Portugal's 10 Most Beautiful Seaside Towns

Tavira // Photo by anyaivanova/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

by Mary Lussiana, The Telegraph, November 15, 2018

Continuing our series of Europe’s most seductive seaside towns, Telegraph Travel’s Portugal expert reveals her favourite spots. Previous articles looked at the best options in France and Spain

1. Tavira

The Algarve’s prettiest town, with a seven-arched bridge that allegedly dates back to Roman times, a Moorish castle, characteristic upturned terracotta tiled roofs known as Telhados de Quatro Águas (roofs of four waters) and an abundance of church towers. It sits in the Ria de Formosa Natural Park on a coastline of unblemished golden beaches and crystal clear waters protected from development. Just offshore is sandy Ilha de Tavira, a popular island, which can be reached by ferry.

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Nearest airport: Faro

2. Olhão 

A fishing town since the Middle Ages, Olhão, with its square, flat topped Moorish houses, remains authentically Algarvean. It is famous for its red-brick domed fish market, the best in the region, which stands on the waterfront surrounded by restaurants. A cluster of beautiful sand spit island beaches lie in front of the town, protecting the marshy lagoon. These are reached within minutes by ferry but be sure to return in time for the incredible sunsets in Olhão.

Nearest airport: Faro

3. Cascais

A holiday resort for well over a century, the history of this fishing village turned summer residence for wealthy Lisboetas is visible in the large villas which line the waterfront around the sandy bay. Fishing still goes on as you will see if you head to the charming old town square beyond which the small boats come in. Enveloping the Old Town are some excellent new hotels and restaurants.

Nearest airport: Lisbon

4. Nazaré

With a glorious beach in a sweeping bay backed by high cliffs, the fishing town of Nazaré has maintained much of its traditional character despite its popularity as a summer resort. Fishermen dressed in traditional checked shirts and black stocking caps mend their nets on the beach while women in layers of colourful petticoats sell the catch in the market and place fish to dry on wire racks on the beach.

Nearest airport: Lisbon

5. Lagos

Photo by Nisangha/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

A bustling town with a big marina and lively nightlife, Lagos was conquered by the Arabs in the 8th century who left behind fortifications visible today. Not to be missed is the Igreja de Santo António (Church of St. Antony), a Baroque masterpiece of gilded wood and blue and white tiles. There are many beaches within walking distance from the town centre; most notable is sheltered Dona Ana where spectacular limestone rocks stud the azure waters.

Nearest airport: Faro

6. Azeitão

Set amidst olive groves and vineyards at the foot of the Arrábida Mountains, south of Lisbon, Azeitão, known for its unctuous sheep’s cheese, is a delightful town with several excellent beaches within easy reach. A classical palace marks the entrance to the town with the José Maria da Fonseca cellars, which produce the region’s famous Moscatel, in the centre. Just two kilometres away is the 15th century Quinta da Bacalhôa, considered one of the country’s loveliest houses.

Nearest airport: Lisbon

7. Azenhas do Mar

This picturesque little town clings to the cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean, with natural rock pools beneath it that fill up at high tide – a great place for children to spot marine life. Have lunch at the restaurant built into the cliffs, also called Azenhas do Mar, for a taste of Portugal’s abundant fresh seafood: giant lobsters, scarlet prawns and goose barnacles.

Nearest airport: Lisbon

Spain's 15 most beautiful seaside towns 

8. Peniche

This is a popular destination for surfers and sun-seekers alike with its beautiful beach and big waves. The town is partly enclosed by 16th century walls and has an impressive Fortaleza (fortress) from the same date which, now a museum, was used a prison during the Salazar regime. The Cathedral of Misericórdia has richly decorated 17th century interiors. Good seafood restaurants line the port which also offers excellent deep-sea fishing facilities and trips out to the Berlenga Islands.

Nearest airport: Lisbon

9. Aveiro

This little town was once a great sea port and its history includes an appearance in Countess Mumadona’s will in AD 959. In the 16th century it grew rich on the salt and dried cod brought back from Newfoundland by the many fishermen. Rivers and canals, filled with colourful gondola-like boats, give it added character – and its modern nickname of ‘the Venice of Portugal’. 

Nearest airport: Porto

10. Viana do Castelo 

Rich with opulent mansions in Manueline, Renaissance and Baroque styles, Viana do Castelo lies in a beautiful setting on the Lima estuary. It was prominent in the 16th century providing ships and seafarers for Portugal’s great maritime discoveries. The winding streets in the town centre lead to the attractive main square Praça da Republica, dominated by the gothic arched Paços do Concelho. Excellent beaches lie to the north and south of the town.

Nearest airport: Porto

 

This article was written by Mary Lussiana from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

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