ALJEZUR (pronounced “alj-ezoor”), 16km north of Carrapeteira, is the liveliest town on this coast, though some way inland from any beaches. The main coast road passes through a prosaic, modern lower town where you find banks, the post office and a range of cafés and restaurants. The more interesting historic centre spreads uphill beyond the bridge over the Aljezur River, a network of narrow cobbled streets reaching up through whitewashed houses to the remains of an eleventh-century Moorish castle. It’s a lovely walk up to the castle with sweeping views over the valley, via a cluster of museums – though only the Casa Museu Pintor José Cercas is really worth a visit.
The Casa Museu Pintor José Cercas displays the works and collections of local artist José Cercas, who lived in the house until his death in 1992. His well-observed landscapes and religious scenes are complemented by the attractive house and pretty garden.
Some 10km southwest of Aljezur, Praia da Arrifana is a superb, sandy sweep set below high, crumbling black cliffs which shelter a tiny fishing harbour. The beach is excellent, and surf competitions are sometimes held here. Several simple café-restaurants lie along the road above the beach, all serving grilled fish at moderate prices.