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The town of Sesimbra
Located 40 km south of Lisbon, Sesimbra is a picturesque fishing town set in a sheltered bay at the foothills of Serra da Arrábida and close to the Sado estuary. Its original name, Sesimbriga, is of Celtic origin and means burg (briga=burg) of the Celtic tribe Sesim.
The town was founded at the hilltop around the Moorish castle which was conquered to the Moors by the first Portuguese king, D. Afonso Henriques, in 1165. From there you can experience a great view over the entire bay and town. A short walk to the castle (5km) is a great opportunity to look around and discover many of Sesimbra's sites of interest and panoramic views.
In the 18th century Sesimbra was used by the Portuguese Kings as a seaside retreat, however the importance of this town as a harbour and fishing port dates back to the age of the discoveries, in the 15th century.
Nowadays, tourists are attracted by the excellent sheltered beaches and by the wide variety of water sports possibilities due to the diverse and favourable sea conditions. Close to Sesimbra, the Albufeira coastal lagoon is also a prime location for water activities such as canoeing, windsurf and kitesurf. Golf is also a popular sport around Sesimbra with different courses available. This range of leisure and sports activities transform Sesimbra during the summer months from a peaceful fishing town in to a busy resort.
Besides its beaches Sesimbra offers a rich cultural and natural heritage. It has a great traditional cuisine based on fresh fish and shellfish. Octopus is one of main fishing resources caught in local waters and widely appreciated in the local gastronomy. All this variety can be tasted in numerous local restaurants.
In the surrounding area there are several sites worthwhile visiting. At the Espichel Cape is located the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora do Cabo Espichel. Its original defensive functions were substituted to a sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of the Cape. It was built in 1701 in a typical baroque style. In the nearby cliffs you can also find dinosaur footprints.
The area around the town of Sesimbra is also of great natural interest. Due to its intrinsic ecological value complimentary protected areas surround Sesimbra in land and at sea: The Arrabida Natural Park and its marine section the Luiz Saldanha Marine Protected Area.
The Serra da Arrábida
The Arrábida Natural Park (Including the Luiz Saldanha Natural Marine Protected Area)
The Arrábida Natural Park was formed in 1976 and covers an area of 10,800 ha. The countryside is hilly, with the highest peak in Serra da Arrábida reaching 499 metres. Even though not very high, the scenery is spectacular. The chalk hills within the park end abruptly and cut in to the sea providing a strong contrast between the lush green vegetation, the chalk face of the cliffs and the sea. The geological history of these formations dates back 180 million years.
The soil and mild climatic features enable a Mediterranean vegetation rich in species. Some remaining examples of Mediterranean maquis in Portugal can be found here, and its preservation was one of the reasons which led the Arrábida zone to be considered of genuine international scientific interest. Amidst the sandy beaches and the hilltops one can also find several species of typical maritime flora. The Arrábida Natural Park also homes important breeding grounds for several birds of prey.
Between the 16th and 19th centuries, Arrábida was inhabited by Franciscan friars who built the Arrábida Monastery that still exists on the hillside. Dispersed throughout the area you can also find several small isolated chapels that were used for meditation and prayer.
The area around Arrábida is known for high quality produce, both from agriculture and pasture. The small area of Azeitão is famous for its wine, cheese and tortas de Azeitão, which are typical tort like cakes. There you can also find many palaces and manors, as this area was favoured by aristocrats and noblemen, namely the Quinta da Bacalhoa.
Along the shores, the action of the sea against the mountains has originated a line of beaches characterised by fine sand and transparent waters, that we might otherwise believe could only be found in the Mediterranean. Amongst several others, the beach at Portinho da Arrábida is a good example of this. Here you can also find the Pedra da Anixa, a small island rock within the natural marine park.
The Luiz Saldanha Marine Protected Area was established in 1998. It occupies an area around 53 km2, from the coastal rocky shores nearby the Sado estuary’s mouth to the area just North of the Cape Espichel. The area is known for its high biodiversity, which is unique in Portugal and throughout Europe, with over 1000 known species of maritime fauna and flora. This richness in both diversity and abundance is also the reason why the area has been an important fisheries site for centuries.
Within the area, seagrass meadows (Zostera sp.) are still present. Previously widely dispersed throughout the shores of Arrábida, their presence and overall occupied area has been reduced during the second half of the 20th century. However, the establishment of the Marine Protected Area and the ongoing protective restoration projects aim at bringing back and recovering these ecologically important ecosystems.
Occuring fauna are both associated to the southern more Mediterranean and subtropical waters as well as to the northerner more temperate ones. The majority of the marine species found here depend on coastal rocky shores at some point of their life cycle. As an example of its fish diversity, several species of flatfishes can be found here, namely Solea solea, S. senegalensis, Scophthalmus maximus, S. rhombus, which are species with high commercial value in Sesimbra, and Bothus podas, Solea lascaris, Lepidorhimbus boscii, Zeugopterus punctatus, Dicologlossa cuneata, Arnoglossus laterna amongst others.
To learn more about the fauna and flora of the Luiz Saldanha Marine Protected Area you can visit the Oceanographic Museum at the Nossa Senhora da Arrábida Fort.
Due to the particular conditions of the sea in Sesimbra, its transparency an regular days of great visibility and species abundance and diversity it is one of the best scuba diving sites in Portugal. There are several diving clubs located at the harbour ready to take you to the best sites. Dispersed throughout the coasts you can experience several different diving scenarios from rocky bottoms and sandy shores to wreck diving in a merchant ship sunk near the Espichel cape. You will be able to see besides several species of fish and wide diversity of invertebrates, namely sponges, cnidaria such as sea fans, nudibranchs, crustaceans and echinoderms.
Sites of interest in and around Sesimbra:
Castelo de Sesimbra / Sesimbra Castle
Igreja de Santa Maria no Castelo / Church of Saint Mary at the castle
Capela do Espírito Santo dos Mareantes / Chapel of the Holy Spirit of the sailors
Forte de S. Teodósio / Fort of S. Teodósio
Fortaleza de Santiago / Fortress of Santiago
Igreja Matriz / Main Church
Museu do Mar e da Pesca / Sea and Fisheries Museum
Cabo Espichel / Cape Espichel
Santuário da Nossa Senhora do Cabo Espichel / Sanctuary of Our Lady of Cape Espichel
Dinosaur tracks at the Cabo Espichel
Parque Natural da Arrábida / Arrábida Natural Park including the Luiz Saldanha Marine Protected Area
Museu Oceanográfico / Oceanographic Museum
Convento da Arrábida / Arrábida Monastery
Azeitão / Villages in Azeitão
Beaches at Sesimbra, Meco and Portinho da Arrábida
Lagoa de Albufeira / Albufeira coastal lagoon
Sports and leisure activities:
Wine and Vineyards Tourism
Climbing and Rappel
- Wind Surf
- Kite Surf
- Boat Tours and Dolphin watching
For more information on Sesimbra we recommend the following websites
Located in southwest Europe, Portugal is one of its oldest countries. The territory which forms the modern Portuguese Republic witnessed a constant flow of civilizations after prehistoric times. Early influences range from the first Celtic inhabitants to the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Germanics and Moorish who left an imprint on the country's culture, history, language and ethnic composition.
In the 12th century, the country gained its independence from the other kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula, under the leadership of the first Portuguese King D. Afonso Henriques.
In the late 13th century, King D. Dinis founded the first university, one of the oldest in Europe. In the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to sail along the West coast of Africa, passing the southern tip of the Continent (the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa) and establishing the maritime route to India, the distant Orient as well as setting the Western routes towards South America. During this time of discoveries, Portugal extended its cultural and economic influence, forming a global empire that lasted in to the 19th century. Today, Portugal still has strong cultural, social and economical ties with most of its former colonies, such as Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe Islands and even East Timor and Macau.
In 1910 the monarchy was overthrown and Portugal became a republic. After the implementation of the first republican governments António de Oliveira Salazar became prime minister from 1932 - 1968. His regime was an authoritarian, right wing, dictatorship that controlled all aspects of Portuguese economy, cultural and social life. This oppressive and closed state fell with a peaceful revolution on the 25th of April 1974, known as the carnation revolution, and a true parliamentary democracy was reinstalled.
In 1986 Portugal joined the European Union and has adopted the Euro as national currency since 2002.
For more information on Portugal we recommend the following websites
Lisbon is the largest city and the capital of Portugal. It is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Tagus estuary which is one of the largest in Europe providing excellent conditions for fishing, recreation and port activities. The City itself was founded over 20 centuries ago and spreads over 7 hills. Its castle, the Castelo de São Jorge, was occupied by the romans in 205 b.c., ruled by a series of Germanic tribes and later conquered by the Moors. In 1147 it was conquered by the first Portuguese king, D. Afonso Henriques who made it the capital city of the kingdom. The city rose to great prosperity in the 16th century with the establishment of the Portuguese empire in Africa, India and South America. In 1755 a large part of the city was destroyed by a major earthquake and following tsunami. One of the biggest enterprises in Lisbon, lead by Marquês de Pombal, was the reconstruction of the entire downtown area in a modern grid system, which has been known since then as the Baixa Pombalina. Recently, in 1998 the eastern area of the city was overhauled to receive the EXPO 98 world exposition.
Thanks to is unique luminosity, Lisbon is known as the white city. The light, the atmosphere and the climate offer marvelous walks all over the city. It has a beauty that extends beyond the monuments, that can be experienced in the streets and that is embraced with all the senses. It is also a city of contrasts between ancient and modern, history and future. It is distinguished by its typical neighborhoods; Alfama, with its moorish, winding streets and staircases; Bairro Alto and Chiado, facing the Castle and known for its nightlife and shopping; Belém for its monuments, such as the Monastery Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the Tower Torre de Belém and many museums and, amongst others, the Parque das Nações the most modern area in the city, where you can find the Oceanarium and the Lisbon casino.
Lisbon is definitely a city not to miss and the variety and choice of things to see and do make it a sure success for everyone that visits.
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