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 makes it easily accessible as day trips.
The number of varied and enjoyable day trips from Lisbon can greatly extend any holiday to the city, and there are sufficient activities and excursions to fill a holiday of up to two weeks. This guide will detail the best day trips from Lisbon, provide a suggested order and give links to further in-depth information.
Related articles: Lisbon’s beaches – 1 week in Lisbon – 3 days in Lisbon
The top ten best day trips from Lisbon are:
1) Sintra, 2) Cascais, 3) Obidos, 4) Setubal, 5) Evora, 6) Nazare, 7) Sesimbra, 8) Tomar,9) Mafra and Ericeira, 10) Cristo Rei statue and the Costa da Caparica
An interactive map below shows the location of each of the day trips:
The following section provides a summary of each destination, why you should visit it and links to further in-depth information.
Why? Whimsical palaces and opulent villas all set in the hills of the Serra de Sintra
Highlight: Palácio Nacional da Pena, Quinta da Regaleira, Palácio Nacional de Sintra
How to travel there: Train 30 minutes
Typical visit length: 7hours (there are enough sights for 2 days of sightseeing)
Lots of tourists in the summer: Incredibly crowded
Sintra is a picturesque town, nestled within the cooling hills of the Serra de Sintra. This region was a favourite with the Portuguese nobility, and contained within the town are grand palaces, ruinous castles and opulent 19th-century mansions.
The standout attraction is the beautiful Palácio Nacional da Pena, with its vivid yellow and red towers rising up from the lush greens of the surrounding forests. Other popular sights include the gothic Palácio Nacional de Sintra, and the Quinta da Regaleira, with its hidden pathways below the gardens.
There are so many sights in Sintra that a second day is needed to visit the ruins of the Moors castle, Monserrate Palace, the Palácio de Seteais and the hill trails around the Vila Sassetti.
Sintra is the best day trip from Lisbon, but unfortunately struggles with the sheer number of tourists.
Tourists insight: For your day trip head to Sintra early in the day, and have ticket pre-purchased to avoid standing in long queues
Related articles: Introduction to Sintra - A day trip to Sintra - Lisbon to Sintra – The Pena Palace
Why? The Lisbon coastline’s premier resort town
Highlight: Guimarães villa, Cabo da Roca, Cascais fort and beaches
How to travel there: Train 40 minutes
Typical visit length: 5hours
Lots of tourists in the summer: busy
Historically, Cascais was the summer retreat for the Portuguese nobility, and today is the premier beach town of the Lisbon coastline.
The town elegantly blends, it's fishing heritage, grand 19th-century architecture, and glorious beaches, to create a wonderful holiday destination. Cascais is equally suited for a day trip; there are grand villas, carefully maintained parks and a selection of fascinating museums.
To the north of Cascais are the Boca do Inferno cliff formation and the Cabo da Roca, the most westerly point of mainland Europe. In the summer there is a vibrant holiday atmosphere around Cascais, and an extensive selection of bars and restaurants providing a buzzing nightlife.
Related articles: Cascais guide - Day trip to Cascais - Lisbon to Cascais - Cabo da Roca
Why? The quintessential Portuguese wall town
Highlight: City walls, charming side streets
How to travel there: Bus (40 minutes)
Typical visit length: 2hours
Lots of tourists in the summer: very busy 10am-3pm with coach tours
Obidos is one of Portugal’s most picturesque towns. The town was given to Queen Urraca in 1210 as a wedding gift and, up until the fall of the monarchy in 1910, Obidos was owned by the Queen of Portugal.
There could not have found a more delightful town to be a patron of; traditional painted houses line the pretty cobbled streets, and lead up to the medieval castle. Obidos may be small, but every single street is delightful.
Obidos does get very busy with coach tours but it is easy to leave the main streets, and wander the quiet backstreets or ancient city walls.
Tourist insight: While in Obidos don’t miss having a drink of Ginja, a sweet alcoholic drink served in a chocolate cup.
Related articles: Obidos guide - Lisbon to Obidos
Why? Real Portugal away from the tourists
Highlight: Fortress São Filipe, Mercado do Livramento Península de Troia
How to travel there: Train (30 minutes)
Typical visit length: 4hours + 2 hours for Troia
Lots of tourists in the summer? Few foreign tourists
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, while the pretty waterfront opens out onto the Sado Estuary. This busy waterway overlooks the Tróia Peninsula and is home to a pod of bottlenose dolphins.
The main sights of Setubal include the Mercado do Livramento, the best fish market of Portugal, and the Fortaleza de Sao Filipe, which stands high above the city. For your day trip it is possible to catch the ferry to the Tróia Peninsula and spend time on the region’s beautiful beaches.
Setubal is not one of the common day trips from Lisbon, but is a great place to experience modern, authentic Portugal.
Related articles: Setubal guide
Why? Historic capital of the Alentejo region, many historic buildings
Highlight: Roman Temple, Bone Chapel and Gothic Cathedral
How to travel there: Train (1hour)
Typical visit length: 5hours
Lots of tourists in the summer? Moderately busy
Evora lies at the heart of the Alentejo, a region of rolling plains and olive trees, that swelters under the intense summer sun. Evora has an extensive history, being an important Roman trading town, a defensive stronghold for the Moors and major religious centre in the 13/14th century.
This varied past has left an assortment of fascinating attractions including a Roman temple, an impressive aqueduct and a creepy bone chapel. There is a lot to see in Evora, and the city has the second-highest number of national monuments in Portugal, second only to Lisbon.
Tourist advice: It is a long train ride to and from Evora, and you may wish to spend a night instead of a rushed day trip.
Our opinion: We only ranked Evora at number 5 due to the travel considerations, if these were discounted it would be at number 2.
Related articles: Evora guide – Lisbon to Evora
Why? Traditional beach town, famed for its winter waves
Highlight: Praia do Norte surfing area, Sitio district, beach
How to travel there: bus 60min
Typical visit length: 4 hours
Lots of tourists in the summer? Yes, but not over crowed
Nazare is a delightful beach town which exudes Portuguese charm. The town is set along one of the finest beaches of central Portugal, and the beachfront is lined with traditional beach cafes, shops and hotels.
High above the town is the historic Sitio district and this leads down to the fort and famed Praia do Norte surfing beach. During the winter massive waves (up to 30m) are formed off the Sitio headland and daredevil surfers attempt to surf these colossal waves.
Our opinion: Nazare is a pleasant location for a day trip which combines both an outstanding beach and enjoyable town.
Related articles: Nazare introduction
Why? Where the Portuguese go on holiday
Highlight: Cabo Espichel, Castelo de Sesimbra, Parque Natural da Arrábida (car needed)
How to travel there: bus 40min
Typical visit length: 3 hours (with car 6 hours)
Lots of tourists in the summer? yes
Sesimbra is a favourite holiday destination with the Portuguese. The town may not have a vast number of tourist attractions, but the authentic Portuguese atmosphere, beautiful beach and outstanding fish restaurants make it an enjoyable day trip from Lisbon.
To get the most from the Sesimbra region a rental car is needed, and this could add the Serra da Arrabida and the Cabo Espichel to the day trip.
The Cabo Espichel is the wind-blasted south-westerly headland formed of massive cliffs and raging seas. Found at the headland is a historic church, a powerful lighthouse and dinosaur footprints that have been exposed in the cliffs.
The Serra da Arrabida are a series of forest hills and a wonderful coastline that offers some of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal. A highlight of the Serra da Arrabida is the N379 road, which meanders through the hills and crosses a ridge, providing spectacular views both north and south.
Related articles: Sesimbra guide – The Cabo Espichel - The Serra da Arrabida
Why? Religious centre for the Knights Templar
Highlight: Convento de Cristo
How to travel there: train
Typical visit length: 4 hours
Lots of tourists in the summer? no
Today, Tomar may be a peaceful town, but during the 13th century, it was one of the most influential locactions of the Iberian Peninsula, being the stronghold of the Knights Templar (later referred to as the Order of Christ). This powerful and secretive order, ruled from the Convento de Cristo, an impressive fortified religious complex, with the beautiful Charola church at its centre.
The Convento de Cristo is often regarded as one of the finest national monuments of Portugal.
The town of Tomar is relaxed and pretty, there are cobbled streets, ancient churches and an unhurried atmosphere in the cafes and restaurants that line the Nabão River. If you are seeking a non-touristy day trip, then Tomar is the place for you.
Related articles: Tomar guide
Why? The setting for largest palace in Portugal
Highlight: Mafra palace, the surfing vibe of Ericeira
How to travel there: bus
Typical visit length: 2 hours (often a day trip is combined with Ericeira)
Lots of tourists in the summer? not too crowded
The Palácio Nacional de Mafra is the largest palace in Portugal. The scale of the building completely dominates the town, and its 18th-century construction almost bankrupted the Portuguese by employing a staggering 45,000 workers. This 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 is often combined with Ericeira, as apart from the palace there is not much else to see in the Mafra.
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, perched at the top of sheer cliffs.
Related articles: Mafra guide - Ericeira guide
Why? The Cristo Rei viewpoint and the beautiful beaches of the Costa da Caparica
Highlight: The Cristo Rei viewpoint
How to travel there: Cristo Rei ferry (15min) Costa da Caparica (20min)
Typical visit length: 1 hour Cristo Rei and 2 hours Costa da Caparica
Lots of tourists in the summer? yes
An excursion to the Christ Rei statue and the town of Cacilhas is an enjoyable half-day activity (including travel time), which can be extended into a full day by visiting the resort town of Costa da Caparica.
The Christ Rei statue stands on the southern bank of the Tejo Estuary, and from the viewing platform are wonderful views of the region. Costa da Caparica is a modern beach resort that is situated on a beautiful sandy shoreline, which extends for 30km along the entire western side of the Setubal Peninsula. During the summer a mini-train travels along the coastline and provides access to deserted beaches.
Tourist advice: The best way to travel to the Christ Rei statue is to catch the ferry from Cais do Sodre to Cacilhas, and then take the 101 bus service from Cacilhas to the statue.
Related articles: Travel to Cristo Rei - Costa da Caparica guide
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.