Foz do Arelho is a coastal gem and an ideal summer destination for beach lovers and anyone seeking a getaway from bustling Lisbon.
Foz do Arelho is a small coastal vila located on Portugal's incredibly scenic Silver Coast, just outside the city of Caldas da Rainha. Known for its small town vibes and extensive coastline, it's perfect for sunbathing, surfing, and long walks by the beach along its waterfront promenade taking you from serene lagoon to wild ocean. Located just 45 minutes north of Lisbon, Foz do Arelho is easily accessible by bus via Portugal's Rede Expressos bus transportation system.
Our Foz do Arelho local travel guide is me (Gabrielle -- also liveLUSO's founder)! These are my insider tips on how to best enjoy this low-key beach destination and Silver Coast jewel.
Meet Gabrielle: For those who haven't met me yet, I founded the online Portuguese community, liveLUSO. I was born in the United States and Foz do Arelho is my Portuguese family's hometown -- my grandparents still live in walking distance to the beach. I'm fortunate to be able to travel to Portugal most summers to reconnect with the culture and people I miss dearly when I'm home. I think Foz do Arelho is a little-known treasure in Portugal and I'm excited to tell you more about it.
Why visit Foz do Arelho?
Foz do Arelho is home to one of the largest lagoons in Europe!
Foz do Arelho is a special place because its ocean feeds into the Óbidos lagoon (Lagoa de Óbidos) -- the largest saltwater lagoon in Portugal -- creating two distinct beaches. There's really something for everyone. The lagoon is perfect for families who want calm, kid-friendly waters, but also for the active beachgoer who wants to do stand-up paddle or even kitesurf on a windy day. Over at the main beach, you can swim and surf in the waves or just relax on the long stretches of white sand. Expect cold waters, even in summer. This part of the Atlantic Ocean doesn't warm up much. The lagoon can warm to a more comfortable swimming temperature during low tide.
*Tourist Tip: Across the way from the Lagoa de Óbidos is a resort area called Bom Sucesso. During low tide, it's tempting to cross to the lagoon by foot to reach Bom Sucesso. However, make sure to return to the Foz do Arelho side before the tide rises, otherwise may get stuck.
It's an amazing destination for
fresh seafood and Portuguese barbecue chicken.
On the main street, you can get great modern Portuguese food at Tibino and more traditional fare at Tavola. However, my favorite places are O Banheiro and the walk-up Portuguese barbecue chicken place on the main street (ask for piri-piri here if you like a bit of spice). O Banheiro is located at the lagoon right on the sand. Try their bifana sandwich. You can get this simple pork sandwich almost anywhere in Portugal, but rarely is it as good as it is here. Also try the cockels (berbigão), which are native to the lagoon.
Foz do Arelho has one of the most picturesque points on the entire Silver Coast to take in a seaside sunset.
There’s an incredible viewpoint atop a steep hill by the former GreenHill dance club. A wooden pathway was recently constructed meandering along the sea cliffs and overlooking the ocean. I’ve seen endless picturesque sunsets there reflecting deep pinks, violet purples, and burnt oranges on the water below. There's a couple of easy ways to get to the viewpoint -- walk or drive. To walk there, climb the wooden stairs sandwiched in between the cafes behind the beach (or the cement stairs at the farthest end of the beach). You'll end up at a traffic roundabout. From there, just follow the windy road going up the hill (towards the right if you're facing away from the beach) and you'll get to the wooden pathway in 5 - 10 minutes.
It's just minutes away from Óbidos and its famous castle!
Visiting Óbidos makes for the perfect day trip from Foz do Arelho! Óbidos is a quaint, medieval town with residents still living within the castle walls. Its most known for its historic castle that is also one of Portugal's pousadas, so reserve a night here for a one-of-a-kind stay. Óbidos is also famous for its ginja, a Portuguese sour cherry liquor. You can taste it in an edible, chocolate cup or on its own. Throughout the year, Óbidos hosts several events including the Medieval Fair in the summer and the Chocolate Festival in the spring. You can easily get to Óbidos by bus in 30 minutes -- or in just over 10 minutes if you're driving. If taking the local bus, go first to Caldas da Rainha, then take a connecting bus to Óbidos.
Foz do Arelho is one of the best places to have a quintessential Portuguese beach experience on a warm, summer day.
For me, there's no such thing as a day in Foz do Arelho without the beach. But first, I recommend starting the day off right listening to local chit chat sipping on a meio de leite coffee and indulging on a Portuguese pastry (preferably a #pasteldenata or bola de berlim) at the one of the cafés in the center of town -- you'll know you're in the center of town because it's the only place outside of the beach with several shops lined up next to each other along the town's main road.
From there, I would gradually make my way towards the beach. As you walk through town along the main road, Rua Francisco Almeida Grandela, in the direction of the beach (about 20 minutes), let yourself get a little lost down the narrow roads. You'll find incredible renovated homes, houses that are still abandoned yet full of charm, small hidden cafés, gardens and fields growing flowers and fruit, and the smell of Portuguese home-cooking wafting through the air. The aroma of fresh, grilled sardines means someone brought out the barbecue for lunch. Nothing says summer in Portugal like grilled sardines.
If you're looking for a more active morning, I suggest renting a bike from the restaurant, Tibino, and exploring the tranquil path that hugs the lagoon. From the center of town, ride down the main road towards the beach. Once you get to the first roundabout with an abandoned house with the word 'Welcome' painted on it, turn left following the signs for Escola de Vela, which is a place for sailing lessons. Stay on the paved path to the right and the lagoon will start to come into view. Another way to enjoy the morning is to do stand-up paddle at the lagoon. You can rent a paddleboard from one of the local hostels or the Escola de Vela.
However you spend your morning, slow and steady or with a jolt of energy, once you get down to the lagoon, I would stop at O Banheiro for a casual lunch or go next door to Cais da Praia for a greater variety of food options and an amazing deck overlooking the lagoon. Topping off lunch with an espresso, I'd spend the afternoon at the far end of the beach basking in the sun, walking along the shore collecting seashells, working up a sweat playing beach paddle ball, and swimming in the ocean (the water may be cold, but it feels great on a hot day).
At the beach, there are several cafés nearby if you need to take a respite from the hot afternoon sun. I recommend having an ice cream from the Portuguese brand Olá (available at most cafes) or sipping on a caipirinha, a refreshing lime cachaça cocktail imported from Brazil. As the afternoon winds down, make your way up the beach stairs and then up the hill towards the viewpoint following the wooden walkway with endless vista points (as explained above). It's an idyllic spot to watch a chameleon-esque sunset on the ocean and the best way to end a day in Foz do Arelho.
While in Foz do Arelho, check out some nearby points of interest:
Bacalhôa Buddha Eden in Bombarral. A peaceful garden inspired by East Asia and featuring modern art exhibitions. It's also home to a vineyard, whose exquisite wine is poured in a tasting room at the garden's entrance.
Boat ride to the Berlengas from Peniche. The Berlengas are a small set of rocky islands known for diverse marine life and a small fort. A 45-minute boat ride from Peniche will get you to the islands where you can spend the day hiking and snorkeling. Reserve your trip ahead of time as there are limited boat rides to the Berlengas each day.
O Sítio in Nazaré. A lighthouse turned surf museum dedicated to the big wave surfers that made Nazaré famous around the world.
Praça da Fruta in Caldas da Rainha is one of the only daily farmer's markets in Portugal -- and the oldest. Vendors sell the freshest fruit and vegetables you can find as well as cheese, cured meats, and other local products.
Rota Bordaliana in Caldas da Rainha. A walking route through the city of Caldas da Rainha highlighting ceramic works by iconic Portuguese artist, Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro. There is also a museum dedicated to the artist and his legacy.
*Note: To get to Foz do Arelho by bus, you need to take a Rede Expresso bus from the Sete Rios station in Lisbon to Caldas da Rainha. From that bus station, you can take a local bus to Foz do Arelho. Check the schedules first since the local buses don't run late at night. Taxis are also available near the Caldas da Rainha bus station.
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