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Favorite Portuguese Coastal Towns?

We're planning a family vacation for late June, thinking of the coast of Portugal. We'll have about a week on the ground and prefer to spend it in one location soaking up local culture rather than changing beds every two or three nights. We'd love a coastal town that small enough to be walkable but also large enough to have a few good restaurants and things to see. A beach town is nice, but not necessary. If you have a town to recommend, I'd also love to know what else is reachable within 60-90 minutes drive, for day trips. And if you have a favorite hotel, vacation rental, or restaurant in your favorite town, please share that, too!
Thank you!

Posted by
18906 posts

I suspect it isn't what you have in mind, but I wouldn't think beyond Lisbon. Very interesting city located on a river not far from the Atlantic, with lots of local sights. Easy side-trips to Sintra and coastal Cascais as well as places a bit farther afield.

If this is you first trip to Portugal, I struggle to imagine excluding Lisbon. It's a city that needs several days at a minimum, so it only makes sense to stay there.

Edited to add: Be aware that in many of the Algarve towns, there's more British or German culture than Portuguese.

Posted by
57 posts

Most coastal towns don't have much to see because they often started as fishing villages.
Large cities are the exception, such as Lisbon or Porto.
I agree with acraven that Lisbon is both walkable ( mind the hills) and has culture and restaurants galore.
There is a commuter train line that starts in Lisbon and end in Cascais. You can stay anywhere along that line but towards the end of the line is nicer.
Estoril or Cascais have small but nice beaches, slower pace, hotels ( Hotel Baia in Cascais has a great location, Hotel Palacio in Estoril is great but expensive) and all that is within the greater Lisbon area is reachable by public transport.
Carcavelos is the largest beach on the line.
If you go south to the Algarve there are some nice walkable towns on the coast but very little historic / cultural sites.
People go the Algarve for the weather the beaches and the seafood - not for culture.
The Algarve in June is full on tourist season ( crowded) and hot.
If you go north of Lisbon to coastal towns such as Nazare, Peniche, Figueira da Foz, Aveiro, Espinho, etc, most likely you will need a car as there is little to no local public transport.
They also have little cultural appeal - the exception is Aveiro ( which is nicknamed the Venice of Portugal - because it has a lagoon, canals, motor powered gondola type boats, sea salt farm - but no palaces / monuments).
North of Lisbon tends to be less crowded but the ocean is way colder and rougher.
Regardless of where you go, you are traveling during the high tourist season so expect crowds / waiting lines, but you should have the best weather.
Happy travels

Posted by
1012 posts

With only a week on the ground, I agree with your thought of staying in one place. One of the towns along the commuter train line between Lisbon and Cascais would be ideal. From all of these towns, you can visit Sintra, Cascais and Lisbon. Very easy to (more than) fill a week in this area.

The other thought would be a smaller town outside of Porto from which you could visit Aveiro and the Douro Valley. Espinho is very close on the train line and is small with a very large beach.