Top 10 Best Beaches in Europe
There’s certainly no shortage of beautiful beaches in Europe, but some are simply more beautiful than others. You’ll see familiar sites like Italy, but fresher ones like Iceland (yes, you read correctly), too, in our picks for the ten best beaches across the continent.
Cala Tonnarella, Sicily, Italy
We like Capri as much as the next person, but when it comes to secluded beaches free of crowds, it’s Sicily for the win. Cala Tonnarella, tucked inside the Zingaro Nature Reserve, is the ultimate oasis: a tiny stretch of bone-white sand and Bermuda-blue water flanked by low, limestone cliffs. It’s a trek to get there—Zingaro is inaccessible via road, so you’ll have to hike about an hour to get to it from the southern car park—but upon arrival, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning beach…and may even have it all to yourself.
Durdle Door Beach, Dorset, England
With its dramatic limestone arch, lush, craggy cliffs, and soft golden sand, Durdle Door is one of the most scenic beaches in all of Europe. But it’s not just a pretty face—the Marine Conservation Society recommends the beach for swimming and fishing, thanks to its excellent water quality. It’s also part of the Jurassic Coast, a 95-mile stretch of coastline studded with so many spectacular geological features and fossils that UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site in 2001.
Praia de Albandeira, Algarve, Portugal
Despite high tourist traffic to the Algarve region, this tiny, secluded cove has (amazingly) remained somewhat under the radar. You won’t find any umbrellas, beach chairs, water sports, or beach bars here; just a golden lick of sand, cool crystalline waters, sea caves, and natural rock pools—which is precisely why you should visit. Added bonus? Thanks to the ochre cliffs on both sides of the beach, the water is always calm and perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
Playa de Migjorn, Formentera, Spain
While all the beaches on the Formentera coast shimmer, this three-mile stretch of sand is arguably its loveliest: Think iridescent white sand, windswept dunes, low, rocky cliffs, and emerald-blue ocean. Though there’s lots to do and explore—quirky boat houses, a beach activities kiosk, and a handful of little restaurants and bars—more secluded areas offer the ability to relax. The beach is also clothing-optional, in case you dare to bare.
Île de Ré, Bay of Biscay, France
Off the western coast of France in the Bay of Biscay, Île de Ré is known as the “White Island” by locals due to both its soft, pale sand and the elegant waterfront houses painted in neutral colors. Windswept dunes and pine forests, like the beautiful, Hamptons-like Plage des GollandièresI, back its long, flat stretches of beach—making every beach on the island Instagrammable (no filter needed). Make sure to stop into one of the many beachfront oyster “cabanes,” or boardwalk shacks, to enjoy fresh-caught fruits de mer.
Cala Goloritzé, Sardinia, Italy
It’s no secret that Cala Goloritzé, located at the base of a ravine on Sardinia’s windswept northeastern coast, is one of the most beautiful beaches in Italy. Still, it feels like a hidden oasis: a slim stretch of white sand and bright blue water between towering limestone cliffs. In fact, the beach was considered to be so special that it was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995.
Cala Macarella, Menorca, Spain
Located on the sun-bleached southwestern coast of Menorca, the tranquil Cala Macarella is the ideal escape from the congested beaches of nearby Mallorca and Ibiza. Getting there is a trek: you can either hike two miles along the cliffs from nearby Cala Galdana, or drive on a rough and winding road from Ciutadella and hike an additional 20 minutes through a pine forest to get there (phew). But its ultra-fine sand and calm turquoise waters are well worth the effort.
Navagio Beach, Zakynthos, Greece
Also known as Shipwreck Beach due to the ancient freighter buried at its center, Navagio is easily the most beautiful stretch of sand in Greece. It’s sheltered by sheer limestone cliffs and is so isolated that you can only access it by boat. While you can spend all day sunning on its powdery sands, its beauty is best appreciated from the viewing platform in the cliffs above (just follow the signs to the Agios Gergio Kremnao monastery).
Vik Black Sand Beach, Iceland
Iceland might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of beaches, but there’s no denying the beauty and drama of its rugged coastline. You won’t see palms or white sand here: In Vik, the sand is black as caviar and the beach is dotted with soaring basalt columns—which, in our opinion, makes it all the more special and beautiful.
Zlatni Rat, Brač, Croatia
Croatia has no shortage of beautiful beaches, but Zlatni Rat stands out for its striking and unusual shape (which actually changes depending on the current). Though it looks like a golden sand beach, its shoreline is made up of smooth, tiny pebbles and stretches out for half a mile on either side of the tip. It’s not just a place to lounge: Zlatni Rat is also a popular spot for windsurfing, jet-skiing, and stand-up paddle boarding.