Lisbon is one of the top tourist destinations in Portugal and there is a lot to do here to keep you busy for a few days. When you are done exploring the historic buildings of Lisbon, gawking at the rooftop vistas, hopping on and off the trams and tasting some delicious Pastel de Nata (Custard Tart) head to one of the wonderful places outside of Lisbon. Lisbon is a great base to explore some of the awe-inspiring places in Portugal which are only a couple of hours from Lisbon or even less. These cities/towns have plenty to offer from castles, palaces, historic monuments and gorgeous coastline which are waiting to be discovered. Most of these places are not very touristy and are great for a day away from the bustling city of Lisbon.
Sintra is one of the popular day trips from Lisbon. The picturesque Portuguese town of Sintra sits at the foothill of the verdant mountains of Sintra. The town former summer retreat for the Portugal rulers is today one of the popular tourist destinations in Portugal. Lisbon to Sintra is about 40 minutes train ride and is well-connected with a good frequency of trains. The major attractions in the town are some of the magnificent palaces and mansions. Our favorite was the Pena Palace a 19th-century Romanticism style palace painted in vividly bright colors and the exterior decorated with mythological figures and grotesque gargoyles. Exploring the Quinta Regaleira was also fun, the estate and its garden looked they were out of some storybook. The National Palace located in the Sintra Town center and the medieval Castle of the Moors are the other top places to visit in Sintra. The attractions of Sintra are located at a distance which cannot be explored on foot. We recommend you take a HOHO (Hop On Hop Off) bus tour which covers all these important sights.
About half an hour drive from the Sintra town center is the cape of Cabo da Roca. The cape is located on the west coast of Portugal and marks the westernmost point of the European continent. The rugged headland offers breathtaking views of the coastline and the Sintra mountains.
Monsaraz is a stunning castle and village perched on a hill in Eastern Alentejo and dates back to pre-historical times, one of the oldest settlements in the region. From the hilltop, you can enjoy 360-degree views over the beautiful landscape, including River Guadiana and Lake Alqueva.
Once a strategically significant location, not far from the once-contested border with Spain, the castle dates from Mediaeval times. The walled village of Monsaraz is a charming maze of narrow cobbled roads lined with white-washed buildings, especially glorious in the sunshine. Some of them now house bars, restaurants, and shops selling handmade crafts. Make sure you visit Ervideira winery’s shop, housed in the former village school, with many of the features left intact – the winery has a couple of very unusual wines amongst their offering.
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On your way up (or down) from the village and castle, make a stop to admire a striking artwork by artist Joaquim Inacio Coelho Neves Cardoso. Installed in 2015, three rows of metal silhouettes represent the local “Cante Alentejano” tradition, an unusual local choral style that has been declared an intangible cultural asset by UNESCO.
Monsaraz is about two hours drive from Lisboa; limited parking is available at the site. The nearest train station is in Evora; from there you need to take either two buses, or a taxi to Monsaraz. Alternatively, tour operators in Lisboa offer full day trips combining Monsaraz and Evora.
Tomar is a city north of Lisbon and can be reached in just 1.5 hours by car. I recommend going early morning, so you’ll arrive there at 9 AM. You’ll need 4 hours to explore the complex after which you can go to the center of Tomar for lunch and explore the town. I did this must-do Tomar day trip from Lisbon recently and it surpassed my expectations.
Tomar is world famous for the Convent of Christ located just outside of town. It was the seat of the Order of the Templar and later the Order of Christ. It consists of a Templar castle and wall, Templar church and 8 cloisters in total. The castle and its walls can be seen from a distance when driving towards Tomar. A magnificent sight to behold! The original round Templar church is in the middle which was built during several centuries around it. Its walls are full of beautiful colored and gilded paintings, but these date from the 16th century. Another iconic place is the Manueline window which is one of the best in all of Portugal.
By Chris from Chris Travel Blog
It took me just over 4 hours to explore the complex. It’s huge and after each corridor, there is more to explore. Make sure to not miss anything as you’ll enter at the front and exit at the back. Lunch is served late in Portugal so if you’re in downtown Tomar around 2 PM for lunch that’s fine. The center of Tomar is a typical Portuguese town and a great place to wander around for a few hours. I made it back in Lisbon for dinner without problems. This Tomar day trip from Lisbon was one of the best ones I did during this Portuguese road trip.
Setubal is only a 40 minutes drive away from Lisbon. It’s a picturesque place with beautiful cliffs, nice beaches, and a charming harbor. A big part of it lays in the Arrabida Natural Park. Go to Cabo Espichel, where you will have an amazing view over the Atlantic, or go on a hunt for dinosaur fossils. Besides that, Setúbal is also one of the few places in Europe where you can spot wild dolphins. And that’s something that only a few people know.
By Denise from In Het Vliegtuig
Go to the harbor and take the boat with Vertigem Azul. They will show you the beautiful beaches, the harbor of Troia and the wonderful fortress of Santiago do Outao. After an hour you will begin to see the first dolphins. It’s a group of 29 bottlenose dolphins, with some really young ones, that keeps coming back since 1998. They like the surroundings so you have a 99% chance to spot them. The captain can recognize each and everyone one of them by their fin. The boat leaves 2 times a day from Setubal, so make sure to book your seat. It will take 3 hours to do the whole tour and you can do it all year round. The tour is eco-friendly, as they only observe the dolphins for research, and they don’t get to close. Otherwise, the dolphins can get stressed out.
Obidos, Portugal, is a small well-preserved medieval town about an hour north of Lisbon. You can easily visit Obidos as a day trip on your own or with an organized tour from Lisbon. If you have time to spend the night, the town’s castle is now a luxury hotel. For a small town, there is still lots to do. First, walk along the city walls around the town. It takes about an hour and the views of the town and the countryside are spectacular. Then, treat yourself to the local cherry-flavored liquor, Ginja. You will find many stands selling Ginja in a chocolate cup along with other gifts along the town’s main road. History buffs should venture inside the beautiful Santa Maria Church where King Afonso V married his cousin, Isabel, in 1444.
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For two weeks in the summer, Obidos hosts a Medieval Festival. You can bring your own medieval costume to wear or rent one there. The highlight is the medieval feasts held on Friday and Saturday nights. When you visit Lisbon, whether the Medieval Festival is going on or not, I would recommend that you allocate a day for an excursion to Obidos, you will love this hidden gem! It’s easiest to drive from Lisbon to Obidos, but if you don’t have access to a car you can take the “Rapida Verde” bus from the Campo Grande bus station.
On our last trip to Lisbon, we decided that it was time to get out of the city and see what other amazing gems we could find…Evora was one of those places. It is a gorgeous small UNESCO town that sparked our interest straight away especially when we found out it was a walled town as well. We took the train from Oriente Station all the way through to the small station just outside Evora. It was an easy walk through the streets to the main town square and that was where we started our adventure. Evora is easy to walk around town and there is always something to look at.
We started at the Temple of Diana which are the ruins of a Roman temple that tower over the square that they sit in, just across the road from there is a Spanish Inquisition museum (unfortunately it was closed on the day we were there) from the temple we walked to the Evora Cathedral. This was stunning on the inside but the best was the view over the town from the rooftop (it cost about 2 euro each to get up to the top) from there we went down to the Church that the town is most known for…Igreja Real de Sao Francisco. The Church of St. Francis is the home of Capela dos Ossos which is a Bone Chapel. There is said to be the bones of around 500 monks displayed in the Chapel. After this, we wandered back to the town square to have some lunch. Even though it was winter when we visited we still sat out in the square and had a wonderful lunch in the sun.
By Bec of Wyld Family Travel
After lunch, we got the treat of a lifetime. We were driven around Evora in a fully restored 1927 Ford from Top Emotions. The owner of the car was Jose and he showed us all the extra sites like the old walls, the aqueducts and the excavated Roman ruins in the town library. He told us stories of what he remembered growing up in the area. He then took us to an old bus terminal that he has restored and uses it to house all of his other fully restored cars! We are not car people but all four of us could see the love and care that has been put into getting and restoring all the cars he has there. there were even bikes including a Penny Farthing!
We loved our time in Evora and we wish we had more time to spend there. If we return to Lisbon I would love to go and spend a few nights there and see more of the gorgeous UNESCO town.
Coimbra is a famous university town in central Portugal, and it can easily be reached from Lisbon or Porto. Most visitors go to see Coimbra University, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Besides its spot on the World Heritage list, Coimbra University is famous for the robes worn by students that helped inspire the Hogwarts robes in Harry Potter. Visitors love stopping in and seeing the beautiful old library along with the rest of the historic center of the school. However, the town is beautiful and it deserves more than just quick visit. Tourists coming for a full day can also enjoy the gorgeous hillside town and its beautiful architecture.
By Stephanie Craig from History Fan Girl
You can get to Coimbra from Lisbon by car, bus, or train. It takes about two hours to get there by driving and a little longer by public transportation. It’s also almost exactly halfway between Lisbon and Porto, making it a great place to overnight in between Portugal’s two major cities. When I visited, I drove, and I found metered parking everywhere. Make sure you keep track of your meter time, or you can end up getting a nasty parking ticket! I barely avoided one after getting lost in the city’s beautiful hills.
Brimming with inspiration for the Harry Potter Books, over-spilling with Port and home to an intricate haunted railway station, Porto is a must-see for anyone visiting Portugal. Just 2.5 hours from Lisbon by train or 3.5 hours by bus (Route 11 or Route 50), Porto is within perfect distance for a weekend getaway from Portugal’s capital or, if you’re short on time, an action-packed day trip. Fans of the Harry Potter book series need to visit Livaria Lello. This iconic bookstore, with its winding staircase and intricate 360-degree designs, was the inspiration for the Hogwarts library. If you like drinking, you need to try Port wine. Exclusively made just a few hours out of Porto in the Douro Valley, port cellars and wine tastings are available all over the city. For just 20 euros, you could book the Porto Walkers Port wine tour, try six glasses of port, visit a wine cellar and learn more about Porto’s alcoholic history.
By Sophia from The Flying Vegetarian
If you’re only in Porto for a short time (like a day!) then head over to a free Porto walking tour to visit all the key attractions (including a tour of Sao Bento haunted railway station, and a walk past Church of Sao Francisco, Igreja do Carmo and the student district) and learn more about Portugal’s history.
Portugal isn’t known for its vegetarian cuisine, but vegans and vegetarians can seek refuge in Daterra, a 100% vegetarian all you can eat buffet in the middle of Porto. Whether you’re on a health kick, fancy a cheap meal or you’re trying to visit the best vegetarian restaurants in the world, Daterra should be on your list. Fancy a visit to the beach? Hop on a bus and enjoy the scenic journey to Praia do Carneiro, the closest beach to central Porto.
Leaving the beautiful city of Lisbon behind is a tough one. But going on a day trip towards the countryside is absolutely worth it. Just a nice 2-hour-drive away, you will end up in a sleepy town which lives off the beach, waves, and surf. We started in the early morning, crossed the picturesque bridge in Lisbon and headed up North. Mostly, the roads in Portugal are quite empty. Also, they are easy to drive and you won’t have any problems missing the exit. The little town Baleal is closely located to the much more famous beach town Peniche. Most tourists will stay in Peniche and surf here. We, however, prefer Baleal way more. It’s calm, it’s beautiful and it has some of the best beach bars you can imagine.
By Clemens from Travellers Archive
One day here will easily pass, but with our few tips, you can definitely make most of it: Start your day by renting out some surfboards at Bruno’s beach bar. Hit the waves until you’re ready for a much-needed drink. Bruno’s is an awesome place for coffee, cake and, well, a refreshing glass of beer. Once the sunset, you might want to walk down the beach and check out the ‘Taberna do Ganhao’. This cute little restaurant does not only serve the best octopus salad, but it has also been the very first restaurant here. Enjoy an amazing dinner, while you watch the ocean and refuel before you head back to Lisbon.
Cascais was a small fishing village on the coast of Portugal that grew to become the biggest resort town near the capital of Portugal, Lisbon. The main reason people visit is exactly due to the proximity to the sea and the beach. There are actually no beaches in Lisbon, and the ones on the Cascais coastline are the closest and easiest to get to from the city. You just need to take a train at Cais do Sodré and in about 40 minutes you will be in Cascais.
By Maria & Rui from Two Find a Way
Cascais is worth the visit even if you don’t plan on going to the beach. The historical Old Town is still well preserved, despite the surge in tourism. There is no shortage of attractions, museums, and restaurants in the city. Cascais is also great if you love to walk and enjoy nature. Walking by the beautiful coastline will take you to some amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean, including the famous Hell’s Mouth.
If you prefer more adventure and fewer crowds in the summertime, go onwards to the Guincho area. The beaches in this region of Cascais are perfect for practicing sea sports, especially kitesurf. Guincho is a part of the Sintra-Cascais Nature Park, with many different hikes and walks in the area. One of the best ones to do as a day trip is the trail of the Guincho-Cresmina Dunefield.
Batalha is just a short ride away from Lisbon (well, not too short, but not bad either – around 2 hours), but it’s definitely worth visiting. Portugal is such an amazing country full go hidden gems and unexpected discoveries, that it’s an absolute must to hire a car there. Batalha is a town in Leiria province and it’s famous for its monastery called Batalha monastery that took 150 years to build before it finally opened in 1517. The style of the monastery is Gothic and it’s very impressive – probably one of the most impressive monasteries I’ve seen in my entire life.
By Liza from Tripsget
You can purchase a ticket and go inside – and inside it’s just as impressive as it is outside. Batalha is relatively close to Nazare and Coimbra, so it would be a great idea to combine those 3 in one day trip from Lisbon.
How many of these have you already been to? Have you already added these cities/towns to your bucket list? Do share your experience with us in comments.
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