The Best European Beaches Ranked

Let’s be honest. We live in direct proximity to the Caribbean Sea and its never-ending list of sprawling beach resorts. I love a Caribbean vacation and try to indulge in one at least once a year! So, before the responses roll in, I AM NOT HATING ON THE CARIBBEAN!!!!

When I think about the things I love the most about travel—enjoying flavorful foods I can’t find in the States; sampling local wines and cocktails alongside the artisan who crafted them; diving deep into rich cultures, traditions, architecture, and history—they are not the reasons I run down to Mexico for a 3-day weekend. Wouldn’t it be great if you could combine a relaxing beach vacation with the satisfying food, wine, and culture of Europe?

>>>> I’m sure you see where this is going 🙂 <<<<

Last week, I blogged about the best ski destinations in Europe. These are places I believe you can take part in your favorite pastime (if skiing happens to be it, anyway), while still taking advantage of your valuable vacation time and enjoying some of the best of Europe. If you missed that post, you can read it here.  As promised, this week’s blog is narrowing down some European hot-spots. For a continent surrounded by sea and ocean, it can be hard to know which beaches to visit. I’ve narrowed my list based not only on fabulous quality beaches, but on the experiences that will make your next beach trip meaningful.

Please note // I’ve used the following ranking system for the destinations in each category:

3 stars = Stop what you’re doing and GO HERE NOW.

2 stars = If you’re not interested in the 3-star option, go here instead! It’s different, but in a good way.

1 star = It totally fits the bill for this type of experience. You won’t regret this choice in the slightest.

I am well aware that my opinion isn’t for everyone, but it is what I rest my integrity on when it comes to making recommendations. If I didn’t feel that a certain destination was worthy of a star in a specific category, it didn’t make the list. However, I haven’t been to every corner of the globe *yet* – so if you feel like I’ve left a spot off the list, please kindly let me know your thoughts!

plan the perfect tropical getaway



The Best of the Best for…

All-Around Beach Vacation:

***Zakynthos, Greece: Nothing less than awesome, Zakynthos is the island to please everybody. With a shipwreck site, water sports, sandy beaches, and cliff-covered coves, this is the perfect place to unwind, explore, eat and drink. Into sailing? Then you must charter out to the famous Blue Caves! If you can only visit one Greek Island in your lifetime, this should be it.

european beach vacation in zakynthos greece

–> Don’t miss: Navagio Beach—the tropical hideaway you literally daydream about.

**Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy: One thing I know for sure about Italy—they know how to live the good life! Nowhere is this more true than in the land time forgot to age, the Amalfi Coast.

*Elafoníssi Beach, Crete: The pleasure isle of Crete is an easy beach fix for just about everyone. The pink sands lure you to bake in the sun all day, but there is no shortage of activities available for those who just can’t lay around. A solid pick for friends and multi-generational families traveling together.




**Mallorca, Spain: This Balearic Island has just the right amount of pizzazz. A marina scene, olive groves, hiking trails, art…and more yachting than you could do in a lifetime.

**Côte d’Azur/French Riviera/Provence, France: Yes, fellow Francophiles, I am lumping the whole of the South of France into a single category. Why? Because you simply can’t go to Nice and not skip over to Provence for a day or two (and vice versa). The southern coast of France exudes more culture, diversity, and food fantasia than any other area its size in Europe. From left to right on a map, you begin with heavy Spanish/Catalan influence, throw in some Moroccan spice, a little French glitz (rosé all day, baby), and finally some Italian-Alpine yumminess. If you have a friend who “can’t stand the French Riviera,” all I can say is they should’ve asked me to plan whatever vacation ruined this stunning and fascinating region for them.


*Sardinia: You’ll want to pry yourself out of your beach chair to go exploring this gorgeous island’s mountains, treasured views, and wine scene.

*Barcelona, Spain: If you like New York and think Miami sounds like a good time, Barcelona is the place for you. There is a lot more hustle here than any other destination on this list, but if you enjoy sunshine with a side of sightseeing, Barcelona can’t be beat.


Nightlife/Day Clubs:

I’m not going into a ton of detail here. If you like to party and want to do so at a beach in Europe, I suggest you visit (in this order):

  1. Ibiza, Spain
  2. Nikki Beach, Cyprus
  3. Mykonos, Greece

Don’t go to the above places if you do not enjoy:

  1. Crowds
  2. Drunk people
  3. DJ’s at the pool

Capiche? Good…moving on…



***Algarve, Portugal: Why do Americans always forget about Portugal?!? There is literally N O W H E R E better to get your beach buzz on! The Algarve region is home to fishermen and upper crust European vacation mansions, but is also lighter on cost than many of its Euro-neighbors. Did I mention it has sandy beaches, yummy eats, and wine for daysss. I am seriously foaming at the mouth just thinking about it. Sure, there are amazing resorts all over Europe, but why bother when Portugal does it so well?

beach vacation in the algarve region of portugal


**Corsica, France: Okay, you have to promise NOT to tell anyone about this, okay? Palombaggia, Corsica is the place for your next family beach trip! I know what you’re thinking—“Those crazy, crowded, rocky French Riviera beaches are not where I want to take my kids and grandkids!” But trust me. The shallow waters, uncrowded beaches, and aqua-life are going to make your littles trés happy! Meanwhile, you can relax with a glass of rose and enjoy the view (because this place seriously looks like it belongs in the South Pacific).



***San Sebastián, Spain: Other than lounging on the beach at Playa de la Concha, there’s no better way to spend your time in Spain than getting lost in the ocean view at a seaside pintxos bar. San Sebastián is foodie utopia—not because of Michelin stars or classic technique, mind you—but because the cuisine is superbly local, complimentary to the atmosphere and the wine (or tzakoli), and (hooray!) you don’t have to get all fancy to eat it. Food here is not a point of pride—it is the essence of life.

the beautiful town and beaches of San Sebastian, Spain

My hope for you, as you enjoy the upcoming holiday season with family and friends, is that you take some time to chat about your travel plans for 2017 (and even 2018). Put some dates down on the calendar and make making memories a priority. There are more than enough beaches, mountains, vineyards, and cultures to guarantee meaningful Jetlag Experiences for years to come.