Portugal is a nation full of contrasts: sandy beaches against towering cliffs, sprawling vineyards meeting colorful castles, and bustling city centers calmed with warm pastries. If you’re based in Lisbon, it would almost be a crime to leave Portugal without seeing what else it has to offer. Luckily for us travelers, the Portuguese capital offers many fascinating day trips to add to your itinerary. If you want to experience Portugal to the fullest, don’t miss the best day trips from Lisbon.
Any trip to Europe would be incomplete without visiting at least one castle, and Portugal has one of the most colorful ones. Throw away your preconceived notions of royal buildings that are grey and monstrous — Sintra welcomes you with open, yellow arms. Reachable by just a 30-minute train ride from Lisbon, Sintra can be explored by foot or with a unique tour car. The train is just two euros, but make sure that to budget for a tour car if you’d like to rent one for the day.
The most recognizable landmark of Sintra is the Palacio de Pena, the red and yellow castle. You can explore both the interior, which includes king’s rooms and beautiful vistas, and the exterior, where you can see all of Sintra and enjoy the Pena Gardens.
After enjoying the Palace, make your way into central Sintra for lunch. Alternatively, you can pack a picnic and have a beautiful lunch on the hill that the castle sits on. Either way, both your stomach and your camera roll will be full after a day in Sintra.
For a history buff, Belem is the perfect area to get your fix. This is the port from which the Portugeuse left to explore the rest of the world, making it a great place to come to further understand Lisbon. From its religious history (the name Belem stems from the Portuguese translation of Bethlehem) to its modern architecture, it’s an easy place to spend a full day exploring.
By taking another train from Lisbon, you’ll arrive in just 10 minutes and can be at the most recognizable sight well before the crowds. Belem Tower, a structure surrounded by the Tagus River, is an incredible sight. Constructed in 1514, its purpose was to defend Lisbon from intruding ships and to be representative of Portugal’s power. You can explore the inside of the tower for 6 euros and be rewarded with valuable history alongside stunning views.
If you are an art lover, you can then head to Berardo Collection Museum, which houses works from artists such as Picasso, Duchamp, and Warhol. Don’t leave Belem without tasting a custard tart from Pasteis de Belem. You may have already indulged in pastel de nata in Lisbon (one of the best eats in Portugal), but Belem is the pastry’s birthplace and the perfect place to snack on one.
Want to escape the walls of Lisbon and soak up the sun? There’s no better place than Cascais, Portugal’s premier pristine resort town. Formerly a petite fishing port, it is now filled with stunning villas and green parks. And as it’s also connected to Lisbon by train, you’re just a short rail ride away from pure bliss.
Begin your day in Cascais with a latte by the beach! Cascais is filled with sandy cafes, and this is a very relaxing way to start the day. Afterwards, head to the historic center, where the streets are lined with shops and restaurants. Check out the yachts in the marina and relax in Parque Marechal Carmona. The Santa Marta lighthouse can’t be missed, and neither can Cascais’s many art museums. Finally, you can either dip your toes in the water or walk along the beach promenade.
Hopefully, your day trip to Cascais will be just as relaxing as it will be beautiful.
VINEYARDS AND WINE REGIONS
Finally, no one can leave Portugal without indulging in some wine. Outside of the country’s main cities and beaches are sprawling wineries, where visitors can sip on some traditional port and watch the sunset over the hills. So grab a rental car, some sunglasses, and head out for a romantic day trip.
While you have your fair share of wineries all around Lisbon, some of the most popular are Palmela (a cheese- and wine-loving city that celebrates its favorite food and drink with annual festivals and daily wineland tours), Adega de Colares (the smallest still-wine producing region in Portugal), Adega Mae (a wonderland known for its stunning architecture and modern wine production innovations), Quinta dos Loridos (home to the largest Oriental garden in Europe), and Quinta do Sanguinhal (an oenophile’s paradise where you can taste both 19th-century wine and cheese). Whichever winery you choose, the Portuguese will make you feel right at home. Make sure one of your souvenirs is a bottle of your favorite red or white!
Whether you leave Lisbon to explore ancient castles or to wander along the seaside, you can’t go wrong with taking a day trip.
Looking to see even more of Portugal? Check out what we think are the cities you absolutely can’t miss, and book your next dream trip to Europe with Acanela! We visit Lisbon, Belem, Cascais, Palmela, and Porto on our Portugal trip, and we’d love to have you join us.
Thanks for reading!
Xoxo, Grace Poulos (chasinggracee)