Portugal has always been somewhat of a mystery to tourists, and for a good reason. It still feels unexplored and unoccupied by droves of tourists, giving it a rather special feeling, and you’d do well to experience it while the situation is still like this. With summer still all around us, it is a good idea to check out this article and unearth the best beach towns in Portugal you could visit.
Most of them are concentrated either around Lisbon or the region of Algarve, but don’t let that limit you in your exploratory efforts. If a seaside town hasn’t made our list, it doesn’t mean it’s not out there, waiting to be discovered.
Much like the rest of the seaside towns in Portugal, Cascais is a charming amalgamation of old and new, noticeable every step of the way.
From cobblestone streets to the busy marina, this fishing town has charm written all over it. The architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries is at places marred with modern tourist facilities, but don’t let it get you down. Focus on gorgeous structures such as Palacio de Cidadela, which used to be a summer retreat for the royalty, and discover the surrounding area on a bicycle.
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However, the reason why most people come here is breathtaking beaches only 18 miles (30 kilometers) from Lisbon. Take to Praia dos Pescadores, Praia da Rainha, or Praia da Duquesa and bathe in the Atlantic.
How to Get Here: The airport closest to Cascais is located in Lisbon of course, about 22 miles (36 kilometers) away. From there, you have numerous options the cheapest of which is public transport (about €5). Taxis usually cost about €80. From the city itself, you can reach Cascais from Cais do Sodre train station, which is much faster than the bus.
Aveiro, Centro Region
Affectionately dubbed ‘Venice of Portugal’ is situated about 46 miles (75 kilometers) south of the city of Porto, and you won’t fail to see why.
A network of canals that cut and carve through the beach town of Aveiro give it a very romantic appearance that attracts couples from all over. From simple Meditteraneanesque whitewashed houses to colorful cottaged and boats reminiscent of Venetian gondolas, Aveiro really is a feast for the eyes. Don’t set your expectations too high though as people often do when they hear the name ‘Venice’ – instead, see Aveiro for what it is, a unique work of Noveau art. And when you’re done doing that, hit the lovely beaches of the Aveiro Lagoon, or try to find your way to Praia da Costa Nova.
How to Get Here: Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport in Porto is the closest you’ll be able to fly in. The most common way of getting from Porto to Aveiro is by train, a ride of about an hour and a half, for a price of approximately €7.
There’s hardly a more picturesque and charming place in all of southern Portugal than the magnificent Tavira, situated just a mile from the Atlantic Ocean.
What you’ll find here is a selection of incredibly beautiful cobblestone streets, bordered by white buildings whose roots go all the way back to the Moorish era. The bucolic nature of this town is only further reinforced by ancient structures such as the Roman Bridge, or the more recent Gothic and Renaissance churches. When you tire from exploring all the landmarks of immense cultural and historic value, head down to the coast. Praia do Barril, Praia da Ilha de Tavira, and many more await you.
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How to Get Here: To get from the closest Faro Airport to the center of Tavira, you need to cover about 24 miles (40 kilometers). What most travelers do is get a taxi from the airport to the train station in Faro, and proceed to Tavira by train. This taxi will cost you around €14 for the 10-minute ride and the train ticket is €3.
Viana do Castelo, Norte
Viana do Castelo is a real treasure trove of incredible architectural gems and sandy beaches that are bound to reel you in with all their worth.
This old and picturesque beach town sits at the very mouth of River Lima, an entry point for most of the traders doing business between the 16th and 18th centuries. The rich heritage of the town is a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque influences, scattered around Viana do Castelo. Ornate figures of Chafariz Fountain and the incredible Paços do Concelho, a 16th-century town hall, only scratch the surface of what you can see here. North Beach and Praia do Cabedelo await guests eager for an unforgettable summer holiday.
How to Get Here: Again, Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport of Porto is the closest one around. As usual, it’s best to just get a taxi to the train station in Porto and proceed to Viana do Castelo from there. Train fare is usually about €8.
Sitting atop a rocky peninsula, there’s a place so great and majestic, perhaps even one of the best beach towns in Portugal – Peniche.
To be more specific, it’s the best seaside town if you’re a surfer thanks to the long beaches surrounding it, allow for the formation of sometimes truly intense waves. The town itself is walled off atop the peninsula, with more than a single interesting landmark. See Fortaleza de Peniche, which used to be a fort, then a prison, and then a museum of history. Also, check out Monumento à Rendilheira, a statue of a lacemaker, and the very active fishing port. Finally, get your surfboard and hit Praia dos Supertubos or Praia de Dunas, but be warned – waves here are not beginner-friendly.
How to Get Here: There are no trains this time. From the nearest airport, which is in Lisbon, you can get to Peniche by renting a car, getting a taxi or a bus. There are about 62 miles (100 kilometers) to cover, and the taxi can get really expensive (€100-€160). Instead, take the bus from Sete Rios station and keep in mind the fact that this 70-minute ride is rarely direct.
Those looking to avoid the more crowded places along the Portuguese coastline will find their place right here, in Aljezur.
Mostly frequented by locals all year round, it seems that Aljezur still remains largely unspoiled by endless tourist crowds. The rustic appearance of the village and the natural park known as Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina give it some very unique charm. The beaches are something else altogether, perfect stretches of sand located in great natural surroundings. Some of the local-favorites are Praia da Arrifana, Praia de Monte Clérigo, and Praia do Medo da Fonte Santa.
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How to Get Here: About 74 miles (120 kilometers) from Aljezur, you’ll find the Faro Airport. Since Aljezur doesn’t have a train station, you’ll either have to get here by car or a bus, the latter obviously being much cheaper (upwards of €10).
Another hidden gem worthy of visiting for a multitude of reason, but especially so if you’re looking for a getaway from all the crowds is Ferragudo in Algarve region.
The relaxed vibe of this, yet another small fishing village in Portugal, is absolutely the best feeling in the world to have on a vacation. Whitewashed homes and colorful boats, strewn about the beach, will make your stay in Ferragudo a magical one. Fort of São João de Arade and Homenagem às Tripulações Salva-Vidas de Ferragudo are must-see landmarks of Ferragudo, just a short walk away from any point in the town. But Ferragudo is not known as a beach town for no reason, so make sure to check out Praia da Angrinha, Praia da Infanta, and other breathtaking beaches nearby.
How to Get Here: 42 miles (68 kilometers) from Ferragudo is the city called Faro and its airport. We’ve already mentioned it before, and as you probably know, it’s located in the south, so head west to Ferragudo. Private transport companies such as Yellowfish operate in the area and are the most convenient way of reaching your destination.
Azenhas do Mar, Greater Lisbon
Azenhas do Mar is perhaps the most picturesque entry on this list, situated in the area of Greater Lisbon and not too far from Cascais.
The location of this beach town is absolutely dreamy, with buildings like pearls scattered across the cliffside. Down below, you’ll find the beach just waiting for you to complement the beauty of the town above. Praia das Azenhas do Mar is the aforementioned gorgeous beach just waiting for you, ready to provide you with a truly breathtaking experience of the Atlantic Ocean. Moreover, the seafood at restaurants in Azenhas do Mar is simply divine, so give it a go if you’re a fan.
How to Get Here: Lisbon and its airport will be the closest to you (18 miles). Getting to Azenhas do Mar requires you to take a train to Sintra. When you get there, cross the road and you’ll find yourself at a bus station. Get on 440 or 441 and you’ll be at your destination in no time.
Ponta Delgada, Azores
We would be remiss if we didn’t give the Azores Archipelago some time in the spotlight, and subsequently, its capital of Ponta Delgada.
There’s much to be seen here, and even more to be enjoyed. Besides Portas da Cidade and Sao Bra Fortress which are the most commonly visited landmarks, you can also go on an adventure in the coal mine in a massive lava tube. Hike along the mountainside paths or marvel at the black basalt architecture of the town – it really is up to you. Plenty of beaches abound as well, most famous of which are Praia do Pópulo and Milicias.
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How to Get Here: João Paul II International Airport is located right here in Ponta Delgada, on the São Miguel island. All you have to do is get in a taxi and you’ll be at the beach in a matter of minutes.
There’s way too much to be said about Azeitão in contexts other than beaches and summer holidays, but we’ll try and display at least a portion of its splendor now.
With such a rich culture and even richer tastes to be discovered here, Azeitão is more than just a small beach town in the vicinity of Lisbon. Azeitão tile art is something you’ll have to find out during your stay as you’re visiting innumerable landmarks, only some of which are Church of São Lourenço and Quinta da Bacalhoa. The latter is a wine estate where you’ll be able to try some of the most spectacular brews, accompanied by stunning Azeitão cheese. And don’t worry about the beaches, there are enough to keep you busy for a month, but a good place to start is Praia de Galapinhos.
How to Get Here: Obviously, your best choice of the airport would be the one in Lisbon, and from there, you can get a bus and be at Azeitão in no time. It’ll take about 40 minutes and costs no more than €4.
Albufeira is, unlike plenty of other places on this list, already quite popular, so expect to see a lot of tourists around.
While it probably doesn’t sound so awesome if you’re scrounging for some non-touristy places to check out, but the odds that you’ll like it are pretty high. After all, it is often said that it was precisely Albufeira that put the region of Algarve on the tourist map. At least the old town is separated from the main touristy area called The Strip. As you would expect, The Strip is where all the bars, restaurants, clubs, and shops are. Praia dos Alemães and Praia do Inatel beckon visitors closer! They’re huge beaches with plenty of room for all the visitors, so it’s one place you will really be able to relax and enjoy the scenery.
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How to Get Here: After landing at Faro Airport, it’s best to take a bus to Albufeira. It takes about an hour to get there (a bit longer if you get on an Intercity Bus) and costs anywhere from €3-6 depending on the type of bus.
The search for the best beach towns in Portugal will, in the end, lead you to Carvoeiro – at least if you do your research because it’s neatly tucked away from prying eyes.
For a small fishing village, Carvoeiro sure packs the punch. From the higher points of the village, you’ll be able to see a good (and beautiful) chunk of Algarve all around you. It is said that its name originates from the word ‘caboiere’, meaning ‘hamlet/cottage of’. There’s a lot to be seen here, but even more to be done. You could go on a full-blown adventure to Benagil Caves, or find the best possible view of the area by hiking. Or, get down to Praia de Carvoeiro and Praia do Paraíso and have a day trip of your lifetime.
How to Get Here: Faro Airpot is the closest one to you, located about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Carvoeiro. The bus ride costs about €6 from Faro to Lagoa where you’ll change to the bus going to Carvoeiro.
Beautiful towns, each and every one of these. Most of them are former fishing villages, some have developed and modernized, some have retained their rustic charm. It’s up to you to decide now what suits you best, and where you could head out next.