Peniche is a small town that breaks into the sea, holding on to the continent by an arm of land!
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It is known mainly for its amazing beaches and the Berlengas archipelago, but there is much more to discover in Peniche. Gastronomy, history, handicraft, culture and tradition, all this can be found in Peniche, far away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities. An excellent destination for those who have a few days of vacation.
WHERE IS PENICHE?
Peniche is located in the central region of Portugal and belongs to the district of Leiria. It is about 103 km north of Lisbon, a distance that can be covered in only 73 minutes. It is very easy to arrive by car or transport. There are several buses leaving daily from Lisbon. Although at the weekend they reduce the number of vehicles, the offer is still reasonable and in the summer the service is reinforced.
WHAT TO VISIT IN PENICHE?
Peniche has a very high number of tourist attractions. 5 days are not too many to calmly see everything there is to see in this place. To make this article easier to read, we decided to divide the places of interest in two big categories: 1-Natural Heritage and 2-Cultural Heritage.
PENICHE’S CULTURAL HERITAGE
Let’s start then the trip to Peniche by its cultural heritage. Here follows a map of the PATRIMONIAL ATTRACTIONS in Peniche so you can organize your tours more efficiently!
PENICHE HISTORIC CENTER
It is in the historical center that we can feel a bit of the soul of every place we visit. Peniche is no exception. Start by taking a casual walk through its streets and you will realize that, similarly to the city of Lisbon, its layout is very straight. The explanation lies in the destruction inflicted by the great earthquake of 1755 that destroyed a large part of the place. The reconstruction of the country was led by Marques de Pombal who implemented straight lines in many of these (re)constructions. Examples of these straight lines are the city of Lisbon, the town of Porto Covo and the city of Peniche.
Urban art is also present in Peniche. An artistic expression that reminds everyone of the close connection between the city, its people and the sea.
SÃO PEDRO CHURCH
It’s a huge 16th century church and it’s right in the center of Peniche. It has 3 big naves. Its exterior is simple but imposing. Inside we can find several altars and the main chapel is decorated with gilded woodcarving and decorated with beautiful columns. There are also several 18th century paintings (from the 18th century). If you like religious monuments you will like this church!
CHURCH OF MERCY (MISERICÓRDIA) IN PENICHE
A 17th century temple that belongs to Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Peniche and is located next to the former hospital of the same institution. The exterior is interesting but the real wealth is kept inside the church. In my opinion, one of the most beautiful in the country. It has giant oil paintings on the walls, 17th century tile panels, and a ceiling decorated with coffered ceiling that illustrates moments from the life of Jesus Christ.
NOSSA SENHORA DOS REMÉDIOS SANCTUARY
A temple that was built during the 16th century and is located in the western part of Peniche. Legend has it that the image of our lady was found in a cave in the 12th century. The cave gave way to the construction of a temple and thus began the worship of the lady of the remedies. A cult that had great importance and that translated into annual pilgrimages to the chapel. It culminated in the creation of the sanctuary (which includes a church and a square where the hermit and the butlers lived). Noteworthy in the sanctuary are the main chapel with the image of Our Lady, the seventeen century panels and the chapel of the dead lord with an image of Jesus Christ.
Peniche’s fort was built to protect the port, which was one of the most important in the country and therefore subject to constant attacks from English and French privateers (privateers were groups of individuals who plundered ships and coastal lands at the behest of governments). It was the main piece of the defensive complex known as the Praça-Forte (Fort). It was in 1557, by order of King D. João III, that construction of the fortress began. However, the work was completed much later, almost one hundred years later.
The end of the 19th century marked the end of the defensive needs and, from then on, the Peniche Fort would know other functions. It was a political prison (there you will find Álvaro Cunhal’s cell and paintings) and a shelter for returnees from the former Portuguese colonies (1975). Nowadays, Peniche’s fort hosts the National Museum of Resistance and Freedom, especially dedicated to contemporary history. It is worth taking an afternoon to visit it. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 2:30 pm to 7 pm, except on January 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st, and December 25th.
CABO CARVOEIRO LIGHTHOUSE
After visiting the museum, take a walk to Cabo Carvoeiro, at the western end of Peniche. It is a pleasant 40 minute walk and on the way you can take the opportunity to visit the Furninha cave. There, prehistoric vestiges of human presence were found.
If you don’t like to walk, or don’t have much time, go by car, it’s only 8 minutes. Cabo Carvoeiro is an amazing work of art carved by nature, with the patience of time and the ingenuity of the sea and the wind. The landscape is dazzling with its large cliffs of limestone rock, with sharp jagged edges that face the infinity of the sea. In the distance you can see the Berlengas and, closer to it, the Nau dos Corvos, a large rock whose design makes you think of a sinking ship.
Here is one of the oldest lighthouses in Portugal, in operation since 1790. This lighthouse reminds us how, in the past, it was fearful to cross Cape Carvoeiro. Many were the boats that, crashing on these dangerous cliffs of Peniche, never reached their destination port.
BOBBIN LACE MUSEUM
The bobbin lace is the greatest exponent of Peniche’s handicraft. It is not known for sure when this art appeared in these lands, nor what its origin was. However, following the stories of the white-haired lace-makers, who tell us that their mothers and grandmothers used to make it, it seems that before the XVIII century there was already bobbin lace in Peniche. It was one of the activities that the women used to do when the men went to sea. The Bobbin Lace Museum values and immortalizes this art. Through its exhibition and the bobbin lace school, attended by apprentices of all ages. Take the opportunity to learn more about this cultural heritage. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday and admission is free.
A small waterfront of about 300 meters with a beautiful view of the sea. Flanked by a large number of restaurants where you can eat really well (I am a regular). If you have visited all the heritage suggestions we have described, you must be hungry by now! In Peniche… Choose fish, naturally!
PENICHE’S NATURAL HERITAGE
Baleal Island, Berlengas Island and the famous Super Tubes beach are the greatest exponents of this region. But there is much more to see and know in detail. Here is a map to orient yourself.
When you’re in Peniche, you can’t miss the Berlengas! The Berlengas archipelago is a diamond in the rough that emerges from the granite, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
The smallness of the few palms of land of this group of islands contrasts with the strength of the natural scenery.
It has been a protected area since the time of the kings, when D. Afonso V forbade hunting there. Later, in 1981, it was considered a protected Natural Reserve and finally, in 2011, it was internationally recognized by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve. The Berlengas islands belong to the municipality of Peniche and are 7 miles from the city, or about 11 km (see map above). Berlenga Grande, Estelas and Farilhões-Forcados are the three small islands that form this archipelago. Of these, the largest is the island of Berlenga, which is 1500 meters long by 800 meters wide. Although it occupies a very small area, its ecosystem is unique, attracting several species of birds and marine animals.
You can explore the charms of the Nature Reserve on a walk along the 2 km trails. Besides hiking, there are many other activities at your disposal, such as boat trips to discover the caves, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, canoeing and birdwatching. If you feel like being quiet, just let yourself be involved by the beauty of the beaches, where the granite rock contrasts with the greenish and crystalline waters. Take the opportunity to visit the Fort of S. João Baptista, the most powerful architectural landmark of the island. The date of its construction is unknown, but in 1651 it was ordered rebuilt by king D. João V, to defend it from pirate attacks.
The only restaurant is in the only settlement, the Fishermen’s Quarter. The restaurant has a great terrace and, of course, the best dishes are obviously fish. Since there are no other restaurants, it can be difficult to find a seat.
TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND ON YOUR VISIT TO BERLENGAS
To get to Berlengas, just take a boat at Peniche’s marina, which is just past the end of the main avenue, after the fortress. Here operate several companies that can take you to Berlengas. For the round trip, regardless of the company, the price is around 20€. However, if you need a guide to visit the caves or get to know the trails, the price will be higher. If you only have one day of vacation and love to travel by boat, you can book guided tours from Lisbon to Berlengas, with a duration of 8 to 10 hours. Other important information: 1-There is no ATM on the island, take cash, 2-There is no shade, you need a hat and sunscreen, 3-There are very few services, only a mini-market, take what you need for the day, especially water.
Baleal was a small island that time and the whims of nature transformed into a peninsula. It is another exceptional place in Peniche, just 5 km from the city center. There is a single access road to Baleal Island, which crosses the tongue of sand that reaches the coast.
On the island, you can find local accommodation and great restaurant service options, but its biggest attractions are the beaches of North Baleal and South Baleal. For some, these are some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. The beaches of North Baleal and South Baleal are back to back, on either side of the sand tongue. Both have a huge expanse of white sand and clear waters.
These are guarded beaches, with blue flags, parking, showers, and also with bar and restaurant services. For those who enjoy the beach, this is a place of excellence. These beaches also have good conditions for surfing and windsurfing. Baleal is a village that surprises everyone who visits it. A charming village on top of a large rock formation. After a morning (or an afternoon) on the beaches of Baleal, go up the road (on foot) a few meters and go to the right so you can see some rocks of unique beauty. An overwhelmingly beautiful and fierce view (especially in winter). Not advised for people with reduced mobility.
HERMITAGE OF SANTO ESTEVÃO DO BALEAL
Still in Baleal you will find a small 16th century temple with a very simple exterior and formed by only one nave. Hermitage dedicated to Saint Estevão and Nossa Senhora das Mercês. It was recently renovated. If you visit the place you can also enjoy the panoramic view, it is fabulous.
It’s no secret that Peniche is a surfing paradise! Some people drive miles to come here to catch waves, just for a few hours. Supertubos is the name by which the Medão Grande beach is known. The natural conditions of this beach provide excellent and very fast tubular waves. For those who come from far away expressly to surf, you can know the conditions at Supertubos HERE.
OTHER BEACHES IN PENICHE
Berlengas, Baleal and Supertubos beach are among the best beaches in Peniche, but they are not the only ones! Whether you want to sunbathe, relax, walk or walk your dog, there are many good options. Here are some suggestions.
Gambôa Beach is framed by the Peniche fort and a pontoon. The best bathing area is near this pontoon, because in the rest of the beach there are many rocks in the sea. It is a watched beach with bar service, restaurant and awning rental. Although it has several parking areas, in the summer it can be difficult to find a parking space.
PENICHE DE CIMA BEACH
Following Gambôa, comes Peniche de Cima beach, also known as Cerro beach. It is a very popular beach in the summer and offers the same services as Gambôa beach.
COVA DA ALFARROBA BEACH
Between Peniche de Cima Beach and Baleal South Beach there is also Cova da Alfarroba Beach. Here, the white sand dunes provide a scenario of particular beauty. In the distance, one can already see Baleal Island.
From Peniche to Praia da Consolação it is 8 kilometers away, a distance that can be covered in 14 minutes by car. There you will find a gigantic sandy beach, plenty of space between bathers and a sea that usually demands respect and caution. The wind is a regular presence, but the dunes can help protect you from the north wind. A beautiful beach with a fabulous view. Good for “sunbathing” and surfing!
PORTINHO DA AREIA SUL BEACH
Very beautiful but without beach support. It is an unattended place despite being quite frequented especially by local residents who find here a clear, cold and calm sea (a rare thing in these parts). When the wind is blowing from the north (a very usual situation), this beach is more sought after because it has little wind.
PORTINHO DA AREIA NORTE BEACH
A beautiful and little frequented beach in a cliff area. If you have a four-legged friend I take him for a walk here, it is a very popular beach for that purpose. It is quite rocky which makes it difficult to access the sea. Ideal also for walking, taking pictures and relaxing.
A cape shrouded in stories, mysteries and legends! A piece of rock spat out from the bowels of the planet that took the lives of many sailors of bygone days who crashed and sank there. It looks like an island, but a closer look shows us a peninsula. To be more precise, we should say that it is a small peninsula inside a second peninsula a little bigger (the one of Fuseta) that in turn is inserted in a third peninsula, the one of Peniche. It is possible to go to the tip of the Papôa islet. We suggest you do it IF the weather is not furious (something usual around here). The route has some stairs in decent conditions. Still, caution is required.
VARANDA DE PILATOS (Pilate’s balcony)
A whim of nature that over thousands (millions) of years created there a “cabin” of natural rock and a window to the infinite ocean. In the distance we can glimpse the silhouette of the berlengas island. A privileged place to see a magnificent sunset!
DOMINIQUE’S BALCONY VIEWPOINT
Another viewpoint with an extraordinarily beautiful view of the immense Atlantic Ocean. Very popular and frequented by fishermen. If you don’t have time to see everything, leave this attraction for the end of the list.
VIRTUAL TOUR TO PENICHE
WHAT TO VISIT NEAR PENICHE?
We’ve already mentioned in this article that 5 days are not too much to see calmly and quietly the many things there are to see in Peniche. If you choose to spend an extended vacation period, know that in the surroundings there are also interesting attractions to visit. Here are four options, two north and two south of Peniche.
40 kilometers and a 35-minute drive separate Peniche from Foz do Arelho beach. On one side the ocean, on the other the Óbidos Lagoon. Two different options that add to the many things you can do in Lagoa de Óbidos. If you choose the beach, you will have at your disposal a giant sandy beach that offers a lot of space and privacy to those who go there. Clear water, cold and with a strong swell.
From Peniche to Lagoa de Óbidos is a distance of 28 kilometers, a distance that can be covered in 32 minutes. A very beautiful lagoon and very sought after by those who enjoy water sports (stand-up paddle, kayak and canoeing) and by those who like to walk. Around the lagoon there are several pedestrian paths of low level of difficulty. There are also many good restaurants. A magnificent place to spend the day!
From Peniche to Vimeiro is 29 kilometers and 34 minutes by car. The beach is beautiful and quiet even in summer. It is famous for being rich in iodine. Those who suffer from bones and joints look for this place a lot. On the left side of the beach is a cliff that adds great beauty to the scenery. Overlooking the beach, on a great elevation, we find the Golfe Mar hotel. Even if you don’t stay there, visit it to see the magnificent view!
It is one of the most famous and frequented beaches on the west coast. Very popular with surfers and young people who usually stay at the youth hostel. Next to the beach, there is a large number of restaurants and bars that animate the area especially during the summer. The sand is very extensive and guarantees space for everyone. The sea is clear, cold and strong. Perfect for a day at the beach ending with a snack!
The name Peniche derives from the word peninsula, a word that in its origin would mean almost (pen) island (insula). The history of this city is inseparable from the sea. In the past Peniche was an island that, depending on the mood of the tides, left uncovered a portion of land that connected it to the coast. Thus, it was transformed into a peninsula and, it was allowed to be reached by dry foot, until the next tide. Peniche developed essentially from the fishing activity and also from agriculture. These activities have shaped the life of the city until today.
People who live off the sea, naturally learn to shout to the heavens. The faith and traditions of the people of Peniche are manifested in the festivals in August. Only in this month, there are three popular festivals in honor of Our Lady. Of these, the first and most important is that of Our Lady of Good Voyage, patroness of fishermen. It is a whole week of festivities, with concerts, shows, a popular fair, taverns and, of course, religious celebrations. During the feast of Our Lady of Good Voyage, the most singular expression of devotion is at night, when a very different procession departs. Penetrating the sea, in the midst of darkness, several illuminated and decorated boats leave in procession, carrying images of Our Lady.
GASTRONOMY IN PENICHE
As it could not be otherwise, in a land born of the sea, the gastronomic specialties are fish and seafood. The most popular dish is Caldeirada de Peixe (fish stew), made with several species of fresh fish from Peniche’s coast. In its origin, this was a meal cooked on the boats by fishermen. But there are other delicious proposals: Peniche’s dried chelme, Peniche’s Alfaquique with roe açorda, Peniche’s ray of molhinho, Peniche’s seabass sequinho, Peniche’s octopus pastry, and even Peniche’s corn bread with sardines.
RESTAURANTS IN PENICHE
There is a lot to choose from if you want to have a good meal in Peniche. To make the choice easier, here are two good possibilities.
TASCA DO JOEL
On Google it appears as a 2-digit restaurant. It has over 2400 (!) customer reviews and an overall rating of 4.5 stars (out of a maximum of 5). Tasca do Joel is a restaurant with a cozy atmosphere, with wooden tables and chairs. It has a very diversified menu and, of course, excellent fresh fish dishes. But the offer is not limited to fish; the meat dishes are also of great quality. For starters you can choose from a wide variety of appetizers, from the traditional guilho mussels to the innovative tuna pica-pau. To accompany the excellent menu, the Tasca do Joel has a wine cellar of great quality.
Profresco is a private restaurant. It is actually a fishmonger-restaurant, initially just a fishmonger and now a company that specializes in fresh and frozen fish. The freezing company is located in the basement. The first floor is divided between the fishmonger and the restaurant. In the fishmonger’s you can choose the fish or seafood to be served at your table. The restaurant has 140 seats and two terraces, one covered and the other open air, with a beautiful view over the Berlengas. On google it presents itself as a 2 cypher restaurant, with more than 2000 (!) comments on Google and an overall rating of 4.3 stars.
HOTELS IN PENICHE
There are many options for accommodation in Peniche. We chose to recommend a hotel that has a high number of reviews on google and a very high rating. It is not particularly expensive (it has the best price / quality ratio in the region).
SEA GARDEN RESIDÊNCIA
Over 260 reviews on Google and an overall rating of 4.6 stars (out of 5). Compliments consistently refer to the excellent location, the cleanliness, the size of the rooms, and the friendliness of the staff.