Photo Essay: 16 of the Best City & Urban Beaches

16 of the Best City & Urban Beaches

One concept for a value luxury vacation is to combine multiple experiences in one trip, getting more bang for your buck. A personal favorite of mine is combining the vibrant, cultural experiences of a city along with a day or two of beach time. I get kind of restless at beaches, but I also like a bit of balance to a busy city trip, so the combination works perfectly for me.If you’re short on time, or want to stay in the same val lux hotel and keep things hassle free? Then you’ll want to consider some of these destinations – the best city beaches and best urban beaches around the world. I’ve included some personal favorites, and I’ve leaned towards those beaches that are a little less hectic while still having plenty of on-site amenities.

Don’t forget the sun block!

Rockaway Beach, New York City

best city beaches, best urban beaches

New York City, despite the towering skyscrapers and miles of paved avenues, offers a lot of options for beach-seekers. I always advise heading for Brooklyn for the best experiences, with Rockaway Beach being an easy-to-reach (subway trains run right here), full-of-fun option. One of our Twitter followers, Jean Pedde, suggests Rockaway’s next door neighbor, Jacob Riis Park, as a less-crowded second option.

The Plage, Amsterdam


Probably my single most favorable memory of living in Amsterdam is enjoying relaxing weekends at the Amsterdam Plage. This is one of several man-made beaches in Amsterdam, and it’s worth visiting not for the shoreline – you only have a small area on the Ij River to hop in and cool off – but for the experience. There’s a Carribean cocktail bar, and often quirky live bands playing to those beachgoers relaxing in bean bag chairs or on the sand. It’s the quirkiest city beach I’ve ever seen, and worth finding. It’s just a bit south of the main railway station.

Shek O, Hong Kong


Hong Kong is a city, no doubt, but the rest of Hong Kong Island is relatively quiet, with many peaceful fishing villages and beach towns. (The sheer contrast is worth trekking out of town.) Repluse Bay is the city’s busiest and most popular beach, but the smog is intense. Clear the air a bit by heading over to Shek O, a fishing village with wonderful beaches, or explore the promenade in the more touristy but fun town of Stanley.

Venice Lido


Lido is the rather underappreciated beach of Venice. Much quieter than Venice proper, this sandy island buffers the Venice lagoon from the Adriatic sea. It gets booked solid for the annual film festival, but otherwise it’s a real treat after busy days exploring Venice.

Clifton, Cape Town


Based on Cape Town‘s geographic location, it is no shock the city has some fantastic beaches to be explored. You’ll find many all along the coast from east to west, some seemingly impossible to reach. Clifton Beach is popular for many – including those wealthy who have the impressive homes overlooking the coast.

Zuma Beach, Malibu


California’s coast has many great beach stops, and Zuma is certainly among them in the Los Angeles area, well worth lingering for awhile if you’re traveling the Pacific Coast Highway. As the photo suggests, it’s rather spectacular at sunset.

Revere Beach, Boston


Revere Beach prides itself on being America’s oldest public beach, and despite this it is kept rather tidy. It originally opened in 1895. Don’t miss their annual sand sculpting competition, one of the best in the country.

Brighton Beach, Melbourne


Melbourne, Australia, is one of my favorite cities in the world, and one reason is that you can easily get out to the ocean shore and relax with the city’s fashionable locals. It is hard to choose, but for the gorgeous, colorful views alone, I’d have to vote Brighton Beach as my favorite. Fun tip: skip the packing and just head to Melbourne’s Target to pick up some fun but inexpensive Aussie swimwear – that goes for both the gals and the boys.

Pacific Beach, San Diego


One of the most beautiful harbors in America is San Diego – the hotels, the promenades, the fancy ships – everything is just gorgeous, and the city continues to try and outdo itself. La Jolla is my favorite area for exploring, and the beach area is right around the corner – Pacific Beach.

Oak Street Beach, Chicago


You might find this suggestion a bit surreal, considering Chicago isn’t near the ocean at all. But it’s certainly worthy of inclusion because Chicago does such a fantastic job of making their lake waterfront an enjoyable place to be every summer. From the well-maintained beaches to the bike path that runs for miles north to south, you’ll find plenty to do. Don’t forget your camera; from Oak Street you get great photos of the skyline, but head north through Lincoln Park for a relaxing bike ride.

Gordon Beach, Tel Aviv


When you think of Israel, most travelers think of the religious sites, but Israel is home to a number of beach resort towns. Tel Aviv itself has several, and Gordon Beach is one of the popular spots to get some color in your skin and relax, probably a well-earned rest since there is so much to see and do in this town.

Venice Beach, Los Angeles


I couldn’t leave out one of my favorite California beaches from the mix, one of the best spots in LA; Venice is a bit crowded, but it’s so unusual and quirky that it is a must. There are often bands randomly playing, and the array of food (such as paprika corn on the cob!), bars, and people watching is a total eye-opener. The downside on Venice is the parking is terrible, so plan ahead.

Isla Verde Beach, San Juan, Puerto Rico


Puerto Rico has great beaches, and Isla Verde is one of the best! It used to be popular with the aviation geeks as you had some great views onto the plans and operations at the airport, but much of this has now been closed down due to terrorism fears. Nonetheless, if you’ve had your full of the hustle and bustle of San Juan, a walk through Isla Verde is what you need.

Valencia, Spain


Most people would cite Barcelona to have the best urban beaches, but I prefer Valencia myself – Playa de Malvarossa being superb. (To be honest, I wish Madrid would do something like Paris has done and “manufacture” an inner city beach, but until my dream becomes true…) Valencia has a great beachy vibe to it, and you can choose either to patronize the inner city beaches, or hop on a quick bus ride out of town for a day at some of the more expansive and relaxed spots.

Marseille, France


Not that I hate Nice, but I like Marseille a lot better. The city has so much culture and history, and as France’s largest port city, there’s always something interesting going on along the shore. Did you know that Marseille has almost 50 inner city beaches? Take some time to explore this rather under-appreciated French city.

Brighton, England


Last, but certainly not least, is Brighton, one of the most (in)famous spots in England. It reminds me a bit of New York’s Coney Island (near the beach we started with at the beginning). Brighton prides itself on being a bit Las Vegas-like at times, but regardless of how cheesy it can be, I still think this Victorian-flavored town has a lot to offer, and if you’re visiting London or any of the other nearby cities or historic English railways, why not spend some time here – it’s a real British classic.

Weigh in below in the comments: what city do you think has the best urban beach experience?

Photos are public domain or by author with exception of Marseille, Venice, Rockaway Beach, Revere Beach, and Oak Street Beach.

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