20 Best Beaches in Europe
The Caribbean may steal all of the fanfare when it comes to getaways filled with sun and surf, but Europe's beaches are no slouches either. Across the continent, there's a wide array of stunning beaches to enjoy.
From family-friendly stretches of sand to high-energy hotspots, we've selected the best beaches in 20 amazing European countries. Let the wanderlust begin.
Best in Spain: Cala Macarella
This virgin beach on the Spanish island of Menorca, with its white sand and sea so blue it mimics the sky, is exactly everything you want out of a beach.
Nestled in a quiet cove, a beachfront restaurant ensures you can spend a full day here. But when the crowds come — and they inevitably do — it's best to stroll to the other side of the cove to enjoy the smaller Macarelleta, featuring the same sand and surf, but with slightly fewer people and a bit more skin. (Nude sunbathing is popular here.)
Best in England: Durdle Door Beach
With its iconic natural limestone arch, this pebble beach and isthmus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on England's Jurassic Coast.
Located near Dorset, those seeking more sand will find it steps away at Man O'War beach, with both providing waves from the English Channel.
The dramatic Jurassic Coast of Southern England stretches 95 miles, and is filled many more amazing landscapes developed during earth's Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
Best in Italy: Marina Grande Beach
Italy's spectacular Amalfi Coast is home to villas dug deep into the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, which practically illuminates when the sun shines upon its varying hues of blue.
Visit postcard-perfect Positano and its Marina Grande Beach — considered the most cosmopolitan of the Amalfi Coast beaches — literally steps from Italian restaurants, shops and a marina filled with luxury yachts.
Best in Greece: Navagio Beach
Located in Greece's Ionian Islands, Navagio Beach on the island of Zakynthos is also known as Shipwreck Beach. When the freight-liner MV Panagiotis ran aground on this beach during a storm, it was left to rot. Today, the ship's dilapidated frame is a striking feature along Navagio's white-sand shores, where sunbathers often arrive by private boats themselves.
The limestone cliffs surrounding this beach also make it a popular spot for base jumping. Just make sure to leap with caution!
Best in Cyprus: Nissi Beach
Cyprus' Nissi Beach, actually a combination of a quiet beach and one filled with plenty of sizzle, offers year-round warm-weather temperatures and practically crystal-clear Mediterranean waters.
So clear and clean is this beach that the Foundation for Environmental Education designated it as a Blue Flag destination for its quality.
Best in Monaco: Larvotto Beach
The largest beach with free access in Monaco also happens to be mere steps from sophisticated Monte Carlo and its ritzy casino.
Instead of spending hundreds to sit on the private beaches of Monaco's swanky resorts, head here to take in the same views of luxurious boats, cliff-climbing dwellings and the aquamarine Mediterranean Sea.
Best in France: Pampelonne Beach
The French Riviera has been an area of glitz and glamour for decades, and its destinations don't get more high-brow than St. Tropez. Considered the crown jewel of St. Tropez's beaches, Pampelonne is also the most famous, as well as the longest at nearly 3.5 miles.
Beach clubs serve drinks and food as you soak up the atmosphere and work on your St. Tropez tan. The beach is even better if you can swim to it from a yacht or catamaran anchored in the bay.
Best in Scotland: Luskentyre Sands
Surprise! On the southwest coast of Scotland's northern Outer Hebrides, you'll find beaches resembling the tropics.
You may not have pictured turquoise blue water and soft white sand in Scotland, but both are found on Harris Island. In fact, Luskentyre Sands is considered one of the best stretches of beach in all of the United Kingdom.
Best in Portugal: Praia de Benagil
Portugal's Algarve region is a hidden gem — most of the world sadly isn't familiar with this sun-drenched area where cliffside beaches meet practically perfect Atlantic waters.
Formerly a fishing harbor on the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula, Praia de Benagil was transformed in the 1960s and is now a tourist destination with superb snorkeling and caves that can be explored by land and sea.
Best in Iceland: Reynisfjara Beach
You may not want to swim in the waters off the coast of Iceland, but its beaches are nonetheless sublime. This black-sand beach is the island's most famous, and definitely deserves to be on the list of the most beautiful.
With waves pummeling volcanic rock, the beach is covered in crushed lava sand, as sea stacks from generations of erosion create an eerie landscape.
Best in Germany: Rugen Island
Flanked by cliffs of white chalk, Rugen Island in the Baltic Sea is located on Germany's Jasmund peninsula. In addition to its beaches stretching 37 miles, it touts a historic pier in the town of Sellin that dates back to 1901, creating an Art Nouveau setting for a beach promenade and top-rated resorts.
Every summer, the island hosts its open-air Storetebeker Festival, and visitors may also explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Jasmund National Park.
Best in Montenegro: Sveti Stefan
In order to visit this private beach, you'll need to stay at the uber-luxe Aman Sveti Stefan 5-star resort. Comfortably occupying an islet and a stretch of mainland along the Adriatic Sea, the resort is a Montenegro hideaway where you may spot a celebrity or two basking in the sun beside you on pink-sand beaches.
Sveti Stefan Island, open only between May and October, is a 600-year-old village of rental villas with red-tiled roofs and cobblestoned lanes.
Best in Ireland: Trá na Draina
Meaning the "strand of the strong," County Donegal's main beach, Trá na Draina, is one of Ireland's best surfing beaches, with Atlantic Ocean waves ripping into the coast.
As part of the Wild Atlantic Way, this beach awaits in the seaside town of Bundoran, where tourists have been coming since the 1700s.
Best in Denmark: Tisvilde Strand Beach
Leave Copenhagen behind and head north to the Danish Riviera. Here, shallow waters make beaches kid-friendly and colorful beach huts dot the landscape.
Considered "Denmark's Royal Retreat," Tisvilde Strand Beach is laid back and perfect for a family vacay.
Best in Turkey: Yahsi Beach
Turkey's Bodrum is one of the most exotic and highly sought beach destinations in Europe. Here, the well-groomed Yahsi Beach overlooks the Aegean Sea, not to mention the Dodecanese Islands.
After the sun sets over the glittering sea, restaurants and nightclubs with glamour in spades await.
Best in The Netherlands: Zandvoort
Less than a half hour from Amsterdam, the Zandvoort is a destination that vacationers and day-trippers alike can enjoy. Featuring coastal dunes, trails and plenty of sand along the North Sea, it touts five miles of wide beaches spanning nearly 300 feet, with something for everyone — there are family-friendly and nude options.
Not only is there space for everyone, but there are tons of restaurants and shops to enjoy as well.
Best in Belgium: Zeebrugge
Follow the canal from Bruges to its seaside resort town of Zeebrugge, also found on the North Sea. Once a hotbed of World War II activity, it features 42 miles of beach and is today a hot spot for tourist R&R.
When not strolling along the shoreline, a visit to the aquarium, casino and a WWII Museum can round out your trip.
Best in Croatia: Zlatni Rat
Called Croatia's Golden Cape, Zlatni Rat is a beach spit on the Dalmatian island of Brac. Featuring the Adriatic Sea's clear blue-green waters and wide golden-pebble beaches, it's a holiday-goer's paradise.
Snorkel, paddle-board, jet-ski or enjoy all of the above; it's your choice of pleasure here.
Best in Wales: Little Haven Beach
Within minutes of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park you will stumble upon some of the prettiest beaches in Wales.
Broad Haven, a seaside resort town, is home to seemingly endless beaches along St. Brides Bay. When the tide ebbs away, the west coast beaches grow even bigger.
Best in Gibraltor: Eastern Beach
On the list of beaches with coolness to burn, Eastern Beach is at the top.
Literally situated next to the towering Rock of Gibraltar, a limestone rock that stands nearly 1,400 feet high, the dark yet soft sand of this beach meets warm Mediterranean waters.
The beach also boasts a historic setting; a British territory on the tip of the Iberian Peninsula, Gibraltor is heavily influenced by its roots in the Moorish Middle Ages.