The best independent guide to Porto
The best independent guide to Porto
Porto will surprise you with its quantity and quality of beaches, many of which are easily accessibly by public transport.
The city is rarely considered as a beach destination, but it lies at the heart of the Costa Verde, a rugged coastline of golden beaches, rocky headlands and dramatic natural scenery.
The close proximity of Porto to these wonderful beaches is not widely publicised, and many visitors are unaware that a trip to Porto in summer can also include day trips to the beaches.
A short train ride will take you to the unspoilt beaches of Vila do Conde, the vast beach at Povoa de Varzim, the lively resort town of Espinho, or the delightful town of Costa Nova.
Porto even boasts beaches within the city limits, with a sandy coastline extending from the mouth of the Douro River northwards to Matosinhos.
This article will provide an introduction to the beaches of the Porto region.
Related articles: Introduction to Porto – Top 10 Porto - 1-week in Porto
The Forte de São João guarded the coastline around Vila do Conde
The Praia de Miramar characterises the wild and windswept Costa Verde coastline
Here is a summary of the best beaches and resort towns in the Porto region. It includes the distances measured from the Praça da Liberdade in central Porto, along with the recommended means of travel.
Best small beach within Porto city limits - Praia do Homem do Leme (6km/bus)
Largest and most popular beach near Porto - Praia de Matosinhos (8km/bus)
Best beach north of Porto - Povoa de Varzim (30km/metro)
Best beach south of Porto – Praia do Senhor da Pedra (14km from Porto/train)
Best resort town (traditional) - Vila do Conde
Best resort town (Lively) - Espinho
Unique beach town - Costa Nova with its striped beach houses
The map below shows the location of our top 10 Porto beaches (yellow markers) and our favourite resort towns (green markers).
The top 10 beaches are: 1) Praia do Senhor da Pedra (Miramar) 2) Praia Redonda (Povoa de Varzim) 3) Praia da Azurara (Vila do Conde) 4) Praia das Sereias (Espinho) 5) Praia da Ladeira Norte (Vila do Conde) 6) Praia das Pedras do Corgo (Lavra) 7) Praia da Aguda (Aguda) 8) Praia de Matosinhos 9) Praia do Homem do Leme (Porto) 10) Praia do Carneiro (Porto)
The top 5 resort towns are: 1) Vila do Conde 2) Costa Nova 3) Povoa de Varzim 4) Espinho 5) Miramar
For a simple day on the beach (using public transport) we would head to the Praia do Senhor da Pedra (1) or the Praia da Aguda (2).
These two beaches are next to each other, and offer golden sands, clean sea waters, and a pleasant, low-key Portuguese ambience. Both beaches are served by the train to Aveiro which departs from São Bento train station.
For an extended day trip, which combines both a beach and a pretty town (and to show the region off to friends and family) we would head to Vila do Conde and the Praia da Azurara (3).
The Praia do Senhor da Pedra, and the seaside chapel
For a half-day on the beach, which is close to Porto we would head to the Praia do Homem do Leme (10) (or one of the many numerous beaches along the Foz coastline) or the Praia de Matosinhos (8).
Matosinhos is a great beach with a buzzing atmosphere and lots of bars and restaurants, but it overlooks the cruise terminal and fishing docks so is not the most scenic of locations…
When we are with families and children, we take them to the Praia de Leça da Palmeira, as there is a good beach and a seawater lido (the Piscina das Marés).
The beaches along the Foz district, this is the Praia de Gondarem
Praia de Matosinhos is popular with the Portuguese but it is far from a paradise setting…
Many of Porto’s beaches are suitable for children and families. They are generally of a high standard (well maintained and clean waters) and are popular with Portuguese families. During the summer season lifeguards supervise the most popular beaches.
Care must be taken when swimming as there can be powerful waves, hidden rocks or strong currents; only swim where it is shown to be safe. Safe waters include the Piscina das Mares pools at the Praia de Leça da Palmeira, the sheltered bay at the Praia da Aguda and northern side of the Praia de Matosinhos. As indicated in the previous section, the sea temperature is always chilly.
For a family beach holiday within the Costa Verde we would recommend Costa Nova (near Aveiro) or Povoa de Varzim.
Holiday tip: Sun creams are very expensive in Portugal, bring them from your home country.
Espinho beach is one of the regions largest, with a beach that extends for 17km
There are three main areas for Porto’s beaches; the Foz do Douro district, Matosinhos and the Costa Verde beaches
Foz do Douro beaches are the closets to Porto, and are okay for a half day’s relaxing but are the least impressive and can be very busy. Matosinhos beaches are much larger, but not necessarily that scenic. The Costa Verde beaches are further away, but are the most stunning.
The beaches closest to Porto, line the affluent Foz do Douro and Nevogilde districts of the city. These are smaller sized beaches, which are interspaced between rock outcrops and craggy headlands, and all tend to be very similar.
Being so close to Porto the Foz do Douro beaches will be very busy in the summer, but are a favourite with Portuguese families. Running along the beachfront is a pleasant promenade (the Foz Promenade) and a cycle path.
The Foz do Douro coastline
Our Opinion: There are much better beaches within the Costa Verde coastline, but the Foz beaches are certainly the easiest to travel to. This stretch of coastline is better for a walk/cycle/stroll than a day on the beach.
The Praia do Carneiro is the most southerly of the Foz beaches and is the closest to the mouth of the Douro River. The Fortaleza de São João da Foz fort overlooks the beach, and a long groyne extends out from the Douro Estuary.
North from Carneiro beach are the Praia do Ourigo, the Praia dos Ingleses and the Praia da Luz beaches. These three are a continuation of the Praia do Carneiro, and hence are very similar.
Praia do Ourigo
The next stretch of sands are the Praia de Gondarém Praia do Molhe beaches. On the northern side of the Molhe de Carreiros sea defence is the final beach, the Praia do Homem do Leme
The most notable feature close to the Praia do Molhe is the Pérgola da Foz, a neoclassical pergola, that was inspired by the Promenade des Anglais, in Nice.
The Pérgola da Foz is considered as one of the most romantic locations of Porto and a beautiful setting to watch the sunset over the ocean.
Pérgola da Foz
The Foz beaches are all severed by the regular 500 bus service. This bus route departs from the Praça Liberdade in central Porto and follows the coastline round to the town of Matosinhos (see next section).
A zone two (Z2) bus ticket is required and costs €1.95 when purchased from the driver or €1.20 when charged to the Andante card. The latest timetable and fare information can be seen on the STCP (Sociedade de Transportes Colectivos do Porto) website:
General info: http://www.stcp.pt/en/travel/
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All of the previous beaches have been relatively small and inconsequential, but the town of Matosinhos offers two decent beaches, which are very close to Porto. Matosinhos is a town (more suburb of Porto) that is famed for its freshly caught fish and busy fishing harbour.
The larger of the beaches, the Praia de Matosinhos, is to the south of the docks, while the Praia de Leça da Palmeira is to the north of the harbour. During the summer these two beaches are Porto’s most popular beaches, and there is a real buzz about them. For a guide to Matosinhos, please click here.
Clear waters and golden sands, there’s a reason Matosinhos is popular
The only downside to Matosinhos’ beaches is that the fishing harbour and docks dominate the scenery. These beaches are great for a beach day (decent sands, clean waters and modern facilities), but do not have the idyllic setting or wow factor that certain tourists may wish for their holiday.
We would recommend that if you are new to Porto and seek a beautiful beach we would suggest travelling further to Aguda, Espinho or Vila do Conde. Alternatively, if you just want a good beach which is close to Porto, then the Praia de Matosinhos would be a sensible choice. This opinion is shared with the majority of Porto, as at the summer weekends most of the city descends to Matosinhos’ beaches!
Don’t miss: The lively morning fish market or a delicious meal of freshly caught fish
Matosinhos main advantage as a beach destination is that it is straightforward to travel to.
The town is connected to central Porto by both the bus and metro networks. We prefer travelling by metro to Matosinhos. The main bus route is the number 500 service, which was discussed earlier in the article.
Matosinhos is connected to Porto by the blue (line A) metro service, which departs from Trindade metro station. The journey takes 40 minutes and requires a zone three ticket (Z3 - €1.60 single).
The closest metro stop for the Praia de Matosinhos is “Matosinhos Sul” and for the Praia de Leça da Palmeira get off at the “Mercado” stop (and cross the river). For more details about Porto metro please see:
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The coastline to the south of Porto is one continuous sandy beach that extends for over 17km and incorporates the towns of Miramar, Aguda, Granja, Francelos and Espinho. This coastline is characteristic of the Costa Verde with vast sandy beaches, and huge Atlantic waves, which make them ideal for surfing. Espinho is the largest resort town along this stretch of coastline and is served by the Porto-Aveiro railway.
The Dunas Litorais de Gaia
To the north of Porto are the resort towns of Vila do Conde and Povoa de Varzim. Vila do Conde is a charming town that has retained its historic centre and is on a 6km stretch of sand, while Povoa de Varzim is a much more modern town with an equally good beach. Both of these beach towns are served by the Porto metro, but the journey times are slightly longer at over 1 hour.
Espinho is the focal point for the stunning 17km long beach and is a pleasant mixture of traditional Portuguese life and modern tourist facilities. The largest casino in northern Portugal overlooks a beach where colourful fishing boats are still pulled up onto the sands.
Espinho is popular with Portuguese tourist either on holiday or day-trippers from Porto, but the vast size of the beach means that there is always space to be found. Espinho is connected to Porto by the regular and inexpensive urban railway that departs from São Bento train station.