Lisbon itself is such a fantastic city that it might be easy to overlook the idea of taking a day trip anywhere else while visiting. But if you’ve got a day or two to spare during a trip, Lisbon’s surrounding areas are well worth seeing. From the misty, magical town of Sintra to the stunning Atlantic coastline dotted with little Portuguese fishing villages, there’s no lack of beautiful places to explore in this region of southern Portugal.
During my last four-day visit to Lisbon, I spent a lovely day with Lisbon Riders. I chose their Sintra and Cascais day trip outside the city and was definitely not disappointed. While I’m not usually one for guided tours, this turned out to be an great one. In fact, it was one of my very favorite days in Portugal. So read on to discover just how much you can see in only one day outside of Lisbon.
The Best Day Trip from Lisbon
Our day began with a visit to the village of Sintra, about half an hour by car out of Lisbon. The little village of Sintra, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is like something straight out of a fairytale. Complete with a Moorish castle, colorful palace, and lovely little town center, it’s the kind of place that seems as if it were made for fiction. It’s no wonder Sintra was originally the holiday destination for Portuguese royalty. Originally, Portuguese kings and queens chose Sintra as the place to escape Lisbon’s often unbearably hot summer climate. While Sintra isn’t far from the capital, it has its own microclimate in the foothills of the Sintra mountains. This makes for a much higher amount of rainfall there than in the surrounding areas and gives the village a very misty, green climate. The unique climate makes it feel like an even more magical place.
After admiring the beautiful village for a bit, Manuel took us to Sintra’s Piriquita café, famous for its “pillows.” We tried the traditional pastries called “Travesseiros de Sintra” or Pillows of Sintra. These light and fluffy almond pastries sprinkled with sugar made for the perfect breakfast, especially since Sintra is the only place to get them.
Pena National Palace
After a sweet start to the morning it was off to the Pena National Palace. This beautiful palace is an eye-catching sight atop the village. It’s one of the most unique palaces I’ve ever visited with its vibrant red and yellow facade standing out in bold contrast against the sky. I had the best time photographing the palace and all its details during the tour. Plus, the top of the palace offers some wonderful views of the village and surrounding countryside below. During our walk through the palace, I got a sense of what it might have felt like to be a Portuguese royal on holiday as if I were going back in time.
Azenhas do Mar
After working up an appetite in Sintra, we left to see Azenhas do Mar, a beautiful seaside fishing village and our lunch spot. First, we stopped to admire the view of the little white houses with their red roofs pressed up against the rocky cliffs with the crashing waves of the Atlantic below.
Afterwards, it was off for a traditional Portuguese lunch in a local restaurant. I had the very typical Bacalhau, or codfish, a staple of the Portuguese diet. It was cooked perfectly and served up in olive oil and herbs.
Cabo da Roca
Next, we headed to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in continental Europe. There we enjoyed some more stunning coastal views. The sun came out again just in time for us to admire the vibrant blue ocean below.
The day didn’t end there. We still had Cascais to see. This adorable seaside town of pastel-colored buildings and mouthwatering ice cream was the perfect way to end a great day trip from Lisbon. In Cascais, you can find what they say is the “best ice cream in the world” at Santini’s ice cream parlor. I tried it myself, sampling a cone of strawberry, coconut, and chocolate gelato. I have to say, it really was some of the best I’ve ever had. Read more about it in my post on the top 7 gastronomical experiences to have in Lisbon.
Finally, we stopped to take a look at Boca do Inferno or “Hell’s Mouth,” a rock formation that sprays and rumbles when the tides are turbulant, giving the formation its name.
After an amazing day full of unique towns, beautiful views, and great food, I went back to the city feeling exhausted but refreshed after such a perfect day trip from Lisbon. I’m so glad that I didn’t miss out on seeing some of the capital’s surrounding areas during my time there. It really was the best trip outside of the city that I could have chosen, and I’d highly recommend the informative and quite affordable Lisbon Riders tours to anyone visiting Lisbon.