The municipality of Sesimbra is located in the Setúbal Peninsula, about 30 kilometers from Lisbon and Setúbal, which is equivalent to just over half an hour’s journey from each of these cities. Access from Lisbon is done by the A2 until the exit of Fogueteiro and then by the EN378. From the Setúbal side, access is made by the EN10 to Azeitão, and then by the EN379.
The territory is divided into the parishes of Santiago, Castelo and Quinta do Conde. The first includes the town of Sesimbra, a fishing and bathing centre, which is the municipality seat and the main tourist centre, where several emblematic buildings are located, such as the Fortress of Santiago, the Chapel of the Holy Spirit of Seafarers and the Medieval Hospital and the Mother Church.
The Castle parish corresponds to the rural area, closely linked to agriculture. On the south coast of this parish, which stretches from the Sesimbra Bay to the Espichel Cape, are located some of the most beautiful beaches of the municipality, especially Ribeiro do Cavalo, known worldwide. The western coast extends to Lagoa de Albufeira and includes the Meco beach.
To the north is the parish of Quinta do Conde, the most recent of the three, more urban in character. The parish is home to the Quinta do Peru golf course, one of the best known in the region, which welcomes golfers from all over the world, throughout the year.
Sesimbra has a unique geographic setting, with an Atlantic coast of over 40 kilometers, that stretches from Lagoa de Albufeira to Serra da Arrábida. On the west coast are the long sandy shores of Meco and, to the south, the imposing cliffs of the Espichel Cape, and the small sheltered coves among which is Ribeiro de Cavalo, considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal.
The village of Sesimbra overlooks the bay, with its old houses. To the west, the landscape is dominated by the harbour, where the hustle and bustle of fishing and its traditions converge with tourist activities such as diving, sailing or canoeing.
The bay is surrounded by two beaches of fine sand: Califórnia and Ouro. At the centre of the sandy shore, stands the imposing and beautiful Fortress of Santiago and to the east the landscape is shaped by the cliffs of Serra do Risco and Arrábida.
30 minutes from Lisbon, the quickest access is via the A2 to Fogueteiro and then the EN 378.
That is if you avoid rush hour or else crossing the bridge can be a wearisome drive.
From Setúbal, access is via the EN 10 to Azeitão, then follow the EN 379.
A journey through the Serra da Arrábida on a winding road wedged between the sea and the mountains.
The Fortress of Santiago was built between 1642 and 1648 by D. João IV to reinforce the defence of the Atlantic Coast.
He assigned a Jesuit military engineer Joao de Cosmander to build a fortress that would protect the bay and village from pirates and the Spanish armada.
The Santiago Fortress obeys the dutch military outline, starry polygonal plant, and houses several military dependencies, including the governor’s residence, the cisterns, the armoury and the chapel.
During the summer season the Infantes António, Gaspar and José, illegitimate sons of D. João V – known as “Palhavã’s Boys” would come to Sesimbra and sojourn in this fortress.
In 1832 the garrison left the fortress, and in 1879 the National Guard occupied part of the dwellings.
Inaugurated in 2016, the Sesimbra Maritime Museum invites the guest to embark on a journey a million years old, from Pangaea to today. During this jurney, you will have the opportunity to cross the oceans, fish in seas never once sailed, drive in the Luiz de Saldanha Marine Park, get your bearings by the North Star, gather sardines in nets of large “Valencian-style” traps, or pray a novena to the Lord Jesus of Chagas, patron saint of the Sesimbra fichermen.
Housed in the Santiago Fortress, a military building dating back to 1642, the museum was created with the direct support of Sesimbra’s community. It contains a fabulous collection originating not only from archaeological finds, but also from an ethnographical study carried out over four decades. During the visit, visitors will gain a deeper understandind of the following subjects: fishing methods, naval construction, navigation, canning industry, community, devotion, Luiz Saldanha Marine Park.
To be found in the village centre a few meters from the beach and Santiago Fortress. Open during the mornings from Tuesday to Sunday.
Here you feast your eyes on freshly caught fish and seafood, fruits, vegetables, regional cheeses and bread
A group of artists accepted the challenge of the Municipality of Sesimbra to paint, on various walls, doors and windows, themes depicting Sesimbria’s fishing traditions.
Today we have an open-air museum. A captivating route to follow that portrays the traditions and inherent traits of Sesimbra.
The Porto de Abrigo is the hub of all sea connected activities.
For those who enjoy a more active and challenging stay, in the Porto de Abrigo area, companies offer diving, canoeing, sailing, hiking, boating, cycling and other thrilling experiences.
Sesimbra is a saught out diving centre. There at about 25 meters deep is the wreck of the River Gurara, a Nigerian cargo ship, that sunk in 1989 with the loss of 45 sailors.
Visit the fish auction in the fishing port.
Witness the fish being unloaded and tour the warehouse where fishing tackle is stored and prepared for a new catch
Classified as a National Monument in 1910, the foundation of Sesimbra Castle dates back to the 9th century, when the region was occupied by the Moors. First conquered in 1165 by D. Afonso Henriques, it played a fundamental role in the defense of the region. After a new incursion by the Almohad Caliphate, the citadel was abandoned, and the fortification was badly damaged. It was later reconquered by the troops of D. Sancho I, with the support of the French Crusaders, who gave it the charter (“Carta Foral”) of 1201. Throughout the 13th century, the castle remained as an important coastal defensive structure. With the progressive development of the new riverside village, i.e., the present-day town of Sesimbra, and its legitimization in 1514 with the new charter of King Manuel and the creation of the new parish in 1535, the castle gradually falls into an advanced state of abandonment and degradation.
In the 1940s it underwent a process of reconstruction and valorisation, and is now one of the most emblematic monuments in the region.
Inside it, the Church of Nossa Senhora da Consolação do Castelo stands out, whose foundation dates back to the 12th century. The present temple, mostly from the first half of the 18th century, has a remarkable blue and white tile lining on the inside.
An hidden treasure! “Praia do Ribeiro Cavalo” is located in the West of Sesimbra bay, in the Natural Park of “Arrábida”.
Is one of the most beautiful beaches of the Portuguese coast.
The beach is divided into two sides: one with white rocks and clear water and other one with soft sand. It’s a perfect place to fully relax and disconnect, as there is no reception, therefore you can truly enjoy the moment and forget about the busy city life. What could be better than a dip in the refreshing blue sea while enjoying the sun?
Another important thing for you to know is that there are no facilities at all on the beach, so bring your own snacks and drinks.
The Santuário de Nossa Senhora do Cabo Espichel (The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Espichel Cape), located at the westernmost point of the coast of Sesimbra, is a unique civil and religious architectural complex, which combines the monumentality of the building with the immateriality of religious devotion. It is composed of the church, hostels, the Ermida da Memória (Memory Hermitage), the Casa da Ópera (Opera House), in ruins, the Hortas dos Peregrinos (Pilgrims’ Vegetable Gardens) , the Casa da Água (Water House), the aqueduct, the Natural Monument of Pedra da Mua and the Natural Monument of the Lagosteiros. The landscape setting of this monument, on a plateau that ends in cliffs onto the sea, makes it monumental.
The Ermida da Memória, central element of the Sanctuary, located at the top of the Lagosteiros Bay’s southern cliff, marks the place where, according to the legend, the image of the Virgin appeared in 1410, which led to the cult of Our Lady of the Espichel Cape.
Dinosaurs walked here
For a long time and in different eras of our planet’s history. Since at least 145 million years ago. Big, small, young, senior, carnivore, herbivore, and from various species – sauropods, theropods, and ornithopods.
When the planet only had two continents, the Atlantic Ocean did not exist, and volcanoes were the only mountains – or later, when flowers and bees decorated the landscape of beaches and coral reefs – dinosaurs left their footprints on trails that we can visit today.
There are many footprints. Some are huge, others look like the footprints of giant chickens. The evidence of such tracks has aroused human curiosity since the dawn of its existence. When Man could not explain the presence of footprints larger than any known animal, he sacralized the tracks. They became associated with the evidence of a miracle: a giant mule would have transported the Virgin from the sea level to the top of the cliff, leaving its footprints engraved in the rock.
After science proved those tracks belonged to dinosaurs, the trails of Pedra da Mua (“mule stone”) Natural Monument even got the attention of Steven Spielberg – who used them at one of the most iconic scenes of the movie Jurassic Park.
Separated from the sea by enormous dunes and located at the extreme south of the stretch of sand that covers the many kilometres down from Costa da Caparica, the Lagoa de Albufeira Lagoon Beach, surrounded by pines features calm waters, ideal for children and sports such as windsurfing, sailing and kite-surfing.
With a direct connection to the sea via a small canal, the Lagoon sometimes experiences dangerous underwater currents around that area. On the sea-facing side, there is an area of coarser sands leading down to the strong waves that provide for excellent surfing and bodyboarding conditions.
The Lagoa Pequena is a perfect place to initiate your bird watching activities. There you’ll find paths, walkways and small wooden houses for comfortable and sheltered wildlife observation.
You can visit the park at your own pace, or join one of several guided tours (by appointment). Whatever your choice, all essential information on bird watching is given to you on arrival. Along the route, you will find information boards with the species to be seen in the area at any given time.
An excellent suggestion for family outdoor activities