Best beach holidays in Europe in autumn and winter

With hundreds of miles of outstanding coastline, Europe is home to some of the world's best beaches – and many of them are slices of paradise all year round. So when summer rolls to a close, don't put away your swimsuit and sunscreen just yet. Instead, book a holiday home and bask in warm weather at some of the best beach holiday destinations in Europe in autumn or winter.

Beach holiday destinations in Europe in autumn

The heat of summer mellows down to a pleasant warmth in September, October and November in many places in Europe. The beaches are much less crowded, the sea is pleasurably mild for swimming and the weather is cool enough for exploring the charms that seaside towns and villages have to offer. An added bonus to going on beach holidays in Europe in autumn or winter: prices of villa rentals can be significantly lower compared to peak season rates.

Worship the sun in balmy Barcelona

Bright sunshiny days are still the norm in Barcelona in autumn. A holiday home in this Spanish city's Gothic Quarter will put you just a 15-minute walk from popular beaches like Barceloneta, Sant Miguel and the clothing-optional Sant Sebastia. If you'd prefer a quiet day in the sun, there are plenty of beaches such as Montgat, Ocata Playa and Sitges, which are just an hour away – or less – from the city.

Seaside escapades in colourful Crete

Daytime temperatures averaging in the mid-20s, as well as calm and warm waters make the Greek island of Crete one of the best beach destinations in Europe in autumn. Experience the colourful delight that is Elafonisi beach, where you'll find sugary pink-tinged sand and vividly blue-green water. Stay in a holiday cottage in the town of Kissamos and you'll be just a 7-mile drive from tranquil Falasarna beach, a great destination for a romantic escape.

Fall for alluring Algarve in autumn

The Algarve region in southern Portugal's Faro district is where you can experience some of the best beach holidays in Europe, and not just in summer. Book a holiday rental in the Algarve's western Atlantic coast in autumn and you can spend your days surfing at Praia do Amado, splashing about with the kids in the warm, shallow lagoon at Praia da Bordeira, or exploring fascinating rock pools at Praia do Monte Clerigo.

Best beach destinations in Europe in winter

Winter beach holidays in Europe are a white Christmas of a different kind. There's dazzlingly white sand instead of snow, balmy breezes instead of biting winds and swimsuits (or birthday suits, if you prefer) instead of layers upon layers of clothing. With the abundance of seaside holiday cottages and villa rentals open all year round, having the best beach holiday in Europe in December can be a dream come true.

Sizzle in the Canary Islands in winter

Spain's Canary Islands are home to some of the best places to bask in the winter sun. Home to glorious beaches, year-round warm weather, and cultural and historical gems, they attract visitors of all types, from single travellers to young couples and families with babies. The islands of Lanzarote, Tenerife and Gran Canaria are among the most popular in the Canary Islands, but if you'd prefer something less touristy, book a holiday cottage on El Hierro or La Gomera.

Bask in bliss in Benidorm

Though it's nowhere near as warm as the Canary Islands, Benidorm in Spain's Costa del Sol region also draws a good number travellers seeking to escape northern Europe's colder climate. The ocean's temperature averages around 15 degrees in winter, too cold for many Spaniards, but just right for an invigorating swim for those accustomed to more frigid waters. It's sunny most days, so there's nothing stopping you from working on your tan on sandy beaches like Levante Playa and Poniente Playa.

Enjoy the winter sun in Paphos

If you're hankering for a warm, Mediterranean winter getaway, then a Paphos holiday rental might just be the answer. Hugging the southwestern coast of Cyprus, this resort town can see sunny days with temperatures going as high as the mid-20s – perfect for working on your tan on any of its Blue Flag beaches. And don't forget to explore year-round attractions like the historic Paphos Castle and the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park.