Europe holidays

Travel

10 of the best beach bars in Greece

Step out of the sea and straight into one of these drinking dens, many offering top-notch food and cocktails – plus a party atmosphere after sundown

More in: France | Portugal | Spain

From modest beginnings as a few friends who learned to catch the waves at Kolibithra beach, Tinos Surf Lessons has become a scene. Yiannis Vidalis and his crew have made something fun and friendly at the surf school that is also chic – a VW campervan converted into a bar, with driftwood furniture and umbrellas woven by local basket-makers. Everything is made to be packed up during the winter and leave the sands of one of Tinos’s longest (and windiest) beaches untouched. The daytime menu is hearty with toasties, salads and crepes. Locally brewed Nissos beer and fruit juices give way to good cocktails from the VW bar as sunset approaches.
tinossurflessons.com

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Galica coast holiday guide: the best restaurants, bars, beaches and hotels

White sandy beaches, epic Atlantic scenery and supreme seafood combine to great effect on Spain’s most beautiful coastline

Lush green valleys and rugged mountains, sheer cliffs and wild, frothing, slate-grey seas. Bagpipes, baroque cathedrals and the smell of grilled seafood. The architectural grace of Santiago de Compostela and the industrial churn of Vigo. Galicia, the north-west corner of Spain, is a diverse region, but amid the variety there are two constants: first, it’s one of the best places to eat seafood in the world; and, second, its wild landscape, seemingly more Scottish than Spanish, is the most beautiful on the Iberian peninsula.

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The best of northern Spain: readers’ travel tips

Forget crowded Med beaches: the four coastal regions of España Verde offer cool cities, wild shores and great walking in verdant coast and mountains

If you’d rather stray far from the tourist trail, the Basque Coast Geopark is a delight. It’s a protected area of the coastline around Mutriku, Deba, and Zumaia. There are 13km of cliffs made up of flysch (shale bed) deposits which have created layered and bizarre rock formations. We felt as though we were on the set of Jurassic Park. These staggering cliffs show how the Earth changed over millions of years and fossils are plentiful for the kids to admire. A boat tour is a great way to see it and costs €20 adult, €10 under-12s.
geoparkea.com
Lisa Anderson

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Modern family: Greece with grown-up kids

A decade after a first family holiday in Greece, Martin Love heads to Paxos – and finds it wonderfully unchanged

The five of us stretched out on yoga mats with our toes pointing towards the sea. Above us the breeze stirred the leaves of the ancient olive trees. “Eímai edó,” intoned Sophie. “In Greek that means, ‘I am here.’” She continued in her gentle voice. “I am here in Paxos. I have arrived. I have moored on this rock surrounded by sea …”

Sophie was training to be a mindfulness teacher. When we lay down I’d have bet my favourite Speedos that we’d soon be in fits of laughter, but not one of us so much as sniggered. We lay in still, neat rows, like sardines, as her soothing words washed over us. After a while, Sophie brought us up from the depths. “I hope you are now at one with this island,” she said. We’d been on Paxos for less than half a day yet I had the giddy sensation I might just chuck it all in and stay here forever.

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UK road trip: the Anglo-Scottish border

There’s so much dramatic scenery and history on this week-long itinerary that crisscrosses between Scotland and England several times, taking in castles, beaches and wildlife
More road trips: Dorset to Cornwall | coast to coast

The Anglo-Scottish border is a place of wild beauty, with a rich, poetic and bloody history. This is the land of the reivers, fierce clans of brigands who, from the 13th century until the Union of the Crowns in 1603, were to this region what the Apaches were to the US-Mexican frontier. Carlisle’s Tullie House Museum has an excellent permanent exhibition about them.

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First Venice and Barcelona: now anti-tourism marches spread across Europe

Demos in San Sebastián and crackdowns in Rome and Dubrovnik as locals vent frustration at city-breakers and cruise ships

With the continent sweltering under a heatwave nicknamed Lucifer, tempers have been boiling over, too, as a wave of anti-tourism protests take place in some of Europe’s most popular destinations. Yet, as “tourism-phobia” becomes a feature of the summer, the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has defended the sector, calling on local authorities to do more to manage growth in a sustainable manner.

Ensuring tourism is an enriching experience for visitors and hosts alike demands strong, sustainable tourism policies

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How to cook, and eat, like an Italian: a foodie week in Puglia

A cookery school and some amazing restaurants transport Harriet Green and her family to foodie raptures

We walk into the massive kitchen and Aldo, the chef, announces that he can tell at a glance who does the cooking at home. He’s not talking about me. My husband exudes calm, Aldo says. He has, it seems, the look of someone who can stand the heat. Stung by this, I’m determined to prove Aldo wrong, and outshine my husband.

We’ve come to Puglia with our teenage daughter, to cook like locals at Borgo Egnazia cooking school. On today’s menu is orecchiette, classic Puglian pasta shaped like little ears.

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10 of the best things to do in Pisa

A €30m redevelopment has funded the revamp of many of this walkable Italian city’s main attractions – including its tower – and there are great bars, restaurants and hotels to relax in after the sightseeing

The leaning tower, duomo and baptistery are must-sees. It costs nothing to wander the green lawns (with crowds picnicking and taking silly photographs), admiring the centuries-old white marble and 5.5-degree lean on the Torre Pendente. Entry to the tower is pricey (€18pp/under-10s free) but includes the cathedral. It’s a thrill to climb the steep, narrow steps once trodden by Galileo Galilei, and the view of the city is superb. From this year, 2km of the city walls are open (first weekend of the month, 10am-6pm, free), providing views also of Camposanto cemetery and of the huge weights used to pull the tower 45cm closer to vertical in 2007, after it was closed amid safety fears.

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10 of the best beach bars in Spain

Spain decamps to the coast in the summer and life revolves around the chiringuitos where a meal, cold beer or just a break from the sun are what’s needed

Tumbao, a cool spot without pretension and imbued with something of a “Californian-days-of summer” vibe, offers everything anyone might need on a beach, from good company to healthy juice and batidos (shakes), an affordable buffet (€11 a head), and good views of kite-surfers from a supine vantage point on the cushions. In late afternoon, there’s a beach barbecue and the post-swim crowd arrives in search of icy beer, watermelon mojitos and music (there’s nearly always a DJ, often live bands as well). Tarifa’s not short of great chiringuitos, but Tumbao is one not to miss.
N-340, 10km from Tarifa; on Facebook, open daily Easter to early Oct, midday-midnight

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10 of the best beach bars in France

Trays of oysters, iced rosé, swordfish brochettes, even Trump-inspired cocktails … these bars de plage boast superb fare and sunshine vibes

A hidden cove, a respite from the flashy excesses of the Riviera near Monaco, Eden Plage is reached by a tricky headland path (closed when the sea is rough) or a long, stepped descent from the village. The restaurant-bar serves great seafood, burgers and chips with views of the steep cliffs of Saint-Laurent bay and the gently-lapping Mediterranean. You can rent a paddle board or kayak on the gravelly beach and head into the nearby grottos. There’s also a floating pontoon to swim to and red sunbeds under the parasols. You might be disturbed by a model from the boutique behind the bar showing off swimsuits, pareos or a macramé bag or just the waiter topping up your rosé (€8 a glass), but otherwise, it’s the most undiscovered beach resort on the Côte d’Azur.
Allée Mala, edenplagelamala.com

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Spain road trip: San Sebastián to Valencia

This route kicks off with the dazzling food and art of the Basque country before traversing Navarre and Aragon and heading south to Spain’s paella capital
More Spain road trips: Málaga-Jerez and Madrid-Santiago de Compostela

San Sebastián (or Donostia in Basque) is one of the most elegant coastal towns on the Iberian peninsula. It’s also a mecca for foodies, with more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than anywhere in the world except Kyoto. For a town with fewer than 200,000 inhabitants, it has a lot to offer. Install yourself in Hotel Niza (doubles from €85 room only) and take a walk along the seafront to the Peine del Viento (Comb of the Wind), a sculpture by local artist Eduardo Chillida. There’s an open-air sculpture park dedicated to his work in the nearby town of Hernani.Eat standing up in any of the pintxo bars in the old town – Gandarias (fish main from €14, Kalea 31 de Agosto) is especially good – or take a five-minute trip on the tiny ferry across the mouth of the river from Pasaia to San Juan and dine at Txulotxo (five courses from €35) which does superb fish and seafood with a view out to sea. The San Sebastián area also boasts some of the best surf in Europe, and you can hire everything you need along the seafront or at the resort town of Zarautz about 10km west of the city.

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Flea to France: shopping at Europe’s largest vintage market

The Provençal village of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue has the largest concentration of vintage stores outside Paris and also hosts a giant open-air flea market. The next is in August – so get ready for a bric-a-brac bargain

For a small place, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue isn’t short of antiques shops. Filled with tiny, walkable quarters specialising in different types of vintage, this ancient Provençal village has the largest concentration of vintage stores outside Paris. These mini districts are reached by criss-crossing bridges that span the shallow, clear river Sorgue, creating a spot that, for a homewares lover, is irresistible.

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Cottage with class: a short break on Ireland’s Donegal coast

A renovated traditional stone homestead with its own beach is the first in a new collection of holiday lets that make idyllic bases for exploring elemental Ireland

High summer in the north-west nook of Ireland and guess what? It was raining. Seriously wet Atlantic rain that persisted through the night and bounced rhythmically off the corrugated roof of our traditional Donegal stone cottage. You’d think it would be like trying to sleep inside a tin can. But the 200-year-old building had recently been renovated and the roof was impressively insulated; the downpours sounded almost muted, like a jazz drummer playing with brushes.

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Cycling and cava in Catalonia – a bike trip with bubbles

Great scenery, ancient lanes and sparkling wine combine on a tour south-west of Barcelona, on which it’s not only the hill climbs that make this cyclist feel dizzy

Metres ahead, up on the ridge, the air seems to be wobbling in the midday Catalonian sun. It is only when I reach the peak of the incline, light-headed and breathless, that I realise these wobbles are not heatwaves rippling from the road. Rather, clouds of white butterflies are dancing above the vineyards that drop down towards the village of La Granada. They flutter across my face and land on my arms. Behind them, like stone sentinels keeping watch from the horizon, loom the Montserrat mountains. If it wasn’t for the sunburn and my padded lyrca shorts, I would feel like a princess in a Disney film.

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10 of Europe’s best summer festivals

From giant elephants by the Loire to Stax of soul in Helsinki, there are cultural celebrations to suit all tastes across the continent

A summer programme designed to transform the city, Voyage à Nantes creates a cultural trail across more than 50 historical and modern sites. The 13km route, which lasts for the two-month period of the festival, includes work from artists, architects, designers and gardeners, with architect Collectif Mit creating a beach resort on the banks of the river Loire and giant puppet shows (including a four-storey-tall elephant) in the former shipyards.
1 July-27 August, admission mostly free, some events ticketed, levoyageanantes.fr

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Tallinn’s ‘new Nordic’ food scene – and the restaurants leading the way

A new generation of Estonian chefs is feeding a culinary revolution by mixing Scandi-style cooking with traditional flavours to create innovative dishes at affordable prices

Behind the medieval city of Tallinn, a former Hanseatic port and a Unesco world heritage site, the woods run to the Russian border. The Estonians have sought their shelter in times of trouble: forest covers 90% of this tiny EU country on the Baltic, and with Russia next door, trouble has never been hard to find. “The forest is a fur coat,” says an Estonian proverb. But now it offers more than warmth and shelter: a young generation of Estonian chefs are using it to feed a cooking revolution, too.

Whether it’s spruce shoots or pickled ramsons, blackcurrant leaves or grated green pine cones, Estonian chefs are returning to the forest – and to the miles of Baltic sea that ring the stony beaches of the coast and islands – using the startlingly brief warm summers to track down folk flavours that they combine and adapt in unexpected ways. This is the “new Nordic” cuisine as pioneered at Noma in Copenhagen by René Redzepi, with an Estonian twist: fresh, local, making the most of its seasons. And unlike Noma, it doesn’t have to cost the earth. Estonian chefs don’t have a big middle-class clientele to cater for, so it remains good value.

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10 of the best small islands in Croatia

These Adriatic islets, many sparsely populated and little visited, are perfect for boat rides, great walking trails, lovely beaches and the odd bit of culture

An hour’s ferry ride from Dubrovnik, Lopud is a world away from the city’s bustle. Panoramic views take in mountains and deep-blue waters, from the surrounding Elaphiti archipelago to the Croatian mainland beyond. Just 220 year-round residents share this car-free island, which measures less than 5 sq km. A sweep of seafront promenade – with waterside restaurants, petite boutiques and ice-cream shops – traces Lopud’s northern bay. A 15-minute hike south over the hills sits Šunj Bay, a splendid and rare arc of silky sand that shelves gradually into the surf. The island truly comes into its own in the early evening, once the last daytrippers have set sail for the mainland.
Where to stay: built in the 1960s, Lafodia Sea Resort resembles a futuristic cruise ship (doubles from €80 a night B&B, lafodiahotel.com)

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Blazing saddles: horse riding along Menorca’s Camí de Cavalls

Amid red-sand beaches and volcanic outcrops, a recently-restored 14th-century route on the Balearic island is now open to riders who also want a boutique hotel stay

Trotting along the narrow path, high up on the cliffs, I spotted a flash of white sand down below – Cala Macarelleta. This tiny cove in Menorca gets packed in the summer, but in April it looked deserted – and it was, apart from a lone nudist, who seemed unperturbed by six horse riders shattering his peace.

This part of Menorca is reminiscent of lunar Lanzarote, a far cry from the white sands in the south of the island

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