Personally, whenever I think of Europe, the first thing that comes to mind are churches, castles, and cobblestone streets. Okay, I lied. Wine and cheese top the list but then the rest of it stays true. For some reason, I never equated Europe with beautiful beaches. Hailing from the Philippines, a country that is full of beautiful tropical islands, I have pretty high standards when it comes to beaches.
However, after spending a few summers exploring the stunning coastline of Europe’s top beach destinations, it’s safe to say that my mind has now been changed. If you’re looking for some travel inspiration or just ideas on where to go next, here are a few of the most beautiful beaches in Europe.
Playa de las Catedrales, Spain
When the tide is low, it’s easy to see why this beach is so popular. Named as the “Beach of Cathedrals”, Playa de las Catedrales boasts on natural rock formations which are similar to the gothic arches found in churches. Located along the Galician Coast of Spain, this place has a mile-long beach which you can walk along and enjoy.
As soon as the tides go down, you can stand back and look at the natural arches, sea caves, and cliffside views that one can only dream about. While most beaches are most definitely enjoyed during the hot summer months, seeing this place during Winter has its charms as well due to the fewer number of visitors.
Zakynthos Island, Greece
Naturally, there wouldn’t be any best beaches in Europe list without featuring one of Greece’s many coastal islands. One of my top picks, Zakynthos. Not only is this beach pretty out of this world, it is also pretty iconic with its cerulean colored waters and stunning cliffside.
Surrounded by the Ionian Sea, a place was originally called Fioro di Levante due to the number of flowers that could be found on the island. Today, tourists flock to Navagio Beach or Shipwreck Cove and it’s easy to see why. Otherwise, there are also heaps of other things to see and do around the island.
Beaches in England? I know, I know, but bear with me. If you ever find yourself passing by Dorset, there is a privately owned beach property which is home to the Durdle Door, a natural limestone rock arch situated right by the ocean.
This natural rock formation is part of the Lulworth Estate and the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site but is open to the public. The beach area here is very picturesque and secluded making it an ideal cove to visit when you want to surround yourself with nature.
Related: 15 Travel Tips for Europe
Praia de Albandeira, Portugal
Although not massive in size, the natural rock formations along with the clear calm waters make this an ideal place to visit. Sit back, relax, swim, or wander near the beaches’ little cafe. To access the beach, you go down this long staircase, making it an ideal place to get away.
Cala Goloritze, Italy
If you’re looking for a place with untouched beaches, Sardinia Italy is where you should go. One of the most picturesque beaches in the region is Cala Goloritze, an untouched paradise which you can’t reach by car or boat.
To get here, people trek for about an hour or so until you reach this white sandy beach surrounded by turquoise blue waters and stunning coves. The snorkeling here is incredible and is considered one of the best beaches in Sardinia to swim, suntan, and snorkel. Definitely, a must if you’re in the area!
Editor’s Note: Heading to Europe soon? Check out our full Packing List Guide for Europe to make sure you don’t forget anything
Cala Macarella Beach, Spain
Located on the Balearic Island of Menorca, Spain is the beautiful Cala Macarella Beach which is a cove surrounded by white sand and turquoise waters. Popular amongst beachgoers, expect this place to be crowded during the summer months with boats and people, all trying to enjoy a little slice of paradise. The ocean is made up of various shades of blue with waters that are clear as day.
Black Sand Beach (Reynisfjara), Iceland
Going off on a different tangent, if you’re looking for something unique, the beaches of Iceland are definitely a must visit. Attracting heaps of visitors, the Black Sand Beach or Reynisfjara in the Southern Coast is regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire country due to its striking black sand. Featuring large cliffs and a pyramid-shaped basalt column, this place is nothing short of picturesque.
Zlatni Rat Beach, Croatia
When I first saw a photo of Zlatni Rat Beach, my jaw literally dropped. Little did I know that Croatia would be home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. Apart from the fact that it is absolutely drop dead gorgeous, its unique triangle like shape also adds to its uniqueness.
I also love the fact that unlike most beachside destinations where the trees have been cleared in order to utilize the space, the triangle patch of trees adds character to the whole place.
If you are travelling to Croatia you can also check out the Zadar beaches which are also beautiful!
Cala Salada, Spain
Located in the ever so popular party islands of Ibiza, the Cala Salada Beach is a popular amongst local residents, private boat owners, and tourists. White soft sand, rocky cliffs, and the clearest waters possible make it a vision of paradise.
While the beach itself isn’t too big, especially when the tides are high, swimming in the turquoise waters is pretty hard to resist. Here, you can bask the day away, go cliff jumping, or simply just enjoy cooling off in its shallow waters.
Resources: Where to Stay in Spain
Elafonissi Beach, Greece
Naturally, another Grecian beach is only apt (and choosing amongst its many beautiful ones is no easy task.) Located on the Southwestern side of Crete is this magical island with sandy beaches in various shades of white and pink.
You can reach the island on foot as the waters are naturally shallow. If you do go, you will be rewarded with a mile long stretch of sand with natural coves and interesting rock formations.
The Gower Peninsula, Wales
Now I might be biased as my partner is from Wales but it seems that everyone else agrees with me as the beaches in Wales have been named as some of the best in the UK. The Gower, in particular, is a coastal cliffside paradise just a short drive away from Swansea, one of Wales’ biggest cities.
Due to its size, this 19 mile-long Peninsula has a bit of everything for everyone. Long sandy beaches, waves for surfing, as well as coasteering for the adrenaline junkies who want to make the most out of their rocky natural landscape. If you have the chance, head here during the summer months and fall in love with everything this long coastal stretch can offer.
Caprera Island, Italy
Located in Sardinia, Caprera Island is another popular beachside destination to visit and rightly so as it offers some pretty stunning views. Located off the archipelago of La Maddalena, you will find Caprera Island, one of the seven large islands and many little islets which make up this magical part of Italy.
Between the clear blue waters, and dreamy rocky land formations, this place is reminiscent of the Carribean. Rugged, untamed, and pristine!
Hopefully, this article has inspired you to start discovering more of what Europe can offer because as you have seen, there is more to it than iconic landmarks, historical churches, and quaint villages. Full of beautiful beaches, coastal towns, and unique landscapes, Europe really is a destination that has it all.