The best independent guide to Sesimbra
The best independent guide to Sesimbra
Sesimbra is one of the finest beach resorts in Portugal. It is adored by the Portuguese who flock to the region for their holidays, drawn by the pristine beaches, relaxed atmosphere and outstanding seafood restaurants.
Sesimbra is situated on a gorgeous sandy bay that nestles at the base of the Serra da Arrábida hills. Historically Sesimbra was an important fishing town, and today it retains its distinctive Portuguese character and relaxed pace of life.
Aside from the beautiful beaches, there is a lot to see and do within the Sesimbra region. There is an ancient Moorish castle, a busy fishing port, the Serra da Arrabida hills with its many hiking & cycling trails, and a picturesque coastline for kayaking or boat tours.
The outstanding beaches and tourist attractions make Sesimbra an enjoyable day trip from Lisbon, which is only 45 minutes away by bus. A day trip to Sesimbra usually includes the Cabo Espichel headland, a scenic drive through the Arrabida hills and a visit to the paradise beaches of the Portinho da Arrábida.
Sesimbra is a fantastic destination for a holiday or day trip. This article will show you why you should visit and how to get the most from the region.
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The Praia da Califórnia - The beautiful sandy beach that extends along the front of Sesimbra.
Marisqueira restaurants – Sesimbra is famed for its seafood, freshly caught by the town’s fishing fleet and expertly cooked in family-run Marisqueira restaurants found in the alleys behind the beach.
The Serra da Arrábida – Picturesque hills that contain Portugal's most spectacular driving route (the N379 road) along with some of the country's most magnificent beaches.
The Cabo Espichel – A windswept and rugged headland that was once an important pilgrimage destination, with a unique church and two sets of dinosaur footprints.
Sesimbra has everything needed for a wonderful holiday destination.
There are glorious beaches, the town has a traditional Portuguese atmosphere, and there are many interesting day trips in the surrounding region (Lisbon, Setubal, Palmela and Costa da Caparica)
As Sesimbra is primarily aimed for Portuguese tourists, it is not overrun by foreign tourists (as with the Algarve) and is a great location to immerse in Portuguese culture. Being popular with Portuguese tourists, you can expect great food, late nights in Sesimbra’s bars and exceptional value for money.
Sesimbra has the added advantage of being close to Lisbon. The airport is less than 30 minutes by car, or it is just 45 minutes into the city centre by bus.
Sesimbra is a fascinating day trip from Lisbon, but to get the most from the region, you will need a car.
Insight: A hassle-free option would be to book a day trip (including transportation) to Sesimbra, for further details click here.
A trip to Sesimbra using public transport would visit the castle, the fishing harbour, a walk along the beachfront promenade, and a delicious seafood lunch.
With a car, the Sesimbra region can provide a very packed day trip. Additional sights could also include the Cabo Espichel headland, the Serra da Arrábida hills, and wine tasting at Azeitão. An alternative day trip is to divide the day equally between Sesimbra and Setubal. (Setubal guide here)
A car is the only real means to visit the region's outstanding beaches, such as the idyllic Portinho da Arrábida coastline, the picturesque Lagoa de Albufeira or the undiscovered beaches of southern Costa da Caparica.
Below is an interactive map for ideas for a day trip to Sesimbra. The green pins show the highlights of Sesimbra and the surrounding region, while the yellow markers show the best beaches nearby
Sesimbra highlights: 1) Forte de Santiago 2) Castelo de Sesimbra 3) Cais dos Pescadores (fishing harbour) 4) Cabo Espichel 5) Estrada de Escarpa (Scenic drive) 6) Portinho da Arrábida 7) Azeitão (wine tasting at José Maria da Fonseca or Bacalhôa Vinhos)
Sesimbra beaches 8) Praia da Califórnia 9) Praia do Ouro 10) Praia do Creiro 11) Praia de Galápos 12) Praia da Figueirinha 13) Praia do Meco 14) Lagoa de Albufeira
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The Sesimbra region boasts some of Portugal's finest beaches. The town is situated on a sandy bay, with the eastern side known as the Praia da Califórnia and the west called the Praia do Ouro. The hills that surround Sesimbra shelter the beach from the powerful Atlantic waves and strong sea-breezes, and this makes the beach ideal for families and sunbathers alike.
The Praia do Ouro beach in Sesimbra
To the east of Sesimbra are Serra da Arrabida hills, and found at the base of the hills are the idyllic beaches Portinho da Arrábida. These beaches are picturesque, with crystal clear waters, soft golden sands and the stunning backdrop of the Serra da Arrabida hills. Popular beaches of this region are the Praia do Creiro, the Praia de Galápos and the Praia da Figueirinha. For something more adventurous you could join a snorkelling tour in the beautiful waters of the Arrábida sea.
To the northwest of Sesimbra is the Costa da Caparica coastline, a 13km long sandy shoreline. This coastline faces the Atlantic Ocean and is popular for surfing and kitesurfing, due to the huge waves and constant sea breezes.
Halfway along the Costa da Caparica is the Lagoa de Albufeira, a sheltered lagoon, which is popular with Portuguese families.
Related articles: Lagoa de Albufeira - Sesimbra beach guide
The Praia do Creiro in the Portinho da Arrábida
The southern end of the Costa da Caparica and the Praia do Meco
Foreign visitors are slowly discovering the allure of Sesimbra, and each year the town becomes more popular.
Sesimbra is loved by the Portuguese, who flock here during the August holidays and at sunny weekends. During the summer Sesimbra is at its most vibrant and hotels must be booked far in advance. Outside of the short peak season, Sesimbra has a relaxed and calmer ambience, and tends to attract tourists of a more mature age.
The weather is suitable for spending time on the beach from May until the end of September.
The map below shows the location of the hotels and best rental rooms in Sesimbra, if you adjust the dates to your holiday, it will display current availability and prices.
Sesimbra is renowned for its seafood, with regional specialities based around the fresh catch from the town's fishing fleet.
The most popular dish is Arroz de Marisco, a hearty fish stew containing shellfish, crabs and sticky rice, which is served in a large clay pot and designed to be shared. The best location to sample Sesimbra's fish is in the family-run "Marisqueira" restaurants, which are found down the back alleys of Sesimbra.
As these restaurants are designed for Portuguese customers, prices are surprisingly inexpensive.
The Cabo Espichel is the dramatic and windswept headland on the southwestern tip of the Setubal Peninsula, and is a region of raw, natural beauty.
Perched at the top of the colossal cliffs is one of Portugal's most powerful lighthouses, while in the exposed cliff faces are two sets of dinosaur footprints. The bleak headland was once an important pilgrimage destination, and there is a unique church complex that includes an 18th-century accommodation building for pilgrims.
Insight: The Cabo Espichel is stunning at sunset, with the sun setting out over the Atlantic Ocean. There are excellent organised tours, which combine the sunset at Cabo Espichel with a romantic evening boat ride, and further details can be found here.
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The massive cliffs at the Cabo Espichel
The Parque Natural da Arrábida protects the Serra da Arrábida hills, that are situated between Sesimbra and Setubal. These limestone hills extend from the beaches of the Portinho da Arrábida up to Formosinho point (500m), while on the northern side, the fertile lands are renowned for the Muscat grapes used to create Muscatel wines.
Within the Serra da Arrábida are numerous enjoyable hiking trails and challenging cycling tracks that cross the steep hills. Contained within the hills is the spectacular driving route, the Estrada de Escarpa (the N339 road), which winds up the hills, crosses a ridge and provides outstanding views of the region.
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High above Sesimbra is the Castelo de Sesimbra which was constructed by the Moors during the 8-11th century. The castle is surprisingly large and provides outstanding views of the region from the battlements. It is a demanding 20minute uphill walk to the castle from the town centre.
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It’s a steep walk up to the castle but the views are worth it
A car is always the best way to visit and explore Sesimbra but there are regular bus services covering the region and to Lisbon. The Lisbon to Sesimbra bus is operated by Carris Metropolitana (carrismetropolitana.pt) and the 3721 route departs from Sete Rios bus station in Lisbon. The bus takes 70 minutes to reach Sesimbra and a single is €4.50.
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Our most popular guides to the Sesimbra region