Lisbon Beaches: where to swim, surf and sunbathe near the city



Lisbon is blessed with a stunning seafront, the Lisbon Coast, which encompasses the resort towns of Estoril and Cascais. Dotted along this fabulous waterfront are some excellent beaches, famed for their calm shallow waters, soft golden sands and brilliant water sports facilities. The bathing season begins in May and continues through to the end of September. During this period, teams of qualified lifeguards supervise the beaches listed below. 

In addition, every beach has been awarded a Blue Flag, a coveted environmental citation indicating that the area meets stringent management and sustainability criteria, the water quality is of the highest order and safety measures – lifesaving and emergency services – are in place. Praia de Carcavelos is the top beach sited nearest the city; Praia do Tamariz in Estoril is another popular option. The furthest beach from Lisbon, the wild and beautiful Praia do Guincho, is an established windsurf and kiteboarding destination. 

In Cascais, sunbathers and beachcombers are spoilt for choice, with pretty Praia da Rainha, Praia de Conceicao, Praia da Duquesa and Praia da Ribeira all within walking distance of each other, set as they are along the oceanfront promenade. Closer to Estoril are Praia da Poça and Praia das Moitas while further east back towards Lisbon is a local favourite, Praia de São Pedro do Estoril. Besides the Blue Flag, note that a green flag hoisted over the sand indicates that swimming is allowed; a yellow flag means do not swim. If a red flag is flying, do not enter the water. A chequered flag signifies that the beach is temporarily without lifeguard supervision.    



10
Outside the City


 

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 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.


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It's got a Blue Flag and a low tide affords a large expanse of golden sand. Otherwise 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.


8
Outside the City


 

Excellent public access has long made Moitas Beach a preferred destination for beachcombers and sunbathers, but this triangular wedge of sand is a premium location and can get packed out pretty quickly. A breakwater helps to appease the heavy swells that occasionally roll in from the Atlantic, and a rocky shoreline means care should be taken if duck diving from the water's surface. The beach is served by a couple of good café-restaurants â€" great people-watching territory! A medical first aid point stands nearby. Despite its dinky dimensions, the beach has been awarded a Blue Flag for cleanliness and water quality.


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Outside the City


 

A coveted Blue Flag flutters over this sliver of beach, which draws local families as this is a particularly attractive playground for kids, a place where parents can keep a close eye on their offspring. Praia da Poco, set on a pretty bay, flanks the Estrada Marginal, the busy road that links Lisbon with Cascais, so it's not the quietest of beaches. That said, it's packed full of amenities, including restaurants and snack bar kiosks, first-aid points and toilet facilities with disabled access. Despite its proximity to the main drag, the beach enjoys a picturesque location, set as it is between two weathered sea fortresses. Several grand and colourful 19th-century villas set on the clifftops that overlook the beach add to the sense of place.


6
Outside the City


 

So named because of the nearby Palacio dos Duques de Palmela (Dukes of Palmela Palace) which provides a suitably historic context, the 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 â€" kayaking, diving, water skiing and paddle boarding, among other pursuits. The fact that a Blue Flag flies over the area makes it even more attractive, with pristine sand lapped by crystal blue waters. The usual gamut of amenities, bars, cafes, restaurants, etc as well as a first aid post, makes Duquesa a great family outing destination.


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Outside the City


 

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.


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Outside the City


 

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 favourable conditions for water sports, and there a number of good restaurants and cafes located practically on the sand.


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Outside the City


 

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 but not the place to spread out your towel if peace and quiet is your thing. Above, a popular terrace café 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.


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Outside the City


 

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.


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Outside the City


 

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 sands 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.


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Paul Bernhardt cut his teeth as a press photographer in England before leaving the UK to settle in Portugal, where he has lived for over a decade, and where he started to focus on more...  More About Paul

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