The best guide to Lisbon's beaches
The Praia de Carcavelos is one of the finest beaches of the Lisbon coastline, and due to the excellent public transport, is by far the most popular. Carcavelos beach is renowned for its reliable surf, soft golden sands and great tourist facilities, but expect it to be busy at the weekends, especially during the summer season.
Carcavelos is fantastic for a relaxing beach day, of basking under the glorious sun and splashing around in the cold sea, and the area attracts an equal mix of Portuguese and foreign tourists. Praia de Carcavelos is the ideal choice of beach for visitors who are new to Lisbon, as it is easy to travel to and is equally suited for families, young couples or the more mature tourist. This guide will provide an overview of Carcavelos beach, travel information and details of tourist facilities.
Carcavelos is the largest beach of the Lisbon-Estoril-Cascais coastline and one of the largest of the Lisbon region, with a 1.5km sandy shoreline. The sea waters are fed by the Atlantic Ocean and are far away enough from the Tejo Estuary to be consistently clean, and are suitable for swimming or surfing in. Along the beach front promenade are numerous beach bars and cafes, perfect for a light lunch or to escape the intensity of the summer sun.
The beach attracts an active crowd, and there is always something going on, from a social game of volleyball, through to a much more competitive beach football competition. The great waves make Carcavelos a popular location for surfing and equipment can be hired for reasonable prices, and there are decent changing facilities, showers and toilets.
Consider the popularity of Carcavelos; it is surprising that there is so little tourist development surround the beach. The beach is not overshadowed by vast hotels or ugly apartments, and the actual town of Carcavelos, 1km inland, is very low key.
One of the reasons that makes Carcavelos such a popular beach is that it is very easy to travel to, being served by the Lisbon-Cascais urban railway. The majority of tourists based in Lisbon will catch the train to Carcavelos, therefore this is an in-depth section.
No tourist should be deterred from visiting the beach because of using public transport; the train is safe, hassle free, and suitable for people with limited mobility or families with young children.
In Lisbon, the train to Carcavelos departs from the Cais do Sodre train station and this station is the final stop on the green metro line. As the Lisbon-Cascais railway is an urban train service there are numerous hourly departures, the trains start early in the day and continue to 1:30am. The journey from Lisbon to Carcavelos takes 20 minutes, and the latest timetable can be seen on the CP (Comboios de Portugal) website at:
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The train to Carcavelos beach
The train fare from Lisbon to Carcavelos pass through three fare zones, and a single ticket is amazingly cheap at only €1.90 (€0.95 child). There are no return tickets, and a return is the price of two singles (€3.80). The train ticket is charged to the "Viva Viagem" card, which is used for all of the public transport in Lisbon, and the initial price for this reusable card costs €0.50. Annoyingly the Viva Viagem card can only store one type of fare, so if there is an active bus/metro/tram fare, it cannot be charged with the train fare.
In the Cais do Sodre train station there are many ticket machines and these have instructions in multiple European languages and are much quicker than waiting for the ticket office.
Insider Tip: Always keep the receipt from the ticket machines as they sometimes fail to charge the Viva Viagem cards and railway staff are very sceptical of “a bought a ticket but…”
As of summer 2018, CP has created a “Beach Pass” train ticket which allows 7-day unlimited use of the Lisbon-Cascais railway for €12. This is exceptional value for tourists who will be on holiday in Cascais/Estoril or plan to explore the coastal region, and is on sale from the 20th May through to the 30th September. Another option is the 24-hour unlimited train ticket for €6.00; this includes the Sintra railway and travel from Carcavelos to Cascais. For details of all of the urban train fares, on an over complicated PDF, please see the CP website:
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From the station it is a 700m walk along a flat, tree lined road to the beach. The route is signed but it is much easier to just follow the crowd of other beach goers. If the walk to the beach is an inconvenience consider the Praia do Tamariz, in Estoril, which is directly next to the train station.
Carcavelos is 20km from central Lisbon and the drive follows the scenic N6 coastal road and takes around 25 minutes (outside of rush hour!). At the beach, there is plenty of car parking, and if you’re willing to park on the field there is free car parking. There is much more parking at Carcavelos than in Cascais or Estoril, and this makes Carcavelos a better choice of beach for tourists with cars.
The stunning beach of Praia Carcavelos
The Praia de Carcavelos is a popular beach with Portuguese families and is ideal for children of all ages. The beach is well maintained, the waters are safe and clean, and there are good tourist facilities. During the summer months, the beach is supervised by lifeguards and swimming sections are clearly separated from surfing areas. Young children should wary of the intense summer sun, but parasols and sunshades can be hired for €10-15 per day
Carcavelos has decent medium sized swells, which are ideal for beginner to medium surfers or body boarding. During the autumn and winter the waves tend to be more powerful and the beach is an excellent location for surfing. In the summer, the sheer number of people in the water can make surfing difficult and sometimes slightly dangerous, and this is especially true at the weekends when the beach can be absolutely crowded. Carcavelos is a good location to learn to surf and there are three surf schools on the beach front. Surf equipment can be hired from here for 15€/25€ (half/full day - bodyboard or surfboard with a wetsuit).
Surfing is popular at Carcavelos beach
At the eastern edge of the beach is the mighty Forte de São Julião da Barra, this fort owned by the Portuguese army and not currently open to the public. The Sao Julião fort, marks the mouth of the Rio Tejo, therefore Carcavelos beach technically opens out onto the Atlantic Ocean while everything to the east faces the River Tejo.
During the early 20th century, Carcavelos beach was the sole connection point for the America to Europe telegraph network. The cables that ran out from the beach once handled all of the telegram and early phone calls communicated between Europe and the Americas.
The Praia de Carcavelos was the filming location for the very bland Euro dance song Amazing by Inna (2010), the song was very average but the video makes Carcavelos beach look fantastic.
On Thursdays, there is a large market on the fields behind the beach and is a great chance to experience normal Portuguese daily life.