• Portugal the Simple Life

Things to do in the Silver Coast during the winter


For many years, the Silver Coast was a place virtually unknown by foreigners visiting Portugal. In tourist guides, only cities such as Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra were mentioned, and for beach lovers, Portugal was basically the Algarve coast.


However, the "secrets" of the Silver Coast have always been known to the Portuguese! For centuries, this region was chosen as a holiday destination for the elite, with frequent visits by Portuguese kings and queens, as well as the Lisbon bourgeoisie who built their holiday homes along the Silver Coast's best beaches and iconic villages.


Portuguese queen D. Leonor and her court often spent time in Caldas da Rainha to bathe in its thermal baths. The medieval village of Óbidos and its castle was also the refuge of many Portuguese monarchs, who enjoyed the bucolic calm of the landscape and shellfish from Óbidos lagoon. Many upper-class businessmen sought refuge in Foz do Arelho from the hustle and bustle of Lisbon, building luxurious holiday homes overlooking its shore.


Old postcard of Conde d'Almeida Araujo Palace in Foz do Arelho Portugal
The Conde d'Almeida Araujo palace still exists on the northern shore of Foz do Arelho Beach

In Alcobaça, local immigrants who made their fortune in Brazil returned to their hometown to build palatial villas around the River Alcoa and enjoy a more genuine lifestyle.


In São Martinho do Porto, wealthy families and even Portuguese King D. Carlos I spent their summers bathing in the bay, delighting in the local cuisine and the calm of this ancient fishing village.


Old postcard of São Martinho do Porto beach in Silver Coast Portugal

Old postcard of São Martinho do Porto beach in Silver Coast Portugal

However, only recently has the Silver Coast captured the world's attention. It started in 1960s with the arrival of the first American surfers on Nazaré beach. The people of Nazaré saw them coming with their boards and "strange language", but at the time they were far from imagining that surfing would be the reason why Nazaré would become world-famous over the next few decades.



Today, most tourists continue to visit the Silver Coast during the summer, when families stay on the beach until sunset and the taste of saltwater lingers far into the night with seafood dinners enjoyed in the many fabulous local restaurants. But true connoisseurs of this region are well aware of all the things to see and do all year round!


During the winter, when the Atlantic's temperature is not as inviting for a swim, the sun rarely fails to shine and there are plenty of days with temperatures over 20º C (68º F)!


If you too are dreaming of pristine beaches, delicious food, breathtaking landscapes and world-famous historical spots, there is no need to postpone your visit to the Silver Coast!


Discover some of our favourite things to do on the Silver Coast during the Winter:



1. Witness Nazaré's giant waves


Giant waves in Nazare Portugal lighthouse

Nazaré's giant waves, caused by the underground canyon known as the "North Canyon" (or in Portuguese, "Canhão da Nazaré"), are currently one of the Silver Coast's most famous calling cards.


Every year, this natural phenomenon attracts thousands of visitors between October and March, the best time of year to watch Nazare's giant waves. It has also caught the spotlight of the press from all over the world and TV producers such as HBO, who recently filmed in Nazaré the documentary "100-foot Wave" with the famous giant wave surfer Garrett McNamara.


Watching the gigantic waves break against the fort of São Miguel Arcanjo is simply breathtaking. But even on days when the waves do not reach 30 metres high, and there are fewer crowds, visiting Praia do Norte is always an unforgettable experience.


Sunset in Praia do Norte Nazare Portugal


 

Top 10 places to visit in Nazaré Portugal


Considered Portugal's oldest fishing village, Nazaré is a popular holiday destination rich in history and tradition. Discover some of the best places to visit in Nazaré

 


2. Fall in love with D. Pedro and D. Inês in Alcobaça


Alcobaça Monastery in Portugal stone tomb of D. Pedro I

The Silver Coast is also home to Portugal's most famous love story, and the calmer winter months are the perfect time to find out all about it!


Known as "Terra de Paixão" (land of passion), for centuries Alcobaça has celebrated Portugal's iconic star-crossed lovers: the prince Pedro and his Castilian mistress, Inês de Castro.


The story of Pedro and Inês is as old as time, and very well known by the Portuguese. Pedro was the son of King Afonso IV. As heir to the Portuguese throne, he was married to a princess, but his heart belonged to Inês de Castro, a Castilian noble and his wife's lady in waiting. The prince maintained the affair a secret until his wife’s death and despite knowing the King would never approve of a union to Inês, Pedro secretly married her and in the following years sired three children.


However, King Afonso IV and the Portuguese nobles discovered the Prince's disobedience. To put an end to the political risk of Portugal's crown falling into the hands of a Castilian heir, in January 1355 the King ordered the assassination of D. Inês de Castro.


"The Assassination of Inês de Castro", painted in 1834 by Karl Briullov, currently on display at The State Russian Museum, in St. Petersburg
"The Assassination of Inês de Castro", painted in 1834 by Karl Briullov, currently on display at The State Russian Museum, in St. Petersburg

Mad with grief and never forgiving his father for murdering his beloved Inês, Pedro rebeled against the King. When he is crowned in 1357, D. Pedro I ordered her murderers arrested and killed by cutting out their hearts while still alive, which earned him the nickname “Pedro, the Cruel”.


Not satisfied with this revenge, he imposed the recognition of Inês de Castro as Queen of Portugal. He also ordered her body to be moved to the Monastery of Alcobaça and the construction of two magnificently carved stone tombs, one for himself and another for D. Inês, so that he could rest eternally next to his beloved.


When you visit the Alcobaça Monastery, you will find, on opposite sides of its central nave, the tombs of D. Pedro and D. Inês de Castro.



Detail of stone tomb of D. Pedro I in Alcobaca Monastery, Portugal


3. Taste Pão de Ló de Alfeizerão


Pao de lo de Alfeizerão traditional sponge cake

The Silver Coast is also famous for its regional pastries! Here, you will find centuries of tradition in the production of sweets and desserts, namely "doces conventuais" that were made in local monasteries and convents throughout several centuries.


Among these, one of the most famous is the Pão de Ló de Alfeizerão, a very special sponge cake that originated from an ancestral recipe made by the nuns who lived in the Monastery of Santa Maria de Cós, in Alcobaça. However, Pão de Ló de Alfeizerão is very different from the original recipe.


According to a legend, Pão de Ló de Alfeizerão is the result of an "accident" involving the King of Portugal, D. Carlos I (1863-1908). During one of the King's occasional visits to a friend's house in Alfeizerão, he was served undercooked Pão de Ló with a moist centre because it was removed from the oven too soon. The King loved the result so much that, from that moment on, the few ladies in Alfeizerão who knew the ancestral recipe changed the baking process on purpose so that the cake's centre would always be creamy.


After 1910, the year in which Portugal became a Republic, travellers passing through Alfeizerão soon acquired the habit of stopping here to buy the famous "pão-de-ló de Alfeizerão". A tradition that lasts to this day, with drivers deliberately detouring off the A8 highway to enjoy a creamy slice of "Pão de Ló" in Alfeizerão.


Best places to buy "Pão de Ló de Alfeizerão":

  • Casa de Pão-de-Ló de Alfeizerão

  • Café Ferreira

  • Pastelaria Castelo

  • Pastelaria Cinderela



4. Hike to Sant'Ana Chapel in Salir do Porto



In Salir do Porto you will find the Silver Coast's oldest religious temple, high on the cliff south of the entrance to São Martinho do Porto bay. The Sant'Ana Chapel, whose original construction is believed to date from the 12th century, was rebuilt in 2020 and is one of the best look-out points in the Silver Coast.


For centuries, the people of Salir have gathered in this sacred location to bid farewell to the brave fishermen and sailors who set sail from these shores. The boats built in Salir do Porto during the Portuguese Age of Discoveries were also blessed here before venturing out to sea. Until the beginning of the 20th century, there were still religious processions from Salir do Porto to the chapel, a tradition that the locals hope to resume in the near future.


To get to the chapel of Sant'Ana, you have two options:

  • Pedestrian route: Hike to the chapel by taking a dirt track that begins on the left side of Salir do Porto's public swimming pool. The hike to get there is about 1 km, surrounded by nature.

  • Car route: If you prefer to drive there, go to the centre of Salir do Porto towards the village church. To the right of the church, there is a dirt road that takes you very close to the chapel. The last part of the route, about 500 metres, has to be done on foot.

Regardless of the route chosen, arriving at Sant'Ana Chapel is always an unforgettable experience, offering breathtaking views of the Atlantic, on one side, and São Martinho do Porto bay on the other.



5. Enjoy seafood at Foz do Arelho


Clams Bolhao Pato traditional Portuguese recipe

One of the best ways to experience the Silver Coast is through its local cuisine! For those who appreciate delicious fish and seafood, there is nothing better than tasting it freshly caught and, preferably, enjoying it with a view over the Atlantic!


Several Foz do Arelho restaurants serve delicious fish fresh off the boats and Óbidos lagoon seafood, even during the Winter!


Some local delicacies include grilled fish, squid or local clams cooked with Portuguese olive oil, garlic, white wine and sprinkled with coriander.


Whichever delicacy you choose, don't forget to accompany your meal or "petisco" with a glass of Portuguese white or sparkling wine. There are also many options of regional Silver Coast wines (known as "vinhos do Oeste") that will leave your mouth watering!


 

Living in Foz do Arelho


Foz do Arelho is one of the most beautiful places on the Silver Coast of Portugal

 


6. Outdoor sports in Foz do Arelho & Óbidos lagoon



The sea at Foz do Arelho and the calmer waters of Óbidos lagoon offer other alternatives to experience the Silver Coast... but with a bit more adrenaline!


With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, there are plenty of reasons to make the most of the outdoors and exercise. For those who love water sports, here you will find options for all levels of sports enthusiasts, including:

  • Surfing in Foz do Arelho beach;

  • Stand-up paddle or canoeing in Óbidos lagoon;

  • Kitesurfing in the windier stretch of beach where the sea meets the lagoon.


Even if you have never tried these activities, certified teachers from local water sports schools will not only teach you in total safety, but you can also rent all the necessary equipment for any of these sports.


The Silver Coast is also ideal for hiking, running or cycling. There are several trails both along the shores of the lagoon, and on the sea-facing cliffs north of Foz do Arelho, where the wooden walkways are another sure-fire way of getting your heart racing... especially during the amazing sunsets!



7. Buy fruits and vegetables at the Praça da Fruta in Caldas da Rainha



One of the most genuine experiences of the Silver Coast is, without a doubt, shopping at the famous "Praça da Fruta" in Caldas da Rainha. This open-air farmers' market, one of the most iconic in Portugal and the only one that runs daily, is located in the heart of Caldas da Rainha, in a cobblestone square surrounded by beautiful art nouveau buildings covered in traditional Portuguese ceramic tiles.


Among the colourful stalls, you will find fresh fruits and vegetables many of which are locally grown by Silver Coast farmers among other local products such as cheese, sausages, bread, pastries, flowers and traditional Portuguese handicrafts.


When you finish shopping, join the locals at the kiosk next to the bread vendors for a coffee and a pastel de nata... a traditional Portuguese way to start your day!



8. Drink "Ginjinha de Óbidos" in a chocolate cup


Ginjinha liquor in a chocolate cup in Obidos Silver Coast Portugal

And last, nut not least, the cherry on top of the cake... Well, not really a cherry, but a "ginja"! While walking along the cobblestone streets inside the medieval walls of Obidos Castle, don't miss the opportunity to taste the traditional Ginjinha d'Óbidos in a chocolate cup.


This regional liquor, made with sour cherries, can be served in a traditional liquor glass but the traditional way is to drink it inside a chocolate cup which, of course, you eat at the end!


You can also buy a bottle of Ginjinha d'Óbidos and chocolate cups to take home. Imagine enjoying this regional treat in front of your fireplace, surrounded by friends... the Silver Coast of Portugal is all about simple pleasures and this is definitely one of our favourites!




As you can see, the Silver Coast has much more to offer than just summer memories and beach holidays!


From January to December, the "Real Portugal" is a magical place filled with many of Portugal's unique traditions, for people of all ages and where there is always something new to discover. Our suggestion is that you experience this region with time, friends and family...


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