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From the remote beauty of Rhossili Bay to the fine sands of the Swedish Riviera; Europe's most spectacular beaches

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Anna Brech
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There's nothing like the prospect of a beautiful beach to make our hearts beat that little bit faster. 

And you don't have to spend thousands on a long-haul flight to lay claim to your own particular corner of paradise. Some of the world's finest seaside havens are right here on our doorstep.

Take Elafonisi lagoon in south-west Crete, where pink coral sands and hazy white sandbars create a Caribbean-style ambiance. Or trendy Sylt island - the Hamptons of Germany - where great beach-side bistros and no less than 11 Michelin-star restaurants lure in sun-seekers and food-lovers in equal measure.

From the remote beauty of Wales' Rhossili Bay to the fine powdery sands of the Swedish Riviera, come marvel at ten of Europe's most breath-taking beaches: 

Words: Anna Brech, Photos: Getty Images and Rex Features

  • Germany: Sylt island, Nordfriesland

    Best for: foodies

    Sylt is the Hamptons of Germany; come summer, everyone who's anyone flocks to this trendy North Sea island. A fresh breeze blows over picturesque sand dunes, against a backdrop of neat villas with perfectly manicured lawns, pretty shutters and distinctive thatched roofs. There are no fewer than ten Michelin stars on the island, along with some great beach-side bistros. Gourmands can feast on North Sea sole, wild prawns in creamy white sauce and homemade plum cake. 

    Nearest airport: Sylt/Westerland. Fly from London via Berlin or Hamburg from £76 or take a train from Hamburg from £29

  • France: Ile de Riou, Marseilles

    Best for: diving

    This wild and rugged island is one of five that make up the Riou Archipelago, an uninhabited nature reserve that is only accessible via a short boat ride south from Marseille. The calm, clear Mediterranean waters make for ideal diving conditions, with launch points on the north and east of the island, near to the area where Roman shipwrecks were discovered in the 1950's.

    Nearest airport: Marseille. Fly from London from £59.99 

    (photo: totaltravelblog.com)

  • Spain: Playa De Las Catedrales, Galicia

    Best for: natural wonder

    "Beach of the cathedrals" in north-west Spain is famed for its incredible rock formations that can be seen at low-tide. Marvel at the sheer power of nature in action, with the Cantabrian Sea falling away to reveal a intricate series of coastal sculptures, from majestic arches to narrow grottos and caves paved with sand.

    Nearest airport: La Coruña. Fly from London from £123.

  • Sweden: Åla coast, Skåne county

    Best for: getting away from it all

    The Swedish county of Skåne boasts some of the best beaches in the country and is known as the "Swedish Riviera" for its fine, powdery white sand. The 40-km long Åla coast is a vast expanse of remote sandiness peppered with dunes, close-reefs and colourful cabanas used in the autumnal eel-fishing season.

    Nearest airport: Malmo. Fly from London from £148. Or you could travel to Copenhagen in nearby Denmark from £60 and simply cross the Oresund Bridge

  • Turkey: Aya Yorgi bay, Izmir

    Best for: partying

    Aya Yorgi bay has long attracted a glamorous crowd of Turkish jet-setters, and it's now opening up to an international crowd too. Wind-surfers and yachts throng the luminous turquoise coastline and at weekends, its high-end beach clubs - including Okan's Place, pictured - become packed with beautiful people who keep the party going 'til dawn, with live DJs, light shows and delicious frozen cocktails.

    Nearest airport: Izmir. Fly from London from £94

  • Portugal: Comporta beach, Troia peninsula

    Best for: chic escapism

    The relaxed beaches of Herdade da Comporta are a world away from the Algave crowds and all three come with Blue Flag status for their clean water and diverse wildlife systems, including dolphins and over 200 species of bird. Comporta has a stylish feel, despite its remoteness, with wooden boardwalks and hip beach-side cafes serving tropical fruit Caipiroskas. 

    Nearest airport: Lisbon. Fly from London from £102

  • Italy: Cala Luna beach, Sardinia

    Best for: snorkelling

    One of the most beautiful beaches in the whole of Italy (and that's saying something), Cala Luna is framed by steep limestone cliffs and verdant greenery on the lesser-known Orosei coast of Sardinia. It's only accessible by boat or via a 4km hike from nearby Cala Fuili beach. The unspoilt waters are crystal clear, for prime snorkelling conditions. 

    Nearest airport: Alghero. Flights from London from £84. 

  • Greece: Elafonisi Beach, Crete

    Best for: Caribbean-style paradise

    Elafonisi in south-west Crete has long transfixed visitors with its magical pink coral sand, pure white sandbars and pristine warm waters that are redolent of the Caribbean. The beach is less remote than it once was, but you can still find a quiet patch away from the sunbeds by wading across the lagoon to the protected nature reserve island opposite. 

    Nearest airport: Crete. Fly from London from £69

  • Spain: Playa de la Concha, San Sebastián

    Best for: city break

    One of the finest city beaches in the world, Playa de la Concha curves around the coast of San Sebastián in the Bay of Biscay. During summer, its shores are filled with tanned, toned beach-lovers in a fiesta-style atmosphere, but you can escape the masses by swimming out to one of the floating platforms moored off-shore. The delights of the city, including San Sebastián's pintxos bars (the Basque version of tapas) are never far away.

    Nearest airport: Biarritz, just across the border. Fly from London from £47

  • UK: Rhossili Bay, Wales

    Best for: beach walks

    There's a reason why Rhossili Bay is often voted one of the best in the UK, and the world. This so-called "supermodel of British beaches" encompasses three miles of golden sands that stretches past the legendary sea serpent-shaped Worms Head on the most westerly tip of Gower. Bring your dog for a walk along this breath-taking expanse, and watch the windsurfers out on the bay, or keep an eye out for basking seals or dolphins that are sometimes spotted in the surf.  

    Nearest station: Swansea. Get a train from London from £80

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Author

Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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