Ask me how much I miss the constant rain of London right about now? Or perhaps, you’d like to know if I yearn for those three-hour treks at rush-hour to The Hamptons of Fire Island, along with the rest of New York City (seemingly all 10-million New Yorkers, all at once, equalling the entire population of Portugal in one city) beelining it to escape to the beach the moment May arrives?
Rhetorical questions aside, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Lisbon expat who doesn’t appreciate the mild weather and muitas praias (many beaches).
After careful consideration, the time has come to change my relationship status and officially break up with my former homelands. No, it’s not “complicated” it is over. While I will eternally have love for the time we shared, London. As for New York, you will forever be the Big Apple of my eye (besides one never forgets their first). However, all is fair in love and globetrotting.
Dearest London & NYC, I’m writing this to go on record: I have up and traded you both for my one true paramour. Respect my decision. I need the beach, and you can’t give me what I need. It’s not you it’s me.
Moving on. It’s a new dawn, it’s a new May… in Lisbon. With so many beaches, it was you all along lil’ Lisboa that has turned out to be the littoral sunshine of my life. Bom dia, meu amor!
Natural beauty and the beach
Locals and tourists come by the dozens to see this nature-beach south of Lisbon in Parque Natural da Arrábida where forests of green trails and rugged mountains open to cove-laden white sand beaches. Recognised as one of the top beaches not only in Lisbon, but the whole of Europe, Praia dos Galapinhos lives up to its reputation.
If seclusion is more your vibe, a less-people-infested jewel, Praia dos Galapos, is very close by. More an isolated bay for relaxing and snorkelling in the clear, calm waters, Setúbal has no shortage of stunning nature-meets-pristine beaches.
With a stretch of sand of over 250 metres, São Julião Beach is one of the most popular beaches in the municipality of Sintra. Surrounded by cliffs, this beach is enjoyed by surfers, fishermen and nature lovers. Go up the cliffs to enjoy the view over the majestic Ericeira.
Water sports thrill seekers
I tried kitesurfing at Praia do Guincho, located just north of Cascais, where the winds are always crashing Atlantic breakers over its golden sands. While the instructors are all cute (and bless them), they tried to help me get my kite flying, let’s just say I have never tried this ridiculously difficult sport again (and never will). That’s not to say, you shouldn’t give it a go – and Guincho is the place to do it. This is Lisbon’s leading beach destination for surfing, regularly playing host to national and international windsurfing and kitesurfing competitions. Amid the perpetual windswept, you will find a no-frills drinks and bites spot, Bar do Guincho. Come meet me there for a cocktail while watching the pro-surfers in action.
Take a journey
An hour’s drive north of Lisbon, Praia do Baleal is a heavenly body of honeyed sand, festooned with rocks, which create little nooks and lagoons for leisurely lapping about. While the Peniche peninsula is also good surfing destination, there are plenty more experiences to be had here past the swell. Fancy a little light rock climbing or bouldering? A bit further north, limestone cliffs plunge into ravines and sea grottos. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you will find seafood restaurants and beach bars along the coastline serving caught-that-day fresh fish.
Best eats beach
This is not the first time I have praised Praia da Adraga, a (thankfully) still rather primordial cove with fewer crowds than neighbouring spots such as the more-developed, hyper-popular Praia das Maçãs. The one and only eatery here is Restaurante da Adraga, and hands down the best one for seafood.
Another must-visit beach while in the Sintra area, is Azenhas do Mar, carved into the cliffs, this is a small piece of paradise. Bonus: Not only is Azenhas do Mar a site to behold, the pleasurable tiki bar is top notch, ostensibly etched into the sand and springing upward as if naturally part of the cliff themselves.
Close proximity beaches for city-dwellers, families, and action
located 20 minutes from Lisbon, Carcavelos beach is mainly frequented by those living in or visiting the capital. In Carcavelos you will find restaurants, bars open until dawn, a school of water sports like surf and windsurf and a place for beach soccer and volleyball.
- Another option is Tamariz beach, located in Estoril. Separate from the gardens of Estoril Casino by the roadway and railway, this beach a massive tourist attraction of the region, dotted by copious bars, nightclubs, hotels, shops, and restaurants. Bonus: right by the beach, facing São João do Estoril, there is an oceanview pool with the beautiful admission price of zero euros.
- The calm sea and stunning landscape make Figueirinha beach one of the most popular in Lisbon. A sand bank emerges when it is low tide, making this beach an easy choice for the the adults but even more so for the kids. There are slides and floating devices for rent, as well as restaurants and snack stations.
- Every guide I have seen seems to believe Fonte da Telha is still some sleepy fishing community with a few beach shacks, where only Portuguese families go. Sorry, but this beach is officially on the tourist’s radar, and hyper-popular with locals from Almada and Lisbon, making it always buzzing with activity. Located on the edge of the Arriba Fóssil, a natural pine and eucalyptus forest, Fonte da Telha is indeed a knockout where honeyed sand and deep blue ocean is set to the backdrop of sculpted sandstone cliffs and verdant lands that stretch for miles.