A Guide to Sines, Portugal’s Port of Entry

Written By Zé Eduardo Penedo

What to visit in and around Sines? Beaches, many will say. It’s true, this little piece of Alentejo coastline is one of the most popular summer vacation destinations because of its cove beaches, especially the Porto Covo beaches which are some of the most beautiful in Portugal.

But it is also history, nature, and a source of pleasure. Birthplace of the navigator Vasco da Gama, one of the gateways to the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park, a crossing point on the unmissable Rota Vicentina, and home to a cuisine that combines the best of the sea and the Alentejo, visiting Sines is always a good idea for a getaway, even better for a relaxing vacation.

To help you plan your summer getaway or vacation in Sines and Porto Covo, I bring you this article, focusing on what to visit, what to see and do in Sines, the best beaches, and activities. I’ve also included our suggestions for trails, restaurants, and a lot more, so you don’t miss a thing about a territory that brings together the best of the Alentejo coast.

Where is Sines

Sines is a Portuguese port city in the Setúbal district, Alentejo region, and Alentejo Litoral sub-region, more precisely at the tip of Cape Sines. From São Torpes it is part of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park and a small portion of the north of the municipality belongs to the Santo André Lagoon Nature Reserve.

Sines is 160 km from Lisbon and 130 km from Setúbal. Its neighboring municipalities are Odemira and Santiago do Cacém.

To get there by car from Lisbon, all you need to do is follow the A2 highway for about an hour. Once you reach Grândola, you’ll need to leave the highway and take the IP8 for a bit before joining the A26 highway, which will take you directly to Sines.

By bus, you’ll need to head to the Sete Rios station. There are several direct buses daily, so all you need to do is pick the time that works best for you.

Unfortunately, Sines doesn’t have a train station. But there are multiple daily trains to nearby Grândola. From there, a short bus ride will then take you to Sines.

When to Visit

Because of the fantastic beaches, summer is the best time of year to visit Sines. However, there is no shortage of reasons to visit Sines and Porto Covo all year round:

  • Sines Carnival (February/March): Sines is one of the Portuguese cities with the longest carnival tradition.
  • Spring Fair (April/May): Shows, entertainment for families and a traditional market to color the historic center for a weekend.
  • World Music Festival (July): The castle and its surroundings become an alternative universe, with eclectic music from the four corners of the world. This festival is already an international reference and, since 1999, the most important event in the municipality.
  • Tasquinhas Sines (July): Restaurants and stalls fill Avenida Vasco da Gama with flavor (and mouth-watering smells) to showcase the best of local cuisine.
  • Feast of Nossa Senhora das Salas (August 14 and 15): Although the patron saint of Sines is São Salvador, Nossa Senhora das Salas is the patron saint of the fishermen of Sines and the saint with the greatest popular cult.
  • Feast of Our Lady of Solitude (August 30): Porto Covo is celebrating.
  • Municipal Day celebrations (November 24th): Municipal holiday.
  • Natal no Largo (December): The magic of Christmas brought to the historic center with lights, color, and sparkle, a traditional market, and lots of street entertainment.

What to See and Do in Sines

Vasco da Gama Statue Sines Portugal
A statue of Sines’ proud son, Vasco da Gama. Photo by Vitor Oliveira (Flickr).

Find out what you’ve been missing by not visiting Sines. Get away from the preconceived image that Sines is just a container port (the largest in Portugal) and give a chance to a city that was shaped by the sea. No Portuguese land is so closely linked to Vasco da Gama, Sines’ most illustrious son, and the picturesque historic center revives the memory of the great navigator at every opportunity.

On a visit to Sines, here are the places and experiences you can’t miss:

  • Wander around the picturesque historic center. The main points of interest in the historic center of Sines are around Rua do Muro da Praia, Largo Poeta Bocage and Largo do Castelo. Take the opportunity to stroll along the shopping streets of Rua Teófilo Braga (formerly Rua Direita) and Rua Cândido Reis.
  • Climb up to Sines Castle, a fortification built to defend the coast from corsairs shortly after the conquest of the Algarve. It is still the best viewpoint overlooking the Bay of Sines. Walk along the ramparts and discover the Sines Museum, which includes the Keep, Vasco da Gama’s House, the Palace of the Military Governors, the Old Stables, the Old Barracks, and the Garrison House.
  • Visit the Church of the Savior, the parish church of Sines. Right next door is the Misericórdia Chapel, and opposite is the Emmerico Nunes Cultural Center.
  • Take a coffee break at Vela D’Ouro and treat yourself to the famous traditional sweets: Two Vasquinhos and two Al-Bertos for table 7. And a slice of the “Worst Chocolate Cake in the World”.
  • Right next to the castle walls and the main church, the statue of Vasco da Gama, the first man to make the sea voyage to India, still looks out to sea. But you can go down the famous Escadinhas do Muro da Praia, the main access to Vasco da Gama Beach.
  • Few people know about it, but follow this tip: go around the castle and discover the Roman Factories, a museum space with archaeological remains of fish factories that were only discovered in 1990 on the east side of the castle walls.
  • Take a stroll along the Sines waterfront to the Forte do Revelim or Forte de Nossa Senhora das Salvas where the Observatório do Mar (Museum of the Sea and the Port of Sines) is located, and take in the fishing port of Sines, a centuries-old tradition, with the fishing boats, the Bay of Sines and the hustle and bustle of the work coloring the historic center of Sines in the background.
  • Don’t miss out on the Penedo das Índias Walkways, climbing back up to the historic center while enjoying one of the best panoramic views of the bay.
  • The Church of Nossa Senhora das Salvas (or das Salas) goes unnoticed by many visitors, but it’s well worth a visit if only to contemplate the Manueline portico built by Vasco da Gama himself. If it’s open, don’t hesitate to go inside and admire the Treasure of Our Lady of Salas inside.
  • Take the car and head for Cabo de Sines, stop at the Lighthouse, extend the views over the long sandy beaches to Troia at the viewpoint on the north coast, or stretch your legs on the North Coast Walkway.
  • Take a stroll through the Alameda da Paz Garden and discover the history and life of the fishermen of Sines in the beautiful tile panels that decorate the walls of the Old Sines Railway Station.
  • Dare to discover the many secrets of this stretch of the Alentejo coast by heading to the village of Porto Covo. Head south along the M1109 and be dazzled by the first cove beaches in the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park. Get your bathing suit or camera ready because you won’t be able to resist the charms of these intimate and wild beaches sheltered by wonderful cliffs.

What to See and Do around Sines

Porto Covo Sines Portugal
Porto Covo’s main square seems right out of a postcard. Photo by Giovanni Prestige (Flickr).

Porto Covo

If Sines sounds appealing, pace yourself because just 13 km south is the crown jewel of the municipality: Porto Covo.

Porto Covo is a village of beaches, snacks, walks, and peace. Lots of peace! It will always be one of our favorite destinations for a getaway from the city to the Costa Vicentina. If you’re looking for a haven of choice, Porto Covo has to be on your list. The village is small, cozy and charming. But time is always short here. Here’s what you really can’t miss while you’re there:

  • Start your visit at the charismatic Largo Marquês de Pombal, centered on a pleasant garden, surrounded by houses so quaint that you feel like living inside them.
  • Enter the church, and admire the polychrome gilded altarpiece and the image of Nossa Senhora da Soledade, the patron saint venerated by the people of Porto Covo and the surrounding area for centuries.
  • From there, follow the Vasco da Gama pedestrian street towards the sea.
  • Once on the coast, enjoy a scenic stroll along the cliffs of Porto Covo with Pessegueiro Island and the iconic Porto Covo Lighthouse marking the horizon. On one side you’ll discover a handful of small beaches, including Praia dos Buizinhos, Praia Pequena, Praia do Banho and Praia do Espingardeiro. The views are simply magnificent! On the other side, Porto Covo Bay hides, with its small fishing port full of colorful boats.
  • Finish your walk along the cliffs at Praia Grande, the best “urban” beach for bathing in Porto Covo – it has everything you need.
  • A “real” walk along the cliff top leads to viewpoints with brutal views and two handfuls of sandy beaches. In addition to those mentioned above, there is also Praia da Gaivota, Praia da Cerca Nova, Praia do Salto (naturist), Praia do Serro da Águia, Praia de Porto Covinho and the beautiful Praia da Samoqueira.

Best Beaches in and around Sines

Porto Covo Beach Sines Portugal
Beaches with a countryside atmosphere. Can’t get more relaxing than that! Photo by Giovanni Prestige (Flickr).

It’s impossible to visit Sines without visiting its beaches. When you visit Sines, put on your explorer’s clothes and set off to discover the treasures, as small as they are precious, that are the hidden coves along the 30 km of jagged coastline.

There are wider stretches of beach, but the majority are small beaches with fine sand and transparent water, sheltered by large rocks, which seem to have been made on purpose to create a feeling of intimacy and exclusivity. Of these, Morgável, Navalheira, Vale Figueiros, Serro da Águia, Oliveirinha, Foz and Canudos are names that only ring bells for those who know the coast like the back of their hand.

Vasco da Gama Beach

In the center of the Bay of Sines is the wide Vasco da Gama Beach, nestled between pontoons. The riverside promenade offers kilometers for jogging sessions or pleasant walks all year round. In summer, the calm sea invites you to take a dip and the sand invites you to sunbathe – the best guarded and accessible beach in Sines.

São Torpes Beach

São Torpes used to have the warmest water of the beaches on the Costa Vicentina, but the closure of the Sines thermoelectric plant at the beginning of 2021 put an end to the tropical waters. But the charms of São Torpes beach, put on the map by surfers, are all still there: the regular, gentle waves are simply perfect for getting started in the sport.

Samouqueira Beach

One of the most beautiful beaches in Porto Covo is Praia da Samoqueira. You’ll want to get to know every nook and cranny of this wild beach that meanders between the cliffs: caves, snacks, natural pools (a delight for the kids at low tide), and even a freshwater waterfall (if you’re very lucky!). The paradisiacal setting, golden sands, usually calm sea, and crystal-clear emerald waters are worth a visit. Fill up your cooler and go and (vi)see it in situ because no photo can do justice to all its attributes.

Porto Covo’s Praia Grande

The Praia Grande in Porto Covo is one of the most popular beaches on the Alentejo coast. It is guarded, sheltered, and has all the facilities to support bathers, but access is via a staircase in the cliffs. The white sands and clear waters of Praia Grande’s sandy beach are the delight of kids and adults alike who enjoy their summer vacations in Porto Covo. Bodyboarders and surfers the rest of the year.

Pessegueiro Island Beach

The most famous island in the Alentejo, Ilha do Pessegueiro, gave its name to the beach that stretches south of Porto Covo. Let’s face it, not everyone knows the beach that inspired Rui Veloso’s song. As such, it remains a less populated stronghold. In the summer, there are boats that cross to visit the ruins of Santo Alberto Fort on Pessegueiro Island, with its unique flora and fauna.

In addition to the beach, there is the Fort of Nossa Senhora da Queimada and unique sand cliffs under a giant stone slab facing the sea.

Best Trails in and around Sines

As I mentioned at the beginning, Sines is a crossing point on the Rota Vicentina, one of the best major routes in Europe, certified as a Leading Quality Trail.

Of the network of hiking and mountain bike trails that make up the Rota Vicentina, the Fishermen’s Trail is one of the most beautiful coastal trails in the world and the section that runs through the municipality of Sines goes from São Torpes to Vila Nova de Milfontes, passing through Porto Covo. Add two days to your itinerary to visit Sines and Porto Covo and discover one of the most beautiful pieces of coastline in the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park.

Where to Eat in Sines

Of all the reasons to visit Sines and Porto Covo, gastronomy is one of the main ones.

It took the açordas and feijoadas from the Alentejo countryside and gave them a special taste of the sea. Directly from the Sines fish market and directly from the Alentejo plains come the fresh ingredients that the restaurants transform into delicacies, many of them combining the pure pleasure of food with breathtaking views of the ocean.

Sines Winery

A typical restaurant in the heart of Sines’ historic quarter, where the service is fast, in the old tavern style, and the food is comforting.

Cais da Estação

An old railway station warehouse has been converted into a restaurant that focuses on quality. We went for the house specialty, razor clam rice with fried cuttlefish, and left converted.

Zé Inácio (Porto Covo)

At Zé Inácio, grilled fish is king and master. But the polvo à lagareiro, fish cataplana, fried cuttlefish, and monkfish rice are not far behind. For dessert, the sweet migas reign supreme.

What to Visit around Sines

Vila Nova de Milfontes Portugal
Vila Nova de Milfontes. Photo by Vitor Oliveira (Flickr).

Vila Nova de Milfontes

Less than 20 km from Porto Covo, Vila Nova de Milfontes is a gem nestled between the sea and the River Mira. Wander through the charming streets of the historic center, where you’ll find the Church of Nossa Senhora da Graça and the Fort of São Clemente. Enjoy the tranquillity of Praia da Franquia, on the banks of the River Mira. Take a stroll along the promenade that connects the fort to the Vila Nova de Milfontes Lighthouse and end the day watching the sunset at Praia do Farol.

Cape Sardão

Another 20 km and you’ll discover the majestic Cabo Sardão, the westernmost point of the Alentejo coast and the only place in Europe where storks nest on the coastline. A towering lighthouse, a silent sentinel guiding the brave men of the sea, welcomes you, but it’s the overwhelming views from the cliff tops and the omnipresent peace, interspersed with the crashing of the waves on the cliffs and the whispering of the wind, that will win your heart.

Zambujeira do Mar

Like a glittering tiara, Zambujeira do Mar crowns the high cliffs that line Zambujeira Beach, one of the best beaches on the Alentejo coast. Perched on top of the cliffs, the white houses, lined up along streets full of Alentejo atmosphere, are brightened up by the diadem that is the Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Mar, located in a square whose views would make any soul praise the heavens. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset!

Santiago do Cacém

Santiago do Cacém, a Templar land, is a peaceful and pleasant town crowned by the Moorish Castle, the Mother Church, and the imposing walls. Down the hill are the manor houses that impress and hint at the glory of the city of yesteryear. And on the outskirts, the fascinating Roman ruins of Miróbriga. The territory is a mixture of Alentejo, hills, sea and pine forest. From the hills of Cercal, 346 meters high, you can see the vastness of the sea to the west. But head to the Lagoas de Santo André and Sancha Nature Reserve to get a closer look and get to know this sanctuary of flora and fauna.

Santo André Lagoon Nature Reserve

Between the Atlantic Ocean and the placid waters of the brackish lagoons, the Santo André and Sancha Lagoons Nature Reserve is a nesting ground for thousands of birds and a paradise for birdwatching enthusiasts, especially in the cold months. Good winds bring birds and kitesurfers and windsurfers. In the summer, the birds give you license and give up “pallets” of space on the long sandy beach of Praia da Costa to dry off in the sun after dives with and (more or less) without salt. Don’t miss a stroll along the walkways, on the sand or on the shores of the lagoon at sunset.

Off We Go

So, what do you say? Explore the charming historic center of Sines, where Vasco da Gama’s legacy echoes through cobbled streets. Follow the cliffside trails, discover secret beaches, and savor the fusion of sea and Alentejo flavors in local eateries.

Don’t stop there — extend your adventure to nearby gems like Vila Nova de Milfontes, Cape Sardão, Zambujeira do Mar, Santiago do Cacém, and the Santo André Lagoon Nature Reserve. Each destination unfolds a unique tapestry of history, landscapes, and wildlife.

Whether you time your visit with lively festivals or opt for a quiet retreat, Sines promises (and delivers!) a journey through the heart of the Alentejo coast. I hope this article was your guide to a getaway filled with awe, discovery, and the warm embrace of Portuguese hospitality. Happy trips!

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