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Sesimbra Activities, Things To Do and See
Sesimbra is a delightful beach resort, which is adored by the Portuguese. The town is a popular holiday destination that offers outstanding beaches, excellent restaurants and a lively, social holiday atmosphere.
Even being a bustling resort town, Sesimbra has retained its fishing heritage, with a busy fishing harbour and family run seafood restaurants, for which the town is renowned for.
Along with the glorious beaches and lively nightlife, there is a surprising amount to see and do in Sesimbra, and the town makes for an enjoyable day trip from Lisbon.
This guide will detail the most popular activities and sights of Sesimbra, either for a day trip or as a holiday.
Quick Overview of Sesimbra Activities
Some of the more fun paid activities of Sesimbra include:
Sesimbra castle; a challenging hike but worth the view
The Serra da Arrabida
The Serra da Arrabida are the beautiful limestone hills on the southern edge of the Setubal Peninsular. This protected landscape begins with gentle rolling plains filled vineyards, then ascends into steep hills, which lead up to Formosinho point, 500m above sea level.
The Serra da Arrabida comprises of ancient, eroded mountains, with wide sweeping valleys and has a unique year-round lush and green appearance, as being covered by evergreen Carob Bushes and Kermes Oaks. Within the nature park are a series of challenging hiking trails and exciting off-road cycling routes.
The hills of the Serra da Arrabida
Along the Serra da Arrabida coastline, the hills fall away to form massive drops, craggy cliffs and picturesque beaches, some of which are considered to be Portugal’s finest beaches. Cutting through the centre of Arrabida is the “Estrada de Escarpa” (N379), and this stunning road climbs the hills, crosses the ridges and is an incredibly scenic drive. To get the most from the Serra da Arrabida a rental car is needed as there is virtually no public transport. For a guide to the Serra da Arrabida, please click here.
The jagged coastline of the Serra da Arrabida
The Castelo de Sesimbra
The Castelo de Sesimbra was originally constructed by the North African Moors (8-11th century) to guard the Sado Estuary. The castle is positioned on one of the hills overlooking Sesimbra and from the battlements there are wonderful views over the town. The Castelo de Sesimbra has been extensively restored, and there is a lot to explore, but the main draw will be the amazing vistas. The castle is free to visit, and has a peaceful and calm ambience, as many visitors are deterred by the 30-minute uphill walk from the town centre.
The view from the castle walls
The beaches of Sesimbra
Sesimbra is situated on a glorious, wide, sandy bay and the sea waters are clean and calm. The bay is divided into two beaches by the charming Fortaleza Santiago, and there is a beachside promenade running along the entire length of the beach. Sesimbra is a popular beach with families as it is a safe setting, with no currents or tides, but in the summer, expect the beach to get very busy.
The Praia do Ouro in Sesimbra
Close to Sesimbra are two very different coastlines; the Serra da Arrabida and the southern end of the Costa da Caparica. The Serra da Arrabida provides picturesque beaches of turquoise waters and soft sands, which are surrounded by the hills of Arrabida
. The southern end of the Costa da Caparica faces the Atlantic Ocean and has wild surfing beaches with huge waves and even wilder landscapes. Unfortunately, a car is required to visit both of these coastlines. For further information about Sesimbra's beaches please click here.
The Cabo Espichel
The Cabo Espichel is the dramatic headland at the south-western tip of the Setubal Peninsula. This is an exposed coastline buffeted by strong winds and powerful seas, and is ideal for visitors who appreciate nature’s raw beauty. The Cabo Espichel was an important pilgrimage destination, and there is a unique church with attached pilgrim’s accommodation.
Positioned at the top of the cliffs and protecting shipping from these dangerous cliffs is Portugal’s’ brightest lighthouse. The highly weathered cliffs have exposed two different sets of dinosaur footprints, and these are reached via the numerous hiking trails that cross the headland. Cabo Espichel makes for an interesting side excursion from Sesimbra and for a full guide please click here.
The Nossa Senhora do Cabo Espichel church and pilgrims accommodation
The countryside of Sesimbra (and mainly Setubal) is a major wine-producing region. The speciality wines are the Moscatel de Setubal and the grapes are grown over the hills of the Serra de Arrábida. There are two wineries which provide wine tasting tours; the Quinta da Bacalhoa and the José Maria da Fonseca, both in the town of Azeitão. The tours provide an insight into the wine producing process, histories of both companies and a chance to sample a selection of fine local wines.
Locally produced wine
Eat Freshly Caught Fish in a Marisqueiras Restaurant
Sesimbra is primarily a fishing town and the freshly caught fish is served in the many excellent seafood restaurants, which are known as Marisqueiras. A speciality dish of Sesimbra is Arroz de Marisco, a shellfish and rice dish that is ideal for sharing. The Setubal region produces great red wines and these are a perfect accompaniment to the fish dishes.
Drive along the Estrada de Escarpa
The Estrada de Escarpa is a scenic drive that follows the N379 between Sesimbra and Setubal and climbs into the steep hills of the Serra de Arrábida. Along the route there are multiple places to stop to admire the stunning views over the Arrábida National park and Sado estuary.
The road has a series of major switchbacks to climb the side of mount Formosinho (500m above sea level) and then drops down into Setubal. For the return journey take the much smaller coastal road that passes the beautiful beaches of Praia do Creiro and Praia da Figueirinha.
Deep Sea Fishing
Sesimbra’s fishing fleet often head far out into the Atlantic Ocean and for visitors it is a great destination for deep sea fishing. There are multiple boats tours that offer half or full day fishing trips, and some are designed for novices or families.
Sesimbra is also one of Portugal’s most popular diving locations, in part due to the number of shipwrecks along the coastline. There are professional dive centres that provide lessons or trips to the regions shipwrecks.