Whether you’re a travel novice and always wanted to do a ‘surf trip‘ or a regular surf-tripper looking for a new place close to home to tick off your list, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten surf towns in Europe, to help you choose your next surfing destination, perfectly in time for the Euro Surf Season this Autumn.
It may be €8 for a pint, but that cold one at Dick’s Sand Bar after surfing some of the heaviest beach break barrels of your life is well worth it. There are waves all year round, it is hot enough for shorts in the Summer and in the middle of Winter, it is a ghost town but the waves don’t stop breaking and the water is bearable.
However, the vibe is super cool in Autumn when the WSL is in town, the food is always spot on, the wine and beer cheap (from the supermarche) and accommodation options are plentiful.
It is also home to what is regarded as one of the best beach breaks in the World for a reason and our friends at Wavelength are hosting some really cool Pro Surf Coaching and Photography weeks if you want to check it out for yourself. More info.
I recently spent a week in Lagos and it was epic. If you’re looking for year-round warm waves and a hectic party scene then look no further; Lagos in Portugal is nuts for both.
The waves range from warm and fun in Summer (classic Europe), to cranking in the Autumn/ Winter and Spring, the above photo is a picture of what I scored in November, call it what you will. This time of year is probably the pick of the bunch as it’s still warm enough for a Summer suit and there is usually a good chunk of swell coming in from the Atlantic that lights up the local beaches and ‘secret spots’. You can also skate around the quiet streets in shorts and tee shirt to your hearts content.
Accommodation is cheaper out of season and the nightlife is more mellow and relaxed, yet still fun.
Yes Santander. The ferry-port city with the same name as a bank. Santander is in my eyes the shining crown of Northern Spain. Forget Bilbao and its over-priced cervesas, it’s the real deal Santander that floats my Brittany Ferry.
Santander is a very local city with plenty of very stereotypically Spanish Tapas bars, little tourism, smoking in bars and is home to a fun beach break and macking left hand big wave spot, yet is only a 20 minute, €2 foot passenger ferry away from Playa Somo, meaning you get a very unique experience of Northern Spain whilst being surrounded by surf.
The climate is also a lot better than the UK, as I write this according to the iPhone it’s 14 degrees and sunny on 11th January, compared a fresh 7 degrees here in Newquay. It also obviously gets very warm in the Summer months.
You may have heard about passionate and proud locals, so staying with a legend like Carlos in Latas, is a must. We also run an epic end of season surf trip out there, if you haven’t been you MUST.
Ericeira has heaps of world-class waves down a five-mile stretch of coastline a mere 40 minutes from the capital city Lisbon. Meaning its a damn good place to live and a great place to go on holiday. It’s still not a mainstream surfers holiday, yet one of the cream of the crop when it comes to European waves.
Coxos is the best wave, with the latter a right-hand point break being pretty gnarly when it’s big. The place has a proper old school surf town, where locals are friendly if you show them respect. Laura Crane is from here and she loves it.
It picks up any swell the Atlantic has to offer and can get quite chilly in Winter. Early Spring and late Autumn are the best times to go.
Ok this isn’t really Europe but it’s close enough, being a mere 4 hours flight from London. Taghazout is best for serious surfers who want to wander through the labyrinthine corridors of some of the world’s oldest cities, smoke some Moroccan Hash and surf some of the best right handers of their lives. The waves are almost always long-period ground swells, which means great shape and plenty of power and the winds regularly blow offshore. Go to Anchor Point or Killer Point and learn why surfers often describe the waves there as “freight trains” and why Killers is named (maybe because it kills your shoulders paddling back out?)
Norway? No way! Trust us, Norway is an epic place for surf and Hoddevik is an awesome little surf town, with a refreshingly different infrastructure – no pubs, hardly any shops, a lot of raw natural beauty. It’s best for surf travelers who are up for an adventure, don’t like sharing waves with crowds, but don’t mind surfing in cold water. Arctic swells ensure year-round waves and the exposed coastline faces north-west and south-east ensuring predominantly offshore winds, which is nice. The biggest, most exciting swells come in the Autumn and Winter months but December and January are almost unsurfable due to a lack of day-light hours.
The water may be chilly, but the locals are always warm and welcoming.
Best for anyone who appreciates the grape as they do their waves, Biarritz is the birthplace of European surfing. There is a nice combination of French high culture and SoCal surf culture, slightly snobby but there’s no doubting its a really cool city. Start surfing on La Grande Plage (the Big Beach) in front of the town centre and if it gets too crowded, check out surrounding beaches such as La Côtes des Basques, Anglet, and Guethary.
You probably know the drill, head between September to November, to catch the best swells that the Atlantic can offer. But if you don’t mind wearing a 4:3 and boots, it’s a very viable option for an early winter trip.
Surf early, drink black coffee, eat croissants, drink small beers at lunch time, lap it up.
San Sebastián, Spain
Best for couples who want to spend nights enjoying the bars and world-class restaurants in one of the most romantic small cities in Europe and afternoons surfing off their hangovers.
San Sebastián is the cultural capital of Spain’s vibrant Basque country. Though not as renowned for waves as its northeastern neighbours in France, it more than makes up for it by being a center for music, cinema, and molecular gastronomy for all of Europe. Head from June to November for a combination of warm waves and Basque culture.
This place is warm (summer suit/ shorty) all year round and is home to some seriously scary/fun waves on the Northern track, possibly the longest right-hander in Europe and Europe’s version of Pipeline.
You need some local knowledge to score the island properly and bear in mind that the wind picks up around midday most days, meaning it goes onshore. But if you don’t mind that you’re in surfer’s paradise.
There’s also a funky nightlife full of sunburnt Euro tourists if the thirst takes hold of you. Go October to April to score waves.
Being based in Newquay, we may be a bit biased but Newquay has it all. Seven different beaches over seven miles is pretty good going. Fistral offers world class waves on its day and when it’s not epic there’s at least a wave 365 days a year.
There are more friendly waves in the bay just around from Fistral, which is big enough to cope with learner crowds and there are plenty of little bays a couple of miles from the town centre offering wedges, reefs and good old fashioned powerful beachies.
It’s less crowded in the Winter but Summer is the time to visit with festivals, great nightlife, warm weather, flocks of surfy tourists and rent/ accommodation in Newquay is dirt cheap. If you love surfing and live in the UK do at least one season here, or if you want to holiday go between April – October.
For any more advice on surf towns in Europe or the World, get in touch and if you have any to add to the list comment below!