Madrid has got it all – gorgeous architecture, diverse art and culture, great food, a buzzing nightlife and plenty of green space. But, since it’s an inland city, the only thing missing during the hot summers is a beach. However all is not lost beach lovers, there are a few inland beaches close to the city offering sandy banks and crystal-clear cold water for you to cool off in, as well as sailing and other water activities. And if you don’t mind a 3.5-hour drive, you’re not too far from a real beach either. Here are some of the best beach spots near Madrid.
Photo credits: Giovanni Prestige, Flickr
Just an hour from Madrid, Alberche Beach in Avila is an ideal day trip. While it’s no tropical paradise, the riverside beach is a picturesque destination that offers the next best thing. The Madrileños flock here during the summer armed with picnic hampers and cool boxes full of cervezas. It’s said to have the most favorable water currents for swimming (meaning you won’t get whisked away by the currents) and you can also dive, sail, fish and even surf there. If you don’t have access to a car you can hop on the number 551 bus from Príncipe Pío.
Embalse de Picadas
Further up the Alberche River, you reach the beautiful reservoir Embalse de Picadas, just over an hour from Madrid. Surrounded by pretty pine forests and scenery, it’s a great place to find a shady area, throw down some towels and set up camp for the day, dividing your time between catching sun rays and plunging yourself into the cooling fresh water. Stop at the carniceria on your way and buy some fresh meat as there’s a whole area equipped for barbecuing as well as picnic tables and benches so you can grill up a feast.
Pantano de San Juan
Another stunning reservoir in the middle of nature is Pantano de San Juan, located between the provinces of Avlia and Madrid. People go there to swim, sail, canoe, fish, bike and hike. It’s the perfect escape for a weekend or even a day outside of the city. It’s a tradition for many a family from Madrid to make a summer excursion here. The reservoir is surrounded by over 8 miles of beach so even at the height of the season you’re sure to find a place to sit. There are allocated zones for both swimming and water sports so you don’t have to worry about dodging swimmers as you learn to sail.
And if you want real beach…
Playa de Langre
Photo credits: Joselu Blanco, Flickr
If you’re craving some salty sea air and waves, head directly north of Madrid for around 4.5 hours and you’ll reach Playa de Langre on the Cantabria coast. This quiet, secluded beach is perfect for those who like to surf and aren’t afraid of a huge swell but, if you prefer to swim, do so with caution as the water currents can be very strong. You have to take a steep staircase down to the beach (and back up), which also makes for a good work out. If you prefer a more crowded, happening beach, head to the neighboring Santander Bay Beach instead. It offers great local food, volleyball and a host of other beach side activities.
Thanks to the high-speed AVE train, the closest real beach to Madrid is Valencia. You can reach the city in around 1 hour and 40 minutes and then hop in a taxi for a short ride to the city’s main beach so, if you’re feeling ambitious, you could even do it in a day. Train tickets can be pricey though so plan and get your tickets in advance. Alternatively, you can get to Valencia by car in around 3.5 hours. As far as city beaches go, Valencia’s is one of the best. It’s clean and well kept and boasts a huge expanse of sand and calm waters for swimming. There's also jet skiing, banana boating or tubing to be done. The palm tree-lined boardwalk is great for rollerblading and there are numerous restaurants serving up giant platters of the city’s famous paella to share.
Been to any other great beaches near Madrid that you’d recommend? Share your tips with our readers in the comments section below.