The only independent guide to Porto
Porto lies within the beautiful Costa Verde coastline and is surrounded by numerous outstanding beaches. This stretch of coastline faces the might of the Atlantic Ocean, and is formed of vast expanses of golden sands, rocky headlands and dramatic natural scenery.
Porto’s close proximity to the beaches of the Costa Verde is not widely publicised, and many visitors new to the region are surprised that a city break to Porto can also be combined with a beach trip. Many of the region’s finest beaches are easily accessible from central Porto, and are connected by the city’s inexpensive public transport network.
Slightly further from Porto are traditional and characterful beach resorts, including Vila do Conde, Espinho, Esposende and Costa Nova. These towns can be visited as beach day trips or, even better, as relaxed short stays. This article will provide an introduction to the beaches of the Porto region.
Fishing boats are still moored on the beaches
Best small beach within Porto city limits - Praia do Carneiro (6km from Praça da Liberdade)
Largest sandy beach close to Porto - Praia de Matosinhos (also most popular beach)
Best beach north of Porto - Praia de Mindelo (Areia -25km from Porto)
Best beach south of Porto – Praia do Senhor da Pedra (14km from Porto)
Best resort town - Vila do Conde (28km from central Port)
Bustling summer resort towns - Espinho and Povoa de Varzim
Most charming resort town, ideal for an extended stay - Costa Nova (80km from Porto)
For a simple day on the beach (using public transport) we would head to the Praia da Aguda (GPS: 41.05016, -8.65605) or the Praia do Senhor da Pedra (GPS:41.06733, -8.657550). These connected beaches offer golden sands, clean sea waters, and a pleasant low-key Portuguese ambience. Both beaches are served by the urban railway to Aveiro, with regular and inexpensive departures.
For an extended day trip combining both a beach and a pretty town (and to show the region off to friends and family) we would head to Vila do Conde (GPS: 41.0501, -8.65605).
For a beach trip close to Porto (often due to us starting late in the day) we would head to the Praia do Carneiro (GPS: 41.14817, -8.67570) or the Praia de Matosinhos (GPS: 41.17574, -8.69339).
When we are with families and children, we take them to the Praia de Leça da Palmeira (GPS: 41.19051, -8.70638), as there is a good beach and a seawater lido (the Piscina das Mares).
The small Praia da Senhora da Guia beach close to Vila do Conde
The weather is suitable for spending time on Porto’s beaches from May until the end of September. Be warned the sea water is always cold, only reaching a maximum of 19C in the height of the summer. If you are planning to spend long periods in the sea (bodyboarding/surfing) you will want a wetsuit. The region can experience strong sea breezes.
Average weather conditions for Porto
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 (GPS: 41.04857, -8.655805) and northern side of the Praia de Matosinhos. As indicated in the previous section, the sea temperatures are 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
The remainder of the article details the beaches of the Porto and Costa Verde region. The article will consider the beaches in three different areas; Foz do Douro, Matosinhos and beaches further from Porto.
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 beaches further away are the most stunning, with huge expanses of sand around Espinho, Areia and Povoa de Varzim, but require a longer journey (45min+) using public transport.
Also, the focus of the beaches discussed will be the beaches that are easily accessible using public transport, as for a holiday to Porto there is no need for a rental car..
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 cycle path.
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 (GPS: 41.14817, -8.67570) 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.
Praia do Carneiro
North from Carneiro beach are the Praia do Ourigo (GPS: 41.15000, -8.67687), the Praia dos Ingleses (GPS: 41.15190, -8.678422) and the Praia da Luz (GPS: 41.15328, -8.67938). These three are a continuation of the Praia do Carneiro, and hence are very similar.
The next stretch of sands are the Praia de Gondarém (GPS: 41.156275, -8.68152), Praia do Molhe (41.158048, -8.68363) beaches. On the northern side of the Molhe de Carreiros sea defence is the final beach, the Praia do Homem do Leme (GPS: 41.159517, -8.68524)
Pérgola da Foz
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.
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.
The only downside to Matosinhos’ beaches is that the fishing harbour and docks dominate the scenery. These beaches are great for a beach day (good sands, clean waters and decent 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 (GPS: 41.1870, -8.69314) or a delicious meal of freshly caught fish
Matosinhos main advantage as a beach destination is that it is very easy to travel to. The town is connected to central Porto by both the bus and metro networks. We prefer travelling by the 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 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.
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.
Fishing nets are routine dried and stored on the beaches
Espinho is popular with Portuguese tourist either on holiday or day tripping 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 Sao Bento train station.