Family beach holidays

Where to mix up family beach holidays with city breaks this summer

Last updated 1st June 2024

A city break might not be top of your family summer holiday list but would a city beach change your mind?  Here are some great cities by the sea to get you thinking.


La Concha, San Sebastián, Spain

San Sebastián, home to La Concha, one of the best city beaches in Spain

San Sebastián has other beaches, something you may not have been aware of because it’s not easy to get past the grand, golden sweep that is La Concha.

When the city’s not scooping up gongs for its restaurants or putting tapas in the shade with pintxos, La Concha is regularly topping the world’s list of loveliest beaches. Even the Atlantic tends to be on its best behaviour around it, so much so they confidently pop a swimming deck in the sea during summer, complete with slides and diving boards.

Naturally you can rent sunbeds and parasols or do as the locals do and just plant yourself on the sand, there’s certainly enough room. Although, with a bit of strategic planning you can get a view of the Old Town, the New Town, as well as enticing Santa Clara Island. And if you find that lure impossible to resist, Santa Clara is only a 30-minute boat ride away and, apart from being remarkably pretty, it also has the only south-facing beach in the Basque Country.

How to get there: direct UK flights to Biarritz from 1 hour, 55 minutes, San Sebastián is about 45 minutes’ drive from Biarritz.

Where to stay: Hotel Zinema 7, Family Room, B&B from £195 per night.

Book Hotel Zinema 7 in San Sebastián


Miami South Beach, Florida

South Beach Miami, the city beach that out-glamours almost all other

How good is the beachy bit of South Beach Miami? Considering it manages to outshine neighbours like glamorous Lincoln Road and Española Way, not to mention the acres of beautiful people intent on outshining each other, the answer has to be: very good indeed.

Although for all that, it’s fair to say this legendary urbanite is all about teamwork, because would South Beach be the same without its stately palms and clear blue seas? Would you even recognise it if the pastel and neon Art Deco hotels and finned vintage cars weren’t about? And then there’s the iconic lifeguard stations and sunsets at South Pointe Park that have the power to inspire awestruck silence in an entire crowd of onlookers.

If you want to decide for yourself, hire a transparent kayak, paddle out from the shore with your most deserving child, then look back in wonder. That’s how to do a city beach, hats off Miami.

How to get there: direct UK flights to Miami from 9 hours, 40 minutes

Where to stay: Beacon South Beach Hotel, Deluxe Double Room, B&B from £219 per night

Book Beacon South Beach Hotel in Miami


Muizenberg, arguably the best of Cape Town’s city beaches

Muizenberg Beach, the Cape Town legend you may already know

Cape Town isn’t shy when it comes to beaches and, although most of the best loved aren’t technically urban, who’s going to argue when South Africa’s oldest city stakes a claim?

One thing that locals will argue about endlessly is relative merits. And undoubtedly sitting at the foot of the Twelve Apostles mountain range does give Camps Bay an edge. And devotees will tell you how far it’s possible to wade out into the sea. Carefully forgetting to mention this is the Atlantic and the water might be shallow, but it’s also pretty chilly.

Muizenberg by complete contrast sits on the Indian Ocean, a short drive from Cape Town and it has mountains too, although what makes it impossible not to love are its beach huts. Neatly lined up and boldly painted, they’re a jolt of bright against the creamy sand shore. Catch them with a rising crag in the frame and in you’re keeping good company – these huts are all over Instagram. Or just look where they’re looking, out towards a sea where it’s warm enough to swim, never mind wade.

How to get there: direct UK flights to Cape Town from 11 hours, 35 minutes

Where to stay: The Table Bay Hotel, Superior Luxury Family Room, B&B from £446 per night

Book The Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town


Barceloneta, Barcelona

Barceloneta, the best of Barcelona’s city beaches for people watching

La Barceloneta might be the smallest district in Barcelona, but Barceloneta is by far the biggest deal when it comes to city beaches. Hemmed in by W Hotel’s steely sail at one end and Frank Gehry’s big fish at the other, it’s easily the best known on our list.

Only a short walk from La Rambla it couldn’t be more part of the city, with the result that it’s busy, especially at the weekends. The downside of that is finding a spot on the sand, then building in extra time to clamber through bodies to the sea. Those bodies are the upside too, because the Barceloni at play are endlessly watchable.

However, there’s also some kudos for parents who spring for surf lessons here. Surf House Barcelona overlooks Barceloneta, and it’s a good place to eat with kids too. Although this part of the city is heaving with restaurants, cafés and bars.

So no, Barceloneta is not the beach for quiet contemplation, but when you want that full-on, walking distance from the city centre, raucous and relentlessly urban thing, it is all that.

How to get there: direct UK flights to Barcelona from 2 hours, 5 minutes

Where to stay: Hotel Astoria, Family Room with Terrace, from £236 per night

Book Hotel Astoria in Barcelona


La Grand Plage, Biarritz, South West France

Grand Plage, the Biarritz legend for vintage vibes and world class waves

Sands that disappear into the distance seemingly without any discernible end are the signatures of Landes Coast beaches and France protects them fiercely, meaning you have to walk, with all your kit and your kids, to just about every one of them. And don’t even think about setting foot on a protected dune.

Yet, head a little further south and you come to Biarritz: small city, big beach, bit of a surfing legend, and you hardly have to walk at all, Grand Plage sits handily right in front of the casino, minutes from the centre.

Stripey beach tents have a quaint retro feel, if you just want to sit in the sun and spectate. But this is another great place for kids to take surf lessons, and learning on the Basque Coast is a big deal, plus quite a few of the local schools teach in English, Spanish and French, and most are open from April to November. Just bear in mind this is the Bay of Biscay and even in summer classes get cancelled because the Atlantic is too wild.

How to get there: direct UK flights to Biarritz from 1 hour, 55 minutes

Where to stay: Grand Tonic Hotel & SPA NUXE, Family Room, B&B from £199 per night

Book Grand Tonic Hotel & SPA NUXE in Biarritz



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