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Our insider guide to discovering São Pedro de Moel

From North to South, Portugal is rich in tiny villages that surprise us at every turn. São Pedro de Moel is one of those villages, with its breathtaking beach and picturesque homes nestled in a small cove in the heart of Pinhal de Leiria, Portugal’s biggest pine forest.

Sao Pedro de Moel beach

Located just 19 km north of Nazaré, this quaint seafront village, with less than 400 residents, is considered one of the Silver Coast's most beautiful beaches.

From the royal pine forest to its noble origins

The pine forest surrounding São Pedro de Moel was planted by the order of Portuguese King Afonso III, in the 13th century.

Later, between 1279 and 1325, it was substantially increased by King D. Dinis I, known as the “o rei Lavrador” (the farmer king). It was during D. Dinis’ reign that the Leiria National Pine Forest, also known as “Mata Real” (royal forest) or “Mata do Rei” (the king’s forest), reached its current dimensions occupying an extensive area along the coast between the beaches starting at Pataias all the way north to the beaches of the municipality of Marinha Grande.

Statue of D. Dinis and his wife D. Isabel at the centre of São Medro do Moel
Statue of D. Dinis and his wife D. Isabel at the centre of São Medro do Moel

For centuries, this traditional seaside village was a popular beach destination for the Portuguese nobility and bourgeois to enjoy their summer holidays and weekend getaways.

Its noble origins date back to 1463, when the Portuguese king D. Afonso V donated São Pedro de Moel to the Count of Vila Real. This wealthy family owned several houses in the village, where they remained until 1641, when the last Marquis of Vila Real and his son, the Duke of Caminha, were executed.

São Pedro de Moel's elitist reputation dates back to this noble foundation and many of its most famous landmarks are still connected to members of the royal families who lived here in the past.

For example, the name "Penedo da Saudade" (which can be translated to “nostalgia rock”), on top of which lies São Pedro de Moel’s famous lighthouse, is a reference to the Duchess of Caminha, D. Joana Juliana Maria Máxima de Faro.

Aerial view of Penedo da Saudade
Aerial view of Penedo da Saudade

According to the legend of “Penedo da Saudade”, after the Duke was murdered because of his involvement in a conspiracy against the King of Portugal, the Duchess would visit this place every day, weeping in memory of her beloved. To this day, there are those who claim you can hear the young widow crying between the echoes of the sea beating on the rocks below.

💡Insider tip:

You can visit Penedo da Saudade lighthouse and climb all the way to the top of its tower, standing 32 meters high.

How to get there: 39.764208, -9.030906

The village’s romantic aura is also present in the history of one of its most famous residents: the poet Afonso Lopes Vieira, who moved to São Pedro de Moel in 1902 to live in a house previously owned by the Marquises of Vila Real.

At Afonso Lopes Vieira's house in São Pedro de Moel

The village inspired some of Vieira’s most beautiful poetry and today the poet’s home is a museum which you can also visit in the centre of the village: the Casa-Museu Afonso Lopes Vieira.

The poet’s house is one of the many in the village that feature São Pedro de Moel’s traditional architecture. The beautiful holiday homes around the beach are famous for wooden shutters and railings, many of which adorn balconies that overlook the sea.

Getting lost in the idyllic streets around the centre of São Pedro de Moel is one of the many pleasures for those visiting the village!

An amazing lifestyle from January to December

Although São Pedro de Moel is well-known as a summer holiday destination, the locals flock to this amazing coastline all year round to appreciate the natural landscape and laid-back lifestyle.

Traditional Portuguese tile in Sao Pedro de Moel

Look-out point in Sao Pedro de Moel - Portugal

Poem Afonso Lopes Vieira - Sao Pedro de Moel

During the summer, the village's main beach offers the perfect conditions to spend a day on the sand. Although the sea in São Pedro de Moel is sometimes cold and a bit rough, it is suitable for swimming. Other favourite activities include surfing and body-boarding.

Sao Pedro de Moel beach and traditional houses - Portugal

Sao Pedro de Moel beach - Portugal

For those who enjoy outdoor sports, there is also a tennis court and several bicycle paths. On the beach, there is also a playground, usually with volleyball nets.

To the north, following the wooden pathways that lead to the lighthouse, there are additional beaches which are smaller, but also beautiful, such as Praia da Concha.