After the long winter, our family is anxious for sun and sand. So we often spend spring break on European beaches, even if the temperatures are still cool for swimming. We always have a good time and love being on the beaches off season, away from the crowds.
But it’s important to note that during spring break, most European beaches haven’t opened for summer season yet. You might find pools, beach bars, gelato shops, surf shops and kids clubs at camping spots are not open yet. So research carefully and set your expectations accordingly. If you want warmer temperatures where everything is open, you’ll need to go farther south to Egypt or Turkey.
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I’ll also note that on almost every spring beach holiday, we had a storm blow in for a least a day or two, bringing high winds and rough waves. So we had to avoid the beaches on those days and visit cities and cultural sites. Just be flexible and be ready to make some memories whatever comes.
All that said, we still plan beach holidays for most spring breaks and you might like it too. Here are the Euro beach destinations we’ve visited over the years, some were perfect, others not so much. What are your favorite beach destinations in Europe?
The southern coast of Portugal is full of sandy beaches surrounded by beautiful cliff formations. If you get lucky on the weather, it is definitely warm enough to lounge on the beaches, although the water is still chilly. The coastline is full of spectacular walking trails, which is great if the weather is too cool for swimming. Unlike other Euro beach destinations we’ve visited, most beaches had a few services open in spring if the hot sun was out.
We loved the island of Corsica, so rugged and wild and full of variety. The west coast had rugged cliffs and sweeping views, the interior had gorgeous rivers and lots of hiking, the east coast had big sandy beaches and shallow crystal clear water, perfect for kids. In early May, the water was still icy cold, so we only swam on the hottest days and only for short periods. But we loved exploring the beaches and walking along the cliffs. We’ll definitely go back.
Since we prefer to avoid crowds, we chose to visit Sardinia in early May instead of summer when it is overrun with tourists. Mission accomplished because we had the beaches all to ourselves the whole week and they were glorious to behold. However, it was a little too chilly for swimming and many services were closed. We had to travel to bigger towns to find open restaurants and grocery stores. But we didn’t mind so much because we like being on our own.
Our favorite thing about Cyprus is that we could rent a speed boat without a boating license, which is not the case in many other European countries. We rented the boat for the two days and drove it along the coastline, dropping into various lagoons and snorkeled. It was a dream come true! Our 6 years old took to the snorkel quickly and loved swimming around the lagoons (life vest on!) looking at fish. We also had an intertube on the back of the boat, so the kids could ride back there instead of on the boat. They loved that! I want to go back immediately. We did this vacation in mid-September, after summer season was over, but while it was still super warm about 30C. In early May, temperature will be a little cooler, so maybe save this for Ascension weekend in June.
See more of what we did in Cyprus >>>
Technically, we went to Calabria during the October school break, but I’ll include it here because it was a similar experience to other spring beach destinations. Calabria is end of the “foot” of Italy, close to Sicily. We chose this area because it was farther south than other Euro beaches we had visited and we hoped it would be warmer. But it was basically the same as the others. The beaches were nice, but chilly and deserted. The charming hill towns were also deserted and closed up tight, even less open than other destinations because this area is rather impoverished and relies heavily on summer tourism. We ate well in the restaurants that were open, but we didn’t find one gelato shop open the whole trip, which was a disappointment to the kids. This area is a major draw to German tourists and is packed in summer, so pick your poison: crowded and open, or deserted and closed.
See more of Calabria during the off season >>> (coming soon!)
Santorini & Corfu, Greece
Many of my friends love cruising with kids, so we gave it a try and had pretty good time, though it’s not our favorite way to travel. We did a seven day cruise, starting in Venice, stopping in Italy, Greece and Croatia. We visited lots of cultural sites, but also sought out beaches at each destination, which was our favorite part of the trip. Our favorite beaches were on the Santorini and Corfu islands in Greece.
We liked that travel time was while we slept, instead of long drives in the day. But it’s important to pick a cruise line with good port times to maximize your time in each city. Also, since you do spend quite a bit of time on the boat, it’s important that the boat has lots of extras for the kids, like kids clubs, pools, sports, bowling, movies, game rooms, dance nights, etc.
Spain Costa del Sol
On the southern coast of Spain, our time was a mix of beach days and city culture. On cooler days, we visited fantastic famous sites, including Alhambra and the Great Mosque of Cordoba. On warmer days, we visited the beaches, though we were a little disappointed that most were quite overdeveloped, not as wild and picturesque as other destinations like Portugal. While the beaches were very quiet, the towns were big enough to be mostly open with plenty of ice cream and churros to be had everywhere. The tourist destinations were packed and we were glad to have pre-booked our tickets.
See what we saw in Spain Costa del Sol >>> (coming soon!)
We enjoyed our time in Croatia, but it was quite different than we expected. We went to hoping to spend most of our time swimming on the beaches. Instead, most “beaches” were very rocky and too dangerous for our little kids to manage. I hear that some of the big resorts have sandy beaches (sometimes manufactured) but this was not the norm from what we saw. But never mind, we still had a great time exploring the cities of Dubrovnik and Split, visiting the beautiful waterfall national park, and riding around on ferries. We even found a sandy beach on an island where the kids could build sand castles and run around in the waves.
See more of what we did in Croatia >>> (coming soon!)
Egypt Red Sea
When we first moved to Switzerland, we escaped winter by visiting Red Sea beach resorts in Egypt, once in January and once in November. It was just warm enough to swim then and by April, a perfect summer temperature. We stayed at an all inclusive beach resort with a kids club and went diving most days while our toddlers was in child care. Egypt is more unstable now than it was 12 years ago, but still many Europeans vacation along the Red Sea, which has many beach resorts in gated communities.
See more of our Egypt trip >>> (coming soon!)
I hope that gave you a few ideas for the upcoming spring break. Let me know where you go!