Praia 19 – or Beach 19 – is the “must do” gay beach after partying all night in Lisbon – or maybe just to top up your tan (without the tan lines if you so wish). I had been to Lisbon a few times, but as I’m not really a beach person (sorry, I get bored too easily), I hadn’t been to this mystical wonderland of sun, sand … and men. Nevertheless, I decided to check it out – and so here is the “lowdown” on the beach some people call the best gay beach in Europe…
How to get there
The beach is pretty far away from the centre of Lisbon – so you need to plan accordingly. There are other beaches nearby and easier accessible – but if you want the full on “gay experience” your best bet is probably to brace yourself for a bit of a travel adventure. It is a fun experience though, as it involves riding up and down a beach on a little train!
The most straightforward way is getting a bus from Praça Espanha to Costa da Caparica which is the main hub for the beaches south of Lisbon.
The bus you need is TST 153 – information about the bus, including the timetable can be found on the bus operator’s website (Transportes Sul Do Tejo). This is the most direct route, but can take a long time if the traffic on the 25th April Bridge is heavy.
An alternative is to take the ferry from Cais do Sodre to Cacilhas on the south side, and then either bus 135 or 124 from outside the ferry terminal to Costa da Caparica. This maybe easier if you are staying somewhere close to Cais do Sodre – as you don’t have to take the metro to Praça Espanha first (or if the traffic is heavy on the bridge!).
When you arrive in Costa da Caparica, walk along the beach – after a few minutes you’ll see a little train (transpraia). The little train takes you along the beaches – until you arrive at Stop 19 (Paragem 19) … and you have arrived.
If you are visiting an alternative is to take the day excursion operated by gay tour company Lisbon Beach. It is significantly more expensive (€29), but also pretty comfortable – as they take you to Beach 17 (where the road ends, about half a mile away from beach 19) in an air-conditioned bus… and they also provide you with a free beach towel.
Once you are there….
The beach “area” is pretty easy to navigate: towards the west (sea side) of the tracks of the train you have dunes and the beach, where you can sunbathe with or without clothes on. And on the east of the track you have a pretty dense forest area, where all the cruising takes place.
The beach area (on both sides of the tracks) is pretty large – so it doesn’t become very crowded even if many people are there. It is a natural beach, so you can’t rent deck chairs – and while there are people walking up and down the beach selling drinks and snacks, these are expensive. The nearest proper beach bar is at beach 17 (Casa da Praia). It is outside of the “gay clothing optional area”… but a pretty cute little place to have some drinks after going to the beach.
What to expect…
As the beach (and adjacent areas) is pretty large, expect a relaxed attitude with pretty of mixed spaces. Yes… many people are here for the fun part – but many people also go to enjoy a day at the beach. While one section is pretty much exclusively male only, if you wander away for a bit, you’ll soon meet families and straight couples. There really isn’t much of a segregation here – and so just think of it as a very relaxed day at the beach.
Because it is big and the attitude is generally friendly and relaxed, it is pretty unique (as far as I know). It certainly has a more relaxed vibe than the beach around snack bar 7 in Maspalomas (Gran Canaria). Nature wise, it has certain similarities: dunes and wooded areas for cruising, beach for sunbathing. However, there are some big differences: there is no snack bar and no rainbow flag, and the area is much much bigger. So on the beach don’t expect to be right next to someone and being constantly checked out by a massive crowd of gay guys. There are probably more guys at Beach 19, but they are spread over a much wider area. In the wooded areas, don’t expect a massive crowd in any one space – as the area simply is too large for that (but you’ll have fun pretty much for sure!). So, if you find your heartthrob, chances are you can have some privacy… or you need to do a bit of walking to find some group entertainment 😉 … Finally… make sure you get the train back on time… as otherwise you’ll have to walk back.
Overall… Praia 19 is a real alternative to then buzzing (gay-)life in Lisbon for both locals and visitors. So if you are spending a few days in the Portuguese capital, a relaxing day at the beach could be just a perfect way to recharge before throwing yourself back into the Lisbon city life.
As I said, I’m not the biggest beach addict… If you have been to Praia 19… why not share your thoughts below? Cheers!