A city of medieval lanes, hilltop neighborhoods and wine lodges along the Douro, Porto isn’t well known for its beaches. And yet, if you zoom out from the historic center, you’ll find craggy wave-kissed shores, dramatic coastal promenades and wide expanses of inviting golden sands.

The suburb of Foz do Douro, which faces the Atlantic, draws visitors and locals alike for a speedy seaside escape. Farther out, you’ll find headlands backed by nature reserves, pristine oceanfront near the Spanish border and remote white-sand beaches reminiscent of Caribbean getaways. In general, the waters are chilly here even in the summer – which makes ocean swims all the more refreshing when August temperatures can top 35C (95F).

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Praia dos Ingleses 

Best beach for sunset drinks

One of the closest strands to the city center, the Praia dos Ingleses is ideal for a quick beachside escape. The golden sands stretching among rocky outcroppings provide a scenic vantage point for watching the waves crashing against the shore. 

While it can often be too rough for swimming, this is a great spot for walks along the waterfront promenade, which extends for more than 2.5km (1.5 miles) up to Matosinhos. Praia dos Ingleses is also a famous destination for watching the sunset. There are several well-placed terrace cafes just above the sands where you can enjoy drinks and snacks both at sunset and just about any other time (most keep hours from 10am to past midnight). Getting here is a rewarding part of the experience, especially if you travel aboard the No 1 tram from Ribeira. The vintage streetcar trundles along the riverfront, offering breezy views over the Douro and the Arrábida Bridge. After disembarking at the last stop, walk through the leafy gardens of Passeio Alegre, pass the 16th-century fortress of São João and follow the rocky headland until you reach the beach. It’s about a 1km (0.6 miles) stroll from the tram stop to Praia dos Ingleses. 

Stunning view of sandy beach with yellow rocks and Atlantic ocean in Matosinhos Beach in Portugal
You'll find a cross-section of Porto society at these beaches © Shutterstock / Lapa Smile

Praia de Matosinhos 

Best beach for families 

The largest beach within easy reach of the city, Matosinhos has a wide expanse of fine golden sand, and it draws a broad cross-section of Porto society. You’ll find surfers, paddle-boarders, teenagers kicking a ball around, couples walking hand in hand and younger families splashing in the water. Lifeguards watch the beach in the summer, which makes it a great choice for kids of all ages. Several surf schools offer lessons and rent out surfboards and stand-up paddleboards including Onda Pura.

You’ll find restaurants and cafes facing the beach, though you can also visit the vibrant Matosinhos municipal market nearby for picnic fare. The only downside to Matosinhos is the industrial presence of the container port on the horizon, which somewhat scars the coastal views. It’s a 45-minute metro ride to the beach (take the A line to Matosinhos Sul station).

Praia de Moledo

Best beach for DIY island adventures 

Get well off the beaten path by heading up to Praia de Moledo, located just south of the Spanish border. The lovely beachfront stretches for over 2.5km (1.6 miles) with the more pristine northern section backed by the Camarido national forest and far-off views of conical Monte de Santa Trega (in Spain). 

A stone’s throw from the mainland is a tiny island topped with the Fortress of Ínsua and ringed by a lovely beach – you can hire a boat to take you across; just let them know what time to pick you up. Praia de Moledo is about an hour’s drive from Porto, though you can also get there on a direct IR train, which takes a little over 90 minutes.  

Beautiful Praia do Cabedelo beach shore at Viana do Castelo, Portugal © cantfindnickname / Shutterstock 

Praia do Cabedelo do Douro

Best beach for birdwatching 

On the south side of the Douro River, the Praia do Cabedelo do Douro occupies a peninsula at the mouth of the Douro River. The sandy beach on its west side faces the Atlantic and stretches for about 1km (0.6 miles). Despite its proximity to Porto, the crescent-shaped shore feels delightfully secluded, and it draws far fewer beachgoers than on the opposite side of the river (in large part because it’s difficult to reach by public transportation). It’s ideal for a bit of quiet nature time with views of the city skyline off in the distance. 

On the east side of the Cabedelo is the Reserva Natural Local do Estuário do Douro, a protected area with boardwalks that wind past salt marsh, dune vegetation and tidal flats. This is one of the best areas for bird watching near Porto, especially during the spring and fall migrations. Squacco herons, kingfishers and black-tailed godwits are among the 100 species you might spot here. 

Praia de São Jacinto

Beast beach for a remote escape 

Lovely white sands backed by dunes await travelers who make the 60km (37 miles) journey south from Porto to this pristine swath of coastline. Located at the southern end of a peninsula, the Praia de São Jacinto offers endless beach strolls. The peninsula, which stretches for 25km (15.5 miles), has one long, wide beach along its western side. You can also get a dose of nature here by walking the trails through woodlands and past dunes in the Reserva Natural das Dunas de São Jacinto.

Getting here is a bit of an adventure if coming by public transportation, but it’s certainly doable (train to Aveiro, bus to Forte da Barra, ferry to São Jacinto). If coming by car, it’s a straightforward one-hour (or so) drive from Porto, with fine views along the N327 over the Aveiro Lagoon. 

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