Spain Salou Beach
Spain Salou Beach


See visions of paradise on Europe's best beaches.

Published on September 24, 2019

The best beaches in Europe are closer than you think, whether you're scoping out centuries of art, coasting through cobbled streets or twirling tender pasta on your fork. Enjoy an exclusive, romantic getaway to the fluorescent seas and limestone cliffs of the Greek islands, grab a couple of friends and road trip to Portugal's scenic Algarve or take a break during a city trip to Nice, France and yacht it over to Villefranche-sur-Mer. No matter which vision of paradise you choose, you'll find it during your next European cruise.


It might surprise you to learn that "Tahiti" is among the most beautiful European beaches to visit —that is, at least until you learn the backstory. That's the nickname locals give Cala Coticcio, a hidden and romantic beach destination within the Maddalena archipelago just northeast of Italy's Sardinia island. Adding to the South Pacific theme is the fact that in order to reach Cala Coticcio, you need to take a boat from a place called Palau, which also evokes a much more distant paradise.

With waters so clear you can practically count the grains of pink-hued sand beneath your weightless body, Cala Coticcio will be a highlight of your next Italy cruise. It'll make you fall in love with Sardinia — and whichever lucky person you decide to bring with you.

Afterward, book a stay in Caprera, the town nearest to Cala Coticcio, and the perfect place to base yourself as you explore Sardinia's stunning European beaches, which also include Argentiera and Oasi Biderosa.


It's tempting to think that all the best beaches in Europe are along the Mediterranean, but just one trip to Cornwall in southwestern England disproves that. In particular, the massive black boulders and lapis lazuli water of Kynance Cove are worth a visit, assuming you've got a few days to kill before a cruise from Southampton — and a few friends to share driving duties. This part of Cornwall, known as the Lizard Peninsula, is also decidedly romantic. A collection of charming cottages sit just behind the beach, making Kynance Cove the perfect place for a lovers' rendezvous.

Like much of the rest of Cornwall, Kynance Cove offers some of England's — and Europe's — best surf, though you can just as easily enjoy a tranquil picnic on the shore as a wild day on the waves. Or continue exploring beaches elsewhere on the peninsula, whose past distinguished visitors have included England's own Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Furthermore, Kynance Cove is managed by the National Trust, which is taking special care to protect its natural splendor for generations to come.


When it comes to romantic beach destinations in Europe, tiny Montenegro might not be on your radar. However, Ploče Beach in Budva is an absolutely delectable slice of perfection, whether you rent a car and drive here when your European cruise is docked at the Bay of Kotor or travel here by your own accord during a trip to the Balkans.

A feast for all the senses, Ploče Beach lures you in with kaleidoscopic umbrellas that rise over its vibrant blue waters and pure white shimmering sands. It then beckons you to stay with fresh-caught seafood, the sounds of live music and the aroma of salt wafted in on a gentle breeze. Return to Kotor to catch your cruise ship or stay the night in Budva and open your eyes in paradise. In spite of its small size, Montenegro plays a big beach game — and, in the case of Ploče, it wins.


What's better than finding one of the most beautiful European beaches to visit? Finding two in one! Greece's Porto Timoni centers on a narrow strip of sand with sea on both sides, which means you've got your pick of beaches if your next Greece cruise docks at Corfu island. Try and peel yourself away from the water just before sunset, when you can hike to the village of Afionas and its stunning panoramic viewpoint. (Pro tip: Whether or not you plan to hike, make sure to wear sneakers instead of flip-flops — the terrain at Porto Timino is rocky and sharp, with the exception of the beach's sand itself!)

Planning to spend more than just a few hours during a cruise stop to explore colorful Corfu? Make sure to visit other stunning European beaches on the island, including Agios Georgios and the romantic Canal d'Amour. Whatever you do, make sure you also have a meal in Corfu town, where dozens of restaurants serve aromatic Sofrito, a dish of succulent veal cooked in tangy white wine sauce that's one of the island's most iconic, authentic dishes.


You don't have to be a surfer to consider Portugal's beaches some of the best in Europe. In fact, the waters of the clandestine Praia de Benagil in the country's spectacular Algarve region are incredibly calm — a romantic romp might be more befitting than a wild wave ride. This makes sense, of course, when you consider the awe-inspiring topography of Praia de Benagil. Encircled on all sides — and on top — by a sphere of vermilion limestone, this quaint cove is quite literally hidden away from the world. Although you can technically hike down to Praia de Benagil from the towering cliffs above, most travelers reach this beach via an organized boat trip. This is a blessing: If this incredible European beach wasn't so difficult to reach, many travelers who come here would likely never leave. One piece of advice is to come here early in the morning to avoid the crowds that sometimes collect at the beach around sunset and to travel during the shoulder months of May and September so you miss out on the manic summer season.


Spain's Balearic Islands are most famous for the pounding house music of wild Ibiza, so you might not expect to find one of the most romantic beach destinations in Europe a short ferry ride away. Located on the islands of Formentera, themselves a well-kept travel secret, Ses Illetes evokes the visions that parties on Ibiza's sands might hallucinate, with a hidden cerulean bay sheltered by a pine-covered peninsula that makes a perfect place to catch the sunset. If you charter a private boat from Ibiza to Formentera, you could also enjoy the ambiance of the beach from the sea rather than the shore.

Once dusk has fallen, you can boat it back to Ibiza, though it's doubtful that any fantasies you dream about as you dance and drink the night away will match the reality of your day at Ses Illetes. Or you can remain on Formentera, which is rapidly gaining notoriety among travelers as one of the best islands to visit in Spain and is at the very least a calmer alternative to busy Ibiza.


If Greece's Navagio (Shipwreck) Beach doesn't top the list of the most beautiful European beaches to visit, it's certainly the most viral. Aerial images of the beach, whose electric blue waters jut in between the towering, white-as-snow cliffs of Zakynthos island, are among the most ubiquitous Europe beach images out there, even if they're often mislabeled as being from somewhere on the other side of the planet. However, whether because of the language you hear the boat captains speaking at ground level or the generous helpings of gyro meat you can enjoy in the nearest town, there's no mistaking you're in Greece.

In spite of its name, Shipwreck Beach is a sure bet for smooth sailing, no matter why you decide to visit. Couples will love sunning themselves on its sugary sands as pods of yachts float offshore, while adventurous groups of friends can hike up to the Navagio viewpoint — true daredevils can even use this as a launching pad for a BASE jump! Just make sure to clearly label your photos so people on the internet don't falsely ascribe it to South Africa, New Zealand or someplace else far from awesome European beaches like this.


Italy's surrounded by sea on most sides, so it makes sense that you can find at least two of the best beaches in Europe in Bella Italia. Of course, it's difficult to find adjectives in any language to describe Torre dell'Orso, a cast-away cove in the Puglia region of the country's underrated southeast where the limestone cliffs, stacked towers of pure, white stone, contrast with jewel-toned water as clear as crystal. Torre dell'Orso is also just a stone's throw from another incredible beach, known in English as the Cave of Poetry, which will have your jaw dropping even lower (assuming you've had a chance to pick it up off the floor after leaving Torre dell'Orso behind!).

The isolation of Puglia, which is about five hours by high-speed rail from Rome, makes Torre dell'Orso the perfect European beach for a lovers' sojourn. On the other hand, it's a place groups of friends love, too. Pop open a bottle of prosecco and watch the day fade blissfully away. If you don't manage to find a spot to stay at the beach itself, head instead to nearby Lecce, whose Baroque architecture has earned it the nickname "Florence of the South."


Prefer romantic beach destinations in Europe that are accessible and not obscure? Villefranche-sur-Mer, an azure bay surrounded by a horseshoe of silvery pebbles, is so close to Nice, the top France cruise destination, that you could practically walk there. Well, assuming you don't take a boat — as the yachts just offshore attest, Villefranche-sur-Mer is as much a boating destination as it is a bathing one. It's also a spot for culture: After you finish sunning yourself, make a visit to the chic Villa Ephrusi de Rothschild, an early-20th-century villa with nine expertly landscaped gardens.

As is the case in the center of Nice itself, the village of Villefranche-sur-Mer boasts a pastiche of cultures, allowing you to cap off your day on one of Europe's best beaches with a meal that blends the best of French and Italian cuisines. Spend as much time as you can here, even if it's only a short spell for a shot of espresso (or a slice of pizza!) before you rush to get back on the cruise ship.


Croatia's Zlatni Rat is one of the most beautiful beaches to visit in Europe. One look at the sparkling sandbar that juts into the turquoise waters of the Adriatic will have you booking a trip to Brač island, even if you haven't yet considered a Croatia cruise. As is the case with Porto Timoni in Corfu, the geography of Zlatni Rat gives you two beautiful beaches to choose from.

This "Golden Horn" (the rough translation of Zlatni Rat into English) is sure to win a top spot in your quest for Europe's best beaches, whether you head to grab a beer with your best friends or take a romantic dip with the love of your life. Plus, it's only the beginning of the adventures you can have on Brat, an underrated island without the crowds of Korcula.

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