The Surfing Beach – Arrifana, Portugal
The southwestern stretch of the Algarve is home to not one but a handful of the most beautiful European beaches. For surfing, too, you're spoilt for choice, as from Castelejo to stunning cliff-backed Arrifana via Amado, the Atlantic rolls in and kicks up some impressive surf. If thrashing around in the waves sounds like way too much trouble for a summer holiday, you can always just ditch the board, stretch out on the sand and strike an indolent pose while watching the waves crash on the main beach at Sagres. Bliss.
The Blissed Out Beach – Kamenjak, Croatia
Kamenjak, on the Istrian coast of Croatia, may not be quite the hidden gem it used to be, but it’s still undeniably one of the best beaches in Europe. Surrounded by national park, at the end of a peninsula jutting out into the Adriatic, it’s a stunning, and at most times of the year, stunningly remote-feeling, corner of the country. If in summer it can get a little busy, the entire peninsula is lined with pebble bays accessed by a network of footpaths, so there’s plenty of choice if you’re prepared to hunt down a more secluded spot.
The Historic Beach – Patara, Turkey
Not many beaches in Europe offer the same mix of sunbathing and sightseeing as Patara, on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast. While the sands are undoubtedly lovely, and still largely undeveloped, and the waters (as the coast's name suggests) are the brightest of bright blue and full of loggerhead turtles, it’s arguably the neighbouring Roman amphitheatre, necropolis, bath houses, basilica and grand, triple-arched gate that really steal the show.
The City Beach – Brighton Beach
Nice? Valencia? Biarritz? Nope. For our city beach break of choice we’ve gone for a home-grown strip of sand down in Brighton. Why? Maybe it’s the Jubilee celebrations making us come over all patriotic. Or maybe it’s just that on those, admittedly slightly rare, days when the sun shines, few things can beat the euphoric atmosphere of an afternoon spent on a British beach. Best twinned with drinks along the seafront followed by one of those hell-for-leather summer weekend nights out.
The Secret Beach – Playa El Cañuelo, Tarifa
While the main beach at Bolonia, in Tarifa (southern Spain), is beautiful - undeveloped, with miles of white sand rising up to a vast sand dune - just around the headland is a little-known cove called El Cañuelo. Only accessible via a 30-minute walk through pinewoods around the headland, consequently, it’s almost entirely empty for most of the year. It’s a beautiful spot, a small cove - around 800 metres in length - that gives straight out onto the northernmost tip of hazy Africa and the Atlantic beyond. In fact, there’s only one possible downside: it’s got an informal 'nearly nudist' policy – so you’ve either got to be comfortable dressing up for the occasion or alternatively be prepared to bare all.
Liking our pick of the best beaches in Europe, but got your heart firmly set on a Balearics break? Check out our pick of the best beaches in the Balearic Islands. Or if you’re thinking about jetting off to combine a festival and a beach break, see our selection of Europe’s best beach music festivals.