Apart from anything else, the magnificent rocky coasts of Brittany bring forth oysters and other shellfish vital to proper seaside sustenance. Moving south, vast Atlantic beaches can accommodate all Europe’s towels with ample space left over for surfers. In the deep south, Biarritz was, incidentally, the Basque birthplace of European surfing in 1957.
Across on the Mediterranean coast, the Côte Vermeille (of Roussillon) takes up where the Pyrenees leave off, before ceding to the flat, unkempt littoral of Languedoc. And so, across the River Rhône, to Provence and the Côte-d’Azur, whose beaches, you will have heard, are overdeveloped and overcrowded. Certainly, their summers are busy — you couldn’t decently expect to have Europe’s most coveted coast to yourself. But much beauty persists and, anyway, there’s something bewitching about being in such a place when it’s at full throttle. That said, there are stretches where crowds and development thin and the elemental Riviera reasserts itself. We detail such spots below, along with hotel suggestions and self-catering options.