(This article is a collaboration with Herson Blake of Blake Media and may contain affiliate links.)
When it comes to choosing the perfect holiday destination, most travelers crave sunshine, interesting culture, fine dining, long walks on the beach and world-class shopping. Luckily, some destinations seem to tick every box on the wish list! Take a look at the most beautiful European coastal cities with the best art museums, thrilling nightlife, and idyllic beaches all rolled into one, and then start planning your next holiday!
This coastal gem sits along on the French Riviera, also known as the Côte d’Azur. Nice is where locals, along with hordes of tourists, spend their summers lounging around on the Plage Beau Rivage or deep in thought at the Musée Matisse. The area gets year-round sunshine making it a popular destination for all seasons. But when you’re tired of lounging on the stunning beach there is so much more to explore in Nice. The city’s old-world opulence is the backdrop for a now booming contemporary art and music scene, making this a vibrant and cultural place to visit. Although the South of France has a reputation for being glitzy and expensive, there still are plenty of cheap things to do in Nice that won’t break your travel budget.
Nearest Airport: Nice Cote d’Azur Airport is located 4 miles west of the city.
This medieval port city is a truly unique combination of the ancient and very modern. Split is Croatia’s second-largest city and a fantastic place to visit for an authentic experience. This city has a unique buzz about it, combining tradition with modernity. A must-see is Diocletian’s Palace, a UNESCO world heritage site that contains thriving bars, restaurants and shops within its old walls. Travelers can expect mild weather, exhilarating water sports and endless, quiet beaches scattered along this beautiful stretch of the Dalmatian coastline.
Nearest Airport: Resnik Airport is located 12 miles from Split.
Get a taste of Scandinavian life in this gorgeous coastal city. Scandinavians are known for their effortlessly simple design, style, and tastes, and you can experience it for yourself in Copenhagen. The city’s creatives have crafted a city of endless visual pleasure where you will always find yourself gasping in delight. Copenhagen also has rich cultural offerings, from royal palaces to paintings from Denmark’s Golden Age. For a true Scandinavian experience, rent a bike and cycle along the sandy beaches and visit the waterfront parks.
Nearest Airport: Copenhagen International Airport is located 5 miles south of the city.
Trieste is an enchanting destination located on the edge of the Adriatic Sea. It’s a bustling city that overflows with unique border-town culture. Geographically, Trieste is almost entirely surrounded by Slovenia, isolating it from the rest of the Italian peninsula. Listen to the locals speaking the Triestini dialect – a mix of Italian, Austrian-German, Croatian and Greek. Head to the seaport to see the spectacular neoclassical architecture, or look out across the blazing blue bay at sunset. Trieste is also a great place to begin a road trip exploring the Adriatic coast, with European road safety being the best it has ever been.
Nearest Airport: Friuli Venezia Giulia Airport is located on the edge of town. Another option may be Venice Airport, served by many low-cost airlines and located less than 2 hours by bus or train to Trieste.
A town that oozes endless cool, Bodrum is known for its boutique hotels, trendy eateries, and clubs as well as its beautiful beaches. The view of the town’s iconic castle and sparkling marina is picture-perfect, while the abundance of colorful flowers and white-plastered backstreets creates an almost dream-like setting. The fantastic beaches are often referred to as the cleanest part of the Mediterranean, and they attract more than a million tourists every year.
Nearest Airport: Milas – Bodrum Airport is located 22 miles northeast of Bodrum.
More than just a coastal city, Galway is one of Ireland’s most exciting cities, where tourists can immerse themselves in the arty and bohemian atmosphere. Go and see the remains of the medieval town walls, now lying between shops selling handicrafts, and head to one of the many brightly painted pubs to dance to live music in the evening. Follow the long promenade to the seaside suburb of Salthill on Galway Bay, where the area’s famous oysters are sourced. Take a step back in time on a day trip to explore the stunning Kylemore Castle. A quirky take on the coastline city holiday, Galway makes for a distinctive and cozy trip.
Nearest Airport: Dublin Airport is located 120 miles east of Galway.
Bruges isn’t the first city that comes to mind when envisioning beautiful coastal cities but it’s actually quite close to the sea. This city is better known as a medieval town that looks like it was ripped right from the pages of a fairy tale. It is one of Europe’s best-preserved cities, lined with picturesque houses lining the narrow canals and ancient market squares. Visit Bruges to indulge in the authentic Belgian chocolate, locally brewed beer, and stunning views. Bruges is only a 15-minute train journey from the popular resort town of Ostend, which is perfect for a day trip. Ostend is the largest city on the Belgian coast and a year-round tourist destination. Visitors can enjoy a brisk walk along the white sand beach before snuggling up in a cozy seafront café.
Nearest Airport: Oostende-Brugge International Airport is located 15 miles from Bruges but has limited flight options. A more popular option is Brussels International Airport which is located 68 miles northeast of Bruges.
So let this be your guide to choosing the ideal European coastal city and then start planning your next great adventure! Skyscanner is a great place to start researching the best flight deals. Once you’ve booked your flight, try Hotels Combined for options on the best accommodation at your holiday destination. And don’t forget the sunscreen!