When choosing a holiday destination, it's not uncommon to feel torn between the excitement of a luxury city break and the need for a relaxing beach holiday. But why choose just one type of getaway when you can have the best of both experiences at the most extraordinary beach cities in the world?

From the skyscrapers and golden sands of Dubai to the white sands and iconic landmarks of Sydney — find your ideal beach city from our round-up, and have a holiday that ticks all of your boxes. 

1. Miami

Welcome to Miami, the city that brings a whole lot of personality to the south coast of 'The Sunshine State'.

Miami's distinctive character is a merging of American, Hispanic and Caribbean cultures, thanks to its southerly location in the states

With its pastel-hued Art Deco buildings, buzzing nightlife and beautiful white-sand beaches, it's certainly one of the best destinations in the US for combining a beach holiday with all the excitement of a big city.

Miami boasts not one, but three enormous stretches of sand, including North Beach, Mid-Beach, and most famously, South Beach. Each offers a different atmosphere, which is great for suiting whatever mood you're in.

If you're looking for a lively day at the beach with plenty to catch your eye, then South Beach is ideal, whereas if a more laidback beach day is in order, then North Beach is your best bet, with Mid-Beach landing somewhere in between.

When you're not soaking up the glorious rays by the sea, indulge in Miami's fabulous fusion cuisine or shop for designer labels around the affluent neighbourhood of Bal Harbour.

Miami is also known for being an art-lovers hub, with the esteemed Art Basel festival taking place here annually, as well as many of the city's luxury hotels showcasing pieces by famous contemporary artists, from Damien Hirst to Andy Warhol.

Read more at 'The 10 Best Hotels for Art Lovers'.

2. Dubai

In many ways, Dubai is the ultimate beach-city destination.

Not only does it combine long stretches of golden sand with all the world-class dining and high-end shopping you'd expect from any major city, it also throws another unique element into the mix: the desert, where you can dune-bashing and stargazing to your heart's content!

The beaches — which are lined with glistening skyscrapers and lapped by the azure waters of the Persian Gulf — are renowned for being some of the most pristine in the world.

The famous Jumeirah Beach is a man-made wonder stretching over 1.7 kilometres and is located near some of the city's most exclusive luxury hotels.

From the iconic Burj Al Arab Jumeirah to The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai, a big part of the allure of Dubai as a beach-city destination is the exceptional hospitality on offer here. The hotels in Dubai are teeming with top-tier celebrity restaurants and Michelin-starred venues, including Atlantis, The Palm's Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and One&Only The Palm's two-Michelin-starred restaurant, STAY by Yannick Alléno.

And if it gets too hot in the middle of the day for the beach, Dubai's got plenty of upscale, air-conditioned malls for you to browse and pick up some fabulous new pieces.

Other amazing experiences in the city include a visit to the Lost Chambers Aquarium, a cultural excursion to Dubai's Spice Souk or a fun-filled day at Aquaventure Waterpark.

3. Barcelona

As one of Spain's best-loved cities, Barcelona is an unbeatable short-haul destination for foodies, history buffs and beach bums alike.

Discover the amazing modernist sculptures of Antoni Gaudi — the famous Catalan architect and visionary — including his masterpiece: the Sagrada Familia. Or visit the city's Picasso Museum to browse the extensive collection of artworks by the seminal twentieth-century Spanish artist.

Barcelona is also a fantastic place if you're looking for authentic gastronomic experiences. Spend an afternoon at La Boqueria food market and wander around the maze of stalls selling gigantic olives, fresh seafood, sun-ripened fruits and continental cheeses. Or indulge in the traditional flavours of Catalan by hopping from tapas bar to tapas bar on an immersive food tour.

After all that fine culture and cuisine, spend some time unwinding on one of Barcelona's best beaches. The city's most well-known stretch of sand is Barceloneta Beach, where you can relax on light golden sand, take a dip in the sapphire waters of the Mediterranean Sea and stroll along the promenade, lined with thick palm trees.

Other top sights in Barcelona include the gothic Cathedral of Barcelona, as well as Park Güell — a sprawling green space designed by Gaudi, featuring nature-inspired architecture and colourful mosaics.

4. Sydney

Otherwise known as the 'gateway to Australia', Sydney is a sprawling cosmopolitan city with the world's largest harbour and some of the most iconic landmarks out there.

Enjoy a day cruise taking in Sydney's stunning coastline and go under the picturesque Harbour Bridge. Or embark on a private guided tour of Sydney Opera House to learn all about the secret history of this global landmark. For an unforgettable day trip, hop on the ferry over to the heritage-listed amusement park, Luna Park, to enjoy thrilling rides with amazing views of the harbour.

The food scene in Sydney is also something to write home about. With its melting pot of cultures, the pan-Asian cuisine here is truly out-of-this-world; head to the city's expansive Chinatown for aubergine dumplings and handmade noodles. Or if you're looking to get a traditional taste of the city, head to the Harbour to sample Sydney Rock Oysters, followed by an indulgent slice of lamington cake.

As for the beach side of things...do the words 'Bondi Beach' ring a bell? Just four miles out from the centre of Sydney, this famous beach is a surfer's paradise thanks to its reliable waves and laidback atmosphere. Over time, its has come to represent Australia more widely, as a symbol of the country's beach culture and easy-going lifestyle.

Other notable coastlines for beach lovers in Sydney include Coogee Beach, which you can get to by following the Coastal Walk from Bondi. It's the perfect spot for surfing and swimming in beautiful turquoise waters, and offers an even more relaxed experience than Bondi. 

5. Singapore

So much more than just a stopover destination, Singapore is one of the most enchanting cities in Southeast Asia.

One of its most defining features is the way the natural world is woven into the city's urban spaces, with sites like Gardens by the Bay, the vertical gardens in Jewel Changi Airport and the Singapore Botanic Gardens, all painting a pretty green picture.

Head to Marina Bay Sands Skypark Observation Deck for breathtaking views of the entire city or spend a day at Singapore Zoo to see the extremely rare white tigers. For world-class retail therapy, the Orchard Road area is the place to go to pick up designer labels, like Cartier and Dior, with its 22 malls and six department stores.

Beyond the bustling cityscape, Singapore is also home to several pristine beaches. Hop over to Sentosa — an island resort connected to the city centre by road — to enjoy some downtime on fine white sands fringed with tropical palm trees.

To enjoy the ultimate beach-city holiday in Singapore, stay at the luxurious Capella Singapore resort, which is located just 15 minutes from the city centre and is set around a secluded enclave on the south coast of Singapore’s Sentosa Island.

Or, go all out with a stay at the world-famous Raffles Singapore and sip Singapore Slings in the historic Long Bar, where the cocktail was originally created!

6. Split

Oozing with coastal charm and steeped in history, Split is one of Europe's best kept secrets for a beach-city break.

With a flight duration of just over two-and-a-half hours from the UK, it works as a holiday destination for shorter getaways, as well as for families looking to keep travel time to a minimum.

On the city side of things, you've got Split's ancient town centre, where you can take a tour of the UNESCO-listed Diocletian's Palace and explore the picturesque Peristil Square, which is presided over by the dramatic belfry on the top of the Cathedral of St Domnius.

You'll also find lots of amazing Mediterranean eateries wandering through the city's cobblestone streets. Feast on freshly-caught octopus salad and order a hearty bowl of buzara (a seafood stew cooked in fresh herbs and white wine) for a lip-smacking taste of traditional Croatian cooking.

And when you want to take a break from soaking up Split's rich history and culture, discover the dazzling Dalmatian coastline. Luxuriate on one of the region's many picturesque beaches —some of which are set in beautiful natural coves — and cool off in the crystal-clear shallows of the Adriatic Sea.

7. Los Angeles

Escape to the 'City of Angels', where stars are made and dreams are fulfilled under the warm California sunshine.

It's a city brimming with possibility. Whether you want to reinvent your style by shopping the high-end boutiques of Beverly Hills or find out what it takes to make movie magic on a VIP film studio tour — this West Coast gem is a bucket list destination for city lovers and beach bums both.

The beaches in Los Angeles very much reflects the city's multidimensional character.

Immerse yourself in the cool bohemian vibe of Venice Beach — a hub for skaters and musicians — where Arnold Schwarzenegger rose to fame pumping iron on its famous Muscle Beach.

Or head to the iconic Santa Monica Beach, which has a more upscale feel and is lined with luxury beachfront hotels. This area also offers a more a family-friendly day at the beach in LA, thanks to its historic pier, where you can enjoy the thrill of the fairground and stand under the sign that marks the end of America's legendary Route 66.

For more ideas of things to do in Los Angeles, check out our blog on the 'Top 10 Best Things to Do in LA'.

8. Nice

Nowhere exudes timeless glamour like the French Riviera.

Beloved for its enchanting Mediterranean coastline, Nice is a beacon of elegance and sophistication. It was first patronised as a holiday destination by Queen Victoria, and has been drawing distinguished guest and celebrities to its shores ever since. 

But it's not just its famous beaches  like Opera Beach, Blue Beach and Castel Plage  that make Nice a must-visit destination. The city boasts a rich tapestry of culture, from its charming Old Town, bustling markets and quaint cafes, to its world-class museums and galleries showcasing masterpieces by renowned artists, like Matisse.

The culinary scene is equally as enticing, with an array of Michelin-starred restaurants serving up haute French cuisine, as well as top-notch wines from the many famous vineyards that surround the city.

Offering the perfect blend of luxury and laid-back coastal charm, it's easy to see why so many discerning travellers have fallen in love with Nice. 

9. Cape Town

Set against the dramatic backdrop of the majestic Table Mountain, Cape Town is known as the adventure capital of South Africa.

From the trendy shores of Camps Bay to the tranquil coves of Clifton Beach, each enclave offers a unique experience. And in places like Boulders Beach, you can even see a large colony of endangered African penguins fraternising on the sand!

Beyond its picturesque beaches, Cape Town has a vibrant culinary scene, world-class wineries nearby and endless activities to enjoy, thanks to its unique topography. Ride the cable car to the top of Table Mountain, hike up to the peak of Lion's Head for awe-inspiring views or take a trip out to Robben Island — a former maximum-security prison for political prisoners during South Africa's apartheid years.

For a luxury experience in Cape Town, visit the city's diamond museum, hit the shops along the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, and retreat to one of the city's stylish hotels overlooking the sparkling Atlantic Ocean, such as One&Only Cape Town or Table Bay Hotel.

10. San Sebastian

San Sebastian  a gem on Spain's northern coast  is a beach city brimming with authentic Spanish culture. Situated in the beautiful Basque region, it's a destination renowned for retaining the centuries-old customs and exquisite cuisine of the region.

The city's iconic La Concha Beach — often hailed as one of the most picturesque urban beaches in the world — features alluring golden sands and crystal-clear waters, making it ideal for both sunbathing and swimming.

In addition to its stunning coastline, the city's cultural scene is second-to-none, with festivals like the San Sebastian International Film Festival taking place here every year. Its historic old town, Parte Vieja, is a foodies paradise, renowned for its pintxos bars, where you can feast on traditional Basque tapas — a style of cuisine that's as visually delightful as it is delicious.

The city's elegant Belle Époque architecture, combined with its lush green hills and scenic promenades, creates a truly unique setting for a short-haul getaway. Whether you're indulging in the city's culinary delights, basking in the Spanish sunshine or enjoying the vibrant bar scene, San Sebastian offers a quintessential beach-city experience that is both sophisticated and soulful.

Plan your luxury beach city holiday

Ready to get the best of both worlds in one extraordinary trip?

Our Travel Specialists have been to these incredible beach cities, so can help you plan the ultimate luxury getaway to these vibrant shores.

Whether you want to sunbathe on the beach in buzzy Miami or immerse yourself in culture in Barcelona, we’ll make sure you see all the highlights in a way that's perfect for you.

Speak to our dedicated Travel Specialists to find out more or browse our full portfolio of luxury hotels, beach getaways and glamorous city breaks.

Stay in Touch

Subscribe to our inspiring newsletter to hear about exciting offers, trending destinations and unparalleled experiences

By clicking ‘accept’, you consent to our use of cookies to improve our website experience. See our privacy policy for full information.