If you’re like me and love the culture and many activities that cosmopolitan cities offer, but still like to spend a few days on the beach on a sunny summer day, you might sometimes find yourself torn between going to a small beach town or a large bustling city.
The great news is that you actually can have both cities and beaches at the same time, if you just go to the right places. Europe is a haven for finding amazing cities with beaches, so here we have collated our top 5 European cities for beaches for you to discover.
If you’re planning on taking a train trip through Europe, you can reach many of these in one vacation!
Best Beach Cities in Europe
Some parts of Berlin feel like a concrete jungle, but there are many large parks and green areas to escape to during sunny summer days. Not many tourists know about the lake in Weissensee, but it’s really not far from the city of Berlin and if you rent a bike you can easily get there (about 6 km from Rosenthaler Platz).
The lake is great for swimming and there is even a small beach! Many apartments in Berlin are close to this lake so if you stay there you will have it all to yourself in the early morning before the rest get there.
Located right by the ocean, Copenhagen has realized its potential and recently spent millions on creating 4 swimming spots in the middle of the city and improving the water quality. Today the water in these urban swimming spots is just as clean as by the beaches outside of the city and a perfect place to cool down on a hot summer day – the most popular is Islands Brygge with an awesome carnival atmosphere in summer.
- Geneva – Bains des Pâquis
My favorite part about Geneva was the lake. It’s one of the largest lakes in western Europe and among the prettiest I’ve seen – little did I know when I was there that it was possible to actually swim in the middle of the city! At Bains des Pâquis you can swim with a view overlooking the famous Jet d’Eau fountain, dive into the water from diving platforms and waterslides or eat at the restaurant.
Built on 14 islands and the gateway to an expansive archipelago, it’s not surprising that Stockholm offers dozens of beautiful beaches and swimming areas in the middle of the city. One of the more popular go-to places is Långholmen, but Kristineberg Beach (an unofficial swimming spot) is also a favorite among locals.
This large European city located miles from the coast and far from any lakes, Paris is certainly not the first capital city that comes to mind when planning a beach holiday. But there really is a beach in Paris – well at least during summer. Every year there is a summer event called Paris Plages (Paris Beach) where they transform several spots into full-fledged beaches.
Some of these beaches even have swimming pools suspended over the river Seine, and the evenings are just as popular with many concerts and live shows. So if you’re planning a city break to Paris, its beaches are a must-see, if nothing else than just for the crazy and cool idea alone!
If you are traveling the Mediterranean, you will have no shortage of beaches. When in Portugal visiting Lisbon, be sure to make time to explore Costa da Caparica.
It’s located 17 km outside of Lisbon and worth the trip. This beach is the highlight of the modern resort town with its stunning coastline. You will see locals surfing as you enjoy this expansive sandy beach. Spend the day at Costa da Caparica in Portugal, and you’ll be treated to seeing fishing boats coming in with their fresh catch to sell in town.
Once ideal for sunbathing and swimming, Amsterdam’s beach, the famed Blijburg aan zee is closed. Instead, travel a bit further to Bloemendaal aan Zee. Just 25.5 km away from the city center of Amsterdam, Bloemendaal aan Zee (aan Zee means “by the sea”) has expansive sand dunes.
This beach is recognized for having calmer waters than nearby Zandvoort aan Zee. In addition, it’s walking distance to National Park Zuid-Kennemerland. You will be transported as you experience this idyllic beach with it’s beautiful sand. Look for the Bloemendaal Strand stop if taking public transportation which is convenient.
Just a short bus ride from the city center, Jarun Lake in Zagreb, Croatia is a scenic area in the South of Europe. There is ample room for swimming. You can also rent paddle boats and kayaks. You may be in for a treat if you are there during boating competitions. Here many race in canoeing, kayaking, and rowing.
Jarun Lake is also a gorgeous area to walk, run, cycle, rollerblade, and more. After spending some time at Jarun Lake, you’ll find it convenient to visit the area restaurants and shopping.
This capital city on the water boasts Hietaniemi Beach. If you want to do as the locals do, this is the place. Located in central Helsinki, one of the best areas for adventure travel, you will enjoy sunbathing, people-watching, and swimming. This is a sandy beach, and with the cold water, it’s the perfect for wading. Hietaniemi Beach is an ideal place to watch stellar sunsets.
Another European city with a beach to check out is Alimos Beach in Athens. At this Athens beach you will experience glorious sand befitting Greece’s capital city. Athens Alimos Beach is a haven for locals and tourists alike. It’s fully outfitted with showers, beach umbrellas to rent, and thrilling water sports such as jet skiing and windsurfing. There is a children’s area at this Athens beach as well.
European Beaches ~ Final Thoughts
You have your pick of European cities with a beach, many in capital cities. Whether you want to spend the day, or just take a stroll along the coastline, each beach has its own vibe.
Have you been to any of these urban beaches and swimming spots for the beaches in Europe? Even when there’s cold water, it’s worth it to put your feet in the water and feel the sand as you take in a glorious sunrise or sunset.
Explore the best surfing towns in Europe if surfing is your thing or you want to learn to surf. If you want to venture out of the beach areas, check out our Europe travel guide for more ideas.