Having trouble deciding whether you want a city or beach holiday? Want the shops and sights in the day but also a place to relax and chill with a cocktail and then carry on until dawn with some seriously funky beats? Well then an urban beach break may just be the thing for you.
Whether it is a natural coastline, fresh water lake or a manmade beach hugging the skyscraper skyline, urban beaches are the perfect solution for the fresh and funky who want to maximise their holiday time by mixing the sand and the city. A place to meet with the locals and admire the city’s skyline and taste the finest cuisine and cocktails. Most urban beaches are open dusk till dawn and have plenty of activities in the day and music to get you into the party mood at night. Most are linked with excellent public transport and some are metres away from the hip and chic city shopping districts. Some have a charge for loungers or entrance if part of a bar but all on our suggested list from around the world will leave you chilled, tanned if the weather permits and a place to people watch. Put your shopping bags down, find yourself a lounger, don those shades and get ready to soak up the rays!
Urban beaches in Europe. . .
The urban beaches in Berlin mirror the fresh and funky vibe of this city. Strandbar Mitte is the city’s original urban beach and is situated on the banks of the River Spree. With around 200 beach chairs this free beach is a hangout for locals in their 20’s & 30’s. It offers great views of the city’s architecture, including the Bode museum, while you sit on your sun lounger with cocktail in hand. When dusk hits, the resident DJs will get you dancing with the golden sand underfoot. Dress casually and enjoy the cool breeze and chilled out vibe. Ostrand is Berlin’s largest urban beach and with a variety of bars and 7,000 square metres of beach to explore you will certainly find something to suit. Whether it be tanning in the day or partying at night you won’t be disappointed by this hip and bohemian beach paradise. Not as close to the city but a ten minute walk from the nearest S-bahn station.
Every year around July 20 th for four weeks ,the Paris Plage takes over the banks of the River Seine and supplies Parisians and tourists several beaches complete with deckchairs, seaside vendors, palm trees and stages for open air concerts. The river banks become car free and the beaches are spread over three main areas: from the Louvre to Pont de Sully, Port de la Gare and Bastin de la Villette. Unfortunately there is no swimming in the Seine but find yourself a cool spritz station to fend off the Parisian summer heat. As the beats drift over the famous Parisian cityscape, watch the locals playing boules in the evening sun and have a cold biere while the sun goes down.
Why travel overseas when you have one of Europe’s top ten city beaches on your doorstep? Brighton may not offer you golden sands and warm seas of the Mediterranean but with the mix of Brighton’s eclectic shops, restaurants and some of the country’s best nightclubs it is certainly the destination for the cool and funky. With its blue-flag pebble beach and famous pier as a backdrop there is a daytime seaside vibe with local artists selling their wares along the seafront, and by night there are numerous bars and clubs underneath the Victorian beachfront arches. Take a stroll around the nearby Lanes shopping area where the maze of alleyways is full of quirky and retro independent shops. Then walk along the pier and enjoy the view of the sea over a refreshing beer or glass of champers in one of the pier bars. Then it’s time to dress to impress and experience some of the country’s hottest seafront clubs where the party continues until dawn.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
One of the newest city beaches in Amsterdam is Strand West which gives you an impressive panoramic view of the IJ waterfront. Open all year round there are hammocks to laze in whilst you sip a cocktail and digest the day of culture and shopping you may have had away from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets. (Unfortunately there is no swimming off this beach.)If you would prefer to find the nearby oasis of the funky and more boho crowd then look no further than Blijburg beach. It is the city’s only true beach, a hangout for the sexy locals and is a place for both sunbathing and partying. The beach overlooks canals and lagoons and the beach bar has covered and open areas as well as a small stage for live music. With its chilled ‘café del mar’ vibe and late night parties this beach certainly lives up to its name, translated it means ‘Happy Village’. With regular tram links there will not be a problem finding your way back to the city centre.
Prague, Czech Republic
Situated in one of Prague’s most up and coming areas, ‘Smichovska Plaza’ is a metropolitan oasis overlooking the Vtlava River. 500 tonnes of sand are imported every year to make this a perfect relaxing zone for anyone who visits. There is a pool and activities such as volleyball in the day and dancing and live music in the evenings. You will find a mix of people at this popular sun worshippers delight whether it is families or the cool and hip Czech locals. With the some of the city’s finest breweries nearby you can sure to find yourself a refreshing pint as you lounge in your hammock and soak up the rays. The beach is open; weather permitting, 10am – 12pm.
Warm waters surround the coast of Dubrovnik and most seafront hotels have access to beaches. Banje beach is the most famous and offers wonderful views of the cities architecture with the Island of Lokrum in the distance. The sea is clean and the pebbled shores host fun activities in the day and in the night there is a large array of bars and nightclubs. The Eastwest beach club is a perfect place for mixing with the rich and fashionable crowds and is only a 5 minute walk from the old town. With loungers and a waiter service, this a perfect place to indulge yourself with a glass of champagne and enjoy the views of the city lit up at dusk accompanied by the chilled beats from the resident DJ.
The beautiful people and quirky art can also be found on the beaches of Barcelona as well as the in the city. Barceloneta Beach is by far the city’s best beach hangout, after being transformed for the 1992 Olympics. The city’s coolest crowds are drawn to here and the promenade is lined with tapas bars and restaurants and it is easy to forget the busy city streets which are only metres behind you. The beach has its own metro stop and is one of the biggest stretch of golden sands in Barcelona. To walk off that delicious plate of paella why not take a stroll to Frank Gehry’s gigantic fish sculpture or relax with a glass of sangria. If it’s a more peaceful atmosphere you want then Nova Icaria is a more family orientated beach however it still offers you some fine eateries and glorious golden sands sink your toes in to.
Amager Beach Park is a fairly new seaside landscape next to the bustling streets of Denmark’s capital. This artificial island is joined to a natural stretch of sand dunes connected by 3 bridges over a lagoon. For all you sporty types there is a 1000metre rowing and swimming lane. Easily reached by the metro it is a fantastic place to soak up the Scandinavian summer and take in the open air concerts and other various activities on offer. Another trendy alternative is Halvandet beach bar which offers alfresco dining, cool music and more physical distractions such as volleyball, mini golf and petanque. There is no sand here but great views of the city make up for it and with its Ibiza style lounge area it is a perfect place to top up that suntan.
Further afield . . .
Amidst the high-rise skyline of Canada’s cultural capital lies Clock Tower beach, the perfect urban getaway .With its 45 metre clock tower as its centrepiece, the beach offers breath-taking panoramic views of the St Lawrence River and the Jacques Cartier bridge. Spanning 3.2 acres this urban escape is dotted with beach umbrellas and loungers, weeping willows, mist stations and ample refreshment stands. Unfortunately there is no swimming but there is boardwalk sand and a bar to keep you refreshed.
If you want to escape the heat of the streets then why not head down to the very popular North Avenue Beach which is situated in the Lincoln Park neighbourhood. Castaways bar is a great place to people watch and grab a bite to eat and is housed in the iconic cruise ship shaped beach house. There are regular volleyball tournaments and there is also a bike hire shop on site. There is a great friendly party atmosphere here with funky beats played by the resident DJ’s, although this means it does get very crowded at times. If you want somewhere more relaxed and family orientated head north of Chicago’s famous magnificent mile to Oak street beach. It offers fantastic views of downtown Chicago and soft golden sands meet with the cool refreshing waters of Lake Michigan. Locals flock here to cool off from the scorching summer heat and tourists can take a break from shopping on nearby Michagen Avenue.
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Rio is famed for its miles of glorious beaches with bikini clad babes and muscle ripped men and the crème of the crop has to be Ipanema beach. The beach reflects the cities cross section of different lifestyles and has a breath-taking backdrop of the city scape with the stunning view of the ‘Dois Irmaos’ mountains. It is here where the sun sets in the evening and is a sight not to be missed while you sip on a beer or caipirinha from one of the many refreshment posts. The beach is divided into different sections by the lifeguard huts or locally known as ‘Postos’. For those wanting to mix with the hip, happening, and perfect body crowd head for postos 9 and 10, whereas posto 8 is a bit quieter and fair skinned tourists tend to congregate by the section in front of the cesar park hotel. Look out for the famous ‘Acai man’ who will sell you a cup of the local super fruit refreshment or grab yourself a fresh coconut water. Currents can be strong in the water so tread carefully if you are not a strong swimmer.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Close to the city and known as one of the hippest places in Tel Aviv, Gordon- Frishman Beach, is a perfect place to soak up the Mediterranean sun. Beach bars and local DJ’s draw in a cosmopolitan crowd and restaurants and cafes are a short walk away. With its golden sands and clear blue waters it tends to get busy at weekends so make sure you arrive early to find the perfect sunbathing spot. It is also well known for its volleyball tournaments, but don’t expect to find yourself a place on court if your ball skills are not up to the mark!
Take a short metro ride from the city centre to the Hidropark, where beaches align the Dnipro river. Try Shaslik kebabs, rent a volleyball court and swim in the refreshingly clean river. There is a soviet style open air gym, old skool beach disco and believe it or not a nudist beach.
Where park meets beach, try the Langholmen Island in Stockholm. The Sandy beach has nice views over the city, and there are even showers for a pre/post dip clean off.