Lonely Planet’s 10 best beach cities
A surfer watches the waves at Bondi beach near Sydney. (BBC)
If you are thinking about your next getaway but are not sure whether to take a city break or a beach holiday, then we may have the answer. These sunny cities sit conveniently on the coastline, meaning you can take your city break with some sunbathing on the side.
Barcelona is Spain's most cosmopolitan city and one of the Mediterranean's busiest ports. Restaurants, bars and clubs are always packed, as is the seaside in summer. A series of lively beaches stretch northeast from the Port Olímpic marina. The southernmost beach, Platja de la Nova Icària, is the busiest. Behind it, across the Avinguda del Litoral highway, is the Plaça del Campions, site of the rusting three-tiered platform used to honour medallists in the sailing events of the 1992 games. Barcelona's beaches may be largely artificial, but this does not stop an estimated seven million bathers from piling in every year!
Cape Town, South Africa
Good-looking, fun-loving, sporty and sociable. If Cape Town was in the dating game that is how her profile would read. And - for once - it is all true. As well as magnificent Table Mountain, the city is famed as a beach hot-spot. Dotted around the coastline you will find a beach for every occasion. The stylish set flock west to join their cocktail sipping counterparts at Camps Bay, while families head east to Fish Hoek Beach for rugby games on the sand.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Be warned: Rio's powers of seduction can leave you with a bad case of saudade - a Portuguese word for an indescribable longing - when you leave. Copacabana and Ipanema are the most famous, but a visit to the Buzios peninsula, and its hard-working fishermen, offers a more traditional taste of Brazilian beach life.
From its extraordinary position perched on the northwestern-most tip of Africa, Tangier looks in two directions, facing both Europe and Africa. With the recent arrival of a new city governor, the town beach now sparkles, the hustlers are off the streets and even the taxi drivers are polite. As a stylish new Tangier is being created, travellers are discovering the delights of its beaches, where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean. Here you can take a seaside stroll, watch as the local children play beach football or hop on a camel for a different view of the sands.
Definitively Sydney's Bondi is one of the world's great beaches - this is where ocean and land collide, the Pacific arrives in great foaming swells, and all people are equal, as democratic as sand. It is the closest ocean beach to the city centre, has consistently good (though crowded) waves and is great for a rough 'n' tumble swim. Do not be fooled into thinking this is the city's only beach, however. A hike over the heads will bring you to Coogee, Bronte and Cronulla. Sydney's Northern Beaches make a deliciously sandy day trip. Extending north from Manly, they form a continuous stretch of laidback 'burbs, craggy headlands and more than twenty beaches, finishing at Palm Beach.
One of Lonely Planet's top 10 cities for 2011, Valencia sits coquettishly and confidently along Spain's Mediterranean coast offering plenty of choice for beach-lovers. Spread your towel on broad Playa de la Malvarrosa or neighbouring Playa de las Arenas, each bordered by the Paseo Marítimo promenade and a string of restaurants. One block back, lively bars and discos thump out the beat in summer.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv is the total flipside of Jerusalem, a modern Sin City on the sea rather than an ancient Holy City on a hill. When the weather is warm, Tel Avivans flock en masse to the city beaches. You will find young and old soaking up the Mediterranean rays, kitesurfing and knocking back and forth little rubber balls during friendly matches of matkot. The beaches are safe and clean, and there are changing rooms and freshwater showers scattered along its length. The main beaches are packed with people most days, especially on Saturdays, when the crowds descend to pick a prime spot. Get here early.