Lisbon: A capital city surrounded by beaches

Lisbon is one of the few European cities with beaches on its doorstep. PDV takes you on a tour of the 10 most beautiful beaches around Portugal’s capital.

Beaches Tips 4 Tourists Tours — 30 July 2012 by Carolina Antunes
Lisbon: A capital city surrounded by beaches

Adraga beach, just 45.5 km from Lisbon (Photograph: Luís Afonso)

Lisbon is one of the few European cities surrounded by beaches. Catering to all tastes and sporting interests within 50 km of the capital there are beaches for water sports enthusiasts, families with children who love to play in the sand and swim safely in crystal clear waters, and those searching for a romantic getaway somewhere charming and secluded.

Praia das Maçãs: families and sports enthusiasts

Praia das Maçãs translates as ‘apples beach’, dating back to when apples used to appear on the beach. When the fruit grown in the surrounding orchards was ripe, it fell into the water of the Colares river (also known as the Maçãs river) that flows into the sea here, carrying the apples.
The beach is popular with families, bodyboarders and surfers. Surrounded by bars and restaurants, it features a large salt water swimming pool nearby as well as tennis courts and football grounds. There is a tram that runs from Vila de Sintra (the historic centre of Sintra) to the beach along the valley, making for a picturesque trip to the coast. Visitors are advised to check the tram timetable before heading to the stop as service is not continuous.

Blue flag: Yes
Water temperature: 19.2C
Sand: Soft, golden sand
Hotels/Snack Bars/Restaurants: Various restaurants and snack bars
Extras (Loungers/Beach Umbrellas/Parking etc): Showers and toilets
Lifeguard: Yes
Distance from Lisbon: 46.8 km
Guincho: the kitesurfers’ beach

Imagine walking down the hill from Areia, the small town close to Guincho beach, and with every step you can see more and more of the endless blue sea. You catch a glimpse of golden sand and dunes with children sliding down them. Suddenly something colourful catches your eye and you take a closer look… spotting people flying kites from the sea! Besides kitesurfers, surfers and windsurfers are also fond of this beach which hosted the Windsurfing World Cup back in the 1990s and is home to the first stage of the Kite Surf Pro World Championship this year thanks to good waves and favourable wind conditions. Once the wind settles, the beach attracts many families, but it remains more popular with water sports enthusiasts than swimmers due to strong currents and winds.

Blue flag: Yes
Water temperature:18C
Sand: Soft, golden sand
Hotels/Snack Bars/Restaurants: Several restaurants on the road from Cascais – some among the best in the area and specialising in fish dishes – and snack bars
Hotels: Fortaleza do Guincho, Hotel Quinta da Marinha
Extras (Loungers/Beach Umbrellas/Parking etc): Beach umbrellas and sunloungers, parking (often difficult)
Lifeguard: Yes
Distance from Lisbon: 35.6 km
MAP: Guincho, Estrada do Guincho, Cascais
Praia da Ursa: Sintra’s natural treasure

If you’re looking for paradise, this may be it: crystal-clear waters, natural beauty, imposing cliffs. Regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Praia da Ursa is stunning. Cradled between cliffs with soft sand and a small waterfall, it is a showcase for nature’s artworks.
Access is extremely difficult and not for the faint-hearted, involving a short hike as there is no car access from the main road, and a very steep and perilous descent down the cliffs. Getting there by boat is the recommended option. Because of its relative isolation, Praia da Ursa has retained its natural beauty, unlike many other beaches. Some nudists like it, but it is not an official nudist beach.

Blue flag: No
Water temperature: 17C
Sand: Sandy with some rocks
Hotels/Snack Bars/Restaurants: No
Extras (Loungers/Beach Umbrellas/Parking etc): No
Lifeguard: No
Distance from Lisbon: 41.2 km
MAP: Praia da Ursa, Colares, Sintra
Praia da Morena, Praia da Sereia: Caparica’s 15km beach

The beach along the Caparica coast is more like a series of beaches spanning 15 km with families playing together in the water or sharing a packed lunch under the cool shade of an umbrella. There are many different kinds of beach there, some with lifeguards, beach umbrellas, beach chairs, and bars like Praia da Morena and Praia da Sereia. If you’re driving, be wary of traffic. The bridge you need to cross (Ponte 25 de Abril) is frequently busy and it may take some time to reach your destination. If you’re using public transport, a train runs along the beaches but only during the summer months. Please note that the north end of the coast is more family-friendly while the south end is more nudist and gay-friendly.

Blue flag:
Water temperature:18C
Sand: Soft, golden sand
Hotels/Snack Bars/Restaurants: Variety of snack bars and restaurants
Extras (Loungers/Beach umbrellas/Parking etc): Some have beach umbrellas and parking
Lifeguard: Some
Distance from Lisbon: 23.5 km
Praia do Meco: Official Nudist Beach

Pretty. Calm. Moody. Violent. Strong. These adjectives have all been used hundreds of times to describe the ocean and Praia do Meco. It is normally a quiet beach, but the ocean can be temperamental. During stormy days, it unleashes strong currents while remaining stunningly beautiful. It is worth a visit as long as you exercise caution. Four kilometres long, it is also an official nudist beach at the southern end. For those who enjoy washing the salt off their bodies, there is a spring with fresh water that is also drinkable.

Blue flag: Yes
Water temperature: 18C
Sand: Soft, golden sand
Hotels/Snack Bars/Restaurants: Restaurant, snack bars, toilets, nautical support
Extras (Loungers/Beach Umbrella/Parking etc): Parking, beach umbrellas and sunloungers
Lifeguard: Yes
Distance from Lisbon: 40 km
MAP: Praia do Meco, Aldeia do Meco, Sesimbra
Praia da Rainha, Cascais: Small, family-orientated beach

This beach is relatively small but very easy to get to. Located right in the heart of Cascais and a two minute walk from the train station, it is very family-friendly with calm waters and soft sand. There is a seaside promenade that runs from Cascais to São João do Estoril along several other beaches, including Praia da Rainha. The promenade offers many restaurants and bars, some expensive and many catering to British tourists (with pub-themed decor and the famous English breakfast). It is also very close to the Santini ice-cream parlour, a favourite with locals and tourists alike.

Blue flag: Yes
Water temperature: 19C
Sand: Golden sand
Hotels/Snack Bars/Restaurants: Toilets, restaurants, snack bars, hotels in Cascais are only a 5 minute walk away
Extras (Loungers/Beach Umbrella/Parking etc): Beach umbrellas and sunloungers, small car park
Lifeguard: Yes
Distance from Lisbon: 32.6 km
MAP: Praia da Rainha, Cascais
Praia da Adraga: Natural beauty

Praia da Adraga is another treasure in the greenery of the Sintra hills. Located in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, the beach is tucked away between cliffs but you can drive all the way down the valley to a car park. Rocks are dotted on the sand, creating an interesting hybrid landscape. In 2003, British newspaper The Sunday Times listed this beach among the 20 best in Europe.
Parking is available but gets very crowded during the summer.

Blue flag: Yes
Water temperature: 18C
Sand: Sand with some rocks
Hotels/Snack Bars/Restaurants: Toilets, snack bar, restaurants
Extras (Loungers/Beach Umbrellas/Parking etc): Car park
Lifeguard: Yes
Distance from Lisbon: 45.5 km
MAP: Praia da Adraga, Sintra
Praia Grande: The bodyboarders’ beach

Dinosaurs are still part of the landscape here. Praia Grande is a very long, sandy beach surrounded by hills with fossilised dinosaur footprints visible on the rocks and breathtaking panoramic sea views. A walk along the hills is highly recommended. A good beach for bodyboarders and surfers, it holds the international bodyboard competition Sintra Portugal Pro every year. Despite choppy waters, it’s a family-friendly beach mostly popular with teenagers and young adults.

Blue flag: Yes
Water temperature: 18C
Sand: Golden sand
Hotels/Snack Bars/Restaurants: Snack bars, restaurants, Hotel Arribas right in front of the beach
Extras (Loungers/Beach Umbrellas/Parking etc): wheelchair access, toilets, snack bar, restaurants, parking (often full)
Lifeguard: Yes
Distance from Lisbon: 47.4 km
MAP: Praia Grande, Sintra
Praia do Tamariz: Nightlife and bars beach

Strolling along the Cascais-São João do Estoril promenade, you’ll eventually come across Praia do Tamariz, right next to the Estoril train station.
Small, with beach umbrellas, sunloungers and calm waters, it has a string of bars and restaurants along the promenade and becomes very popular at night thanks to the summer club sessions and the famous Estoril Casino nearby. The waters are clean, but there are some rocks and the occasional seaweed. During the summer, it can get very crowded.

Blue flag: Yes
Water temperature: 17C
Sand: Golden sand
Hotels/Snack Bars/Restaurants: Restaurants, bars, toilets. Hotels: several, including Hotel Palácio Estoril, Hotel Estoril Eden
Extras (Loungers/Beach Umbrellas/Parking etc): Beach umbrellas, sunloungers, small car park (often full), Tamariz Swimming Pool
Lifeguard: Yes
Distance from Lisbon: 28.2 km
MAP: Praia do Tamariz, Estoril
Ericeira/Ribeira das Ilhas: The surfers’ beach

The picturesque, compact town of Ericeira is home to some of the best surf spots nationwide and worldwide, offering various beaches with different levels of difficulty. One of them, Ribeira d’Ilhas, is regarded as best for surfing and has been hosting the World Surfing Championships since 1990. The car park and bar are open all year. Neighbouring Praia do Sul is also popular with surfers, features a hotel and is very easy to reach from the town centre.

Blue flag: Yes
Water temperature: 16C
Sand: Golden sand
Hotels/Snack Bars/Restaurants: Bar and restaurants. Hotel: several, among which Vila Galé Ericeira; several backpackers and surf camps also
Extras (Loungers/Beach Umbrellas/Parking etc): Parking
Lifeguard: Yes
Distance from Lisbon: 53.5 km

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Carolina Antunes

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