. The beach is backed by a pretty Cornish town with some sweet cottages, independent shops, cafes and ice creameries.
The Algarve, Portugal, offering incredible sandy beaches
Portugal is a classic summer holiday choice thanks to its beautiful beaches, amazing culture and tourist friendly resorts. The Algarve in particular offers an array of breathtaking beaches, some long and sandy, and others small coves that are accessible only by boat.
Ponta Da Piedade is one of the most iconic points on the Algarve Coast, close to Lagos, it is characterised by a dramatic limestone cliff coast with sea pillars, rock arches and hidden grottos.
Portimão is a great resort for families and sun-seekers and is home to many brilliant beaches such as Praia da Rocha where you can enjoy surfing, jet skiing, parasailing and kayaking, Praia do Tres Castelos which is good for exploring, especially during low tide, and Praia de Alvor which boasts an expansive stretch of pristine sand spanning several kilometres.
Milos, a beach for every need
The Cyclade Islands are not particularly well known for their beaches, more so for their pretty white washed towns and blue dome churches. However, Milos is the great exception here.
This relatively small island boasts over 70 beaches that all differ hugely from one another. Tsigrado Beach is beautiful and definitely not one for the fainthearted, access is through a narrow passage through a high cliff, you are required to use a rope and ladder to get down!
Firiplaka is perfect for sunbathers thanks to the designated sun beds and umbrellas available to rent. Sarakiniko Beach is most probably one of the most photographed views on the island, looking more placed on the moon than in Greece. Unique volcanic rock has been eroded and shaped by the wind and sea, created huge, smooth white boulders, there is no sand here but people don’t mind taking a dip in the sheltered waters and putting their towel down on the rock-face.
Kleftiko Beach is accessible only by boat, making it a full or half-day experience, it’s also a great spot for scuba diving or snorkeling thanks to the clear emerald waters within the bay. Last but not least, my favourite here is Firopotamos in the north of the island and backed by blue and white fisherman’s houses, it’s a great spot for family swimming!
Formentera, white sand and crystal clear waters
The majority of people are drawn to Formentera due to the beautiful white sand beaches and safe swimming opportunities. The waters around the island are as clear as those in the Caribbean but much more refreshing to bathe in, Formentera is also home to some of the best beaches in Europe for swimming so suit almost everyone.
Illetes is one of the most well-known beaches on the island, it is simple with no sun beds, umbrellas or toilets, there are some restaurants located in shacks, but it is a pretty low key yet beautiful beach to enjoy the day.
A beach bar, restaurants, watersports, free parking and pristine blue waters makes Es Arenals the perfect way to spend the day for everyone. Close by you will find Playa Migjorn, a spectacular white sand beach stretching for 5 kilometres, it’s a busy beach but this brings plenty of facilities, places to eat and bars to enjoy refreshments.
Last but not least, take a boat out to Playa de S’Alga, a private beach with public access allowed. Unspoilt and much quieter, there isn’t much around except sand and water so make sure you bring your own refreshments!
Zakynthos, family friendly beaches and shipwrecks!
Location number 2 for Greece on a list of Europe’s best beaches, are we surprised? Absolutely not. Welcome to Zakynthos, most famous for it’s jaw-dropping Shipwreck Beach but there are plenty of other charming beaches to laze on too.
Porto Vromi is small but lovely, great for safe swimming and paddling as the bay is almost fully enclosed, from here you can rent a boat or a pedalo to get to Navagio (Shipwreck Beach) as well as the alluring Blue Caves. Navagio Shipwreck Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the island as there are boat trippers arriving all throughout the day. MV Panagiotis ship washed up on its shore in 1980 and remains there today, pulling in hordes of tourists throughout the summer.
Gerakas is for nature lovers as it is part of the protected National Marine Park of Zakynthos, long swathes of golden sand is home to the island’s loggerhead sea turtles who breed here. Marathonisi is an island a short boat ride from Laganas or Keri Beach and offers a bit of calm from the surrounding vibrant beaches.
Costa Smeralda, Sardinia, laid back sandy beaches and translucent blue waters
The Costa Smeralda is on the north-east coast of the Italian island of Sardinia and has some of the best sandy beaches in Europe. Also known as the Emerald Coast, miles of white sand stretches are reminiscent of those in the tropics and make way to secluded coves and perfectly clear turquoise waters.
Spiaggia del Principe, also known as Portu Li Coggi is a white sandy beach fringed with every shade of blue you could think of, you need to walk along a rocky path for 10 minutes but the beach is definitely the reward!
Another white sand beach, Pevero is in a perfectly formed crescent and one of the best beaches to take kids who want to go swimming. Spiaggia Capriccioli is close to the Bay of Cala di Volpe, it’s a small beach surrounded by pine and olive trees. The shallow waters and gentle tide bring ideal conditions for swimming and snorkelling, there are also toilets and a restaurant so another great family-friendly day out.