Sand in the city: Urban beaches in Europe

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

During the summer, the beaches of Europe beckon. Oh, who am I kidding? They beckon all year long for this girl! However, when it comes to choosing a vacation destination, the decision often boils down to city or beach. Why not have the best of both worlds? Many bustling European metropolises transform their riverfronts or city centers into bourgeoning beach meccas when the temperatures rise. Here are six urban beaches worth checking out this summer.

Paris, France
July 8-Sept. 3

Paris is a spectacular city to visit, regardless of what season it is. During the warmer months of July and August, the banks of the scenic Seine become even more magical with sun chaises and umbrellas. Stroll beneath the shade of palm trees (yes, you read that correctly) and gaze up at iconic landmarks such as the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. If you’re looking for a swimming spot (no swimming allowed in the Seine), head to the northeast corner of the city to Bassin de la Villette, and dive into one of the massive pools constructed along the Canal de l’Ourcq.

Bruxelles les Bains
Brussels, Belgium
July 7-Aug. 12

With more than 90 museums to peruse, lush green parks and beautiful old-world architecture, it’s easy to fall in love with Brussels. As the weather warms up, head to the Quai des Péniches and wriggle your toes in the imported golden sand along the canal. Watch the sunset and catch an open-air movie beneath the twinkling stars. Find exquisite European souvenirs at the Brussels Vintage Market, or just relax and soak up the sun. Bruxelles les Bains is open Tuesday through Sunday, and is closed Monday.

Smíchov Beach
Prague, Czech Republic
Summer Months

Dozing on a white sandy beach may not be on the top of your must-do list when visiting Prague, but during the summer months it should be. More than 500 tons of sand is imported and spread along the banks of the Vltava River. Dip your toes into the perfectly cool water in the huge floating pool. Need a break from the sun? Check out nearby Staporamen Brewery for a tour of one of the Czech Republic’s largest beer producers. Or, head to the beach as the sun goes down for a vibrant nightlife scene. Admission to the beach area is free, and lounge chairs are available for a nominal fee.

Urban Beach at Royal Docks
London, England
July 18-Sept. 2

Trade in your wellies for flip flops and hit the Urban Beach at London’s Royal Docks. Each year, the docks are transformed into a relaxing spot to watch the water, or listen to the planes take off and land nearby at London City Airport. Cool off with sweet treats underneath the shaded cafés just steps away.

BeachEast Amusement Park
Stratford, England
July 21-Sept. 2

Harkening back to the days of beachfront carnivals, BeachEast Amusement Park opens up for just six weeks during the summer. Located at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park just outside of central London, this family-friendly beach boasts multiple pools for little ones, two full-size beach volleyball courts, thrilling rides and plenty of spots for food and drinks.

Berlin, Germany
Open year-round

Just two short blocks from the Museum of Natural History is a beach right smack in the middle of Berlin’s busy metropolis. BeachBerlin consists of BeachMitte, BeachCenter and MountMitte. Open all year, sand lovers can get their fix outside when the weather is nice, or nab a spot indoor at BeachCenter. During the summer months, BeachMitte is packed with championship beach volleyball during the day. At night, dance beneath the stars as it transforms into an outdoor club. If you need a break from the tropical sands, get your climb on at MountMitte. This unique ropes course is full of obstacles — including vintage Trabants, canoes and kayaks — dangling precariously close to adventurers.

If you can’t decide between visiting a concrete jungle or the beach, don’t worry … you can choose both! Just remember to slather on the sunscreen and kick up your feet.

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