The riverside sandbank by Ribeira das Naus in Lisbon is a tempting spot to lay down your towel and dip your toes in the Tagus River, but it’s not officially considered a beach. Fortunately, the Portuguese capital is a short trip away from plenty of golden stretches of sand for you to soak up the sun, go for a swim, breathe in the ocean breeze and learn how to surf.
Beach season officially runs from June to September, but great beach weather can start as early as May and stretch to mid-October. In the off-season, most facilities are closed, and lifeguards are off duty. These are the best beaches that can be easily reached from Lisbon.
Best urban beach for swims with Lisbon views
Hop on the ferry from Terreiro do Paço and cross the Tagus River to the post-industrial city of Barreiro. Just a few minutes’ walk from the ferry terminus, you’ll come across three windmills on a stretch of white sand with panoramic views of Lisbon. As the river beach closest to the mouth of the Tagus, the waters of Alburrica Beach are a mix of river and ocean but without the currents and waves of an oceanic beach.
Equipped with showers, a bar and a volleyball court, it’s a favorite spot for local beachgoers on weekends and hot summer afternoons after work. On colder days or when the only ones willing to bear the wind are the kite surfers, locals take advantage of the wooden walkways for hikes and cycling.
Best beach for rookie surfers
If you are yet to ride your first wave, catch the train in Cais do Sodré and get off at Carcavelos. The waves at Carcavelos Beach are small enough for rookie surfers to handle, but they still put up a decent challenge for learning new skills. Before braving the waves on your own, book a class with Carcavelos Surf School, the first school on this beach, that now has more than 20 years of experience.
There are plenty of seaside restaurants and cafes to enjoy here on breaks between swims or for taking in views of the ocean and the São Julião da Barra fort. Carcavelos is one of the most popular beaches in the Cascais area, and one of the beaches closest to Lisbon city center by train, so summer weekends here are typically busy. Dodge the crowds by hitting the beach early in the morning or on weekdays.
Best beach for experienced surfers and windsurfers
Windy and wavy Guincho might be a nuisance for regular beachgoers, but for experienced surfers, it's just the right spot that’s not too far from Lisbon. Itching to get in the water but didn’t pack your wetsuit and board? The folks at Moana Surf School rent out gear as well as offer private lessons for those needing an intro to surfing the Atlantic. If you’re more of a watcher than a doer, head to the nearby Bar do Guincho for drinks by the mighty sea.
Every October, Guincho Beach is usually chosen as the location for the final leg of Portugal’s professional surf championship. Get there early to save your spot on the dunes and watch your favorite surfers battle it out for the title.
Fonte da Telha
Best beach for families
At the first sign of warm weather, Lisbon families flock to Costa da Caparica for weekend day trips to swim and sunbathe. But with almost 20 miles of sandy coast, which beach is best?
Located in a former fishing village, Fonte da Telha is something of a well-kept local secret and one of the best beaches in Lisbon for families, a half-hour drive from the city center (it’s not accessible by public transport). Stick to the section next to the parking lot and the restaurants and you have everything you need. The chilly Atlantic Ocean needs a little getting used to, but there’s plenty of space to lay down your towel on the golden sand and sunbathe instead. For the kids, that means lots of room to spend the day building sandcastles. Only being able to reach this beach by car can be an advantage: you can arrive and leave whenever you want, and you never need to worry about crowds.
Best beach for romantic sunsets
One of the best beaches north of Lisbon, nestled between Cascais and Sintra, Adraga is the embodiment of romantic walks on the beach. Dark rugged rocks contrast dramatically with the shimmering sand, and the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean turn to liquid gold at sunset. The winding road that leads to the beach is part of Adraga’s charm, and on summer weekends it tends to get crowded fast. If you’re just here for the romantic setting, take in the views at dinner for two at beachside Restaurante da Adraga.
Foz do Lizandro
Best accessible beach
An hour’s drive west of Lisbon, Foz do Lizandro is one of the most popular beaches in Ericeira and worth the road trip. Awarded as one of the best accessible beaches in Portugal, Foz do Lizandro is equipped with wooden ramps, amphibian chairs and facilities for people with reduced mobility. Beaches on Portugal’s west coast are often labeled as windy and cold but great for surfers: at Foz do Lizandro however, you’ll find a more sheltered spot where the river meets the ocean. After spending the day at the beach, take in the small-town vibe of charming Ericeira, with its historic center and traditional restaurants serving fresh local seafood dishes.
Best beach resort to get away from it all – but not too far
The beach at Tróia-Mar, about a two-hour drive from Lisbon, is a little slice of heaven. Here you can get the first glimpse of Portugal's southern region of Alentejo and check into an all-inclusive beach resort near the tranquil deep-blue sea and soft sand. It’s popular and gets busy in the summer, but that’s the price you pay for a beach just steps away from bars, cafes, restaurants and the ferry port that connects Tróia to Setúbal. The view of Serra da Arrábida, the sense of seclusion without feeling isolated and the tranquility of this beach destination make the trip worthwhile.
To get here, hop on an early morning train from Lisbon to Setúbal and then take the 15-minute ferry ride to Tróia.