The Most Stunning Seaside Towns in Portugal
Ferragudo is one of the prettiest spots in the Algarve, Portugal | © BANANA PANCAKE / Alamy Stock Photo
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.
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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 town 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.
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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.
Aljezur and the Costa Vicentina
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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.
Building, Architectural Landmark
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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.
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.
Azenhas do Mar
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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 the local restaurant
, also called Azenhas do Mar.
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.
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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”.
Viana do Castelo
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 hill-top 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.
Botanical Garden, Church, Natural Feature
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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.
These recommendations were updated on September 14, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.