What to do in Ericeira and Mafra
Ericeira has been part of my weekend getaways for several years now. I frequently saw myself “escaping” from Lisbon towards this charming fishing village, located just 30 minutes from the capital. Delicious gastronomy where fish and seafood are kings, a relaxed atmosphere, good vibes and a constant view over the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean, were some of the things that made me constantly return to Ericeira.
More recently, I also discovered the city of Mafra, only 5 minutes away, along with its many incredible features in terms of natural landscapes and historical heritage. In this article, you’ll find several recommendations of what to do in Ericeira and Mafra to make the most of your next weekend getaway or holidays.
1. Take a walk or go on a bike ride at Tapada de Mafra
Created in the 17th century as a complement to Mafra’s National Palace, and used as recreational space by the Portuguese Crown, Tapada de Mafra is nowadays an enchanted forest spread over 1200 hectares, inhabited by various wild animals such as deers, wild boars or fallow deers and accessible to all those who take real pleasure in outdoor activities.
It’s open daily, from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm, and can be covered on foot, by bicycle (owned or rented) or by train. I did one of the bike trails and couldn’t have had a better experience. The environment is peaceful, the landscapes are breathtaking and the opportunity of seeing wild animals roaming free in their natural habitat is priceless. There are also other activities available such as Falconry and the Beekeeping Atelier, as well as free-flight demonstrations.
Website: Tapada de Mafra
2. Have lunch or dinner at one of the many excellent restaurants in Ericeira
Eating is definitely a mandatory addition to a list of what to do in Ericeira. If there’s something that this village is not short of, is a wide selection of restaurants, perfect for those looking to have their taste buds satisfied. From the freshest catch of the day at Esplanada Furnas, located on the rocks by the sea in the centre of Ericeira, to the unforgettable Fish Soup (Sopa Rica do Mar) at Estrela do Mar restaurant or the delicious seafood and attentive service from the O Rochedo restaurant, both located in Ribamar, 5 minutes north of Ericeira.
If you’re looking for something other than fish and seafood, I suggest you take your chances at one of the many pizzerias spread all over Ericeira, such as Pizzeria Pão d’Alho or the pizzeria Souldough, located in Carvoeira, on the way to São Julião Beach; the Golfinho Azul restaurant in São Lourenço; the sushi restaurant Uni Sushi or the Spanish snack house La Popular (both in the centre of Ericeira) that, I promise, will not disappoint.
3. Stroll through the historic centre of Ericeira
Ericeira is no longer the small fishing village that it once was. Over the years, it stretched his limits, growing as more people discovered his charms both as a holiday destination and a place of residence. But something that has managed to remain true to what it was is the village’s historical centre, with its traditional white houses, cobbled streets (where cars shouldn’t pass but unfortunately do) and the countless details that reveal its essence and history in each corner.
Get lost in its streets, have a coffee or enjoy an ice cream at Largo do Jogo da Bola, while admiring the shuttling of people who roam around leisurely. Admire the unobstructed view of the Atlantic Ocean and let time go by. I guarantee it will be worth it.
4. Surf or learn to surf in Ericeira
In 2011 Ericeira officially entered the list of the best surf destinations in the world, when the 8 km strip located between Empa Beach and São Lourenço Beach was classified as a World Surfing Reserve, the only one so far in Europe. Dubbed an “aquatic amusement park”, Ericeira is the delight of any wave lover.
If you’re still a newbie in surf, then you should probably start by taking a few surf lessons with someone who knows what they’re doing, such as Márcio from the surf school The Ocean, who not only teaches you how to surf, but also teaches you about how the sea and waves work. Classes (private or in groups, with a maximum of 5 people) take place at São Julião beach, and the only things you have to bring along are good vibes and willingness to learn.
5. Visit Mafra’s National Palace, a World Heritage Site
I couldn’t speak of Mafra without mentioning, of course, its ex-libris: the National Palace. Built in the 17th century and classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2019, the Palace stretches over 40,000 m2 in the centre of Mafra. The feeling you have when you visit is the same as when you visit, for example, the Pena Palace, in Sintra: suddenly, you’re taken on a trip to the time when kings and queens used it as their “vacation” home. There are endless rooms, all kept according to their original layout.
In addition to the Palace, you can also visit the imposing Basilica, where chimes concerts are occasionally held, as well as the Library, which is absolutely incredible. The Palace and the Basilica are open daily ( except Tuesday) from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm and the Library on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm (book consultation requires prior booking).
Website: Mafra’s National Palace
6. Explore the beaches in Ericeira and around
There’s no way to talk about Ericeira and not be immediately taken mentally to an image of a beach surrounded by imposing cliffs. The beaches are undoubtedly one of the village’s greatest attractions and, fortunately, there are many, for all tastes. Whether you’re looking for them almost exclusively for their waves, or to spend a few hours soaking up the sun, there’s plenty to chose from.
The Praia dos Pescadores and Praia do Sul are ideal for those looking to stay close to the centre of the village. If you don’t mind driving for a few minutes, Praia de São Lourenço, São Julião or Calada may be excellent options too. And if you live for the waves, you cannot miss the mythical Ribeira d’Ilhas or Praia da Empa, for example.
7. Trekk along the cliffs
There are several trails that you can do in Ericeira on foot. Put on some good walking shoes and follow the paths marked at the top of the cliffs along the coast. Take your time admiring an incredible view over the Atlantic Ocean, walk by old agricultural fields and explore small villages in the vicinity, before coming back again to the centre of Ericeira.
8. Visit the Typical Village José Franco
Here is a place that delights both adults and children. The typical José Franco village is a recreation of a typical Portuguese village, built in the 60s by the potter José Franco. It has a castle, a mill, a primary shop, a music shop, a sewing shop and much more. It is located between Mafra and Ericeira. Admission is free and you have places to eat inside.
So, here you have it: a few suggestions that you can add to your list of what to do in Ericeira and Mafra, which can help you plan your upcoming visit. I hope you find them useful and that you enjoy them as much as I do. Safe travels!