The best independent guide to Porto
The best independent guide to Porto
Matosinhos is a major port and fishing town that boasts some of the finest beaches close to Porto.
In summer, Matosinhos is a vibrant and buzzing tourist destination, with residents of Porto flocking to the town's golden sand beaches.
These wonderful beaches lie on either side of the port, with its huge sea walls limiting the natural coastal erosion and creating two vast stretches of sand; the Praia de Matosinhos and the Praia de Leça da Palmeira.
The Praia de Matosinhos is the best beach that is easily accessible from Porto (connected by both the metro and bus), and is why the majority of visitors head to the town.
Matosinhos is also renowned for its seafood restaurants, which serve the fresh catch from the town's fishing fleet. At lunchtime, the delicious smell of grilled fish wafts through the fishing district.
Matosinhos is not the most scenic of towns, being a working port and filled with many bland 1980s apartment blocks. This doesn't really matter, as all of the sights of Matosinhos are along its beautiful coastline, including the Castelo do Queijo, the bustling beachfront and the coastal footpaths.
The Praia de Matosinhos – The most popular beach close to Porto, which boasts a huge expanse of sand and waves that are suitable for surfing. Matosinhos beach is a fantastic location for a beach trip if you are based in Porto, as it can be easily reached from the city.
Praia de Leça da Palmeira – A glorious, sandy beach to the northern side of the Matosinhos port. The Leça da Palmeira is a slightly better beach than the Praia de Matosinhos, but it is a 1.5km from the metro (the ‘Mercado’ stop).
Fishing at Matosinhos – Fishing has always been at the heart of Matosinhos, and this can be experienced in the lively fish market (the Mercado de Matosinhos) or savoured in the family-run fish restaurants close to the harbour.
The fish restaurants along the Rua Heróis de França
The Avenida da Liberdade coastal path – The scenic foot and cycle path that heads northwards from Matosinhos to the Farol de Leça and Boa Nova chapel.
The Praia Azul beach and Capela da Boa Nova, 2km north of Matosinhos
Insight: The Matosinhos region comprises of two towns; Matosinhos to the south of the Rio Leça River and 'Leça da Palmeira' to the north. For visitors, the two towns should be considered as the same.
The sole reason why most visitors head to Matosinhos is for the beach.
Matosinhos is a fantastic destination for a relaxing day on the beach, and is why so many of Porto's residents head here on a hot summer's day.
The Foz district of Porto (2km to the south of Matosinhos) has many small beaches, but these have coarser sands, rocky outcrops and are exposed to strong sea breezes. Matosinhos' beaches have soft sands, clean sea waters and waves that are suitable for surfing – and are generally much better than the beaches in Foz.
Apart from the beach, Matosinhos is rarely considered as a day trip from Porto. This is a shame, as the town has a genuine Portuguese atmosphere and a selection of interesting sights.
A trip to Matosinhos could be combined with the Foz district or the Leça da Palmeira coastline, the section north of Matosinhos.
The Castelo do Queijo (Cheese Castle!) stands on the southern side of the Praia de Matosinhos
The primary attraction of Matosinhos is the beaches, but there are sufficient sights to fill a half-day of sightseeing.
These sights could include the Bom Jesus de Matosinhos church, the lively market and Castelo do Queijo. If you include a coastal walk along the Leça da Palmeira coastline or the northern section of the Foz district, then you have an enjoyable full day of sightseeing.
One bonus of Matosinhos is that it is very easy to travel to from Porto, by either catching the metro (line 'A') or the regular bus (route 500). This means that Matosinhos can be combined with a day of sightseeing in Porto – often as the Foz district and Matosinhos.
Insight: Matosinhos Sul is the closest metro stop to the beach.
Below is an interactive map of the sights (green markers) and beaches (yellow) of the Matosinhos region. The green line is a suggested tour and covers 15km. (Note: zoom out to see all of the points)
Sights (green markers): 1) Senhor do Padrão (monument) 2) Fish restaurant area 3) Mercado de Matosinhos (market) 4) Bom Jesus de Matosinhos (church) 5) Fort Leça de Palmeira (fort) 6) Piscina das Marés (ocean swimming pool) 7) Farol de Leça (lighthouse) 8) Capela da Boa Nova (chapel) 9) Sea Life (aquarium) 10) Castelo do Queijo (fort) 11) Pérgola da Foz
Beaches (yellow markers): 12) Praia de Matosinhos 13) Praia de Leça da Palmeira 14) Praia do Aterro 15) Praia Azul 16) Praia da Senhora da Boa Nova 17) Praia dos Beijinhos 18) Praia de Leça 19) Praia do Homem do Leme 20) Praia do Molhe 21) Praia de Gondarém 22) Praia dos Ingleses
The Piscina das Marés (marker 6 on the map) is a series of swimming pools that are set within a rocky outcrop on the Leça da Palmeira beach. The pools and sunbathing areas are popular with the Portuguese- and the water is always much warmer than the sea!
This is a great area for families, with the entrance fee for a full day ranging from €7-€9/€5-€7 (adult/child) depending on the day and month.
The Mercado Municipal (3) is the daily market with a variety of stalls selling local produce, fresh fish and locally grown fruit and veg. The market building dates from the 1950s and is a protected national monument, with its bold, modernist interior and futuristic curved roof.
The 17th century Castelo do Queijo (10) is part of a series of defensive forts that guarded the coastline north of Porto. The bizarre name of the fort (Cheese Castle) is due to the granite rock it was constructed upon, which allegedly resembles a cheese.
The Bom Jesus de Matosinhos church (4) was historically an important pilgrimage destination as it housed the wooden carving of the 'Bom Jesus de Matosinhos'.
This ancient artefact was the first depiction of Jesus to arrive in Portugal (in 124) and was carved by Nicodemus, a man who knew Jesus and is mentioned in the bible. The 'Bom Jesus de Matosinhos’ carving gives the town of Matosinhos its name.
The Bom Jesus church dates from 1579, but the exterior was re-modelled in an extravagant baroque style in 1743 by the Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni.
The Pérgola da Foz (11) is part of the pretty waterfront of the Foz district. This is a romantic setting from which you can watch the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.
The Farol de Leça (7) was the last major lighthouse to be constructed in Portugal, being finished in 1926. The lighthouse stands at 46m and is the second highest in Portugal.
The Ponte móvel de Leça bridge crosses the Rio Leça estuary and the Matosinhos port. This is not the most scenic area of Matosinhos, but is on the route from the metro to the beaches of Leça da Palmeira, such as the Praia de Leça da Palmeira.
To the south of the Praia de Matosinhos is the 'She Changes' sculpture, a series of impressive red nets that are suspended above the roundabout. This distinctive piece of art was commissioned in 2005 and created by Janet Echelman. The art represents the fishing heritage of Matosinhos, but locals refer to it as the Anémona (the sea anemone).
Matosinhos is 8km from central Porto and is served by both bus and metro services.
The 'A' metro line connects Porto to Matosinhos. The journey takes 27 minutes from Trindade (the main metro station in Porto) to Matosinhos Sul (the closest station to the beach). The journey requires a Z3 (3 zone ticket) that costs €1.60. This ticket is charged to the Andante card, which costs €0.60 for the initial purchase.
An alternative is the 500-bus route, which connects central Porto and the Ribeira district with the Foz district and Matosinhos. This is a scenic bus route, as it passes along the Douro River as well as the coastline of the Foz district. The journey takes 30 minutes to reach Matosinhos, and a single ticket purchased on-board costs €2.00 or €1.60 (a Z3 ticket) if you have a pre-loaded Andante card.
The metro to Matosinhos