So what do you think the most beautiful beaches in Europe are? Everyone
has their favourites – and we’d love to hear them. I’ve been on a lifelong
quest to seek out the best beaches in Europe, ever since discovering one of the
most beautiful beaches in the world, Rhossili, at the age of nine. It’s a quest
that has taken me around many countries in Europe, and nearly all of its
This list of beautiful beaches in Europe has just one criterion: beauty.
Some of them can be found in some of the best beach holiday destinations in
Europe, with all the facilities you could want right there on the beach. We
have found that the best beach holidays in Europe often involve seeking out the
best locations, travelling out of the way to find the best places to visit in
Europe. The most popular beaches in Europe aren’t necessarily the best.
We’ve sought out places to stir the soul on a journey that has taken us
from the Atlantic Ocean to the Baltic to the Mediterranean and much more
besides. We’ll flag up the best beaches
in Europe for families, suggesting some of the best beach resorts in Europe
along the way.
- 1 THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES IN EUROPE TO VISIT – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- 2 PRAIA DO AMADO, COSTA VICENTINA, PORTUGAL
- 3 DURDLE DOOR BEACH, DORSET, ENGLAND
- 4 KEEM BAY, ACHILL ISLAND, IRELAND
- 5 LLANDDWYN ISLAND, WALES, UK
- 6 RHOSSILI BEACH, WALES, UK
- 7 AGIOS PAVLOS BEACH, AGIA ROUMELI, CRETE
- 8 BALOS BEACH, CRETE, GREECE
- 9 FALASSARNA BEACH, CRETE, GREECE
- 10 PRAIA DONA ANA, ALGARVE, PORTUGAL
- 11 TENBY, WALES
- 12 RED BEACH, SANTORINI
- 13 KEDRODASOS BEACH, CRETE, GREECE
- 14 SKAGEN BEACH, DENMARK
- 15 PODRACE BEACH, BRELA, CROATIA
- 16 PALOMBAGGIA BEACH, CORSICA, FRANCE
- 17 XI BEACH, KEFALONIA
- 18 CEFALU, SICILY, ITALY
- 19 PLAYA GRAN, TOSSA DE MAR, CATALUNYA, SPAIN
- 20 SELLIN, RUGEN, GERMANY
- 21 More Europe Beach Guides
- 22 More Information On The Best Beaches In Europe
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES IN EUROPE TO VISIT – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Where are the most beautiful beaches in Europe?
They can be found all over the continent, as you’ll see from the
geographical spread of our selection. For me, three areas stand out for the
concentration of amazing beaches – the Algarve in Portugal, the beaches of
Chania province in western and southern Crete, and the Gower
Peninsula in Wales, UK.
What are the best beaches in Europe for photographers?
There are many outstanding beaches in Europe for photographers, far more
than in this list. However, of these, a few stand out for me. Praia do Amado
looks amazing from several different angles, as does Praia Dona Ana in Lagos,
Algarve. Durdle Door beach is spectacular for photographers because of the rock
arch, and you can have a lot of fun at different times of the year and times of
Rhossili is also a great beach for photographers, as a great many will
testify. It’s such an uplifting place, and looks amazing whether on a blue-sky
summer day or during a pink and purple sunset in mid- February.
What are the most beautiful beaches in Europe?
Praia Dona Ana, Lagos, Portugal.
I might change my mind about #3, but it would take something beyond
extraordinary to shift either of the top two.
What country has the most beautiful beaches?
Greece has the most on our list, but as for which has the highest number
of beautiful beaches, it’s very difficult to say. Spain has always been one of the top beach
destinations in Europe, with a huge number of great beaches to back it up.
Likewise Italy. There are also a great many France beach destinations,
including some of the best coastal cities in Europe, from Nice to Biarritz to
What are the best beaches in Europe that aren’t touristy or overcrowded?
Rhossili beach at low tide can absorb thousands of visitors, but very
rarely does. Even in summer it’s very spacious, and never crowded, though the
same can’t be said of the car park in the village sometimes. Nearby, Three
Cliffs Bay can only be reached by a 1-2 km walk, and at low tide it’s never too
Of the other beaches on our list, Agios Pavlos is blissfully quiet, with
just a single taverna and none of the usual tourism trappings you get elsewhere
in Greece. The same goes for Kedrodasos
beach in Crete – this has no facilities at all, and is all the better for it.
PRAIA DO AMADO, COSTA VICENTINA, PORTUGAL
Praia do Amado has everything you could want from a beach, that is if you don’t mind a relative lack of crowds, overpriced bars, beach umbrellas and everything that comes with an ‘organised’ beach. It’s one of the best beaches on Portugal’s Costa Vicentina, in the south-west corner of the Algarve. This is Portugal’s wild west, its long, wide sandy beaches buffeted by the roaring Atlantic Ocean among the best surf beaches in Portugal.
We also love Praia do Amado for its cliff and mountain scenery, which is
entirely free of the tourism development that has blighted some parts of the
Algarve including Albufeira. The area
is part of the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, so the
environment is protected from much of this. It’s largely frequented by a
surfing crowd, as well as day trippers and long-distance hikers tackling the
Rota Vicentina trail.
Best for: Scenery lovers, hiking, surfing
DURDLE DOOR BEACH, DORSET, ENGLAND
The natural rock arch Durdle Door is one of the most famous landmarks of
England. It’s a magnificent sight, an archway on a headland separating two
great beaches on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. Durdle Door beach is a lovely
sand and shingle beach with jaw-dropping views east to the arch.
It’s quicker to reach Durdle Door from the nearby village of West Lulworth, but if you can, try to visit west Lulworth, a 2-mile (3 km) walk to the east of Durdle Door. You need to arrive early if you’re driving, as the car park fills up quickly. Lulworth Cove is a beautiful near-circle of pebbles and sand with turquoise waters and rockpools at low tide.
Best for: scenery, coastal walking
KEEM BAY, ACHILL ISLAND, IRELAND
When we reached Achill
Island on the west coast of Ireland, we were greeted by
horizontal rain, outlines of mountains briefly emerging from the murk, and a
dramatic bleak landscape of moorland and peat bogs. Crete, the Algarve or the
Spanish Costas it is not. This is the wild, windswept Atlantic coast of
Ireland, one that cops the worst of the wet south westerlies but which is one
of the most
beautiful landscapes in Europe.
And yet, if you continue as far west as Achill’s roads allow, you’ll
reach one of the best beaches in Ireland and one of the most exquisite beaches
in all of Europe. The conditions I described above didn’t give the slightest
hint of what we were about to see at Keem Bay. The mountains and moors suddenly
give way to a gorgeous small beach (also known as Keem Strand) with tropical
turquoise water. It’s a sheltered spot, unlike much of the rest of the Achill
coast. The sun briefly came out for us, a few minutes of fleeting but
Best for: Dramatic scenery, romantics
LLANDDWYN ISLAND, WALES, UK
Tiny Llanddwyn Island, off the
coast of the larger island of Anglesey, is one
of the most beautiful islands in Europe. It’s a small tidal island in North
Wales, UK,with two stunning beaches and lighthouses at its end. The only way to
get there is on foot, around half an hour’s walk along glorious Newborough
Llanddwyn is one of several Welsh
islands to have links to a Celtic saint – in this case it’s
St Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of love. Llanddwyn is a remote spot, and one
of the best coastal locations I’ve encountered working as a photographer over
more than twenty years. There are no facilities on the island, just a few wild
ponies grazing and views of the peaks of Snowdonia and the Llyn Peninsula to
inspire your awe.
Best for: Scenery, romantics, beach walks
RHOSSILI BEACH, WALES, UK
The Gower Peninsula in
Wales is one of the best beach destinations in. Europe.
It was the first part of the UK to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural
Beauty,and has three of the best beaches in the UK (the others are Three Cliffs
Bay and Oxwich Bay) along just 50 km of coastline.
The best-known of these is Rhossili Bay, a sublime curve of 5 km (3
miles) of perfect golden sand. The village of Rhossili is 80 metres above on
the clifftop, so there’s a 10-minute descent to the beach. Even in the peak
summer season, you don’t have to walk far to find acres of sand to yourself.
Surfers tend to head to the northern end of the beach, near the village of
Llangennith, which is more exposed to waves coming in from the west. Also look
out for Worm’s Head, a tidal island that resembles a dragon basking in the sea.
Rhossili is more than a bit special – it has been voted the best beach in
Europe, and made the top ten for the same accolade many times. It has also been
voted the third best beach in the world, and been rated among the top ten
places to watch a sunset in the world.
Best for: Scenery, coastal walking, families
AGIOS PAVLOS BEACH, AGIA ROUMELI, CRETE
A sign above Agios Pavlos beach reads,
“Do not follow me, I am lost too… Welcome to Agios Pavlos.” The name means ‘St
Paul’, and it is believed that he once stopped at this remote beach en route to
Rome, and a tiny Byzantine church was built above the beach almost a thousand
years later to commemorate this. This is a gorgeous little church, and the
beach is amazing too.
It’s a 4 km hike from the village of Agia Roumeli to Agios Pavlos, or a
boat ride from the harbour there. It’s an incredibly uplifting place,
surrounded by the soaring peaks of Lefka Ora, the White Mountains of Crete. The
beach is part pebble, part grey sand, and the seawater aquamarine, clean and
pristine. A taverna is open during the season (until late October) – I had one
of the most satisfying cold beers of my life there, gazing across to the
Best for: coastal walkers, scenery, history, solitude
BALOS BEACH, CRETE, GREECE
A trip to Balos Beach is one of
the top three or four things to do in Crete, and one of the most popular Crete
tours you’ll find. It’s in the remote north-western corner of Crete, and the
vast majority of visitors opt to get to
Balos beach by ferry (included on all Balos tours) rather than
the dirt road from the port of Kissamos.
The ferry to Balos beach takes you to Gramvousa island first, stopping for up to two hours where you can relax at gorgeous Gramvousa Beach for a while. You then continue to Balos, which is one of the very best Mediterranean beaches, and one that regularly appears in best beaches in the world polls. The beach is in a lagoon, with high mountains on one side and a steep cape on the other. Part of the beach faces the lagoon, and is ideal for kids paddling. The other part faces the clear azure waters of the Mediterranean. If you want to cross from the cape side to mainland Crete and the snack bars, you’ll have to paddle a few metres, sometimes a little more.
As with the other Crete beaches we’ve written about here, Octob er is by
far the best time to visit Balos beach, when it won’t be anything like as
crowded during summer peak season.
Best for: Families, scenery, landscape, walking
FALASSARNA BEACH, CRETE, GREECE
Falassarna beach in Crete is a strong contender for our most beautiful beach in Europe. It’s certainly one of the best beaches in Crete, hidden away on the west coast of this incredible island, and backed by a curve of rugged mountains. It feels like a wilderness at the end of the world, and we fell spectacularly in love with it.
Falassarna (also spelt Falasarna or Phalasarna) isn’t one beach but five,
roughly 5 km (3 miles) end to end). The main beach is a long stretch of golden
sand with crystal-clear water up there with the best we’ve ever seen. There are
also some smaller beaches and coves along the way, and there are a couple of
fantastic natural sheltered rock pools for kids to swim in safety. You’re never
far from a taverna or beach bar, whichever beach you’re on.
There are also dunes and boulders galore to explore – we all thought we
were in paradise.
Best for: Incredible scenery, watersports,
PRAIA DONA ANA, ALGARVE, PORTUGAL
The beaches in Lagos
Portugal are known the world over. The first time I visited
Portugal I travelled down from Lisbon
especially to see them, and was blown away. They are widely acknowledged to be
among the best Algarve beaches, and they
deserve to be on any Portugal
itinerary, especially if it’s your first time in Portugal.
Praia Dona Ana – Lady Ana Beach – is the pick of the beaches in the area.
It’s a stunning sandy beach backed by golden and ochre cliffs, the turquoise
sea dotted with honeycomb rock stacks. It sounds like something out of a
fairytale, and it’s an astounding sight. Try to visit in springtime, before the
crowds pack it to the rafters. After visiting you may not be surprised that
this has been voted the most beautiful beach in the world.
Best for: Scenery, families, sheltered
swimming, coastal walks
Tenby, Pembrokeshire is one of the most beautiful coastal towns in Europe. It has four beaches and a gorgeous harbour surrounded by pastel-coloured 18th century houses, one of the most picturesque places in Europe. It’s also the departure point for Caldey Island, home to a Cistercian monastery and yet more stunning coastline.
The four Tenby beaches are all quite different in character. North Beach
and Harbour beach (the latter is submerged at high tide) are on one side of
Castle Hill, with stunning views of the Harbour. On the other side of the headland, Castle
Beach looks out over St Catherine’s Island, a 19th century fort on n
outcrop of rock, and South Beach is its continuation to the right. The partly
medieval town above is wonderful too, especially on quieter summer weekdays.
Far and away one of the best British seaside towns, and best beach towns in
Best for: Setting, harbour, families, boat
RED BEACH, SANTORINI
Santorini Red Beach
is one of the most popular Santorini
beaches, even though there are signs everywhere telling everyone not to go
there. Most of the volcanic Santorini beaches have ‘black’ or pencil-grey sand,
whereas Red Beach stands out because its sand is, well, red.
The beach’s sand and cliffs are a deep red
hue, and together with the clear turquoise water, it’s visually perhaps the
most striking Mediterranean beach you may ever see. The reason signs warn
people away is that there have been land slips there in recent years, with
sections of cliff falling down onto the beach. It’s safe to see Santorini Red
Beach from a distance, as in the shot above, but I decided not to venture down
onto the beach itself.
Best for: Dramatic scenery
KEDRODASOS BEACH, CRETE, GREECE
The south-west corner of Crete has two of
the best sandy beaches in. Greece. One of them attracts thousands of visitors a
day in summer, while the other, a mere 2 km away, would be lucky to attract
Elafonissi beach is one of the most enticing beaches in Greece, a series of wide sandy beaches and smaller coves all with an alluring frosting of pink sand along the shoreline. If you visit Elafonissi in the summer season (June to September) you’ll be jostling for space, especially on the mainland part of the beach. October is the best time to visit, with the temperature in the mid 20s Centigrade.
No such problems at Kedrodasos, whose name
means ‘cedar grove’. There is one main beach and a series of small coves, with
a mixture of dunes and juniper trees separating them. The crystal-clear water
is exceptional, among the best we’ve seen anywhere in the world. You’ll see the
occasional naturist or hiker, but will have a whole section of this sublime
beach to yourself if you want it. I
preferred the ambience of Kedrodasos to that of Elafonissi, but both are among
the best beach destinations Europe has, so do all you can to make time to see
Best for: Setting, scenery, serenity, solitude
SKAGEN BEACH, DENMARK
The northernmost place in Denmark is also its sunniest. It’s also home to
some of the best white sand beaches in Europe. The long, flat Skagen peninsula,
north of the city of Aalborg in North Jutland, has an endless long beach on
each side, with the largest sand dune in Denmark on the northern side. The lighthouses
are the only feature on the skyline.
The Skagen beaches are so long that they always have plenty of space,
even in summer, though accommodation is harder to come by. If you continue to
Grenen, at the tip of the peninsula, you’ll be at the point where two seas
meet. Skagerrak (and Norway) is to the left, and Kattegat (and Sweden) is to
the right. It’s an awe-inspiring place, whose unique light inspired the Skagen
art movement in the late 19th century. You can still stay at the
Brøndums Hotel where the artists regularly met.
Best for: families, beach walks, beach train ride
PODRACE BEACH, BRELA, CROATIA
Brela is a small resort town on the mainland Dalmatian coast between
Split and Dubrovnik, looking out towards the island of Brač. It’s on a particularly enchanting part of the
Croatian coast, with fine pebbly peaches, wondrous clear Adriatic water and
Brela has three beaches – Punta Rata, Filipinska and the smallest,
idyllic Plaža Podrace. It’s barely a hundred metres long, but what beauty.
There’s a small rocky promontory partly covered with trees, and small fishing
boats bobbing in the crystalline azure water, with the mountains of central
Dalmatia in the distance. A stunning
Best for: Families, scenery
PALOMBAGGIA BEACH, CORSICA, FRANCE
Corsica is right at the top of my personal Europe bucket list, an island
of extraordinary beauty of which I yearn to see much, much more. It has some of
the best sandy beaches in Europe, and our pick of these is the Plage de
Palombaggia, on the south-east coast of Corsica between Porto-Vecchio and
It’s a long white sand beach with exceptionally clear water which is shallow for quite a distance from the shore, making it a good option if you have kids with you. There are restaurants and bars along the beach which run the sun beds and umbrellas – expect a minimum of 10 euros for the day. At one end of the beach there’s an idyllic scene with rock formations, beautiful shallow water and a lone pine tree. A stunning and very underrated part of the world.
Best for: families, scenery
XI BEACH, KEFALONIA
As our contents list shows, Greece is one of the countries with the best
beaches around Europe. One of the most striking Greece beaches is Xi beach, on
the Paliki peninsula in Kefalonia, one of the Ionian islands off the country’s
Xi beach is most memorable for the contrast between its reddish orange sand and greyish white cliffs. It’s a largely ‘organised’ beach, with some sections with beach bars, sun beds and umbrellas. You may see some visitors covering themselves in clay from the bottom of the cliffs – it is believed to have curative properties, and to cleanse the skin.
Best for: Families, swimming, scenery lovers
CEFALU, SICILY, ITALY
If you’re looking for one of the best European cities with beaches, look
no further. Cefalu, on the north coast of Sicily, is a small city with an
impossibly beautiful sandy beach and an implausibly photogenic backdrop of
medieval houses along the seafront.
Cefalu is a great place to visit as it’s one of the best Italy beach
destinations, and has so much else to see, including the enormous imposing
Romanesque cathedral and the Temple of Diana, the latter perched high above the
city and beach on Cefalu’s steep Rocca.
Best for: Scenery lovers, history, families, gelato!
PLAYA GRAN, TOSSA DE MAR, CATALUNYA, SPAIN
Tossa de Mar is one of the best places to stay on the Costa Brava, around
100 km up the coast from Barcelona. We’ve chosen Playa Gran, the main Tossa de
Mar beach, because of its delightful setting beneath the fortified walls and
towers of the Castle in the Vila Vella (Old Town).
The beach is around 400 metres long, and fills up quickly when the party
crowd are in town during the summer months. Spring is the best time to visit
when Catalonia temperatures are usually into the mid-20s Centigrade by late
April. Tossa is one of the best beach holiday destinations in Spain, with
plenty more beaches along the coast around the town. Be sure not to miss Playa
de Codolar, a picturesque narrow sandy cove the other side of the Castle
Best for: Scenery, families, nightlife
SELLIN, RUGEN, GERMANY
Our selection of top beaches in Europe wouldn’t be complete without a
beach with a pier. They’re a northern European phenomenon, with the UK having
by far the most, but there are also examples in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany
and Poland. I’ve always considered the elegant Clevedon pier in Somerset,
England the most beautiful pier I’ve seen, but as this article is about
beaches, I’ve gone with Sellin, a spa resort on the spectacular Rügen Island on
Germany’s Baltic coast.
Sellin has a fantastic long, wide sandy beach and the outstanding
Seebrücke, its handsome pier stretching out into the Baltic (Ostsee in German).
The pier is a superb example of German resort architecture (from the late 19th
and early 20th centuries), and there are several villas in similar
contemporary style on Wilhelmstrasse, the grand street leading down to the pier
and beach. The island of Rügen is also worth visiting for the white chalk
cliffs of the Jasmund National Park.
Best for: families, swimming, architecture
More Europe Beach Guides
More Information On The Best Beaches In Europe
Elafonissi Beach Guide
Balos Beach Guide
Best Algarve Beaches in Portugal
Lagos Portugal Beaches Guide
Falassarna Beach Guide
Gramvousa Beach Guide
Bali Beaches Guide
Kalypso Beach Guide
Kedrodaso Beach Guide