Sand in the City
Our round-up of the best urban beaches, ideal for soaking up the sun and a bit of culture...
As summer hits its peak and starts drifting into dusky evenings, we’re keener than ever to draw out the days. More time on the beach, for starters; a holiday to enjoy the charms and sunshine of a new city; or – better yet – combine the two and opt for a city with its very own beach. Be it a temporary pop-up or a city blessed with a permanent coastline, we’ve rounded up our favourites.
Who doesn’t like to be beside la mer – or, indeed, the Seine? From early July, the French capital is treated to a triumvirate of pop-up Paris Plages (as they’re known to locals). Find the first (and most traditional, with its beach umbrellas, deckchairs and boardwalk cafes) Seine-side, between Pont Neuf and Pont du Sully; the second, Voie Georges Pompidou, is situated on the right bank outside – you guessed it - the Pompidou centre; the last, La Villette, runs along the canal in the 19th arrondissement and offers all manner of fountain-splashing and watersports. Leisurely potter on a pedal boat, anyone?
Whilst you’re there… Take brunch at La Bellevilloise, which also hosts exhibitions and film and music festivals on the top level (where you can laze on deckchairs on the fake lawn). Cool off at the Musée de l’Orangerie, which plays host to Water Lilies: American Abstract Art and the Last Monet (until 20 August, although Monet’s final work is permanently in situ and always worth seeing).
They like a city beach in Amsterdam, which means you take your pick depending upon how you take your beach life. Blijburg aan Zee (on a man-made island in the east of the city) is all about the boho beach vibes: play by day and then huddle around campfires whilst live music fills the night air. Chic StrandZuid is an inland complex (restaurants, a beer deck, beach party area) linked by a series of boardwalks. Or cycle the 20 minutes to the swimming lake at Zwemstrand Sloterplas in Amsterdam Nieuw-West. A little further afield, you can indulge in wild swimming and picnicking in wildflower meadows at Amsterdamse Bos.
Whilst you’re there… Wander through the palm houses and butterfly house at Amsterdam’s old botanical garden, Hortus Botanicus, followed by a leisurely coffee or lunch at its ravishingly pretty Orangery Café.
Forget downtown L.A. Forget Hollywood. Malibu beach is what Californian dreams are made of. Miles of golden sand (overlooked by sleek celebrity homes), surfers (if you want to catch a wave, opt for the aptly-named Surfrider Beach), and one of the finest beaches in Los Angeles: Zuma beach. After you’ve wandered down Malibu Pier at dusk – Pacific sunsets are deservedly legendary – and watched dolphins leaping in the surf, you’d be hard-pressed not to concede that there is a certain magic to this place (enter here for the chance to win a five-night getaway!).
Whilst you’re there… Malibu Farm is an organic café located on the Pier, with a simple, delicious menu and minimalist Scandi-inspired interior (why bother even trying to compete with those ocean views?) Malibu Seafood is the top seafood spot in town – right on the oceanfront. Feeling flush? Splash out at The Ivy on the Shore.
Every summer, Strandbar Mitte appears right in the heart of Berlin. There’s a programme of events (this is the beach for you if you fancy mastering the salsa or tango), but you’ll probably just want to while away the hours, your toes in the sand whilst you marvel at the setting amidst Berlin’s historic architecture.
Whilst you’re there… Rent a bike and cruise the city via its networks of cycle paths – stopping off ORA Berlin, one of the city’s most romantic bars: find it on a leafy square in Kreuzberg.
Those lucky, lucky Catalans have an embarrassment of beaches, as Barcelona is edged by 4km of coastline. (They also have nearly year-round sunshine, too, which means they are pros when it comes to beachlife.) You’re spoiled for choice. Head to the port - just a stroll from the city centre – and watch the sunset from palm-fringed Sant Sebastià and neighbouring La Barceloneta. Or opt for the two Mar Bellas: Platja de la Mar Bella (neatly divided between nudism and family-friendly) and Nova Mar Bella.
Whilst you’re there… Do as the locals have been doing since 1836 and dine on traditional fare of seafood and paella at Set Portes, tucked under a little walkway near the Port.
Another city where you can’t turn around without getting sand between your toes. Kitsilano is Vancouver's equivalent of Venice Beach, but amongst the bronzed bodies, you’ll find a myriad of sports, families and a vast outdoor salt-water pool with views back over the city and out towards the mountains. If a swim there with the sun sliding down beyond the horizon doesn’t sound blissful, we don’t know what does. Or take a picnic to Jericho Beach pier, with views of the North Shore Mountains. The West End beaches are an oasis of peace just a half hour walk from the city centre.
Whilst you’re there… The Celebration of Light fireworks competition is held every year in late July/early August and there’s no better viewing spot than a blanket on English Bay or Sunset Beach in the West End.
Trust NYC to do the beach thing in style. No trip to Brooklyn would be complete without a walk along the iconic boardwalk at Coney Island, but there are quieter beaches to be discovered, too: Brighton (no, not that one) is a sandy expanse, and Manhattan beach is a calmer version of Coney (less spectacle, more barbecue on the sand). Alternatively, hop onto the Staten Island ferry and mooch along its more tranquil shores: those in the know head to Cedar Grove, Midland, or South beach.
Whilst you’re there… Eating a hot dog from Nathan’s on Coney Island is practically a rite-of-passage.
Australia specialises in metropolitan beaches (and with that climate, it’s a good thing, too). Grange Beach in Adelaide is the locals’ secret: a quiet, lazy stretch of sand with a waterfront cafe. Or meander to Semaphore beach: not only does it have a proper old-fashioned esplanade, but the city setting - with its Art Deco theatre and quirky shops – has a charm all its own.
Whilst you’re there... Swedish Tarts is the place for brunch, crepes or to linger over a coffee.