The ocean plays a vital role in Portuguese culture, and most of the country’s famous cities and towns are located on the coast. Boast beautiful beaches, small fishing villages and towns draw you to the coast and offer spectacular views at every corner. To help you decide which town deserves your attention, here are some Portuguese coastal towns you shouldn’t miss.
Located east of the Algarve, Tavira is a coastal town that attracts relatively few tourists. But, in return, it gives you a real holiday experience in the Portuguese way. Tavira is a bit more reminiscent of the rural country characterized by a slower pace of life and a sense of antiquity.
The bridge from Roman times, the beautiful cobbled streets of the town flooded in ancient churches, and Moorish-influenced architecture and the ruins of the medieval castle add to the originality and beauty of the town, making it one of Algarve’s most charming centers.
A beautiful coastal resort town, Cascais is an easy day trip from the capital. It is both a quintessential fishing town with a prosperous marina and where if you look at the sea, you will discover a dramatic coastline dotted with inspiring rocks. Put a visit to Boca do Inferno, or Mouth of Hell, to see the seaside cliffs, or rent a bike and explore the town with two wheels. Just 30 km from Lisbon, this magnificent destination is a ticket for anyone who wants to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital city.
If you are looking for an Algarve coastal retreat without crowds, go to Ferragudo. Ferragudo is a beautiful fishing village adorned in white houses and coastal decoration boats. One must-see position is the medieval Fort São João de Arade that was used to be the “watchtower” of the area. Ferragudo is also close to many of Algarve’s most beautiful beaches.
Located between olive groves and vineyards at the foot of Arrabida Mountains, south of Lisbon, Azeitao is a charming and romantic town not well known. You can take your time to explore the palace estates and picturesque vineyards, enjoy unpopular sheep’s cheeses. This is also a fabulous destination to learn about the country’s Azulejo Tile Art, and sip local wines at Quinta da Bacalhoa wine region. Azeitão is also an attractive town with some great beaches within easy reach.
5. Azenhas do Mar
Just 30 km from Lisbon, near Sintra, Azenhas do Mar is the perfect place to stay away from it all. This sleepy fishing town is picturesque, clings to the cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean, with natural rock pools beneath it filling up at high tide – a great place to relax. Make sure to stop and dine at Azenhas do Mar, a local cliff restaurant that serves beautiful scenery and fresh grilled fish.
Known as the “Venice of Portugal”, Aveiro is eye-catching as a romantic and enchanting waterborne town. Aveiro boasts a network of canals filled with colorful gondola-like boats. Aveiro is the nearest place that you can ride on a gondola and explore its artificial canals without having to go to Italy. Located just 70 km south of Porto, Aveiro will be a great place to stay, or instead, an exciting day trip idea.
Peniche is home to one of the country’s most beautiful and visited beaches. And this is also a popular destination for surfers and sun-seekers with beautiful beaches and big waves. Start your trip by walking around the historic walled center, then going to the seaside fort slash former prisoner detention center, to get a glimpse of Portuguese history.
8. Viana do Castelo
Located in northern Porto, Viana do Castelo is home to medieval charms and beautiful beaches. Viana do Castelo is covered in spectacular infrastructure that reflects the Renaissance, Baroque, Manueline and Gothic styles. Not to mention, this ancient site is full of dramatic architecture, including Praça de República, Santuário de Santa Luzia and Santa Casa da Misericórdia.
Near the border between Alentejo and Algarve, Algarvan boasts many charming towns where you’ll enjoy delicious seafood and beautiful beaches almost all year round. Visit this area to enjoy sunbathing in the summer, while winter is terrific for surfers who want to catch a big wave. In addition to the traditional Portuguese appearance of infrastructure and historical sites, the beauty of the area is further enhanced by a natural park, the green Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina.
Taking advantage of what each Portuguese coastal town offers will help you appreciate Portugal’s very long history. What was your favorite coastal town?