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It’s that time of year when people are starting to plan their 2020 summer adventures - so why not combine exciting urban exploration with a relaxing beach holiday? We’ve put together a list of some of the top beach cities in Europe, that as well as an impressive shoreline, also offer a wide range of attractions.
This must-see Spanish city really does offer a little something for every type of traveller. For foodies, there is a total of 20 Michelin Star restaurants, plus plenty of local tapas bars for the more budget-conscious tourist. The city’s architectural styles are uniquely diverse with Art Nouveau, Gothic and Catalan Modernism all present. There are also world-class museums, fantastic shopping opportunities and nightlife for both the younger and older crowd. Places to visit include the fairy-tale Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s magical basilica that has become an iconic symbol of the city. Park Guell is also well worth a visit and boasts beautiful panoramas over Barcelona. The park is home to intricate mosaic benches and an array of colonnades, fountains and sculptures, all in Gaudi’s distinct style. History fans shouldn’t miss Barcelona City History Museum which preserves ancient Roman sites such as The Temple of Augustus. The museum also contains the remains of a garum factory and sections of the city’s ancient walls.
Barceloneta Beach is the most popular of the city’s beaches and sits within easy reach of the city centre, making it a common day-trip for tourists on holiday in Barcelona. As well as offering a long stretch of golden sand, there is always something happening at Barceloneta Beach with musicians, sand artists and local traders all flocking to the shore. The beach also has a charming stretch of seafront restaurants serving mouth-wateringly fresh food. For those seeking a more peaceful shoreline, the golden sands of Nova Icaria Beach are around a 25-minute walk, or a 5-minute drive from Barceloneta Beach.
The capital of Sicily, Palermo city breaks offer a charming experience, with palm-tree lined streets and a mountainous setting that conceals a fascinating history. Visitors will discover an interesting fusion of architecture, including Gothic palaces, Arabesque domes and baroque churches. A cultural melting pot, Palermo is home to Italy’s biggest opera house and a 9th century ornate Norman palace. There’s also a 12th-century cathedral that houses royal tombs, and a treasury with a medieval crown and a crypt from the 7th century. Other must-sees include the Oratorio di San Lorenzo (home to Caravaggio paintings), or for something unusual and somewhat morbid, Palermo’s catacombs are home to 8,000 mummified bodies, some of which date back over 500 years.
During summer, the fishing village of Modello (a 20-minute drive away) has a dreamy white-sand beach with turquoise waters and plenty of elegant seafood restaurants. Perched above the village sits Monte Pellegrino, a 606-metre high hill that’s home to a beautiful chapel (Santuario di Santa Rosalia), which makes a lovely reward for those who hike to the top.
Helsinki, the vibrant capital of Finland boasts magnificent architecture, innovative dining, ground-breaking architecture and an array of beaches and islands within easy reach of the city centre. Must-sees include the harbour and market square, where you can savour a cup of Finnish coffee, before perusing the stalls. The unique wooden design of the Kamppi Chapel attracts many tourists, which uses Nordic Spruce to enhance the lack of sound within. Museum buffs shouldn’t miss Helsinki City Museum, which won Finland’s ‘museum of the year’ award in 2017 and showcases a wide collection of Finnish artefacts.
Helsinki’s beaches are delightful during the summer months and there are a collection of islands that can be easily reached by ferry. The most popular beach is Hietniemi Beach (a short drive or a 30-minute walk from the city centre) which boasts a large stretch of golden sand and water safe for swimming. Suomenlinna, dubbed the ‘Fortress of Finland’ is also a popular excursion during Helsinki holidays, sitting on a small cluster of islands, it’s around a 20-minute ferry ride from the city centre. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fortress offers visitors a fantastic example of a fortified military structure.
The epitome of Scandi cool, Denmark’s vibrant capital makes for an exciting break with plenty of attractions to suit visitors of all ages. The renowned Tivoli Gardens amusement park is a must for tourists, both young and old, with beautiful scenery boasting grand architecture, historic buildings and exotic gardens. The amusement park is located just a few minutes’ walk from City Hall and is packed with classic, nostalgic rides as well as extreme rollercoasters for thrill seekers. Be sure to take a stroll down the iconic Nyhavn Harbour where you’ll find colourful architecture and a selection of waterfront restaurants serving everything from fish and chips to classic Danish fare. Another must-see during a Copenhagen break is the Little Mermaid sculpture at Langelinie Pier, inspired by the classic tale by Hans Christian Anderson, the sculpture is over 100 years old and was a gift from Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen to the city of Copenhagen.
In Copenhagen you are never far from a beach and during the summer locals and tourists flock to the nearby shores. The award-winning Amager Beach Park sits just a few minutes’ drive from the city centre and offers almost five kilometres of golden sand. Another popular option is the scenic Bellevue Beach, situated 10 kilometres from downtown Copenhagen, and boasting 700 metres of sand with lifeguards and freshwater showers on-site.
The largest of all the Baltic capitals, Riga is renowned for beautiful Art Nouveau architecture, modern art galleries and experimental restaurants. Home to a selection of 13th-century churches, the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, increasing its popularity with international tourists who often take advantage of the widely available cheap Riga breaks. The medieval Old Town boasts cobbled streets brimming with culture and is home to St Peter’s Church, one of the oldest monuments in Riga, which has a beautiful vista from the viewing tower. You’ll also find plenty of charming cafes for catching your breath before visiting one of the city’s wonderful museums. A short stroll from the Old Town, The Museum of the Occupation offers a fascinating insight into the 51-year period when Latvia was occupied by the USSR and Nazi Germany. The Central Market is also well-worth a visit and has local handicrafts that make fantastic souvenirs, plus an inviting food court with a great selection of places to eat at affordable prices.
For tourists visiting Riga during the summer months, the nearby beach resort of Jurmala boasts a stunning white-sand beach.