Lisbon is surrounded by a stunning coastline that offers a variety of beautiful sandy beaches, many of which are easily accessible from the capital by public transport. The beaches of Lisbon extend along four very different coastlines, which range from unspoilt surfing beaches through to calm, family-friendly, beaches packed with great tourist facilities.
The close proximity of Lisbon to these beaches is not well publicised, and few visitors realise that a holiday to Lisbon can combine the delights of a city break with the relaxation of a beach holiday. This guide will detail the four different coastlines, highlight the best beaches and provide general advice for visiting Lisbon’s beautiful beaches.
The beaches of Lisbon can be divided into four main regions with the following characteristics:
The Estoril-Cascais Coastline
Estoril-Cascais coastline extends to the west of Lisbon and offers family friendly beaches, which are popular with locals and tourists alike but can get crowded in the peak season. These beaches are easily accessible from Lisbon, connected by an inexpensive train service, making the Estoril coastline ideal for tourists wanting a day trip to the beach. The Praia de Carcavelos is the largest and best beach of the region, while the historic fishing port of Cascais is a great destination for a holiday. For a summary of all of the beaches along the Estoril-Cascais Coastline, please click here.
The Serra de Sintra Coastline
The Serra de Sintra provides a coastline of unspoilt beaches, which face the might of the Atlantic Ocean and make them fantastic for surfing. These beaches have a wild and rugged appearance, with almost no tourist development, as their idyllic setting is protected by the Serra de Sintra national park. This does mean that there is virtually no public transport and a rental car is need to reach them. The most famous beach of the region is the Praia de Guincho, while Praia das Maçãs is a charming resort town.
The Costa da Caparica coastline
The Costa da Caparica coastline is a 15km continuous stretch of golden sands that extend along the entire western side of the Setubal Peninsular. The region combines great surf, pristine beaches with a trendy bar scene. The northern end of the coastline has the most tourist development, centred on the popular resort town of Costa da Caparica, and from here there are regular buses to Lisbon.
Serra da Arrábida Coastline
The beautiful Serra da Arrábida coastline extends along the southern side of the Setubal Peninsular. The picturesque beaches of the Serra da Arrábida are surrounded by the steep forested hills of the national park and open out on turquoise and calm sea waters. This region is considered to have some of the finest beaches of Portugal but is the furthest from Lisbon and a rental car is a must. Sesimbra is a great base from which to explore this region and is adored by the Portuguese who flock here on holiday. For a guide to Sesimbra please click here.
If you are looking for a beach day trip from Lisbon then head to Praia de Carcavelos or Praia Sao Pedro. Both beaches are on the Lisbon-Cascais railway, they have large sandy beaches with clean waters and excellent tourist facilities, which make them ideal for the majority of visitors.
Many other tourist guides list the best beaches of the Lisbon region but these will include beaches further than Sesimbra (+25km away) or are impossible to reach via public transport. Praia de Carcavelos or Praia Sao Pedro beaches are only 20/25 minutes away via a reliable train service (€4.20 return) and are family friendly but with waves suitable for body boarding or splashing around in.
When to visit
The weather in Lisbon is suitable for spending time (and sunbathing) on the beach from May through to September and the beaches will be at their busiest from July to August. At the weekends during the summer months, it can feel as if the entire population of Lisbon has moved to the beach and it is often better to visit during the working week (Mon-Fri).
Things to be aware of
Water temperature: The waters surrounding the Lisbon coastline are shockingly cold, even at the height of the summer the water temperature reaches a shiver-inducing 15C. The water temperature remains cold, even in summer, as it is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, not the comparatively warm Mediterranean Sea. For tourists intending to be in the waters for an extended period, it is advisable to bring/hire a wetsuit.
Sun protection: The intense summer sun means that most tourists will need to use a parasol to create some shade and, as such, rental prices are highly inflated. Expect to pay between 12-15 Euro for a day’s rental, which includes two deck chairs. Sunscreen and sun block are incredibly expensive in Portugal and it is advisable to bring these items from home as it will save money.
Safety: Many of Lisbon’s surfing beaches have hidden rocks or dangerous currents, always surf (and swim) where it is safe to do so and follow any instructions lifeguards provide.
The following section details the different coastal regions near Lisbon and highlights the best beaches in each of these areas.
The Estoril, Cascais and Oeiras coastline is the most popular and accessible from central Lisbon. These beaches are located directly west on the northern bank of the Tagus River Estuary.
Beaches in this area are characterised by calm waters and a family-friendly atmosphere but can get very busy during peak season. This is due to the excellent train service connecting Lisbon with Cascais. The best beach in this region is undoubtedly Praia de Carcavelos. Click here for a guide to the beach.
Estoril and Cascais are popular holiday destinations, filled with traditional Portuguese charm, and are highly recommended for a short holiday.
The Costa da Caparica coastline stretches along the western side of the Setubal Peninsular. The beach is located on the southern side of the Tagus River but faces in a westerly direction. This 15km beach stretches continuously along the length of the peninsula and offers great surfing, cool beach bars and miles of uninterrupted golden sand.
The northern end of the peninsula, around the town of Costa da Caparica, has good public bus connections that make the beach accessible as a day trip from Lisbon. Costa da Caparica is a good destination for tourists looking for a relaxed, modern beach holiday. Click here for a guide to the Costa da Caparica.
The Serra de Sintra coastline is located north of Cascais against the Atlantic Ocean. As these beaches are protected by the Serra de Sintra National Park there is limited tourist development. Visitors to this region are instead treated to a more wild and rugged beach experience.
The beaches are renowned for the amazing surf, and visitors can partake in a variety of water sports here. There are powerful waves and currents in this area and less confident swimmers should be wary. The best beach in this region is undoubtedly Praia de Guincho. Click here for a guide to the beach.
The lack of tourist development along the Serra de Sintra coastline makes travelling by public transport rather complicated (a combination of train and bus is required). Therefore, for tourists wishing to visit this surfer’s paradise, it is highly recommended to travel by car or to stay at nearby Cascais.
The pretty resorts of Sesimbra and Setubal are situated on the southern side of the Setubal Peninsular. As these beaches are too far to visit in one day by public transport, it is recommended to visit by car.