The world is full of dazzling beach destinations, but there are none quite like those in the Mediterranean. Beach towns in this region offer more than just palm trees and cool ocean breezes — they're also overflowing with charm and offer rich culture, history and culinary traditions. Plus, there's quite a bit of variety in terms of landscape.
I've spent the last two months exploring coastal towns in France and Spain — hardly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Mediterranean beaches, but it gave me an insatiable taste for the region's special flavor. Visit the French Riviera, Catalonia or Provence and I'm sure you'll likewise get hooked.
Keep an eye on our blog in the coming months, where I'll be posting articles with more detailed info on the destinations pictured below.
In the meantime, enjoy this roundup of our best Instagram photos of Mediterranean beaches in Spain and France.
Nice, Cote d'Azur, France
Lovely pebbled beaches, the famed Promenade des Anglais, and all the charm you'd expect of France — Nice has major bragging rights. Experience the sunset views from the top of Castle Hill, and then descend for a coffee or cocktail at one of the many cafes tucked into the narrow streets of the nearby Vieille Ville.
Marseille, Provence, France
A rising star in the world of European cultural hot spots, the port city of Marseille also boasts an incredible landscape, with both rocky and sandy beaches tucked into its jagged coastline.
A boat tour of the Calanques, the area's majestic Mediterranean inlets, should be at the very top of your must-do list. Stop by the quaint Vallon des Auffes to feel instantly transported to a fishing village of yesteryear. Or take the bus north to the low-key town of L'Estaque, which surprises visitors with its grouping of splendid beaches at Plages des Corbiéres, each one different from the next.
Between the casinos, the dining, the gardens and the museums, there's a lot to distract you from the beach in Monaco. But we can't recommend skipping Larvotto Beach, one of Monaco's best natural assets, and a great place to people-watch in summer or winter.
Javea (Xabia), Alicante, Spain
Javea, also known as Xabia, still remains a bit of a local secret — most visitors to the region opt for more popular tourist spots. A slow-paced, small-town way of life prevails here, making Javea's beaches ideal for relaxing and its rugged coastline excellent for exploring.
Blanes, Costa Brava, Spain
Blanes, the "Gateway to the Costa Brava," is only about an hour and a half from Barcelona by train, and it's a day tripper's dream come true. The sandy beach lining the Passeig S'Abanell stretches for more than a mile to the south of town. Closer to the center, restaurants on the promenade offer seafood, tapas, pizza and more, and for much cheaper than you'd find in the big city.
Catch the tourist train up to the hilltop Jardí Botánic Marimurtra. Its lush gardens, with 4,000 species of flora, preside over the coast and provide breathtaking views of cliffs and the Mediterranean sea.
Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain
Under Roman rule, Tarragona was known as "Tarraco," and the name proudly remains on signage throughout the city. So, too, remain some of the ruins from that time period, including a well-preserved seaside amphitheater and a beautifully constructed aqueduct, among others.
Once you have your fill of historic sites and museums, find a spot to stretch out or sunbathe along Tarragona's shoreline.
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
It's not hard to be seduced by the leisurely lifestyle in Barcelona, and its miles of urban beaches make it even easier. Walk along the promenade near Barceloneta Beach, the city's best known outdoor hangout, and then rest your feet at a tapas joint or a lively bar.
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