If you are planning a trip to Europe, there’s no doubt you’ll want to go sightseeing in the major cities, but that doesn’t mean you should miss out on one of Europe’s most beautiful offerings to tourists and locals alike: its beaches. Perhaps you’ve been to the East Coast or West Coast of the United States or the Caribbean islands and think you’ve seen enough beaches.
You’ll be surprised to know, Europe’s beaches are in a whole different league. From golden expanses of sand to secluded coves to seaside parties with the locals, many European countries have world-class coastlines!
The Greek Islands are known for their beautiful white-sand beaches, so it’s no surprise that a Greek beach would make this list. With over 9,000 miles of coastline, it’s hard to choose just one, but Egremni beach in Lefkada, Greece, is definitely a contender. Egremni used to be pretty isolated, allowing the locals to keep this lovely secret to themselves, but with the construction of a new road leading to the beach, the natives now have no choice but to share this hidden gem with tourists.
As you approach the beach, you will actually descend down a dramatic cliff and down a long flight of steps — about 350, to be exact. You’ll be greeted by a long, perfect-looking beach with water the color you’ve only seen in paintings. The beach starts out as pebbles and gradually turns into fine sand as you reach the water. There are no water sports or other distractions at Egremni beach — but you won’t need any. In this general area, you’ll find a few other equally beautiful beaches (Porto Katsiki, Agios Nikitas, Pefkoulia) and some taverns where you can stop by for lunch or a drink.
Three Cliffs Bay
Three Cliffs Bay in Gower, Wales, is another European beach not to be missed. Wales has many lovely and memorable beaches, but this one truly exceeds the beauty of the others. You’ll find no boogie boards, vendors selling ice cream, nor places to buy a pint of beer, only a breath taking view like none you’ve ever seen before.
Three Cliffs Bay is accessible only through an overgrown sandy path that leads to a grassy promontory. When you finally reach the U-shaped cove, you’ll want to stop to take it all in. Even in the busiest of seasons, this beach isn’t as crowded as the others in Gower. But you’ll spot the Pennard Castle ruins on the cliffs above the bay, where you can set up a romantic picnic with unbelievable views. If you can handle the bumpy walk up the cliffs, you can run or roll down the banks on the way down.
If you’re accustomed to camping, Three Cliffs Bay is the place for you. The Eastern Slade Farm Campsite is located nearby, and the fee is only 8 to 12 pounds per tent.
Scopello’s Tonara Beach is on the west coast of Sicily, and this is about an idyllic as it gets. A scene from “Ocean’s Twelve” was filmed on this spot, and there’s no question why it was chosen. At Scopello, you’ll find a stone village just a short distance from clear seawater the colour of mint and sand a creamy white like vanilla gelato — which is sold nearby. Of course, there’s not much else around, so bring some bottled water and a beach blanket, and prepare to spend some time in this amazing spot.
If you happen to stop by during the spring off-season (April or May), you may actually have the beach to yourself. During the month of August, you can still enjoy the gorgeous surroundings, but you’ll have to share it with the Sicilian locals. When you’ve soaked in enough sun and saltwater for the day, check out the walled square in town that’s been there since the 13th century. Grab some gelato and pull up a chair under the ancient eucalyptus tree for a taste of Sicilian paradise.
About an hour’s drive from Bordeaux, France, you’ll find Cap Ferret: a long stretch of sand, a few small oyster villages and some pretty pine trees. There are two very different sides to Cap Ferret. On the Atlantic side, the ocean is a bit rocky and the sand is superfine and deep. On the other side — the Bassin d’Arcachon side — the ocean is much calmer and is home to the biggest sand dune in Europe, Dune du Pilat.
At Cap Ferret, stir up some nostalgia by wading through tide pools and salt marshes looking for crabs with nets. Cap Ferret has been compared to the Hamptons, if you replace New York City with Bordeaux. The holiday villas, stylish boutiques and restaurants along the avenues exude an understated elegance.
Poets and artists have been flocking to Cap Ferret for about a century. Don’t miss Chez Hortense, which has been in operation since the ’20s, for mussels and frites, among other things. A few miles away, a brasserie called l’Arkeseon serves local wine and delicious food. It’s just the sort of place you would imagine when you think about the French seaside.
Island of Ibiza
A list of top European beaches simply would not be complete without the island of Ibiza. The locals in Ibiza will tell you that, though Salinas (its most popular beach) is beautiful, they prefer the more remote beaches like Cala d’en Serra. Many of the beaches on Ibiza can only be reached by navigating a precipitous cliff, but not Cala d’en Serra. There you’ll find a sandy beach and a secluded, peaceful bay.
Of course, reaching the beach by car is another story. You can only drive so far on the rocky road leading to beach, and then you must continue on foot. As you walk through the pine trees, you’ll spot the water up ahead, the colour of which can only be described as perfectly blue. Surrounded by steep cliffs, there’s a horseshoe-shaped area of sand and one lone beach cafe, owned by a German couple, where you can relax with a glass of wine and some impossibly fresh grilled fish. Cala d’en Serra also features abundant sea life, so don’t forget to bring your snorkelling gear.