Portugal has long been recognized as a great tourist destination, on the South Western coast of Europe. From historic towns like Lisbon and Porto to the tourist mecca of the Algarve, travelers have been flocking to Portugal for decades.
But there is one tourist gem that the Portuguese have tended to hide from all but the most discerning of visitors, the beautiful Ericeira, situated on the west coast of Portugal just a few miles from Lisbon.This unpretentious, yet sophisticated fishing village has managed to stay below the radar of the mass tourism industry, despite its brilliant beaches,exquisite sea food restaurants and closeness to some of the most historic towns in Portugal.
The town itself is perched on the cliffs, overlooking a number of spectacular beaches, coves and inlets. Its pretty narrow streets with whitewashed chapels and white houses edged in blue are a joy to wander around before heading to the sandy beaches or to a superb seafood dinner at one of the many popular restaurants.
Just as Ericeira is by the sea, it is also the sea that defines the town and gives it its life. The fishing boats here are not just tourist artifacts, but the lifeblood of the local area. Along the coast, cliff side nurseries called serrações breed lobsters. Lobster is the house specialty at every restaurant in Ericeira and the town claims to be the seafood capitol of Portugal. Although a working town, it also depends on tourism, and welcomes visitors. The image of the “old village” with its narrow cobblestone streets, characteristic housing, the Atlantic views and beaches, its proximity to the historic towns of the Lisbon hinterland all combine to make Ericeira a unique experience for the traveler.
The center of the town is “Republic Square” a tree lined area surrounded by chic restaurants, shops and coffee houses. Just off this square is the town market, where from seven o’clock in the morning to lunchtime marketers offer fresh fish and vegetables at the municipal market hall for sale.
The one activity that Ericeira has not been able to keep below the mass market radar is surfing, due to the incredible beaches in and surrounding the town itself. The town has become a surfing legend and the beach of Ribeira das Ilhas is considered one of the best surfing spots in Europe and is the site of World Surfing Championships.
Ericeira is also the perfect base for exploring the nearby historic towns. Mafra which is just a few miles to the north houses one of Europe’s largest palaces, the baroque royal palace. This grandiose monument was built in 1717 to celebrate the birth of a daughter to King João V, and includes a monastery and a basilica. To the south lies Estoril, once home to the world’s largest concentration of ex royals, and now containing Europe’s largest casino.
For travelers weary of the uniformity of the“Costa-style” holidays of the Mediterranean and Algarve, Ericeira offers a welcome respite, with its unique blend of the old and the modern.