BEST THINGS TO DO IN SESIMBRA – PORTUGAL’S FAVOURITE SEASIDE HAVEN
Basking quietly on Portugal’s coast is the seaside fishing village of Sesimbra, a mere 40 kilometres from the capital city of Lisbon. We came across this ‘fishy’ town as we were campervanning in Portugal. The village exudes a relaxed seaside vibe, offering a perfect escape from city life.
There are many things to do in Sesimbra. Whether it’s lazing on its sandy beaches, paddling in the crystal waters or wandering the village and soaking in its character. Sesimbra is also surrounded by the inviting Arrabida National Park to the east and the wild coast of Cabo Espichel to the west.
THINGS TO DO IN SESIMBRA
1) RELAX AT PRAIA DE CALIFORNIA
Praia de California (California Beach) – Sounds fabulous? Well, it is. Walk, laze, swim or do nothing at all as you enjoy this beautiful, sandy stretch of sand right in the heart of town. Though the beach may look deserted in our photo, that’s because we visited Sesimbra in March. In the summer months, Sesimbra becomes alive with many locals flocking to what seems a sleepy town out of season.
Praia de California in Sesimbra
2) SESIMBRA STREET ART
It won’t take you long to notice the ‘fishy’ connections of the town. Stroll the streets and you’ll find detailed murals depicting typical Portuguese fishing life.
Sesimbra Street Art
In 2014, Sesimbra City Council asked artists to decorate the doors and windows of Sesimbra’s old town. They were to use the local tradition of fishing as inspiration. Now the art, including several wall murals, is another drawcard for tourism and colourfully enhances the long-standing fishing traditions of Sesimbra.
Check out some of the brilliant Sesimbra street art in the video below.
Street art in Sesimbra
3) WANDER THE STREETS OF SESIMBRA
Wander the streets of Sesimbra and discover this traditional fishing village on foot. Sesimbra is built along the cliffside and the old town is a medley of narrow passageways and hilly pathways.
Sesimbra pretty side street
Sesimbra Portuguese styled old home
Street Art in Sesimbra depicting traditional fishing village life
4) VISIT SESIMBRA CASTLE (CASTELO DE SESIMBRA)
Sesimbra Castle stands high on the hill behind Sesimbra overlooking the town and was classified as a National Monument in 1910. Entry is free, but be aware that there is a steep 230m climb up to this medieval castle. The views from the top are stunning giving you a 360-degree view of the area. You can see this magnificent view on this 360 photo link. (Once you have looked at the castle there will be a small circle with a finger pushing a button – this takes you to the next 360 views of the castle and surroundings).
Inside the castle lies the Igreja Santa Maria do Castelo church, a tiny church adorned with Portugal’s 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.
5) EXPLORE THE FORT OF SANTIAGO (FORTALEZA DE SANTIAGO )
The 17th-century Fortress is set right on the beach in Sesimbra and it now houses the town’s Maritime Museum. The museum exhibits include items and information related to the seafaring traditions of Sesimbra. The community and local fishermen contribute many of the items.
You can see the old fortress walls best from the beach.
The Maritime Museum is now housed in the remains of Santiago Fortress (Fortaleza de Santiago), in Sesimbra
6) TAKE SOME TIME AT THE SESIMBRA MARINA
Walk the Praia de California west and then join the footpath and follow this around to the Sesimbra Marina. Here you see the traditional multi-coloured small, wooden fishing boats. Seagulls vie for the scraps left on the quays by the fisherman tending their nets. Here the pace of life is methodical and unhurried.
Life at the Marina
Sesimbra’s bright coloured fishing boats
7) WATCH XÁVEGA ART
If you are visiting Sesimbra between July and September then on a Thursday evening from 7 pm, you can watch this traditional fishing art. This millennial fishing method is carried out with the support of an aiola, a typical rowing boat in Sesimbra.
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 then brought ashore by fishermen pulling both ends of the line and fish are caught in the sweep.
8. Enjoy Seafood at Sesimbra’s Restaurants
All that sightseeing sure works up a good appetite and if you’re a fan of seafood then Sesimbra is renowned for its fresh fishy platters. The local fishermen supply local restaurants with a variety of seafood so you can be sure that you’re eating the catch of the day.
A popular local dish, served in a clay pot, is Arroz de Marisco, an amazing fish stew consisting of crabs, shellfish and rice. These restaurants are highly rated and are in the heart of the Sesimbra, (see the above map for locations):
Taberna Isaias: serves lunch and dinner with local cuisine of seafood, Mediterranean, Portuguese including gluten-free options.
Sesimbra has its own local traditional sweet, ‘Farinha Torrada‘, which is a traditional dessert made for the fishermen to take out to sea. It’s an energy bar, made of flour, chocolate, lemon and cinnamon.
9. Take a trip to Parque Natural Da Arrábida
Just to the northeast of Sesimbra and southwest of the city of Setúbol, the Arrabida Nature Reserve boasts indigenous vegetation, magnificent tall, white cliffs, fine sandy beaches and sparkling blue seas. Definitely, a hidden gem to explore, and it’s only a 30-minute drive from 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 finds brings you to the doorstep of Cabo Espichel and all its wild beauty, on the tip of the Setubal Peninsula. Here, a landscape of ancient buildings, rolling hills, majestic cliffs, pounding seas and gusting winds awaits you. If you love the wildness of nature, then this is the place for you.
Parking is not a problem with a huge area right by the church and within easy walking distance of other sights at Cabo Espichel. The buildings have an interesting history and worth the time to visit as well as exploring the spectacular surrounding landscape.
READ MORE → Cabo Espichel, Portugal’s Legendary Wild Coast
Cliff on Cabo Espichel
11. OTHER THINGS TO DO IN SESIMBRA
There are plenty of things to do in Sesimbra and there are many guided tours available. Browse though some options by clicking on the link below.
SESIMBRA IN SUMMER
Portugal Tourism has put together this video which will give you an idea about what Sesimbra is like in the summer months.
GETTING TO SESIMBRA FROM LISBON
If you are looking to hire a car then it is easier to hire a car from Lisbon. Find the best hire car options by clicking the rental cars link below.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT – BUS
The bus is the only means of public transport from Lisbon to Sesimbra. In Lisbon, the arrival and departure bus terminals are at the same location: Praça de Espanha. You can choose either bus #207 or #260 which take different routes but both arrive at Sesimbra bus station. The cost per person is approximately €4 for the 1-hour journey. TST (Transportes Sul do Tejo) are the bus company and you can find their timetables here – Bus 207, Bus 260.
ACCOMMODATION IN SESIMBRA
We were in the campervan and parked in the carpark at Sesimbra for one night. If you are travelling by car then you may like to check out the following options available on booking.com.
SESIMBRA, PORTUGAL – THAT’S A WRAP
We spent two days visiting Sesimbra and Cabo Espichel. If you have time restraints, though, a few hours at both spots would give you a good feel for the areas and you could always plan a return visit. For more on Portugal take a read of our Motorhoming through Portugal post.
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