Europe’s best beaches

Praia da Cova Redonda, Portugal

Praisa da Cova Redonda is the jewel of the Algave, a strip of white sand hemmed in by aqua-blue sea and steep rugged cliffs. The beach is reached by a long set of gently descending steps, paved in the Portuguese mosaic style, which give way to an open bay. However, visitors who explore the area more closely and will delight in the hidden nooks that pepper the surrounding cliffs. Facilities are minimal, but with such a magical setting there is little need to bring anything more than a swim suit and a book.

Taormina, Sicily

Also known as the Lido Mazzaro, Taormina is amongst the best equipped, and best known, beaches in Italy. A legacy as a favourite haunt of the stars of Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’ lend Taormina an air of glamorous decadence, and it has the bars and restaurants to prove it. However, the real draw is the beach, a sandy half-moon protected by a natural harbour wall. Indeed, the cliffs here are so high that a cable car is on offer to take visitors to the shore. The cool and relatively still waters make this the perfect site for swimming and boating and it remains a perennial favourite with locals and tourists alike. Be warned, in summer arriving early is essential!

La Grand Plage, France

Biarritz is synonymous with the postcard image of southern France: candy striped umbrellas, white beaches and rich white surf. The latter has made the town famous as Europe’s premier surfing spot and it is far from uncommon to see wetsuit-clad patrons in local bars, cafes and restaurants. Surfing seems to have lent Biarritz a relaxed air and this is reflected on the beach, where lounging and soaking up the sun is the order of the day. Those who don’t want to risk getting sand in their shoes, can stroll along the promenade or enjoy the charms of the regal old town.

Porto Santo, Madeira

In essence Porto Santo is one long beach with a small island attached. Although home to nine kilometres of soft white sands there are but a handful of hotels, restaurants and amenities. While this may terrify those who crave the conveniences of modern living, it is a paradise for anyone who truly wants ‘to get away from it all’. With Thomson now running weekly direct flights the window of opportunity to explore this overlooked gem is closing. Our advice is to see it in all its glory while you can.

Barafundle Bay, Wales

Cornwall generally takes the plaudits when it comes to picking the region that is home to Britain’s best beaches, but it would be wrong to overlook the spellbinding pleasures of the Pembrokeshire coast. Barafundle Bay, in particular, is an absolute joy. Located down a cliff path near Stackpole Quay, visitors pass through a stone archway before the beach opens before them. While Time Out’s description of this acting as a “mythical, mind-cleansing portal” is perhaps a little rich, it is impossible to resist the beach’s charms. Although British summers are too often a washout, on those rare hot days there are few better places to enjoy sunbathing, swimming and an evening bag of chips than Barafundle Bay.

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