Editors’ Favorite Beach Towns in Europe

Favignana, Aegadian Islands, Italy

In the early morning, in the bedroom like a ship’s cabin, I wake up to the whisper of the wind and a streak of bright sunlight piercing the wall like a spear. When I open the shutters, the silver sea seems to flood the room. Across stretches of the blue Mediterranean, ferries shuttle to the mainland. I have been coming for years to the Egadi archipelago, scattered in the far west of Sicily. Ferries from Trapani and Marsala make the crossing to Favignana, the largest of the three islands, in 40 minutes. On misty mornings, the islands emerge like ghosts on a porcelain sea. Favignana feels halfway to North Africa. It’s not pretty, but it’s sadly beautiful, with an end-of-the-world feel. Dwarfed by vast skies, it’s a skeletal place of windswept trees and prickly cacti; simple cubist houses and narrow streets winding between low stone walls. The only cars belong to the locals and everyone navigates the rutted roads on bicycles and scooters. Around its coast we swim from rocky shelves in transparent seas. At the port, we rent a boat, prepare a picnic and go in search of hidden bays. Favignana has many surprises in store: an ephemeral juice bar on the road to Cala Rossa, a former tuna cannery, built like a cathedral, which has become a splendid museum; a botanical garden of nearly 500 plants in an old tuff quarry known as the Jardin de l’Impossible. A handful of stylish boutique hotels can be found by the sea, and in the small port town, enterprising young chefs are creating a food scene that would impress in Milan. Don’t miss the scoglio seafood pasta at driftwood Sotto Sale. Stanley Stewart

Where to stay

Full of books and seashells, Cas’almare is the kind of simple island home dreams are made of. Four bedrooms, shuttered windows, large sunny terraces, a few strides from the sea. Doubles from around £150.

Wadden Sea, Denmark

Part of the longest chain of mudflats in the world – stretching from Ho Bay in Denmark to 300 miles south of the Netherlands – Denmark’s Wadden Sea National Park is a place that follows the whims of nature. It is a shape-shifting mix of just-baked brown cookie beaches, rolling sand dunes, bright green seagrass meadows, olive and rusty red salt marshes and mud flats. mirror enamels that stretch like a slow, satisfying yawn across the wide horizon. It is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet – around 10 million birds stop here on their migration from the Arctic to Western Europe in autumn and spring. Then the sky thickens, heavy with the rhythmic beating of wings of flocks of geese, while the deceptions of handsome lapwings, with crested punk hairstyles, glide through the mud, drunk with feasts of worms. Almost as stunning is the Wadden Sea Centre, a Dorte Mandrup-designed museum in Vester Vedsted, which brings the wetlands to life in 21st-century style, with DJ decks offering the chance to sample birdsong to cool beats. Offshore, the Wadden Sea islands are popular with smart Danish holidaymakers, but little visited by others. The northernmost island of Fanø, accessible by rolling car ferry, is a magical place, with pastel-coloured houses and wide beaches where seals scurry, plovers scuttle and the occasional nugget of amber s wash up on the shore. Ianthe Butt

Where to stay

On the mainland, a 40-minute drive from Vester Vedsted, is the Hjerting Badehotel in Esbjerg – one of Denmark’s traditional seaside hotels, with rooms in crisp white and navy blue. Doubles from around £270.

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