Take a break from the busy streets of Lisbon and head to the docks to embark on an eye-opening adventure across the water. From windsurfing at Cova do Vapôr to sampling local delicacies at Porto Brandão and festivals at Seixal, there’s a lot to discover on a day trip across the River Tagus. For those planning a little time away from the Portuguese capital on their next trip, these are the best short ferries from Lisbon.
On the point where the Tagus River meets the Atlantic sits Cova do Vapor (also known as Steamer’s Cove), a seaside resort known for its fishing and water sports. Thanks to the persistent strong winds that blow from the ocean, it is prime surfing territory and water babies can enjoy some of the area’s best wind surfing in the mouth of the river. If you’d rather relax on the sun-soaked beach, visit at low tide when the sandy stretch is at its largest.
A little further around the coastline is Porto Brandão, a locality in the parish of Caparica a Trafaria in Almada. The village may be small but it’s an important port as a common stop for ferries from Lisbon. There’s a small beach that’s worth a visit but Porto Brandão’s primary appeal is its food. Make sure to sample the local culinary delicacy carvoada – meat or fresh fish that’s charcoal grilled on a small stove at the dinner table and served with fruit. A number of local restaurants near the coast, such as Restaurante Porto Brandão and Restaurante Maré Viva, serve this signature dish.
Sail under the impressive Ponte 25 de April Bridge to reach Seixal, a historic town with a strong fishing and shipbuilding heritage on the Setúbal peninsula. After dropping anchor, take a walk along the waterfront promenade to discover an array of restaurants and bars overlooking the bay. If you need some time on dry land after taking one of the ferries from Lisbon, hire a bicycle and set off along the beautiful cycle route that links Seixal and Amora. Plan your visit to coincide with one of the town’s many annual events, such as Avante! Festival in September – a popular three-day celebration of music, sports, theatre and food – or the Seixal Jazz festival in October.
On the other side of the bay is Barreiro, a town and municipality with an abundance of leisure and cultural attractions. The riverfront is a gastronomic haven dotted with Portuguese eateries, and the town is home to a number of museums, such as the Industrial Museum of Tagus Bay, Casa Alfredo de Silva Museum and Memory Space, dedicated to local heritage and culture. Relax on the picturesque Alburrica beach, in the shadow of its age-old windmills, or take some extra time to head inland and enjoy a walk in the Machada National Forest.
A short sail away is Montijo, formerly known as Aldeia Galego. Regular ferries from Lisbon operate this route, and Montijo is also connected to the capital via the Vasco da Gama Bridge. In its early history, Montijo welcomed monarchs such as John IV of Portugal, who passed through on their way to Lisbon. Nowadays, it’s mainly celebrated for its picturesque architecture and guarantee of peace and quiet from the crowds of the big city. Montijo is also a short drive from Alcochete, a sunny town with a long sandy beach stretching along the Tagus River.