The Best Beaches Close to Lisbon
by Thuha Nguyen
Living in Lisbon not only gives you the opportunity to live in one of Europe’s most charming cities, you will also have close proximity to some of the most beautiful beaches. I’m a huge beach person, so moving to Lisbon was like living in paradise. I felt like I was on vacation everyday. When I first came here, everyone told me to go to Cascais because it’s both very easily accessible and the beaches were amazing. I went there 2 weeks after I arrived to Lisbon and I have to be honest… I was quite disappointed. Maybe it’s because I’ve been to places like the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia and Brazil, but I was not impressed. I’ve become a beach snob basically, so the search for the perfect beach close to Lisbon continued. Luckily, I met a friend here that has a car, which made it possible for us to venture a bit outside of Lisbon and get to the less accessible places. I found three beaches that I really like and I will tell you why (and how to get there from Lisbon):
1. Ribeira do Cavalo
This is one of the most popular beaches close to Lisbon and is situated in Sesimbra, Setúbal district. In order to get there, you need to do a little hike. This is one of the easier hikes I’ve done here though, and I even did it with my Birkenstocks (which I always do!). It takes about 30 minutes from where the trail starts. If you come here with a car, you can start by the trail. There will be signs… and probably other people as well. This is quite a popular beach amongst locals, so if you are planning on going high season, don’t count on being alone. Especially on weekends. However, the beach is spectacular and the view before ascending down makes it all worth it. The water is calm as well, so it’s a great place to swim – but always expect the water to be freezing! Although after laying in the scorching sun, you will be thankful that the water isn’t the same temperature as your body. If you decide to come by bus, you can take the bus to Sesimbra and take a boat from the marina to Ribeira do Cavalo. Otherwise you can also take a taxi to the beginning of the trail – I’m sure the taxi driver will know where it is. If you feel lazy on the way back, you can always take the boat for 5€. The last one goes at approximately 18:00.
Pros: Beautiful sand beach with calm water (which can be hard to find in Portugal). Also not that hard to hike down.
Cons: A lot of people during high season and boats that comes to pick people up and drop them off.
2. Praia dos Galapos & Galapinhos
Me and my friend had heard about this beach from her colleague so we thought – why not explore a bit. It is also located in the Setúbal district and it’s a bit more difficult to hike here than to Ribeira do Cavalo. It took us around 35-45 minutes and you have to be very attentive while hiking down. It’s not the most obvious trail either, but there’s usually people hiking either up or down, so it’s easy to follow and see where the path goes. Once down, you will see green water and almost an untouched sand beach. The water here is calm as well, so you just have to be brave enough to face the cold water! Praia dos Galapos is the bigger beach, while Galapinhos is the smaller one. You have to hike a bit between these two beaches. In high season they close that road, since there are just TOO many tourists parking their car everywhere, and the ambulances can’t come through if an accident would occur. There are buses as well, so you can always park your car, take a bus to the trail and hike down. If you go by public transportation from Lisboa, you need to go to Setúbal first with a train, and from there take a bus to Praia de Figuerinha. It’s a bit tricky to get here without a car, so I’d recommend renting one.
Pros: It was voted Europe’s most beautiful beach a year ago, and I can’t disagree to be honest. The water is calm, the beach is gorgeous and the atmosphere was great. Lots of locals come here, which is always a good sign!
Cons: A bit difficult to hike down. Always be careful of your step.
3. Praia da Ursa
And so we have come to my favourite beach so far. I have become a bit hard to impress when it comes to beaches, but I loved this beach. It is situated close to Cabo da Roca, in Sintra National Park, and it takes around 45 minutes to drive there. This is definitely the hardest hike out of these three, but I saw a father hiking down with his baby so… I guess anything’s possible! It’s also known to be a nude beach, so don’t be surprised if you see some nudity. This beach took my breath away because of the rock formations and how alive it looked. The waves can be rough though, so I didn’t go in the water, but I was also wearing underwear because it was a very spontaneous trip (sue me). I think it took us around 40 minutes to hike down, but it’s very steep, so I really recommend you wearing sneakers. I was smart enough to put my Nike’s on. Once you’re down, you will never wanna go back up. Or just until your hunger kicks in and the cold breezes in the evening arrives.
Once again, we got here by car and parked it just by the sign where it said “Praia da Ursa”. It’s a small sign, so keep an eye open. It’s located very close to Cabo da Roca, which is the westernmost extent of continental Europe. You can even start walking from there to where the trail starts, it’ll just add some extra minutes. If you come from Lisbon, take the bus to either Sintra or Cascais, and from there take bus nr 403. It’s worth going to Cabo da Roca first, so don’t miss out on that one! And don’t forget that Praia da Ursa is not for the faint hearted. But it is so worth it.
Pros: Everything. Seriously! That it’s a bit secluded and hard to access, so you won’t meet too many people down there. The beach is gorgeous to look at and the trail down is also beautiful.
Cons: It IS difficult to hike down(!!) and if you don’t bring enough water or snacks, then your only option is to hike up and go to a supermarket.