Portugal’s 10 Most Beautiful Seaside Towns.

There is so much of the world left to see, and so little time to do it.

I have to rein in my enthusiasm for travel. Although I didn’t say anything, I was already thinking about our next trip as we were leaving London on our last trip. My wife is the practical one in our relationship. She reminds me about things like how much vacation time she has left, what’s left of our travel budget, who’s going to house and dog sit, you know, the practical things.

Her chance remark about Portugal, “Portugal might be an interesting place to visit”, had me immediately researching everything about the country. As I said, I have to rein in my enthusiasm, but my excitement over even a remote possibility of a trip there led me to this excellent article.

Have you been to Portugal? Do you have any must sees or must dos? Leave a comment down at the bottom.

Continuing our series on Europe’s most seductive seaside towns, Telegraph Travel’s Portugal expert reveals her favourite spots. Previous articles looked at the best options in France and Spain.

Mary Lussiana, destination expert

Azenhas do Mar
Picturesque Azenhas do Mar clings to the cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean, with natural rock pools beneath it that fill up at high tide CREDIT: GETTY

1. Tavira

The Algarve’s prettiest town, with a seven-arched bridge that allegedly dates back to Roman times, a Moorish castle, characteristic upturned terracotta tiled roofs known as Telhados de Quatro Águas (roofs of four waters) and an abundance of church towers. It sits in the Ria de Formosa Natural Park on a coastline of unblemished golden beaches and crystal clear waters protected from development. Just offshore is sandy Ilha de Tavira, a popular island, which can be reached by ferry.

Nearest airport: Faro

There are stunning beaches beside Tavira CREDIT: GETTY

2. Olhão

A fishing town since the Middle Ages, Olhão, with its square, flat topped Moorish houses, remains authentically Algarvean. It is famous for its red-brick domed fish market, the best in the region, which stands on the waterfront surrounded by restaurants. A cluster of beautiful sand spit island beaches lie in front of the town, protecting the marshy lagoon. These are reached within minutes by ferry but be sure to return in time for the incredible sunsets in Olhão.

Nearest airport: Faro

Olhão has flourished since the Middle Ages CREDIT: GETTY

3. Cascais

A holiday resort for well over a century, the history of this fishing village turned summer residence for wealthy Lisboetas is visible in the large villas which line the waterfront around the sandy bay. Fishing still goes on as you will see if you head to the charming old town square beyond which the small boats come in. Enveloping the Old Town are some excellent new hotels and restaurants.

Nearest airport: Lisbon

Lisboetas flock to Cascais CREDIT: GETTY

4. Nazaré

With a glorious beach in a sweeping bay backed by high cliffs, the fishing town of Nazaré has maintained much of its traditional character despite its popularity as a summer resort. Fishermen dressed in traditional checked shirts and black stocking caps mend their nets on the beach while women in layers of colourful petticoats sell the catch in the market and place fish to dry on wire racks on the beach.

Nearest airport: Lisbon

Nazaré has maintained much of its traditional character CREDIT: GETTY

5. Lagos

A bustling town with a big marina and lively nightlife, Lagos was conquered by the Arabs in the 8th century who left behind fortifications visible today. Not to be missed is the Igreja de Santo António (Church of St. Antony), a Baroque masterpiece of gilded wood and blue and white tiles. There are many beaches within walking distance from the town centre; most notable is sheltered Dona Ana where spectacular limestone rocks stud the azure waters.

Nearest airport: Faro

Spectacular limestone rocks dot the coast near Lagos CREDIT: GETTY

6. Azeitão

Set amidst olive groves and vineyards at the foot of the Arrábida Mountains, south of Lisbon, Azeitão, known for its unctuous sheep’s cheese, is a delightful town with several excellent beaches within easy reach. A classical palace marks the entrance to the town with the José Maria da Fonseca cellars, which produce the region’s famous Moscatel, in the centre. Just two kilometres away is the 15th century Quinta da Bacalhôa, considered one of the country’s loveliest houses.

Nearest airport: Lisbon

Quinta da Bacalhôa
Quinta da Bacalhôa CREDIT: GETTY

7. Azenhas do Mar

This picturesque little town clings to the cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean, with natural rock pools beneath it that fill up at high tide – a great place for children to spot marine life. Have lunch at the restaurant built into the cliffs, also called Azenhas do Mar, for a taste of Portugal’s abundant fresh seafood: giant lobsters, scarlet prawns and goose barnacles.

Nearest airport: Lisbon

8. Peniche

This is a popular destination for surfers and sun-seekers alike with its beautiful beach and big waves. The town is partly enclosed by 16th century walls and has an impressive Fortaleza (fortress) from the same date which, now a museum, was used a prison during the Salazar regime. The Cathedral of Misericórdia has richly decorated 17th century interiors. Good seafood restaurants line the port which also offers excellent deep-sea fishing facilities and trips out to the Berlenga Islands.

Nearest airport: Lisbon

Peniche offers a beautiful beach and big waves CREDIT: GETTY

9. Aveiro

This little town was once a great sea port and its history includes an appearance in Countess Mumadona’s will in AD 959. In the 16th century it grew rich on the salt and dried cod brought back from Newfoundland by the many fishermen. Rivers and canals, filled with colourful gondola-like boats, give it added character – and its modern nickname of ‘the Venice of Portugal’.

Nearest airport: Porto

The Venice of Portugal CREDIT: GETTY

10. Viana do Castelo

Rich with opulent mansions in Manueline, Renaissance and Baroque styles, Viana do Castelo lies in a beautiful setting on the Lima estuary. It was prominent in the 16th century providing ships and seafarers for Portugal’s great maritime discoveries. The winding streets in the town centre lead to the attractive main square Praça da Republica, dominated by the gothic arched Paços do Concelho. Excellent beaches lie to the north and south of the town.

Nearest airport: Porto

This article was originally published by The Telegraph.

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