Spain is one of the best places in Europe for buzzing cities where you can combine urban thrills with beach life.
Here are 10 great Spanish beach cities for a sun-drenched city-break:
No surprise that Catalonian capital Barcelona tops this list – it’s one of the most-loved beach cities in Europe.
Barcelona boasts over 4.5km of golden sands. The most central city beach is at the lively neighbourhood of La Barceloneta where you’ll find plenty of beach bars and activities, night and day.
Keep moving north and there’s a series of smaller beaches with their own vibe such as Marbella, or you can hop on a train up the coast to the resorts of the Costa Maresme.
Valencia is known as Spain’s third city and one of its cultural big-hitters thanks in part to recent regeneration. It has a youthful atmosphere, is the home of paella, and is increasingly known for its futuristic architecture.
The city is home to a long and wide stretch of dark golden sand north of the port called Malvarrosa where you’ll find an abundance of cafes, cocktail bars, sunlounger rentals, and souvenir shops. There are also family-friendly areas with a laid-back feel.
For more tranquility head to La Albufera Natural Park south of the city. Or for the opposite, keep going until you reach the resorts Gandia, Javea, and Benidorm.
The coastal city of Malaga is the gateway to the popular Costa del Sol region but the city doesn’t scrimp on beaches either.
Main city beach Malagueta is one of the best in the area. It has a long tree-lined promenade with outdoors gyms, beach bars, and volleyballs nets.
Or you can hop on a train to visit the main resorts of the Costa del Sol like Torremolinos, Benalmadena and Fuengirola.
The Basque city of San Sebastian (known locally as ‘Donostia’) is known primarily for its food scene, but it’s also a beautiful Belle Epoque-era resort that curves around three golden beaches.
The city is small and walkable, and beach lovers are spoilt for choice – just watch out for the sands disappearing at high tide!
The most central beach is the long crescent-shaped La Concha. It’s flanked by the surf beach Ondarreta and the vibrant Zurriola.
Alternatively you can take a boat to the tiny island of Santa Clara which sits in the middle of the bay.
Palma de Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca is the engaging capital of Mallorca, the largest island in an archipelago known for its fabulous beaches.
Palma is dynamic city with beautiful old town and it happens to sit in the middle of the Bay of Palma surrounded by excellent beaches.
A promenade begins at the port that will take you past glitzy marinas to the golden sands of Playa Can Pere Antoni. This beach is just 2km from the city centre and has a view of the city’s iconic cathedral.
To the east of Palma is the long stretch of sand at S’Arenal, and to the west is a string of busy beach resorts starting with Cala Major.
Alicante is the main city in the popular Costa Blanca region. It’s often overlooked by international visitors who head straight to the area’s beach resorts but there are cultural riches aplenty including the charming Santa Cruz old quarter.
It also has fab beaches. Playa del Postiguet is the main beach in the city. The sands are narrow in places, but it has a pleasant promenade area, or you can head around the coast to San Juan for expansive white sands and watersports.
There are also plenty of areas nearby where you’ll find scenic and rugged coves.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is the capital of Canary island Gran Canaria. It’s another popular vacation spot where people make a beeline for the resorts, but Las Palmas is increasingly a hot destination in its own right (especially for digital nomads).
The city sits on a peninsula with a coastline on either side, making it ideal for watersports. Most beaches are on the western side, including the popular Las Canteras.
Las Palmas benefits from a mild climate typical of the Canaries – that means beach weather all year – as well as excellent surfing conditions.
The university city of Santander is not as well-known as some of the cities on this list but don’t rule it out if you love the beach. Think of it as less-touristy alternative to San Sebastian.
The main city beach is Playa Sardinero which is lined with gardens and boardwalks and leads you to the pretty Magdalen Peninsula.
The climate up in the north of Spain is a little wetter – it’s not known as ‘Green Spain’ for nothing – but the coastline is incredibly lush and picturesque. It’s full of small inlets and sandy cove beaches. Santander is perfect for you if you like seafood and windswept beaches.
Located down in the south of Spain in the region of Andalucia, Cadiz is hot and dusty and home to some excellent sandy beaches. Cadiz sits on the Atlantic Coast and the wider area is home to vast unspoiled beaches with big waves.
The city itself has an offbeat and authentic charm, and as a bonus is not far from the cities of the Sherry Triangle. Long an important naval base, it has over 100 watchtowers.
The old town is on an island connected to the mainland by road and a long spit beach. Sun-bleached baroque buildings sit amongst traditional whitewashed houses.
In fashionable Ibiza Town – the capital of beloved Balearic island Ibiza – you can find a little bit of everything the island has to offer.
It has an atmospheric and elegant old town with a medieval citadel and warren of backstreets packed with cute bars and boutiques. The shopping and nightlife is top-notch (some of the island’s best clubs are located in the city).
And there are excellent beaches nearby too. It’s a short walk from the old town to the beach at Figueretes but the better sands are on the other side of the port at Talamanca. In the summer you can also catch water taxis in the summer to numerous beaches, coves, and resorts around the island.
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Barceloneta at sunrise: © Boule / Shutterstock
Barceloneta: © Santiago Cornejo / Shutterstoc
Valencia: © lunamarina / Shutterstock
Malaga: © KikoStock / Shutterstock
San Sebastian: © robcartorres / Adobe Stock
Palma de Mallorca: © vulcano / Shutterstock
Alicante: © william87 / Shutterstock
Las Palmas: © lvalin / Shutterstock
Santander: © saiko3p / Shutterstock
Cadiz: © Fabio Peixoto / Shutterstock
Ibiza Town: © lunamarina / Shutterstock