Figueira da Foz is a seaside town located halfway between Lisbon and Porto with an expansive beach and many interesting landmarks. Although it’s a semi-sleepy destination during the colder months, it comes alive in the summer with sunbathers, seafood connoisseurs, and party-seekers who know about the local festivals. From the charming town center to the Serra da Boa Viagem’s panoramic hills and the local heritage, there is plenty to see and do to keep visitors happily busy.
This is perhaps the most obvious activity (the town is known as the country’s “Queen of Beaches” after all) but one that should be mentioned nonetheless. The local beaches are massive, some of the largest in the country, in fact, that will keep sea-seekers walking a little longer than they may be used to before reaching the water’s edge. Figueira Beach is the main stretch but it’s broken into separate sections known as Praia do Molhe and Claridade Beach, and turns into Buarcos Beach just north of the center. There are more amazing beaches just a short drive away including Praia da Tocha, approximately 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) north.
The coastal road curves and from Buarcos it’s possible to take in the view of resort hotels and restaurants lining the main strip. Also, from the top of the Serra da Boa Viagem (Bon Voyage Mountain), approximately 260,000 meters (853,000 ft) up, a miradouro (or viewpoint) offers panoramic sights of Cape Mondego, cliffs, the surrounding countryside, and more coast. Hop in a car and drive the 3 kilometers (less than 2 miles) from Buarcos, because hiking up the mountainside isn’t recommended due to curves and vehicles zipping by.
If heading up the Serra da Boa Viagem, plan a lunch and spend a few hours eating at one of the picnic stations surrounded by eucalyptus and pine trees.
One highlight in downtown Figueira da Foz is the casino, one of the oldest and largest in Portugal. Even non-gamblers may enjoy visiting for a glimpse of the fresco artwork and sophisticated settings. The casino also schedules regular shows alongside exquisite dinners that are promoted on their website.
The town recently finished adding on to the long, approximately 4-kilometer (2.5 miles) boardwalk from the clock tower to the end of Buarcos and the final result is perfect for leisurely strolls, running and cycling (in addition to rollerskating or other forms of exercise). Plus, there is an extensive network of wooden boardwalks that meander over the sand and, in part, along with the dunes. Along the way are little cafés (some are seasonal), perfect for enjoying a coffee, cocktail, or lunch/snack while gazing out at the Atlantic Ocean.
A short stay in Figueira is the perfect opportunity to visit Coimbra (or vice-versa). A train trip directly from one to the other takes approximately one hour and costs €2.75 ($3.31) each way. Driving is another option that only takes about 40 minutes to travel 50 kilometers (31 miles). Coimbra is one of the oldest cities in Portugal and home to stunning landmarks such as the oldest university in the country, the beautiful Baroque Joanina Library, and many ancient ruins.
The long waves are perfect for surfing, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the local surfing community, especially around Buarcos. If getting into the water is out of the question, sit on the rocks along the beach and watch the pros.
Much of the Portuguese coast was once susceptible to attacks from the ocean, therefore, the towns built protective fortifications. The Santa Catarina fort is a favorite historic landmark of the locals that was built in the 16th century. Today, a little park has been designed around it and this spot is idyllic for taking photos.
Although Figueira da Foz is a destination for being outdoors, some afternoons call for culture under a roof and there are a few fantastic museums around town. For art and history, visit the Museu Municipal Santos Rocha, and head over to the Nucleo Museologico do Sal (Museum Center of Salt) to learn about salt production and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings.