12 Top Things to Do in Sesimbra, Portugal (2024)

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Basking quietly on Portugal’s coast lies Sesimbra town, a picturesque seaside fishing village just 40 kilometres from Lisbon. We discovered this ‘fishy’ town when we were motorhoming through Portugal.

If you’re planning a trip to Sesimbra, we’ve got you covered with an exciting list of the best things to do in Sesimbra. Whether you love beach relaxation, street art, historical landmarks, or adventure, this seaside village offers something special.

The town exudes a relaxed seaside vibe and is surrounded by the inviting Arrabida National Park to the east and the wild coast of Cabo Espichel to the west.

🥜 Sesimbra in a Nutshell

Explore the enchanting town of Sesimbra, located just 40 kilometres from Lisbon. This vibrant seaside fishing village offers many activities, from relaxing on sandy beaches to discovering historic sites and enjoying rich street art.

What to do in Sesimbra

  1. Relax at Praia de California: Unwind on the beautiful sandy beach right in the heart of the town.
  2. Explore Sesimbra Street Art: Admire the vibrant murals reflecting the town’s fishing heritage.
  3. Wander Through Sesimbra Old Town: Explore the historic old town’s narrow passageways and picturesque views.
  4. Visit Sesimbra Castle: Enjoy stunning panoramic views and explore the history of this medieval fortress.
  5. Explore the Fort of Santiago: Visit the maritime museum located within this 17th-century fortress.
  6. Chill at Sesimbra Marina: Observe the colourful local fishing boats and the daily life along the marina.
  7. Watch Xávega Art: Experience traditional fishing methods in action during the summer months.
  8. Enjoy Seafood at Sesimbra’s Restaurants: Indulge in fresh local seafood, including the famous Arroz de Marisco.
  9. Take a trip to Parque Natural Da Arrábida: Enjoy the spectacular landscapes and nature just a short drive away.
  10. Visit the Wild Cabo Espichel: Explore the rugged cliffs and dramatic coastal views of this scenic spot.
  11. Take a Boat Tour: Discover beaches and caves along the coastline and possibly spot dolphins.
  12. Enjoy a Sesimbra Day Trip Experience: Join guided tours to explore Sesimbra and its surroundings.

Getting to Sesimbra:

  • By Car: Drive just 35 minutes from Lisbon.
  • Public Transport: Take the TST Express bus from Lisbon’s Sete Rios station directly to Sesimbra.

Stay Recommendations:

Whether you’re visiting for a day or planning a longer stay, Sesimbra offers an unforgettable experience with its mix of natural beauty, historical sites, and vibrant local culture.

Things to do in Sesimbra Map

Expand the map by clicking on the box in the top right-hand corner and using the key on the left to find Sesimbra things to do that we’ve mentioned in this article.

Planning a Trip to Portugal?

12 Best Things to Do in Sesimbra

What to do in Sesimbra?

From exploring the ancient walls of Sesimbra Castle to strolling through Sesimbra Old Town. Vibrant streets are adorned with mesmerising street art, and every corner of Sesimbra exudes a unique sense of authenticity.

These things to do in Sesimbra embrace the essence of Portugal’s beloved fishing village and will help you create fond memories of your time here.

1. Relax at Praia de California

Unwind and soak up the sun at the beautiful Praia de California (California Beach) – a sandy stretch in the heart of town.

During the summer, the beach comes alive with locals and tourists, making it the perfect spot to experience the essence of Sesimbra’s seaside charm.

Though the beach may look deserted in our photo—we visited Sesimbra in March—during the summer months, it comes alive. Locals flock to soak up the sun and Sesimbra’s seaside charm.

Praia de California in Sesimbra ©Lifejourney4two

2.  Sesimbra Street Art

Stroll the streets of Sesimbra, and it won’t take long to notice the ‘fishy’ connections of the town. You’ll find detailed murals all over town depicting typical Portuguese fishing life. 

Sesimbra street art with mural of black and white boat on coloured swirls
Sesimbra Street Art

In 2014, the Sesimbra City Council asked artists to decorate the doors and windows of  Sesimbra’s old town, using the local fishing tradition as inspiration.

Now, the art, including several wall murals, has become another drawcard for tourists and colourfully enhances Sesimbra’s long-standing fishing traditions.

Check out some of the brilliant Sesimbra street art in our video below.

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Sesimbra Street Art, Portugal
Street art in Sesimbra

3.  Wander The Streets of Sesimbra Old Town

Discover the magic of this traditional fishing village on foot. Wander through the Old Town’s narrow passageways and hilly pathways that weave along the cliffside and delve into Sesimbra’s rich history and local culture.

While exploring, you’ll find several charming cafes and restaurants, each with unique character and culinary delights.

Take a break from your wanderings and indulge in some authentic Portuguese dishes while savouring panoramic views of the sea.

Sesimbra pretty side street
Sesimbra pretty side street ©Lifejourney4two
Sesimbra Portuguese-styled old home
Sesimbra Portuguese-styled old home ©Lifejourney4two
Street Art in Sesimbra depicting traditional fishing village life
Street Art in Sesimbra depicting traditional fishing village life ©Lifejourney4two

As the sun sets over the horizon, the town’s magical ambience comes to life, casting a golden glow over the streets. The gentle sea breeze carries the scent of salt and freshly caught fish, making an evening stroll through the Old Town of Sesimbra even more memorable.

Whether you’re an avid photographer capturing the essence of Sesimbra through your lens or a leisurely wanderer immersing yourself in the town’s history and culture, exploring Sesimbra’s streets is an experience that will leave a lasting impression.

For photography tips, check out our article full of ideas and techniques for interesting road trip photos.

4. Visit Sesimbra Castle (Castelo de Sesimbra)

Sesimbra Castle stands high on the hill overlooking the town and was classified as a National Monument in 1910. 

The views from the top are stunning, giving you a 360-degree view of the area, but be aware that there is a steep 230m climb up to this medieval castle.

Explore the tiny Igreja Santa Maria do Castelo church inside the castle, which is adorned with classic blue and white azulejo tiles.

There is also a small cafe by the castle – so you can refresh from the steep climb.

Sesimbra Castle is open from 7 am to 8 pm in the summer, and 7 am to 7 pm in winter, and entry is free.

Sesimbra castle walls at the of of a hill
Sesimbra Castle

 5. Explore The Fort of Santiago (Fortaleza de Santiago)

The Fort of Santiago, a 17th-century Fortress, is set right on the beach in Sesimbra.

It now houses the town’s Maritime Museum, which exhibits items and information related to its seafaring traditions. The local community and fishermen contributed many of the items.

You can see the old fortress walls best from the beach.

Fortaleza de Santiago, Sesimbra
The Maritime Museum is now housed in the remains of Santiago Fortress (Fortaleza de Santiago) in Sesimbra

6. Chill at the Sesimbra Marina

Walk the Praia de California west, then join the footpath and follow this around to the Sesimbra Marina.

Here, you see traditional multi-coloured small, wooden fishing boats, seagulls arguing over the scraps left on the quay and fishermen tending their nets.

Life at Sesimbra Marina
Life at Sesimbra Marina ©Lifejourney4two

At the Sesimbra marina, the pace of life is methodical and unhurried. We spent an hour or so just taking in the sights and watching fishermen and seagulls doing their daily business.

Sesimbra’s brightly-coloured fishing boats 
Sesimbra’s brightly-coloured fishing boats ©Lifejourney4two

7. Watch Xávega Art

If you are visiting Sesimbra between July and September, you can watch this traditional fishing art on Thursday evenings from 7 p.m.

This millennial fishing method involves using an aiola, a typical rowing boat in Sesimbra, to support the fishing.

A beach fishing net is fixed to the shore at one end and cast in a semicircular movement to bring the other end of the line back to shore. The net is brought ashore by fishermen pulling both ends of the line, and fish are caught in the sweep. 

Sesimbra Beach
Sesimbra Beach ©Lifejourney4two

8. Enjoy Seafood at Sesimbra’s Restaurants

All that sightseeing works up a good appetite and if you’re a fan of seafood, you’re in luck because Sesimbra is renowned for its fresh fishy platters.

The local fishermen supply Sesimbra’s restaurants with various seafood, so you can be sure you’re eating the day’s fresh catch.

A popular local dish served in a clay pot is Arroz de Marisco, a fantastic fish stew made with crabs, shellfish, and rice.

Arroz de Marisco - Sesimbra dish
Arroz de Marisco

The following restaurants are highly rated and are in the heart of Sesimbra (see the above map for locations):

Casa Mateus: Serves traditional Portuguese; hidden in the back streets; this restaurant serves authentically cooked food.

Taberna Isaias: serves lunch and dinner with local cuisine of seafood, Mediterranean, and Portuguese, including gluten-free options.

Sesimbra has its own local traditional sweet, Farinha Torrada. This dessert is made for fishermen to take to sea. It’s like an energy bar made of flour, chocolate, lemon, and cinnamon.

9. Take a trip to Parque Natural Da Arrábida

The Arrabida Nature Reserve is just northeast of Sesimbra and southwest of the city of Setúbal. It has indigenous vegetation, magnificent tall, white cliffs, fine sandy beaches, and sparkling blue seas.

The Serra da Arrábida mountains separate Sesimbra from the Setubal district, and it is only a 30-minute drive from Sesimbra to the main beach of Porto do Portinho da Arrábida. 

Sesimbra to the main beach of Porto do Portinho da Arrábida. 

10. Visit the Wild Cabo Espichel

Driving a mere 15 kilometres west of Sesimbra brings you to the doorstep of Cabo Espichel and its wild beauty on the tip of the Setubal Peninsula. Cabo Espichel is a landscape of ancient buildings, rolling hills, majestic cliffs, pounding seas and gusting winds.

If you love the wildness of nature, then this is the place for you.

Parking is not a problem, with a vast area right by the Nossa Senhora pilgrimage church and within easy walking distance of the other sights at Cabo Espichel.

Take time to explore the church and the nearby tiny chapel, the Ermida da Memoria, as well as the dramatic coastal landscape where, if you look carefully, you’ll see the remains of dinosaur footprints.

Cliff on Cabo Espichel ©Lifejourney4two

11. Take a Boat Tour

If you enjoy taking to the seas, you may consider a boat tour that visits the beaches and caves along the coastline. You may even spot dolphins as you go.

The tour leaves from Sesimbra, and its first stop is the stunning calm waters of Ribeiro do Calvalo Beach. Not easily reached by land, a slippery and steep walk down only for the very agile, this is the perfect way to visit this secluded bay.

You can snorkel here before heading to more beaches and learning about the history of Whaling Bay in Arrabida Natural Park. While enjoying a tipple of the local region, you will then view the wild coast of Cabo Espichel from the ocean before heading back to Sesimbra.

>>> See More Details for the Arrábida Natural Park Beaches and Caves Boat Tour Here

12. Enjoy a Sesimbra Day Trip Experience

Many guided tours and day trips depart from the town if you still wonder what to do in Sesimbra, Portugal. Many more depart from Lisbon if you would prefer to visit Sesimbra and its surrounds from there.

For more options, click the link below.

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Visiting Sesimbra in the Summer

Portugal Tourism has put together this video to give you an idea of what Sesimbra is like in the summer months.

Sesimbra - Portugal HD

Getting from Lisbon to Sesimbra

The easiest way to get from Lisbon to Sesimbra is by car, which takes around 35 minutes to travel the 40km.

Car Rental

If you are looking to hire a car, getting one from Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, is easier.

🚘 If you want to hire a car, we recommend DiscoverCars. They find the best deal and offer a price match guarantee.

Public Transport – Bus

To get from Lisbon to Sesimbra by bus, you can catch the TST Express bus no. 3721 from Lisboa (Sete Rios) to Sesimbra (Terminal).

Download the timetable here.

Sesimbra wall art at its best
Sesimbra’s nautical theme ©Lifejourney4two

Accommodation in Sesimbra

We were in the campervan and parked in the carpark at Sesimbra for one night.

However, if you are travelling by car, you may like to check out the following options available on booking.com, all of which have fantastic reviews:

Casa Calidris – Bed, Wine & Breakfast | ⭐️ 9.5/10-star reviews | 1.5 km from centre | Check availability and reviews

CALI Deluxe Holidays, Sesimbra | ⭐️ 9.4/10 star reviews | Check availability and reviews

Find more deals in Sesimbra for your dates and price range on Booking.com here

Sesimbra’s thriving fishing community ©Lifejourney4two

FAQs on Things to do in Sesimbra

Is Sesimbra worth visiting?

Sesimbra is a charming coastal town that offers visitors a rich blend of cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and vibrant local cuisine. With its picturesque beaches, historic castles, and excellent seafood, Sesimbra is definitely worth visiting for those who enjoy coastal escapes and cultural exploration.

How long to stay in Sesimbra?

A stay of two to three days is ideal for exploring all Sesimbra offers. This allows ample time to visit the main attractions, enjoy leisure at the beaches, and perhaps indulge in outdoor activities like hiking or snorkelling.

Why go to Sesimbra?

Sesimbra is a perfect getaway for those seeking adventure and relaxation. It is renowned for its beautiful beaches, historical sites like the Sesimbra Castle, and the opportunity to engage in water sports and other outdoor activities. Its proximity to Lisbon makes it an excellent choice for a day trip or a quiet weekend away from the city.

Is there a train from Lisbon to Sesimbra?

There is no direct train service from Lisbon to Sesimbra. The best way to travel is by bus or car. The bus service operates from Lisbon’s Sete Rios station to Sesimbra and provides a convenient and affordable option.

How far is Sesimbra from Lisbon?

Sesimbra is located approximately 40 kilometres south of Lisbon. The journey by car takes around 35 minutes, making it an easy and scenic drive. Public transport options, like the bus, offer a straightforward route to the town, providing a great alternative for those not driving.

Sesimbra’s colourful boats ©Lifejourney4two

Things to do in Sesimbra… That’s a Wrap

We thoroughly enjoyed our two-day adventure in Sesimbra and Cabo Espichel.

Even if you’re short on time, a quick visit to each of these things to do in Sesimbra, Portugal, will still captivate you with their natural beauty and unique charm. Sesimbra, Portugal, is brimming with activities and sights; even a brief encounter is enough to leave you longing for more.

For those interested in discovering more about Portugal, read our Explore Portugal page here. Dive deeper into the country’s rich culture and stunning landscapes to enrich your travel experience.

🌍 More Travels in Portugal and Spain

EXPLORE PORTUGAL’S COAST: Discover the stunning landscapes and historical allure from Sesimbra to the cliffs of Cabo Espichel. Each site offers a unique glimpse into Portugal’s natural beauty.

A DAY IN PORTO: Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture and iconic sights with our complete Porto city guide. Experience the best of Porto in just one day.

CAMPERVAN JOURNEYS: Embrace the freedom of exploring Portugal by campervan. Check out our tips and routes in The Ultimate Portugal Campervanning Guide. Extend your adventure into Spain with our detailed Road Trip Guide through Spain.

CABO ESPICHEL ADVENTURES: Explore the dramatic and picturesque natural reserve of Cabo Espichel. Ideal for anyone who loves nature walks and historical sites.

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Planning Your Travels?

These are the travel resources we recommend and use when planning our trips.

For a more thorough list, visit our Travel Resources page here.

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Shelley, a former primary school teacher with a law degree, and her husband Lars co-own Lifejourney4two. Their adventure began in Perth, Australia, and has since taken them through Europe and Africa in motorhomes and bush campers. Shelley's travel guides combine practical advice with engaging stories, mirroring their shift from 'One Day' to 'Day One'. Together, they aim to inspire others to embark on their own travel dreams.

4 thoughts on “12 Top Things to Do in Sesimbra, Portugal (2024)”

  1. I believe you did enjoy your travel in Portugal and yes the photos are amazing. We hope to see you soon back in Portugal!

  2. These were super pics. Thank you for sharing. Please help me remember the purpose of the Geocaches and who puts them about??

    • Thanks Gwen. Geocaching is like a ‘treasure hunt’ – People hide them in various locations (there are millions all over the world) and you get the approximate location and sometimes clues to help you solve where the ‘geocache’ is. There is a little log book in the cach and you sign it to show you have been there. There is also an app and you log it as found. We really enjoy it because the caches are often placed in really lovely locations that sometimes only the locals know about. Therefore we get to see a lot of ‘off the beaten track’ places.


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