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Portugal Beyond Lisbon: 9 Memorable Day Trips From Lisbon

City Guide December 21, 2023

 

 

Embrace the unforgettable experience of exploring Portugal beyond the bustling streets of the Portuguese capital. These day trips from Lisbon are not just journeys; they're gateways to discovering the rich tapestry of culture, nature, and history that lies a short trip from Lisbon.

From the beautiful beaches along the coast to serene nature parks, each destination offers a glimpse into the diverse and captivating experiences waiting to be discovered. Whether you're seeking historical sites, natural beauty, or cultural immersion, these excursions provide a comprehensive view of what to see near Lisbon, adding depth and variety to your visit to this vibrant city.

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1. Sintra: Enchanting Palaces and Gardens

Escape to the magical town of Sintra, just a 40-minute train ride from Lisbon, and find yourself in a UNESCO World Heritage site that seems straight out of a fairy tale. Sintra's lush landscape is dotted with palaces, historical mansions, and exotic gardens, making it a dream destination for history buffs and romantics alike.

Begin your adventure at Quinta da Regaleira, an enchanting estate that boasts a luxurious palace, a chapel, and a fascinating park. The park is a maze of secret tunnels, hidden waterfalls, and mystical wells, including the famous Initiation Wells, which are said to be used for secretive ceremonial purposes. The palace is an exquisite example of Gothic, Renaissance, and Manueline architectural styles.

No visit to Sintra is complete without exploring the Pena Palace. Perched atop a hill, this palace is a vibrant mix of colors and architectural styles, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside and the Atlantic Ocean. The palace's interior is equally impressive, with restored rooms that showcase 19th-century decor and the royal way of life.

 

2. Cascais: Seaside Splendor

Cascais, a gem along the Portuguese coast, is just a short train ride from Lisbon's Cais do Sodré station. This once quaint fishing village has transformed into a sophisticated seaside resort, retaining its charm while offering many attractions. Upon arriving in Cascais, you'll be greeted by a scenic harbor and a bustling town center.

The town is famed for its beautiful sandy beaches. Praia da Rainha, a small cove nestled between cliffs, provides a secluded spot perfect for sunbathing and swimming in the clear waters. Praia do Tamariz, closer to the town center, is popular for its lively atmosphere and proximity to various amenities. Both beaches are ideal for a relaxing day by the sea, complemented by the town's mild climate.

A visit to Cascais is incomplete without witnessing Boca do Inferno's natural wonder. This dramatic cliff formation, carved by the Atlantic Ocean, offers awe-inspiring views of the relentless waves and rugged coastline. It's a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts or anyone looking to capture the raw beauty of nature.

The town's historic center is a labyrinth of charming streets and alleys lined with traditional Portuguese houses, artisan shops, and inviting cafes. Here, you can savor fresh seafood at local restaurants, taste the region's wines, or stroll through the picturesque settings.

 

 

3. Óbidos: A Medieval Gem

Embark on a journey back in time with a trip to the charming town of Óbidos, an easy and scenic train ride from Lisbon's central station. Ancient walls encircle this well-preserved medieval town, and is renowned for its timeless beauty. As you wander through its narrow, cobbled streets, you'll be greeted by traditional white houses adorned with vibrant bougainvillea, creating a picturesque scene from a storybook.

Upon entering the Porta da Vila, the main gate, you’re immediately transported to a bygone era. The town's layout has remained unchanged since medieval times, offering an authentic glimpse into Portugal's rich history. The streets are lined with small shops selling local handicrafts, traditional textiles, and Portuguese delicacies.

Climb the well-preserved city walls for a breathtaking panoramic view of the town and the surrounding countryside. Walking along these ancient ramparts provides a sense of the town's historical significance and strategic importance.

 

4. Évora: Timeless Elegance

Évora, a city that exudes timeless elegance and profound history, is a jewel in Portugal's crown. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Évora is an essential destination for anyone interested in the rich tapestry of Portuguese history. Just a short journey from Lisbon, it offers a deep dive into medieval times.

As you walk through the well-preserved streets of Évora, you'll be transported back in time. The Roman Temple, often called the Temple of Diana, is a remarkable testament to the city's ancient Roman past. Its Corinthian columns, set against the blue sky, create a striking image.

Another unmissable site is the Chapel of Bones, located within the Church of São Francisco. This eerie yet fascinating site, adorned with bones and skulls, is a poignant reminder of life's transitory nature and has intrigued visitors for centuries.

The grandeur of Évora Cathedral, a mix of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, dominates the cityscape. Its robust exterior gives way to an ornate interior filled with beautiful azulejos (tiles), religious art, and a striking altar. The cathedral's rooftop offers panoramic views of the city and the surrounding Alentejo landscape.

 

5. Arrábida Natural Park: Coastal Beauty

A mere 40-minute drive from the urban landscape of Lisbon lies the serene and spectacular Arrábida Natural Park, a gem along the Portuguese coast. This area is renowned for its extraordinary natural beauty, characterized by jagged cliffs that dramatically drop into the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The vistas here are some of the most stunning in Portugal, offering a dramatic contrast between the hills' lush greenery and the sea's deep blue.

The park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Hiking enthusiasts will find a variety of trails that meander through the park's diverse landscapes, from dense Mediterranean vegetation to open coastal paths. These trails offer physical challenges and the chance to witness the region's rich biodiversity, including unique flora and fauna.

Arrábida’s beaches are hidden treasures within themselves. Praia da Figueirinha and Praia dos Coelhos, in particular, are noteworthy for their pristine conditions and serene settings. These beaches provide idyllic spots for swimming, sunbathing, or simply relaxing with a book, away from the more crowded beaches near Lisbon.

 

6. Mafra and Ericeira: Royal Riches and Surfing Shores

The combination of Mafra and Ericeira in a single-day trip from Lisbon provides a rich tapestry of Portuguese culture, history, and seaside charm.

Begin your journey at the impressive Mafra National Palace, an 18th-century baroque and neoclassical palace monastery that serves as a testament to Portugal's royal past. This vast complex is not only a palace but also includes a monastery and a basilica, showcasing magnificent architecture and intricate art. The highlight of Mafra Palace is its stunning library, considered one of the most beautiful in the world, housing a vast collection of rare and ancient books. The surrounding Jardim do Cerco, a royal hunting park, is now a tranquil garden.

After immersing yourself in the opulence of Mafra, a short drive will take you to the coastal town of Ericeira, contrasting to Mafra's historical grandeur. Ericeira, designated as a World Surfing Reserve, is a paradise for surfers, with its beaches offering perfect waves for all levels of surfers. Ribeira d'Ilhas, one of the best surfing spots in Europe, and Praia dos Pescadores, a more tranquil beach, are must-visit spots for beach lovers and water sports enthusiasts.

 

 

7. Berlengas Islands: Nature's Retreat

For a true escape into nature, a day trip to the Berlengas Islands is a must. This small archipelago, designated as a nature reserve, is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers. The main island, Berlenga Grande, can be reached by a scenic boat ride from Peniche, about an hour's drive from Lisbon. The islands are renowned for their crystal-clear waters, perfect for snorkeling and diving.

Explore the São João Baptista Fort, a 17th-century fortress connected to the island by a narrow causeway, and hike along the marked trails to discover the island's unique flora and fauna. The unspoiled beauty of the Berlengas Islands provides a refreshing contrast to the bustling city life of Lisbon.

 

8. Alentejo Coast: Serene Beaches

The Alentejo Coast, with its vast stretches of sandy beaches and rugged cliffs, offers a peaceful retreat from the urban energy of Lisbon. This region is known for its natural beauty and serene atmosphere. Praia de Melides, Praia do Pego, and Praia de Zambujeira do Mar are just a few of the stunning beaches where you can enjoy the sun and surf in relative solitude.

The coastal towns like Vila Nova de Milfontes and Porto Covo offer charming accommodations and delicious local cuisine, often featuring fresh seafood. The Alentejo Coast is not just a beach destination; it's an experience of tranquility, natural beauty, and a slower pace of life, making it an ideal day trip for those looking to unwind and relax.

 

9. Azeitão: Culinary Delights

A short trip from Lisbon lies Azeitão, a small town renowned for its culinary heritage and traditional Portuguese flavors. This picturesque area is a paradise for food enthusiasts, offering an authentic taste of the Portuguese lifestyle. Azeitão is particularly famous for its rich and creamy sheep cheese, Azeitão cheese, which is a must-try for cheese lovers.

The town is also celebrated for its exceptional wines, including the renowned Moscatel de Setúbal, a sweet fortified wine produced in the region for centuries. Many local wineries offer tours and tastings, allowing visitors to delve into Portuguese winemaking. The José Maria da Fonseca and Quinta da Bacalhôa wineries are two notable establishments where you can taste some of the region's best wines.

In addition to wine and cheese, Azeitão is known for its traditional pastries, such as the Tortas de Azeitão, a soft, rolled sponge cake filled with a sweet egg and cinnamon mixture. These delicacies in local bakeries perfectly pair with a cup of Portuguese coffee or a glass of Moscatel.

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