A beach can still be a great escape even with urban culture over one shoulder.
Logically, when you think of a great beach, you probably think of a traditional warm-weather tourism hot spot (Hawaii, Miami, the Caribbean or Mediterranean) or an off-the-beaten-path beach you’ve found with friends, family, or loved ones (this category can be located virtually anywhere).
With few exceptions, though, these are probably very traditional beaches — as in, there’s no urban vibe immediately around them. They may be near or connected to a major city (such as South Beach or Venice Beach), but it typically doesn’t feel urban when you’re there. Rather, it feels like an oasis or escape from all that an urban existence implies; some Virtuoso advisors have been known to call beach-centric vacations “fly n’ flop” weekends for this very reason.
In recent years, though, some amazing urban-centric beaches have sprung up; here are three such examples.
Blijburg aan Zee (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
This beach is actually in IJBurg, a hip suburb of Amsterdam. This beach is unique predominantly because it’s such a different viewing experience; Amsterdam is famous for its canals, but in this case the neighborhood and beach overlook the IJMeer, which is a wide lake that leads out to the sea.
Blijburg aan Zee is only accessible via tram and bike, which keeps the crowds at a manageable clip. In warm-weather months, expect DJ competitions, outdoor day drinking, sand-castle contests, and spectacular views (both urban landscape and wide expanse of water). There are four Virtuoso properties in Amsterdam proper, which is about 20-30 minutes away by bike or tram.
Playa Pocitos (Montevideo, Uruguay)
Virtuoso Life previously wrote about the renaissance in Montevideo, and Playa Pocitos is one small example. Punta del Este is a city (and resort) in Uruguay that typically captures more attention, but Pocitos — which was actually one of the first seaside beach resorts in all of South America — is a great place to connect with tourists and locals alike.
The area is flanked by large apartment buildings and palm trees, and is part of a group of white sand beaches called Río de la Plata (which are, in turn, connected by a waterfront promenade area called La Rambla). There’s one Virtuoso property in Montevideo, although it should be noted the entire area is only a three-hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires as well.
Långholmen Beach (Stockholm, Sweden)
You may think of Sweden and have your mind flip to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and its dreary landscapes, but remember two things: Stockholm is actually an archipelago made of 30,000 small islands, and in the summers in Sweden, the amount of light can stretch to 21 hours of the day.
Långholmen Island was actually home to the country’s largest prison — yes, you read that right — until 1975, but the prison has since been demolished and replaced (partially) by a hostel. Interestingly, inmates actually used to be assigned to cover this rocky island in mud; over time, that altered the landscape to a more lush garden feel you see today. That’s made it one of the most popular swimming spots in Stockholm, a city with two Virtuoso properties.