Exploring the Coast Near Porto

Updated on June 15, 2018
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Liz and her husband are keen travelers. Portugal is a favorite destination, and their first visit to Porto was a great success.

Taking a Break From City Sightseeing in Porto

Porto. | Source

Escape to the Coast Near Porto

One of the great advantages of a stay in Porto, especially during the warmer months, is that it offers the opportunity to take time out from city sightseeing to explore the nearby Atlantic coastline. Our Holiday Inn Express Exponor location in Leca da Palmeira, to the northwest of Porto, left us within walking distance of two good stretches of coastline.

Praia de Leca da Palmeira is to the north and Praia da Matosinhos heads south to Foz and the mouth of the River Douro. During our stay near Porto, we had time to explore both.

Going North

Praia de Leca da Palmeira

We walked to the west, towards the sea, along Avenida Antunes Guimares. After passing the port of Leixoes and rounding the corner to the north, past the marina, we came upon Praia de Leca da Palmeira. This sandy stretch of beach is bordered to the south by the harbor wall and has a conveniently located beach bar. This is the widest stretch of sand, but it is often windy here and the sea can be rough. This is probably one of the reasons for the construction of the Piscina das Mares, the open-air saltwater swimming pool 850 meters further north along the coast. Another reason is the tendency of the sand to give way to a rockier coastline heading north.

As we walked north, the path followed the coastline and we were soon joined by Avenida Liberdade with two separate carriageways. Although this was a wide road, it was never especially busy, bordered on the one side by the coastal path and, on the other by a row of eating places and shops.

Praia de Leca da Palmeira.
Praia de Leca da Palmeira. | Source

Piscina das Mares, Leca da Palmeira

The most striking point of interest on this stretch of coastline is the Piscina das Mares (swimming pool of the seas), which was completed in 1966 and designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira, a Portuguese architect. Since 2006, this has been classified as a national monument. The complex consists of two pools, one shallow and unusually shaped and another deeper one of a more traditional rectangular shape.

Access to several architectural sites, such as these pools and the cruise terminal in Matosinhos, was free the first week of July and we joined a tour. Ours was in Portuguese, so we didn’t learn a lot, but it was worth it for a free look inside. Changing facilities are functional but basic. If you are looking for a similar standard to your leisure club at home, you won’t find it here. We considered paying to stay for a swim, but decided against it, as it was a blustery day, the water was on the cool side and by the time we got there more than half the morning session had passed.

There is a small amount of beach within the complex and sunbeds are available for hire. There is very limited shade.

Tip: Look out for information and posters in tourist information offices about days of free admission to local sites.

The shallow pool at Piscina das Mares, Leca da Palmeira, with the beach and harbour wall in the background.
The shallow pool at Piscina das Mares, Leca da Palmeira, with the beach and harbour wall in the background. | Source
The deep pool at Piscina das Mares, Leca da Palmeira.
The deep pool at Piscina das Mares, Leca da Palmeira. | Source

Admission to Piscina das Mares

Tickets are sold by the day (09:00-19:00) or the half day (09:00-14:00 and 14:00-19:00). Prices vary depending on when you go. In 2017 weekdays and non-holiday days, adult admission was 6 euros per day or 4 euros per half day. Weekends and holidays admission for adults was 8 euros per day and 5 euros per half day. Under 12s were a little cheaper. For the regular swimmers, books of 10 tickets could be bought, saving around 10%. If you just wanted to take an unguided look around without swimming, the normal charge was 2 euros per person.

Tip: If you are planning a day or half day at the pools check out the forecast and get there early, especially in the height of the summer season

Two pools, Piscina das Mares.
Two pools, Piscina das Mares. | Source
You might find a secluded spot.
You might find a secluded spot. | Source

Heading North Along the Coast Near Porto

We appreciated the pleasant break from city sightseeing afforded by our walk north along the rocky coastline. Avenida Liberdade is well set back from the coastal walkway and not very busy. There are well maintained grassy areas, which further separate the coastal path from the road. The inland side of the road is built up with modern apartment blocks, a few restaurants, and shops.

The apartment blocks served a useful purpose in shielding us from the sight of the nearby oil refinery, which came into view as we came out of the built-up area and reached the lighthouse, a kilometer further north from the swimming pool. Set back slightly from the coast, the lighthouse is 46m (150ft) high and dates back to 1926 when it was built to protect ships from overrunning the entrance to the port and ending up on the rocks.

Capela da Boa Nova, which translates as 'the chapel of the good news' is located 300 meters beyond the lighthouse on a rocky outcrop between Praia da Boa Nova to the south and Praia Azul to the north. The chapel dates from 1392 and is formally called Capela de S. Clemente das Penhas, which translates as Saint Clemente of the Rocks.

Capela da Boa Nova
Capela da Boa Nova | Source

Time to Turn Around on the Coast Walk North of Porto

Once we reached the Capela da Boa Nova we decided to retrace our steps, choosing the shade offered by the built-up side of the road. My disappointment at leaving the more scenic views on the seaward side was short-lived, as we stumbled upon a supermarket, where we found bottles of Vinho Verde (Portuguese green or young wine) at a vastly reduced price of just 49 cents. Needless to say, we cleared the shelf of the remaining 5 bottles! Bargain! Vinho Verde is a Portugues specialty. It’s a refreshing, lightly sparkling wine made from young grapes, with a slightly lower alcohol content than more mature table wines.

The view to the north.
The view to the north. | Source

North from the Port of Leixoes, Porto

show route and directions
A markerPraia da Lece da Palmeira -
4450 Leça da Palmeira, Portugal
get directions

B markerPiscina da Mares, Lece de Palmeira -
Av. Liberdade, 4450-716 Leça da Palmeira, Portugal
get directions

C markerLighthouse, Lece de Palmeira -
4450 Leça da Palmeira, Portugal
get directions

D markerCapela de Boa Nova, Palmeira -
4450 Leça da Palmeira, Portugal
get directions

Going South

Exploring the Coast to the South of the Port of Leixoes

For a totally different beach experience, we walked again west along Avenida Antunes Guimares, but this time took a left along Rua Congosta do Abade over the Ponte movel (moving bridge), which took us south of the port of Leixoes. After passing the Mercado Municipal de Matosinhos (Matosinhos municipal market) we took a right down Rua Conde Sao Salvador. At the end, we turned left on to Rua Herois de Franca. The port was now to our right. Fish restaurants line the street on the left side. We took the first right down Rua Godinho. This road bends round to the left and becomes Avenida General Norton de Matos and, at last, we had sight of a beach and a useful Posto de Turismo de Matosinhos (local tourist office) to the right.

Praia da Matosinhos on a weekend in early July.
Praia da Matosinhos on a weekend in early July. | Source
Praia da Matosinhos on a week day in late June.
Praia da Matosinhos on a week day in late June. | Source

The Cruise Terminal

The wide stretch of sand is well worth the walk and is sheltered by the harbor wall and Terminal de Cruzeiros do Porto de Leixoes. The cruise terminal was designed by Luis Pedro Silva and was opened in July 2015. Like the open-air swimming pools on Praia da Leca da Palmeira, the terminal was open for free viewing the first weekend in July 2017 and I now regret not being prepared, at the time to take the extra walk out there, as it looks like a stunning location.

Cruise terminal, Leixoes.
Cruise terminal, Leixoes. | Source

Praia da Matosinhos

Ideal for families, Praia da Matosinhos is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike in the warmer months. The broad promenade is overlooked by a selection of modern apartment blocks set behind landscaped greenery and the occasional eating place. The wide stretch of sandy beach gently shelves into the sea, offering safe bathing, overseen by lifeguards at busier times. The coastline is tidal and, even in the warmer months, Atlantic sea temperatures can be on the cool side.

Surf schools operate from the beach. The sand gradually gives way to the rocks around Forte de São Francisco Xavier (Fort of San Francisco Xavier ) or Castelo do Queijo (Castle of Cheese), which marks the end of the beach area. With the original fortification dating from the mid-1600s, this castle gained its name from the cheese shape of the rock formation. We opted to walk further rather than explore inside the castle, but others recommend a look for only 50 cents admission.

View from Praia da Matosinhos to Castelo do Quiejo.
View from Praia da Matosinhos to Castelo do Quiejo. | Source

City Park, Porto

Crossing the road and heading inland we took a look at Parque da Cidade do Porto, 1.2 kilometers from the tourist office by Praia da Matosinhos. The City Park didn’t quite live up to our expectations, although it is Portugal’s largest urban park. The greenery and lakes were pleasant enough, but it had a slightly run down feel about it, which was not helped by the dismantling of a stage from an event the previous day. For a city park, it was surprisingly empty of visitors and we had a job finding our way in and out of the place. Admittedly it was a weekday in late June and maybe the inland end is more stunning.

There is a Sealife Centre sandwiched between the City Park and the roundabout behind Castelo de Quiejo, which links with Avenida da Boa Vista, heading into Porto. We didn't visit on this occasion, but from experience elsewhere, Sea Life centers are usually popular with younger visitors.

City Park, Porto.
City Park, Porto. | Source

Tired of Walking?

If by this stage you are tired of walking, an alternative would be to pick up the Bus 500 from a roundabout behind Praia da Matosinhos or near Castelo do Quiejo, as this runs south along the coast of Foz do Douro and then follows the northern bank of the River Douro into central Porto. If not, walk on, as we did, into the area known as Foz do Douro.

Jardins da Avenida de Montevideu.
Jardins da Avenida de Montevideu. | Source

Foz do Douro

The coastline is rockier as you walk in a southerly direction from Castelo do Quiejo through Jardins da Avenida de Montevideu, a pleasant area of trees and grass with a slightly run-down monument/fountain, along the coastal walkway. This leads eventually to the district of Foz do Douro, literally translated as the mouth of the Douro, as the area takes in the bend of the coast round into the river estuary. Rocks predominate, so swimming is not as easy as from Praia da Matosinhos to the north, but there are a few bars with views out to sea, as well as a Pizza Hut on this stretch of coastline.

The most striking sight on this stretch is undoubtedly the Pergola da Foz, associated with many a romantic photograph and built in the 1930s near the affluent area of Foz do Douro, which was inhabited by the wealthier classes. The pergola was refurbished in 2008. It is a 1.6-kilometer walk from the coast entrance of the City Park.

Pergola, Foz do Douro.
Pergola, Foz do Douro. | Source

Finishing up

Rounding the corner from Foz do Douro, you will find a collection of cafes and food sellers backing onto the water and view across the river estuary. Jardim do Passeio Allegre, with its pleasantly landscaped grounds, dating from the end of the 19th Century,is a little further along, around 1.8 kilometers from the pergola.

Having walked a fair distance by now, you might want to pick up the vintage tram 1 by the gardens, which will take you along the riverbank into Porto.

Sail away from Praia da Matosinhos.
Sail away from Praia da Matosinhos. | Source

South from the Port of Leixoes, Porto

show route and directions
A markerPraia da Matosinhos -
Av. Norton de Matos, 4450-208 Matosinhos, Portugal
get directions

B markerTerminal de Cruzeiros, Leixoes -
Rua do Godinho, Portaria junto do monumento Senhor do Padrão, 4450-208 Matosinhos, Portugal
get directions

C markerSealife, Porto -
R. Particular Nº 1 Castelo do Queijo, 4100-379 Porto, Portugal
get directions

D markerJardins do Avenida de Montevideu, -
Jardins da Avenida de Montevideu, Porto, Portugal
get directions

E markerPergola, Foz do Douro -
Av. do Brasil 694, 4150-378 Porto, Portugal
get directions

F markerJardim do Passeio Allegre -
Passeio Alegre garden, R. do Passeio Alegre 828, 4150-570 Porto, Portugal
get directions

Enjoying the Coastline

What's you Favourite Coastal Activity?

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Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Liz Westwood


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      • Eurofile profile imageAUTHOR

        Liz Westwood 

        4 days ago from UK

        Thanks for your comment, RTalloni. Porto offers great variety to visitors.

      • Eurofile profile imageAUTHOR

        Liz Westwood 

        4 days ago from UK

        Thanks, Bill. I'll certainly look into that.

      • RTalloni profile image


        3 weeks ago from the short journey

        Oh how lovely it would be to visit this coastal area. It is a great contrast to the apparently dense Porto. To share your visit via this well done post is a treat.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

        I was thinking pitching to magazines!

      • Eurofile profile imageAUTHOR

        Liz Westwood 

        4 weeks ago from UK

        Thanks for the suggestion, Bill. I appreciate your comment. Do you mean advising them of my articles to encourage more hits, or pitching for some work from them? I've almost exhausted my Porto material and, after a hotel review there, I'll be moving on.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

        I like that you are concentrating your efforts on an area which does not get many articles....it narrows your reading market, of course, but it also means you are one of few writers in that market, and that will pay off eventually. My suggestion: contact the Porto tourism office and make a pitch.

      • Eurofile profile imageAUTHOR

        Liz Westwood 

        4 weeks ago from UK

        Thanks for your encouragement, Peggy. The pools and the cruise terminal were an unexpected bonus on what I expected to be a city sightseeing holiday.

      • Eurofile profile imageAUTHOR

        Liz Westwood 

        4 weeks ago from UK

        Thanks, DJ Hurst. Portugal is well worth a visit.

      • Eurofile profile imageAUTHOR

        Liz Westwood 

        4 weeks ago from UK

        Thanks, FlourishAnyway, Portugal has a lot to offer and in our experience is one of the most reasonably priced European destinations.

      • Eurofile profile imageAUTHOR

        Liz Westwood 

        4 weeks ago from UK

        Thank you for your encouraging comment, Linda. I was concerned that this article might be weaker than the others.

      • Eurofile profile imageAUTHOR

        Liz Westwood 

        4 weeks ago from UK

        Thanks for your comment, Eastward. We didn't choose the area for the coastline, so the coastal walks were a bonus.

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Thanks for showing us the coastlines around Porto and what there is to do and see if exploring them as you did. Those saltwater pools built adjacent to the ocean reminded me of the one we saw while in Acapulco many years ago. That is a great idea and safer than swimming in the open ocean waters.

        The photo of the cruise terminal is fascinating. It almost looks like rows of seating at the top. I enjoyed all of your photos and the descriptions. Looking forward to reading more of your articles!

      • Mamsa profile image

        DJ Hurst 

        4 weeks ago from London

        Nice. Never actually been to Portugal. It's on my list though.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image


        4 weeks ago from USA

        If you had presented nothing else about Porto in any other article, the pools and beach would still have me hooked. Absolutely marvelous. I must go!

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        4 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        I've enjoyed reading all of your Porto articles very much, but this is my favourite one. I love the views of the sea and beaches. I like the first photo in this article, too. The natural frame surrounding the view is lovely. Thank you for sharing your travel experiences, Liz.

      • Eastward profile image


        4 weeks ago from Phuket, Thailand

        That's a nice, detailed account of your trip. It looks like a beautiful and interesting place!

      • Eurofile profile imageAUTHOR

        Liz Westwood 

        4 weeks ago from UK

        Thanks for your comment, Mary. I would imagine that Porto is a little cool in the winter for beach activities, as it's on the north-west coast of Portugal. But an advantage of traveling then is that there are fewer crowds. We tend to head a little further south in the winter, as the weather in the UK is cold and wet and we crave a little winter sun.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        4 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

        These beaches look amazing. We enjoyed our time in Porto but we always travel in the winter as summer in Canada is great. We did walk in the beach in Nova da Gaia but did not really enjoy other beach activities.

      • Eurofile profile imageAUTHOR

        Liz Westwood 

        4 weeks ago from UK

        Thanks for your comment, Louise. Porto exceeded our expectations.

      • Coffeequeeen profile image

        Louise Powles 

        4 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

        Porto looks a lovely place to visit. There's lots to do and see. I'd definitely do a lot of walking and exploring!


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