Things to do in Sesimbra
Sesimbra is a pretty beach town that is popular with Portuguese tourists. Sesimbra is situated in a beautiful region of pristine beaches and pine cover hills, but is only 30 minutes from Lisbon. This guide will detail the most popular activities, sights and things to do while based in Sesimbra.
Hiking or cycling through the Serra da Arrabida
The Serra da Arrabida is the national park that covers the limestone hills on the southern edge of the Setubal Peninsular. On the northern side of the national park are gentle rolling hills and are filled with vineyards. These hills extend up to Formosinho point, which is 500m above sea level.
On the southern side of the Serra da Arrabida the ocean has severely eroded the hills and formed massive drops, craggy cliffs and hidden cove beaches. Crossing the national park are a series of challenging hiking trails and off-road cycling routes. For the less energetic there is the stunning “Estrada de Escarpa” road (see later in this article).
The hills of the the Serra da Arrabida
Relaxing on Sesimbra’s beaches
Sesimbra is situated on a wide sandy bay and there is no better activity in Sesimbra than spending a relaxing day on the beach. Sesimbra has a recent sized sandy beach and the sea waters are clean and safe for families. During the summer the central sections of the beach can become crowded but there is a promenade that follows the beach around the bay making the entire beach easily accessible. For a guide to the beaches of Sesimbra please click here.
The beach of Sesimbra
To the east of Sesimbra are the stunning beaches of the Arrábida region. These beaches are smaller and more remote but are considered as some of Portugal’s finest beaches.
The stunning Praia da Figueirinha
Exploring the Cabo Espichel
The Cabo Espichel is the western headland of the Sesimbra region and makes for an enjoyable half day excursion. The exposed headland is buffeted by strong winds and pounded by powerful seas, all of which adds to the dramatic yet isolated atmosphere of the area.
The Cabo Espichel
The highly weathered cliffs of the Cabo Espichel have exposed dinosaur footprints, while at the top of the cliffs is Portugal’s brightest lighthouses. The area was once an important pilgrimage destination and there is a large monastery complex that is now abandoned.
Sunset at the Moorish Castle
The Moorish castle of Sesimbra stands high above the town, and from this vantage point there are wonderful views over the town and surrounding region. There is no better time than to visit the castle than at sunset. The castle is free to visit and it is a demanding 30-minute uphill walk to the castle from the town (a taxi ride is €5). The castle has been extensively restored and there is a good café, but the main draw is the amazing panoramic view.
The Moors castle high above Sesimbra
Wine Tasting Tours
The countryside of Sesimbra (and Setubal) are a major red wine producing region. The speciality wines are the Moscatel de Setubal and the grapes are grown over the hills of the Serra de Arrábida. There are two wineries that provide tours of their facilities; the Quinta da Bacalhoa and the José Maria da Fonseca. Both tours provide an insight into the wine producing process, histories of both companies and a chance to sample a selection of fine local wines.
Locally produced wine
Eat Freshly Caught Fish in a Marisqueiras Restaurant
Sesimbra is a fishing town and the fresh catch is served in the many excellent seafood restaurants, which are known as Marisqueiras. A speciality dish of Sesimbra is Arroz de Marisco, a shellfish and rice dish that is ideal for sharing. The Setubal region produces great red wines and these are a perfect accompaniment to the fish dishes.
Drive along the Estrada de Escarpa
The Estrada de Escarpa is a scenic drive that follows the N379 between Sesimbra and Setubal and climbs into the steep hills of the Serra de Arrábida. Along the route there are multiple places to stop to admire the stunning views over the Arrábida National park and Sado estuary.
The views from the Estrada de Escarpa
The road has a series of major switchbacks to climb the side of mount Formosinho (500m above sea level) and then drops down into Setubal. For the return journey take the much smaller coastal road that passes the beautiful beaches of Praia do Creiro and Praia da Figueirinha.
Deep Sea Fishing
Sesimbra’s fishing fleet often head far out into the Atlantic Ocean and for visitors it is a great destination for deep sea fishing. There are multiple boats tours that offer half or full day fishing trips, and some are designed for novices or families.
Sesimbra is also one of Portugal’s most popular diving locations, in part due to the number of shipwrecks along the coastline. There are professional dive centres that provide lessons or trips to the regions shipwrecks.