Best Beaches in Europe: Plages, Playas, Sand & Surf

Thinking about that summer vacation? European beaches run the gamut from family friendly beaches to party beaches and even to nude beaches — there is literally something for everyone. Here are a few of our top picks, plus some tips on how to reach these beaches by train.


Rabbit Beach located in Lampedusa - Sicily, Italy
Rabbit Beach located in Lampedusa – Sicily, Italy

Hop to It: Rabbit Beach – Sicily, Italy

Some people call this beach the best beach in the world — and I guess we’re not surprised that the best beach in the world is part of the Italian coastline.

Rabbit Beach is located on the island of Lampedusa, off the south coast of Sicily. Accessible only by boat, this is one of the few places in the Mediterranean where loggerhead sea turtles lay their eggs.

Getting There: Palermo is a good place to start. If you’re coming from Rome or Naples, you can take an overnight train to Palermo, and from there take a smaller, local train to Porto Empedocle. Once you arrive, a boat is waiting to take you to Rabbit Beach. Tickets for the boat can be purchased at the dock.

Beach of Golden Sands, Varna Bulgaria
Beach of Golden Sands, Varna Bulgaria

Raising the Bar: Golden Sands, Bulgaria

Bulgaria? Sure, why not? The Golden Sands are Bulgaria’s best seaside resort, with pure sands and crystalline waters. This isn’t a quiet resort for contemplation. No sir – here’s where you’ll try your luck at a casino, cool down at a water park and scream with delight on fairground rides. This resort is an extremely popular summer spot for Bulgarians and those looking for a detour from the standard seaside town.

Getting There: From Sofia to Varna is roughly 7.5 hours by train and is covered by the Eurail Bulgaria Pass. From Varna, buses run about every 20 minutes or so from the Railway Station and can also be picked up across the street from the Dormition Cathedral.

The system for using the buses is simply to get on and the conductor will sell you a ticket which costs about $3, just ask to go to “Golden Sands.”

Beaches by Train with Rail EuropeLeave the Umbrella at Home: Brela, Croatia

Croatia has miles of coastline and plentiful islands scented with lavender, olive oil and suntan lotion. But let’s forget Dubrovnik and Hvar and Brac and head to tiny Brela. Less touristy and more relaxed, you’ll find private coves fringed with pine trees. On the Makarska Riviera, Brela also features old Dalmatian architecture amidst the beautiful blue sea.

Getting There: You can reach Brela by bus, which departs from the Split bus terminal (next to the main rail station) every 30 minutes. The journey takes one hour. Tickets must be purchased locally. Use a Eurail Croatia Pass to travel by train throughout the country after your beach visit.

Beaches by Train Rail EuropeSand and the City: Playa de La Concha, San Sebastian Spain

Spain has so many beaches to choose from. But La Concha (“shell” in English) is smack-dab in the middle of a city – and may be the nicest beach near a metropolitan area in all of Europe. And a bonus is the prime Basque location for some of Spain’s tastiest tapas – although here they are called pinxtos.

From the main train station, cross the Maria Cristina Bridge and the magnificent Cathedral will be in front of you. The beach is on your left, with family-friendly Playa de Ondarreta beyond that and the Monte Igueldo a little further. At the near end of Playa de la Concha is a nice promenade with a carousel that’s fun for all ages.

Getting There: Take the train from Madrid to San Sebastian – 5h 20m, or take a train from Barcelona to San Sebastian –5h 30m. There is also a train from Burgos to San Sebastian – about 3 hours.

Beaches by Train with Rail EuropeThe Tallest Beach: Dune du Pilat – France

Welcome to the tallest sand dune in Europe. The Great Dune of Pyla or Pilat is located in La Teste-de-Buch in the Arcachon Bay, about 40 miles from Bordeaux. Pyla is the name of the closest town, Pyla-sur-Mer.

Getting There: Take the TGV or TER to Arcachon, then take the bus for 25 minutes. The train from Paris to Arcachon is roughly four hours (from Bordeaux it’s only about 50 minutes). Bus tickets should be purchased locally – cost is approximately $3.

Skagen, Denmark photo Copyright © Ben_from_Dk
Skagen, Denmark photo Copyright © Ben_from_Dk

An A+ For Two Seas: Skagen, Denmark

Skagen headland is the tip of one of the world’s largest spits – a 10,000 year-old stretch of sand that keeps on growing. Right at the end of the spit, you can stand with your feet in two seas – the Skagarak Sea and the Kattagat Sea, which is unusual. On the Skagerrak coast, the waves are bigger, the water deeper. It’s exhilarating – but bathers take caution and respect nature. The Kattegat coast is the gentle side, with shallow water perfect for families. There’s also a wealth of shells and conches to collect – and you may even uncover some amber, too.

Getting There: Take private railway from Frederikshavn to Skagen – buy tickets locally. Enjoy a 50% discount with Eurail Denmark Pass or Eurail Scandinavia Pass.

Paradise Beach, Mykonos Greece photo Copyright © iriskh
Paradise Beach, Mykonos Greece photo Copyright © iriskh

BUFF BEACH: Paradise Beach (nude beach), Mykonos, Greece

Ah yes, the famous nude beaches of Europe. Some visitors prefer to go topless-only, while some embrace full nudity. Our advice? Sunscreen.

Getting There: Mykonos is the most popular island destination in Greece. You reach it by plane or ferry from Athens (Pireaus). Paradise Beach can be reached from Mykonos town by bus, taxi, water taxi or rented car. Buses run every half hour until 4:30 in the morning, water taxis every hour.

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Beaches by train with Rail Europe

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