The Lower Tagus Valley in Portugal contains a well-developed valley-fill succession covering the complete Late Pleistocene and Holocene periods. As large-scale stratigraphic and chronologic frameworks of the Lower Tagus Valley are not yet available, this paper describes facies, facies distribution, and sedimentary architecture of the late Quaternary valley fill. Twenty four radiocarbon ages provide a detailed chronological framework. Local factors affected the nature and architecture of the incised valley-fill succession. The valley is confined by pre-Holocene deposits and is connected with a narrow continental shelf. This configuration facilitated deep incision, which prevented large-scale marine flooding and erosion. Consequently a thick lowstand systems tract has been preserved. The unusually thick lowstand systems tract was probably formed in a previously (30,000-20,000 cal BP) incised narrow valley, when relative sea-level fall was maximal. The lowstand deposits were preserved due to subsequent rapid early Holocene relative sea-level rise and transgression, when tidal and marine environments migrated inland (transgressive systems tract). A constant sea level in the middle to late Holocene, and continuous fluvial sediment supply, caused rapid bayhead delta progradation (highstand systems tract). This study shows that the late Quaternary evolution of the Lower Tagus Valley is determined by a narrow continental shelf and deep glacial incision, rapid post-glacial relative sea-level rise, a wave-protected setting, and large fluvial sediment supply. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.