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The 11 best beaches to visit in Europe

Aug. 30, 2020
8 min read
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As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. And we’ll be here to help you prepare, whether it’s next month or next year.

Dreaming of golden sands and turquoise waters? We are too.

Although the perfect beach vacation abroad may be out of reach at the moment, now's the time to plan your next getaway packed with palm trees, pristine sands and clear waters. Europe is home to some of the top beaches in the world. So check out TPG's hotlist for the best beaches and get ready to be inspired.

Balos Beach in Crete, Greece

Balos Beach. (Photo by tobiasjo / Getty Images)
Balos Beach. (Photo by tobiasjo / Getty Images)

Move over, Mykonos -- one of the best beaches is actually on Crete. The Balos beach and lagoon is only accessible by boat ride or hike. Here, sandbars create small tide pools with clear water. Avoid the crowds by heading over early in the morning to experience the isolation and seclusion of the beach with few other visitors in sight. Bring sunblock, though, because there isn't much shade on Balos.

If you decide to combine Crete with a trip to Athens first, stay at the Four Seasons Astir Athens. The property is located on the Athens Riviera and has three private beaches and a spa with Greek-inspired treatments.

Spiaggia dei Conigli in Lampedusa, Italy

Spiaggia dei Conigli. (Photo by Tilt / Shutterstock)
Spiaggia dei Conigli. (Photo by Tilt / Shutterstock)

Lampedusa is part of the Pelagie Islands located off the coast of Tunisia, but belongs to Sicily's Agrigento region in Italy. Despite its name, the beach actually isn't inhabited by rabbits. Instead, the silky sands and crystal-clear waters are home to loggerhead turtles -- all of which Italians are working hard to preserve. Although Lampedusa has a tiny airport (LMP), plan to connect in Rome or Milan instead.

Playa de La Barrosa in Andalusia, Spain

Playa de La Barrosa. (Photo by quintanilla / Getty Images)
Playa de La Barrosa. (Photo by quintanilla / Getty Images)

With almost four miles of glittering sands, Barrosa Beach is separated into two parts. There's the main beach area with plenty of rental chairs, beachside cafes and restaurants and lifeguards, if you prefer having all the amenities. The southern side is a little more wild, with sandy dunes and pine trees for those who really want to escape.

St. Peter's Pool in Malta

St Peters Pool. (Photo by sosn-a / Shutterstock)
St Peter's Pool. (Photo by sosn-a / Shutterstock)

This beach actually isn't really a beach -- at least, not a traditional one. A bay framed by smooth, flat rock instead of sand, it seems as if the rock was carved away to create a very special pool of water: imagine swimming and sunbathing on the moon. "Beach"-goers can spread their towels out on the unusual stretch of coast and dive into the refreshing water.

Rambergstranda Beach in Norway

Rambergstranda Beach. (Photo by daitoZen / Getty Images)

For an entirely different beach experience, visit northern Norway's Rambergstranda Beach on Jusnesvika Bay. The tranquil waters are lined by a sandy beach, with wildflower-filled grasses and dramatic mountains in the distance. Rambergstranda is best for travelers who prefer cooler, less humid temperatures and beach days punctuated by challenging hikes and stunning viewpoints. Just remember to pack your best windbreaker. Going to northern Norway in June or July will allow you to enjoy the midnight sun phenomenon, where the sun never actually sets.

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Praia dos Galapinhos in Portugal

Praia dos Galapinhos. (Photo by AWP76 / Shutterstock)
Praia dos Galapinhos. (Photo by AWP76 / Shutterstock)

Galapinhos Beach is just a one-hour trip from Lisbon, a city growing in fame for its world-renowned culinary scene. An escape to a sandy shore is the perfect way to relax after a few busy days exploring the Portuguese capital. This secluded cove is flanked by hilly, dense greenery that brightly contrasts the velvety sands and crisp blue waters.

Portugal remains one of the cheapest countries in Western Europe. It's also sorely underrated and not nearly as touristed as its peninsula-sharing sister, Spain. Considering the country is planning to inaugurate 170 new hotels by 2023, the rise in tourism is evident. So go now, before everyone else does.

Plage Notre-Dame, Île de Porquerolles in France

Plage Notre-Dame. (Photo by Marc Henri Depotte / Getty Images)
Plage Notre-Dame. (Photo by Marc Henri Depotte / Getty Images)

When your friends ask about your summer vacation plans, respond nonchalantly with, "Oh, just a little island in the French Riviera." The Notre-Dame beach is a crescent-shaped cove on the island of Porquerolles. This beach is ideal for those who want a tranquil yet très chic French Riviera beach experience. The island, accessible by boat from Toulon and Hyères, is perfect for sailing and mountain biking, too.

Stiniva Beach, Vis in Croatia

Stiniva Beach. (Photo by xbrchx / Shutterstock)
Stiniva Beach. (Photo by xbrchx / Shutterstock)

As if Split weren't alluring enough, Vis is one of the islands off the coast of the Croatian city accessible by ferry. Stiniva Beach is tiny and difficult to reach, but once you spot the azure waters lapping the pebbly shore, you'll be glad you braved the hike. Make sure to wear suitable shoes, as the walk in flip-flops isn't a good idea.

Silistar Beach in Bulgaria

Silistar Beach. (Photo by Allexanderh / Shutterstock)
Silistar Beach. (Photo by Allexanderh / Shutterstock)

Silistar is a beach and nature preserve on the Black Sea fairly close to the Turkish border. Although it still has a rugged, wild feel, the high season brings more people, so visit early in the morning for a more serene experience. The beach sits on the edge of the Strandzha Nature Park, which has one of the most important forest ecosystems in the country. Many rare birds fly over the beach, and snorkeling is also a popular activity here, as there's an abundance of marine life below.

Bulgaria is slowly becoming a more popular destination, thanks to increased flights and improved accessibility from many European nations. Combine your beach getaway with a visit to Plovdiv, named the European Capital of Culture in 2019.

Rhossili Bay in Wales

Rhossili Beach. (Photo by stewart black / Getty Images)
Rhossili Beach. (Photo by stewart black / Getty Images)

Yes, the UK is home to one of Europe's best beaches. Rhossili Bay in Wales has been repeatedly named one of the UK's best beaches for its pristine sands which extend for about three miles. With something for everyone, the beach is dog-friendly, surfer-friendly, family-friendly -- you get the idea. The surrounding hiking trails offer stunning views of the beach below, and are a great place to watch for the occasional seal or dolphin.

Jurata Beach in Poland

Jurata Beach. (Photo by katatonia82 / Getty Images)
Jurata Beach. (Photo by katatonia82 / Getty Images)

Poland may not be the first spot that comes to mind for your summer beach getaway, but you'll be immediately charmed by the spot deemed 'The Pearl of the Polish Seaside' by locals. Extending out into the Baltic Sea on a long, skinny peninsula, the beach is expansive, sandy and backed by pine trees and brush, perfect for easy sunset walks.

Foodies should combine a beach escape with a trip to Krakow, which was the 2019 Capital of Gastronomy Culture. With 26 different spots in the Michelin guide, Krakow is focused on culinary delights, food festivals, events and conferences throughout the year.

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  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
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Cons

  • Steep annual fee
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  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
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Rewards Rate

5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.