The wild flow of the Atlantic rattles my windows and the roar lulls me to sleep each night. Traditional Portuguese aromas rise and music echoes from the taverna (bar) below my balcony. The sweet melody of the local language rings through my ears. The moonlight glows through the ceiling-to-floor windows that line my bedroom, beckoning me to climb out of bed and walk down the street. The moon’s radiance begs me to watch, its magical pull personified by the ebb and flow of the crashing waves from the beach that’s just a minute’s walk away.
This is Ericeira—the sleepy fisherman’s village on Portugal’s breathtaking coastline. Less than an hour’s drive outside of the hustle and bustle of beautiful Lisbon, Ericeira offers a much quieter way of life.
Overflowing with classic European charm, cobblestone streets create a welcoming labyrinth in the old town. Any morning can happily be spent wandering and getting “lost” walking the peaceful, winding roads, or stopping for a pastry at any of the local bakeries.
Pastéis de nata, traditional Portuguese egg tarts, sell for about $1 apiece. Coffee is sold even cheaper at the local shops and always comes served with a welcoming smile and an invitation to enjoy your morning basking in the beautiful sunshine. One of the sunniest countries in all of Europe, with temperatures rarely dipping below 55 F in the winter and averaging around 74 F in the summer, it’s the perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors and soak up all the Vitamin D (and Vitamin Sea) you could ever need.
The center of town hosts a little square lined with shops selling traditional crafts and linens and cafes tempting you to people-watch all day long. Antique chapels, churches, and fountains surprise you with an architectural feast for the eyes on every corner.
As a World Surf Reserve, there’s a unique and very interesting surf museum that’s free of charge in the heart of the town. But, you don’t have to go to a museum to see the surf in action. Walking the coastline in any direction will not only take you to front-seat views of courageous and talented surfers riding the towering barrels, but also to some of the most stunning vistas you’ve ever seen. With 40 beautiful beaches both north and south of the center of town, there isn’t a walk through Ericeira that will disappoint.
It’s a great mystery to me that the cost of living is still so low in this hidden paradise. My quaint, but very spacious, three-bedroom apartment in the heart of the old town (with sea views from my balcony) rings in at a mere $790 per month all-inclusive—and that’s for a relatively short-term lease.
The old town is dotted with more “antique” housing, while just beyond the cobblestone streets, a newly built town holds newer accommodation at very reasonable rates. More modern and highly convenient, these rentals are near the town’s supermarkets, recreational skate park, and mini-golf.
Restaurants and surf shops can be found in abundance throughout. The largest and most famous hotel in town, Vila Galé, houses a luxurious—but reasonably priced—spa to melt away your worries and soothe your body and soul. Yoga and Pilates studios are easy to find and a membership to the fully equipped fitness center (complete with a pool) puts you back only about $22 per month; but, if you’d prefer, you can use the free outdoor gym that overlooks the ocean.
If you learn to live like a local, you can get excellent pricing on just about anything. You may need to brush up on some basic Portuguese to enjoy a lunch at a truly local bistro, but I promise the extra effort will be well worth it for a delicious, home-cooked treat costing merely $5.60.
Not only are the prices some of the best I’ve encountered in Europe, but the people are too. Always beaming with smiles and eager to chat, the locals are the pearls of Ericeira. Home to just over 10,000 people, the population faithfully reflects small-town life and genuine Portuguese warmth.
Sometimes, the sound of the waves roars so powerfully that it shakes my windows. But its rhythm makes me feel at peace, knowing that this is the loudest sound I’ll find in this quaint, quiet village on Portugal’s stunning coast. My life is simple and slow here—just the way I like it.