Situated on the sun-kissed southern tip of the Iberian Penisula, Portugal has over 1,000 miles of dramatic coastline and around 100 picturesque beach towns. From quaint fishing villages to regional capitals, these beach towns are a prominent part of the Portuguese culture. Locals and visitors have a variety of choices, some with centuries-old historic landmarks and others with the most succulent seafood on the planet.
The seaside towns in the north of the country are surrounded by verdant rolling hills while the ones in the south have endless stretches of golden sand. Others are scattered around the famous capital city of Lisbon.
This guide will help you find the best beach towns to visit in Portugal from among a seemingly endless list of choices.
Cascais is a luxury resort town just 30 km (17 mi) from Lisbon. It’s often the beach getaway of choice for Portugal’s elite and well-to-do tourists looking for lavish accommodations, or the perfect daytime getaway from the hustle and bustle of Lisbon.
It’s also a classic Portuguese fishing village with cobblestone streets and a thriving marina.
A stroll along the beaches of Cascais will offer you both mountain and sea views, and a visit to the city centre will immerse you in the town’s history and culture. Be sure to visit the stunning rock formation of Boca do Inferno where you can rent a bike to go exploring and take in the views of seaside cliffs.
Cascais has lots of excellent restaurants, shops, squares, parks, and museums. Other places you’ll want to visit around Cascais include the fortress of Cascais Citadel, the little cove of Praia do Albona, Praia da Rainha, and, Praia do Guincho.
Offering both sunbathing and surfing nearly the year-round, Aljezur is a charming fishing village situated near the border between the Algarve and Alentejo and is thought of as the heart of the Vicentina Coast. Aljezur is a bit of a hidden gem as tourists usually overlook it for the more popular Portuguese cities in the south such as Albufeira.
Aljezur has the appearance and infrastructure of a traditional Portuguese town with white-washed houses and cobbled streets. Adding to its allure is the nearby Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, a natural park.
The ruins of a 10th-century Moorish castle can be found at the top of a narrow, cobbled hill. The ruins are free to visit, and the views from the top are stunning.
The new town of Aljezur’s oldest building is the 18th-century Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Alva where the main square features many shops and cafes.
Quiet and quaint, Ferragudo is a fishing village in the Algarve region characterized by white-washed homes and boats that line the coast. It’s located in the Lagoa municipality near the village of Carvoeiro and the city of Portimão. Adding to the charm of the town is its historic center located on the banks of the Arade River.
Boasting more than 300 sunny days per year, Ferragudo’s coastal strip features nine beaches surrounded by dramatic cliffs. The most popular ones are Praia Grande, Praia da Angrinha, and Praia dos Caneiros.
Be sure to take a leisurely stroll through the narrow, picturesque streets for views of the Arade River and the colorful fishing boats. Stop and see the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição and the Medieval Fort of São João de Arade. Include a boat trip to the caves of Lagoa and the Benagil Cave on your itinerary.
Frequented by domestic and foreign tourists, Ferragudo is also popular for its gastronomy.
Located just 27 km (17 mi) from Lisbon, Azenhas do Mar is the perfect day trip to escape the city for sea breezes, amazing views, and delicious seafood. The quiet little fishing town with approximately 800 residents sits on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The mystical Sintra castles are nearby.
The town boasts a pristine beach with a natural pool between the town and the sea that’s popular for cooling off on hot summer days. A watermill and unique little white houses featuring facades of traditional tiles will capture your attention.
Be sure to visit the belvedere for a stunning panoramic view of the sea and surrounding village. For fabulous food with a view, visit the Restaurante Azenhas do Mar embedded in the coastal cliffs.
Located on São Miguel Island, Ponta Delgada is the capital of the Azores archipelago and one of Portugal’s most beautiful destinations. The town serves as a gateway to the crater lakes of Sete Cidades and is defined by its unique three-arched city gates and St. Sebastian, a Gothic-style church near the harbor.
Surrounded by mountains and sea views, Ponta Delgada is packed with charm and historical attractions. Be sure to stop by the Convent and Chapel of Our Lady of Hope to see a hallowed image of Christ and the Carlos Machado Museum featuring artifacts of the Azorean culture. Cozy seafood restaurants and cafes line the city square near the Convent and Chapel of Our Lady of Hope
There are no beaches in Ponta Delgada but you will find some small beaches and swimming areas close by. Check out the small, volcanic sand beach across from Miradouro Do Ilheu’s observation point. It’s protected from the wind for excellent swimming conditions.
A small city on the Algarve coast, Tavira is sprawled across the Gilão River that flows to the sea through the lagoons and inlets of Ria Formosa Natural Park. A long, sandy beach and salt pans attract pretty wading birds like flamingos and spoonbills. Other beaches are tucked away nearby including Praia do Barril, Terra Estreita beach, and the naturist beach of Naked Man.
Unlike many of the Algarve’s resort towns, Tavira has a rural country setting and the atmosphere is slower-paced. On the historic side, you’ll find a Roman bridge and the medieval Tavira Castle with city views. Connected by bridges, the town is known as the “City of 37 Angels” and the “Venice of the Algarve.”
Tavira’s main attractions are reminiscent of the region’s Moorish occupation. Historic sites not to be missed include Jardim do Coreto, Castelo de Tavira, Largo da Misericórdia, Praça da República, and Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo.
Tavira has a variety of accommodations to suit all tastes and budgets. The best way to explore Tavira’s coast is by boat tour that visits the barrier islands of Ria Formosa.
Peniche is situated on a peninsula about six miles in perimeter. It’s home to Praia dos Supertubos, one of Europe’s best surfing spots, and the famous European Pipeline. Beachgoers come to soak up the sun and watch the surfing competitions. For calmer waters and a less hectic atmosphere, Baleal Beach is on the other side of the peninsula. The waters here are popular for windsurfing.
Despite its amazing family-friendly beaches, Penich has a strong connection to the fishing industry. There are plenty of restaurants featuring traditional seafood dishes such as caldeirada served with fresh garden vegetables and grilled sardines. The best restaurants to try are Os Americano’s, Taberna do Ganhão, and Tasca do Joel.
Historically, Peniche is known for its fortification that changed from military protection to a prison. Berlengas Island is a close-by landmark of importance.
Situated at the mouth of the Vouga River about 70km (44 mi) south of the regional capital city of Porto, Aveiro is a charming city with a network of canals teeming with colorful gondola-style boats similar to Venice. In fact, it’s known as the “Venice of Portugal.” The boats are called molicerios and touring the city in them for unique views is at the top of the list of must-dos.
The city is comprised of river islands called Ria de Aveiro and is a popular day trip from Porto. It’s also home to the Costa Nova do Prado, a sandy beach popular for its colorful striped fishing shacks. You’ll also find examples of Portuguese architecture such as azulejo facades and white-washed Mediterranian homes lining the charming streets. Be sure to visit the São Gonçalinho Chapel and the Convento de Jesus to marvel at the artwork and architecture and the Baroque style Aveiro Cathedral.
Trendy Lagos is a quiet, carefree town that combines beach life with Portuguese culture. It’s popular with tourists as a base for their Algarve itinerary. The town is a good place for foodies and going out on the town for cocktails at its numerous restaurants and bars.
Lagos is the most fascinating town in the Algarve region and is located near some of the world’s best beaches including Praia Marinha, Porto de Mós, and Meai Praia. Be sure to see the old fishing village of Praia de Luz.
The ancient town has public squares, buildings, and monuments that memorialize the Atlantic fishing fleets and the Age of Discovery when Portugal was the world’s largest empire. You’ll also find Moorish, Roman, and Neolithic ruins.
Cultural landmarks worth a visit in Lagos are the Old Town, the Municipal Market, Avenida dos Descobrimentos, Lagos Marina, and Forte da Ponta da Bandeira.
The seaside town of Nazare is a short drive away from Lisbon. Visitors come for the amazing views from the top of a cliff which is reachable by car or funicular.
Nazare is also famous for surfing and boasts the biggest waves in the world at Praia do Norte, thanks to the underwater Nazare canyon. Only the most experienced athletes surf the giant waves.
There are several attractions in the area, but the area of Sitio da Nazare at the Mirante do Suberco with its breathtaking views of the town, Nazare Beach, and the big waves of Praia do Norte. Winter is the best time the see the mammoth Atlantic waves.
Nazare has an abundance of varying accommodations from cool hostels that cater to surfers and luxurious hotels for world travelers.
Located a short drive away from Lisbon, the peaceful seaside town of Nazaré offers breathtaking views from the top of a large cliff which you can reach by funicular or by car.
Located in the vicinity of Lisbon, Azeitão is about luxurious summer holidays and beaches, but the town also has a rich culture to explore. There are many landmarks to visit including the Church of São Lourenço and Quinta da Bacalhoa, a wine estate featuring fantastic brews and a selection of delicious Azeitão cheese. You’ll also learn about Azeitão tile art.
There are enough beaches in the area to keep you busy for weeks. The most popular is Praia de Galapinhos.
If you want to skip Lisbon, a bus goes straight to the airport and gets there in about 40 minutes.
One of the best beach towns in Lisbon, Carvoeiro is a hidden gem in the Algarve region. Its name comes from the word “caboiere” which means hamlet or cottage.
For such a small fishing village, Carvoeiro has an amazing amount of things to see and do. There’s hiking with awe-inspiring views and the Benagil Caves to explore. And you can take relaxing day trips from Carvoeiro to stunning Praia do Paraíso and Praia de Carvoeiro.
Faro is the nearest airport about 64km (40 mi) from Carvoeiro. A bus runs from Faro to Logoa where you will change buses to Carvoeiro.
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