FIGUEIRA DA FOZ is one of the liveliest towns on the west coast, a major resort and deep-sea fishing port (population 60,000) sited at the mouth of the Rio Mondego. Roughly equidistant from Lisbon and Porto, and 42km (just over an hour by train) from Coimbra, it attracts people from all over the country to its superb beaches and surf. That said, it’s not the most initially alluring of beach resorts: there’s a somewhat industrial approach from the south, and the town itself is resolutely modern, its long promenade backed by a line of anonymous apartment buildings. But most of the action, in fact, takes place away from the sands in the atmospheric backstreets, where a bubbling good humour prevails, even when the town is packed to the gills.
Figueira’s town beach is 2km long and very wide, and it’s a good five-minute walk across the sand to the sea – unless you wear shoes or stay on the wooden walkways, the soles of your feet will have been burned long before you get there. The seafront road and promenade are lined with apartment buildings and cafés as far as Buarcos at the northern end, 25 minutes’ walk away. This is the nicest part of Figueira, with a row of candy-striped fish restaurants right on the beach and a huddle of pastel-coloured fishermen’s houses lurking behind what remains of the old defensive seawall. The old seafaring life is covered in the signposted Núcleo Museológico do Mar, which also houses Buarcos’s turismo.
Figueira’s tight grid of central streets brims with shops and pavement cafés, while down towards the river is the Mercado Municipal, good for fresh produce as well as beachwear, children’s clothes, lace, embroidery and other crafts and souvenirs. On the edge of the town park, Parque das Abadias, the Museu Municipal Dr Santos Rocha is the only other sight of note, with an impressive archeological section.
Popular out-of-town beaches include Praia do Cabadelo, behind the mole on the south bank of the Mondego’s river mouth (the bus drops you at the hospital, a ten-minute walk away). Although there’s a surf school and bar here it’s not at all attractive and the better beach is a little way further south at Praia da Cova, below a large car park. There are a few restaurants in the street behind the beach, good places to come and eat fish. North of Buarcos and the Cabo Mondego headland you’ll find another good beach and campsite at Praia de Quiaios, 10km from Figueira. There are buses here in summer, but it’s far more convenient as a day-trip for drivers, who can wind there through the Serra de Boa Viagem – follow the signpost from the coastal road at the end of Buarcos. The serra is a hilly, wooded reserve inland of the cape with shaded picnic areas and woodland walks. There’s also the chance to make like a monkey in the Parque Aventura (summer season only), an aerial forest adventure course with zip wires, rope bridges, clamber nets and treetop obstacles – there’s a height and age restriction on some of the routes.Read More