Far from the ‘madding crowd’ this up-and-coming seaside town is a well-kept secret, often only frequented by locals and those in-the-know. It is overlooked by tourists heading to Lisbon for a weekend break, partly due to the lack of public transport links, but not any more as a newly arrived bohemian-style dance festival is drawing in revellers from Ibiza and beyond, looking for off-the-beaten-track destinations.
Caparica itself is relatively untouched by mass commercialism, unlike Cascais and Estoril to the west of Lisbon, and prides itself on its unspoilt beaches featuring dozens of surf schools and a 15km coastline, half of a 30km-long coastline south of Lisbon. There are only a few hotels, the main one being the 4*TRYP Hotel and the promenade alongside the Atlantic Sea is reportedly one to rival Rio de Janeiro, with its running, rollerskate/skateboard and cycle tracks, not to mention the numerous renovated container-style colourful beach shacks. The beach is so vast it doesn’t feel overcrowded in summer.
The best time to visit is in June for the 5-day MOGA (taken from the Portuguese ‘Mogador’ the original name of Essaouira (Morocco), where the festival began in 2016), a boutique electronic music festival inspired by the Atlantic vibes (‘Hippie House’), connecting people from all around the world through dance, music, art and wellness. It’s a fusion of electronic music, sunset parties and activities: yoga, surfing, food and the nomadic community, promoting local artists alongside international acts.
The main reason tourists avoid Caparica is because getting here by public transport can be time-consuming, due to bottleneck traffic crossing the Tagus estuary on the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. A mini trainline, the ‘Transpraia’ ran down the Costa da Caparica coastline to Fonte da Telha (popular for its nudist beaches) but this was discontinued in 2020. But, thanks to Uber it is easier than ever to explore the remote southern and central coast (surrounded by pine and acacia trees, protected since 1984), with its chilled vibe, and a wonderful sight to behold is the local fishermen who are still using the trainline to transport their catch of the day.
Visit the Costa da Caparica Fossil Cliff Protected Landscape, Bairro dos Pescadores(Fishermen’s Quarter), Fonte da Telha village andAdiça beach.
When you arrive in Caparica, start the day by walking along the promenade to Lorosae Sol Nascente – ‘Lorosae Rising Sun’, owned by Portuguese Frederico Dias Nunes aka Kiko. The newest beach bar in São João on the northern most tip of the coast with stunning views looking out across Lisbon. The northern section is closer to Caparica town attracting surfers and families.
While Caparica is not known for its shopping, the town itself is mainly residential apartment blocks with only a handful of cafes in Rua dos Pescadores, high street, but Almada Fórum Centro Comercial shopping mall is a contemporary retail hub with 230 stores over three levels, plus a large food court, which is 10 minutes by car.
In the evening, have dinner at Princesa, at Praia da Princesa, this beach marks the beginning of the trendier area of Costa da Caparica, with stylish bars and restaurants. Watch the sunset while enjoying a local fish speciality.
Drive to the 110m high Cristo Rei, the Sanctuary of ‘Christ the King’, where you can take a lift and stairs to the top to the viewing platform. Make a reservation in advance at Ponto Final Restaurante Almada, on the waterfront and after visiting the statue walk 30 minutes along the stunning cliff pathway to the restaurant for lunch. The restaurant has panoramic views of the Tagus River and Lisbon and serves traditional dishes with a good wine list. There are also painting, photography and drawing exhibitions here every month.
In the afternoon, take advantage of visiting the wild sand dunes and beach bars on the southern side of Caparica. Recommended is Casa de Reia, Praia da Cabana do Pescador, which is situated next to a pine forest, which King João V planted in the early 18th century and Irmão, Praia do Castelo ‘Place of Happiness’ (Irmão ‘brother’ in Portuguese is owned by 3 brothers and their sister Ninie), within 5 minutes’ walk of each other on the beach, which is where MOGA hosted its sunset beach parties this year.
Matthieu Corosine and Benoit Geli co-founders, Panda Events, saw the potential in Caparica as an intimate setting for MOGA, and partnered with Giant Steps, HOME and ZELLIJ to launch the event to great success in 2021, attracting 6,000 people from 25 different nationalities. It is also an advocate of fusing traditional music such as Gnawa with electronic music, now available to buy as an NFT ‘Non-Fungible Token’ (a digital collectible bought and sold using cryptocurrency)on Pianity.
Corosine is also working with the municipality of Almada, where Caparica is based, to pair it with Essaouira in Morocco, to become twin cities to promote tourism, cultural exchanges and science education.
“I already knew about Caparica because I organise a lot of music festivals worldwide (Les Plages Électroniques, Cannes; Martizik, Martinique; Miami Nice Jazz Festival, Les Dunes Électroniques, Tunisia, to name a few) and in 2015, after a full and heavy season of events my business partner and I decided to take a break. There were almost no expats here in Caparica at that time, and it was fun because all the tourists we met back then are the expats who live here today. We organised Les Plages Electroniques in Caparica in 2016 and 2017, and last year decided to do something special and debut MOGA,” said Corosine.
“Lisbon and more specifically Caparica has started to gain significant interest recently not only because of its appeal to digital nomads post-covid, its surf scene and tech communities (Web Summit will be held in Lisbon November 1-4, 2022) but because of its artistic bohemian nature for people wanting to get-off-the-beaten track and discover something new. That’s where MOGA comes in, we want to keep the festival as unique and intimate as we can, limited in numbers and offer experience packages including food, surfing, yoga, hiking, culture with free as well as paid-for events for everyone to enjoy, including families. This year saw a free outdoor festival at Palms St Bernard and aside to the festival we organised a sunset boat party with Bloop Recordings from Lisbon.”