One thing which stuns so many tourists to Lisbon is the fact that summer weather is never really far away, the Portuguese capital featuring one of the most enjoyable climates in Europe. Whilst the city has an average annual temperature no lower than 11C/52F, giving it one of the mildest winters around, the sea breezes make the summer heat more bearable than in many other places.
Still, when the mercury tops 30C, (or creeps into the nineties, for our Fahrenheit-using readers), it may be time to leave the sight-seeing of Sintra and old-school charm of Alfama and head out to some of the area’s stunning beaches.
The easiest way to reach a beach is to head to the Cais do Sodré train station in the city centre. Pick up a green travel card and load it with enough money to get you to the end of the line and back, (a bargain €2.15 each way, plus 50¢ for the card which you can keep and re-use). Cards can be bought at the station from the ticket windows or the somewhat temperamental ticket machines: lines for both get pretty hectic on summer mornings, but you can buy them in advance when the station is quieter and they will be valid whenever you need to use them.
The entire 30km/18½ mile line west follows the coast and gives you some great views as the Tejo, (the river Tagus), becomes the Atlantic. After the first few stops practically every station backs onto a beach: these are indicated by a yellow palm-tree symbol on the map, allowing you to try out a few if you have the time.
Most people head to the most famous beach at the end of the line, Cascais, (pronounced with the Portuguese lisp as ‘CashCAish’), which is a typically cute seaside resort, whilst others hop off a few stops earlier at Estoril, where they can enjoy a post-sunbathe gamble at the largest casino in Europe on the opposite side of the tracks. Another busy beach, located slightly further from the station, is Carcavelos, popular with surfers. My personal recommendation is to try one of the smaller, local beaches such as Paço de Arcos, a tiny bay where local families enjoy a dip.
Cascais. Photo: Travel U.S. News
For those feeling more adventurous, hop over to the other side of the river to discover the endless beaches of Costa da Caparica. The number 161 bus can take you there directly from Praça do Areeiro, including a journey across the famous red 25th of April Bridge, or enjoy a short, cheap ferry ride from Cais do Sodré to Cacilhas followed by a number 124 bus to the beach. There are cosy beachfront restaurants in the busier northern area, but travel further south and you may find miles of pristine sand for you alone.
If you’re lucky you’ll be there when the fishermen bring in their haul, (you’ll know they’re coming when the sky suddenly fills with expectant seagulls), emptying nets full of fish onto tarpaulins. Local restaurant workers and housewives wait for the catch to be sorted before they can purchase the freshest fish possible, straight out of the sea. All they leave behind are giant mounds of jellyfish, and an appetite for dinner.
Doron was a Sandeman’s guide and regular beach-visitor in Lisbon for two years. You can follow his literary travels at www.doronklemer.wordpress.com