Beautiful, secluded beaches that are an hour's drive from civilization are all well and good, but there's usually not much you can do apart from lie on the beach and catch some rays.
If you're not that much of a beach person, but still want to get your fill during your Spanish holiday, you might prefer to visit one of Spain's excellent city beaches. This gives you the opportunity to sample some of Spain's famously beautiful beaches, but then to enjoy the culture of one of the country's metropolises at the same time.
Whether taking in the Gaudi architecture of Barcelona, sampling local cuisine in Valencia or exploring the peninsula of Cadiz, you'll find that a satisfying dip in the ocean is always mere minutes away. Truly the best of both worlds!
Quite possibly the best city beach in Europe, let alone Spain. Sample the excellent local pintxos (the Basque name for tapas) and the climb Monte Urgull and Monte Igueld for some great views of the city. Don't forget to read up on our San Sebastian Tourist Guide if you're visiting the area. You can also take a tour of San Sebastian and the neighboring Biarritz to soak up both some sun and culture.
Even if you're not in Valencia for Las Fallas or Tomatina Tomato Fight, you'll still find plenty to do once you've had your fun in the sun (read our Valencia City Guide for more). The beaches are not really as close as they are in other cities, but a short bus ride will take you straight to the sea. You can even take a day cruise around the beaches and get a full view of the city from the water.
The little peninsula of Cadiz is an excellent retreat from nearby Seville. Since it's located on Spain's south coast, you may find that Cadiz will have sunshine at times when some of the other cities on this page may be suffering from bad weather. On the other hand, the fact that the city is surrounded by the sea on three sides means that it rarely gets too hot. Cadiz's old town is a real treat—don't forget to try the city's famous fried fish! The region is also known for its sherry, which you can sample by taking a wine-tasting tour of its famous vineyards.
In a Best Beach in Spain 2013 survey in a Spanish newspaper, the only two beaches to make the shortlist were both close to Cadiz.
Barcelona's beaches aren't at the top of this list, but we definitely still recommend checking them out since it's the quintessential Spanish beach town. If you have the time during your stay, you'd do much better to take a short train ride from Barcelona to Sitges, but when in a pinch, Barcelona's beach will do the trick. We have a complete guide to Barcelona's beaches, as well as our handy list of 100 Things to Do in Barcelona.
If you really want to take destiny into your own hands, you can rent a boat at the beach and cruise around the city's shoreline at your own pace.
Barcelona has some of the most interesting hotels in Spain—make sure to book your way in advance to make the most of the city's popular summer months.
In my opinion, Malaga is a seriously overrated city—there are far better places to visit while in Andalusia. But it is a city and it has a beach, and (as with Cadiz), its location on the south coast makes it more likely to enjoy uninterrupted sunshine during your stay. We've put together a list of Malaga's beaches so you get the most out of staying there. There's also a scenic private tour of the city (complete with tapas!) so you can do a bit of sight-seeing.