Summer in the city doesn’t necessarily mean no beach days – when you know where to look, that is.
So put on your swimwear and lots of sun lotion as we guide you to our favourite city beaches in Europe. Because there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a night out in the city after a lazy day at the shore.
Bruxelles les Bains – Brussels, Belgium
Where do members of the European Parliament, diplomats and EU interns go to cool off after a long and hot day at the office? The answer is Bruxelles les Bains. During the warm season, the cobbled quays along the Canal of Brussels are turned into a beach with the help of imported sand, palm trees and sundeck chairs. Open from 6 July to 12 August (but closed on Tuesdays), Brussels Beach has something for every traveller. From open-air cinema and live music to beach volleyball and activities on the water, you’ll easily forget you’re still in the city.
Islands Brygge Harbour Bath – Copenhagen, Denmark
Beach life in inner-city Copenhagen? To many, this probably doesn’t sound possible. However, the beach scene in the Danish capital is actually alive and vibrant. The most popular dipping spot is Islands Brygge Harbour Bath, once an industrial and run-down harbour area before it was cleaned up by the local municipality. Today it’s a hotspot, where locals come to cool off with the city skyline as a backdrop. Take a dip in one of the five pools (two are just for kids) and enjoy a picnic or some sunbathing on the lawn. It’s open from 1 June to 30 September, but you may catch some local winter bathers in the cooler months.
Paris Plages – Paris, France
Take thousands of tonnes of sand, a smattering of palm trees, deckchairs and ubiquitous ice cream sellers and you have the Paris Plages.
The Paris Plages is a highly popular free event that takes place annually – this year, from 7 July to 2 September – at multiple locations across the city. Locations on the Seine River are perfect for a waterfront picnic or head to Bassin de la Villette, which is turned into a beach resort with three pools open daily and free to use.
Lake Zurich – Zurich, Switzerland
Lake Zurich spreads across the southeast part of the city, and due to the water’s cleanliness, urban swimming is very popular during the summer months. Mythenquai beach, open May to September, comes with a spacious sunbathing lawn, water games facility, diving boards in three different sizes and yoga sessions.
Tiefenbrunnen is the right spot if you like to splash about while gazing at mountains. With views as far as the Alps, you can soak up the sun on the sunbathing terraces or swim out to floating decks. Yoga classes, massages and stand-up paddleboard rentals are on offer, along with single-sex terraces for nude sunbathing. Both Mythenquai and Tiefenbrunnen charge a small entrance fee.
Southbank Centre Beach – London, UK
In London, life’s a beach … with a little bit of imagination. If real sand is what you’re after, then you might want to consider heading down to Southbank Center Beach, where 85 tonnes of sand are shipped in for the summer months. Bring your own pail and shovel and embrace your inner child for free. When you’ve had enough fun in the sun, enjoy a cocktail at the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden.
If you’re looking for more beach time, wander over to the south bank of the Thames. The Thames is a tidal river, which means that the water ebbs back at certain times of day to display a little bit of sandy beach. More often than not there are a few people picking their way over the sand and pebbles and you can even observe sand artists creating beautiful installations.
Blijburg aan Zee – Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Even city dwellers have the urge to feel sand between their toes on sweltering summer days. This is when locals appreciate Blijburg aan Zee – a free city beach on Amsterdam’s waterfront, a body of water known as the IJ. Since it’s opening, it has been a hit with the locals. It simply makes everybody “blij” (Dutch for happy).
Located on man-made island IJburg, Blijburg attracts beachgoers with bonfires, festivals, live music, theme parties, summer drinks and organic dishes from around the world. And of course plenty of swimming.
And if you’re looking to keep the summer fun going, here are even more things you can do in Amsterdam for free.
Yaam – Berlin, Germany
Once summer arrives in Berlin, several beaches pop up along the river Spree. Artificial palm trees are set up, and sand from the city’s construction sites or the Baltic coast is brought in – turning the German capital into a makeshift tropical paradise on a hot summer’s day.
One of the city’s most popular and definitely most chilled beach bars is Yaam in Friedrichshain. The place is one of Berlin’s finest ambassadors of reggae and other Caribbean tunes and the bar offers a selection of Caribbean foods and drinks as well. Yaam also hosts concerts, sports activities and a kids’ area.
Žluté lázně – Prague, Czech Republic
Located on the eastern bank of the Vltava river, just a few tram stops south of Vysehrad castle, Žluté lázně provides something cool for anyone who’s hot. Located under beautiful wooded cliffs, Žluté lázně offers recreational areas for table tennis, football, volleyball, petanque, climbing, or leisurely naps in a hammock. There’s also a children’s pool and gelateria to keep kids happy and entertained, as well as a restaurant, beach bar and beer garden.
Långholmen Beach – Stockholm, Sweden
Swedish summers are relatively cool and pleasant, just like the ambience of its capital city, where people take advantage of the extremely long Nordic sunshine days by dipping into the clean waters of Stockholm’s stunning archipelago. One of Stockholm’s most popular and best known inner-city beaches is Långholmen Beach.
Once home to a former prison, people now flock to the island of Långholmen. It gets pretty crowded on warm weekends, with families setting up picnics on the grass and teens taking over the swimming platform. It’s the perfect place to relax and bask in the sun – and you can cool down easily enough at the nearby ice cream vendor.
Danube Island & Danube Canal – Vienna, Austria
During summertime, locals roam the recreational areas around the Danube River – whether it’s picnicking aboard a boat, taking walks along the river banks or enjoying a day at the beach.
The 21-kilometre long Danube Island is home to sand and gravel shores, as well as restaurants and bars. The island provides lots of fun for the little ones as well – there’s a family beach, an expansive water playground where kids can splash about and an ice cream stand to keep everybody happy.
Looking for a more grown-up scene? The Danube Canal is home to Strandbar Hermann, where refreshing cocktails and deckchairs on a golden beach prove to be a winning combo.
Vistula River – Warsaw, Poland
Throughout the last couple of years, the Polish capital has gone through an expansive project of revitalisation that transformed the areas around the Vistula River into a vibrant public space. There are bike trails, opportunities for sailing and rowing, and no less than five beaches. Poniatówka, just by the Poniatowski Bridge, is ideal for sunbathing, beach volleyball and evening barbecues.
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