The best beach holidays in Europe without a car

Whisper it: it’s getting easier to visit Europe without hiring a car. Rental prices have thankfully fallen, but the rise of cross-country train networks and operators offering alternative transport options means tourists can often leave the car keys at home.

Of course, the consummate city breaker already knows this. Those visiting the continent’s capital cities can, as a rule, rely on public transport networks to get around, moving from gallery to attraction to restaurant without so much as touching a steering wheel. However, there is a sense that a more remote holiday – or a beach holiday – may be more difficult. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Across Europe, there are some beautiful coastal destinations that are easy to navigate on foot or by bike, and can be reached quite easily by public transport from the airport.

And that doesn’t mean you have to resort to package holiday hikes with the crowds. The key is to look between the obvious honeypots and the over-touristed spots, and find a little under-the-radar spot that has everything you need for a beach holiday: namely, a great coastal location, a handful of restaurants and bars the locals. drink, and a charming place to stay. So here are 20 attractive destinations that fit the bill for great beach breaks in Europe – no car required.

Ile de Groix

In this most British corner of France, the beaches echo Cornwall – deep bays punctuated by rock pools and green and heather headlands. Except here, 200 odd miles due south, the weather is a bit better – Ile de Groix even has its own microclimate. It is a small timeless island, which can be cycled perfectly with children. Grands-Sables is the poster girl for Groix, a curving arc of fine white sand – but there are many others, including pinot-blush Sables-Rouges and, scramble down the rocks, the hidden cove of Poulziorec.

How to do it: Train from London St Pancras to Lorient, then ferry to Groix.

Wait: The three-star Hôtel Ty Mad Groix has 24 rooms, three apartments, a separate swimming pool and a seafood restaurant terrace. Doubles from £80.

Ile de Groix, Brittany

No cars needed to explore the coast of Ile de Groix – BESTJOBERS_MAX COQUARD


The glitz of the French Riviera did not make it across the water to Porquerolles, 20 minutes from the Côte d’Azur. This car-free, unspoilt, unspoilt crescent of land is an old-school Riviera: a sleepy village square flanked by a pétanque cloak, a maquis-scented desert, pine-wooded bays lined with bone-white sand shelves in emerald water and a little. all sailing boats facing the same way.

How to do it: Easyjet flies to Toulon-Hyères, with fares starting at around £40. Then take a shuttle boat from Toulon/Giens port to Porquerolles.

Wait: The blue shuttered Le Mas du Langoustier is the smartest spot; it has a Michelin star restaurant, and its gardens lead directly to two beaches. Doubles from £350.

Porquerolles island coast, Mediterranean Sea, FrancePorquerolles island coast, Mediterranean Sea, France

The French island of Porquerolle is best visited by boat – Getty


With its coves of light sand shelving into safe turquoise shallows, rising tides and man-made villa resorts, Menorca is set for family beach holidays. Not to mention that Binibeca, 20 minutes from Mahon, has everything you need for a happy week-long stay: a couple of heavenly beaches of fine white sand, a bunch of low-key restaurants and decent beach bars.

How to do it: Fly to Mahon; Flybus shuttle/taxi.

Wait: Vintage Travel offers three villas in Binibeca, including Alba Dorat, which he slept in. Prices start at £2,698 per week.


The great sandy beaches of Southern Italy are not easy to reach without a car, guides from a local stable and a dog – so a great Italian beach with its own train station is priceless. On the foot of Italy, Tropea is the jewel of Calabria. Perched atop a cliff, the stunning pink-plaster town of Cinque Terre, hardly anyone knows about it – at least, hardly anyone outside Italy – sits 330 feet below the most beautiful curve of sand creamy, bright against the Tyrrhenian crystal.

How to do it: Fly to Lamezia with Ryanair, then train to Tropea station.

Wait: Villa Paola has to be one of the most romantic boltholes in Italy: a 15th-century strawberry and cream convent, terraced gardens high above the sea. Doubles from £230.

A woman taking a picture of the sanctuary of Santa Marie dell'Isola in Tropea, Italy.A woman taking a picture of the sanctuary of Santa Marie dell'Isola in Tropa, Italy.

Tropea in Italy is a coastal town in Europe with beautiful scenery, where you can go car-free – Francesco Vaninetti Photo/Moment RF


You couldn’t even drive if you wanted to go to Lopud – this dot on the island of Elaphiti is car-free. In Sunj, it is also one of the most beautiful sandy beaches on the Dalmatian Coast, reached after walking up-and-down a hill through the pine forest, towel tucked under your arm. You don’t need to carry much else – relaxed beach bars offer grilled fish and cocktails to revive you after a swim in the sea-green Adriatic.

How to do it: Fly to Dubrovnik; ferry to Lopud (55 min).

Wait: The sun-dappled Lafodia Sea Resort has rooms from £215 per night.

The harbor in LopudThe harbor in Lopud

The car-free island of Lopud has some of the most beautiful beaches in Croatia – Dario Odak


Two wheels are all you need on this barefoot beauty of the Balearics. Bike paths connect its beaches of white sand and luminous turquoise water – Ses Illetas is more Caribbean than Mediterranean – on wooden paths through the wild flowers.

How to do it: Fly to Ibiza; ferry to Formentera; bike for rent.

Wait: You’re spoiled for choice here: Gecko Hotel & Beach Club offers morning yoga and evening DJ sets at its hot-ticket beach club. Doubles from £512. Or stay at the Casbah Hotel, a five-minute walk from Playa Migjorn. Doubles from £197 per night.

Casa Pacha, FormenteraCasa Pacha, Formentera

Enjoy barefoot luxury at the Formentera Casa Pacha hotel


Between resorts, most of the Turkish Coast remains untouched, sleepy as it was a century ago, when only fishing boats and traditional gulets ply its shores. The ragged coast stretches out uncountable coves, wooded peninsulas and places to swim, almost inaccessible except by boat. Gocek – where Icarus is said to have fallen into the sea – has hindered the development of mass tourism. Tavernas are located on the water’s edge, where you can eat octopus and cool your feet in the sea, and the marina is a playground for Istanbul’s rich and famous row.

How to do it: Fly to Dalaman; taxi to Gocek.

Wait: D Resort Gocek is stylish enough to attract international stars from their usual Euro holiday circuit, with its restaurants, bars, spa and stunning sandy beach. Doubles from £143 B&B.


This unsung Cyclades island is where Athenians in the know go for uncrowded beaches – they beat anything on Santorini or Mykonos, and you can even find an empty stretch of sand in the summer. No glittering resorts, just some discreet stylish places to stay.

How to do it: Fly to Athens; Seajet from the port of Piraeus in Athens to Serifos.

Wait: Nostos Hotel’s contemporary Cycladic aesthetic is characterized by soothing neutral tones. Rooms start at £135.

A view over Ganema beach on the Greek island of Serifos in the CycladesA view over Ganema beach on the Greek island of Serifos in the Cyclades

The Greek island of Serifos has beautiful beaches and is easy to explore without a car – Robert Harding Video/Shutterstock


Once the crowd is as glamorous as neighboring Capri, the island of Ischia has become more of a multigenerational holiday destination in recent years, with its bays of golden sand, thermal healing springs for sick seniors, and seaside trattorias abuzz with extended families. A ferry crosses a harbor to you over the Bay of Naples, the wind in your hair, shoulders falling by the sea.

How to do it: Fly to Naples; ferry to Ischia. Circolare buses buzz around the island.

Wait: Created from the watchtower of Aragon, Mezzatorre – one of the famous Three Pellicano – best digs. Doubles from £314 per night.


Mezzatorre is created from the watchtower of Aragon – Giada Mariani


Originally a playground for the gods – Zeus grew up here, Dionysus fell in love with Ariadne – and now for mere mortals, the Cyclades island of Naxos is blessed with some of the most stunning and accessible beaches in Greece. Agios Prokopios is just a stroll from town, and the wilder Plaka beach is a few miles south – a long, narrow stretch of clear turquoise waters backed by whitewashed dunes and houses, which you can walk right out of your room. and on to the sand.

How to do it: Fly to Athens; from there to Naxos with Olympic Air; or fly to Mykonos, then ferry to Naxos.

Wait: There are many low-key casitas on Plaka; try Medusa Beach Resort, with a great beach/pool bar and stunningly bright rooms in palm-shaded gardens. Doubles from £154 per night.

Sandy beach at Plage du Peu des Hommes on the south coast of Ile de Re in FranceSandy beach at Plage du Peu des Hommes on the south coast of Ile de Re in France

The French island of Il de Ré is ideal for a super car-free holiday – robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo / Alamy

Ile de Ré

Charente-Maritime, France

The Ile de Ré juts out from La Rochelle to the Atlantic, popular with Parisian families, covered in golden sand and shallow seawater. A holidaymaker who lives on the edge: cycling on the coastal paths, riding on the beaches, frolicking in offshore boats and, in the evenings, eating and drinking in seaside restaurants and oyster shacks.

How to do it: Fly to La Rochelle; then take a bus or taxi over the bridge and hire a bike.

Wait: Hotel Senechal is an understatedly stylish option, offering charmingly artistic rooms. Doubles from £125.


Before Europcar was founded in 1949, les rosbifs had to choose holiday destinations where everything was within walking distance. Biarritz, the pearl of the Basque Coast, had everything: grand hotels and cocktail bars, distinguished visitors from Charlie Chaplin to Winston Churchill, colonial prom and beaches where one could roll trousers up to the ankle. Now it has been revived as the surfing capital of France, with buzzy fresh bars and Basque restaurants.

How to do it: Train to Biarritz, change in Paris – et voila!

Wait: The Sofitel Biarritz beach with Miramar Thalassa Sea & Spa is a suitably glamorous location. Doubles from £221 per night.

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