Stretching north of Lisbon, Portugal’s Silver Coast (Costa de Prata) boasts stunning, endless beaches, enchanting towns and cities, charming fishing villages and breathtaking mountains and vineyards. Perfect, in fact, for a relaxing holiday in the sun! World-class golf courses, wine-tasting routes, and a host of water sports (particularly surfing) ensure that there is always plenty to do. There is a smattering of larger resorts, such as Nazaré, or you could visit Aveiro, dubbed ‘the Venice of Portugal’, or explore the enchanting historic towns of Porto, Coimbra or Obidos.
The Silver Coast’s spectacular beaches are enormous swathes of sand that rarely get crowded, even in the height of summer. The resorts are mainly low-key and traditional, with an appealingly slow pace of life, and colourful fishing boats pulled up onto the sands. There are plenty of enchanting towns to visit, from historic Obidos and Coimbra to pretty Aveiro, set on a pair of canals, and the handsome city of Porto. You could also get in a round or two of golf, take one of the fabulous wine-tasting tours, try your hand at surfing or sailing, or tramp along some of the stunning cliff walks.
Portugal’s Silver Coast is a fabulous destination for foodies. The local cuisine is fresh and delicious, and is complemented by the region’s outstanding wines. You can tuck into some freshly caught seafood – including the justly famous shellfish - right on the beach, or savour the classic local stews. Each town and region has its own speciality, including the lagosta suada (‘sweaty lobster’, which is cooked in a sealed pot to preserve the juiciness), caldeirada de peixe, a succulent fishermen’s stew, and porco à Alentejana, pork cooked with clams. Inland, roast meats, particularly lamb and rabbit, are popular, along with hearty casseroles with vegetables, beans and chorizo. Wash it all down with the delicious wines (red, white and sparkling) for which the Silver Coast is justly famous.
The Silver Coast is a fantastic destination for family holidays. Endless sandy beaches, plenty of sunshine, and relaxed, family-friendly restaurants combine for an ideal holiday with kids. The Atlantic Ocean is great for surfing, but you’ll find that most of the main towns and resorts have sheltered areas with lifeguards for swimming. Kids will also enjoy the boat trips along the coast, and older children and teens might enjoy sailing or surfing lessons. There are a couple of small water parks located near Nazaré and Peniche with slides and wave pools, as well as a smattering of karting tracks and bowling alleys for days when the surf is up.
The Silver Coast, particularly Ericeira and Peniche, is world-famous for its surf beaches, which attract surfers of all levels. Nazarés' North Canyon is the holy of holies for the most experienced surfers, who flock here from across Europe for the gigantic waves. You’ll find plenty of places to rent equipment and schools that offer courses to suit all ages and abilities all along the coast. Other popular water sports here include sailing, body-boarding, and wind-surfing. There are also some spectacular hikes, both through the mountainous hinterland and along the dramatic coast. Biking is also popular, with routes to suit everyone from unfit beginners to hardy adrenaline-junkies.
The entire Silver Coast is a virtually unbroken strip of wide, sandy beaches, so you’ll find a quiet corner even in the height of the summer season. The most popular beaches are located around the towns of Foz do Arelho, Nazaré, Peniche and Ericeira, and many have been awarded Blue Flag status for the excellent amenities and pristine waters. The powerful Atlantic Ocean has made many of the Silver Coast’s beaches renowned with surfers – particularly at Peniche. If you’re looking for somewhere more sheltered, the lagoon side of the beach at Foz do Arelho is calmer, and ideal for kids, and the beaches at Nazaré, Areia Branca and Santa Cruz are long and family-friendly.
Life on the Silver Coast is relaxed and low-key, but there’s still plenty of nightlife to be found once the sun has gone down. The larger towns and resorts have a huge choice of bars and clubs, particularly in Torres Vedras, Caldas da Rainha, Leiria, Marinha Grande, Alcobaça and the surfing meccas of Peniche and Ericeira. There are lots of summer-only nightlife spots that open up during July and August so that you can dance the night away right on the beach. These are complemented by local festivals and music festivals, which see outdoor concerts and street parties. In the smaller villages, the seafront bars and restaurants are at the centre of the action, and you can while away the evening listening to the waves with a drink in hand.
Beautiful, relaxed and replete with enchanting historic towns, the Silver Coast is a wonderful place to chill out and recharge batteries with your partner. You will have no problem finding a secluded corner of the beach to relax, and, if you want a break from sun, sea and sand, you could make a tour of the vineyards inland, or explore one of the region’s beautiful historic cities – Obidos, Coimbra and Porto among them. In the evenings, enjoy a romantic dinner of freshly caught seafood, then snuggle up at a beachfront bar and listen to the rushing waves, or party till dawn with your toes in the sand.
There is a whole slew of fascinating and historic cities to explore in the Silver Coast region. The fortified city of Obidos, encircled by crenelated walls, retains its perfectly preserved medieval streets, now full of charming shops and cafés. You could also visit Coimbra, an ancient university town that has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Porto’s historic centre, a cobbled maze of narrow streets surrounding a spectacular cathedral, is also a World Heritage Site. Its outstanding museums include the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis, set in a magnificent palace and equally enticing Serralves museum of contemporary art.