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11 Gorgeous European Beaches

Italy. Spain. Portugal. France. We'll take them all, especially if they come with a ridiculously gorgeous stretch of sand. Take a tour of the 11 European beaches we're swooning over this season.

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

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Platja Gran, Tossa de Mar, Spain

In Catalonia, almost equidistance between Barcelona and the southern French border, Platja Gran stretches out on the sun-soaked Costa Brava. Though the walled-off medieval town of Tossa de Mar has 19 or so beaches, three main ones come to mind for most travelers; Platja Gran being the largest and most popular. Fringed by a lively boardwalk, the Castle of Tossa de Mar and the fortified walls of Vila Vella, the coarse sands are great not only for beach bums, but those looking to explore downtown by foot or bike.

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Zlatni Rat Beach, Dalmatian Coast, Croatia

Strong currents and swift winds transform the unique shape of pebble-lined Zlatni Rat every couple of years. The pine-tree-bordered beach, also known as the Golden Cape, lies on the southern coast of Brač, just 1-mile west of Bol – roughly a 20-minute walk along the seaside promenade or quick car ride away. While you'll find quite a few wind surfers taking on the Hvar Channel and Adriatic Sea undertow, venture farther down the beach and you'll likely bump into a clothing-optional cove or two.

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Marasusa Beach, Tropea, Italy 

Unlike the Amalfi Coast, Tropea – on Italy's southern coast – has yet to be engulfed by masses of beach bag-toting tourists. At Marasusa Beach – or La Costa degli Dei, the Coast of the Gods – velvety white sands jut out into clear Mediterranean waters beneath a striking set of monastery- and cathedral-dotted cliffs. Be sure to venture into town at some point to sample locally-made gelato – Caffé del Corso, along Corso Vittorio Emanuele, is just a 10-minute walk from the shore.

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Chiaia di Luna, Ponza Island, Italy

One of Italy’s best stretches of sand sits hidden on the small craggy island of Ponza just 80 minutes from Anzio (a port town an hour south of Rome). Here, local fishing boats replace mega-yachts and residents outnumber tourists. On the other side of the main harbor there's Chiaia di Luna, a crescent-shaped beach lapped by a turquoise bay and bordered by massive 320-foot white tufa (limestone cliffs). The only wait to get to this tiny slice of paradise is through an ancient Roman tunnel. After a long day in the sun, grab a table with a view at the hilltop A Casa di Assunta, which serves fresh seafood like polpo alla brace (grilled octopus) and homemade desserts — strawberry yogurt cake with white chocolate chunks is a must. Then end the evening with a sundowner on the scenic patio at Grand Hotel Chiaia di Luna.

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Kaputas Beach, Kas, Turkey

There’s no denying Bodrum’s beauty — especially with its model clientele. Yet, just four hours south is Kaputas, a secret spot frequented by locals. Hop a quick dolmus (minibus) ride from Kalkan or Kas (the beach is between the two cities) to the beach, which is formed by a massive gorge that opens onto the sand. Sunbeds and umbrellas are available to lounge seaside, and there's a cafe that serves spinach and cheese gözleme (Turkish flatbread) for when hunger strikes.

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Playa de las Catedrales, Galicia, Spain

It’s not hard to see why this Spanish shore translates to Beach of the Cathedrals. During low tide, you can walk under towering rock archways and through narrow grottos along the mile-long strand. In the summer, a blanket of wildflowers bloom yellow, purple and blue along the cliff edges, and from June 20 to 24, locals celebrate Noche de San Juan by lighting thousands of beach bonfires.

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Spiaggia di Fegina, Monterosso al Mare, Italy

Sleepy cliffside towns. Pastel houses. Wind-worn fishing boats. Welcome to Cinque Terre, a set of six villages dotting the northern coast of Italy. Each has its own vibe, and Monterosso al Mare is known for its laid-back beach. A massive rock juts out from the crystal waves and striped yellow lounges line the water. Behind, you'll find a promenade of shops and restaurants to escape the sun — our favorite is Nuovo Bar Eden, which has a shady deck and killer ravioli alle noci (ravioli with walnut sauce).

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Praia Da Marinha, Algarve, Portugal

With its sugar-soft sand and an outcrop of rocky golden cliffs, Praia Da Marinha is one of the most picture-perfect alcoves in Europe. The hideaway also has aquamarine waters teeming with starfish and colorful marine life, making it the ideal snorkel spot, while hidden lagoons and caves can be explored by boat. But we can't blame you if all you're looking to do is kick back and relax. Just make sure not to leave without sampling the fresh catch of the day from the beach's only seafood shack. Trust us, you won't regret it.

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Calanque D’En Vau, Cassis, France

Need we say more than the Côte d'Azur? Between Cassis and Marseille is a 10-mile stretch of stunning calanques, fjordlike inlets with white limestone cliffs. But don’t expect the glitz and glamour of Cannes; the secluded Calanque D’En Vau beach is only accessible by boat or a two-hour hike. At the end of the afternoon, head back to the charming town of Cassis and snag a seat at Chez Gilbert for traditional bouillabaisse, a four-fish stew with croutons, rouille and saffron-infused fish stock. Then toast to the day with a glass of dry white wine from the Chateau de Fontcreuse vineyard down the road.

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Palmizana, Sveti Klement, Croatia

Swap the crowds of Hvar for quiet on the small, car-free island of Sveti Klement, just 20 minutes away by boat. On the northern end, you’ll find rolling vineyards, and on the south side are untouched bays. We love Palmizana, a 740-acre resort with rustic-chic bungalows, two cute pebble beaches, and gardens of pine trees, palms, rosemary and lavender. For dinner, head to the romantic Zori Restaurant and eat al fresco (specialties include: sea bass fillet and tagliatelle with scampi and truffles).

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