In the summertime, it’s difficult to resist the sun-drenched allure of Europe’s top beaches; even more enticing is a stay just a short barefoot stroll away from one of these valued sites. We’ve rounded up the top beach hotels in Europe, from modest and discreet hideaways on the harbor to enormous resorts only steps from the water.
1. Vila Joya, The Algarve, Portugal
A little about the way the light shifts and changes on Portugal’s southernmost beaches make the Algarve far more evocative than it frequently gets credit for. Vila Joya, just west of Albufeira, is a great place to see the changing moods of the coast, from the indigo swell of the Atlantic blending with the stormy greys of an overcast sky to brilliant sunny days when the turquoise water reflects light onto the yellow sandstone cliffs.
Vila Joya has been in the Jung family for almost 30 years and has evolved from a family vacation home to a chic coastal retreat. Joy took over the business from her mother, Claudia, in 2013 and has scoured the globe for the perfect interiors for the 14 rooms and eight suites. Rooms are pared-back and basic, with a strong Balinese influence: cream walls contrast with dark oak furnishings, and all (save the Coachman’s Room) have views of the sea. Despite the opulent surroundings, Vila Joya has a familiar and homey feel about it, even down to the well-worn classics on the bookcase.
Breakfast is served on the terrace, which looks out over the sweeping green gardens that lead down to the beach, which is a secluded strip of sand concealed amid golden crumbling rock piles. Dinner is a special occasion, with an interesting menu using foods sourced from the land and sea of the Algarve, as well as a fantastic six-course tasting menu. Dieter Koschina, the restaurant’s chief chef, has earned two Michelin stars.
2. Hotel Portixol, Palma de Mallorca, Spain
The old harbor of Portixol, with its classic llaüts (Mallorcan fishing vessels), is only 15 minutes away from Palma’s dazzling new marina and feels like it belongs to another age. That is until you step inside this waterfront hotel and see the open-plan interior designed by Spanish architect Rafael Vidal, as well as owner Johanna Landström’s color palette of soft oyster whites, turquoise, and teal, complemented by mid-century furnishings, marble flooring, and natural wood. Locals in the know frequent the pub for early-evening beverages, and savvy travelers use it as a weekend retreat. There are two treatment rooms at the spa, as well as a little gym and sauna. French doors open to the pool terrace downstairs, where you may relax while listening to the Mediterranean lapping at your feet and snacking on grilled mini-scallops.
3. U Capu Biancu, Corsica
U Capu Biancu is nearly impenetrable from land or water. This little, secret hotel may be located down a long and winding driveway going straight to its big iron gates, carved into a cliffside on Corsica’s southern coast and shrouded by the island’s rosemary- and lavender-scented maquis.
When inside, the atmosphere is warm and inviting, with teak pavilions in the East and rustic lanterns hanging in the breeze. Then, all of a sudden, there it is – the water, right beneath your feet. It’s the kind of view that makes you want to stop walking and talking and take it all in.
The indoor-outdoor restaurant, located on a series of terraces around the hillside, is the center of this little hotel. The well-dressed, mostly French patrons eat excellent seafood brought in by the hotel’s solitary neighbor, a fisherman who moors at its pier and brings his catches to the hotel’s fantastic, long-serving chef Gadio El Hadji, who grills them a la plancha or bakes them in salt. Freshly baked bread, homemade jams, and eggs laid by the garden’s birds are served for breakfast. Take the garden path past the inviting pool and down through oleander plants and olive trees to the beach at the bottom, which is only available from the hotel and the sea.
This place is built on a slow-paced philosophy. Two nights here will relieve your stress and allow you to sleep once again. With laidback decor and exposed-stone walls, the rooms are pin-drop silence. The founders have spent most of the past 25 years turning U Capu Biancu into the perfect seaside hotel: charming, private, and seriously smart.
4. Maison La Minervetta, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast, Italy
Owner Marco DeLuca has built something that is so far more than simply a place to sleep with this insanely amazing, pocket-sized hotel clinging to the cliffs just outside Sorrento like an eagle’s den. The large open-plan living area’s strong red, white, and blue color scheme may feel a little Ralph Lauren, but when paired with Marco’s collection of curiosities, icons, and design objects from Sweden, it becomes zingy and contemporary. The bedrooms are simple, with whitewashed walls and the barest of furnishings: the focus is on what’s outside the floor-to-ceiling windows. Each room is unique, however, the junior suite is particularly exquisite, with its teak floors and brushed-steel Tolomeo lighting giving the sensation of being on a boat. Wake early for breakfast and watch the sunrise over Mount Vesuvius, then descend the stair to Marina Grande’s fishing harbor, where Neapolitan mammas converse in the water as their children dive from the cliffs. Dinner can be found across the hill at Lo Scoglio, one of Italy’s top restaurants. If you’re visiting in mid-July for the annual lemon festival, finish the day with limoncello.
5. Don Ferrante, Monopoli, Puglia, Italy
Monopoli is the place to go if you want a taste of what Capri and St Tropez were like in the 1950s for a fraction of the expense. Fishermen repair their nets and sell sardines from buckets near the harbor, while wizened old ladies in plastic chairs pinch orecchiette with their thumbs. This 10-bedroom townhouse was built amid the historic defense walls that surround the town as a fortification. Even the most seasoned Italophile will be surprised to find Don Ferrante tucked away down a side street, its inconspicuous front door opening to reveal a maze of small stone steps and hallways all converging to the same Adriatic panorama. Because the water is always visible, the hotel’s owner, Gianni, decided to paint the entire building white; everything sparkles, from the staff uniforms to the vintage Piaggio Ape three-wheeler that transports guests around the cobblestone streets. The bedrooms are basic, light-filled, and extremely comfortable. The Juliet balcony room is heavenly, but the tiny Portiera is just as lovely. The rooftop restaurant, which overlooks the coastline, is also white, with sofas and sunbeds. The pool is small, but the hotel is close to some of Italy’s best beaches, and guests enjoy privileged access to the Hamptons-style Coccaro Beach Club.