Located near Porto, Espinho is a resort with wide sandy beaches, rolling waves and plenty of seafood restaurants.
What more can you ask for? Several things have brought this former fishing village to fame: in June, contestants from all over the world gather in Espinho to compete for the high and hollow waves of Praia da Baía.
The shrimp caught near Espinho are famous throughout Portugal and are delicious.
Then there’s the weekly market, the largest in the country, with rows of stalls for kilometers long selling just about everything in the sun.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Espinho:
1. Playa da Baia
Just in front of town, Espinho’s favorite beach is a stunning bay with shallow curves flanked by long breakwaters.
There is an elevated promenade that runs along the beach, through restaurants, and a wall where people meet and hang out.
Surf shops and schools are along the boulevard, as the beach has a reliable hollow beach break.
Praia da Baía also gradually runs aground, so the waves break far away, leaving a large space with knee-high water and pools at low tide.
2. Mercado Semanal
Try to spend at least a Monday in Espinho as this is the weekly outdoor market.
Mercado Semanal is a huge business and is considered by most to be one of the best outdoor markets in Portugal.
It’s been in business since 1894 and draws thousands of shoppers into town each week.
Aside from the incredible size and variety, the benefit of this market is the opportunity to buy regional delicacies such as cheese, ham, fruit, spices and cured sausages directly from the producers.
You might be intimidated by the sight of live animals such as ducks, chickens and rabbits for sale, while there are hundreds of stalls selling household items, clothes, accessories and handicrafts.
3. Municipal Museum
The magnificent “Fábrica de Conservas Brandão, Gomes & C.ª” cannery in Espinho has been transformed into the town’s artistic and cultural forum.
This is an early 20th century building with an airy, modern interior.
The museum showcases the story of the old cannery, old advertising photos and cans of all shapes and sizes to give an idea of what Espinho looked like before the tour.
There is also an exhibit on traditional xávega fishing, using crescent-shaped wooden boats and huge cone-shaped nets.
One of the boats is in the gallery with photos and first-hand accounts of fishing at that time.
4. Centro Multimeios de Espinho
The town’s multimedia centre has been here since 2000 and is constantly under load.
Check the website once you get to Espinho as there are plenty of options for rainy days or nights with no other plans.
On the upper level is the observatory and a planetarium capable of showing 3D programs.
There is also an auditorium that hosts theatre, live music and dance performances and doubles as a cinema.
The convenience of this is that almost all movies in Portugal are shown in English with Portuguese subtitles.
Finally, a contemporary art gallery and a trendy coffee shop are in the same building.
5. Piscina Solário Atlântico de Espinho
This pool complex is located on the waterfront and is suitable for swimmers who need a warmer, calmer environment than the open ocean.
There are two swimming pools, a wading pool for children and a full-size pool for adults, both fed directly from the Atlantic Ocean.
There are sun loungers and umbrellas on all sides, and there is a bar serving snacks and drinks.
While you’re relaxing, you might also appreciate the complex’s Art Deco design; it dates back to 1942, with a beautiful entry pavilion and a diving platform, like a modern work of art.
6. Playa de Silvard
Praia de Silvalde, also known as Pau da Manobra, is just a few minutes away from the resort.
Where Praia da Baía is full of people and activities, this blue flag beach is completely quiet.
There are only dunes and golf courses in the back, and a large stretch of sand for you to watch surfers and surfers tame the waves.
The upper part of Praia de Silvalde has more activities, with lifeguards, a bar and places to rent sun loungers.
On the breakwater, there are always some locals throwing fishing lines into the waves.
7. Parque João de Deus
Espinho feels more like a city in this central square and gardens, beautified in the 1940s.
All important facilities such as the municipal library, post office, bank and city hall are located in the Parque João de Deus park, while on the coast is a pedestrian shopping artery with shops, cafés and bars in the streets.
If you want to get to know the town, the garden is a great place to rest.
There are large and lush lawns, flower beds, tree-lined avenues and children’s playgrounds.
8. Espinho Casino
After dark, you can’t miss the neon lights of the town’s casino behind the Praia da Baía promenade.
Open since 1974, the casino promises baccarat, roulette, plenty of slot machines and bingo.
Like all casinos, it tries to keep bettors on longer, with six reasonably priced bars, a restaurant and live performances in a cozy auditorium.
If you’re not in the mood to gamble, you can always come for a meal or listen to live music and move on.
9. Castro de Orville
In the Parish of Palamos, you can wander among the ruins of an Iron Age settlement.
“Castro” is a fortified hilltop village dating back thousands of years before the Romans arrived in Portugal.
These have a set of circular dry stone houses, usually made of shale, and protected by an outer wall or moat.
Castro de Ovil has all the characteristics of a typical Castro and was discovered in 1981 on a hill covered with pine trees.
There are a total of thirteen houses, some of which sit on slate-paved courtyards.
An interesting thing about the site is that there is no sign of Roman architecture, which tells us that it was abandoned before or during the invasion of Lusitania.
10. Cote d’Azur
Another annual Blue Flag winner for Espinho is City Beach above the resort.
Praia da Frente Azul is backed by the same long and wide seaside promenade, so it’s a good idea to take a walk even in the off-season.
In summer, it is lively and hosts European championships for beach volleyball, bodyboarding and surfing.
No matter what’s on the agenda, there’s plenty of room for everyone on this very wide sandy beach.
Praia da Frente Azul, also known as “ludoteca”, rents toys and games for children.
Porto, the capital of the northern region and a World Heritage city, is just a short drive away.
If you want to see the best of Porto, you will need more than a day, but if you can only do a whirlwind tour, there are a few musts: On the Douro River, don’t miss the Ribeira district and its busy The square is surrounded by brightly colored houses.
On the opposite shore is the port hut of Vila Nova de Gaia, where this fortified wine has been stored and traded for 200 years or more.
The legendary Liberty Square, the Baroque masterpiece of the Clérigos Church, is full of culture and history.
Don’t miss Palácio da Bolsa, with its various ornately styled rooms and a central courtyard with a huge metal and glass dome.
Espinho is with Portugal’s top surf town.
For this, you have Praia da Baía’s three-meter expansion and long, hollow “right side” to thank.
This all contributes to a small but healthy surf industry in town, with shops and schools in the streets around the casino.
If you’re serious about improving your technique or learning the basics, you can take a one-time session on the day or book a longer session.
There are surf and surf competitions throughout June, and the last weekend of Junior Pro Espinho is an event on the World Surf League Tour.
13. Porto Golf Club
Next to Praia de Silvalde is the oldest golf course in Portugal and the second oldest in continental Europe.
Founded in 1890 by British port traders, Porto Golf Club has hosted the Skeffington Cup every year since 1891.
The 18-hole par 71 challenges all the challenges of an old-fashioned links course with expansive greens and sea breezes.
The fairways are also very narrow, so you can’t take too many chances off the tee.
After some really tricky holes, the front and back nines both ended with a forgiving par 5.
14. Estação Litoral Da Aguda
You might be tempted to learn more about life on the coast before tourism arrives, and if so, there’s a lovely museum and aquarium just 5km away from Agouda.
The first is the aquarium, which has 15 tanks with about 60 different species.
The idea was to reveal the region’s Atlantic wildlife, which includes spider crabs, octopuses, common turtles and moray eels.
The Wings of Agouda Fisheries document the way of life and trade tools of the local fishermen; there are nets, buoys, model boats and some marine archaeological cases.
Espinho may not be a big place, but throughout Portugal, its name is associated with seafood.
One more than any other, camarão de Espinho (Espinho shrimp). These are fresh, delicious and sold all over town, at sit-down seafood restaurants or at cervejerias (bars). You can order a plate of pale beer or a glass of vinho verde from the Minho valley in the north.
Also look out for sopa de peixe, a rich fish soup, or caldeirada, the Portuguese favorite stew of fish and potatoes.
Arroz de marisco is a paella, usually with mussels and shrimp, and sometimes nothing beats grilled sardines.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Espinho, Portugal
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