The World's Most Surprising Beach Cities

These cites don't proudly flaunt their beaches, which can be great for travelers

When you think of beach cities, you think of the usual suspects, be they Barcelona on the Mediterranean, Sydney on the South Pacific or Miami as a gateway to the Caribbean Sea. These cities—and their beaches—are wonderful, but they're ever so slightly crowded and, in the eyes of some, overrated.

One way to overcome this (the crowding problem, anyway) is to travel far and wide, to seek out forlorn beaches that might not even appear on Google Earth yet. However, if you're like most people (i.e. you have a job and a life), you want beaches you can visit for a day or even an afternoon. Here are five easily accessible world cities that are home, perhaps surprisingly, to their very own beaches.

  • 01 of 05

    Paris

    Paris Plages
    ••• Paris Plages are sandy beaches along the Seine River. Peter Haas via Wikimedia Commons

    Paris doesn't sit so far from the very best beaches of France, thanks to the country's super-fast TGV train network, but you actually don't need to leave the city to sit on sand. Every summer, the city sets up "Paris Plages" along the Seine River, which allows you to enjoy a "beach" without anything more than a taxi or Metro ride. Tip: Although the sand here is totally legit, you probably don't want to get in the water.

  • 02 of 05

    Houston

    Galveston Pleasure Pier
    ••• Galveston Island's exciting "Pleasure Pier" differentiates it from many other beaches, the fact that it's in a non-traditional beach city notwithstanding. Galveston.com

    As a native Texan, I get asked often if I'm from the desert as I do why I don't have a gun or whether I'm sure I didn't vote for George W. Bush. I mention the first fact in particular because the fact that many people don't know Texas has a coastline—and many don't—is only the beginning of how little they know about my state.

    Texas has one of the longest coastlines in the United States, in fact, and while the beaches aren't nearly as idyllic as some of the others in the country, many are extremely convenient, which is more important. Galveston Island, for example, sits just an hour from Houston, and in addition to boasting more than 30 miles of beaches, is home to historical architecture, a cruise terminal and a "Pleasure Pier," complete with a ferris wheel and roller coaster, to name just a few of its charms.

  • 03 of 05

    Rome

    Ostia Beach Rome
    ••• Ostia Beach is less than an hour from Rome by train. Public Domain

    Like Houston's, Rome's beaches sit less than an hour from the city center by train. One of the most popular ones, Ostia Lido, is not only a great place to enjoy some sun and surf, but sits nearby Rome's ancient harbor, a.k.a. Ostia Antica. Other popular beaches near Rome include Fregene, Marinella and Sperlonga, all of which require no more than an hour in transit. These beaches are crowded, make no mistake, but they're a refreshing alternative to the Spanish Steps or Colosseum.

  • 04 of 05

    Chicago

    Ohio Street Beach
    ••• Chicago's Ohio Street Beach features incredible views of the skyline.

    Chicago's closeness to water is well-known, but unless you've spent any time on the Great Lakes, you probably don't realize how ocean-like their water looks. Chicago's beaches also benefit from the fact that the sand here is well-maintained, and oh, the fact that America's third largest city just happens to rise above them. The worst fact about Chicago's Lake Michigan beaches is no doubt that it's only warm enough to lay on them a few months out of the year, but hey—they look pretty cool frozen solid, too!

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Bangkok

    Koh Kood Thailand
    ••• You needn't go far from Bangkok to enjoy the charms of Thailand's beaches. Robert Schrader

    It's no secret that Thailand is home to some of the world's best beaches, or that many of these beaches are only a short, cheap flight away from Bangkok. What you probably don't realize is that many beaches exist within a short, cheap drive of Bangkok, some of which are so close you can access them using a cab you hire within the city. The most obvious of these is Pattaya, located around 90 miles southeast of Bangkok in Chonburi province, although many beach towns sit along the road there, including Si Racha, which has no relation to the famous hotel sauce whose name has one more "r" than it does.