Urban Draws and Sandy Feet: 5 Cities With Great Beaches


Urban Draws and Sandy Feet: 5 Cities With Great Beaches

While secluded, remote coastal destinations have enduring appeal, a great beach city provides travelers with top-notch hotels, restaurants and cultural attractions, as well as the requisite sandy feet, endless waves and ocean sunsets of a great beach vacation.

We’ve gone farther afield from the Miamis and Honolulus of the world to offer these five beach-city suggestions. As always, research site-specific travel tips and observe local customs on appropriate beachwear and seaside behavior.


Istanbul has enough sights, sounds and history to fill multiple itineraries — ancient palaces and modern art, no-frills yet delicious street food and high-end restaurants, a raucous nightlife and the ubiquitous calls to prayer ringing from the city’s mosques. But it also has the Princes’ Islands, roughly an hour boat ride away (via public ferries, water buses or private boats). The cluster of nine islands, four of which are inhabited, have hiking trails, car-free streets and, of course, beaches, with sandy coves spilling out into the warm waters of the Sea of Marmara. Public beaches and beach clubs can be found on the three largest islands, Heybeliada, Büyükada and Burgazada. Aim to visit on a weekday to avoid crowds.

Upon your return, stroll along the banks of the Bosporus or dive into the bustle of the Beyoğlu district. You can find a glass of Turkish wine at Solera winery, or head to Çukur Meyhane, a low-key tavern beloved by locals and visitors alike, for a pour or three of anise-flavored raki.


Marseille, France’s second largest city, has gotten something of a reputation revamp in recent years, with an influx of creative professionals breathing new life into the port city — as well as the preparations needed to host a spate of sailing events for this summer’s Olympic Games. But Marseille’s heady mix of French, Italian and North and West African cultures has long made it a vibrant destination. The city buzzes with great food (beyond its famous bouillabaisse) and vibrant art found in galleries and on the street covering the walls of the hip Cours Julien neighborhood. And if you head down to the water’s edge, you’ll find local residents of all ages perched on craggy limestone rocks, sharing wine and plunging into the clear, aquamarine waters of the Mediterranean.

Sandy beaches can be found along the Corniche de President John F. Kennedy in the city’s 7th Arrondissement, too, including family-friendly Plage du Prophete and, closer to the city center, Plage des Catalans. All of are easily reached by bus, bike or on foot. Wherever you choose to dip, you’ll be spitting distance from ample waterfront bars and cafes perfect for a post-swim apero.

South Korea

From world-famous barbecue to K-pop to an exchange rate that’s quite favorable to the U.S. dollar, reasons to visit Korea are so plentiful these days that the country’s excellent beaches might be skipped. That would be a mistake, particularly in Busan. Korea’s second largest city has a waterfront scene fit to rival Miami Beach, with striking mountainscapes, Buddhist temples and hiking trails, and a thriving restaurant and nightlife scene. Haeundae Beach is Busan’s best known, thanks to a nearly mile-long stretch of golden sand and blue water surrounded by attractions, including the Sealife Busan Aquarium, tented restaurants serving seafood and hiker-friendly Dongbaek Park. Other beaches worth exploring include Gwangalli Beach, which on Saturday nights, is home to drone shows with changing themes and musical accompaniments. More waterfront fun can be found at the Bay 101 Yacht Club, where you’ll find multiple eateries, shops and yacht tours of the Busan waterfront.


For Midwestern beachgoers, the shores of Lake Michigan are well-trod, thanks to stunning county and state parks, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Chicago’s undeniably epic urban beaches. But Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s largest city, shouldn’t be overlooked by any coast-loving visitors to the area, thanks to the city’s 1,400 acres of waterfront beaches and parkland. Some of those include Bradford Beach, which has lifeguards on duty plus volleyball courts, a frozen custard stand and a tiki bar; South Shore Beach, which boasts city views and, in true Wisconsin fashion, a beer garden; and Tietjen Beach at Doctor’s Park, a semi-secluded haven with excellent bird watching. Of course, Milwaukee’s extensive brewery scene, art museum and baseball tradition makes the city well-worth visiting, as does its packed summer festival schedule, which includes Summerfest. The nine-day festival, held over three weekends in June and July, boasts a 600-artist lineup with acts ranging from Motley Crue and Tyler Childers to Lil Uzi Vert and SZA.


San Sebastián, or Donostia in the local Basque language, has long been a destination for travelers seeking to explore Basque culture, feast on culinary treasures and enjoy the striking coastal location hugging the Bay of Biscay. The city’s beaches, backed by lush green mountains, are well worth your attention, too, particularly in the summer months when the cooling Atlantic waters are as refreshing as they are necessary. La Concha, with its curved shape and golden sand, has been famous since its time as a resort destination in the 18th century. Ondarrata and Zurriola are must-visits for surfers, and also host lively beach volleyball, football and tennis games. And in the summer months, you can take a short ferry ride to Isla Santa Clara, where you’ll find a pocket-sized beach with a bar and a natural salt water-filled swimming pool.

After a day by the water, you’ll be more than ready to go on a pintxo-crawl around town — the bite-sized delights are a staple of the city’s dining scene, and range from skewers of anchovies, olives and peppers to grilled morsels of foie gras atop bread. Wash it all down with a dry, Basque-style cider or a glass of cold Txakoli wine.

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