From gourmets to energetic teens, Paul Bloomfield has a European seaside holiday to entice every type of traveller
Oh, we do like to be beside the seaside – even if the seaside in question is generally farther afield than it was when that ditty was penned over a century ago.
It’s 70 years since Vladimir Raitz first chartered flights to Corsica for his new Horizon Holidays, essentially inventing the fly-and-flop fortnight. And it’s 50 since Thomson Holidays upsized the rather embryonic affairs of the 1960s, packing planeloads of sun-and-sand seekers off for bargain breaks to Majorca and the Canary Islands.
Over the decades that followed, Brits looked to ever more distant shores, raising our gaze from Margate and Marbella to Mykonos and beyond.
And while some spread their wings to investigate the coasts of Egypt, Thailand, the US or even Australia, most of us continue to prefer short-haul, particularly younger families for whom long flights can be nerve-jangling ordeals.
The beach holiday remains perennially popular, of course – 40 per cent of us packed bucket and spade in 2018, according to – close behind the city break as the nation’s favourite vacation. It’s just a very different from the days of Hi-de-Hi! campers and end-of-pier shows.
Life’s a beach, or so the cliché goes. And as life has changed beyond recognition since the first package holiday was just a twinkle in Thomas Cook’s eye, so have our littoral ambitions.
It’s no longer enough to guarantee sun, sea and some semblance of sand. We want secret coves and chic spas, private pools and kids’ clubs, contemporary design and gastronomic fireworks to match.
Today, you need look no further than Europe’s seaboards to discover a wide variety of beach breaks. All life is here: the high life, a quiet life, love life, marine life, nightlife, young life, intelligent life, life goals, life partners, life-changing experiences – all reflected in the range of strand-centred holidays available this summer.
The ongoing proliferation of hotels, resorts, villas and cabins, and the burgeoning popularity of novel destinations such as Croatia and Montenegro, as well as tailored and themed packages, reflects the diversity of our dreams as well as the continued growth in the market.
Whether you’re looking for sports or spas, family fun or secret retreats, we’ve rounded up 40 of the best breaks across the continent to help you plan your ideal escape.
Best for… couples
1. Embrace amore on the Amalfi Coast
Sunlight sparkling on teal-tinged waves, pastel-hued houses tumbling down to the shore: the Amalfi Coast remains ineffably romantic, and the newly refurbed Casa Angelina in Praiano encapsulates Audrey Hepburn-era elegance blended with a minimalist aesthetic. Sail along the coast to Capri on the hotel’s private boat, relax at the beach club, sip cocktails on the roof terrace as the sun sinks into the Med – that’s amore.
Five nights with Best at Travel (0203 553 0193; ) from £2,689pp including B&B in a Romantic Room and flights.
2. Succumb to the charms of Saint-Tropez
Recalling the boho Bardot heyday of the French Riviera’s chicest resort, Lou Pinet Hotel & Spa has the mien of a Provençal country estate but sits just a stone’s throw from the finest beaches. A deceptively new kid on the block, having opened last year, it’s a seductive blend of glamour plus pine-scented gardens and gastronomy – the hotel’s Beefbar works wonders with the finest cuts – creating a potent air of romance.
Lou Pinet (00 33 4 94 97 04 37; ), doubles from €430 (£366) B&B.
3. Retreat to the Montenegro Riviera
It’s an intimate affair at the Ananti Resort, Residences & Beach Club, relaunching this summer with the opening of a spa and other new facilities. Perched above the Adriatic shore and backed by gleaming limestone mountains, a stone’s throw from A-lister sanctuary Sveti Stefan and just south of Budva’s medieval citadel, this resort’s range of sleek seaview suites and villas is perfect for a couple’s getaway.
Four nights with Kenwood Travel (020 7749 7260; ) at Ananti from £415pp, including B&B in a sea view suite, flights and transfers.
4. No children rule in Sardinia
It’s adults-only at La Villa del Re, where you can drink in views of the gleaming sand and glassy, bath-warm sea from the infinity pool uninterrupted by youthful yells and splashes. Costa Rei, on Sardinia’s southeast coast, is a low-key alternative to the better-known Costa Smeralda, and the hotel offers opportunities to explore the area on sailing, hiking, horseriding and cycling excursions.
Seven nights with Just Sardinia (01202 484858; ) at La Villa del Re, from £1679.50pp, including B&B, flights and transfers.
Best for… secret escapes
5. Live the Durrell dream on Andros
This collection of stone cottages scattered across a verdant hillside, ranged above a secluded cove on the northernmost of the Cyclades, is a place to embrace simple pleasures: fresh local food, a jug of wine, laughter with friends, an impromptu sea -swim. Onar (meaning “dream” in ancient Greek) feels like a private island retreat, its stylishly designed cottages peeking from the trees in a national park and accessible only along a rough track.
From £144 B&B with i-escape (0117 9467072; ).
6. Taste island life in Norway
You might call it barefoot luxury, though you might want to don neoprene bootees – kayaking and windsurfing are popular at Stokkoya Beach Hotel, overlooking a wild shore on the west coast of Stokkoya island. The choice of Wallpaper-baiting rooms ranges from stylish hostel units to quirky subterranean rooms and contemporary eco cabins. The Beach Bar conjures up superb seafood, perhaps a legacy of one owner’s past career as a scallop diver.
From €171 (£145) per night B&B with Welcome Beyond (+49 163 737 2509; ) for two in a SUB unit.
7. Retreat to a shack in south Sicily
Refurbished with artfully chosen flotsam and shells, plus locally found vintage furniture, Dimora di Circe is a stylishly updated, two-bed, beach shack better suited to fashionistas than fishermen. With its own patch of beach on a quiet stretch of coast near Sicily’s southern tip, it also provides easy access to the baroque charms of Noto and hilltop Ragusa.
Seven nights with Freelance Holidays (01789 297705; freelance-holidays.co.uk) at Dimora di Circe from £2,856 for up to four people, excluding flights.
8. Enjoy some sweet solitude on Crete
Tucked away on the peaceful southeast coast of Crete, a row of warehouses formerly used for storing carob pods have been imaginatively converted into the bright, airy Apothikes Beach Suites. Screened by tamarisk trees and opening directly onto sleepy Ferma Bay, guests have access to the pool, bar and taverna of the parent hotel on the cliffs nearby so you can choose solitude or sociability on a whim.
Seven nights with Simpson Travel (0208 003 6557; ) at Apothikes Beach Suites from £590pp including room-only accommodation, flights and car hire.
Best for… sporty sun-seekers
9. Sharpen your swing in south Majorca
Test your drive on reputedly the longest hole in Spain – the 6th at Golf de Andratx, an oversized 609 yards – during a stay at the adjacent Zafiro Palace Andratx. This new all-suite five-star hotel in the quiet Mallorcan village of Camp de Mar, fringing a sandy cove sheltered by mountains, opens this June with 11 outdoor pools, six restaurants, a luxe spa and top-notch fitness centre. The surrounding hills are laced with enticing hiking trails, too.
Seven nights with First Choice (0203 451 2688; ) from £1,890pp all-inclusive, with flights and transfers.
10. Reach peak condition in Croatia
Sure, you could just loll in one of the pools at Valamar Koralj Hotel on Krk’s southern coast, now easily accessible on direct Tui flights, or dawdle down to pebbly, pine-cloistered Drazica Beach for a dip in the limpid waters of Kvarner Bay. But your body – and possibly your ego – will thank you for joining the Stay Fit programme, with five daily activities ranging from aqua aerobics to Nordic walking and yoga.
Fourteen nights with Holiday Hypermarket (0800 916 5100; ) from £1,138pp, including half-board accommodation, Stay Fit programme, flights and transfers.
11. Take to the trails in the Cyclades
Roam the network of new walking paths that meander across the hillsides and valley of the five-star Calilo estate on Ios, then cool off in the cluster of rock pools freshly scooped into the cliffs. Ten new sea view suites, each with a series of multilevel pools fed by waterfalls, have also been added to the secluded 1,100-acre resort above the golden sands and pellucid waters of Papas Bay.
Suites from €349 (£297) per night B&B ().
12. Smash your serve in Spain
Playing on courts graced by the likes of Serena Williams, Boris Becker and Bjorn Borg at Puente Romano Tennis Club cannot fail to inspire your game – inspiration bolstered, of course, by daily private lessons and tested at an optional tournament. Based at the elegant, Andalusian-style Marbella Club Hotel, ease post-session aches with a massage or yoga session, or chill at the beach club.
Seven nights with Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 889; ) at Marbella Club from £1,835pp, including B&B, tennis coaching, airport transfers but not flights.
13. Enjoy rounds and ruins in Sicily
Work on your handicap as well as your history at Verdura Resort, close to the ancient remains of the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento in southwest Sicily. In sharp contrast to those 2,000-year-old some are actually oldermonuments, the resort’s golf course provides cutting-edge technology to help improve your game, including a 4D body- and -club motion capture system,
plus expert coaching. New villas open this year to augment the mile-plus
2km-long private beach and 60m infinity pool.
Seven nights with Sardatur (020 8973 2292; ) from €3,770pp, (£3210) including half-board accommodation, flights and transfers.
Best for… culture vultures
14. Set your sights on Slovenia
Claiming only a narrow sliver of the Adriatic Riviera, Slovenia is rarely considered as a sun, sea and sand destination. But the magnificent medieval Venetian town of Piran combines culture – particularly in summer, when its attractive central Tartini Square hosts diverse events and concerts – with superb Italian-accented seafood and the country’s best beaches at nearby Portoroz. Hotel Piran is a characterful boutique option in the historic quarter, with a delightful sea-view, terrace bar and contemporary style.
From £74 B&B (telegraph.co.uk/tt-slovpiran).
15. Admire the acropolis on Rhodes
The secret was out about charming Lindos, on the east coast of Rhodes, long ago. Some 3,000 years ago, in fact, evidenced by its clifftop acropolis, which still sports the remains of an ancient temple to Athena, walled by Crusader-era battlements and providing some of the most dramatic views in the eastern Mediterranean. Thankfully, there’s more modern accommodation at new, five-star Lindos Grand Resort & Spa on nearby Vlycha Bay, and direct BA flights from July.
Seven nights with British Airways Holidays (0844 493 0787; ) at Lindos Grand Resort & Spa from £589pp including B&B and flights.
16. Dodge the crowds in Dubrovnik
Croatia’s most alluring, walled citadel can be a congested chore, but a hop and a skip along the coast is a haven from the hordes. Hotel Bellevue, overlooking its namesake beach, is as serene and sophisticated as the city is historic and often hectic, having reopened last year after a major overhaul.
Duck in and out of Dubrovnik to avoid the busiest times, interspersing cultural browsing with gourmet grazing at the hotel’s three bars and restaurants.
Four nights with Original Travel (020 3582 4990; ) at Hotel Bellevue, from £2,230pp including B&B, two escorted tours, flights and transfers.
17. Discover turtles and temples in Turkey
Roam Patara Beach on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast and you may spy unfamiliar footprints – those of loggerhead turtles, which nest here each summer.
Turn inland, and you’ll encounter the remains of an ancient Lycian city. In short, there’s more to this shore than sand and sun. New BA flights to Dalaman arrive in May, opening up this historic and alluring region; Villa White Moon near Kalkan is an attractive base, its pool affording sensational sea views.
Seven nights with Vintage Travel (01954 261431; ) from £1,350 at Villa White Moon, sleeping eight.
Best for… gourmets
18. Savour celebrity cuisine on Cyprus
Take off on a global gastro-tour without leaving the hotel in Limassol. Restaurants at the beachfront five-star Amara, which opened last autumn, showcase Nobu Matsuhisa’s Japanese-Peruvian fusion, Giorgio Locatelli’s authentic Italian dishes, and Greek fare from Athenian George Papaioannou, focusing on local fish and seafood. Combat overindulgence with a treatment at the extensive spa, a few laps of the infinity pool or a stroll around the impressive ruins of the ancient city of Amathus nearby.
From £228 B&B (telegraph.co.uk/tt-cyprusamara).
19. Seek stars in San Sebastián
Lauded for its uncommon concentration of Michelin stars, in truth Spain’s culinary epicentre is as appealing for its pintxo (tapas) bars as its high-end restaurants.
A new BA flight from London City Airport launching in July provides easy access, while the recently updated Lasala Plaza Hotel, blending grande dame gravitas with suitably understated maritime style, is the ideal base from which to launch forays to the Basque city’s markets, bars and beaches.
Four nights with Kirker (020 7593 2288; ) from £5,365 for a family of four B&B including flights and private transfers.
20. Quaff under canvas in Languedoc
A campsite with en suiteen-suite winery? Surely the dream ticket for alfresco oenophiles. As the name suggests, Camping Domaine la Yole near Béziers is embedded among vineyards that have produced wine for 250 years, the spacious air-con mobile homes, quirky safari tents, extensive pool and activity complex being more recent additions. With a sandy beach a short walk away, and regular wine-tasting and gastronomic events, this is glamping for gourmets.
Seven nights with Venue Holidays (01233 629950; ) at Camping Domaine la Yole from £256 for a mobile home sleeping six.
21. Indulge volcanic appetites
The dramatic views along the string of cones towards Stromboli from Therasia Resort Sea & Spa, perched on the rocky Vulcanello headland, provide the amuse-bouche for a gastronomic getaway. This luxurious, intimate hotel has culinary credentials to match the vistas, with a Michelin star sparkling among its three restaurants, plus cookery and cocktail-making classes, wine-tasting and a range of wellness options.
Seven nights with Prestige Holidays (01425 480400; ) from £1,419pp, including six nights’ B&B at Therasia, one night in Taormina, flights, transfers and boat to Vulcano island.
Best for… families
22. Sleep safari style in western France
Let’s face it, camping en famille can be an adventure or an ordeal. The beachside Atlantic Club Montalivet Resort brings to the table activity: an extensive pool complex, surfing and other sports, plus variety and novelty, not least in the range of accommodation. As well as cabins and spacious tents, this five-star campsite (yes, there is such a thing) offers quirky options including en suite safari tents and cute airlodges – basically, your childhood, fantasy, treehouse-tent combo. The nearby vineyards of Médoc beckon thirsty parents.
Seven nights with Canvas Holidays (0345 268 0827; ) from £431.
23. Get the kids cooking in Portugal
To paraphrase the adage, don’t judge a boutique hotel by its interior design. The sleek aesthetic of Praia Verde, in a leafy, unspoilt pocket of the Algarve, might signal an adults-only vibe, but the imaginative range of activities for youngsters: market trips and cookery lessons; movie nights with popcorn; pools and beach swims; is exemplary.
There’s plenty for parents, too, from birdwatching to boat trips, oyster-tasting to off-road biking. Suites feature kitchenettes in which to rustle up snacks.
Rooms from £64 B&B (telegraph.co.uk/tt-praiaverde).
24. Treat the children on Crete
Another five-star hotel adding sophistication to sustainability and a superior family package, the new Domes Zeen Chania is well endowed with options for entertaining offspring.
Along with a dedicated pool, kids can caper among yurts and tepees, in the Zen retreat that hosts the kids’ club, or on the private beach below. Minimalist Bali-influenced interiors, jungle spa and restaurants maintain high standards for grown-ups.
Seven nights with Destinology (01204 474801; ) from £5,799 for four sharing a tropical family pavilion with private pool, including half-board, flights and transfers.
25. Join your young for yoga in Andalusia
The family that does sun salutations together, stays together – that’s the idea behind new family wellness experiences launched at the Kempinski Hotel Bahía, in the low-key Costa del Sol resort of Estepona.
As well as curated parent-children yoga sessions, there are tailored spa treatments, tennis sessions and Spanish cookery classes to be enjoyed en famille. Alternatively, the refurbed kids’ club offers mini-me time for youngsters.
From €350 (£298) per night for a family of four (telegraph.co.uk/tt-kempinskibahia).
Best for… active teens
26. Get adventure-ready in Greece
Tweens ready for more than sand and splashes are invited to join the Adventure Club at new, five-star MarBella Elix in Perdika above Karavostasi Beach on Greece’s north Ionian coast. The programme for preteens, devised by the Exploration Society, packs in activities including kayaking, canyoning, woodland skills and treasure hunts. There’s digital detox for all age groups, too, with wellness and fitness options including hiking, yoga and tennis academy.
Seven nights with Exsus Travel (020 3613 5632; ) from £5,400 for a family of four, including half-board accommodation, flights and transfers.
27. Study shooting and salsa in Sardinia
Ambitious offspring? Academies at Forte Village in southern Sardinia beckon twinkle-toed youngsters to hone their skills with coaching in football – with former Chelsea players, no less – basketball, tennis, rugby and dance. A new tiki bar, circus-inspired children’s restaurant and beach extension are among the fruits of a recent refurb of the resort, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Seven nights with Classic Collection Holidays (0800 008 7288; ) at Hotel Bouganville, Forte Village from £7,398 for a family of four including half-board accommodation, flights and transfers.
28. Pry phones from fingers in Portugal
If you battle to detach teens from their tech, the new CREW programme at Pine Cliffs Resort in the Algarve offers a solution. Billed as “unstructured fun for the independent teen”, it’s a flexible roster: think tennis, golf and surf training, wakeboarding, SUPing, kayaking and high ropes. Other family bonding ideas include cooking and yoga classes, while football starlets can train with ex-players.
Seven nights with Scott Dunn (020 3993 6731; ) at Pine Cliffs Resort from £2,085pp for a family of four, including flights, private transfers and two CREW spaces.
29. Football feuds in Fuerteventura
Another half-centenarian brand upping the ante this year, ROBINSON Club Esquinzo Playa has augmented its offer with football academies led by ex-pros and coaches – parents can participate in weekly tournaments, too. The lure of the ocean is famously strong on this Canary island; sailing, kite- and windsurfing are among on-site watersports, while land activities include tennis training and beach volleyball.
Seven nights at ROBINSON Club Esquinzo Playa (00 34 928 168000; ) from £549pp including full-board accommodation and most on-site activities on site, but not flights.
Best for… watersports
30. Snorkel with sunfish on Elba
History fails to record Napoleon’s impressions of Elba’s marine life during his enforced sojourn on the Tuscan island, but diving and snorkelling connoisseurs today extol the joys of finning above the seagrass meadows off Cap Sant’Andrea; alive with kaleidoscopic shoals; huge sunfish cruise Elba’s waters in summer, too.
Boutique Hotel Ilio in Sant’Andrea is an ideal base from which to explore sunken Roman wrecks just offshore, its restrained rooms dotted around the attractive town and above its sandy beach.
Seven nights at Hotel Ilio (00 39 0565 908018; ) from £357 B&B for two people.
31. Best barrels and breaks in Portugal
Making its Olympic debut this year, surfing continues to swell in popularity. Portugal’s Atlantic coast boasts Europe’s heftiest waves; at Ericeira you’ll encounter breaks for beginners and board-riding masters alike. You and the Sea offers rooms and stylishly understated family-friendly apartments sleeping up to eight, along with board hire and surf lessons. Non-surfers can enjoy the spa, a heated pool and expertly wood-fired pizzas in Jangada restaurant.
Seven nights with Real Holidays (020 7359 3938, ) from £807pp for a family of four in a self-catering apartment, including flights and car hire.
32. Sculpture scuba in Lanzarote
The 300-plus statues of Museo Atlántico, Europe’s only underwater sculpture museum, grace the seabed just off the southern coast of the northernmost Canary island, providing a unique experience for scuba-divers.
Five-star Princesa Yaiza, a contemporary suite hotel with a dash of colonial style, offers courses and six-dive packages visiting the nearby sculptures in the waters of Playa Blanca. With high-level football coaching and impressive Kikoland kids’ club, younger guests are enthralled as much as spa-loving adult gourmets and golf -lovers.
Rooms from £139 (telegraph.co.uk/tt-princesayaiza).
33. Take to the waves in Turkey
A gnarled finger tickling the turquoise where the Aegean meets the Med, Turkey’s Datca peninsula marks a sweet spot for watersports enthusiasts – particularly with the launch this spring of additional BA flights to Dalaman and Bodrum. D Maris Bay, a luxurious resort with five sandy beaches, is endowed with an embarrassment of aquatic activities including windsurfing, wakeboarding, diving, catamaran sailing and kayaking, plus tennis coaching, kids’ club, Mytha Spa and half a dozen restaurants.
Five nights with British Airways Holidays (0844 493 0787; ) from £744pp B&B including flights.
Best for… chic-seekers
34. Lounge at the lido in the Italian lakes
Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Como’s art nouveau grande dame, has undergone a touch of cosmetic surgery for this year. True, its faultless bone structure and timeless good looks remain undiminished: it’s refresh rather than revolution, retaining the Belle Époque glamour that’s drawn the elite to this lakeshore palace for over a century. The difference is largely exterior, with the launch of the revamped T Beach club, replete with sandy strand, sunloungers, cocktail bar and pool floating in the lake.
Rooms from £473 (telegraph.co.uk/tt-comotremezzo).
35. Motor your boat to Brac
It’s telling that the transfer from Split airport to Villa Akuna is by private motorboat, indicating the level of luxe. Tucked away on the Croatian island’s sleepy southeast coast, this five-bedroom waterfront hideaway has contemporary style in spades, leavened with a dash of interior sass. While it’s tempting to laze away the days in the villa’s pool overlooking the Adriatic, your skipper’s on hand to chug you to the various beaches along the shore.
Seven nights with One Off Places () from £4,900 for up to eight people at Villa Akuna, excluding flights.
36. Convene on the Costa de la Luz
Dos Horizontes near Cadíz softens its clean contemporary lines with vintage collectables to create an interior designer’s dream venue for a house party: private, with tempting pool and lush gardens, but a pebble’s throw from surf-splashed sand.
Beg, borrow or steal friends and relatives to make up the numbers at this exceptional Andalusian house, sleeping 14; its inside-outside flow is perfect for special birthdays, anniversaries or multi-generational family stays.
Seven nights with Sawday’s (0117 204 7810; ) from €3,000 (£2554) per week.
Best for… wellness
37. Recalibrate your goals in Greece
Health and hospitality dovetail seamlessly in Greece – Hippocrates was a local lad – and the exclusive all-suite Amanzoe resort on the east Peloponnese coast has your well-being in mind with the launch of Amanyara Spa Immersions. After an initial consultation to define your goals, a programme of movement classes and treatments: reflexology, acupuncture, meridian therapy; tackles mindfulness, stress and physical shape. Mind you, Aegean sunset views, exceptional cuisine and a dip at the private beach can’t hurt.
Three nights at Amanzoe (0808 101 3377; ) from £1,120 including full-board accommodation and Wellness Immersion programme.
38. Imbibe the best medicine in Puglia
The laughter cure is among the elements in a range of Happiness Breaks helping guests reclaim their joy at Borgo Egnazia, a luxurious hilltop village-style resort above the sandy Puglian shore. Join a local actor for laughter workshops before setting out on blindfolded walks through the surrounding stone streets. There’s more nourishment for body and soul at the Vair Spa, yoga studio, golf course, beach clubs and restaurants including Michelin-starred Due Camini.
Seven nights with Abercrombie & Kent (01242 546611; ) from £2,615pp including B&B accommodation, activities, flights and transfers.
39. Detox and dine in Montenegro
The Mediterranean diet has long been lauded for its healthy properties, and Giorgio Locatelli’s south Italian cuisine comprises one piece of the wellness puzzle at One&Only Portonovi, opening on the Balkan coast in June. Another is the Espace Chenot spa, with a strong suit in detox and skincare treatments. There’s a further range of dining options and activities including a beach club at the ultra-luxe resort near the mouth of Kotor Bay.
Seven nights with Elegant Resorts (01244 897581; ) at One&Only Portonovi costs from £2,935pp including B&B, spa treatment, flights, airport lounge pass and transfers.
40. Spa and sauna on the Polish coast
The Baltic may be better known for bracing beach walks than sea swims, but there’s no doubting the beauty of its sandy shores – nor the spa heritage of the Polish resort town of Kołobrzeg, north of Szczecin. Shuum Boutique Wellness Hotel is the most enticing option here, its minimalist decor in line with the dedication to the cause. A range of saunas, yoga sessions, dietary clinic and even Chinese medicine consultations are available.
Relaxation package at Shuum Boutique Wellness Hotel (0048 94 3554 000; ) from £179 including B&B, spa and yoga session.
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