Not just about wine tours and river cruises, the city of Porto sits within striking distance of many beautiful beaches.
Portugal’s second-largest city is known mainly for the Douro River that flows through its pretty old town – but there are also plenty of beaches in the area, both within the city and nearby. From the bustling promenade of Praia dos Ingleses, in the Foz do Douro neighbourhood, to expansive surfing beaches and family-friendly Blue Flag-rated spots further afield, the city enjoys easy access to the coast.
Matosinhos is a major port and fishing town in the north of Porto – and it also boasts the largest beach in the region with easy access to the city. It might not be the prettiest beach near Porto, but it’s just 15 minutes drive from the centre and offers golden sands and waves that are suitable for surfing and bodyboarding. There are several surfing schools on the beach, where you can rent everything you need including a wetsuit, which you’ll need as the Atlantic waters are fairly cold even in summer.
Near the entrance to the River Douro lies Praia do Carneiro, a small windswept beach with a breakwater and the Farol de Felgueiras lighthouse at one end. The 16th-century fortress that lies behind the beach is perhaps more interesting than the beach itself: the impressive Fortaleza de São João da Foz was built to defend the mouth of the Douro and now hosts regular exhibitions. The beach also makes a good starting point for a walk along Porto’s dramatic seafront – especially on stormy days when waves crash over the lighthouse.
Escape the crowds and head to the traditional fishing village of Aguda, which is located midway between Porto and Espinho and easily accessible via the main Porto-Aveiro railway. The golden beach is lined with fisherman’s homes, laidback cafes and elegant holiday homes and features a small harbour tucked behind a sea wall. If you’re looking for a challenge, there’s also a cycle path that stretches all the way from Porto to Espinho.
The Pérgola da Foz is one of the city’s most iconic attractions – a golden, neoclassical-style pergola that sits on the promenade above Praia do Molhe and dates back to the 1930s. The beach is accessed via a staircase built into the cliffside and designed in the same style as the pergola. The beach itself features a stone jetty that protects the swimming area from the strong northerly swells – making it a pleasant spot to take a dip – and the sand is dotted with dramatic sculptural rock formations.
Vila Nova de Gaia is located just to the south of the city of Porto and is known as a hub of the port wine industry with countless tours and tastings on offer. It’s also known for its sandy beaches, such as Praia de Lavadores. This unbroken stretch of sand runs in front of Avenida Marginal and is ideal for coastal walks. For a sweet treat overlooking the beach, head to Cremosi, a cafe and gelateria serving freshly made ice cream, crepes, waffles and shakes on an expansive outdoor deck.
This beach takes its name – which translates to Helmsman’s Beach – from the bronze statue by Américo Gomes that was erected on Avenida de Montevideu in 1934. Depicting a man tightly gripping the helm of a boat, it honours the area’s fishermen. The sandy beach was the first in Porto to receive Blue Flag status and it’s also been awarded Golden Beach status for its accessibility. The two playgrounds and laid-back cafes make it a popular destination for families.
One of Porto’s more unusually named attractions is Castelo do Queijo – Cheese Castle – which is more properly known as the Fort of São Francisco Xavier and takes its nickname from the cheese-shaped rock on which it stands. The castle overlooks Praia Castelo do Queijo, a small stretch of sand and rocks fronting a promenade. While the neighbouring nearby Praia de Matosinhos is more popular, it can still get crowded on warm summer days.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Nina Santos.