40 of the Best Beach Towns in Europe

Best beach towns in Europe

I’ve become a bit of an armchair traveller lately. And where better to travel to right now than a beach town in Europe? If you’re looking for a bit of escapism or some inspiration for your next holiday – whenever that might be – take a look at this collection of destinations. I’ve teamed up with some fellow travel bloggers to compile a list of what I think are some of the best beach towns in Europe.

Best European beach towns – how do you choose?

There are some incredible beach towns in Europe but there’s also plenty of duds. When the lockdown finally ends, I’m looking forward to finding somewhere special to explore. And there are plenty of places on this list of European seaside resorts which I’d love to check out. Galicia in Spain and some of the lesser visited regions of Greece are definitely on my radar.

After a day on the beach, there’s nothing better than being able to amble into town for a drink or some dinner at a local café or restaurant, no car required. But how do you choose the right beach town in Europe for your precious holiday? Are you looking for a party beach town or a sleepy seaside village? I hope this guide helps you decide.

I’ve included some suggestions for places to stay in this article – some of these are just links to Booking.com and Airbnb which allow me to make a small commission if you make a booking. However, quite a few of them are genuine recommendations of places I have stayed at or places I used to send my clients to when I was a travel agent.

Beach towns in the UK

We are very spoilt here in the UK, we have some fantastic seaside destinations – some of the best beach towns in Europe. From the tiny coves of Cornwall to the bright lights of Blackpool, our coastline is so diverse. I have included just a small collection of UK beach towns here but if you’d like a more detailed selection, check out my post about the best beach breaks in the UK.

Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk

Child paddling at sunset on beach in Norfolk
Autumn paddling at Holkham Nature Reserve

Wells is the UK beach town I have visited most frequently in the last few years. This Norfolk seaside town has everything you could want from a beach holiday in the UK. Wells has a great range of independent shops, lots of lovely places to stay and some excellent restaurants. We always enjoy fish and chips from one of the two chippies on opposite the harbour.

What I love most about Wells-next-the-Sea is the actual beach – this huge expanse of sand stretches for miles. Reached from the town via an elevated walkway (or a little train), the beach is part of the Holkham National Nature Reserve. Near to the town the beach is backed by colourful beach huts, this section tends to be quite busy, even in winter. The further you walk away from the huts, the wilder and more remote the beach feels. Behind the beach are sand dunes and pine forests and it’s a fabulous place for a walk at any time of year.

We’ve visited Wells-next-the-Sea in all seasons. Norfolk in autumn and winter is stunning – epic sunsets and fewer visitors. Summertime is really special too. Despite the throngs of people, it’s easy to find space on the huge beach, particularly when the tide is out.

Wells is a brilliant beach town for families. There’s a good playground complete with pirate ship which our kids love and there’s an ice cream shop just round the corner from it. The harbour is a popular spot for crabbing and we often spot seals lounging around on the sand.

Looking for places to stay in Wells-next-the-Sea? Airbnb has some great self catering options.

Ventnor on the Isle of Wight

Coastal town of Ventnor on the Isle of Wight
Ventnor-Image by Marushka Tziroulnikoff from Pixabay

Ventnor is one of the most enjoyable beach towns to visit on the Isle of Wight. Reached via a steep winding road this Victorian seaside town has interesting shops and a lovely sand and shingle beach along with a good range of places to eat and drink. I rather like the Spyglass Inn which overlooks the beach.

Ventnor is a great beach town for a family holiday as there is plenty to see and do close by. Behind the town are the Downs, perfect for long walks and home to wild ponies. Another lovely walk, but in the opposite direction, takes you along the coast from Ventnor over to Steephill Cove, a tiny beach which can only be accessed by foot or by boat. Steephill has a restaurant and café and I love wandering over there for an ice cream.

Just a little further along the coast from Ventnor is Blackgang Chine, a wonderfully old fashioned amusement park (with a few modern touches).

Whitby in North Yorkshire

Ruined Whitby Abbey overlooking the harbour, one of the best beach towns in europe
Whitby in North Yorkshire -Image by Postbyte from Pixabay

Although you can visit Whitby at any time of year, I think this North Yorkshire coastal town is at its most atmospheric in autumn or winter. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was set in Whitby and the town is really fun to explore – narrow cobbled streets, independent shops and characterful pubs. If you’re after a fun seaside holiday in one of the off-season half terms, Whitby gets my vote.

Overlooking the big sweep of sandy beach from a clifftop position are the ruins of Whitby Abbey. Reached via a set of 199 steps from the town, the Abbey is a brilliant place to explore. There are ghost tours if you fancy scaring the kids and beach huts to hire if ghouls aren’t your thing.

The North Yorkshire Moors Railways offers a steam train service from Whitby to Pickering passing through stunning scenery and includes a stop at Goathland which was used as the location for Hogsmeade station in the Harry Potter movies.

Tenby in Pembrokeshire, Wales

Colourful buildings in Tenby overlooking the beach in Wales
Tenby in Wales -Image by Tim Hill from Pixabay

Wales has some brilliant beach towns. No doubt if you’re UK-born, you’ll have your own favourite from your childhood – we used to spend our summers in Aberdovey on the west coast of Wales and although I was tiny, I have vivid memories of the sand dunes there.

On the south west coast of Wales is one of the country’s most popular beach towns – Tenby. Colourful townhouses overlook the harbour and beaches – there are three stretches of sand to choose from in Tenby. Each beach faces a different direction and offers a different experience. Castle Beach, unsurprisingly sits beneath Tenby castle, a Norman ruin which is almost completely surrounded by the sea. South Beach is a long dune-backed beach while sheltered North Beach – dominated by a huge rock in the middle of its sand – is perfect for rockpooling at low tide.

Tenby itself is surrounded by medieval city walls and is a fun beach town for a family holiday, there’s plenty of shops and cafes to enjoy. From town, visitors can take to the cliffs and follow the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. There are plenty of water sports on offer and boat trips run to nearby Caldey Island which is managed by Cistercian monks.

Check Booking.com for holiday accommodation in Tenby.

North Berwick in East Lothian, Scotland

Bass Rock in the sea off North Berwick in Scotland
Bass Rock Image by Alan Kidd from Pixabay

Looking for the best of both worlds – a dynamic city and a beach experience? North Berwick is just a 30 minute train ride from Edinburgh but offers a proper beach town vibe. There are sandy beaches either side of the harbour and there’s a great big volcanic rock – North Berwick Law – just inland from the town which is a popular spot for walkers and hikers. I know my kids would love to scale it.

North Berwick is also home to the Scottish Seabird Centre, a state of the art natural history experience with extensive exhibits about the surrounding region. Boat trips run from North Berwick harbour for visitors who’d like to take a closer look at some of the wildlife habitats in the area.

There’s a particularly distinctive isle – or rock – which juts out of the sea some 100 metres high called Bass Rock, home to a large colony of gannets. It shares the same volcanic origins as North Berwick’s land-based rocky lump.

Portstewart, Northern Ireland

Portstewart Beach Northern Ireland
Portstewart Beach Northern Ireland

I think a lot of Northern Irish folk would perhaps disagree with me on this (my sister in law would probably vote for neighbouring Portrush), but I loved Portstewart Strand so much that the town of Portstewart has to get my vote as the best beach town in Northern Ireland. Perhaps it was the incredible weather we had or the excellent lunch we ate at Harry’s Shack which overlooks the beach but there’s something rather special about this Northern Irish beach town.

Portstewart is on the North Antrim Coast, about 14 kilometres west of the Giant’s Causeway. The beach itself is slightly out of the centre of town. This long stretch of sand, backed by dunes, is managed by the National Trust. Visitors can drive right onto the beach and park up – it makes for a very easy day out if you have a boot full of beach gear.

Portstewart Town has a great little play area and splash park for toddlers overlooking the sea and there are plenty of enticing places to eat and drink.

Where to stay on the Antrim Coast: my recommendation

We stayed further east along the coast, near the Giants Causeway at the brilliant Ballylinny Cottages – our cottage had amazing sea views. If you’d prefer to be in the centre of the action at Portstewart, there’s a good range of beach town holiday properties to choose from on Airbnb.

Click here to find holiday accommodation in Portstewart

For a full rundown on why you should consider Northern Ireland for your next family summer holiday, check out my list of Northern Ireland things to do with kids.

Bangor, Northern Ireland 

aerial shot of people on large sandy beach in Northern Ireland
Ballyholme to Groomsport North-Down-Coastal Path in Northern Ireland

Recommended by Allen Wilson from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor

With a seafront amusement park and beachfront swimming pools, there was a time when Bangor Northern Ireland was a huge seaside destination for tourists from both Ireland and the U.K. Then cheap air travel came along and everyone jumped on the first flights to the Mediterranean.

These days, Bangor is famous more for its rather fancy marina, its many beaches, and the North Down Coastal Path. It is also central to a stretch known in Northern Ireland as the ‘Gold Coast’ due to its beaches and high property prices along the coastline. In town, the central seafront and marina remain a popular spot for visitors with a seaside promenade and Pickie Funpark for the kids.

But the real draw has to be the many beaches that dot the coastal path including two central sand beaches with Skippingstone Beach which is popular with local sea swimmers, and then the stretching sands of Ballyholme Beach on the opposite side. There are many more beaches along the wider coastal path, around a mile each way, including the sandy beaches at Crawfordsburn Country Park which is an attraction in itself.  

Best Mediterranean Beach Towns

Is the Med home to the best beach towns in Europe? The resorts which lie along the coasts of France and Italy, Greece and Croatia, attract thousands of visitors each summer. There are some real beauties – is your favourite on this list?

Menton, Southern France

View from orange roof of coastal town of Menton in France
Menton in Southern France

Recommended by Emma from Emma Jane Explores

Menton is one of the French Riviera’s best kept secrets. Around forty minutes train journey from the Riviera’s largest city, Nice, Menton is the very last town on the Cote d’Azur before crossing the border into Italy. It is absolutely possible to visit the French beach town of Menton on a day trip, though an overnight stay will give you much more time to explore the many beauties of this jewel in the Riviera’s crown.  

The beaches here are a little gravelly but nothing as extreme as the large grey pebbles of the beach in Nice – the stones are quite fine and are pretty similar to sand. A walk around the Menton waterfront on the Promenade du Soleil gives visitors the perfect opportunity to enjoy the vibrant colours of the old town set against the rugged mountain backdrop.  

The old town in Menton is utterly gorgeous and seems to infinitely wind and turn through narrow cobble stone streets, taking explorers on an uphill walk to the top of the town where breathtaking views of the ocean below can be seen.  

The Vieux Chateau Cemetery is also worth a visit as some of the finest views of both sides of the Menton coastline can be seen from here. On a clear day, it’s possible to see all the way around to Italy.  

Menton is also famous for citrus products, so no visit to this seaside town is complete without trawling the many stores where vendors hand out samples of local limoncello or gelato to try.

Cassis, Southern France

Calanque den Vau rocky inlet in southern france
Calanque d’en Vau near Cassis

Recommended by Nadine from Le Long Weekend

The seaside village of Cassis in the South of France is known for its charming historical centre, superb white wines, bustling port, and colourful market. But it’s the perfect place for a beach break too!

The centrally located Plage de la Grande Mer is a family favourite due to its proximity to conveniences and on-site lifeguard. Plage du Bestouan around the corner is more for young adults who frequent the beach bar, whereas Plage de l’Arène is beloved for its natural beauty. Along the coast, you’ll also find locals with their towels draped over every rocky surface and throwing themselves into the impossibly blue sea.

If you’re up for a walk (or a paddle), several of the calanque beaches are within reach too. Head to Port Pin to swim in the beautiful and serene narrow inlet, or hike a little further to the breath-taking Calanque d’En Vau beach, which sits between towering cliffs. Keep in mind that in Cassis, beaches are mostly pebbles rather than sand, but you’ll find plenty more activities to keep you occupied if you can’t build sandcastles.

Swimming is a dream in the calm Mediterranean water, and pedalos and kayaks are available to explore further. Stay at La Demeure Insoupçonnée if travelling with kids, or the luxurious Les Roches Blanches for an unbeatable seaside location.

Calvi in Corsica, France

The port town of Calvi is located in the north east of Corsica. It has its own airport just outside the town so it is a great destination for families who’d prefer not to hire a car on holiday. There’s a long sandy beach stretching six kilometres from the town. Gently shelving, the beach is perfect for little ones, and the town meanwhile offers plenty of history for those seeking a spot of culture.

Calvi is dominated by its 13th century citadel which sits on a headland, surrounded by impregnable stone walls, overlooking the harbour. The fortified town is a joy to explore – narrow cobblestone streets squeeze between the shops and houses, many of them leading visitors to the cathedral which sits at the highest point of the citadel. Down at the harbour, the tree-lined promenade backed by plenty of cafes in which to enjoy a coffee or an ice cream.

Calvi has a little train which trundles along the coast to L’Ile Rousse – this becomes extremely popular in the peak summer months so consider visiting in June or September with pre-schoolers or perhaps at May half term if you’re travelling with school age children.

Llafranc, Costa Brava, Spain

View of Llanfranc on the Costa Brava in Spain
Costa Brava, image by Falco from Pixabay

We visited Llafranc for a day during a holiday on the Costa Brava when our two boys were toddlers. The town has everything you need for a simple seaside holiday. There’s a good stretch of sand and behind the beach is a tree-lined promenade backed by restaurants and cafes. It is relatively peaceful and there isn’t any excessive tourism development in the area, perfect if you’re looking for a relaxing base from which to explore this interesting part of Spain.

There are lots of great beaches all along the stretch of coast either side of Llfranc. Within walking distance is neighbouring Calella de Palafrugell. One of our favourite beaches close by was Aiguablava but no doubt you’ll find your own favourite – there are so many to choose from. Slightly inland is the main town of Palafrugell where an excellent carnival is held in May – perfect if you’re visiting the Costa Brava at half term.

My favourite villa company, Vintage Travel, has a good range of villas in the area around Llafranc but if you’d like to be able to fall out of your hotel room and onto the beach, there are a couple of good value family friendly properties to choose from. We enjoyed lunch at Hotel Terramar which sits right on the seafront and has family rooms sleeping up to four. Slightly up the hill from the beach, Terralet Hostal is a B&B with triple rooms and rooms which interconnect – along with yoga classes and a cheap price tag.

Conil de la Frontera, Costa de la Luz, Spain

Conil de la Frontera beach town in Spain
Conil de la Frontera beach

Recommended by Linn Haglund of Brainy Backpackers

The quaint beach town of Conil de la Frontera is one of the most underrated beach towns in Spain with a fine sanded beach that stretches as far as the eye can see.

The white fishing village is full of history and you can walk the historical route of the town and see everything there is from the town’s oldest building, Torre de Guzmán, to museums and beautiful churches. You can also walk through green space in Atalaya Park which smells of wonderful pine trees.

There are a lot of things to do in Conil de la Frontera for active travellers as well. This coastline boasts some of the finest beaches in Spain and you can go kayaking up and down the coast or even take surf lessons. Go for a walk along the boardwalk on top of the cliffs that take you all the way to La Fontanilla Beach, one of the most beautiful in walking distance from town.

If you want to explore even more spectacular beaches, take the drive to Calas de Roche, a series of breath-taking coves of secluded sandy beaches only reached by sets of steep stairs. You’ll need to park by the road and walk through the forest until you get to the craggy rocks overlooking the Mediterranean.

Close to Conil, is El Palmar – a more purpose built resort town. I’m giving it a quick mention here as it has some really good family friendly accommodation. Check out Andalucian Hideaways which has a selection of villas with shared and private pools, within walking distance of the beach. Note, there’s no shelter from the wind at El Palmar – this is the place to come for windsurfing, surfing and all other wind-related water sports.

Taormina in Sicily, Italy

Taormina one of the best beach towns in Europe
Taormina with Mount Etna in the background

Impossibly busy in the summer months but impossible to resist, Taormina is without doubt one of the most captivating beach towns in Europe. Set high up above the Mediterranean Taormina has views not only of the coast but also of smouldering Mount Etna.

Although Taormina is not directly on the beach, you won’t need a car to reach the sea. There’s a cable car from the town down to the coastal road where you can access steps down to the beach. The beach is shingle and pebble with rocky sections and the water is beautifully clear. There’s a little island nature reserve – Isola Bella – which can be reached via a narrow pebble path from the beach. In high season the cable car can get quite busy but there are plenty of buses plying the short distance down to the coast.

There’s a range of places to eat by the beach and we picked up buckets (no need for spades) from a little gift shop. Although we visited in April I managed a quick swim in the sea – chilly but refreshing!

Back in Taormina, highlights include the Ancient Greek amphitheatre -originally built by the Greeks but improved upon by the Romans – which has incredible views over the coast and the volcano. It’s still used today for music events, Elton John was playing during one of my visits. Taormina is a wonderful town to simply wander through. Piazza IX Aprile and Corso Umberto are both fun for people watching and there are some very picturesque cafes in which to while away an afternoon.

If you can, visit Taormina in late spring or autumn. Both seasons offer warm weather, but have fewer crowds than the summer months. The sea is warmer in the autumn.

Where to stay in Taormina: my recommendation

We stayed in the centrally located two bedroom apartment I Naviganti through AirBnB, it had an incredible roof terrace where we had breakfast each morning, admiring the view.

Cefalu in Sicily, Italy

boats on the beach at Cefalu in Sicily
Cefalu in Sicily

Cafalu is the perfect destination for an easy bucket and spade family seaside holiday in Sicily. This little beach town on the north coast of Sicily is just an hour from the capital Palermo by train.

Sitting behind Cefalu’s sandy beach is a delightful medieval town crowned by a UNESCO Norman cathedral. Even if medieval churches aren’t your thing, it’s worth peeping inside the cathedral to admire the Byzantine mosaics which cover the apse.

Mother nature sometimes has a hand in creating the perfect defensive position for us humans. In Cefalu’s case it’s La Rocca, a big chunk of rock which looms over the town. The Arabs, who occupied Sicily over a thousand years ago, built a citadel on La Rocca but unfortunately this didn’t prevent the Normans from taking hold of Cefalu in 1061. Visitors today can walk up the many steps to take in the views over the town from the summit – just make sure you set off early to avoid the heat, it’s a bit of a slog.

As with Taormina, Cefalu gets pretty busy in the summer. Visit if you can in late spring, not only will you be rewarded with fewer visitors and cheaper prices, you also have the option of hopping in a car and driving into the nearby Madonie Mountains which will be covered with spring flowers. And don’t worry, down on the coast it will be pretty hot by May.

Some of my friends visited Cefalu with their young twins and raved about Hotel Le Calette. It’s a luxurious hotel set in spacious grounds next to the beach just outside the town centre. For something at the cheaper end of the spectrum, I love the sound of Turismo Rurale, an agriturismo a little further out of the centre. It sounds heavenly! If you’d rather be in the middle of things, there are some good apartments available through AirBnB.

More on Sicily: check out my guide to the best beaches in Sicily

Tropea in Calabria, Italy

Church on rocky island at Tropea in Italy
Tropea in Calabria

I love Calabria. Along with neighbouring Puglia, Calabria has some of the best beaches in Italy. Italians flock here in the summer and it’s easy to see why – there are rocky coves, long sandy beaches and the sea is perfect for snorkelling. I have great memories of spending hours in the sea in Calabria when I was a student in Italy over 20 years ago.

Although the region has always been quite impoverished there are a handful of lovely beach towns to explore. Tropea and Scilla are the most appealing.

Tropea balances on the clifftops of the Tyrrhenian coast midway between the airport at Lamezia and the region’s capital Reggio di Calabria. Tropea offers mesmerising views of the sea and on a clear day, you can see all the way to the Aeolian Islands.

My perfect day in Tropea would start with a morning coffee in Piazza Ercole – perfect for people watching in the morning sunshine. I’d then do a spot of shopping on Corso Vittorio Emanuele before heading down to the coast for lunch. Tropea is famed for its sweet red onions so I’d definitely have a salad. The region is also well known for its chillis so I’d probably have a spicy pizza too – topped with Calabrian nduja sausage. I’d then spend the afternoon at the beach before returning to town for an evening passeggiata – perhaps pausing for an ice cream or an aperitivo – before finding a little trattoria for dinner.

Where to stay in Calabria: my recommendations

A short drive from Tropea is the family-friendly villa complex of La Conchiglia. I think it’s been updated since I last visited but I can confirm that you’ll find self catering accommodation, grounds for kids to run around in, swimming pools and a restaurant. It’s also a short walk to a sandy beach – so that pretty much ticks all the boxes for a family holiday.

If you don’t mind staying a little further inland, there’s a really lovely agriturismo up in the hills near Lamezia. It’s about 30 minutes from the beaches but I think the location, the food and the hospitality is definitely a good trade off. Le Carolee is surrounded by olive groves and it has a swimming pool to keep the kids happy. Grown ups, meanwhile, will be more than happy with the incredible views over the hills to the coast. When I visited Le Carolee I had a simple dish of pasta and tomatoes but it was one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in all my visits to Italy.

Find out more about Le Carolee

Santa Teresa di Gallura in Sardinia, Italy

Rocky cove in Sardinia
Cala Spinosa Santa Teresa di Gallura, Sardinia

Recommended by Claudia Tavani from Strictly Sardinia

Santa Teresa di Gallura, on the northwest coast of Sardinia, is one of the prettiest beach towns on the island, home to a number of gorgeous beaches and a great place to explore the surroundings. As it is in the heart of the Gallura region, famous for the production of Vermentino – one of Sardinia’s most acclaimed wines – you will find a number of wineries that are excellent for wine tasting. 

But if you are visiting in the summer months, there is little doubt that Santa Teresa di Gallura is quite the happening place. Easily reached from the centre of town, Rena Bianca is one of the prettiest urban beaches you can imagine. A family friendly place thanks to the fine sand and shallow waters, a trail on its right will take you to a panoramic point from where you can enjoy a beautiful sunset. 

Yet, the best sunset in the area is that from Capo Testa, a promontory at a short driving distance from town, and from where you can access the gorgeous Cala Spinosa, a tiny pebbly and rocky cove that is hard to reach (you need to hike down a steep trail) but is worth every effort. Rena Majore, at about 10 minutes drive out of town, is another beautiful sandy beach perfect for families. 

Lastly, Santa Teresa di Gallura is a great starting point for day trips to the Lavezzi Archipelago, off the coast of Corsica on the other side of Bonifacio Strait. 

The best place to stay in town is Hotel Canne Al Vento, a family run small hotel with lovely rooms, scrumptious breakfast located close to the centre of town.

Hvar, Dalmatian Coast, Croatia

View from the sea of Hvar harbour in Croatia
The harbour of Hvar

Recommended by Ella from Many More Maps

If you’re looking for an unforgettable and unique beach town in Europe, it doesn’t get much better than Hvar Town on the island of Hvar in Croatia! Hvar Town has been an up-and-coming destination for international travellers for a few years now, and it’s clear to see why – it has amazing local wine, a fun party scene, and some of the clearest blue sea you’ve ever seen!

To get to Hvar Town you’ll have to get the ferry from Split, which takes just a little over one hour. Many people visit Hvar on a day trip from Split, but it’s just as popular with guests staying overnight or even a few days there. There is a huge range of accommodation in the town including hostels, Airbnbs and guesthouses.

Hvar Town is hugely popular with families, backpackers, and Croatia’s rich and famous – it’s a real mix of visitors from all walks of life. One of the best things to do is to walk up to the town fortress for incredible views of the town and the surrounding islands. It’s also great fun to hire a sunbed and hang out on the beach for the day – but remember that all of the beaches are pebbly.

On a visit to Hvar Town you absolutely have to pack your swimsuit and towel, as the sea is the bluest and clearest you’ll ever see. Plus, it can get so hot in summer that taking a dip becomes a necessity!

Sarandë, Albania

Sarande one of the best beach towns in Bulgaria
Sarande credit Laurentiu Morariu on Unsplash resized

Recommended by Brown Boy Travels

Sarandë is located the the southern tip of Albania. This small beach town is perfect for a family holiday and offers amazing value for money.

The easiest way to get to Sarandë is to land in Corfu and take a high speed boat which takes 30 minutes. Alternatively, it is approximately four hours by car from Tirana international airport.

The town itself is small and easily walkable. It has a public beach which is made of small pebbles with a nice promenade with some good restaurants to enjoy the evening breeze.

Sarandë also offers great day trips including the many beaches on the Albanian Riviera between Sarandë and Vlore but the nearest and most beautiful are the beaches of the islands of Ksamil. Another great day trip is to the Blue Eye (Syr I Kalter) which is a beautiful freshwater river in picturesque settings.

Sarandë offers something for the entire family and if you go slightly off season, not only will it save you a lot of money, you will also get some amazing places just to yourselves.

Check Booking.com for accommodation in Sarandë

Ksamil, Albania

green island of Ksamil in Albania
Islands of Ksamil in Albania

Recommended by Diana from The Globetrotting Detective

Ksamil is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. It’s located on the Albanian Ionian Sea Coast as part of the Butrint National Park, 14 kilometres south of the coastal city, Sarandë. It’s a tiny village boasting friendly locals and breath-taking beaches.

Its postcard-perfect beaches have always been quite popular among Albanians but foreign tourists have just started to discover this hidden gem in recent years. You can easily get to Ksamil from Sarandë cheaply by bus, taxi or boat.

Ksamil offers beaches with fine golden-whitish sand and crystal clear and dreamy turquoise water. On the top of that, Ksamil has four lush green uninhabited islands. You can swim to the closer ones or take a boat or canoe to get to any of the four little islands.  

On the beach, you will find several restaurants where you can enjoy tasty Mediterranean cuisine with fresh seafood and a wonderful view.

You can book your accommodation (a hotel room or an entire apartment) either in Ksamil or in Sarande. In Ksamil, Hotel Mira Mare, and in Sarandë, an apartment house, called Seaside Apartment, are excellent options. From the terrace of these hotels, you can enjoy mind-blowing and spectacular views over the Ionian Sea. Generally, Albanian hotels are all family-friendly.

Naxos Town, Cycladic Isles, Greece

One of the best beach towns in Greece: Naxos Town
Naxos Town, photo by Evangelos Mpikakis on Unsplash

There are so many Greek islands, many of them with incredible beaches. How do you choose which one to visit? It’s no wonder Greek Island hopping has become so popular and the Cycladic group of islands, south east of Athens, work particularly well for this pastime.

The largest of the Cycladic Isles, Naxos is a little less accessible than its famous siblings Santorini and Mykonos – and all the better for it. You can fly direct from the UK to either of these neighbouring isles and hop on a ferry to Naxos. And once you arrive, you’ll be rewarded with some of the  best sandy beaches in Greece.

If you opt to stay in the island’s capital, Naxos Town or Chora as it’s also known (“chora” means town in Greek and is often the name given to the capital of an island), you’ll have maze of whitewashed lanes and blue doors to explore, somewhat packed with tourist tat nowadays but charming nonetheless. There are restaurants and cafes galore and the town’s beach is one of the biggest on the island. The beach is a huge sweep of sand which travels uninterrupted along the coast for several kilometres.

Set above the town, and visible as you approach the island by ferry is the unfinished temple Portara – literally “Big Door”. If you fancy engaging your children in a spot of Greek mythology – this is where Dionysus was said to have met Ariadne – ensure you do this in the cool of the early evening or at the crack of dawn.

There are lots of great little places to stay in Naxos Town itself but there is a property just a 10 minute drive from town which my clients used to rave about. Kavos Naxos offers everything you could need from family summer beach holiday in Greece. Choose from hotel rooms, studios, apartments and – wait for it – villas which sleep up to six. There’s a restaurant and a swimming pool (and even a gym if you want to escape from your family). Kavos Naxos is a 10 minute walk from one of the best beaches on the island – Agios Prokopios. Book early if you want to stay here.

And if you’d like a bit more information about island hopping in the Cycladic Isles, check out my post about holidays with teenagers which has more information.

Nafplio in the Peloponnese, Greece

View of Bourtzi
View of Bourtzi, Nafplio

Recommended by Roxanne from Faraway Worlds

Visiting the beautiful coastal town of Nafplio is one of the highlights when travelling through Greece.  Only two hours’ drive from Athens, it’s an easy getaway, but feels like a different world. It’s a great base for exploring the region with the theatre of Epidaurus and ancient cities of Corinth and Mycenae an easy drive away.

Often called the most romantic destination in Greece (move over Santorini), Nafplio is the original capital of the modern Greek state and has lovely Venetian architecture, beautiful Ottoman buildings and views across the Saronic Gulf. One of the most striking landmarks in Nafplio is the Bourtzi, located on a tiny island in the harbour. Built by the Venetians in the 15th century it was first a castle, then was turned into a prison, a hotel and a tourism office for the Greek government. Nowadays, it functions as an events and concert space in the summer.

You can easily walk through the Old Town, complete with narrow streets, secret squares and beautiful mansions. You can take your pick of restaurants, bars and cafes and there’s a wide range of accommodation from budget friendly rooms to boutique hotels and luxurious villas. Leaving the historic centre, take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront and soon enough you’ll get to the nearby beaches, mostly pebbly until you get to the long sandy beach of Karathona.  

Accommodation ideas in Nafplio

Myrina, Lemnos, Aegean Sea in Greece

The harbour of Myrina on the island of Lemnos Greece
Myrina, Limnos

Recommended by Anda from Travel for a While

Greece is not short of beaches or charming towns, but finding everything in one place is not very common. One of the large islands in the North Aegean is Lemnos, a volcanic island with a very diverse landscape. It’s one of the lesser-known Greek islands, so if you’re looking for a quiet vacation with your family, Lemnos might be the perfect destination.

Myrina, Lemnos island’s capital town is a small place, flanked by two waterfronts. The centre of Myrina looks somewhat like the picturesque Plaka neighbourhood in Athens. It is full of shops, coffee shops, and breakfast places.

The marina, overlooked by a Byzantine castle, has plenty of fish restaurants and traditional taverns, a very colourful and vivid area. On the other side of Myrina Castle, a promenade full of restaurants is the perfect place for an evening meal by the sea.

You can find several sandy beaches close to Myrina. Platy, Thanos, or Evgatis are some of the best beaches in the area.

A good place to stay is Mark Warner Lemnos Village Resort Hotel, about two kilometres from Myrina. It is on a sandy beach and it offers extensive activities, so you can keep the whole family entertained. Of all the “club hotel” type of properties on the market, this is one of the better ones. If you like the idea of having activities included in the price of your holiday but you’re not keen on being stuck in a resort for the entire time, this property is a good compromise as you can walk into the town for a bit of authentic Greece.

Beach towns in Northern Europe

If you’d like a change from the UK, but you don’t fancy the scorching heat of the Mediterranean, some of our Northern European neighbours are definitely worth considering.

Tisvildeleje, Denmark

Tisvildeleje, beautiful beach town in Denmark
Tisvildeleje credit 11thearlofmar at English Wikipedia

Recommended by Maria from Maptrekking

Denmark might not come to mind immediately when you think of an adorable European beach town, but the quaint village of Tisvilde will surely surprise you. Located on the north coast of island Zealand, Tisvilde is a charming coastal town that is perfect for a slow travel holiday far from the usual Danish tourist destination, Copenhagen.

Perfect for a family getaway, Tisvilde used to be a fishermen’s village but is now known more for its clean stretches of white sand and picturesque dunes. The fishermen’s cottages have now been transformed into lovely summer residences. Stay in a cute summer home overlooking the sea with beautiful views and easy access to the sandy, child-friendly beach.

Over the last few centuries, the beach sand was a serious force of nature that kept burying farms and destroying any kind of civilization from living nearby. To combat this, different tree species were planted to start a forest that is now Tisvilde Hegn, the oldest plantation in Denmark. This beautiful forest supports some rare flora, fauna, and bird species, making it a perfect outing for any nature-loving family.

Tisvilde has plenty of family activities besides the beach and forest. There is an outdoor summer music festival called ‘Musik i Lejet’ and a summer flea market held every Saturday where you can find unique knick-knacks. Make sure to learn about the ancient healing legend surrounding Helene Spring, one of the most famous springs in Denmark. History lovers should visit Tibirke Church that was built on an ancient holy place.

Check AirBnB for seaside cabins in Tisvilde.

Etretat in Normandy, France

White cliffs of Etretat in Normandy, France
White cliffs of Etretat in Normandy

Recommended by Elisa from France Bucket List

Etretat is one of the prettiest beach towns in France. It is located in Normandy, in Northern France, and you are going to love it.

Etretat is on the Alabaster Coast, well known for its impressive cliffs and fishing villages. This is also the Impressionists’ land – the artists tried to capture the coast’s light and beauty in some of their most famous paintings.

Etretat was one of Monet’s favourite places, and he spent many days painting the town and its beach from the top of cliffs at sunrise or sunset. Thanks to Monet, Etretat is world-famous, and every year it receives many visitors trying to get a glimpse of Monet’s impressions in Etretat.

The town has some traditional Norman houses and a couple of pretty streets great for a stroll and shopping, but Etretat’s main highlight is the sand beach with its white cliffs. There is a sea promenade that runs parallel to the beach, but you need to climb up to the little chapel Notre Dame de la Garde for the best views.

When you visit Etretat, don’t forget to try the fish and seafood. There are some restaurants by the beach, and they always propose the last catch, paired with some wine or cider.

Zandvoort in the Netherlands

Child flying kite on Zandvoort beach in the Netherlands
Zandvoort in the Netherlands

Recommended by Lisa from Flip Flop Globetrotters

Zandvoort is a Dutch beach town on the North Sea Coast. It’s easy to reach by public transport and located close to the Dutch capital Amsterdam and kid-friendly city Haarlem. Especially in the summer it’s a lively town with lots of cafes and beach restaurants. 

Zandvoort and nearby Bloemendaal have nice sandy beaches that are perfect for building big sandcastles. There are always a few waves which makes it a good place for body boarding or skim boarding and when there’s more wind, you’ll see a lot of kite surfers. Young kids will especially enjoy playing in the shallow pools that appear when the tide goes out. At beach pavilion Thalassa (beach exit Barnaart 18) there’s a fun playground with a large climbing structure and slides. 

Zandvoort beach is part of National Park Zuid-Kennemerland, which also includes the nearby dune area. This area has amazing biodiversity and a lot of fun places to explore with kids. Rent bikes in Zandvoort and discover the numerous biking and walking trails in the dunes.

If you enjoy the beach, staying in the town itself certainly has its advantages. There are plenty of accommodation options, ranging from nice Airbnb apartments in Zandvoort and holiday parks with beach cabins to luxury hotels. In the summer months it can get very busy, so make sure to book well in advance!

If you like Center Parcs but you’re not keen on the prices during the UK school holidays, you’ll be pleased to here there’s one in Zandvoort. It’s worth comparing the cost of travel there and the accommodation price with one of our UK Center Parcs.

Sopot in Poland

The coast near the beach town of Sopot in Poland
Sopot in Poland

Recommended by Agnes from the Van Escapes

Sopot is one of the most beautiful seaside towns in Poland, on the Baltic Sea. Located on the Gdańsk Coast, between Gdańsk and Gdynia, with which it forms the Tri-City. This makes the town easy to reach on foot or by public transport to large port cities. Sopot is also a health resort.

The town has the longest wooden pedestrian pier in Europe, over 500 metres long. The beaches are beautifully sandy and stretch for miles. It is an ideal place for a family holiday. From the historic lighthouse in Sopot, there is a wonderful view of the sea and the city. Besides, there is a wide choice of restaurants and bars with great food. Furthermore, you will find exceptional cafes with delicious desserts and there are some good souvenir shops too. The city offers many attractions for children including a modern aquapark and a rope park.

From Sopot, you can reach both Gdańsk and Gdynia by the beach. Due to the cliff’s attractiveness in Orłowo, it is worth going for a walk to Gdynia. On the way, you pass the pier in Orłowo and the marina of fishing boats. Here you can buy great smoked fish as well as fish skewers and other delicacies. A family walk will take about three hours with stops. It is worth seeing the Sea Aquarium and Museum ship “ORP Blyskawica” (Lightning) in Gdynia. The Tri-City also has an excellent network of bicycle trails, perfect for an active family holiday.

Sopot has a large selection of attractive private apartments at affordable prices that can be booked on Airbnb. Furthermore, there is a great selection of hotels. The most famous and one of the most expensive, is the Grand Hotel, lying right next to the wide sandy beach and the pier. It is a historic building in the Art Nouveau style, built in the years 1924–1927.

Look for apartments in Sopot through AirBnB.

Šventoji in Lithuania

People on the beach at Šventoji in Lithuania
The beach at Šventoji

Recommdned by Leta from The Nerdy Me

Šventoji is a very small town on the Baltic coast near the more popular resort of Palanga in Lithuania. The Lithuanian coastline is a hidden gem among European destinations, so it still has its charm. Because the majority of tourists and locals decide to spend their summer holidays in Palanga, Šventoji is the quieter and more relaxing beach destination.

Being a hidden gem, Šventoji is much loved by locals. The beach itself is open all year round and perfect for a relaxing family break. There is a soft and natural-looking white sand beach with beautiful dunes. The best part is that the beach is located only about 10 minutes away from the main accommodation spots. So you don‘t have to worry about walking long-distances or even driving a car.

The main street of Šventoji is filled with small cafes, restaurants and shops in which you can buy souvenirs or any beach necessities. As for entertainment, apart from the beach, you can enjoy inline skating, biking, horse riding or even spend an afternoon in the small amusement park of the town.

The most popular and charming accommodation options are these small wooden houses or simple rooms that you can rent from locals. They usually have all the amenities that you may need and the prices vary from 10 to 100 Euros per day. If you‘re looking for a more luxurious experience, you can expect to pay a bit more. Also, if you like camping, you can stay at a nearby Šventoji camping site for less than 5 Euros per day.

Check AirBnB for accommodation options in Šventoji.

European beach towns on the Atlantic Coast

I spent some great family holidays on the French Atlantic coast when I was a child. Miles of sandy coastline, impressive waves but also plenty of sheltered spots make this a good choice for holidaymakers looking for reliably warm weather without the heat of the Med. If you’re looking for the best beach towns in Europe for families, some of these destinations are definitely worth considering.

Ploumanac’h in Brittany, France

one of the best beach towns in Brittany Ploumanach
Ploumanac’h in Brittany

The seaside village of Ploumanac’h and its slightly larger neighbour Perros-Guirec sit on of the north coast of Brittany. Also known as the Côte de Granit Rose, or Pink Granite Coast, this area is famed for its unusual pink rocks.

Ploumanac’h has a beautiful sandy cove and there are countless other beaches close by along the coast. There are some great coastal walks and I know my kids would absolutely love to clamber all over the famous pink rocks. There are lots of sheltered inlets around this stretch of coast with little beaches perfect for families.

Ploumanac’h is small with a fairly limited selection of accommodation. Nearby Perros-Guirec has a wider range of places to stay and things to do but Ploumanac’h is perfect if you just need a beach and a peaceful holiday.

There are lots of good campsites in this part of Brittany – and if you’re not keen on staying in a tent, fear not, there are plenty of lodges and chalets to choose from.

Le Bois Plage, Ile de Re, France

Best beach towns in Europe: St Martin Ile de Re
Not far from Le Bois Plage: St Martin Ile de Re, credit Christoph Maurer from Pixabay

Perfect for families – safe cycle paths, good surfing and plenty of sandy beaches – Ile de Re is a great summer holiday destination. The island is around 20 kilometres long and five kilometres wide and reached via a bridge from La Rochelle on the mainland.

Obviously summertime can get pretty busy on Il de Re but many of the tourists head home in mid-August so save your holiday to the end of summer if you can.

Although you’re never far from a beach or a town in Ile de Re, if you literally want the best of both worlds Le Bois Plage en Re is a good bet. This village has a range of shops and a good market and you’re within walking distance of Plage des Gollandières – a great big stretch of sand.

There are several hotels, villas and apartments in Le Bois Plage but if you’re travelling with kids you might prefer to stay on a campsite – there’s a good range close by.

Saint Jean de Luz, south west France

One of the best beach towns in France St Jean de Luz
St Jean de Luz Photo by Alexis Gerbaud on Unsplash

Positioned midway between the town of Biarritz and the Spanish border, Saint Jean de Luz is a particularly appealing French Basque beach town with broad appeal.

Saint Jean de Luz sits in a sheltered bay offering its visitors a choice of four beaches. If you’re visiting with young children the main beach Grande Plage offers safe swimming from its sandy shoreline. The other three beaches are a little more exposed and those to the north of the bay – Erromardie and Lafitenia – are good surfing spots. Water sports are a popular pastime in St Jean de Luz so if surfing’s not your thing, there are plenty of other water-based acitivities to keep you busy.

Back on dry land, St Jean de Luz is a good beach town to explore by bike with plenty of cycle lanes and bike hire shops. The harbour is still a working port with a strong fishing industry which is reflected in the many fish restaurants. Saint Jean de Luz is perfect for idle wandering with an interesting seafront promenade lined with wooden Basque houses and the backdrop of the Pyrenees in the distance.

Baiona in Galicia, Spain

Beach on the Cies islands
Cies Island beach in Galicia, credit Juanjogo from Pixabay

I am really keen to visit Galicia – it’s Spain but without the extreme heat. The region sees quite a bit of rain so it’s very green compared to the rest of the country, and a lot cooler. The coastline looks incredible – rugged, hilly and with some excellent stretches of sandy beach to choose from – many of them on the region’s islands.

If you’re looking for a characterful seaside town in Galicia, I think Baiona looks like a good bet. Surrounded by defensive stone walls, Baiona has a medieval centre with narrow streets full of enticing tapas bars. There’s a good selection of sandy beaches within walking distance of the town centre but many visitors prefer to hop on a ferry to the Cies Islands – Rodas Beach is the most famous stretch of sand in the region.

A replica of Christopher Columbus’s ship La Pinta sits in the port of Baiona – this is where the explorer first docked on his return from the Americas in the 15th century.

One of my favourite villa companies is Vintage Travel – I’ve used them for clients and for my own holidays. They have some really lovely looking properties in Galicia – some within walking distance of a beach and all with a private pool. You’ll get a lot more for your money in Galicia than in a similar location in other parts of Spain.

Peniche, Silver Coast, Portugal

One of the best beach towns in Portugal Peniche
The beach at Peniche in Portugal

Recommended by Milene from Surf and Unwind

Often overlooked by those travelling to Portugal, Peniche is a lovely fishing town located on a peninsula along the Silver Coast, just over an hour drive north of Lisbon. Although small, Peniche is actually fairly spread out.

The old town, where you can find the main historical sites, sits in between two main beaches, Baleal and Supertubos. Baleal is the name of a small rugged headland that sticks out between two sandy white beaches, Baleal Sul and Baleal Norte. Due to their unique geographic position, these two beaches point in different directions and the conditions will generally change between them even though they’re next to each other. Whilst one side will have the perfect waves for surfers or those learning how to surf, the other side will have calm waters which are perfect for families with kids.

Supertubos beach is also another long stretch of unspoiled sandy coastline, the area is more developed, has more accommodation options and is ideal for those looking to stay minutes away from the main shops as well as the beach.

Other than having a lot of fun in the sun, ensure you visit Sportagua Waterpark. Also worth a visit are the uneven rock formations at Cabo Carvoeiro and the Berlengas Islands, a UNESCO’s World Biosphere Reserve. Or why not learn more about the traditional lacework at the Museu de Renda de Bilros while you’re in town.

Check Booking.com for accommodation in Peniche.

Tavira in the Algarve, Portugal

Cobblestone street in Tavira Portugal
Tavira, credit DDZphoto from Pixabay

Recommended by Cath from Passports and Adventures

Tavira, in the East Algarve, is a small, traditional Portugal beach town which is quite different from its western counterparts of Vilamoura or Albufeira. While it might not necessarily be thought of as a beach town, its beach is one of the biggest draws for visitors and families during the summer months.

The beach of Tavira is located on an island which is part of the Ria Formosa Natural Park and is only accessible by boat – which only adds to the fun for kids. Unspoiled miles of sandy beach are what awaits. There are a few small restaurants and cafes near the spot where you alight the boat, along with toilet facilities. During summer you can rent a parasol and sunbeds, and the water is pleasant and warm enough to swim in.

Within Tavira there is a small science centre for kids (although everything is in Portuguese), a small tourist train which meanders through the town, and a castle and camera obscura which are worth visiting. There are over 30 churches in the town and the most centrally located, Igreja da Misericórdia, is beautiful inside and has a small museum off the side of it.

Despite a small shopping mall on the edge of town, Tavira is quite unspoiled and is a beautiful beach town for families who want to get away from hustle and bustle, and who want to experience a more traditional Portugal. It would make a great place to end a road trip in Portugal with kids.

There are a few hotels in Tavira, the two Vila Gale Hotels are the best – Albacora and Tavira, and there are holiday apartments and homes which can be booked through AirBnB.

Off the beaten track beach towns in Europe

Obviously, one person’s off the beaten track destination is another’s well trodden path – so apologies if you don’t agree with the following suggestions. Some of these ideas are perfect for families looking to escape the summer crowds while others are better if you are able to travel outside the peak summer weeks. Some of these destinations are the best beach towns in Europe which I have enjoyed exploring.

Hugh Town in the Scilly Isles, England

One of the best beach towns in Europe View of the sea from Hugh Town in the Scilly Isles
Hugh Town Isles of Scilly

If you fancy getting off the beaten path on your next beach holiday, I urge you to try the Scilly Isles. The capital of the Scillies is Hugh Town – a truly under the radar English beach town. It’s not the easiest place to get to (see my guide to the Scilly Isles if you’d like to find out how), but once you’re there, you won’t want to leave.

Hugh Town has two beaches – town beach, which adjoins the harbour and Porthcressa, a prettier stretch of sand on the other side of the town. However, from Hugh Town you can also reach several other lovely secluded beaches on foot or by bike which you may well get all to yourselves. We visited the Isles of Scilly in the summer school holiday and we often found we were the only souls on the beaches we visited.

Unlike some of the other islands in the Scillies, St Mary’s – where Hugh Town is located – has a good range of restaurants and cafes. Hugh Town has plenty of shops and there’s lots places to stay. We hired a house just steps from Porthcressa beach – 14 Silver Street. And the best bit? No car – you can’t bring your car to the Scillies and there’s no need to either. Everything is reachable on foot, by bike or by boat. If you really need more than two wheels, you can hire a golf buggy.

There’s a range of self catering properties in the Scilly Isles available through AirBnB.

Llanes in Asturias, Spain

Not sure whether you’re after mountains or seaside on your next summer holiday? Well, in Asturias you can have both. This region I n the Spanish north west is packed with incredible scenery – hundreds of sandy coves hidden in the rugged coastline and inland is the mighyt Picos de Europa with peaks rising over 2,500 metres.

If you’re a small child, you might prefer to stay at the seaside. And if you’re anything like my children, you’ll want to make a beeline for a beach called “Poo”. Fear not, parents, this is a pristine sandy beach with not a plop in sight.

Llanes is an excellent base for exploring this hidden part of Spain – particularly its coast. Aside from the town’s beaches – of which there are two (both sandy) – there’s a multitude of other seaside spots within a short drive – some sheltered for little ones and wilder areas perfect for surfing. Aside from Poo, one of the most famous beaches is Gulpiyuri, “the beach without a sea”, a tiny little cove found 100 metres inland. The beach has been created by a collapsed cave and the seawater reaches the beach via a natural tunnel – the sea is not visible from the beach. Gulpiyuri is reachable via a one kilometre footpath through fields and is a protected National Monument.

Anyway, this is a blog post about beach TOWNS so I’d better tell you a bit about Llanes. The town is an important fishing port with a very creative take on traditional sea defences. Basque artist Agustin Ibarrola has painted huge concrete blocks in a multitude of colours and shapes to create a very cheery piece of public art.

Llanes has a decent chunk of history to keep visitors interested. Remains of a 13th century tower and city walls hint at its medieval past while its more recent history is reflected in the elegant mansions – homes which once belonged to locals who emigrated to the Americas in the 19th century and later returned with their fortunes to build grand summer residences.

Grottammare in Le Marche, Italy

One of the best beach towns in Le Marche Italy Grottammare
Grottammare in Le Marche

If you fancy an Italian beach town away from the tourist crowds, head to the Marche coast – central eastern Italy. There are many, many beach towns along the region’s never ending sandy coastline but Grottammare is one of my favourites following a particularly fun summer holiday we spent there several years ago.

Grottammare is a combo of medieval old town on the hillside and a modern resort strung out along the seafront. We had so much fun on the beach that I have to admit we never quite made it up into the hillside part of the town. Our days were spent sipping coffee whilst watching our kids frolicking in the shallow waters. We were there at the end of July, before the main Italian summer season got under way so it was still pretty quiet with just a few families and lots of Italian grandparents wading through the water with their little ones in tow. It’s a really idyllic spot – the very essence of a family friendly holiday destination.

Where to stay in Le Marche: my recommendation

We stayed inland during our trip to Le Marche in a particularly lovely Marche villa which we rented with some friends. If you’re after a villa with those romantic views of vineyards and sunflowers which typify Tuscany, but you’re not keen on the Tuscan price tag (or the hordes of tourists), Le Marche should be at the top of your list.

Want to find out more about Le Marche? I’ve written a post all about things to do in Le Marche with kids.

Noli in Liguria, Italy

Noli, one of the best beach towns in Liguria
The seaside resort of Noli, near Savona

While the Cinque Terre towns further south draw most of the international travellers to this part of Northern Italy, there are several beach towns on this stretch of coast which have been so far overlooked. One such beach town is Noli, around an hour west of Genova.

I first visited Noli around 20 years ago. We were looking for somewhere for a quick swim and some dinner before taking an overnight ferry from Savona to Corsica. Noli gave us this and plenty more. The town has a beach of coarse sand and a long promenade for evening passegiatas. From the beach there are views across the hills which are cut through by the town’s old stone walls.

The old town of Noli has narrow streets lined with seafood restaurants – we enjoyed a great meal there on our first visit. On our return trip, with our two children in tow, we opted for a pizzeria on the seafront. Despite it being August, we managed to get a table with a great view of the Med – we watched teens enjoying the late afternoon rays and leaping off a floating platform in the sea.

Our boys loved Noli, one of them loved messing around in the sea while the other joined a game of football on the sand. There is play equipment on the beach and good facilities for families.

Time to spare during lockdown? Grab a cuppa and have a read of my post about our road trip to Corsica via Noli!

Sozopol, Bulgaria

Seaside town of Sozopol in Bulgaria
Seaside town of Sozopol in Bulgaria, credit Neven Myst on Unsplash

Recommended by Steph from Big World Small Pockets

Located on Bulgaria’s beautiful Black Sea coastline, Sozopol is absolutely one of Europe’s best beach towns and an absolute must on any Bulgaria itinerary. At least with foreign tourists that is, because the Bulgarians have been in the know about this epic spot for ages and while most international travellers tend to head further north to the overrated (in my opinion) resorts around Varna, the southern coastline of Bulgaria, around Burgas, is much better and a much more local affair.

A long sandy strip with amazingly clear water and great swimming, the beaches around Sozopol are definitely family-friendly and, for those travelling long term or on a budget, there are even some wonderful camping opportunities to enjoy just beyond the dunes of this golden beach.

Getting busy and very hot in August, the best times to visit Sozopol are between May and July, as well as September and October, when the beach is quieter and can be enjoyed to the max without the crowds.

Pop-up eateries line the back of the beach in high season. Otherwise, there’s also some great places to eat in Sozopol itself, which boasts some delicious Balkans cuisine options.

A historic town, which means it’s ideal for sightseers, as well as beach go-ers, Sozopol is actually one of the oldest towns in Bulgaria and dates back to the Bronze age, although it was founded properly by the Greeks around the 7th Century BC.

Now travellers can enjoy wandering the historic streets, visiting the castle and experiencing the art festival held here each September, as well as relaxing in this wonderful coastal spot.

Horto on the Pelion Peninsula of Greece

Pelion scenery in Greece
Typical Pelion scenery credit Leontaras from Pixabay

It’s reassuring to know that there are still plenty of peaceful spots in Greece which continue to offer a traditional and uncommercialized summer holiday. The Pelion Peninsula is a mountainous region of mainland Greece which continues to remain under the radar of big holiday companies.

Around 45 kilometres from the city of Volos, Horto is a small seaside village on the coast of the sheltered Pagasetic Gulf. Horto has a pebbly beach and a good range of restaurants. There are lots of lovely walks into the surrounding hills which link up with other small settlements.

Aside from swimming in the crystal clear sea, there’s very little to “do” in this part of Greece – and that’s part of its charm. Children will enjoy a trip on the Pelion steam train which trundles through the hillsides not far from Horto. There are lots of delightful villages to explore – both inland and on the coast. Milies, Afissos and Milina are all worth a visit.

Where to stay in Horto: Diplomats Holidays

For a perfect and inexpensive family holiday, the Diplomats apartments are ideal. This collection of simply furnished studios and apartments can sleep up five guests. There’s a restaurant, tennis court and swimming pool and the complex is within walking distance of the beach and village centre.

Find out more about Diplomats Holidays

In case you are child-free and you’ve somehow stumbled across this blog post and even more unlikely, you’ve read this far down it, I have an excellent recommendation for you. Perhaps you’re a teacher and you have to travel in July or August and you don’t want to be surrounded by kids. Here’s a adults-only hotel on the Pelion Peninsula: Pounda Paou.

Nafpaktos, Corinthian Gulf in Greece

View of Bourtzi
View of Bourtzi, Nafplio

Recommended by Milos from Happy Frog Travels

Nafpaktos is one of those places you’ve never heard of, but that played an important role in European history. In 1571 the Battle of Lepanto happened here. It was a decisive victory of the Spanish Empire, Venetian Republic, and their allies against the Ottoman Empire. The famous Spanish poet Miguel Cervantes lost his hand here!

In time Nafpaktos lost its importance, and today it’s a picturesque town of almost 20,000 people. Its numerous historical layers are all around. There is an impressive Venetian Castle and Fortress, a house half-built by the Venetians and half by the Ottomans, a Mosque, and numerous historical houses. Parts of the fortress surround the city centre at the port.

Nafpaktos is a peaceful town, perfect for a family holiday. There are no hordes of tourists, no noisy bars and discos, and the overall atmosphere is relaxed. That said, there are plenty of great restaurants serving both Greek and International cuisine. Additionally, there are a couple of lively bars in the port area.

The city hosts two pebble beaches, one on each side of the port. Grobovo Beach, on the east, is relatively narrow, while Psani, on the west, is wide and less crowded. For the pickiest, there are a couple more beaches just outside of town.

*****

So, are these the best beach towns in Europe or have I missed out one of your favourites? Let me know in the comments below if there are any European beach towns which I should add to this list.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Should you click to purchase, it is at no additional cost to you, although I receive a small commission that goes towards the running of this blog.

The best beach towns in Europe
The Best European Beach Towns
European beach towns
Best beach towns in Europe
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