View along Sesimbra castle walls

Off-season Sesimbra is so laid back it’s almost comatose. When my friend and I visited this fishing village / low-key seaside resort town near the Arrabida Natural Park on a somewhat gloomy day in late May, we seemed to be the only people in the streets under the age of 60.

Come the summer months and you’ll find an entirely different scenario as beach goers take advantage of the easily accessible, wide sandy shoreline.

Sesimbra old town is a pleasant place with the usual cobbled streets and abundance of churches common to Portuguese towns. It also has an interesting castle and long history.

If you’re planning to stay overnight, be warned – it’s quite hilly away from the beach so take that into account when you select your Sesimbra accommodation.

Sesimbra Castle

Whether you go by car, or fancy the steep walk to get to it, Sesimbra Castle is worth visiting. Construction was originally started in 1201, thanks to King Sancho II. Look out for his statue, and remarkable moustache, on a roundabout on your way to the castle.

Most of the castle now lies in ruins but the panoramic views of the bay and surrounding hills as you explore the battlements are impressive. As are the displays inside each of the towers.

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One tower contains panels with pictures and easily digested descriptions and vignettes of medieval life within the castle walls. The other covers the architectural features and history of castles in general.

What I liked most, however, was the room which outlined the significant moments in the life and times of Sesimbra and its castle alongside the wider contexts of what was happening in Portugal and the rest of the world at the same time.

Unlike many museums and exhibitions I’ve been to, the information is bite-sized and easy to read and appreciate. So much so, that I read all of it. I can’t usually be bothered, especially when faced with swathes of convoluted text.

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There’s also a church within the castle walls that has wonderful azulejo panels.

If you manage to get a copy of the leaflet from the very helpful (or at least they were when we visited) staff at the information centre, you can find underground storage spaces and wells.

Without the map, you’ll walk over them without noticing!

Sesimbra beach

The beach itself is long and reasonably wide so there’s plenty of space even when full of sun worshipping families during the summer months.

If the weather’s not conducive to relaxing on the beach, you can always admire it from the comfort of one of the seafront bars, which is what we did after a brief, windy stroll.

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Sesimbra fishing village

Sesimbra’s fishing history is honoured with some street art in the village streets but the colourful boats I was expecting to see are anchored further along the shore than we managed to get to. 

You’ll find the fishing harbour, and the fish market, to the right of the beach as you look at the sea. 

Sesimbra restaurants

As you might expect from a town with a tradition of fishing, there are lots of seafood restaurants in Sesimbra serving freshly grilled fish and seafood.

We ventured to the far end of the beach one evening to eat at Portofino restaurant. Our three course meal included a delicious bread and prawn stew (açorda) served in a whole loaf of bread. It looks more appetising served this way than straight onto a plate, trust me.

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Sesimbra hotels and apartments

Sesimbra accommodation ranges from apartments to 4-star hotels with spas. There are also farmhouses and villas a bit further out of town if you prefer a countryside setting.

In the heart of Sesimbra you’ve got the 4-star SANA Sesimbra Hotel with a rooftop hot tub and an outdoor covered swimming pool to enjoy. Check out available rooms here.

Season Apartments is a beachfront rehabilitated building where each apartment offers a terrace or a sea view. See photos and prices.

Further afield from Sesimbra but closer to Praia do Meco you will find Beautiful Loft holiday home offering a clean and modern apartment with free parking and a friendly host. Check for availability.

If you enjoy relaxing by an outdoor pool set in spacious gardens then Buganvilias Do Meco Guest House is a must! Again, it is located away from Sesimbra but the rooms are thoughtfully furnished with the possibility of a patio. For drivers using an electric vehicle a charging station is available. See photos and prices.

If you need an airport transfer to Sesimbra, you can book online here.

More information about Sesimbra

You’ll find Sesimbra south of Lisbon. It’s on the opposite edge of Arrábida Natural Park to the larger city of Setúbal with plenty of beautiful beaches in between.

You can get there by car or a 50-minute bus ride from Lisbon (Transportes Sul do Tejo #207) or see above for an airport transfer.

If you want to pack more charming villages and stunning sights into a day trip from Lisbon, try one of these small group tours:

Full day tour from Lisbon to Palmela Castle, Azeitão, Sesimbra and Cabo Espichel 

Full day Arrábida Natural Park & Sesimbra Day Trip From Lisbon

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8 Comments

  1. It gets very busy in summer, though, and at high tide there isn’t much beach space to be had!

    But perhaps for a good reason: we once left Coimbra for a beach weekend at Nazaré. On finding the west coast completely fog-bound we decided to drive south until we found clear skies, and ended up (many hours later, in those days)at Sesimbra! And you can be pretty sure of being able to swim (in summer) when the west coast waves make it much too dangerous.

    Another nice thing about Sesimbra is a local drink, an aperitivo called “pescador”. They wouldn’t tell us the ingredients, but I would guess it has Ricard or Pernod and vermouth and who knows what else! Diana would call it “medicinal” but I liked it. It might be wiser not to have more than one!
    Thanks for reminding me about Sesimbra. Haven’t been there for years. By the way, do you know Alcácer do Sal? Not far away and with lots of interest.

    1. Author

      Thanks for the suggestions, Robert. I’m a bit wary of waves so it’s always good to know where it’s safe to swim. Pity the water’s still so cold though! I’ve been spoilt by tropical waters and can’t quite come to terms with the Atlantic.

      The drink sounds interesting. I like ‘medicinal’ drinks so I’ll have to try it next time. Alcacer do Sal was on my list for my most recent trip but in the end, low energy levels and poor weather conditions meant it got shelved for a future visit when I can better appreciate it.

  2. Love the church, Julie, and you know I don’t mind a bit of a climb for a view. 🙂

    1. Author

      You can drive or probably take a bus to the foot of the hill and just walk through the pretty wooded part instead of traipsing uphill through the village.

  3. It’s been many years since I visited Sesimbra, it’s a lovely area.

    1. Author

      Isn’t it? I’d like to go back but this time I also intend to check out Setubal and Palmela and hopefully do a little walking in the natural park.

  4. One of my favorite places in mainland Portugal.
    Great seafood, not many visitors most of the year, and a calorie busting landscape.

    1. Author

      It’s really lovely, Frank. definitely a place to return to.

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