The best independent guide to Sesimbra
The best independent guide to Sesimbra
Sesimbra is one of the finest beach resorts in Portugal.
The town is adored by the Portuguese who flock to the region for their holidays, drawn by the pristine coastline, social atmosphere and freshly cooked seafood.
Aside from the beautiful beaches and delicious food, there is a lot to do within the Sesimbra region. There are hiking/cycling trails through the Serra da Arrabida, surfing on the Costa da Caparica, kayak or boat tours along the dramatic coastline and some of the best diving in Portugal.
These varied tourist attractions and activities also make Sesimbra an enjoyable day trip from Lisbon, which is only 45 minutes away by bus. As for day trips from Sesimbra, there is the Cabo Espichel headland, the busy port of Setubal or the paradise beaches of the Tróia Peninsula.
Sesimbra is a fantastic destination if you are seeking an authentic Portuguese holiday, which combines wonderful beaches with a wide host of sights and activities.
Related articles: Setubal Guide - Serra da Arrabida - Costa da Caparica
Top 5 Sesimbra
1) The glorious sandy beach that extends along the front of Sesimbra.
2) The delicious seafood of the Marisqueira restaurants, for which Sesimbra is renowned for.
3) The panoramic views from the battlements of the Castelo de Sesimbra.
4) Exploring the rugged coastline by kayak, coasteering or relaxing boat tour.
5) The lively and welcoming holiday atmosphere, along with the multicultural nightlife.
Top 5 highlights of the Sesimbra region
1) The picturesque Portinho da Arrábida coastline, which includes some of Portugal’s most beautiful beaches.
2) The Serra da Arrábida mountains, offering challenging hiking & breath-taking scenery
3) The Cabo Espichel, a rugged headland, with a unique church and two sets of dinosaur footprints.
4) A day trip to the busy working port of Setubal, with its colourful harbour and charming historic centre
5) Wine tasting in the town of Azeitão, the heart of the Setubal wine-producing region.
Sesimbra is a wonderful holiday destination that offers glorious beaches, interesting day trips and a relaxed ambience. Sesimbra’s unique appeal is that the town is primarily aimed for Portuguese tourists, making it is an ideal location to embrace and immerse in Portuguese culture. As Sesimbra is designed for Portuguese tourists, you can expect great food, late nights and exceptional value for money.
Sesimbra is situated in an area of amazing and diverse natural beauty. To the east are the rolling hills of the Serra da Arrabida, which conceals a coastline of stunning beaches and tranquil seawaters. Westwards are the towering cliffs and raging seas of Cabo Espichel headland, and the deserted beaches of the Costa da Caparica.
Sesimbra has the added advantage of being close to Lisbon; the airport is less than a 30-minute drive away or a 45-minute bus ride. A city break to Lisbon could be easily combined with a short stay at a traditional beach resort as delightful as Sesimbra.
Related articles: Sesimbra's beaches - Sights and activities
Sesimbra is an interesting destination for a day trip from Lisbon, but to get the most from the region, a rental car is needed.
A trip solely to Sesimbra using public transport will be mainly beach focused, with a side visit to the castle, the fishing harbour and a walk through the town and along the beach promenade.
With a rental 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, or a wine tasting tour at Azeitão. An alternative is to divide the day equally between Sesimbra and Setubal.
Also, a car is the only real means to visit the idyllic beaches along the Portinho da Arrábida, the southern side of the Costa da Caparica, or the picturesque Lagoa de Albufeira.
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) Cabo Espichel 4) Estrada de Escarpa (Scenic drive) 5) Portinho da Arrábida 6) Azeitão (wine tasting at José Maria da Fonseca or Bacalhôa Vinhos)
Sesimbra beaches 1) Praia da Califórnia 2) Praia do Ouro 3)Praia do Creiro 4) Praia da Galapa 5) Praia da Figueirinha 6) Praia do Meco 7) Lagoa de Albufeira
Related articles: Day trip to Sesimbra
The Sesimbra region boasts some of Portugal’s best beaches. The town is situated on a sandy horse-show shaped bay, with the eastern side known as the Praia da Califórnia and the west as Praia do Ouro. This is a glorious stretch of sand, which is sheltered from any breezes and powerful waves, making it ideal for families and sunbathers alike.
To the west of Sesimbra are the idyllic beaches of the Serra da Arrabida, known as the Portinho da Arrábida. These beaches are picturesque; with crystal clear waters, soft golden sands and the stunning backdrop of the Serra da Arrabida mountains. Popular beaches of this region are the Praia do Creiro, the Praia de Galápos and the Praia da Figueirinha.
To the north-west of Sesimbra is the Costa da Caparica coastline, a 13km continuous sandy shoreline. The southern section of this coastline, and closest to Sesimbra, is wild and natural, with barely any tourist development. As Costa da Caparica faces the might of the Atlantic Ocean, the beaches can be great for surfing. Halfway up the coastline is the Lagoa de Albufeira, a sheltered and sandy lagoon which is popular with Portuguese families.
Related articles: Lagoa de Albufeira - Sesimbra beach guide.
Foreign visitors are slowly discovering the allure of Sesimbra, and with each year the town becomes ever more popular.
Sesimbra is loved by the Portuguese, who flock here during August and at summer weekends. This is when the town 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 the corresponding prices and availability.
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 which includes pilgrim’s accommodation.
Related articles: The Cabo Espichel
The Serra da Arrábida are the limestone covered hills that lie between Sesimbra and Setubal. This lush landscape is covered in evergreen shrubs and bushes, and raises from the picturesque beaches of the Portinho da Arrábida up to the Formosinho point, 500m above sea level.
Within the Serra da Arrábida are numerous enjoyable hiking trails and challenging cycling tracks that cross the steep hills of the national park. For the less energetic, take a drive along the Estrada de Escarpa (N339) as it climbs the hills and offers outstanding views of the region.
Related articles: The Serra da Arrábida
The ancient castle of Sesimbra dates from the Moors era (8-11th century) and from the battlements are panoramic views over Sesimbra. The castle has been restored, and offers a lot to explore, along with a peaceful ambience. From the beach front it is a demanding 20-minute uphill hike.
Related articles: Castelo de Sesimbra
There is a regular bus service from Lisbon to Sesimbra that departs from the Sete Rios bus station in Lisbon. The journey takes 60 minutes, and a single bus ticket costs €4.15. For a holiday it may be worthwhile considering a rental car as there is poor public transport around Sesimbra (Cabo Espichel/ Serra da Arrábida/southern Costa da Caparica).
Related articles: Lisbon to Sesimbra (Airport to Sesimbra)
Sesimbra has long hot summers, pleasant spring and autumns, while winters are mild but can be wet. The weather in central Portugal is suitable for spending time on the beaches from May until October.
The peak season is in July and August, and this is when Sesimbra is crowded with Portuguese holidaymakers and day-trippers from Lisbon.
Portugal may be mild during the winter when compared to the rest of Europe, but it should not be considered as a winter sun destination. Sesimbra has a large permanent population therefore the town never fully closes for winter, with many restaurants and cafes remaining open.
Average weather of Sesimbra
Sesimbra is a great destination for young children and is a popular location for Portuguese families on holiday. It is a very safe destination, which is firmly aimed for families and couples (there are no stag do’s or groups of loutish drunks).
The beaches of Sesimbra are ideal for children, and there are no powerful waves or strong currents, as the headland shelters the beach from the might of the Atlantic Ocean. Children will be welcomed into all of Sesimbra's restaurants and as a whole, Portugal is a very family-focused country.
For logistics, English is widely spoken by all who work within the tourist industry and shops stock all common brands and commodities. Sesimbra is 45km from Lisbon airport and there are private transfers for hassle-free onward connections (please see this guide). There are no water parks or theme park near Sesimbra and older children and teenagers may prefer the buzz of the central Algarve to the Sesimbra region.
Sesimbra could make for an enjoyable holiday destination for twentysomethings and young couples, so long as if you visit during the summer season and are not looking for a purely drink-fuelled holiday (for excessive drinking, head to the Strip in Albufeira).
In the summer, Sesimbra is filled with many similar aged Portuguese, and there is surprisingly good nightlife for the size of the town, along with the beach parties of the Costa da Caparica.
Sesimbra is also a centre for adventurous activities, including coasteering, sea kayaking, diving, mountain biking and surfing, and there are many agencies that can organise these adrenaline-inducing tours and activities.
As an added bonus, Sesimbra is a great value destination, where food and drink will be significantly cheaper than the established resorts in Greece or the Balearic Islands.
Outside of the summer, Sesimbra calms and matures, and maybe too quiet for certain visitors; for this time of year, head to Lisbon or the Algarve.
Our most popular guides to the Sesimbra region