Charity De Souza is a Florida native and travel enthusiast. Traveling to over 50 countries abroad and residing in 6, she has a passion for exploring new cultures. While Central Florida is where she calls home, her favorite travel memories include skydiving in Switzerland and watching the sunset in Morocco.
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Georgie started her career as a news journalist at Yahoo before moving into branded content at a travel start-up in London. She’s been writing for eight years but has been full-time freelancing since 2019. Georgie’s work has appeared in publications including The Guardian, Fodor’s, ELLE Magazine, VICE UK, and more.
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Known for its picturesque coastline, Portugal is home to an array of charming coastal towns where you can stroll the shoreline, dine on succulent seafood and explore historic landmarks. Boasting beautiful beaches, these small fishing villages and towns lure you to the shoreline and offer spectacular scenery around every corner. Read on to discover our picks for the most charming coastal towns in Portugal.
Located in the Algarve, Carvoeiro is a beautiful fishing village with a laid-back ambiance that is often overlooked due to its nearby counterparts. This coastal town has a lot to offer aside from its idyllic views of the Algarve region. Said to have come from the old word “caboiere”, which means “hamlet of”, its Praia do Paraiso beach also translates to “paradise beach”. If you’re up for an adventure, head to the famous Benagil caves for a memorable day trip.
Most people know of Nazaré for its thrill-seeking surfing, thanks to the Nazaré Canyon, an underwater geomorphological phenomenon that allows the swell to form to perfect giant waves. But this coastal town has plenty more to offer, no matter whether you’re here to watch the surfing or just to explore the town itself. Nestled on the majestic Silver Coast of Portugal, this quaint fishing village is home to vibrant houses and colorful fishing boats, creating a postcard-perfect scene. If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll want to check out the catch of the day at local restaurants for unbeatable dishes. And, before you leave, take a visit to Sitio for panoramic views of the coastline and the iconic Nazaré lighthouse.
Another top spot for adrenaline junkies, Ericeira is considered the surfing capital of Europe and is the only European spot among the World Surfing Reserves. Perched along Portugal’s breathtaking Costa de Lisboa, Ericeira is a fishing village turned surfers’ paradise that blends traditional Portuguese architecture with a bohemian flair. While Ericeira might just be a town, you’ll want to reserve at least five days to truly experience the unique atmosphere here. Visit the picturesque harbor or spend your time in this gorgeous village soaking up the sunshine on its beautiful beaches. Ericeira is also only around 45 minutes away from Lisbon, making it a great spot to add to your itinerary even if you’re short on time.
A beautiful coastal resort town, Cascais is a popular day trip from Lisbon. You’ll be lured in by the city’s charming old town, filled with patterned pavements, quaint boutiques, and a mix of architectural features. The beach area is a great escape in the summertime, where you’ll find a lively coast full of sunseekers. It has been a busy fishing port since medieval times when King Luis I moved his summer activities to the Palacio da Cidadela, the town’s 17th-century waterfront fortress. Spend a day at Praia do Guincho watching the windsurfers, then take a break in the leafy Parque do Marechal.
Not far from Sintra, Azenhas do Mar is a great place to escape the bustle of the city. This beautiful cliffside destination boasts a sandy beach along the Atlantic Ocean, where you can kick back and admire the sleepy fishing town and admire the spectacular vistas while you indulge in fresh seafood platters. Make sure to stop and dine at Azenhas do Mar, a local cliffside restaurant serving up beautiful views and fresh grilled fish.
Sagres is a windswept coastal town enveloped by towering cliffs and beautiful horizons that fuses together all of Portugal’s best features. Here, wander through the ancient ruins of the Fortaleza de Sagres or gaze out at the mystical Cape of St. Vincent, where waves crash against the rugged cliffs. Stroll through the cobblestone streets to discover centuries-old chapels or embrace the thrill of surfing and ride Sagres’ surging waves alongside locals and tourists. More of a relaxer than an explorer? Bask on the golden sands of Sagres’ idyllic beaches, with the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean only steps away. Sagres is also less tourist-geared than other Algarve towns, offering more of an authentic Portuguese experience.
Sitting north of Porto, Viana do Castelo is home to medieval charms and beautiful beaches. Here you can explore one of Portugal’s oldest coastal towns, which once served as an entry point for explorers and traders since the 16th century. Start your holiday in Praca da Republica, the town square, then admire the historic churches, ornate fountains, and old town hall. Stop to see Navio Gil Eanes, a former medical ship that serves as a floating museum.
Nicknamed the “Venice of Portugal”, Aveiro boasts a beautiful maze of canals that wind throughout the city. One of Europe’s best-kept secrets, its charming streets are lined with excellent examples of Portuguese architecture, from the white-washed Mediterranean houses to the traditional “azulejo” facades. You’ll find colorful gondolas floating along the canals, while historic sites, gorgeous beaches, and an excellent food scene offer plenty of captivating scenery. Make sure to visit the São Gonçalinho Chapel and the Convento de Jesus to admire architecture and artwork, while the Aveiro Cathedral features beautiful Baroque architecture.
Explore the coastal town of Peniche on a day trip from Lisbon, as it’s only an hour’s drive north. It was an island until the 16th century and a busy fishing port since ancient times, while the walled part of town is dominated by an impressive fortress that has now been turned into a museum with fascinating artifacts. Known for its world-class beaches and waves, it is considered a hotspot for surfers with a peninsula that juts out in the Atlantic Ocean. Watch them catch waves at Praia dos Supertubos or head to the Peniche Port to watch the local fishermen bring in the catch of the day.
Nestled along Portugal’s beautiful Algarve coast, Tavira boasts unspoiled architecture and rich history. Located two miles from the ocean in Portugal’s southern region, this beautiful town in Portugal has been standing since the Bronze Age and is considered a walker’s paradise with its cobblestone streets that wind through leafy parks, a beautiful castle, over a romantic Roman bridge and past Gothic and Renaissance churches. Make sure to have some fun in the sun at the white sand beaches and take a dip in the clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
The capital of the Azores archipelago, Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel is considered the starting point for breaks on the volcanic islands. You’ll find a charming collection of attractions here, including the Sao Bra Fortress and iconic Portas da Cidade. Surrounded by the sea and mountainside, it is dotted with whitewashed and black basalt architecture, and is common to spot horse-drawn carriages traversing the roads.
Aljezur and nearby Costa Vicentina boast charming towns that offer beautiful beaches and local seafood restaurants serving up the daily catch. Instead of visiting the more tourist-packed areas of Albufeira, visit this area to enjoy sunbathing in the summer, while winter is great for surfers wanting to catch a big wave. Take a stroll to admire the traditional Portuguese infrastructure and explore its variety of historical remains, then meander through the greenery in Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina.
If you’re looking for an Algarve coastal retreat without all the crowds, head to Ferragudo. You’ll be within an arm’s reach of some of the area’s best beaches while being able to enjoy the laid-back fishing village ambiance. Admire the white-washed homes and bobbing boats along the shore, then visit the historic Sao Joao de Arade, which used to be the area’s watchtower. Sit back in one of the quaint cafes and watch the daily catch being unloaded or sit on the beach and take a dip in the calm waters of the estuary.
Bali has Uluwatu and Australia has Bondi. Portugal has Comporta: a coastal gem that blends natural beauty with laid-back charm. This tranquil village, embraced by rolling sand dunes and pristine beaches, has arguably the best stretch of coastline throughout the country and offers a serene escape from the bustle of nearby cities. Stroll along the peaceful streets and unwind on the unspoiled shores. Savor delicious local cuisine in quaint seaside restaurants, digging into local Alentejo specialties not often found in Portugal’s larger spots. With its untouched landscapes and relaxed ambiance, Comporta will have you daydreaming about visiting again before you’ve even left.
Vila Nova de Milfontes is undisputedly a magnificent part of Portugal and definitely doesn’t get as much attention as it rightfully deserves. Part of the Alentejo region, Vila Nova de Milfontes’ meandering streets come adorned with whitewashed houses and quaint shops: the perfect spot to pick up some locally crafted souvenirs. While you’re here, dig into fresh seafood delights like percebes (goose barnacles) or grilled sardines before taking a boat trip along the Mira River and admiring the colorful birds all around. This Portuguese town is renowned for its captivating sunsets over the ocean, painting the sky with hues of gold and pink. Find a cute wine bar and sit back to enjoy the vibrant show.
Everything about Costa Nova is seriously photogenic, from its gorgeous beaches to the colorful stripy houses all around. If you’re someone who likes to snap a few Instagram shots throughout your travels, Costa Nova is the place to go. While this spot is definitely on the smaller end, Costa Nova still has plenty to offer visitors. These charming “palheiros” (matchstick) houses feature a unique architectural style seen sporadically across Portugal, adding a little contrast to the rest of your trip. While here, take a boat trip along the Ria de Aveiro, a lagoon teeming with birdlife, or venture up to nearby Porto to enjoy the city’s colorful tiles and wine scene.
So Angra do Heroísmo might not be a mainland Portuguese town, but it’s well worth heading over to the enchanting island of Terceira in the Azores to check out this gorgeous spot. With its rich history, vibrant culture, and delightful culinary delights, Angra do Heroísmo invites you to step back in time as you wander its cobbled streets lined with colorful buildings and adorned with beautiful churches. This UNESCO World Heritage site comes alive in the summer when you can watch traditional dances and music, showcasing the rich Azorean culture. Explore the imposing Fortaleza de São João Baptista, a 16th-century fortress guarding the harbor, and soak in panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Don’t forget to try the traditional Queijadas da Graciosa: seriously delicious local cheese tarts.
While the Arrabida Mountains are famously home to the cities of Setubal and Sesimbra, Azeitao is a charming and romantic town that is not as well-known. You can spend your time exploring palace estates and picturesque vineyards, and when you work up an appetite you can indulge in regional specialties such as Azeitao cheese. Get a dose of culture by learning about the country’s azulejo tile art, then sip local wines at the Quinta da Bacalhoa wine estate.
Odeceixe might be a village rather than a town but this quaint coastal gem is definitely worth breaking the rules for a little! A seaside town in Portugal’s Costa Vicentina region, Odeceixe combines the best of both worlds for those looking to spend most of their time in the water. Check out Odeceixe Beach, a pristine stretch of golden sand framed by rugged cliffs and the crystal-clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean, or eat and drink your way through traditional Alentejo dishes like migas or açorda with a glass of regional wine. For adventurous travelers, explore the nearby Rota Vicentina hiking trail, which offers awe-inspiring coastal views and varied landscapes.
Head to the Norte region of Portugal to check out Vila do Conde, one of the oldest settlements in northern Portugal. Here, traditional houses and narrow alleys combine to reveal glimpses of the town’s rich past, filled with history and intrigue. Explore the imposing Convento de Santa Clara, a majestic monastery dating back to the 14th century, or marvel at the grandeur of the Aqueduct, an architectural marvel quite unlike anywhere else. Pay a visit to Nau Quinhentista, a replica of a 16th-century ship that pays homage to Portugal’s seafaring legacy and stick with the seafood theme with a trip to the bustling fish market.