Picture this: you and your other half are sitting down to book a holiday together. One of you is dreaming of lounging in the sun on a soft sandy beach while the waves lap back and forth on the shore. There’s a cocktail bar just a short walk away, and all you can hear is the sound of wind gently rusting in the trees on the nearby cliffs. The other one of you, however, is picturing a fact-filled week of walking; sight-seeing and soaking up every last drop of history, art and architecture. Castles, medieval fishing harbours and cobblestone streets are the aim of the game, and nothing but a guided tour will do.
So, what do you do? Should one of you compromise and put up with a less-than perfect holiday? Well, no. You simply blend the two holidays together. Here are a few location ideas that combine the best of the beach with the crème de la crème of culture…
Croatia is a holiday hotspot in Europe, with climate, scenery and culinary delights that are similar to Italy but at the fraction of the cost. It’s Croatia’s breath-taking beaches and historical gems that make it a location you should be seriously considering this year. For example, Dubrovnik’s old town (used in the Game of Thrones TV series) is one of the world’s most well-preserved medieval cities, dating back to the 11th century. Spend your days wondering the streets, drinking in the terracotta-tiled roofs, baroque churches and Renaissance fountains, with the region’s beaches within easy walking distance. Its most popular beach is Banje beach, overlooking Old Town – you’ll have to pay a small entrance fee to swim here, or you can head over to Sveti Jakov without spending a penny if you’re happy to hang out on a pebble-stone shore.
Given that Greece consists of so many islands, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to finding a beach to sunbathe on. Head to Rhodes if you want to combine the best ocean views with the most interesting culture. Plimiri beach is secluded and tranquil, flagged by sand dunes and benefitting from water that seems impossibly clear – perfect for a swim! On the other hand, if you’re treating yourself to a hotel in Ixia, you’ll want to head to Ixia beach – it’s cosmopolitan, roomy and well-served by amenities. Wherever you choose to sun yourself, you’ll have plenty of exploring to do as Rhodes has been part of a number of empires, including the Roman empire, the Byzantine empire and the Ottoman empires. This means there are awe-inspiring palaces, streets and temples to visit – so pack your comfiest walking shoes and get ready to be blown away by what you’ll learn.
For a particularly special holiday that combines the very best of culture (it’s a coastal city with centuries of history and art to explore), book yourself a holiday to Lisbon. Expect to see old wooden trams rumbling through strings of pastel coloured buildings and castles, with monasteries, shops, cafes and museums ready and waiting for your arrival. Culture vultures should make a point of seeing the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (built in the 15th century) as well as paying a very reasonable €5 to get into the Museu Gulbenkian. And, the beaches are glorious too – find some respite by paddling in the cool Atlantic Ocean, enjoying the warm sun that hangs over Lisbon in the summer, and pull up a chair at a beach-side café for juicy sea food and ice cold beers.