The 26 Most Stunning Coastal Towns in Portugal

| Quick PS / Unsplash
Nina Santos

The ocean plays a major role in Portuguese culture, with most of the popular cities and towns in Portugal situated on the coast. From regional capitals to charming fishing villages, these seaside destinations will leave you speechless, while satisfying any thirst for the sea and sand. A word of warning, however: exploring these towns may induce cravings for seafood and long days spent lounging on the beach.

1. Tavira

Natural Feature

Sunset over Tavira, Portugal
Richard James / Unsplash

Unlike many of the resort-filled towns in the Algarve, Tavira is a bit more reminiscent of the country’s rural side, characterised by a slower pace and an antique feel. The Roman bridge, medieval castle and cafe-fringed square add to the town’s unique brand of beauty, making it one of the most alluring centres in the Algarve. Learn about the region’s Moorish occupation while seeing its memory in the architecture, and take advantage of the tucked-away beaches in the area.

2. Ferragudo

Architectural Landmark

Cobbled street and pink flowers in Ferragudo, Portugal
micheile henderson / Unsplash

Instead of staying in Portimão, seek something a bit quieter while still enjoying the busier neighbourhoods in the Western Algarve. Ferragudo is a beautiful fishing village decorated in white-washed homes and lined by a coast that’s sprinkled with boats. One must-see landmark is the Medieval Fort of São João de Arade that was once the watchtower in the area. Ferragudo is also close to many of the most beautiful beaches in the Algarve.

3. Cascais

Building, Architectural Landmark

Cascais, Portugal
Jeroen den Otter / Unsplash
This high-end resort town, just 30km (19mi) from Lisbon, is one of the more sought-after destinations of Portugal’s elite and extravagant tourists. It’s also a fantastic destination for anyone wanting a day away from the capital. Pay a visit to the rumbling Boca do Inferno for a beautiful view of seaside cliffs, or rent a bicycle to explore the town on two wheels.

4. Azeitão

Architectural Landmark

The Arrábida Mountains are home to the beautiful and romantic towns of Setubal and Sesimbra, but Azeitão may be even more charming, though it is less widely known. Covered in palace estates and vineyards, there are few towns that can claim to be its equal, and it’s also home to delicious culinary treats like the local azeitão cheese. This is also a fantastic destination for delving into the country’s azulejo tile art, and the Quinta da Bacalhôa wine estate won’t disappoint when it comes to art in addition to sampling wine.

5. Azenhas do Mar

Natural Feature

View of tidal pool and cliffside houses in Azenhas do Mar, Colares, Portugal
Vlad D / Unsplash
Located near the mystical city of Sintra, Azenhas do Mar is a destination cradled into a cliffside along the Atlantic Ocean. This sleepy fishing town offers a beautiful beach, amazing views and delicious seafood, while it’s also an ideal place to visit if you want to do nothing at all. Among the landmarks are the cliffside and local restaurant Azenhas do Mar.

6. Peniche

Memorial, Ruins

Person surfing in Peniche, Portugal
Luka Senica / Unsplash

Peniche is home to one of the most visited and beautiful beaches in the country, and it is a popular destination for seasoned surfers. Historically, it was also home to an important fortification that shifted from military protection to a prison. Still, this town is mostly visited for its coastal connection, including a prominent fishing industry. In addition to enabling you to spend days on the sand and watching surfing competitions, Peniche is close to truly spectacular landmarks like Berlengas Island.

7. Aveiro

Architectural Landmark

Aveiro, Portugal
Ricardo Resende / Unsplash

Otherwise known as the Venice of Portugal, Aveiro is characterized by a network of canals filled with colourful gondola-like boats. It is also home to the Costa Nova, where striped, rainbow-coloured fishing boats steal the show. Located just 70km (44mi) south of Porto, it’s a great destination when looking to spend a day away from Portugal’s “northern capital”.

8. Viana do Castelo

Building, Church

North of Porto, an architectural treat awaits anyone who loves antique buildings and history. Viana do Castelo is covered in spectacular infrastructure reflecting Renaissance, baroque, manueline and gothic styles. Among the most stunning buildings are the Santuário de Santa Luzia, with its hilltop perch and coastal backdrop, the main square called Praça de República and the Santa Casa da Misericórdia. This charming northern beach town is also where much of Portugal’s filigree jewellery originated.

9. Ponta Delgada

Botanical Garden, Church, Natural Feature

Ponta da Ferraria, Rua Padre Fernando Vieira Gomes, Ponta Delgada, Portugal
Parker Hilton / Unsplash

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the capital in the Azores. Green and blue mix with white and dark grey in this seaside city surrounded by the sea and mountainside, yet it is also filled with whitewashed and black basalt architecture. Among the most picturesque landmarks are the Portas da Cidade and the main city square. It’s common to see horse-drawn carriages moseying along the road and to hear happy squeals from local children playing on the shore.

10. Nazaré

Architectural Landmark

Nazaré, Portugal, at sunset from the cliffs
Jan vT / Unsplash

One of Nazarés biggest claims to fame is its reputation for huge waves, attracting the most adventurous big wave surfers like the legendary Garret McNamara, Guinness World Record holder for the largest wave surfed (in Nazaré). This isn’t the only reason to visit though. Nazaré is and has been one of the country’s most important fishing villages. Colorful boats decorate the coast and fishermen can still be seen cleaning the day’s fresh catch. While visiting, keep an eye out for women walking through the streets in traditional outfits characterized by several layers of skirts, once meant to keep them warm while they waited on the beach for their fishermen to return from sea.

11. Óbidos

Historical Landmark

Cobbled street in Óbidos, Portugal
Dennis Rochel / Unsplash
Óbidos is a beautiful town surrounded by its original medieval walls and one of the highlights is the unique city gate with an iconic azulejo mosaic inside the entrance. Known since the 13th century as the “wedding gift town” it was once presented by Portugal’s kings to their queens on their wedding days. Characterized by narrow cobblestone streets, clusters of white-washed houses decorated with colorful flowers, and the 8th-century Moorish castle that has been converted into a luxury hotel, Óbidos is a town that imprints on the memory of everyone who visits.

12. Sintra

Botanical Garden, Building, Ruins, Natural Feature

Palace of Pena in Sintra, Lisbon, Portugal.
DaLiu / Shutterstock
Sintra‘s history is reflected in each amazing manor home, palace, and exotic garden that together decorate the landscape. There is also the medieval town center intersected with narrow cobbled paths that wind between traditional cafés, restaurants, and homes. Once the home and vacation choice for Portugal’s royal families, it is now a popular tourist attraction and a charming place to live for those desiring proximity to Lisbon without actually being in the capital. Sintra isn’t directly on the coast, but it won’t take you long to find beach if you head west.

13. Angra do Heroísmo

Architectural Landmark

Blue and white building in Angra do Heroísmo, Azores, Portugal
Meg Pier / Unsplash

Angra do Heroísmo is a lovely town where time has stood still, which is saying a lot since it is also one of the oldest settlements of the Azores. Filled with history and culture, Angra do Heroísmo is quite the vision. All around are remarkable white-washed buildings bordered in a rainbow of pastel colors from light blues to yellows and peach. Centered around the 18th-century Praça Velha square, the rest of the town branches off in winding streets that head toward incredibly lovely architectural wonders including churches and forts. An interesting fact is that the town center has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the role it played during the Age of Discoveries.

14. Santana

Building

Quirky house in Santana, Madeira, Portugal
Rui Amaro / Unsplash

Plenty of travelers know to visit Madeira Island’s capital city Funchal, but have they heard of Santana? Just opposite the capital, facing towards the north, is this lovely town of under 8,000 people where you can find the island’s striking traditional houses called Casas Típicas de Santana. Shaped like triangles, these houses are built with stone and covered with thatched roofs. And do you like to dance? Santana is where you will find one of the island’s most popular folklore festivals, held annually in July.

15. Torres Vedras

Building, Ruins

Noted for the surrounding green farmland and vineyards, and filled with historic landmarks, it’s fair to say that there isn’t a bad time to visit Torres Vedras. Those who have seen the town come alive with parties and parades in February, however, would argue that the best time is at Carnival (known as Carnaval in Portugal). Torres Vedras has been celebrating Carnaval since the 19th century but the organization of official events began in 1912.

The Most Stunning Seaside Towns in the Algarve

The southern shores of Portugal are particularly famous for a string of charming coastal towns, usually accompanied by gorgeous golden beaches and perfect sunbathing weather. Our writer Amy Blyth takes you through the very best that the Algarve has to offer.

16. Aljezur and the Costa Vicentina

Natural Feature

Path towards a beach in Aljezur, Portugal
Thibault Mokuenko / Unsplash

Close to the border between Alentejo and the Algarve, the Costa Vicentina is home to many charming towns that enjoy delicious seafood and beautiful beaches nearly year-round. Usually skipped by tourists seeking the more popular Southern Portuguese cities like Albufeira, it is a hot spot among locals, either during the summer for sunbathing or in the winter for surfing. In addition to the traditional Portuguese appearance of the infrastructure and historical remains, the area’s beauty is enhanced by the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, a natural park.

17. Sagres

Architectural Landmark, Natural Feature

Sagres, Portugal
Koen Speelman / Unsplash

Face dramatic, windswept vistas in Sagres, home to a 17th-century fort that clings to the coast. From here, you can watch huge waves crash to shore and wander clifftop trails towards Cabo de São Vicente lighthouse, which marks the most southwesterly point in Europe. Sagres itself is one of the prettiest seaside towns in the Algarve, with a small marina and port famed for its lobster fishing – though it makes a perfect base for surfers who come to ride the Algarve’s gnarliest waves.

18. Faro

Apartment

Colourful church in southern Portugal
KOBU Agency / Unsplash

The airport is generally all that most tourists see of Faro, but there’s much more to discover in the Algarve’s historical capital. Pass through a stone arch into the Old Town, which is lined with shuttered Portuguese relics that lead to Cathedral Square; here you can climb the bell tower for views over the coast. Faro is also a base for boat trips to the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a network of salt-water lagoons and sandy islands home to flamingos and marine birds.

19. Quarteira

Natural Feature

Quarteira is one of the Algarve’s original resort towns, loved for its long promenade bursting with cafes and restaurants that spill onto the street. Its wide, sandy beach is perfectly positioned between Vale do Lobo – an exclusive beach resort backed by golf courses – and Vilamoura’s glitzy marina to the west. Aside from relaxing on the beach, you can mingle with locals at Quarteira’s fish and produce markets or shop for souvenirs at the gypsy market on the outskirts of town.

20. Albufeira

Architectural Landmark

Sandy beach in the sun in Albufeira, Portugal
Dahee Son / Unsplash

There’s a good reason why Albufeira is the Algarve’s top tourist haunt. Once a peaceful fishing village, the town now offers a blend of Portuguese charm and vibrant nightlife. By day, you can wander the cobblestone streets of the Old Town with its whitewashed Moorish architecture and then, when the sun goes down, hit the bars and clubs in the New Town’s strip. Then there’s the long stretch of golden beach backed by jagged cliffs, where you can hop on a boat trip down the coast.

21. Armação de Pêra

Natural Feature

This unassuming seaside town, just west of Albufeira, stands out for the remains of its 1667 fort, which sits on a promenade overlooking the beach. Walk west along the sand towards Galé, where a wooden boardwalk stretches across a bird-filled lagoon; or east along an almost-hidden coastal path for dramatic coastal views. Just inland, you’ll find Portugal’s best handmade pottery in nearby Porches.

22. Portimão

Natural Feature

Algarve Race Resort, Portimão, Portugal
Stephane Hurbe / Unsplash

Get a taste of local life in Portimão, one of the Algarve’s largest seaside cities. There’s a residential feel with modern apartment blocks sprawling out from the tree-lined Old Town, which is home to Portuguese-tiled buildings and seafood eateries. Portimão’s main beach, nearby Praia da Rocha, is famed for its surf-friendly waters and long sands littered with dramatic rock formations. Historically a shipbuilding and sardine fishing hub, Portimão is now the best place to book a boat trip to the Benagil Caves.

23. Vilamoura

Natural Feature

Swanky Vilamoura is a purpose-built resort town where the rich come to play. Picture million-dollar yachts bobbing in the marina, surrounded by high-end bars and restaurants, a casino and five-star hotels. The golfing set flock to Vilamoura for its six world-class courses but the town’s main attraction is the pristine, Blue Flag sands of Praia da Falesia. Regularly rated one of the best beaches in the world, Falesia stretches for 6km (3.7mi) and is lined with soaring, rust-coloured cliffs.

24. Lagos

Architectural Landmark

Quiet Baroque street in Lagos, Portugal
Vini Andrade / Unsplash

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Lagos. The historic center and scenic seaside cliffs are two features that make this destination stand out. Walk along the 16th-century city walls and visit the 18th-century Igreja de Santo António, a beautiful church that boasts amazing gilded work in Baroque style. Lagos was also where many expeditions during the Age of Discoveries began, and you can learn more about this historical period at the local museum.

Luz

Families love Luz for its quiet sandy cove, which is lapped by kid-friendly shallow waters. To the east, you’ll spot Rocha Negra, a huge black rock formed over 150 million years ago by Monchique’s now dormant volcano. Hike up here for sweeping views over Luz and the Atlantic, where clifftop walking trails stretch on to Sagres. The town’s family-run Portuguese eateries serve up local seafood dishes here, or you can head up to the yellow-and-white fort, now a restaurant, that dates back to the 17th century.

Cacela Velha

Cacela Velha, just 30km (19mi) from the Spanish border, is a hilltop village filled with white-washed cottages within the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Its main attraction is Praia da Fábrica, a long stretch of golden sand that shifts with the wind and tides, creating sparkling pools and lagoons. The village is protected by the remnants of a walled fort, which was ravaged by the 1969 earthquake. Visit in mid-July to experience the Noites da Moura Encantada festival – Nights of the Enchanted Moorish Women – to discover traditional arts and crafts, and more.
After a day of exploring beaches, you’ll want somewhere to rest – see our favourite holiday rentals in Cascais or the best hotels in the Algarve. Discover what more there is to do in Cascais, or head over to Lagos, where you can continue visiting beaches or relax in the bars and clubs in town.

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