Europe is home to some of the most beautiful cities in the world and every year millions of tourists explore the capitals such as Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Amsterdam and Vienna, to name a few.
However, Europe is also well-known for thousands of miles of pristine coastlines and picturesque beaches. Some of these beaches are family-friendly destinations with various activities for active kids and parents, while others feature dramatic cliffs and secluded bays for those who are hoping to get away from crowds of tourists.
From the tranquil beaches in Croatia and Greece with water as blue as the sky, to the wild and wide surf beaches on the Atlantic coast in Portugal, there’s a beach to suit all tastes and requirements.
To help you decide where to go on your next European summer vacation, we have made a list of the 15 best beaches in Europe.
1. Cala Goloritze, Sardinia
One of the most peaceful beaches in Sardinia, Cala Goloritze was created by a landslide that occurred 55 years ago and since then has been awarded with a UNESCO title.
Pretty it may be, but It’s not that easy to reach with the location being at the foot of a cliff. It is impossible to access the beach by car. The only way to reach Cala Goloritze is by a chartered boat or to take on a 2-hour coastal hike, but it’s so worth it.
Travelers can enjoy snorkeling in the deep-blue waters and lounge on the bright white sand. There are also several other smaller beaches in the area including Pedra Longa, Cala Mariolu, and Cala Gabbiani. All of which are worth visiting.
2. Zlatni Rat Beach, Croatia
Croatia is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe and Zlatni Rat Beach is up there with the best of them. This white-sand beach is located in a protected area on the island of Brac and is a popular spot for kite surfing and other water activities.
It is easily reachable by car or foot and pine trees line this beautiful beach which provide some welcome shade on a really hot day. The only downside is that during the summer season Zlatni Rat Beach gets quite overcrowded with tourists.
Vacationers who wish to explore historical attractions should visit the tourist town of Bol, which at just 2 kilometers away from Zlatni Rat Beach, is a great destination for a romantic evening dinner.
3. Navagio, Zakynthos Island, Greece
Nestled on the Greek island of Zakynthos, Navagio Beach, also known as Shipwreck Beach, is surrounded by dramatic white cliffs making it accessible only by taxi boat from Porto Vromi. But do not let this put you off, boats leaves every 30 minutes and the price of a ticket is quite affordable.
Once you get to the beach, expect to find bright blue waters that are perfect for both swimming and snorkeling. The cliffs provide shelter from the wind so you won’t find much in the way of water sports here. This makes Navagio Beach a tranquil beach destination, making it busy at most times of the year, especially between May and September.
4. Cala Macarella Beach, Spain
Tucked away on the Balearic Island of Menorca, Cala Macarella Beach is a picturesque cove with some of the clearest waters in Spain. The easiest way to get to the beach is to take a short boat trip from the small town of Ciutadella.
Enjoy spectacular views from the cliff tops or unwind with a drink at the nearby beach bar. Cala Macarella Beach is usually packed with tourists, but if you wish to find some peace and quiet, go for a short walk and it’s possible to find a secluded spot with more privacy on weekdays.
Some of the most popular activities here include swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.
5. Porto Limnionas Beach, Ionian Islands, Greece
If you are looking to escape the party people who spend their vacations on Greek islands such as Mykonos and Kos, book a ticket to Zakynthos and visit one of the island’s best-kept secrets, Porto Limnionas Beach.
There is only one way to access the beach and that’s by hiking down a rough track which is sign posted with helpful directions. Because of the beach’s challenging accessibility, it is mostly populated by locals who come here to swim and explore the underwater caves.
There is a small local taverna on the beach where you can order fresh seafood, wines, and cold beers.
6. Praia de Marinha, Portugal
Located among limestone cliffs in the popular Algarve region, Praia de Marinha has often been voted in various travel magazines as one of the best beaches in the world. Here you will find jagged rock formations, crystal clear waters, and golden sands.
Access to the beach requires some mild climbing, down a steep pathway, so make sure to pack a pair of decent shoes as flip flops will not be suitable.
Praia de Marinha can be one of the more peaceful beaches in the Algarve during off season, but in the thick of summer, large crowds of vacationers populate the sands. The waters of the Atlantic make this beach an awesome destination for snorkeling and there are even several caves and natural grottos worth exploring nearby.
7. Vik Beach, Iceland
Vik Beach is probably the most famous black sand beach in the world. It is located close to the small town of Vik and surrounded by unique weathered cliffs. Keep in mind that Vik beach is not the best option if you are looking to swim because of its rough waters.
Vik Beach is more for those who want to take photos of this eipc landscape or spot wildlife such as birds and animals of the sea.
This is one of the must-see destinations while visiting Island thanks to its basalt formations and strange geologic features including sharp sea stacks and clusters.
8. Ölüdeniz Beach, Turkey
Ölüdeniz Beach, also known as the Blue Lagoon, is a beautiful wide bay that is one of the most picturesque spots in all of Turkey. Both the bay and the surrounding forest are nature reserves, so there is no overdevelopment happening here.
If you are wondering if the beach has some basic amenities, you will be glad to hear that restrooms, showers, and several cafes are on offer.
Thanks to the excellent visibility in the lagoon, Ölüdeniz Beach is an ideal snorkeling and scuba diving destination. Paragliders also love this place because of the peak of Mount Badadag which picks up perfect wind conditions for a glide of a lifetime.
There is also a local food market in the vicinity of the beach where vacationers can purchase fresh fish for their picnic on the sand.
9. Myrtos Beach, Kefalonia, Greece
Offering plenty of space for playing in the sand and sunbathing, Myrtos Beach is a semi-circular white sand bay surrounded by green hillsides and the iconic Ionian Sea. Did you know that this beach is one of the most photographed beaches in all of Greece? It’s no wonder why it’s usually packed with tourists throughout the season.
This one-mile stretch of sand is not spoilt by urban development thanks to the law which doesn’t permit the building of permanent structures on this site.
Swimming is one of the only water activities on the beach which makes Myrtos one of the cleanest and well-kept beaches in the country.
10. Rabbit Beach, Lampedusa, Italy
Located over 100 miles off the Italian mainland coast, Rabbit Beach is definitely one of the most gorgeous beaches in the world. Its far-away location discourages many travelers, but those who make the journey will be rewarded by a picturesque bay with calm and crystal-clear waters. The water conditions here are perfect for water activities such as swimming and snorkeling.
If you’re lucky, you may have a close encounter with sea turtles since the area is used to protect the endangered species and their nesting sites.
The best thing about Rabbit Beach is thanks to its remote location, the beach is often empty, especially during weekdays.
11. Sandwood Bay, Scotland, United Kingdom
Featuring pink sand and rolling dunes, Sandwood Bay in Scotland is a 1.5 mile beach that is considered one of the best beaches in the United Kingdom.
Along with many of these 15 best beaches in Europe, the beach is not that easy to access. In order to reach Sandwood Bay, you must take on a massive 4.5 mile long hike from the nearby town of Blairmore. Luckily, there are only a couple of hills to climb along the way.
Once you reach the beach, you will definitely want to take photos of the amazing sea stack that stands out above the water and rugged cliffs that surround the bay.
Travelers can also enjoy amazing views of the Cape Wrath Lighthouse, which is located six miles from Sandwood Bay’s shore.
12. Playa Sa Caleta, Ibiza, Spain
When it’s time to charge your batteries after partying hard in Ibiza, head out to the lovely beach of Playa Sa Caleta. This is not your average tourist beach in Ibiza, so it’s possible that travelers will be able to find some privacy here.
The setting itself is enough to make you never want to leave this place. The beach is located in a small break between two cliffs and the waters here are crystal clear.
Spend a day at Playa Sa Caleta chilling in the sun, away from the crowded beaches on the northern side of the isle. If you get bored, you can check out the Phoenician ruins which can be found a short walk from the beach.
13. Playa de la Concha, Spain
Located right between two fishing harbors of Pico del Loro and San Sebastian, Playa de la Concha is one of the most photographed beaches in all of Spain and offers a number of services and facilities to its visitors.
The beach is easy to get to and stretches for 1.5 kilometers. There are large umbrellas and cabanas to rent on the beach, as well as facilities like restrooms and showers. If you are into watersports, you can try kayaking, surfing, and windsurfing on Playa de la Concha.
There is also a small cycling path and a promenade where you will find dozens of bars and restaurants to entertain yourself well into the evening.
14. Ploumanac’h, France
Half-way along the northern coast of Brittany, Ploumanac’h Beach, or as some like to call it, the Pink Granite Coast, is for those who love mysterious landscapes. This area attracts all types of vacationers including couples, families, and solo travelers.
The rocky landscape, the views of the 19th century Château de Costaérès and great bird watching opportunities, are what make Ploumanac’h Beach so popular.
Families with kids will be happy to hear that there is a planetarium and aquarium nearby, and those without children can enjoy some fantastic coastal walks. There’s even an 18-hole golf course for those into sports.
15. As Catedrais Beach, Spain
Named as a national monument by the government of Spain, As Catedrais is one of the most famous beaches in Galicia. It is famous for its rock formations which are naturally carved by the sea and create shapes similar to those of a cathedral.
The stand out formation is a beautiful tall archway which is best seen during low tide. When the tide is high, you can still admire the beach from the cliff.
This is not the best beach for swimming or any other usual water activities, it’s better to come equipt with just a camera and simply admire its beauty while on your vacation in Spain.