Lisbon has been probably one of my favourite trips this year. If you’re planning to visit the Portuguese capital, you can check my blog/vlog on what to do in Lisbon. As you will see, there is plenty to do! However, if you’re staying for some time, it’s worth to try a few day trips from Lisbon.
In this blog/vlog I will show you 3 great day trips from Lisbon:
- Sintra, the former royal residence
- Belém, the place where the pastel de nata – the most iconic Portuguese pastry – was invented
- Cabo de Roca, alas the end of the world!
You can watch the video and read the blog – or choose one of the them, although the 2 complement each other!
#1 Sintra – day trips from Lisbon
How to go to Sintra
Sintra is a town around 40 minutes away from Lisbon. You can go there by train from Rossio Square station in Lisbon. Sintra is on a hill and historically it was the place where Portugal’s kings went to spend the summer and escape Lisbon’s heat. You will feel that it’s cooler, so bear in mind to bring more clothes with you. You will want to wear trainers too or comfortable shoes because there is a lot of walking.
What is there to see
Sintra is a very touristic town. The centre is very small and all around it there are castles and estates to visit, as you can see in the map. Although most people, like us, do a 1 day trip, I would recommend to spend at least 2 days if you plan to visit all.
We decided to visit 2 places in Sintra: Quinta da Regaleira and Palacio da Pena.
Palacio da Pena
The Pena Palace was the royal residence and today is the most famous and iconic building in Sintra, and possibly of all Portugal. For this reason we didn’t want to miss it. The palace is beautiful and colorful like a fairy-tale castle. However, I think that the best part is the garden. We walked all the way up to Cruz Alta (High Cross). It’s a 20 minute walk and all up a hill but it’s really worth it. It’s the highest point in Sintra and the view is spectacular.
Most visitors don’t go all the way up there, which was lucky for us and unfortunate for them!
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira is possibly not the most famous attraction in Sintra, but it should be! It was AMAZING and one of the best places I have ever visited. Quinta means “estate” and Regaleira was the name of the family that owned the place. However, the most interesting place is not the estate itself, but the park.
The park is like wonderland. You will find towers, dark tunnels, secret passages, underground lakes, a labyrinth, a waterfall, and an initiation well on the style of the Templars. We had a lot of fun exploring and playing around and I absolutely recommend to everyone NOT to miss this place.
Watch the video at the bottom to see more!
How to go around Sintra
Sintra is a small town but the places you want to visit are not necessarily at walking distance. Also, the town is built on a hill and most roads don’t have a pavement, which makes it dangerous to walk. You can easily reach by foot the Palacio National de Sintra, right in the town centre, and Quinta da Regaleira, which is a 5 minute walk.
To see everything else, though, you will have to take a bus. There is a bus that goes around Sintra and stops at all major places of interest. I recommend to take it from the Palacio National or from the train station because you have more chances of getting on.
When we arrived at the train station, there were too many people and we decided to walk. We reached Quinta da Regaleira and then decided to take the bus from there to go to Palacio da Pena. Except that the bus didn’t stop. It was already too full. So in the end we walked back and took it from the town centre. Other people that were with us stayed there waiting for the second bus, and we watched their exasperation when the bus didn’t stop again. So you are advised!
Another thing to consider is that the last bus runs at 8pm. We enjoyed our stay at Palacio de Pena so much that wanted to stay as much as possible and ended up taking the very last bus! It was starting to get dark, so walking down the hill wouldn’t have been great. The return ticket is €5.50 (half the prize of the ubiquitous tuk-tuks!).
#2 Belém – day trips from Lisbon
Belém is a district west of Lisbon. The tram 28, famous for being the most ancient tram in the world, can get you there. However we opted for the train because it takes 10 minutes instead of 30 and because the tram 28 is ALWAYS full of people, mostly tourists.
Being so close, you can combine 2 day trips from Lisbon, going to Belém and Cascais. Cascais is a beach town where locals go to spend a day at the beach.
Padrao dos Descubrimentos
Belém was the place from where the great Portuguese expeditions departed in the XVI and XVII centuries. Today there is a big monument, Padrao dos Descubrimentos (which translates to “The Monument of Discoveries”) to commemorate this golden time. If you want to know more about this period of Portuguese history, you can check the official website of Portugal.
Torre de Belém
Another architectural sight is the Tower of Belém, which used to be a prison. We didn’t go inside mainly because there was a huge queue!
The Monastery of Jeronimos (i.e. where the monks invented the pastel de nata)
The place we didn’t want to miss was the Monastery of Jeronimos. The monks who lived there invented the famous pastel de nata, the most iconic Portuguese pastry. However, I’m sorry to say that the monastery itself does NOT deserve its €10 entry and 30 minute queue. There is really nothing to see apart from what you see in the picture above. It is nice, but not worth the trouble.
Something that deserved our time and money, though, was the Pastel de Belém, the bakery to which the monks sold the original recipe of the pastel de nata. To this day, this is the only bakery to know the original recipe. Maybe it is the power of suggestion, but we felt that these pastel de nata were delicious and somewhat different from the others we had eaten!
#3 Cabo de Roca – day trips from Lisbon
Cabo de Roca is famous for being the westernmost point in Europe. For centuries, people believed this was the end of the world! The landscape is pretty wild, with cliffs, rocks, and the Atlantic Ocean.
There isn’t much to do but I still liked the feeling of being at the edges of the continent. I loved the landscape so much that I have used the pictures taken there for the header of this blog!
Unfortunately, there is only one, possibly overpriced, cafe/restaurant, so you may want to bring your own food. Also, I’m afraid that the restaurant has the only available toilet in the area and they allow only customers to go. They are quite strict on that, they even have gates like the ones you find to enter the underground! We ended up having a coffee, which was quite annoying, but there was no other choice.
Finally, you can find here the vlog for more imagery of these beautiful locations!
I hope enjoyed this post, goodbye from Portugal!