Valencia has triumphed over more famous cities and holiday resorts to be named Britons’ favourite European coastal destination in a new Which? survey.
The consumer champion asked more than 3,500 members to rate their experiences of coastal towns and cities across Europe. Locations were marked on 12 separate criteria, including quality of the beaches, seafronts and marinas, attractiveness, food and drink, and value for money.
Spanish port city Valencia topped the charts with an impressive destination score of 91 per cent. Visitors heaped praise on the city’s beaches, rating them a full five stars out of five, and it was the only Spanish destination in the survey to score full marks for value for money.
It also scored a full five stars for the quality of its tourist attractions, shopping, friendliness and attractiveness, and scored no less than four stars in any of the remaining categories. A less obvious choice than Barcelona (84%), visitors to Valencia felt the benefit of its comparatively lower tourist numbers, with bustling but not overcrowded streets evidenced in its five star rating for peace and quiet. It also offers a renowned gastronomic scene and an intriguing mix of historic and futuristic architecture, which one respondent praised as “amazing, even away from the town centre.”
Tied in second place with destination scores of 88 per cent were Venice and Porto. While the former drew criticism for its hefty prices and crowds, with scores of two stars for value for money and peace and quiet, visitors were nonetheless captivated by the “magical” views and unique architecture. It was rated five stars for its attractiveness, and for its tourist attractions, which include the famous St Mark’s Square, Doge’s Palace, and the opportunity to meander through the city’s canals by gondola.
Portugal’s second city meanwhile was described as “picturesque” by respondents, and was rated a full five stars for its marina, friendliness and value for money. Often overlooked in favour of the country’s coastal capital Lisbon (84%), visitors nonetheless felt the town punched well above its weight, and appreciated the city’s “laid-back” energy, with a chic selection of restaurants and bars, as well as its world-renowned bookshop, Livraria Lello.
Spain’s Costa Del Sol and Portugal’s Algarve coast accounted for a significant proportion of the most-visited towns, but scores varied significantly.
Among the high-scoring destinations on the Costa del Sol were Nerja (83%), a low-rise town of white-washed buildings perched on the cliffside, and Estepona (82%).
Praised for its “unspoilt old town”, Estepona was awarded five-stars for its palm-fringed promenade and for the opportunity to enjoy some peace and quiet, a characteristic not always associated with resorts on the bustling Costa del Sol. It also scored four stars for its beach, the quality of the food and drink, accommodation, attractiveness, safety, friendliness and value for money. Visitors admired the town’s narrow pedestrianised streets, lined with flower displays “bursting with colour”, and its numerous murals.
Nonetheless, the town finds itself just a forty-minute drive from one of the lowest rated destinations in the survey, Fuengirola.
Fuengirola was ranked second from last in the consumer champion’s survey, with a destination score of just 66 per cent. Beleaguered by high-rise developments right down the beachfront, respondents scored it just two stars for attractiveness. It achieved a clutch of mediocre three-star ratings in most of the remaining categories, with its highest score of four stars awarded for safety. Nonetheless, respondents praised its “fun, lively atmosphere” and the feeling that it was “a real living town, not just a holiday resort.”
Tavira, in the Algarve, found itself in third place overall with a destination score of 87 per cent. One of the Algarve’s most historic towns, it boasts quaint seafood restaurants, independent boutiques and pretty cobbled streets. Described by one traveller as “beautiful and unspoilt”, respondents rated it five stars for its marina, value for money, friendliness, peace and quiet and safety. It also scored four stars for its attractiveness, quality of its tourist attractions, and food and drink, with multiple respondents praising its “excellent restaurants”.
Not all destinations on the Algarve were rated as highly, however. In contrast, Portimão found itself third from last, with a score of just 68 per cent. Historically an industrial port town known for shipbuilding and sardine fishing, its commercial roots are still largely visible, and it scored just two stars for attractiveness, and three stars for its seafront. Nonetheless, visitors praised its friendly feel, giving it five stars, and scored it four stars for the quality of the food and drink, as well as for value for money.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel said:
“If you’re planning your next getaway and looking for a slice of sea and sun, our survey results show that it’s well worth looking beyond the biggest name destinations.
“The Costa Del Sol for example has much more to offer beyond its most infamous resorts, with some of the highest-rated spots like Nerja and Estepona having a more laid-back atmosphere compared to the likes of Fuengirola. Meanwhile, it might be worth switching a city break in Barcelona or Lisbon for one in Valencia or Porto, both of which were top rated by visitors.”
Notes to editors:
Which? surveyed 3,533 of its online panel between March and April 2023 about their experience visiting seaside towns in Europe in the past 3 years.
Destination scores are based on a combination of overall satisfaction and how likely people are to recommend the town as a holiday destination.
Full table of results:
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