The closest beach to the centre of Lisbon, Praia da Caxias isn't the biggest or prettiest band of sand along the Lisbon coast but it's certainly the most convenient, reached as it is by train just 15 minutes west of the city. Indeed, Caxias railway station is set right in front of it, on the other side of the road! Cut in half by the historic star-shaped 17th-century Forte de Sao Bruno, Praia de Caxias is two beaches for the price of one, so to speak. The bigger half runs to another centuries-old landmark, Forte da Giribita, completed in 1679. These sea forts embrace an attractive beach lapped by clear shallow water, making it ideal for families with youngsters. Its eastern end is the most popular, set as it is near a bar-cafe and served during the bathing season by life guards. The less sheltered pocket of sand on the other sites of Forte de Sao Bruno slopes into slightly deeper water. Both beaches feature a number of free-to-use fresh water shower units, and there are toilet facilities close at hand.
Recommended for Beaches because: Praia da Caxias is the first beach of note heading west along the Lisbon coast. It's ideal for those seeking a quick-fix dip and sunbathing session.
Paul's expert tip: For a pleasant walk, head east from Caxias along the oceanfront promenade to Cruz Quebrada railway station to catch the train back to Lisbon.
Praia da Torre is distinguished by a gorgeous swathe of powdery sand and enjoys a splendid setting under the shadow of the imposing 16th-century Forte de Sao Juliao de Barra. Lapped by a gentle crystal-clear sea, the beach is effectively a sheltered cove hemmed in to the east by Oeiras Marina, the harbour wall of which serves as a windbreak. An excellent swimming beach, Praia da Torre is also an appealing sun-lounging destination. Safe for families and facilitated by a pair of lively beach cafes, the location benefits from lifeguard patrols during the summer season. Overlooking the beach on top of the cliff is the Luar da Barra, an inviting bar that is housed in a vintage railway carriage. Praia da Torre is not the easiest beach to reach by public transport. It sits equidistant between the railway stations of Santo Amaro and Carcavelos, with Santo Amaro providing the more convenient access requiring a lovely 30-minute walk west along the promenade to the marina. Santo Amaro incidentally is another Blue Flag beach location, but this can get uncomfortably crowded high summer.
Recommended for Beaches because: Praia da Torre is a good deal quieter than its near neighbours and benefits from the proximity of Oeiras Marina's leisure facilities.
Paul's expert tip: Located on the opposite side of Forte de Sao Juliao de Barra and within easy walking distance is Praia de Carcavelos.
Fringing the coastal town of Estoril, Tamariz has long been a favourite with locals and those tourists staying in this smart and lively resort. It's a wide run of sand, and the beach enjoys a wealth of amenities, including pedalo rental, diving facilities and a roped-off section surrounding concessionary sun loungers set under parasols. A row of restaurants, bars and cafes line the seafront promenade that overlooks the beach, and the esplanade snakes west along the coast connecting Estoril with Cascais, 2km away. Tamariz is a Blue Flag beach meaning its waters are safe and super clean and set within a sustainable environment. But if you prefer to relax in a more controlled leisure zone, the neighbouring ocean swimming pool, with temperatures a little warmer than the sea, is an ideal alternative.
Recommended for Beaches because: A long established leisure destination with excellent infrastructure, Tamariz Beach is also a great nightspot â" free firework displays take place on Saturday nights throughout summer.
Paul's expert tip: Estoril railway station is set right on the beach. After alighting, nip through the underpass and you're practically on the sand.
It's got a Blue Flag and a low tide affords a large expanse of golden sand. But S. Pedro's narrow beachfront is usually the domain of surfers and anglers, except during high summer when local residents make it their own, helped by excellent road and pedestrian access (although the railway station is a bit of a jaunt). When the tide is out it exposes a promontory known as Pedra do Sal (Salt Stone), a geographical feature made up of limestone and marl and believed to be between 90 and 120 million years old. Leisure facilities extend to a decent restaurant and one or two smaller cafes. A car park collects a lot of traffic, inevitably at weekends and most days during August.
Recommended for Beaches because: Although not so well known, Praia S. Pedro do Estoril is a useful alternative to some of the more popular tourist beaches.
Paul's expert tip: It's best to drive in order to reach this beach as it's a bit of a jaunt from any bus or railway station.
So named because of the nearby Palacio dos Duques de Palmela (Dukes of Palmela Palace) which provides the region with a suitably historic context, Duchess Beach is another stretch of sand located very near Cascais town centre and connected by a wonderful seafront promenade to S. Joao do Estoril. Geared towards providing excellent water sports facilities including kayaking, diving, water skiing and paddle boarding, among other pursuits, the fact that a Blue Flag flies over the beach makes it even more attractive, with pristine sand lapped by crystal blue waters. The usual gamut of bars, cafes, restaurants, and other leisure amenities, as well as a first aid post, makes Duquesa a great family outing destination.
Recommended for Beaches because: Praia da Duquesa is located right next to the bus and railway station, sited under the promenade, and is a favourite with families.
Paul's expert tip: There are sun lounger and parasol concession, but arrive early as they are hired out very quickly.
Effectively the beach that constitutes Cascais Bay, Ribeira Beach is a compact half-moon delight, a crescent of sand wedged in between the resort's wonderfully breezy promenade and a fisherman's pier. During the summer months it can get uncomfortably crowded â" this is not a place to seek peace and solitude. It is however within a few minutes walking from the town centre with all its music bars, great seafood restaurants and appealing visitor attractions. The beach enjoys Blue Flag status meaning the water quality is excellent and the surrounding environment is soundly managed. Swimming is safe but remember this is a busy fishing town, and the bay is used by dozens of small, motorized boats on a daily basis.
Recommended for Beaches because: The nearest swathe of sand to Cascais, Ribeira Beach is literally a step off the pavement away from the town centre.
Paul's expert tip: Inquire at the tourist board offices about the free music concerts that take place on the promenade throughout the summer months.
Named after a little chapel overlooking the beach that was built to honour Our Lady of Conceicao, this beach, located in the centre of Cascais between the upmarket Albatroz Seafront Hotel and the rather splendid Chalet Faial, is one of the busiest in the area due to its fabulous position. Despite its proximity to the resort's fishing port, the beach has been awarded Blue Flag status due to the cleanliness and sustainability of the immediate environment. Its layout is also favourable for those with limited mobility. The calm waters offer great conditions for water sports, and there are a number of good restaurants and cafes located practically on the sand.
Recommended for Beaches because: Its central location and easy accessibility from the town's railway station makes Praia do Conceição an obvious choice for residents and day-trippers.
Paul's expert tip: The beach marks the beginning of the seafront promenade, which stretches for 3km east all the way to S. Joao do Estoril â" one of the most pleasant walks in the region!
Arguably the most attractive of beaches along the Lisbon coast, the "Queen's Beach" is also the smallest â" a pocket-sized wedge of sand squeezed between a row of beachfront apartments and townhouses smack bang in Cascais old town. Not surprisingly, it's enormously popular and not the place to spread out your towel if peace and quiet is your thing. Above, a popular terrace cafÃ© provides onlookers with plenty of distraction â" another reason to think twice if it's privacy you seek. That said, the beach is wonderfully novel and has been awarded a Blue Flag for water quality and a sustainable environment. There's not much in the way of extra leisure amenities, there's no room! But in two minutes you can be in the centre of town with access to shops, restaurants and other visitor attractions.
Recommended for Beaches because: With its picture postcard aspect, warm shallow waters and a tangible holiday atmosphere, tiny Praia da Rainha is a top sunbathing draw.
Paul's expert tip: It's a five-minute walk from the bus and railway station, making this beach an extremely popular out-of-Lisbon excursion destination.
An enormous amphitheater of golden sand backed by rolling dunes, Guincho's spectacular setting is reason enough to visit (it's also a Blue Flag location). The ocean, however, is equally appealing, not least for windsurfers and kiteboarders. This is one of Europe's premier water sports locations and while the waves are usually too big to swim in â" not to mention the peril of strong undertows â" seasoned surfistas will enjoy a truly memorable occasion. Brisk westerlies often ruin sunbathing sessions, with draughts of wind whipping up fine veils of sand. It can be chilly too, even during the height of summer. Instead, this is a beach to admire for its wild beauty, and a walk along the shore while admiring the acrobatic prowess of those on boards or under sail is the best way to appreciate this natural wonder. Regular buses from Cascais, 6km away, ensure Guincho's within easy reach. By the way, did you know that the beach served as a location for the 1969 James Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service?
Recommended for Beaches because: The untamed nature of Guincho means it's never crowded, even in summer, which keeps the bucket and spade brigade well away.
Paul's expert tip: Water sports aficionados should visit in August when legs of the World Windsurfing Championships are usually held.
Arguably the most popular Lisbon beach, and one of the area's largest (nearly 2km long) Blue-flagged Carcavelos is a fifteen-minute walk from the railway station along Avenida Jorge V. Its close proximity to the city makes it popular with families, especially at weekends during the summer months. Water sports enthusiasts, too, are drawn here for the reliable surf, and the broad swathe of soft golden sand is a magnet for sun worshippers and holidaymakers. Amenities number several surf schools, a plethora of cafes and restaurants, and several bar-kiosks dotted along the esplanade. A large car park with metered bays is conveniently sited alongside the busy marginal highway that flanks the beach.
Recommended for Beaches because: Excellent public transport connections from central Lisbon and easy access from local rail and bus stations make Carcavelos one of the area's most popular beaches.
Paul's expert tip: There are designated surfing zones (the beach is a renowned surfing spot), and sun loungers and parasols can be hired.