The Best Guide to Lisbon
Surrounding Lisbon is a region of stunning natural beauty, fascinating historic towns and glorious sandy beaches. The Portuguese capital makes for a great base from which to explore this wonderful region, and the extensive public transport means that these towns are easily accessible.
The number of varied and enjoyable day trips from Lisbon can greatly extend any holiday to the region, and there are sufficient sights, activities and excursions to fill a holiday of up to two weeks. This guide will highlight the best day trips from Lisbon, provide a suggested order for visiting them and offer links to further in-depth information.
The following table list the common and not so well-known day trips from Lisbon
*these day trips can be easily reached using public transport
Top 10 Day Trips from Lisbon
1) Sintra (Day 1 - Palácio da Pena, Castelo dos Mouros and Palácio Nacional)
5) Sintra (Day 2 - Quinta da Regaleira, Palácio de Seteais and Palácio de Monserrate)
6) Mafra & Ericeira, (this day can combine two different towns)
8) Cristo Rei statue and Cacilhas
9) Sesimbra and Cabo Espichel
Areas near Lisbon where a rental car is needed to explore
1) Serra da Arrabida Natural Park, 2) Serra de Sintra and Coastline 3) Palmela and vineyards of Azeitão 4) Evora and Alentejo
Warning: Never drive to Sintra, as there is limited carparking and narrow roads
Combined car day trips
With a rental car much more of the Lisbon region can be seen, these two routes below combine as much is possible in a single days sightseeing.
Along with the numerous day trips Lisbon has beautiful beaches
Related articles: Lisbon beach guide
Organised tours provide a fantastic way to explore the Lisbon region, and are ideal for visitors who have limited time. Group tours have the added benefit of local and knowledgeable guides, and some of our favourite tours include:
The remainder of this article provides a summary of each of the day trips.
Sintra is a picturesque town that lies 25km to the west of Lisbon. Sintra is nestled within the hills of the Serra de Sintra, and contained within the town are grand palaces, ruinous castles and opulent 19th-century mansions. The Serra de Sintra provides great hiking or cycling routes, while the rugged coastline (10km to the west of Sintra town) comprises of vast beaches and powerful seas.
There are so many outstanding tourist attractions in Sintra, that it requires at least two days to be fully explored. The first day to visit the National Palace, the Moors castle and the beautiful Pena Palace, and the second day for the Quinta da Regaleira, the Seteais Palace, the Monserrate Palace and the Pena Park. The Serra de Sintra, the Sintra coastline and the Cabo da Roca requires a third day and a rental car. Sintra is a fantastic day trip, and is connected to Lisbon by a direct and inexpensive train. For a guide to Sintra, please click here.
The view from the Moors castle, high above Sintra
Cascais is an historic fishing port and one of the most popular resort towns of the Lisbon coastline. Historically, Cascais was the summer retreat for the Portuguese nobility, and today the town is an elegant blend of grand mansions, historic buildings and modern hotel complexes.
Cascais has an interesting shoreline which includes a fishing harbour, two glorious beaches and a restored fort, while the town offers carefully maintained parks and series of impressive museums. From Cascais, there are two enjoyable short walks: one to the Boca do Inferno cliff and another along the beachfront promenade to the trendy resort of Estoril. During the summer, Cascais has a vibrant holiday atmosphere, with an extensive selection of bars and restaurants and a buzzing nightlife. Cascais is a popular holiday destination but is equally suited for a day trip, as it’s connected to Lisbon by a regular train. To read more about Cascais, please click here.
The wonderful 19th century architecture of the Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães
Obidos is one of the most picturesque towns of Portugal. The town was gifted to Queen Urraca in 1210 and, up until the fall of the monarchy in 1910, Obidos was the Queen’s town. The queen could not have found a more delightful town to be a patron of; there are pretty cobbled streets, traditional houses and a medieval castle, while the whole town is encircled by ancient walls.
Obidos may be small, but every single street isfull of charm, so the best way to explore is to leave the busy main street and wander the quiet backstreets or walk the ancient city walls. Obidos is a popular destination with organised tours, but the town deserves more time to explore than the one hour that these tours stop for. While in Obidos don’t miss having a drink of Ginja, a sweet alcoholic drink served in a chocolate cup, for which the region is famed for. Obidos can be easily reached from Lisbon as there is a regular bus service; for a guide to Obidos please click here.
Traditional painted houses and the town walls of Obidos
Setubal is a major port and industrial town but has a surprising amount to see and do for a day trip. At the centre of Setubal is a charming old town of pedestrianised shopping streets and small plazas, which open out onto the Sado Estuary. This busy waterway overlooks the Tróia Peninsula and is home to a large pod of bottlenose dolphins, and a popular Setubal activity is to join a dolphin watching tour. Setubal has a fantastic waterfront than encompasses the fish harbour, the ferry terminal, an urban park and leads to the scenic Albarquel beach.
Setubal, as viewed from the Fortaleza de Sao Filipe
Within Setubal is the Mercado do Livramento, the best fish market of Portugal, and this freshly caught fish is expertly cooked at one of the many outstanding seafood restaurants that line the fishing harbour. Standing high above the city is the Fortaleza de Sao Filipe, and the reward for the challenging uphill hike to the castle are some of the finest views of the region. Setubal is not one of the common day trips from Lisbon, but is an interesting destination; for a full guide to a day trip to Setubal please click here.
Mafra contains Portugal’s most lavish and exuberant palace, and an enjoyable day trip is created when Mafra is combined with the traditional fishing town of Ericeira. Mafra palace completely dominates the town, and its 18th-century construction almost bankrupted the Portuguese economy while employing a staggering 45,000 workers. The vast complex contains over 1,200 rooms and even today with the limited number open, visitors will still find themselves walking long distances. A day trip to Mafra often includes Ericeira, as apart from the palace there is not much else to see in the town.
The magnificent Mafra Palace
Ericeira is a traditional fishing town, which is at the centre of a coastline of fantastic surfing beaches. This has transformed peaceful Ericeira into a cool surfing hub, where historic buildings sit next to trendy surfing bars. Ericeira is extremely pretty, with the cobbled streets and whitewashed houses of the historic centre perched at the top of sheer cliffs, which fall away to the fishing harbour and beaches. Ericeira and Mafra are connected to Lisbon by the same bus service and for a guide to Mafra and Ericeira, please click on the underlined links.
The fishing harbour and boats of Ericeira
Sesimbra is a popular resort town that is set in a region of wonderful natural scenery. The town is surrounded by the lush forested hills of the Serra da Arrabida while to the west are the wild and dramatic cliffs of the Cabo Espichel headland. Within Sesimbra is a Moorish castle, a beachfront fort and a wide bay of glorious beaches. Sesimbra is famed for its seafood restaurants, which serve the freshly caught fish brought in by the town’s fishing fleet.
The Cabo Espichel is the wind blasted southwesterly headland of the Setubal Peninsula. This is a barren region of massive cliffs and raging seas, which was once an important pilgrimage destination. Found at the headland is a unique church, a powerful lighthouse and cliffs in which dinosaur footprints have been exposed.
Visitors with a rental car should include the Serra da Arrabida to the day trip. The drive along the N379 road is absolutely stunning, crossing some of the highest points of the nature park and providing spectacular views both north and south. The coastline of the Serra da Arrabida is as equally beautiful, and contains some of Portugal’s finest beaches. For a guide to day trip to Sesimbra please click here. .
The jagged hills of the Serra da Arrabida
Palmela castle has one of the best vantage points south of Lisbon, and once guarded the fertile lands between the Tejo and Sado estuaries. The Castelo de Palmela is one of the greatest castles of the Lisbon region and the small town of Palmela is historic and pretty, if a little ramshackle. Palmela provides a shorter day trip, but is far from the common tourist routes, so is the place to visit to escape the summertime crowds. There is a direct bus between Lisbon and Palmela and for a guide to a day trip to Palmela please click here.
The Palmela castle stands high above the plains of the Setubal and Sado estuary
With a rental car, the day trip to Palmela could be extended to include the town of Azeitão, which is at heart of the Setubal wine producing region. This area is famed for Moscatel wines and there are two excellent wineries in Azeitão, the historic José Maria da Fonseca and the Bacalhôa Vinhos de Portugal. Unfortunately, there is poor public transport around Azeitão and a rental car is required to visit them, another option is to join a wine tasting tour, details here.
Evora is at the heart of the Alentejo, a region of scorched plains and olive trees, that swelters under the intense summer sun. Evora is a historic city; being an important Roman trading route, a Moorish defensive stronghold and religious centre in early Catholic Portugal. This varied past has left an assortment of fascinating attractions including a Roman temple, an impressive aqueduct and a creepy bone chapel, all of which are encircled by the ancient city walls. Evora has the second highest number of national monuments in Portugal, second only to Lisbon; there is a lot to see in Evora.
The traditional cobbled backstreets of Evora
Evora has an infectious slow pace of life, in part due to the hot summer months, but it is no historic relic, with a major university and young population. Evora is a wonderful destination to visit; the only downside is the long train journey of 1.5hours, which makes the day trip very long and not suitable for all. For a guide to about Evora, Evora-Portugal.com.
A shorter excursion is to cross the Tejo River and visit the statue of Christ Rei, which stands on the southern bank of the Tejo estuary. The Christ Rei statue stands high above Lisbon and the vantage point provides wonderful panoramic views over the suspension bridge and the historic waterfront of Lisbon. This day trip can be extended by then taking the bus to the beach resort of Costa da Caparica. The recommended means to travel to Christ Rei from Lisbon is to catch the ferry from Cais do Sodre to Cacilhas and then the 101 bus service (all details can be found here).
The Christ statue is high above Lisbon
Costa da Caparica is a modern beach resort that is situated on one of the best beaches of the Lisbon region. The beach faces the Atlantic Ocean and there are massive waves ideal for surfing while the sands extend for 30km along the length of the Setubal Peninsula. During the summer there is a mini train which allows visitors to reach these remote and isolated beaches. There are good transport connections for the day trip, with a direct bus from Cacilhas ferry terminal to Costa da Caparica and for the return to Lisbon there is an express bus from Costa da Caparica back to Lisbon.