Europe’s best hidden beaches


By Harriet Cooper

Title Photography by Westend61/Getty Images

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Oh we do like to be beside the seaside… unless, of course, it means lying towel to towel with a complete stranger on a packed beach. If you want to sunbathe in peace, escape the bucket-and-spade brigades and head to one of these quiet beaches in Europe. Just don’t tell everyone…

Malta

This tiny archipelago nation enjoys more than 300 sunshine-filled days a year, making it a great candidate for your vitamin D fix. Whether you’re looking to lounge on a towel or take to the waves on a surfboard, Malta has a multitude of beaches worth seeking out.

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Base yourself in Valletta, the island's capital, to be close to cultural highlights and within driving distance of gorgeous beaches. The Saint John is a boutique hotel with elegant rooms and a brilliant casual on-site restaurant, The Cheeky Monkey.

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The path down to Malta’s Fomm ir-Rih beach is steep but you’ll be rewarded with pretty pebbles and crystalline water

Hit the beach

The southern tip of the island is awash with secluded coves – make your way to the Delimara peninsula and you’ll find plenty of sun-drenched swimming spots to hop between. While you’re in the area, wander through fishing village Marsaxlokk and admire colourful boats bobbing on the water. Over on Malta’s west coast, seek out Fomm ir-Rih Bay. The path down to the beach is steep (wear good walking shoes) but you’ll be rewarded with pretty pebbles and crystalline water.

Take a tour to Marsaxlokk

  • Beat the heat by exploring the impressive St John’s Co-Cathedral in Malta © zelg/Getty Images

    Look down

    The marble flooring of St John’s Co-Cathedral isn’t just beautiful, it’s a mosaic of tombstones belonging to European knights and nobles.

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  • The stunning inlet of Wied il-Ghasri in Malta appeals to both sunbathers and snorkellers © Allard Schager/Getty Images

    Under the sea

    The clear blue shallows around Wied il-Ghasri in Gozo (Malta’s second-largest island) are home to colourful damselfish and tiny seahorses.

    Find more beach holidays
  • At The Harbour Club in Malta, the fresh, locally sourced food is inspired by the Mediterranean

    Having a grand time…

    Sit on The Harbour Club’s terrace for mesmerising views of the Grand Harbour.

    Discover Malta

Refuel

Head to the beach at Mgarr ix-Xini in Gozo and enjoy a long lunch overlooking the bay at laid-back restaurant Rew Rew. For something grander, book a table at The Harbour Club in Valletta. Designed by Maltese architect Chris Briffa, this warehouse-turned-hip-hangout is the place to see and be seen.

Cocktail hour

With glorious vistas of the Mediterranean Sea, Cafe del Mar Malta is a stylish summertime hangout. Hire a sunbed and spend a leisurely day by the pool before soaking up the sunset with a cocktail in hand.

Too much sun?

Aside from the beaches, Malta’s USP has to be its 7,000-year human history (fun fact: it has a greater density of historic sights than anywhere else in the world). From the gloriously baroque St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta – which houses two works by Caravaggio – to the Malta At War Museum, there’s plenty to keep you busy away from the beach.

Lanzarote

Lanzarote boasts more than 100 beaches. Some feature black lava rock pebbles while others are packed with soft white sand – take your pick and prepare for unforgettable beach days.

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Families will love the facilities at Princess Yaiza. Kids can jump straight into a full roster of activities at Kikoland, the hotel’s park for children, and adults can delight in lovely views over neighbouring islands as they dine at Isla de Lobos restaurant.

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  • Frolic on the white sandy beaches near Orzola, Lanzarote © Perzing1982/Getty Images

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    Orzola is located at the northern tip of Lanzarote, making it the gateway to nearby La Graciosa. A ferry crossing takes just 20 minutes, and it’s worth exploring the island, which is home to the charming small waterfront town of Caleta del Sebo. Book flights from London to Lanzarote, plus a seven-night hotel stay from:£315 pp

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Hit the beach

For a beach day with a difference, drive to Playa Quemada. This peaceful fishing village is home to beaches featuring black volcanic sands and pebbles lapped by the cerulean sea. The area is protected from windy weather by the mountains of the Los Ajaches Natural Monument, meaning its climate is ideal for calm days admiring azure water. Stop at one of the local restaurants for a leisurely meal while you’re there. At the northern end of the island, Del to del waits to be discovered. You can access this blonde-sand beach via boat or via a hike along the Camino de los Gracioseros. Its remoteness means it’s usually quiet – just remember to bring all your beach day supplies with you.

Refuel

While you’re exploring the northern end of the island, check out another quiet fishing village: Orzola. Unsurprisingly, you’ll find fish restaurants galore here. Sit on the shady terrace at Restaurante El Norte, order grilled fish of the day and watch boats swaying in the harbour. If you want to liven things up a bit, head to capital city Arrecife. Pull up a chair in Lilium, located in the modern marina with yet more views of moored boats, and savour a taste of Canary Islands cuisine. There are only ten tables in the restaurant so you’ll probably want to book ahead.

Cocktail hour

If you do one thing, explore the nooks and crannies of LagOmar. This museum – previously the home of actor Omar Sharif – is set in a hillside, with multiple levels featuring volcanic caves and curious lookouts. The museum’s enigmatic architecture and luscious greenery make for a stunning setting for a leisurely afternoon. Follow the little staircase down to La Cueva and sip a cocktail in the enchanting cave bar – you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a secret hangout.

Too much sun?

The influence of visionary artist, architect and environmentalist Cesar Manrique can be seen all over Lanzarote. Visit his previous home, Volcano House, to see how architecture and volcanic activity can work together to create a stunning and harmonious setting. Admire his typical whitewashed style. Then, before you leave, step into Manrique’s art studio which is now an exhibition hall for paintings.

Majorca

The largest island in the Balearics has more than 200 beaches. Many are teeming with sun-seekers, but venture off the beaten track in Majorca and you might just stumble across a hidden sandy cove or cobalt blue bay.

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Built on a cliff, the five-star Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel & Spa is set in its own deliciously-scented gardens. The rooms boast floor-to-ceiling windows offering brilliant views – most look out onto the sea or mountains. There are three restaurants, three pools and a top-notch spa surrounded by the Serra de Tramuntana.

Book a stay at Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel & Spa >

Hit the beach

In the south of Majorca, spend a pleasant day at remote Es Carbo. It’s a long walk to get there from Colonia de Sant Jordi but that means the vast swathe of sand is likely to be quieter than other beaches in the area. Pack a picnic, a parasol and plenty of water before seeking out your perfect spot. Then admire turquoise water and listen to the tranquil soundtrack of rhythmic waves. To the east is Cala Varques which has been touted by those in-the-know as a hidden gem – although it has become busier in recent years. If you’re in the north, the secluded pebbly beach of Es Coll Baix is beautiful but a tricky trek from Alcudia, so you’re better off getting there by boat.

  • See and be seen at the chic Purobeach Palma Bay

    Catch the sunset

    Purobeach is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Palma. Set yourself up on the hotel’s 180-degree sea view terrace for the best view of the sun setting behind the Palma mountains.

    Discover Majorca
  • For innovative Michelin-starred dining, try Marc Fosh in Palma

    Did you know… ?

    Marc Fosh was the first British chef to be awarded a Michelin star in Spain. His restaurant can be found on a narrow street in Palma’s old town.

    Fly to Palma
  • A view of Calo des Moro in Majorca © Westend61/Getty Images

    Beautiful bays

    Calo des Moro is another stunning spot that’s difficult to reach but dazzling to see – go to admire the clear water and tree-topped cliffs. The area does get busy, though, so arrive early for the best chance of nabbing a parking spot.

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Refuel

Forget fish and chips washed down with sangria – the island now boasts a scattering of Michelin stars. Marc Fosh, whose eponymous restaurant in Palma has such an accolade, serves up Mediterranean food with a twist. Inland, family-run Ca Na Toneta changes its menu according to what’s in season and aims to recreate the magic of local home cooking.

Cocktail hour

Spend an indulgent day by the pool, maybe opt for a massage by the sea, and cool off with a frozen cocktail on the terrace at Palma’s Purobeach Club. At sundown, admire gorgeous views and sample signature tipples like the ‘Palma’ made with Saint Germain liquor, peach liquor, mango and lemon foam. Expect cool beats and glamorous crowds.

Too much sun?

Go for a tour and a tasting at Bodegues Ribas – a winery dating back to 1711 – to discover delicious Majorcan wine. The island’s weekly markets are also worth a detour. The Inca market is one of the largest, sprawling numerous streets on Thursdays.