If you want a beach holiday near Lisbon, the Costa da Caparica is your destination. There are actually dozens of beaches on the long, white sandy beach that stretches 30 kilometers south to Cabo Espichel. If you want to party, sunbathe in peace, surf on a beach break, or strip off your birthday suit, there’s a beach for you on the Costa da Caparica.
If you don’t have a car, the convenient Trans-Playa Tram will get you where you need to go, zipping along the shore. If you want to explore, Almada and its trendy waterfront are nearby, as are the huge Christ the King statue and the obvious 25 de Abril bridge.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Costa Caparica:
1. Vacation Beach
Directly in front of the resort’s high-rise condominiums and hotels, there is an unbroken chain of beaches.
The name may change, but it’s all the same coast, with relentless waves and breakwaters every hundred meters or so to prevent erosion.
All beaches benefit from resort facilities such as lively bars and restaurants on the waterfront, as well as ice cream parlors and toy and supply stores.
You can choose from Praia de Santo António de Caparica, Praia do CDS and Praia Nova, while the standouts are Praia do Tarquínio-Paraíso, Praia do Dragão Vermelho and São João da Caparica, all of which fly the blue flag.
The holiday beaches on the Costa da Caparica are great because there is always something going on and lifeguards patrolling in the summer.
However, if you want to see less populated beaches, you can take the Trans Praia tram, which runs by the sea and has 19 stops, each at a different beach.
As you roll out from the main resort, the coastline gets wider and there are fewer signs of civilization.
Praia da Rainha, Praia do Castelo and Praia da Mata, for example, are completely natural, tracked by sand dunes, with campsites or discreet holiday accommodation nearby.
3. Fonte da Telha
The southern terminus of Transpraia is the small tourist enclave of Fonte da Telha, embedded in the protected landscape of Arriba Fóssil.
Fonte da Telha is located 10 kilometers south of the main resort and is surrounded by rolling golden cliffs topped by pine and eucalyptus trees.
Like most of the coastline, the waves are just right for surfers, and many bars and restaurants are open in summer.
Praia 19, next to Fonte da Telha in the north, is the top gay beach in the Lisbon area.
4. Covento dos Capuchos
Climbing abruptly from the coastal plain of Costa da Caparica is a cliff with exceptional views from its edge.
You can see the entire Caparica coast, but also the Lisbon skyline, the dark peaks of the Sintra Mountains, Cape Espicel to the south, and the fort guarding the mouth of the Tagus River.
A few meters from the lookout there is a monastery built in 1558. Although it was partially destroyed in the earthquake of 1755, the Renaissance façade has been preserved.
It is now a venue for concerts and musical recitals, and if the gates are open, see if you can enter the garden, whose walls are covered with tiled panels that tell the story of the life of St. Anthony.
5. Paisagem Protegida da Arriba Fóssil da Costa de Caparica
One of the interesting things about the cliffs that border the Costa da Caparica coast is how far they are from the water.
This is because of the movement of tectonic plates, the most violent recent event being the fabled 1755 earthquake. North of Fonte da Telha, they have retreated far enough to form a coastal plain where the Meadows National Forest was planted in the 1700s to protect farmland from dune erosion.
The entire foreshore is a natural park with stone pine, frankincense and eucalyptus forests downstream, while 20th-century forts like Bateria da Raposa perch on higher ground.
6. Solar dos Zagallos
The 18th-century mansion was bought by the city government and turned into a cultural center, with gardens open to the public during the day.
Although the present building was built in the 1700s, the Zagallo family has been here since the time of John II in the 15th century, so the entire building is full of history.
You can spend an hour or two carefree on the grounds with conservatories, gazebos and blue and white tile panels.
The mansion itself is elegant and enhanced during the visit of King John VI in the 18th century, when the glazing, frescoes and gilded stucco were completed.
Surfers win big in Costa Caparica.
Surf schools and rental shops can be found along the 30 km of coast.
Usually, they are mostly located in the wilder areas south of the main resorts, starting around Praia da Mata and continuing through Fonte da Telha (Epic Surf School, Boarders Club Duckdive Nature Sports). They all do good spot breaks and quick beach breaks here, while even the small waves have breaks to ride for a while.
If you like kitesurfing or stand-up paddleboarding, there are schools ready to show you the ropes.
The capital is so close that sightseeing tours are mandatory.
15 minutes by car, traffic permit, or 30 minutes by bus.
For a more scenic approach, you can take a bus to Cacilhas, then take a ferry across the estuary to Cais do Sodré.
One attraction of the ferry terminal’s general appeal is Regal’s Commerce Square, which was converted into a large square during the post-1755 reconstruction. Or there’s the new Time Out market, which is located in the beautiful Mercado da Ribeira building and the lobby of the one-off food pop-up restaurant.
Continue on to the Upper Alfama and Bairro Alto neighborhoods, ride the cable car, visit the São Jorge Castle, and visit the awe-inspiring National Museum, showcasing tiles and ancient art.
Until the lines were redrawn in 2013, the Costa da Caparica was actually a parish in Almada, a city 10 minutes from the main resort.
Located on the left bank of the Tagus River, Almada was once the center of Lisbon’s fishing and canning business.
These industries have disappeared, leaving behind a waterfront area of old docks and warehouses that are being put to new uses.
At the Casa da Cerca Cultural Center, you can enjoy a cup of coffee before looking out over Lisbon’s Tagus River from the terrace.
Rua do Ginjal on the water has several trendy bars and restaurants that Lisbon frequents before catching the last ferry home.
Docked at the ferry terminal is Portugal’s last wooden-hulled warship, Dom Fernando II e Glória, launched in 1843.
10. Boca do Vento Elevator
Almada’s riverside is dominated by cliffs, and as the city has been revived over the past 20 years, small attractions have been added to attract tourists to the area.
One of them is the Boca do Vento elevator, which opened in 2000. You will be at the top of a cliff where there is a cafe and be transported to Jardim do Rio by the water.
This is a gorgeous and almost secluded spot at the foot of the cliffs, with stunning views of the 25th of April Bridge and the Lisbon skyline.
There are also some remnants of industries along the river, and one of the warehouses houses a museum (Museu Náutico e Arqueológico) that tells about the sea life of Almada in the past.
11. April 25 Bridge
If the road is clear, you can reach this landmark within five minutes of the main resort.
It’s the 27th largest suspension bridge in the world, a feat when you remember it was completed in 1966. At the time it was the longest suspension bridge on the European continent.
It’s no accident that you might find similarities with the bridge that spans the San Francisco Bay: Its design is based in part on the Golden Gate Bridge, and it even includes copper-colored “International Orange” paint.
It was also built by the American Bridge Company, the same company that provided us with the Oakland Bay Bridge.
12. Christ the King National Temple
It’s common to have religious shrines on capes and hilltops, but you’ll have to walk a long way to find something as striking as this.
Lisbon’s answer to Rio’s Christ the Redeemer is a 30-meter-tall statue that rises nearly 200 meters above the Tagus River, given its elevated position on the pedestal.
The monument, which was raised in the 1950s, was inspired by the Brazilian version and thanked Portugal for escaping the devastation of World War II.
The two massive pillars supporting the Christ statue have elevators inside that take you to the platform, where another unforgettable view of the river and city awaits you to catch your breath.
From the Port of Brandon, off the coast of Caparica, you can catch a ferry to Belém.
Again, you are so close it would be a shame not to embark on the journey.
Belém is located in the 15th and 16th centuries of the great Portuguese seafaring era.
Expeditions led by the likes of Vasco da Gama, Magellan and Henry the Navigator set off from the pier here, and a modern monument commemorates this fact.
Portugal also has two UNESCO sites and official wonders: the impressive 16th-century Tower of Belém, with its entrance, an armillary sphere carved by Manuel, symbolizing Portugal’s seafaring prowess.
The Jeronimos Monastery is Vasco da Gama’s resting place, with stunning 16th-century stonework on its façade, cloisters and vaults.
As a seaside resort a few kilometers from Lisbon, the Caparica Coast also attracts tourists from the capital with its increasing number of amenities.
One, Aldeia dos Capuchos is close to the scenic viewpoint of the old monastery.
Taking advantage of these stunning views, the new nine-hole course welcomes daytime guests, with a driving range and practice green on site.
If you want to soak in the jacuzzi, book a massage or burn some calories at the gym, you can head to the spa.
Although the Costa da Caparica has changed dramatically since the 1980s, fishing remains a way of life in this former village.
Even in the new high-rise towers you can see “saveiro em meia-lua”, a crescent-shaped dhow.
Now, in its fourth decade, an event is held every April to honor this legacy: the Concurso da Caldeirada Pescador is a competition to find out which restaurant in the resort makes the best fish stew.
It’s made with a mix of fish such as eel, herring and mullet, then simmered in a clay pot with potatoes, tomatoes and herbs.
Caldo verde is Portugal’s famous mixed vegetable soup, and when you need a quick snack, nothing beats a simple pão com chouriço (bread with sausage inside).
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Costa da Caparica, Portugal
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