No need to sacrifice a few days lounging on the beach just because you’re going on a city break. Europe has plenty of sandy stretches where you can spend the day relaxing and soaking up some rays before heading into town for all the nightlife, culture and activities that the continent’s coolest cities have to offer.
The Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels) curves right from the airport to the Chateau Hill, and as far as views go, is a real winner, with boats zipping about in the sparkling blue seas, and palm trees lining the Promenade des Anglais.
It’s a two-minute walk from the promenade to the city’s main square, the Place Masséna, where there’s always plenty of buzz during the summer months. The square is at the centre of the new town and surrounded by restaurants, bars and shops.
Further inland Nice’s multitude of contemporary art galleries and museums are enough to keep anyone busy – stop in at the MAMAC (Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain), which showcases American and European avant-garde work, and the Théâtre de la Photographie et de l’Image.
Do: Wear big hats and small cossies to fit in with Nice’s chic residents – that goes for gents as well as ladies.
Don’t: Hit the coast without a thick towel – the pebbly beach takes some getting used to.
Get there: Fly from London Gatwick to Nice from £46 return with easyJet .
Don’t expect to avoid the crowds here during the warmer months as Barcelona’s beachy brand of urban cool brings tourists flocking.
In other words: the restaurants are full, the bars are full and as for the beaches – well at Barceloneta, the closest to the city centre, every last inch is crammed with sun-worshippers, ice-cream sellers, drummers and people playing volleyball and football.
It’s all pretty manic, so when you need a break from beach life, take yourself into the city (about half an hour’s walk) for a tour of the iconic art nouveau architecture – no one should leave Barcelona without a peek at Gaudi’s famously unfinished church, La Sagrada Familia.
Do: Keep your wits about you – with that many relaxed (and often half-cut) tourists in one place, pickpocketing is rife and there are heaps of scammers that hang around the beaches.
Don’t: Miss out on a night on Las Ramblas, the city’s busiest street for drinking and clubbing.
Get there: Fly from London Stansted to Barcelona from £157 return with Ryanair.
Beaches are rarely mentioned as one of Berlin’s top attractions – which is a good thing really, as they’re one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. Manmade, obviously, there are stretches of sand to be found by canals, rivers and even on rooftops, but don’t picture yourself lying around in the blazing sun for days on end.
For a start, there isn’t that much blazing sun in Germany’s capital, but more pertinently, these sandy stretches are more of a backdrop for trendy beach bars – how very Berlin.
YAAM, which stands for Youth African Art Market, is a relaxed beach club and community centre, while Strandgut has a more polished vibe, with deckchairs and DJs playing on the sand. Of course the bonus of an urban beach is that you’re always just minutes away from the city’s sights.
Snap a pic of yourself at the Brandenburg Gate, or go up on the roof of the historic Reichstag, home of the German parliament, to get panoramic views of the city.
Do: Bring an umbrella, just in case.
Don’t: Ask where the sea is.
Get there: Fly from London Gatwick to Berlin from £54 return with easyJet .
Anyone’s who’s watched The Killing’s Sarah Lund creep around Copenhagen’s dark, rainy streets in pursuit of murderers might think that the TV series has scuppered any chance of the city becoming a popular beach destination.
But at Amager Beach Park, an artificial island just off Denmark’s coast, there are almost five kilometres of gorgeous white beach. This is a great spot for watersports, as there’s a 1000-metre long rowing and swimming lane, plus kayaks available for rent. Back on the mainland, if you’ve still got the energy left, the sprawling Tivoli Gardens host everything from rollercoster rides to outdoor concerts.
Do: Have yourself a go on one of the world’s oldest wooden rollercoasters, Rutschebanen, while you’re in Tivoli Gardens. It was built in 1914 – but try not to think about that when you’re plummeting down the steep bits.
Don’t: Wear a Sarah Lund-esque woolly jumper on the beach.
Get there: Fly from London Gatwick to Copenhagen from £72 return with easyJet.
Canals and beaches. Who’d have thunk it?
Once you’ve spent some time coasting the Venetian waterways on a gondola or admiring the imposing gothic architecture of St Mark’s Square, you can hop on a boat and 15 minutes later find yourself on an 11km stretch of pristine beach. This long island is Venice Lido.
The more glamorous and cleaner parts are owned by hotels but there are large stretches of public beach at the northern and southern points too – these are open from June until August.
Do: Make the trip to see a side of Venice most tourists miss out on, and escape the crowds in the rest of the city.
Don’t: Visit in September, as the annual Venice Film Festival is held at this time, meaning the place will be packed with other tourists and prices skyrocket.
Get there: Fly from London Gatwick to Venice from £57 return with easyJet.
Best British beaches: Coasts closer to home
Want to make the most of the Great British Summer? Take your towel (and umbrella) to one of these top coastal spots around the country
People might roll their eyes when you mention a trip to Blackpool, remembering miserable childhood holidays involving sandy sandwiches, freezing water and losing all your pocket money in the slot machines. But Blackpool’s miles of windswept beach are definitely worth a revisit if only for a coastal stroll.
And of course if it’s pouring with rain, which is more than likely, there’s always the Blackpool Pleasure Beach to keep you occupied, complete with fairground rides such as the classic wooden Grand National or speedier Pepsi Max Big One.
Another retro English seaside spot, Bournemouth’s beach is the perfect place to pitch up for the day armed with a coolbox of beers and a bucket and spade.
The seven-mile stretch of golden sand has views of Purbeck and the Isle of Wight, and even the English weather doesn’t put off overseas tourists from visiting – last summer Bournemouth beat beaches in Italy, France and Portugal to be voted one of Europe’s favourite sandy stretches in the TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Awards.
The beach at Brighton might be agonisingly pebbly, but that doesn’t stop southerners flocking here anytime there’s even a hint of sunshine on the weather forecast.
But even when the sun isn’t quite blazing down, there’s still plenty to do on the coast here, from kayaking and paddleboarding on the waves, to wandering along Brighton Pier’s iconic promenade while munching candyfloss. The nightlife here is pumping, too.
Photos: Thinkstock, Getty