European city breaks with the best beaches



If you can’t decide between a city break or a beach holiday, why not do both? Go ahead and spoil yourself with these fantastic ‘two-for-one’ destinations, where you can enjoy the best of both! There are plenty of destinations like these out there, but to help you decide I have selected three to get you thinking...



Barcelona



Blessed with what is arguably the most phenomenal architecture in the world around every corner, tantalising tapas and fruity wines, I can't think of a better destination than beautiful Barcelona.


The charming Gothic Quarter has so much to offer; complete with quaint cobbled alleyways, grand cathedrals, drool-worthy eateries, and the Picasso Museum with traditional, live flamenco shows just opposite at the 17th century stately palace, Palau Dalmases, creating the perfect, ambient setting.


Within easy-to-reach distances you can find several beaches to wind-down on and take the edge off of all the exploring you’ll do, with the closest being Barceloneta Beach. It’s one of Barcelona’s oldest, closest and most loved beaches. It can get very busy in the summer months, so get there early to get a good spot. If you’re looking for something a bit quieter, there’s the beautiful Bogatell Beach which attracts an older crowd, or Sant Sebastià which is popular with the locals.


Top Tip: The legendary Sagrada Familia can get quite busy and will often be fully booked. To ensure you don’t miss out, book ahead of time.


Athens



Being one of the oldest cities in the world, Athens is graced with fascinating history, commonly found at the top of the bucket list for most culture vultures. Full to the brim with neoclassical buildings, lush art galleries and local cafes, there’s lots to see and do.


Away from the hustle and bustle, just a short 40-minute drive away, you can find the locals’ favourite, sandy Astir Beach, with crystal clear waters surrounded by pine trees.


Adjacent to the newly opened Four Seasons Hotel Astir Palace, you can expect a five-star experience with access to spa treatment facilities, classy restaurants, private lockers, a concierge and stylish boutiques!


There are some incredible hotels with lush pools and exceptional views of the Acropolis and city of Athens to suit all budgets, offering the best of beach and city combined.


Top tip: Lycabettus Hill offers sweeping views over the city being the highest point in Athens and makes for a perfect spot to watch the sunset.


Porto



Calling all wine lovers and also Harry Potter fans, Porto is an ideal location for many reasons.


To state the obvious, there's plenty of Port wine tasting tours. Secondly, Porto has been rumoured to be one of JK Rowling's influences for her first Harry Potter novel, having lived there for two years - with the Hogwarts school uniform perhaps adapted from the cloaked, college students of Porto; or Flourish and Blotts bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Lello bookstore...


Known for being a culinary capital and port paradise, you can obviously expect mouth-watering Portuguese dishes and relaxing cruises on the Douro river.


Only a short 15-minute drive away, you can chill out at the sandy, blue flag Praia dos Ingleses beach, lined with popular restaurants, cafes and bars. Or if you’re looking for more fun in the sun, head to Praia de Matosinhos instead, where you can find lots of surf schools if you fancy picking up a new skill!


What I love about Porto is that it’s not often considered as a beach destination, but it will surprise you with its rugged coastline and dramatic natural scenery.


Top tip: It’s just as easy to reach Porto’s beaches by public transport. So if you’ve not hired a car, Praia do Senhor da Pedra and Praia da Aguda can be easily reached by train from Sao Bento train station.


 

Combining beach and city can make the perfect holiday! To find out more about Barcelona, Athens and Porto, or to enquire about other city destinations with beaches, contact Nikki at NC Travel.