10 cities with brilliant beaches

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If you're thinking about your next getaway but aren't sure whether to take a city break or a beach holiday, then we may have the answer. These sunny cities sit conveniently on the coastline, meaning you can take your city break with some sunbathing on the side.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is Spain’s most cosmopolitan city and one of the Mediterranean’s busiest ports. Restaurants, bars and clubs are always packed, as is the seaside in summer. A series of lively beaches stretch northeast from the Port Olímpic marina. The southernmost beach, Platja de la Nova Icària, is the busiest. Behind it, across the Avinguda del Litoral highway, is the Plaça del Campions, site of the rusting three-tiered platform used to honour medallists in the sailing events of the 1992 games. Barcelona's beaches may be largely artificial, but this doesn’t stop an estimated seven million bathers from piling in every year!

Cape Town, South Africa

Good-looking, fun-loving, sporty and sociable. If Cape Town was in the dating game that's how her profile would read. And - for once - it's all true. As well as magnificent Table Mountain the city is famed as a beach hot-spot. Dotted around the coastline you'll find a beach for every occasion. The stylish set flock west to join their cocktail sipping counterparts at Camps Bay, while families head east to Fish Hoek Beach for rugby games on the sand.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Be warned: Rio’s powers of seduction can leave you with a bad case of saudade - a Portuguese word for an indescribable longing - when you leave. Copacabana and Ipanema are the most famous but a visit to the Buzios peninsula, and its hard-working fishermen, offers a more traditional taste of Brazilian beach life.

Tangier, Morocco

From its extraordinary position perched on the northwesternmost tip of Africa, Tangier looks in two directions, at once facing Europe and Africa. With the recent arrival of a new city governor, the town beach now sparkles, the hustlers are off the streets and even the taxi drivers are polite. As a stylish new Tangier is being created, travellers are discovering the delights of its beaches, where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean. Here you can take a seaside stroll, watch as the local children play beach football or hop on a camel for a different view of the sands.

Sydney, Australia

Definitively Sydney, Bondi is one of the world’s great beaches - this is where ocean and land collide, the Pacific arrives in great foaming swells, and all people are equal, as democratic as sand. It’s the closest ocean beach to the city centre, has consistently good (though crowded) waves and is great for a rough ‘n’ tumble swim. Don't be fooled into thinking this is the city's only beach, however. A hike over the heads will bring you to Coogee, Bronte and Cronulla. Sydney's Northern Beaches make a deliciously sandy day trip. Extending north from Manly, they form a continuous stretch of laidback ’burbs, craggy headlands and over twenty beaches, finishing at Palm Beach.

Valencia, Spain

One of Lonely Planet's top 10 cities for 2011, Valencia sits coquettishly and confidently along Spain’s Mediterranean coast offering plenty of choice for beach-lovers. Spread your towel on broad Playa de la Malvarrosa or neighbouring Playa de las Arenas, each bordered by the Paseo Marítimo promenade and a string of restaurants. One block back, lively bars and discos thump out the beat in summer.

Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv is the total flipside of Jerusalem, a modern Sin City on the sea rather than an ancient Holy City on a hill. When the weather is warm Tel Avivans flock en masse to the city beaches. You’ll find young and old soaking up the Mediterranean rays, kitesurfing and knocking back and forth little rubber balls during friendly matches of matkot. The beaches are safe and clean, and there are changing rooms and freshwater showers scattered along its length. The main beaches are packed with people most days, especially on Saturdays, when the crowds descend to pick a prime spot. Get here early.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

No matter whether you’re a trendy urban nomad, a jetlagged jet-setter or travelling with the tots, you should find all your needs and expectations met in Dubai. Tiny but turbo-charged, the city-state is a highly developed tourism destination that offers world-class shopping, lodging, eating, sports and relaxation. Make the most of sunny skies with a trip to the beach - favourites are Jumeirah and Palm Beach - but public beaches are at a premium. Top-end hotels own most of the sand so bronzing can come at a cost.

Miami, USA

What makes Miami beautiful, from the bodies on the beach to the structure of the skyline, is diversity. Every neighbourhood has its own stereotypes and its own exceptions to those rules. This is true of the city's stretches of sand, too. Yes, South Beach is where the pretty people are, but they’re gawked at by seething mobs of tourists. North Miami Beach is where real people live. Windsurfers should head to Hobie or Virginia Key beach and for a view over all of Miami's many beaches helicopter tours take off from Watson Island - connected to downtown Miami by the MacArthur Causeway.

Brighton and Hove, England

Brighton is the most vibrant seaside resort in England. Just an hour from London, it is a thriving, cosmopolitan city with a Bohemian spirit; home to an exuberant gay community, a dynamic student population and a healthy number of ageing and new-age hippies, as well as traditional candyfloss fun. The beach is made up of pebbles, not sand, but that doesn't stop the crowds heading here in their droves. Whether it's midday sunbathing or midnight partying, Brighton beach seems to be in use at all times.

This article was published in January 2011 and refreshed in December 2012.