Portugal is a small country, about the size of the state of Indiana. Yet it is blessed with over 1,000 miles of coastline. In other words, it’s a paradise for beach lovers. There are lovely towns along the southern coast with gold sand beaches in the Algarve. Surfing meccas with lots of great seafood restaurants are known to dot the Silver Coast in the Center of Portugal. But some may find it surprising that there are also many fabulous seaside towns to visit right near the bustling metropolis of Lisbon. We live in one of them and every time we take the Linha de Cascais train to Lisbon, we’re treated to views of the water and many stops along the Estoril Coast that would make for a perfect beach day adventure. Here are a few of those gorgeous seaside towns to visit near Lisbon.
This is the town that we live in now. It is a beautiful beach resort town about 40 minutes from Lisbon known for its elegance and high-quality lifestyle. The centerpiece of the Cascais is its beautiful beachy downtown where visitors and locals alike congregate. There are many restaurants to suit all tastes. We like A Nova Estrela with its personal touch and desserts made from scratch, Cafe Galeria House of Wonders with its amazing vegetarian fare, and Flecha Azul for great local fish and grilled meats. You will not go hungry in this city — here are the best foods to try in Cascais.
You can visit museums, like Casas das Historias Paula Rego and the Santa Marta Lighthouse Museum, stroll through beautiful parks, like our favorite Marechal Carmona, and see nature’s beauty by watching a sunset over the Boca do Inferno. Shoppers will love the many boutiques in the area as well as artisan markets. Casa da Guia is a lovely area that brings food, views, and shopping together. It’s easy to see why royalty, diplomats, and visitors from around the world flock to this gorgeous seaside town — but first be sure to check out How To Spend A Perfect Weekend In Cascais, Portugal.
Fans of James Bond may already be familiar with this glitzy spot that is home to Casino Estoril, one of the largest working casinos in Europe. That’s because it inspired author Ian Fleming, who lived in Estoril during World War II, to use it as the setting for his first Bond novel, Casino Royale. Royal families of Europe, French aristocracy, wealthy merchants, and all the secret agents spying on them took up residence in neutral Portugal. It’s here that Fleming encountered Dusko Popov, a double agent–playboy spy believed to provide Agent 007 with some of his most memorable characteristics.
Pro Tip: While Cascais and Estoril cater to many international visitors, the other spots are filled with locals. Try to vary your experience by seeing both sides of the equation. The Portuguese are tremendously hospitable and will make you feel welcome everywhere you go.
Those seeking more local color will find that Parede has much to enjoy. Blessed with some excellent reef structure beyond the sand, Parede’s beach areas are loved by surfers as well as sunbathers. Parede translates to “wall,” which is fitting as the wall that surrounds Praia das Avencas beach serves to keep the sun in while managing the wind. Parede is also a popular fishing spot, so anglers can often be seen perched along the coastline.
One of the more interesting aspects of Parede Beach is that it’s sought for the therapeutic value of its iodine sea water and muddy clay rocks. A friend of ours who lives in the area says her arthritis always feels better after swimming in the sea. Parede is not a tourist spot. So if you’re looking for a great place to hang with locals, grab a seat at a little cafe and watch the day unfold.
This gorgeous seaside town is blessed with many facets to explore. Carcavelos Beach is the largest beach along the Estoril coast. It’s close to Lisbon, only about 20 minutes along the Cascais train line. The beach regularly hosts volleyball and soccer tournaments. In the summer it is filled with swimmers and sunbathers, while surfers and bodyboarders love the winter waves.
Military and history buffs will not want to miss the São Julião da Barra Fort at the end of the beach. It is the largest Vauban-style military complex in Portugal and the summer residence of the Portuguese Ministry of Defense. But our favorite thing about Carcavelos is that it’s where a delicious fortified wine is produced. Only 25 hectares of growing region remain, but they are now protected. If you like port or Madeira-style wines, you will not want to miss a chance to try this delicious gem from Carcavelos that Thomas Jefferson called a favorite.
5. Oeiras/Santo Amaro de Oeiras
One of the things we love best about Portugal is that we can find new favorite spots and hidden gems just about everywhere we go. Oeiras is both a town and a larger municipality. The municipality is booming as it strives to become “Oeiras Valley,” a technology hotbed that already boasts a heady array of tech giant offices. Santo Amaro de Oeiras beach is a lovely stretch of sand opening out on the Tejo Estuary, where the river meets the sea.
Music lovers will appreciate the community choir of Santo Amaro de Oeiras, who make a joyful sound amid beautiful scenery. Poet’s Park is a much-loved spot for enjoying sculptures of Portuguese poets, flowers, and a bit of fresh air. History buffs won’t want to miss the Palace of Marquis of Pombal, an impressive estate and collection of gardens. And our favorite activity was sitting at A Taberna, a tiny cafe in the old town, where we enjoyed Sagres beers and perfectly prepared local dishes for a ridiculously low price.
6. Paço de Arcos
Closer to Lisbon, the lovely town of Paço de Arcos fills the streets with charm and culture. Two beaches, separated by a small harbor, rest here on the River Tejo where it meets the Atlantic. The primary beach, Praia Paço De Arcos, has a café that offers great views and plenty of people watching. The smaller beach, Praia Velha, is a quiet spot to watch the fishing boats hanging out in the little harbor. The view of the Lisbon skyline and bridge, as well as a geyser-like fountain, provide plenty of options to sit and relax a while. The town got its name from the Palácio dos Arcos (Palace of Arches), originally constructed in the 1600s and believed to have been the spot where King Manuel I watched Portuguese ships leave for explorations in India. It has since been remodeled into a beautiful luxury hotel.
Paço de Arcos is also a place that loves its food. There are several good restaurants here, many with lovely views of the water. Restaurante Borges offers something for everyone including vegans and gluten free options. Casa da Dizima, once the tax collector’s building, has a great terrace with views of the water all the way to Lisbon. We also know how serious the town is about cooking because it has one of our very favorite kitchen supply stores, Telelux. This treat for cooks of all types is jam-packed with everything you need to make your kitchen-cooking fantasies come true.
7. Cruz Quebrada-Dafundo
Cruz Quebrada-Dafundo is a conjunction of two areas in one that will delight those looking for a beautiful setting to wander around by the sea. The Parque Urbano do Jamor is huge and well-kept, with sporting fields, tennis courts, picnic areas, swimming pools, and even a fun mini-golf course and cafe. It contains Adventure Park do Jamor with a lovely loop trail that allows walkers and bikers to pass through the forests while still seeing the water.
Cruz Quebrada beach is a small river beach, but good for taking in the sunset without a crowd. Its neighbor, Dafundo Beach, is close enough to walk along for a visit to check out Belém Tower, one of the Lisbon area’s historical highlights. For those who enjoy aquariums, the Vasco de Gama Aquarium is a special treat. The aquarium/museum is small but has more than 4,000 species of sea plants and animals and is lovingly cared for by the Portuguese Navy. If hunger strikes, tasty and authentic Portuguese bites are waiting at nearby spots like O Morano or Villa Cruz Café Bistro & Co. If shopping is on the menu, hop on over to Centro Vasco de Gama, an architecturally gorgeous state-of-the-art shopping center with nearly 200 stores and eateries.
Portugal is a land of many wonders, and Lisbon is its epicenter. Food, history, culture, art, nature, and other attractions draw visitors from around the world in ever-increasing numbers. And one of the country’s most attractive features, when travelers want to explore beyond the city, is its famous Atlantic coastline. But visitors don’t need to go very far to enjoy it. By catching the train at the Cais do Sodre station in Lisbon, present day explorers can have their pick of these and other gorgeous seaside towns to visit near Lisbon.
By: SUE REDDEL AND DIANA LASKARIS/ www.travelawaits.com