Steep seaside cliffs at sunset

The day I saw the end of Europe

So, is this the end of Europe? No, this is not some kind of political post. Although I wouldn’t blame you for thinking so given some of the political turmoil that’s going on across Europe (and that includes the UK, just to be clear). Instead, these are the words I mumble to myself as I approach the end of our continent. The physical end, that is. 

“No, this is not some kind of political post. Although I wouldn’t blame you for thinking so given some of the political turmoil that’s going on across Europe.”

Welcome to Cabo de São Vicente, Portugal, the south-westernmost point of mainland Europe. This has for centuries been the last piece of European soil that sailors saw (and still see today) when leaving on their discovery voyages across the globe. Visiting this spot is quite the experience. 

a rocky coastline at sunset
The end of Europe seen from the fortress of Sagres – all the way on the left is Cabo de São Vicente.

There’s a certain sense of anticipation and excitement when nearing Cabo de São Vicente. The road towards the Cape itself is one of the most scenic ones I’ve seen in Portugal, and indeed in Europe. With high, steep cliffs overlooking the wild Atlantic Ocean and sweeping gusts of wind, the area feels raw and inhospitable. Yet at the same time, hundreds of tourists make their way here every single day. Especially in high season as the evening sets in. Because let’s be honest, there’s nothing quite like a seaside sunset, particularly when it’s at the end of Europe.

“There’s a certain sense of anticipation and excitement when nearing Cabo de São Vicente”

As I leave the car (once we’ve managed to find a parking spot somewhere along the road) I’m almost swept away by the relentless freezing wind. (Yes, I should definitely have brought that jumper after all.) Hordes of people rush towards the lighthouse on the edge of the cliff, hoping to secure the best spot to capture the sunset. And what a sunset it is. As the sun slowly sinks into the Atlantic Ocean, it gives the towering cliffs a golden yellow, and later orange hue. Dozens of meters below, high waves smash into the rocks. The views are simply spectacular. 

crowds watching the sunset from a seaside cliff

Despite the incredible vistas, once the sun has gone down all I can think of is getting back to the heat of the car, where the wind can’t get me. And it seems like everyone else thinks the same. Time for dinner. Luckily there are a number of nice restaurants not too far away. Nearby Sagres – which is home to a seaside fortress that’s worth checking out, if only for the breathtaking views – has quite a few dining options. However, we decide to escape the crowds and head a bit further north, to the village of Vila do Bispo. There’s not much going on here, but there’s a lovely slow food restaurant called Eira do Mel. A great spot for homely Portuguese cooking.

the rustic interior of a Mediterranean restaurant
Eira do Mel is a great place for a post-end-of-Europe-dinner

What an evening. This was one for the bucket lists. I mastered the storm and saw the end of Europe. Or the beginning of it, depending on how you look at it.

Here’s to Europe!

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