Considered as the westernmost town in mainland Europe, Peniche is one of the places to discover when visiting Central Portugal. Join me and discover the things to do in Peniche and surrounding area and be amazed with places like the Berlengas Nature Reserve and much more!
The town centre is located at a peninsula with just a small piece of land connecting it to the mainland, making this place one of a kind in Portugal and definitely a place you’ll want to discover.
Despite having become a town recently (in 1988), Peniche had always a special relevance at a national level, especially in the maritime and fishing areas – Peniche’s port is still one of the most important fishing ports in Portugal.
Even though the fishing industry has its importance in Peniche, the truth is that most of its economy is becoming more and more related to tourism, especially because of the famous surf events taking place in Peniche beaches in recent years, but there are many other things to do in Peniche!
Things to do in Peniche
The easiest and fastest way to get to Peniche is by car since the connection to the mainland is through a small piece of land.
Bobbin Lace Museum
You can start running your list of things to do in Peniche in the morning with a stop at Peniche’s Bobbin Lace Museum (Museu da Renda de Bilros de Peniche). To go there, try to park your car in the square Largo Castilho, close to the Church of São Pedro.
This museum is perfect for a first approach to the culture and tradition of this community, very much related to the sea.
Bobbin lace is considered the most important type of handicrafts in Peniche and it is some centuries old. This art was, in the beginning, developed by the women of this town and it was done as a complement to the income coming from the fishing activities.
Its peak came in the second half of the 19th century, when there were about 1000 weavers and eight workshops where children started very early to learn this art.
Fortress of Peniche
After your visit to the museum, I suggest you continue your itinerary on foot through the streets of Peniche and towards one of the most visited places in town and one you must include in your list of things to do in Peniche, the Fortress of Peniche.
As an alternative, you can also drive to Campo da República, located right in front of the fortress.
The construction of this fortress, commissioned by king D. João III, begun in 1557 but would only be finished a century later.
Located on top of the cliffs, this fortress was considered by king D. João IV as the “main key for entering the Portuguese kingdom from the sea” due to its location, one of the westernmost points in Portugal.
The Fortress of Peniche was the main fortification of the defense system known as the Praça-forte de Peniche stronghold, listed as a Portuguese monument since 1938 because of its enormous historical importance.
Aside from playing an important role in defending the coastline until the XIX century, this fortress had other roles as well, some more honourable than others.
This fortress was a political prison during Estado Novo dictatorship, was a temporary shelter for families returning from the former Portuguese colonies in Africa and is, since 1984, where Peniche Municipal Museum is located.
This museum has a varied and valuable collection of archaeological, shipbuilding and handicrafts pieces of which bobbin lace stands out. Apart from these collections, visitors can also discover an area dedicated to anti-fascist resistance.
As I’ve mentioned before, Portugal has freed itself from dictatorship 44 years ago. Fortunately I didn’t have to live in those times but when my parents and grandparents tell me what happened a shiver goes down my spine.
Sometimes people have the tendency to forget the harm a dictatorship inflicts and, over the years, little by little they tend to vote for dangerous people all over again.
Our responsibility (mine and yours) is to show to younger generations, who were lucky not to live in a dictatorship, what happened so they are aware and don’t repeat the same mistakes as before.
Life is not a bed of roses even in a democracy but I assure you it’s much better than living a dictatorship!
Next, return to your car and drive through the road Estrada Marginal Sul and take the opportunity to enjoy the view over the Atlantic Ocean. Another of the things to do in Peniche is a visit to Cape Carvoeiro, located just 3.5 km away.
Situated in the westernmost point of the peninsula, Cape Carvoeiro has an enormous geological and landscape value because here you’ll find several limestone cliffs and you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the amazing view over the Atlantic; if the weather allows it you can even admire Berlengas archipelago.
Aside from these reasons, you’ll also have the opportunity to admire the beautiful Cape Carvoeiro lighthouse. This 27-metre high lighthouse has the particularity of being one of the oldest Portuguese lighthouses still functioning – its construction dates back to the second half of the 18th century.
After your visit to the town, it’s time for a boat trip to one of the best-kept secrets in Portugal – Berlengas Nature Reserve. This is another of the things to do in Peniche and soon you’ll find out why!
Before we talk about this small paradise, watch this short video shot by Manuel Melo and discover what awaits you:
Listed since 2011 as UNESCO’s World Biosphere Reserve, Berlengas Nature Reserve was the first protected area in the country, decreed by king D. Afonso V who, with that, banned hunting in the biggest island of this archipelago, Berlenga Grande (1.5 km long and 800 m wide).
The human occupation of this island dates back several centuries, to the times of Vikings and Muslim explorers and French and British privateers.
In the beginning of the 16th century, the queen D. Leonor requested for some monks of the Order of St. Jerome to establish themselves on that island with the purpose of helping navigation and helping shipwreck victims.
Despite their good intentions, the truth is that the monks didn’t stay there for too long due to the harsh conditions of living in this island as well as the constant raids of privateers.
Even before I stepped foot on the island, I had the opportunity to admire part of the natural beauty of this archipelago, composed of granite islands.
The visitors started by disembarking close to the only beach of the island with a stretch of sand, Carreiro do Mosteiro beach. Many visitors use their summer holidays to spend some days here, sunbathing and swimming in the crystal clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Aside from enjoying the beach, you should also take this opportunity to explore the rest of the island and get to know the wonderful fauna and flora. Here, you’ll find many seagulls and other birds that nest in the cliffs as well as dozens of botanical species.
To discover Berlenga Grande island, you can take two small, very easy and different hiking trails (in a total of 4 km).
Attention: when I visited the island, in June, the seagulls were on their nests so that they could protect their eggs. Be careful not to walk close to their nests otherwise you’ll be surprised with an attack from these harmless birds.
There are many signs telling people not to get near but sometimes it is just impossible. Some seagulls had the brilliant idea to build their nests close to the hiking trail and, even if people try to avoid those nests, sometimes it’s just too late.
When we were strolling close to a nest, a seagull looked at us and made some noise but let us pass – on that moment we thought we were lucky. However, a few metres ahead, and without noticing, that seagull flew up into the air and gained speed so that it could attack us.
Nothing bad happened – the seagull came close to my head and gently touched me. What it wanted was very clear – to scare us so that we would go away; its only purpose was protecting its eggs.
In the end, it gave us a fright more than anything else. Even though it attacked us for three times, nothing bad happened.
But it’s not just the beautiful landscape that attracts the visitors!
Apart from Bairro dos Pescadores, the only settlement on the island, you can also admire the beautiful Duque de Bragança lighthouse.
This 29-metre high lighthouse is located on the highest point of Berlenga Grande and was built in the first half of the 19th century and started working in 1842.
To finish your trip to the archipelago, visit the amazing Fort of São João Baptista das Berlengas. This fort was built during the 17th century, after the demolition of the old monastery located there and where the monks of St. Jerome Order used to live.
As a curiosity, I found out that the stones left from the destruction of the monastery were used to build the fort that would become very important in the defense of this strategic point.
The Fort of São João Baptista played an important role during the Portuguese Restoration War, during the Peninsular War and, finally, during the Portuguese Civil War that took place during the 19th century.
During the 20th century and after a period of abandonment, the fort was restored and it can now be visited; it is one of the few places on the island where you can also spend the night (apart from Bairro dos Pescadores and a small camping site).
Advice when visiting Berlengas archipelago
The boats leaving for Berlenga Grande set sail in the marina of Peniche, located close to the Fortress of Peniche and the main avenue (Avenida do Mar) where you’ll find most of the restaurants.
When you visit Peniche, park your car in the marina’s parking lot – you’ll have to pay but prices are reasonable.
At the marina you’ll find several companies offering boat tours to Berlengas archipelago. The tickets for a round trip cost more or less the same in the different companies (around 20 € per person). Apart from the round trip, you can pay a little more in order to visit the caves and have a guide to go hiking with you.
When I visited Berlenga Grande, I chose the company Viamar-Berlenga that offers round trips, between May and September, to the island in a big boat.
When I set foot on the boat, I was given a small “gift” – a black plastic bag like those you find on the passenger seats, in planes.
In the beginning, I didn’t understand what was the idea for them to give us those bags but soon after we set sail, I realised why!
On my way to the island, the boat was rocking a lot since we were sailing opposite to the waves. For a moment there, I had the feeling of being in a merry-go-round like the ones at Parc Astérix or Disneyland theme parks.
The difference was that the ride didn’t take a minute but 40 minutes instead!
Small advice for those who get seasick: try to gaze at a distant point like Berlenga Grande island and breath in for 5 seconds, then breathe out for 5 seconds (try to do this throughout the trip).
Thanks to this technique, I was able to keep my breakfast in my stomach, other passengers weren’t that lucky.
The good news is that, when returning to Peniche, you won’t have any problems keeping your breakfast in since the boat won’t rock that much.
If you don’t want to go on a big boat or if you want a faster trip (speed boats for thrill seekers), in 20 minutes, or visit the caves, then I suggest you choose another company like feelingberlenga.pt or berlengatur.com.
The boats leave the marina between 9h30 and 10h (depending on the month you’re going) and return between 16h and 16h30. Depending on when you leave Peniche, you’ll have 5, 6 or 7 hours to explore the island.
On the island, you’ll find a restaurant but don’t forget to take money with you since there aren’t any ATMs on the island nor the restaurant has an APT.
After having visited the island, you can take the opportunity to rest for a while in the beautiful beach of Berlenga Grande (you should only take what you need).
If you want to visit Berlenga Grande in a month other than July or August, you won’t have to book a ticket in advance – go to the marina 30 minutes before the boat leaves. In July and August, I suggest you book your tickets in advance by going to the companies sites mentioned above.
You should also know that you can’t take your pet to the island.
One of the things to do in Peniche that you shouldn’t miss is definitely sunbathing in one of its amazing beaches, especially Supertubos and Baleal beaches.
Supertubos beach (or Medão) is the most famous in Peniche, both at a national and international level, because it is here that you’ll find some of the best conditions for surfing and bodyboarding in Portuguese territory.
Apart from the perfect conditions to do these sports, you should know that at Supertubos beach and in the surrounding area you’ll have access to a parking lot, a bar, a restaurant and you can also rent beach canopies / sunshades.
Baleal beach is divided into two parts, Baleal Norte and Baleal Sul, separated by a stretch of sand and by the only available road connecting Baleal location to the mainland (like Peniche, Baleal is also a peninsula).
With a long stretch of sand that stands out on both sides, Baleal beach is perfect for people visiting this Portuguese region and that want to sunbathe, relax with their family and even do sports like surf, bodyboard and windsurf.
Aside from the great conditions to learn water sports, know that you can also enjoy the beautiful views over the Atlantic Ocean and a wonderful meal in one of the typical restaurants, making of this visit one of the things to do in Peniche.
Things to do near Peniche
Bacalhôa Buddha Eden
When making your list of things to do in Peniche and surrounding area, you shouldn’t forget to include Bacalhôa Buddha Eden, located in Bombarral and just 30 km east of Peniche.
This is considered the biggest oriental garden in Europe and is located at the 100-hectare Quinta dos Loridos of which 35 hectares are occupied by Bacalhôa Buddha Eden.
The idea of creating this huge garden came up in 2001 as a protest after the destruction of the Giant Buddhas of Bamiyan, in Afghanistan. A few years later, the idea became a reality and this location became a perfect place for families and people of all ages.
At this huge garden you’ll find several points of interest such as lakes with fish, ducks and turtles, and exotic plants and palm trees spread throughout this wonderful oriental garden.
Aside from the fauna and flora, know that you can contemplate around 200 sculptures embellishing this place and that they are constantly substituted making of each visit a unique experience.
In Bacalhôa Buddha Eden you can also admire beautiful pagodas, sculpted dragons and around 600 hand-painted terracotta soldiers, each of them a unique and different piece.
Information: on site, you’ll find a restaurant and some places where you can buy something to eat or drink, like it happens in most theme parks.
Another place to consider when making your list of things to do in Peniche and surrounding area is the wonderful medieval town of Óbidos.
This town has its historic centre within the medieval walls and it definitely is one of the most beautiful citadels in Portugal.
But before you visit the citadel, know that there are two points of interest that will catch your attention: the beautiful Usseira aqueduct, which was originally 3 km long, and the Sanctuary of Senhor Jesus da Pedra, an example of Baroque style religious architecture.
However, the most interesting places in Óbidos are, definitely, the medieval walls and castle protecting the citadel. As a curiosity, you should know that Óbidos derives from the Latin term “ópido” meaning “citadel” or “fortified city”.
One of the things you can’t miss during your visit to Óbidos is a stroll through the amazing 1500-metre long medieval walls, measuring 13 metres at the highest point. These walls were built during the Muslim occupation of this territory.
The castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Portugal and displays several traces from different architectural styles like Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline and Baroque and is, since the mid-20th century, a luxury pousada and one of the most beautiful places to spend the night in Óbidos.
Throughout the year, the town organises some events that attract thousands of visitors and show the best Óbidos has to offer – that is the case of the International Chocolate Festival (in April), the Medieval Market (between July and August) and Óbidos Christmas Village (between November and December).
Before you leave this beautiful town, take the opportunity to enjoy the famous Óbidos ginjinha, a liqueur much appreciated throughout the country; this liqueur is, sometimes, served in small chocolate cups.
Where to sleep
Katekero (affiliate link)
In a privileged location, facing the sea, this accommodation is one of the favourite places for people who want to spend the night in Peniche. Take the opportunity to make a small stroll through the streets of Peniche and visit Peniche’s Bobbin Lace Museum and the Fortress of Peniche.
MH Peniche (affiliate link)
MH Peniche is another of the favourite accommodations for those who want to spend some days and nights in Peniche and it offers amenities that you would expect from a four-star hotel: indoor and outdoor pools, sauna and whirlpool bathtub; you should also know that Supertubos beach is just a few metres away.
Casal da Eira Branca (affiliate link)
Casal da Eira Branca is one of the favourite accommodations for people that want to stay in Óbidos and it offers an amazing location, right in the centre of the medieval town. Take the opportunity to explore the typical streets and try some of the regional gastronomy and the famous ginjinha.
Pousada Castelo de Óbidos (affiliate link)
Located in the wonderful Óbidos castle, this pousada offers its guests a unique experience, sending them to the Medieval Ages. Don’t miss the opportunity to try the amazing dishes at its restaurant, where Portuguese gastronomy is king.
- Information: the links of the hotels are affiliate links to Booking.com, which means that, if you make a reservation in one of these hotels, I’ll earn a small commission from Booking.com. You won’t pay more by making a hotel reservation through these links.
Where to eat
Entre Tapas (the best restaurant, in my opinion)
How to get to / move around in Peniche
Get to Peniche: my suggestion is that you drive to Peniche since, this way, you’ll save time between all the points of interest and you’ll be able to admire all the places mentioned in this article.
The other option is for you to take the bus. The company Rede-Expressos can take you to Peniche from almost all the Portuguese cities.
Moving around in Peniche: Peniche peninsula is 2 km wide and 6 km long which means that you can visit all the points of interest on foot (around 6 km to admire everything).
If you don’t want to walk that many kilometres, you should start by visiting on foot the main avenue (Avenida do Mar) and surroundings and then return to your car and drive towards Cape Carvoeiro and the beaches.
As you can see, there are many things to do in Peniche and in the surrounding area. What are you waiting for? Enjoy some time at the beaches, visit the amazing Berlengas Nature Reserve, discover the wonderful medieval town of Óbidos and much more!
Are you going to visit Peniche? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room, your car or the best activities by clicking the links below. This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal. Thank you!
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