The Portuguese capital of Lisbon is believed to be the oldest city in Western Europe, predating capitals like Rome, Paris and London by centuries. It is a panoply of modern and ancient architecture from many different cultures, religions, and times. Best of all, it is full of warm, exuberant people, many of whom will go out of their way to help a tourist love their city and nation as much as they do. There is much to see in Lisbon, as well as in the surrounding area. Here is a look at some of the best day trips from Lisbon:
This coastal town has some of the best of everything to offer. From a looming Moorish castle to white sand beaches and turquoise waters, from excellent diving to professional sport fishing to dinosaur dig sites, it is hard to disappoint anyone on a trip here. Visitors can charter a boat and catch a swordfish in one of the best fishing locations in the nation here, or take a guided hike into the hills to walk where dinosaurs once did. It is a popular wreck diving site, with the top site being a Nigerian cargo ship that sunk in the late nineties. Guests can stay here, or head back to Lisbon after a busy day, as it’s a mere 45 minutes by train or bus.
Considered to be the last great rococo buildings in Europe, this splendid building of red tiled swooping roof lines and whitewashed columns and spires has been referred to as the Portuguese Versailles. The Queluz National Palace was built in the late 1700’s as a retreat for the future king consort, Dom Pedro de Braganza. It has been owned by the State since the early 20th century. Today, it is both a tourist attraction as well as a guest house for visiting heads of state. A brief twenty minute ride from Lisbon, the palace can be reached by car or public transport.
This suburb of Lisbon has been a favorite location to live and visit since the time of the ancient Phoenicians. Today, the coastal region has been likened to Portugal’s Riviera with its glamorous hotels, rich and famous guests and ritzy casinos. It has inspired a song by Stevie Nicks, and the casino was the original inspiration for Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. Today, it has become a quieter version of the more lively Cascais, but the history and beautiful atmosphere make it a great location for those who want to see landscaped, palm-fringed gardens, a spectacular boardwalk, and a coastal clime that has been loved for over a millennium.
This hilltop town on the Alentejo Plain is under two hours from Lisbon, and can be reached by car or public transport. Evora was once a flourishing city under Roman rule. Today, the town is home to a lively university and known as the second most livable cities in the nation. It is home to many great cultural activities, restaurants and clubs, as well as a number of historical locations. The Roman Temple, the 13th century Cathedral, aqueduct, and Almendres Cromlech megalith are all must-see attractions.
This rocky promontory is both the westernmost part of mainland Portugal and the European continent. It is only about an hour west of Lisbon to get here, and well worth a drive to discover the splendors of the coast. Steep cliffs overhang the waves of the wild Atlantic, flanked by huge granite boulders that stand like sentinels along the edge. These wild cliff faces provide cliff side homes for nesting sea birds, and are an excellent location for birdwatchers to visit. Lighthouses, expansive views and large plateaus of rock and low-lying vegetation make for an eerily beautiful trip.
The citadel city of Obidos is surrounded by a crenelated wall, and boasts a medieval maze of whitewashed homes adorned with flower boxes, hanging vines and accents of cobalt blue and dandelion yellow paint. It serves as both a tourist’s historical theme park inside the old city walls, as well as a small outer town that houses most of the inhabitants. One of the most popular times to visit is in July, when the town hosts the Medieval Festival. A mere hour from Lisbon, Obidos is an easy and worthwhile trip.
This coastal town is about 45 minutes by car or commuter train from Lisbon. It has long been a center for marine science, with labs dating back to 1896 and commissioned by the reigning king, Carlos I. During that time, it was the summer home for the Royal family, and today is a popular tourism destination for anyone who loves the beach and the water. Cascais offers several beaches to explore, a great marina, ruins of the royal castle, art and sea museums, and the marine lab. Commuter trains run all day, though there are lots of great places to stay for those who want to spend a little longer here.
Whether visitors spend a day or a week here, they will discover that the magic of Sintra’s mountaintop pastel-hued castles and verdant gardens is straight out of a storybook. Many consider this the most important day trip from Lisbon. It is an incredible blend of the ruins of clifftop Moorish castle, colorful ancient mansions, Celtic dedications to the moon god, impeccable gardens, and a millennium of history and romance. Sintra’s star attraction however is Pena’s Palace, a fantastical castle reminiscent of Germany’s Neuschnwanstein. History buffs will love the dozens of buildings and monuments that encompass many different cultures and architectural styles, and others will love the beautiful landscaping and extraordinary food and music opportunities that have blossomed in this fairy tale town.