Surrounded by dunes and Mediterranean vegetation, this 1km-long beach is located between Cascais and Sintra, in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. It’s best reached from Cascais, about 6km (close to 4 miles) away. It’s known for being windy and for its powerful waves, which have made it part of international surfing and windsurfing circuits and championships. Note that it’s ideal for experienced surfers, but there are strong currents, so those with little experience should head to Carcavelos Beach instead.
The large sandy area, the natural landscape of dunes and cliffs, plus the water quality, make it one of the best and most beautiful beaches on the Lisbon coast and even in the country. It once caught the attention of Hollywood -- it was a backdrop in a James Bond movie ("On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”), for the opening scene
Decades before, in 1940, Time magazine wrote that this beach “had no future,” due to its remoteness and winds, but apparently that sounded perfect for royalty and celebrities from all over the world, looking for some days in the sun without the crowds and photographers. By 1945, there was a restaurant above the beach, and soon came others targeting high society. Walt Disney, Evita Perón, Roger Moore, Omar Sharif, Ingrid Bergman, Rita Hayworth, Grace Kelly, and monarchs from around Europe all ended up here (more recently, famous personalities like Bill Clinton, Brad Pitt and the king of Sweden dined at the oceanfront restaurants).
The constant winds and rather remote location of the beach, however, means that it’s never crowded. The most crowded part is the northern side, which is more protected from the winds, and where you find parasols and loungers for rent in the bathing season. It’s also here that you find the very popular Bar do Guincho, a bar and restaurant with outdoor seating, open throughout the year.
To the north is Praia do Abano, a tiny, sheltered beach which has lost most of its sandy area. It can be reached by going over the rocks from Bar do Guincho, or following the gravel road behind the parking lot by the restaurant. On the cliff above the beach are the ruins of a fort, built in 1642 to watch over and protect this coast. From its surroundings you have breathtaking sea views, all the way to Guincho.
To the south of Guincho, on the other side of the fortress that’s now the Fortaleza do Guincho Hotel (see below), is Praia da Cresmina, a smaller stretch of sand more suitable for families, as it tends to be less windy.