Best Small Beach Towns In Europe
Beach vacations help us relax, rejuvenate and restore. It's why people from all over the world travel to Europe in the summer, seeking to enjoy the beaches dotting its long coastline and numerous islands.
But some of us want all the amazing things European beach towns have to offer without having to share them with other tourists. If this is you, forget about Biarritz and Nice, and look for that small town along the sea.
These are the best beach towns in Europe with fewer than 10,000 residents, ordered from most to least populous.
20. Kas, Turkey
Where to stay: Airbnb apartment with a sea view
Fun fact: You can take an off-shore excursion to visit the underwater ruins of Simena, a city that was destroyed by a natural disaster in the second century.
What to Do in Kas
Located along the Lycian Way — which is as beautiful as it is underrated — Kas is a beach town that has much more than looks.
Yes, the mountainous coastline overlooks the deep blue Mediterranean, and the town’s colorful houses have flowers hanging from its wooden balconies. But there are also Lycian tombs and ruins scattered in and around the town so that history enthusiasts can get a glimpse of the ancient state of Lycia.
When you’re not exploring ruins or swimming, you can enjoy delicious Turkish food and wine.
19. Ebeltoft, Denmark
Where to stay: Molskroen Historic Inn
Fun fact: The Ebeltoft museum ship, Fregatten Jylland, is one of the largest wooden warships in the entire world.
What to Do in Ebeltoft
If you like cold water better and are looking for a picturesque town away from it all, come to Ebeltoft.
The old town is adorned with historic half-timbered houses and cobblestone streets, which makes people constantly describe it as something out of a fairytale. People spend most of their vacation here walking around the old town, sitting at a cafe and shopping at boutique stores.
The beaches are surrounded by forests and remain cold year-round, which locals (and some tourists) love.
18. Casares, Spain
Where to stay: Elba Estepona Gran Hotel & Thalasso Spa
Fun fact: Rumor has it that Julius Caesar himself was cured of liver problems by bathing in Casares' La Hedionda spa, which used a natural sulfur spring.
What to Do in Casares
White homes with red-tiled roofs line the hills of this astonishing town.
As part of the southern region of Andalusia, Casanares enjoys warm weather and a sunny demeanor. Its architecture has heavy Arabic influences, given the long Moorish occupation in the region.
Visit the Casares Castle for stunning views, and don't miss out on the Church of La Encarnacion. Other less common activities include golfing and horseback riding. Just make sure you leave time for laying on the beach and walking around the whitewashed old town.
17. Calvi, France
Where to stay: A Muredda B&B
Fun fact: Locals in this town claim that Christopher Columbus was actually born here and not in Italy.
What to Do in Calvi
Corsica as a whole is usually overlooked, perhaps because of its relative remoteness. If you do make it to one of France’s greatest treasures, stay in the small town of Calvi.
The town has a medieval citadel from where you can see both the sea and snow-peaked mountains. This unusual combination alone is worth the trip here.
The white-sand beach is the best thing to visit in Calvi, but we also recommend spending time on the Quai Landry, an esplanade lined with restaurants, cafes and harbor views.
16. Vila Baleira, Portugal
Where to stay: The Postcard
Fun fact: The island of Porto Santo was uninhabited until 1419, when it was settled by the Portuguese.
What to Do in Vila Baleira
Located next to the very remote Madeira Island is even more remote Porto Santo. The tiny island's main city is Vila Baleira, where you will find a long, sandy beach that is usually uncrowded.
The town also has historic houses, cobblestone streets and delicious food. Porto Santo offers volcanic peaks, centuries-old windmills and welcoming locals as well.
15. Lacco Ameno, Italy
Where to stay: Regina Isabella Resort & Spa
Fun fact: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton loved vacationing here and usually stayed at the Regina Isabella.
What to Do in Lacco Ameno
Lacco Ameno is a town in Ischia, the often ignored sister island of Capri. But where Capri calls attention with its glamor, Ischia has maintained a much more laid-back, quiet beauty.
The small town of Lacco Ameno has white houses and streets lined with trees. One of the town’s most famous landmarks is a giant mushroom-shaped rock in the ocean, called Il Fungo.
You can also visit churches, gardens and a museum with Greek antiquities.
14. Parikia, Greece
Where to stay: Akrotiri Hotel
Fun fact: Famous Greek War of Independence heroine, Manto Mavrogenous, died in Parikia. The town has a public square that bears her name and has a statue in her honor.
What to Do in Parikia
Parikia is like Santorini with fewer crowds. Here, you’ll still get the breathtaking blue and white beauty of Greece’s Cycladic towns, but you won’t be standing in lines for selfie spots.
The town is located on the island of Paros and is incredibly vivid for its small size. Besides historic churches such as Panagia Ekatontapiliani (the Church of 100 doors), there are numerous bars, cafes and restaurants.
This makes Parikia a perfect middle ground for those who want good nightlife, great beaches and many things to do but want to avoid overrun destinations.
13. Hvar Town, Croatia
Where to stay: Airbnb with sea view in Hvar
Fun fact: The Historic Theatre of Hvar is one of the oldest surviving theaters in Europe, having first opened in 1612.
What to Do in Hvar Town
Like Parikia, Hvar doesn’t let its small size keep it from throwing a good party. In fact, this Croatian seaside town is considered one of the best beach party destinations on the continent.
Yachts dot the harbor, bars are open until late and island clubs do their best to make patrons forget they’re somewhere with less than 5,000 people.
But for all its reputation, Hvar also has a quiet, sensitive side that manifests itself in the form of coves, hidden beaches and beautiful sunsets. If you visit in early summer, you can also take a very short trip to see the island’s lavender fields in full bloom.
12. Marsaxlokk, Malta
Where to stay: Talbot and Bons Boutique Bed & Breakfast
Fun fact: You can see the remains of extinct animals that once inhabited Malta, such as dwarf elephants, giant swan and hippopotamus, at the Ghar Dalam cave and museum.
What to Do in Marsaxlokk
The small island nation of Malta has no shortage of beautiful beach towns. Still, Marsaxlokk manages to come out on top.
A fishing village at heart rather than a resort town, you can breathe easily knowing that you’ll find more locals than tourists here. The town’s port is the second busiest in Malta, which means that the famous markets offer fresh produce along with unique souvenirs.
Go to a designated swimming area to enjoy the beautiful beaches, but also take time to take in the sight of fishing vessels coming in and out of the port.
11. Piran, Slovenia
Where to stay: Hotel Piran
Fun fact: Piran is the birthplace of violinist Giuseppe Tartini, whose house you can still visit.
What to Do in Piran
Slovenia’s coastline is not as extensive as that of other European countries, but it manages to pack a punch.
In Piran, you’ll find Venetian architecture, a vestige of the town’s former history as a principality of Venice. The historic center is incredibly well-preserved and, unlike many of its counterparts, is not yet overrun by tourists.
Though the beaches in Piran are more rocky than sandy, this doesn’t bother visitors, who are too occupied gazing out into the gorgeous Adriatic Sea.
10. Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France
Where to stay: La Reserve de Beaulieu
Fun fact: Villa Kerylos, one of the town's landmarks, was built to reproduce an ancient Athenian home from the fifth century B.C.
What to Do in Beaulieu-sur-Mer
Sitting between Nice and Monaco, Beaulieu-sur-Mer is still somehow a little bit of a secret. Its name literally translates to "beautiful place by the sea," so that should tell you everything you need to know.
Escape the snobbishness of Monaco and the tourism of Nice to get the best of the French Riviera. Baie des Fourmis is the beach right in the center of town, though there are other beaches to visit.
You also can stroll through the marina or try your luck at the Casino Beaulieu-sur-Mer.
9. Sperlonga, Italy
Where to stay: Airbnb villa near the sea
Fun fact: Celebrities like Arthur Miller, Albert Camus and Sophia Loren used to vacation in this small beach town.
What to Do in Sperlonga
Sperlonga has been a summer vacation spot since the first century, when Emperor Tiberius built an opulent villa here.
The town’s popularity remained strong for centuries, up until the last half of the 20th century. Now, it doesn’t get quite as many visitors as it used to, but we think that’s for the best. After all, it hasn’t lost one bit of its charm.
Besides visiting the ruins of Emperor Tiberius’ villa, you can do incredibly cool activities like snorkeling around ancient Roman ruins. Of course, going to the beach is a given, as is catching the sunset from a seaside restaurant while you enjoy the richness of Italian food.
8. Ksamil, Albania
Where to stay: John’s Guesthouse
Fun fact: The village of Ksamil was built in 1966 during the Communist era.
What to Do in Ksamil
This picturesque Albanian town is the affordable European summer vacation spot of your dreams.
You’ll be bathing in the turquoise water of the Ionian Sea and sunbathing in golden sand. When you want a change of scenery that still includes nature, you can canoe or boat to the four uninhabited islands near Ksamil or check out Butrint National Park. There are also several ancient Greek and Roman ruins to explore.
Tranquility is a town motto, so your only worry should be getting a tan and trying to taste as much Albanian food as possible.
What to Do in Cadaqués
There is an infinitude of Spanish beach towns that deserve to be mentioned, but if we can only pick one, it would be Cadaqués.
This Costa Brava town has the whitewashed homes that you’d expect in a Greek island with the culinary tradition of Catalonia. Can you think of a better combination?
The town’s simple beauty has attracted several artists to it, including Salvador Dali, who shared a home here with his wife, Gaia. Other artists include René Magritte, Henri Mattisse and Pablo Picasso — not bad for a place with fewer than 3,000 people!
6. Carvoeiro, Portugal
Where to stay: Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve Resort
Fun fact: Before it became a famed vacation beach town, Carvoeiro was a fishing village that suffered several pirate attacks.
What to Do in Carvoeiro
The entire Algarve coast is one of Europe’s best beach destinations. If you have to choose a single town within it, let it be Carvoeiro.
Located on the Seven Hanging Valleys, you can do some hiking along this coastal trail that will take you to the top of cliffs overlooking the sea. The cliffs also provide caves and coves ready for exploration as well as a beautiful backdrop while you’re swimming.
At its heart, Carvoeiro is still a small traditional Portuguese town, where the seafood is fresh, the wine is cheap and the sun constantly shines.
5. Kouklia, Cyprus
Where to stay: Aphrodite Hills Resort
Fun fact: Kouklia is located in the area where the mythical birth of the Greek goddess Aphrodite occurred.
What to Do in Kouklia
This UNESCO Heritage Site by the sea is truly unique. The village is built in the Palaephaphos area, where it was rumored that Aphrodite was born. A temple to the goddess was built here, whose ruins you can still visit.
Besides this important cultural history, the village is breathtaking. Hills fall right onto the sparkling blue Mediterranean and large rock formations dot the beach.
As you stand in front of the sea, you will understand why people believe the goddess of beauty was born here.
4. Kardamyli, Greece
Where to stay: Airbnb Stone House
Fun fact: In Homer’s "The Iliad," Kardamyli is one of the cities Agammemnom offers Achilles to convince him to fight the Trojan War.
What to Do in Kardamyli
Visitors often forget that there is a whole lot more to Greece than Athens and the isles. Luckily for those in the know, it means that places like this Peloponnese beach town remain largely unknown.
Inhabited since ancient Greek times, Kardamyli has a combination of coastline and forests. The old town has kept its historic stone houses, which keep you cool even on the hottest dates.
Besides simply walking around or enjoying pristine beaches, you can visit the town’s Medieval castle or the Agios Spyridonas church. Hiking is also popular, with the Vyros Gorge being a frequented site for outdoors travelers.
3. Vik, Iceland
Where to stay: Cottage bear the beach
Fun fact: Many tourists come to see the puffins, who like to play on the rocks at the town's single beach.
What to Do in Vik
For some people, beaches mean warmth. If this isn't you, we invite you to head to the small Icelandic town of Vik.
This community is almost storybook-like. It is next to both a glacier and a volcano, which makes tourists immediately realize why the country calls itself the land of ice and fire. It is dotted with small houses and a white church with a red roof. Reynisfjall Mountain rolls right onto the sea, and waves crash against a black pebble beach and geometric rock formations on the cliffs.
It's isolated, beautiful and as peaceful as you could wish.
2. Rhossili Bay, United Kingdom
Where to stay: Ashburnham Hotel
Fun fact: Rhossili Bay is part of the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty — areas designated for protection — in the United Kingdom.
What to Do in Rhossili Bay
Wales is woefully ignored in favor of England and Scotland. That’s sad news for travelers, who often miss out on the region’s natural beauty and deep-rooted traditions.
For a beach getaway, look no further than Rhossili Bay, whose long stretches of sand and rolling green hills make for quite a picture. Of course, you won’t get warm water, but this hardly takes away from the experience, especially as you take in the scenery of the Welsh countryside.
1. Savudrija, Croatia
Where to stay: Beachfront villa
Fun fact: The Savudrija Lighthouse is Croatia's oldest lighthouse.
What to Do in Savudrija
If you've done Croatia's Dalmatian Coast and want to go where most foreign tourists don't, head up north to Savudrija. Located on the Adriatic Sea, the town was once part of the Republic of Venice. Roman and Italian influences can still be seen in its architecture.
With about 250 people, Savudrija provides a quiet beach town experience for tourists who want to be near the sea but away from people. You can spend your days drinking wine, eating fresh seafood and swimming in the ocean.
And if you want to get adventurous, the area is great for windsurfing.