In a period when the Iberian sardine stock abundance is at its historical minimum, knowledge of the sardine juvenile’s distribution is crucial for the development of fishery management strategies. Generalized additive models were used to relate juvenile sardine presence with geographical variables and spawning grounds (egg abundance) and to model juvenile abundance with the concurrent environmental conditions. Three core areas of juvenile distribution were identified: the Northern Portuguese shelf (centred off Aveiro), the coastal region in the vicinity of the Tagus estuary, and the eastern Gulf of Cadiz. Spatial differences in the relationship between juvenile presence and egg abundances suggest that essential juvenile habitat might partially differ from the prevailing spawning grounds. Models also depicted significant relationships between juvenile abundance, temperature and geographical variables in combination with salinity in the west and with zooplankton in the south. Results indicate that the sardine juvenile distribution along the Iberian Peninsula waters are an outcome of a combination of dynamic processes occurring early in life, such as egg and larva retention, reduced mortality and favourable feeding grounds for both larvae and juveniles.