Looking for a definitive guide to the best waves in Europe?
From perfect beach breaks to terrifying big wave spots, we’ve got 15 destinations to add to the wishlist on your next surf trip.
Let’s dive straight in with some of the best beach breaks in the world.
Hossegor is a quintessential French surf town, and its little stretch of coast has some of the best sand-bottomed waves you’ll find anywhere in the world.
La Graviere is probably the most famous spot along this stretch. When it’s on, powerful stand-up barrels break just metres from the shore. Strictly for the experienced, it’s a sobering experience with powerful currents and even more powerful waves.
You can head down the beach to La Nord, with a large outer bank offering longer rides. Even further south, La Sud has forgiving, user-friendly waves perfect for beginners and intermediate surfers.
This is one of the best places in Europe to live the van life for summer and really immerse yourself in the surf scene down here. Just watch out for those pesky overnight parking tickets for camping in the wrong spot!
Located just south of Peniche in Portugal, this stretch of beach isn’t called the European Pipeline for no reason.
Powerful swells arrive off the Atlantic before unloading onto the shallow sandbars and turning into death-defying tubes. It hosts a yearly WSL world tour event, and it’s a firm favourite with the surfers on tour.
From John John Florence to Italo Ferreira and Filipe Toledo, this has been home to some of the best surfing we see on tour. Plus, the local area is littered with other great beach, point and reef breaks for those willing to get off the beaten track.
The jewel in the Basque crown of surfing, this wave is one of Europe’s best point breaks, with thousands of surfers every year pilgrimage to this otherwise sleepy fishing town.
This is an all-time spot for surfing (especially if you’re goofy). Freight train left-handers rifle down the point in just meters of water.
And this waves fast! If you want to ride a wave here successfully, you’ll have to bring your a-game, and then there’s the crowd. Mundaaka is notorious for being one of the busiest places in Europe to surf.
With hundreds of other hungry surfers vying for waves and a talented local crew, you need some luck to snag a good one.
This is one of my favourite bases to surf when I’m in Ireland. It’s ideally located next to a heap of great surf beaches with one of the best spots in the town centre.
It’s a world-class reef break on its day, with a short, punchy right on one side and a much longer left with sections for turns and barrels on the other.
Just a mile or so north along the coastline, you’ll find Tullan Strand. It’s great for beginners with gentle peaks running along the length of the beach in small swells and lifeguards in the summer.
Located on Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, El Hierro is a formidable wave on its day, breaking over the razor-sharp volcanic reef.
It’s a quality left with various sections and lots of power for advanced surfers. Just to the right, you’ll find The Bubble. This slabbing right-hander has a powerful take-off followed by a running wall that bends towards you, perfect for laying into wraps and carves.
It can make a good impression of Off The Wall in Hawaii on big days with thundering pits and only the bravest surfers out in the water. It’s also a perfect winter getaway with some of the warmest water temperatures on Europe’s Atlantic side.
Nazaré is Europe’s best big wave surf spot. Avalanches of water march into the small beach at Praia do Norte before detonating in one of nature’s most ferocious spectacles.
It’s where the world’s best big wave surfers go to challenge themselves to their limits with world records, plenty, and some of the most terrifying wipeouts in surfing.
The area is packed with other great waves, but it’s still one of the best beaches for getting tubed on smaller swells, with bodyboarders and surfers all vying for the fast-breaking barrels.
Fistral is just minutes away from the bustling town of Newquay, the UK’s surfing hub. It’s home to a whole heap of British surf culture, and you can still find many of the UK’s top surf brands in and around the area.
The beach is one of the best waves locally, with good banks and protection from onshore winds that plague the southwest of Cornwall.
But its cult status in UK surfing lore and proximity to an urban hub means it gets pretty busy all year. Small swells in the summer can be particularly bad, with thousands of surfers and holidaymakers all flocking to the limited sand and ocean.
Lacanau is like a more relaxed, smaller version of Hossegor further down the coast and easily one of my favourite places to surf in Europe through the summer.
With miles of golden sand stretching as far as the eye can see, you can quickly find relative peace by walking away from the inevitable crowd at every car park.
On good days, it’s like a candy shop of perfect peeling beach break waves breaking in pleasantly warm water and even better weather. It’s also a great spot to learn how to surf, with several surf schools and lots of room to spread out even in the summer months.
If you want to visit one of the best surfing destinations in Europe without dealing with crowds, then Thurso could be your next surf trip.
One of the coldest waves on this list, this Scottish gem is well worth the trip. It’s a long-walled right-hander with a barrel section to start before turning into a perfect canvas to lay down high-performance tricks and turns.
Pack your best winter wetsuits alongside boots and gloves because the water temperature here is no joke. The surrounding area is packed with quiet, beautiful beaches and loads of coastline to explore for waves.
You can find epic slabs all along this stretch if you put in the time and get lucky with a good swell. Just bring a friend because the waves around here can get serious!
It is one of Portugal’s best rights and a training ground for some of its best surfers, including Frederico Morais and Thiago Pires.
This world-class surf spot is one of Europe’s best reef breaks and is strictly for advanced surfers who can navigate the treacherous entry and exit from the waves.
You’ll need to be patient if you want to catch a wave here with a talented local crew all firmly holding the primary takeoff zone. But don’t worry, the waves around the area are just as fun with surf breaks as far as the eye can see.
This small, quaint village is a quiet fishing hub for most of the year, but when a large ground swell arrives, it can become one of the best surf breaks in the UK.
Surfers from near and far will flock to what is often one of the only sheltered waves during large south-westerly storms. All share the long lefts that can peel for hundreds of metres when the conditions align. There are even a few bonus right-handers at high tide for you die-hard regulars.
Want to learn more about one of Europe and England’s best point breaks? Head over to our local guide to surfing at Lynmouth, packed with real-life insight from years of surfing its cobbled point waves.
If you want a surf camp or school with a little class, then Biarritz is the place for you. It’s a great surf spot for beginners, with La Cote des Basques offering shelter from a bit of the swell and wind with gentle peeling rides, perfect conditions to learn to surf.
You’ll find heaps of good surf schools at Grand Plage and a bustling beach scene with plenty of other surfers in the water. This is an excellent spot for a surf holiday with the fam, with lots of other things to see and do, as well as surfing.
The Mediterranean, specifically Sardinia, often gets overlooked in surfing. But when a storm brews, it can turn an otherwise quiet island into a surfing hotspot.
And winter storms are more common than you think, making this often-overlooked part of the world a surfing gem.
Head to the West Coast, where you’ll find the most exposed spots. Advanced surfers should check out the quality waves at Silver Rock, while beginners can head to the user-friendly waves at Buggerru, which offers all sorts of coves and different setups.
Just because it’s the North Sea doesn’t mean this spot should be overlooked. For those who are patient enough, there is a whole bucketload of great surf just waiting to be found.
Cayton Bay is home to a quality left-hand point when the swell starts picking up, and the main beach at Scarborough can offer long, rippable walls with light or offshore winds.
Just make sure to pack a quality winter wetsuit and some boots and gloves if you’re heading here in the winter or spring because the water temperatures are no joke, trust me!
Mullaghmore is up there with the best big wave spots in Europe. It is a chunky, monstrous beast that’s only tackled by some of the best big-wave surfers.
Located just off Mullagmore Head, it only starts to awaken when massive swells arrive off the Atlantic Ocean. This cold water leviathan can get up to 60ft with a lip as thick as Teahupoo.
Chargers and hellmen travel from all over Europe for a chance to be able to surf this mutant, and we can only expect larger, more terrifying sessions going down in the very near future.
Here’s absolute mad lad Conor Maguire wrangling his way to an exit on a 60ft mammoth.