Lounging on the beach by day, soaking up the nightlife and culture by night. Who doesn’t love a city by the sea? You definitely get the best of both worlds…
Our list of the 10 best city beaches includes some obvious and iconic and a couple you might not be expecting. To qualify, the city needs to have a decent beach that is accessible from the downtown area either by public transport or foot.
So if you can’t choose between city break or beach holiday, pack your flip flops and your nice shirt for one of these fab beach cities.
1. Rio de Janiero, Brazil
This is probably the most iconic beach city on the list. This sultry tropical city is home to the world famous Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon beaches, all of which are genuinely packed full of beautiful bronzed bodies supping caiprinhas. But, Rio is home to many more than these, admittedly quite touristy options. Try Barra de Tijuca which is the longest beach in the city at around 15kms, or Praia Vermelha which sits near the centre of town at the base of Sugarloaf mountain.
By night, party in cool hangouts like Leblon and Copacabana with the friendly locals. The best time to visit is between December and March, so escape the northern hemisphere’s winter in style!
2. Cape Town, South Africa
Cool Cape Town is a stunning city, much like Rio with its mountain backdrop, and is also packed full of great city beaches. Clifton is a popular beach nestled in a cove, where the beautiful people hang out, but further out of town you’ll find wide stretches of sand like Camps Bay or Bloubergstrand (which is actually away from the city but offers a great view of the landscape). Boulders Beach is famous for it’s colony of penguins and bathing is restricted. On the plus side… Penguins!
Cool districts to hang out in include Sea Point and Camps Bay, which are full of funky bars and restaurants at night (and are also close to the beach). Visit between November and March for the best beach weather.
3. San Sebastian, Spain
We reviewed San Sebastian a while back, but this city is seriously one of the best beach cities in Europe. With the Concha beach dominating the centre of town and the more surf-centric Zurriola just a short walk away, if you haven’t got this city on your list yet then add it.
Besides beaching, San Sebastian or Donostia is famous for it’s incredible food culture and its glut of Michelin starred restaurants. Get your beach body on because chances are you’ll end up putting weight on before you leave…
The closest airports are Bilbao (Spain, just over 1 hour by bus or train) or Biarritz (France, around 1 hour by bus).
4. Sydney, Australia
This is an absolute no brainer. When you’ve got beaches like Manly and Bondi to choose from, you know you’re in a city beach mecca. Those two are just the tip of the iceberg with options like Cronulla and Coogee easily the equals of their more famous counterparts.
The downtown is a ferry or bus/train ride from the most popular beaches but you can also find plenty of digs near the sea if that’s what you’re in town for. Sydney is pretty much beach primed all year round, although the best months are between November to March.
Other options in Australia would include Surfers Paradise/Gold Coast, Perth and Melbourne.
5. Miami, Florida
Lined with cool art deco buildings and palm trees, Miami Beach is definitely one of the most iconic city beach destinations. In fact, Miami Beach is technically a different city to Miami, which is connected to the area by a series of bridges, but don’t let that worry you. Most of the interesting stuff is in Miami Beach anyway including most of the annual Miami music week and all that cool art deco vibe.
The body beautiful flock to Miami pretty much all year round, but avoid hurricane season which is actually the summer months (June-September), which makes Miami a great winter break option.
6. Tel Aviv, Israel
This hip city is renowned for it’s buzzing nightlife and it’s fantastic city beaches. Gordon Beach and Jerusalem Beach are probably the best known, but really, from downtown throw a stone towards the sea and you’ll find a great place to lay your towel.
The main beach in Jaffa (the old part of town) is Alma Beach, which gets very popular especially at weekends. As it’s on the Med, the best weather is had in the summer months between May to September, but even winter is relatively mild.
Believe it or not, Tel Aviv is also a bit of a surfing hotspot, so if you’re a beginner or more advanced, hire a board and hit the swell!
7. Newquay, UK
This might stretch the definition of a city slightly as Newquay is more of a large town, but it’s beach pedigree isn’t up for debate. Town centre beaches include Porth and Lusty Glaze, but it’s Fistral that gets the headlines. You’ll find some of the UK’s best surf conditions all year round and when the weather is good (which can be a bit of struggle to be fair) you can sun yourself on miles of beautiful golden sands. Plus, the nightlife is pretty good too.
Away from downtown Newquay, you’ll also find blissfully quiet beaches like Watergate Bay and Crantock – both a short drive from the town centre. Visit in the summer months between May to September for the best chance of sunny days.
Other UK options for city beaches include Bournemouth, Brighton, Torquay and Blackpool.
8. Biarritz, France
When it comes to beautiful beachside cities, France is definitely blessed. But, Biarritz might just top it for us. Like Newquay, it’s more of a large town than a city, but that doesn’t detract from it’s beach quality. Less glitzy than Nice, you’ll be able to find a hotel and a meal that isn’t a rip off and then soak up the sun on a choice of beaches including the Grand Plage (big beach) and Plage de la Cote de la Basques (a long surfy break not far from the centre of town).
Like San Sebastian, Biarritz is in the Basque region so the food and culture is very distinctive compared to the rest of the country. In fact, you can visit the two towns as part of one trip as they are only an hour apart!
France isn’t short of beach based cities, including Nice, La Rochelle and Cannes.
9. Los Angeles (Santa Monica), California
Venice beach is one of those places that you feel like you’ve been to before, probably because it’s featured in a million Hollywood movies. With muscle beach, Santa Monica pier and the boardwalk stretching along the seafront, you’ll find plenty of places to lie and sun worship or better still, people watch. You’ll have your eyes on storks for multiple reasons (good, bad and highly amusing).
LA benefits from pretty good weather all year round, although March to June are slightly more bearable and with better humidity/temperature than the rest of the year.
10. Barcelona, Spain
Spain’s second city has a fantastic beach front, lined with cafes and bars and thronged with sun worshippers. As far as best city beaches go, this is one of the finest in Europe. Barcelona itself isn’t short of things to do, with Gaudi inspired architecture, one of the world’s best football clubs and a glut of excellent museums such as the Museu Picasso.
Oh and the nightlife is pretty top notch too! Barcelona gets very hot in the summer months, for the most bearable temperatures the best time to go is between March-June and September-November.
What do you think of our list of the best city beaches? Ready to pack your swimmers and check them out?
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