Europe's Best City Beaches - Al Fresco Holidays Blog

Often, when booking holidays, it’s common to fall into the trap of believing that you can’t have it all. More often than not, families spend their time debating whether to enjoy a beach break, or whether to head inland and have a more cultural holiday in the city.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could book a holiday that gave you the opportunity to enjoy both, providing you with the chance to chill on the beach one day, then tour the city the next? Fortunately, there are plenty of locations in Europe that tick both boxes, allowing you to enjoy plenty of sun, sea and sand, whilst experiencing history, culture and vibrant living in the heart of a big city.

Europe’s Best Coastal City Destinations

Looking for inspiration on where to head to, to enjoy a flexible holiday that caters for all tastes? Here are a few of the finest city beach destinations in Europe.

Nice, France


Source: Flickr

One of France’s largest cities, and the undisputed capital of the French Riviera, the sophisticated, palm fringed shores of Nice make it a fantastic destination for city slickers with a taste for relaxing on the beach. There are a variety of both pebbly and sandy shores for whiling away the hours underneath the warm sun, or alternatively, head to the city itself and soak up the atmosphere in the old town. Those in search of culture will enjoy the museums, galleries and ancient ruins, and ardent shoppers will appreciate the many streets, filled to the brim with tempting wares.

Where to stay?
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay whilst soaking up the scenery of the Cȏte d’Azur, then check out Esterel Campsite, which is perfectly situated for day-trips into the city.

Venice, Italy

Venice Lido Beach

Source: Flickr

For a city with a difference, Venice is hard to beat. The city, which actually consists of 118 small islands joined by a labyrinthine network of bridges and winding alleyways, is an experience in itself, with its truly unique atmosphere. Whilst in the city, explore the Basilica di San Marco and the imposing Doges Palace, then catch a boat to neighbouring Lido, where you can collapse on the sandy beach and enjoy a cocktail or two as the sun goes down.

Where to stay?
Stay on the 11km stretch of sand that comprises the island of Venice Lido. The beaches are often remarkably uncrowded, given the proximity to the city, making it a wonderful base to enjoy a coastal break with a cultural twist. Stay at Union Lido Campsite, which has direct access to the beach.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik Beach

Source: Flickr

Dubrovnik is fast becoming one of Europe’s city-break heavy-weights, thanks largely to its iconic walled port, maze-like cobbled streets and striking Roman Forum. The historic city also boasts an upbeat social scene, a vast array of restaurants and bars, and some excellent shopping. Beach lovers will enjoy the white-sanded beaches, which overlook the formidable city walls, and more energetic travellers can rent a kayak and explore the city limits by sea.

Where to stay?
Many visitors to the country choose to tour along the sparkling Dalmation coast, rather than staying in the one place. There are many great places to stay in Dubrovnik itself, though prices can be rather high. A great alternative is making for a location further up the coast, and gradually travelling down the country. Lanterna in Istria is a great place to start an exciting shoreline tour.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona Beach

Source: Flickr

The bohemian vibe of Barcelona makes it a popular choice of holiday destination for travellers of all ages. The thriving cultural scene is punctuated by the strange, alien architecture of the city’s most famous son, the architect Gaudi, and visitors can explore the many museums, or while away an afternoon, sipping sangria in one of the many street cafes. The city is also blessed with close proximity to some of Spain’s finest beaches, ranging from upmarket affairs, just perfect for the cocktail loving crowd, to quieter coves, perfect for those looking for a little peace and quiet on the beach.

Where to stay?
The Camping Vilanova Park is excellently positioned to enjoy the sights of the city, whilst still maintaining close proximity to the beaches.

Biarritz, France

Biarritz Beach

Source: Flickr

This stylish city on the Basque coast has a formidable reputation as being a favourite of the rich and famous, yet visitors are often pleasantly surprised by its laid-back, casual atmosphere, created mostly by its strong surf culture. Indeed, for those who love taking to the waves, Biarritz is the most popular surfing spot in Europe, and for good reason. The city itself has plenty of activities on offer, and some excellent restaurants, serving fabulous French cuisine.

Where to stay?
The Yelloh! Village Ilbarritz, with swimming pool and tranquil settings, is an excellent option for families looking to stay in close proximity to Biarritz and the irresistible beaches.

If you’re seeking more inspiration for your next family break, visit the Al Fresco Holidays site to browse all the great destinations on offer.

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