HomeZicasso Blog

10 Best Coastal Cities to Visit on Vacation

Ratings of Zicasso's Service
View of Cape Town from Lion's Head in South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

The world’s 10 best coastal cities combine beauty and possibility, sharing the appeal of their coastlines with the allure of local culture shaped by geographical and societal history.

At the doorstep of nature, a warm breeze may blow, the sun may set, or the cobblestone streets may open to views of lapping water. Whether with architectural grandeur or culinary prowess, welcoming heritage or enticing romantic identity, the best beach towns and coastal cities have their own unique charms.

From South Africa to Morocco, Australia to Italy, our top picks demonstrate how the seaside can accentuate the splendor of culture or how heritage can deepen the beauty of the water as you experience your custom-tailored trip.

  1. 1. Cape Town, South Africa
  2. 2. Venice, Italy
  3. 3. Sydney, Australia
  4. 4. Oia, Greece
  5. 5. Istanbul, Turkey
  6. 6. Rovinj, Croatia
  7. 7. Barcelona, Spain
  8. 8. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  9. 9. Kaikoura, New Zealand
  10. 10. Essaouira, Morocco
  11. Explore the Best Coastal Cities to Visit On Vacation

1. Cape Town, South Africa

Beach at Camps Bay in Cape Town, South Africa

Camps Bay in Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city and an exciting way to experience the diverse beauty of South Africa. Harmonious and dramatic, serene and lively, Cape Town offers cultural allure and natural wonder, with each new activity celebrating the variety of life.

Rock climb, hike, mountain bike, or enjoy the funicular to the top of Table Mountain for sensational views over the city and water. Walk through Cape Dutch architecture admiring street art, photography, and seaside restaurants at the Victoria and Alfred waterfront.

With exceptional beaches, fabulous gardens, treasured coastal suburbs, and access to incredible wildlife on land and sea, Cape Town is full of unforgettable surprises for any kind of traveler.

Highlights: Table Mountain • Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens • Camps Bay beaches • Victoria & Alfred Waterfront • Robben Island • Signal Hill

Sample Itinerary for Cape Town

Explore the wealth of experiences connected to the seaside in Cape Town as you explore on our South African Adventure Tour: City, Safari, and Ocean, featuring wildlife, wines, and coastline.

Learn more: Cape Town VacationsSouth Africa Travel Guide

2. Venice, Italy

Venice with Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Campanile

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy, is a classic example of wonder on the water, famous for its architectural grandeur, historical affluence, and unique position as a “floating city”.

Constructed on a series of islands in the Adriatic Sea, Venice overflows with history, art, and culture, captured in the iconic design of the bulbous domes crowning St. Mark’s Basilica and the familiar curve of a beguiling gondola as it glides down the waters of the quintessential canals.

Bridges crisscross the rippling water, boats ferry passengers from the city to the outer islands, and the Lido di Venezia offers a delightful stretch of beach on which locals and visitors can enjoy the Adriatic.

Highlights: St. Mark’s Basilica • Doge’s Palace • Piazza San Marco • Grand Canal • Rialto Bridge

Sample Itinerary for Venice

Fully Immersive Tour of Italy: Highlights and Hidden Gems celebrates the splendors of Venice and greater Italy in a new and exciting way, demonstrating the variety of experiences you can have while on the water or embracing Italy’s inland treasures.

Learn more: Venice VacationsVenice Travel Guide

3. Sydney, Australia

Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge seen from Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Sydney, Australia

Sydney is one of Australia’s most iconic cities and wraps around the coastline with suburbs, skyline, and more than 100 manicured beaches.

Far more than just stretches of sand, Sydney immerses visitors and locals in heritage spanning centuries and millennia, contemporary culture reflecting a modern art scene and city streets humming to the rhythm of city life connected to the familiar sights of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

From exceptional coastal walks offering stunning views of seaside neighborhoods and crashing waves to secluded corners of blossoming flowers inside the botanical gardens, Sydney embraces the treasure of the Australian coastline and shines as it rises out of the water.

Highlights: Sydney Opera House • Sydney Harbour Bridge • The Rocks • Darling Harbour • Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Sample Itinerary for Sydney

World-famous beaches, exceptional culture shaped by the seaside, and exciting remote corners to discover become your main focus during this Luxurious Splendors of Australia: Tasmania to Sydney Tour.

Learn more: Sydney VacationsAustralia Travel Guide

4. Oia, Greece

Oai village on Santorini, Greece

Oai Village on Santorini, Greece

Oia is one of Santorini’s famous villages and upends the preconception of a beautiful seaside city. Equal parts glamorous and charming, Oia clings to the rugged cliffs of the caldera, replacing the expectation of beachside access with exceptional views of the Aegean Sea.

Marble paves the streets weaving into town away from the precipice and sidewinding down the edge of the caldera to the small marina. During the day, galleries, shops, and restaurants reflect the chic ambiance, coupled with the famous whitewashed architecture, blue church domes, and caves houses.

At sunset, the sleepy streets roar to life with people eagerly watching the colors wash over the sky and reflect in the waters below, with Oia providing the perfect panorama.

Highlights: Panagia Platsani Cathedral • Cave houses • Windmills • Sunset views • St. Nicolas Castle

Sample Itinerary for Oia

Essential Aegean Gems: Athens, Santorini, Crete and Naxos highlight the contemporary glamor, historical luxuries, and timeless beauty of Greece’s heritage found in ancient ruins and established seaside towns and cities.

Learn more: Greece VacationsGreece Travel Guide

5. Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is a megacity, with layers describing nearly two millennia of cultural history along the Bosphorus Strait and shores of the Marmara Sea. The city is the majestic meeting point of East and West, where minarets texture the skyline, cobblestone streets create thrilling labyrinths, and dramatic architecture creates an unforgettable ambiance, culminating in the artistic design of the Hagia Sophia.

While inextricably linked to the water, the city feels separate from the seashore. Its cuisine delights with robust seasoning, artwork features Islamic geometric influence, and neighborhood suburbs combine antique beauty with contemporary life.

From the lanes of the Grand Bazaar to the fringing sands of Kilyos Beach, Istanbul can be a beach destination, but remains an alluring coastal city first and foremost.

Highlights: Hagia Sophia • Topkapi Palace • Blue Mosque • Basilica Cistern • Istanbul Archeology Museum

Sample Itinerary for Istanbul

Become more intimately acquainted with the beauty and thrills of Istanbul on A Romantic 11-Day Getaway to Picturesque Turkey as you explore the sensational historical monuments and celebrated culture across the seaside city and beyond.

Learn more: Turkey VacationsTurkey Travel Guide

6. Rovinj, Croatia

Rovinj, Croatia

Rovinj, Croatia

As one of the most popular medieval towns to visit on Croatia’s Istrian peninsula, Rovinj is picturesque, romantic, and delightfully Mediterranean. The past springs to life on narrow cobblestone streets winding beneath typical red-tiled rooftops and the mild Mediterranean climate acts as a reminder of the town’s proximity to the Adriatic.

The thriving fishing port, traditional taverns, and enchanting ambiance of a customary fishing village help create Rovinj’s special allure. Art galleries, churches, and fascinating panoramas of the water become extra encouragement for falling in love with this seaside setting.

Highlights: Old Town • St. Euphemia Cathedral • Lim Fjord • Rovinj Port • Monkodonja

Sample Itinerary for Rovinj

Best of Croatia's Cities, Coastlines, Cuisine, and Culture Tour is a celebration of the country’s seaside majesty and coastal history, while accentuating Rovinj’s endless charm as it rises above the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic Sea.

Learn more: Croatia VacationsCroatia Travel Guide

7. Barcelona, Spain

La Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona, Spain

La Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona, Spain

The breathtaking beauty of Catalonia’s capital city of Barcelona exemplifies the Mediterranean in its weather, atmospheric medieval quarter, and surreal architecture designed by Antoni Gaudi. Cafes brim with lively discussions and musicians fill the streets with the enticing sounds of Spanish guitars.

Wandering along the boulevards and lanes or lounging on the golden sands of Bogatell Beach offer similar amounts of wonder. Explore the images etched into the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, view the works of Picasso, and experience life spilling over La Rambla avenue, with each new activity offering a fresh way to enjoy the seaside ambiance.

Highlights: La Sagrada Familia Basilica • Gothic Quarter • Casa Mila • La Rambla • Bogatell Beach

Sample Itinerary for Barcelona

Barcelona can feel majestic as it pulls visitors through time with its exemplary Mediterranean ambiance, one you can experience when exploring our sample 11-Day Spain Explorer: Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, and Seville Tour.

Learn more: Barcelona VacationsSpain Travel Guide

8. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Few places in the world are as inextricably linked to the sea as Rio de Janeiro, which edges the Atlantic Ocean.

The city exudes coastal ambiance and authority with golden sands and clear turquoise waters, glossy skyscrapers, and neighborhood restaurants filled with the aromas of sweet cachaça and roasted meat. Lush mountains add to the tropical ambiance, while the rhythms of the streets demonstrate a stunning joie de vivre special to a city with unadulterated access to gorgeous water, beneath the iconic gaze of the Christ the Redeemer statue.

Antique markets and world-famous songs, mouthwatering cuisine and vibrant art explore the connection to the sea, but also demonstrate the city’s depth of culture separate from the coastline.

Highlights: Christ the Redeemer • Sugarloaf Mountain • Copacabana • Ipanema • Botanical Garden

Sample Itinerary for Rio de Janeiro

Classic 13-Day Brazil Tour of Rio, Iguazu, Salvador, & More highlights the classic cultural landscape of the country and the wilderness opportunities around the exceptional Atlantic coastline for a unique experience around Rio de Janeiro and beyond.

Learn more: Brazil VacationsBrazil Travel Guide

9. Kaikoura, New Zealand

Two dolphins breaching the water surface in Kaikoura, New Zealand

Kaikoura, New Zealand. Photo courtesy of Miles Holden/New Zealand Tourism

Kaikoura is a seaside gem, a small city rising out of the peninsula with snowcapped mountains in the background. Charming houses and quiet streets offer views to the natural wonders of the land and sea, where fur seals, penguins, and albatrosses thrive.

The water feels like part of the heritage, with a historic whaling station one of the oldest surviving structures in town and a lookout offering an inspiring entrance to the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway and its views to the Point Kean seal colony.

From helicopter tours to view marine life to celebrated restaurants accentuating new flavors from the sea, Kaikoura is an example of harmonious existence and unforgettable experiences along the water.

Highlights: Whale watching • Fur seals • Kaikoura Beach • Kayaking • Maori Culture tour

Sample Itinerary for Kaikoura

From fur seals to penguins, whale watching to Maori traditions, you can enjoy the surprises and embrace the diversity while discovering new adventures on the Marvels of New Zealand Tour in Three Weeks.

Learn more: New Zealand VacationsNew Zealand Travel Guide

10. Essaouira, Morocco

Essaouira, Morocco

Essaouira, Morocco

Artistic, charming, relaxed, and with a center encased within historic fortified walls, Essaouira is a unique marvel among the world’s most beautiful coastal towns and seaside cities.

Small art galleries and lavish boutiques nestle among narrow lanes leading to contemporary cafes, bustling restaurants serving customary Moroccan seafood dishes, and traditional vendors lining the atmospheric souq. The walls offer sensational views of the Atlantic coast, the fish market erupts with activity after fishermen return from the sea, and surfers take to the water to enjoy the exceptional waves.

With connections to local villages and thrilling adventures, modern comforts and thriving heritage, Essaouira can feel like a crossroads between the past and present amidst the sound of the brushing waves.

Highlights: Medina • Essaouira Beach • The Port • Skala de la Ville • Skala du Port

Sample Itinerary for Essaouira

Ancient Heritage to Hot Sands: Immersive Morocco Tour offers a richer connection to the country, as well as the splendor along the coastline, as you discover the souqs, explore the sands, and embrace local culture.

Learn more: Morocco VacationsMorocco Travel Guide

Explore the Best Coastal Cities to Visit On Vacation

Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

From the vibrant marine life of Kaikoura, New Zealand, to the world-famous lido of Venice, Italy, the golden sands of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to the rustic medieval beauty of Rovinj, Croatia, the best coastal cities to visit on vacation demonstrate historical connections to the water that result in fabulous views and marvelous traditions.

Whether looking for romance or a family-friendly vacation, you can find more ideas for your next trip with our beach vacations and tours. If you prefer warm weather and coastal scenery, you can find your next trip using our ideas on the best places to travel by month to discover where you should journey next based on your schedule and interests.

Your Dream Vacation

in 3 simple steps

  1. 1

    Describe your dream trip

  2. 2

    Get matched with top travel specialists

  3. 3

    Book the trip

Free service - no credit card required

Get Top Travel Specialists to Help Plan Your Trip