If you’re visiting Lisbon for more than a weekend, make sure you take a day trip (or two) to Sintra and Cascais. Two completely different worlds that show off just a tiny sample of the diverse and beautiful face of Portugal.
A 30 minute train ride from Lisbon will take you to the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sintra. Situated on the hills of the Serra de Sintra you’ll find extravagant palaces, opulent mansions, and the ruins of an ancient castle. Take the 434 bus connecting Sintra train station to the historic centre, Pena Palace, and Moors Castle.
WHAT TO DO:
Palacio Nacional de Sintra: This landmark was designed and built as a summer residence for King Fernando II in the 19th Century. Famous for its primary colors, the palace was built to be visible from any point in Sintra. The grounds consists of a forest and abundant gardens with over five hundred different species of trees originating from all over the world.
Castelo dos Mouros: This medieval castle is the oldest structure in the city. It dates back to the early days of the Moorish occupation of Portugal- the 8th Century. The Moors originally designed the castle as a watchtower overlooking Sintra and after various failed attempts, the Portuguese lead by Dom Afonso Henriques, ceased it in 1147. He then built the city’s first Christian Chapel and dedicated it to São Pedro de Penaferrim.
Palacio da Pena: Sintra’s most spectacular and famous site is the colorful, ornate, and grand Palacio da Pena, also known as Quinta da Regaleira. The palace has towers, grottoes, fountains, and even a stunning chapel. Walking on the grounds feels like being inside of a fairy tale.
Historic town centre: Sintra’s charming historic town centre is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you should spend some time exploring its quaint shops and cafes. Don’t leave without trying the famous Sintra pastries known as “queijadas” (cheese bread) and “travesseiros” (egg and almond pastries)!
Cascais is a charming fishing town that has evolved into a favorite holiday destination for many Portuguese and other Europeans. Cascais is easily accessible from Lisbon by 30-40 min railway ride.
WHAT TO DO
Old Town of Cascais: The historic centre of Cascais has morphed from the traditional fisherman’s houses into chic shops, alfresco restaurants, and bars. Hotel Bahía sits right on the main square making it an ideal spot to have a drink, enjoy sunset, or just have fun!
Casa Santa Maria: The Casa de Santa Maria is a 19th century grand estate built for an Irish aristocrat. It was later owned by various wealthy families and European royalty until 2004 when it became a museum. Take a walk in its gardens and make your way to Cascais’ light house.
Beaches of Cascais: Cascais’ sandy beaches are walking distance from the city center. The coastline is breathtaking and some beaches north of Cascais are excellent for surfing and monitored by lifeguards.
Marina: Walk around the marina and admire the beautiful yachts. You might even catch some fishermen trying their luck.
Boca do Inferno: Boca do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth) is a a really interesting cliff formation close to Cascais. Its ceaseless pounding of the Atlantic Ocean on the cliffs chiseled out a small cave, which subsequently collapsed forming a small bay and natural arch, there are pathways allowing you to climb down the cliff face and view the unique formation from both sides.
Mercado da Vila: A traditional Portuguese market where you can find fisherman, farmers and artisan selling fresh caught fish, local produce and handicrafts.
Eat fresh seafood: Cascais restaurants serve some of the freshest seafood in the country. While there are plenty of outstanding seafood restaurants all over the town, our choice for lunch was 5 Sentidos. Their vine covered walls make a great photo-op.