Lisbon is one of those cities that you can’t seem to spend enough time in. Full of charm and character, the Portuguese capital has an endless amount of fun activities and amazing sites to be discovered. From its stunning pastel coloured buildings and buzzing nightlife scene to its incredible food & wine and easily accessible coastline, not to mention the many awesome day trips from Lisbon – it’s simply impossible to get bored in a city this diverse!
If you are planning an extended stay in Lisbon, you’ll be glad to know that its surrounding area offers just as much beauty to explore as the city itself. If you have any interest in cute coastal towns, quaint medieval villages, and perfect fairy tale castles, read on to discover some of the best day trips from Lisbon that cannot be missed!
The 3 Best Day Trips From Lisbon
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The fairy tale town of Sintra is home to a stunning collection of the most unique and breathtaking castles we’ve ever seen (and we’ve seen a lot on our travels!) Located a convenient 40 minute train journey from Lisbon’s city center, it’s no wonder Sintra is one of the most popular day trips from Lisbon.
While it may be impossible to visit every palace in Sintra in a single day trip, we’ve listed our top 3 picks that we think deserve a spot on your Portugal bucket list. Seeing all 3 of them in one day is totally do-able as long as you make an early start from Lisbon in the morning.
This colourful town was once a summer getaway for Portuguese royals and nobility. Nestled in the hills outside of Lisbon, Sintra made the perfect spot for beautiful mansions, palaces and castles to be built. Nowadays it attracts millions of tourists every year and here’s why you should be one of them:
The most eccentric and vibrantly coloured castle I’ve ever laid eyes on, at first glance it doesn’t even look real. Like a scene straight from a fairy tale, this palace is definitely the most popular of the bunch but for good reason; I promise you’ve never seen anything like it before. It should be first on your list of things to do in Sintra.
Pena Palace is perched on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains towering over the town and boasts sweeping views over the the surrounding area below. On a clear day, it can even be seen from Lisbon. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and also considered to be one of the 7 wonders of Portugal.
The castle’s history dates back to the 15th century when a monastery was first built on the site. After a series of storms and earthquakes, it was badly damaged and for many decades the ruins were left untouched. It wasn’t until 1838 when King Ferdinand II decided to transform the monastery ruins into an epic palace which would serve as a summer home for the Portuguese royal family.
Head here as early as possible to avoid standing in a gigantic queue. We recommend pre-purchasing your tickets to avoid having to wait longer than necessary. Note that this will allow you to skip the ticket line but still have to wait in the palace entry line.
Pena Palace hours: 9:30am- 7pm (5pm in low season). Allow up to 2 hours for your visit.
Tickets: Park and palace – €14. To purchase your skip-the-line tickets click here.
Quinta da Regaleira
Continue your day trip journey on to the mystical estate of Quinta da Regaleira. Full of ancient secrets, this luxurious mansion and its enchanting gardens will be sure to spark your imagination. Its large network of paths will lead you through overgrown vegetation, underground initiation wells and dark moss covered tunnels, don’t be afraid to get lost.
This UNESCO Heritage Site dates back to 1892 when it originally belonged to a family of wealthy merchants from Porto. It passed through a number of wealthy owners over the years and saw many changes to its appearance. Finally in 1998 Quinta da Regaleira was acquired by Sintra Town Council and became open to the public.
The mysterious Initiation Well is a highlight for anyone’s visit to the Quinta da Regaleira. As you descend your way down the spiral staircase to the bottom of the well, you can’t help but wonder: what exactly was this thing used for?!
One thing is certain, no water was stored in this well! It is thought to have been used for ceremonial purposes which included Tarot initiation rites. But the truth is that no one actually knows for sure what went on in this well. It remains a mystery that continues to draw tourists from all over the world.
Quinta da Regaleira hours: 9:30am–7pm (5pm in low season). Allow for 1.5-2 hours for your visit.
Tickets: €6 – Tickets can be purchased on arrival.
Located 3.5 km from Sintra’s town centre, this gem is often overlooked by tourists making it the least visited of all the palaces. The exotic Monserrate Palace is a perfect fusion of Arabic, Gothic, and Indian architecture surrounded by lush gardens. In our opinion it deserves a spot in the top 3 picks for your day trip in Sintra.
After you finish up at the Quinta da Regaleira, you’ll be able to catch a taxi from the town centre or you can catch the bus number 435 which loops from the town centre to Quinta da Regaleira and then to Montserrate Palace. Walking there is an option but keep in mind its about a 1.5 hour walk there and then you’ll need to return.
Start off your visit by exploring the beautiful gardens before entering the palace itself. Once you’re inside, the rooms and halls will awe you with beautifully intricate details. The palace was built in 1860 by Sir Francis Cook, an Englishman who decided to build his summer home up from existing Neo-Gothic ruins.
Montserrate Palace hours: 9:30am–7pm. Allow 1-2 hours for a full visit.
Getting to Sintra
Once you arrive in Sintra you’ll want to get on the tourist bus that will take you to the main sites. Look for bus 434 at the train station which runs in a loop allowing you to hop on and off at your desired stops. It will then take you back to the train station at the end of the day.
The hop on hop off ticket costs €6.90 and it only allows you to go around the loop once. This bus service runs up to 4 departures per hour during the summer months and decreases its frequency during the winter.
Sintra Guided Tours
If you don’t fancy figuring out trains or bus schedules, an organized day tour might be the best option for you. Taking a tour will ensure a hassle free enjoyable day while being shown around by a guide who will explain the history and background info on all of the sites. You can find some of the best tours below, note that each of these tours stops at different sites.
Top Sintra Tip: Ensure you eat a full breakfast before you begin the days explorations as most of the palaces do not sell food. You can stop for lunch in Sintra’s town centre to break up your day of palace hopping.
This picturesque fortified village was definitely the highlight of our time in Portugal. We stopped in Obidos for 2 nights on our epic road trip through Portugal, however Obidos also makes an excellent option when it comes to day trips from Lisbon. It’s easily connected from Lisbon by an express bus service which takes about 1 hour.
Bear in mind that this town can get incredibly packed with tours during the summer months. It’s worth trying to get there outside of the busy window of 11am-2pm to avoid joining the hordes of other tourists that fill the streets.
Highlights of Obidos
Historic Town Centre – Our favourite thing to do in Obidos was getting lost in the labyrinth of twisting cobbled streets. You’ll be guaranteed to stumble upon endless beauty and photo opportunities as you wander past the traditional white painted buildings bordered with blue and yellow.
Obidos Castle – A quintessential medieval castle that sits on a hilltop dominating the town below. There’s a special vibe to this castle which dates back to the 700s when the Moors occupied the area. It’s been named one of the 7 wonders of Portugal and in our opinion it totally deserves that title!
Ancient Walls – As you stroll along the town’s fortifications, you’ll get to enjoy panoramic views of the town below and its surrounding countryside. Watch your step as these walls are well worn and safety measures seem to be lacking with no barriers to keep you from falling off the edge!
Getting to Obidos
The express bus service that runs between Lisbon and Obidos is the best option if you’re looking to spend a full day exploring this beautiful town. Buses depart regularly on a daily basis, the journey takes about 1 hour. You can find the exact timetable by clicking here.
Tickets cost €7.95 and can be purchased directly from the bus driver. Buses depart from the Campo Grande bus station in the north of Lisbon. This station can be accessed by the metro which runs frequently from the city centre.
Obidos Guided Tours
There are many organized day trips from Lisbon that include Obidos among a few other popular stops. The tours are great if you’re keen to squeeze a few more stops into the day. The only downside is that they tend to spend only 40-60 minutes in Obidos.
In all honesty, I think this town deserves more than a 1 hour stop as it’s not enough time to truly appreciate it. If you do choose to go with a tour, find the best options below.
For a relaxing day excursion from Lisbon, head to the quaint beach town of Cascais. Forty minutes by train from Lisbon’s Cais do Sodre station, Cascais is a refreshing contrast from the bustle of the city and the perfect way to add some R&R to your holiday.
Cascais has everything you’d imagine of the Portuguese coast – a lively beach scene, an old town lined with beautiful tiled streets and houses, plenty of culture and rugged beachside cliffs overlooking the Atlantic.
Upon arrival in Cascais, stroll down to the Praia da Conceição, the largest of the town’s beaches. Rent a pair of chairs and an umbrella for 20 euros for the day, and enjoy a glass of sangria and a light lunch from the restaurant on site.
In lieu of rushing back to Lisbon for the evening, stay for sunset and head down to the Boca do Inferno, “the devil’s mouth” in Portuguese. A leisurely 15 minute’s walk from the beach, this epic viewpoint showcases an unparalleled sunset and a truly unique landscape.
If you’re short on time in Portugal, Cascais is a great alternative to the Algarve and an easy day trip from Lisbon.
Photos and piece on Cascais provided by Meredith from The Longest Weekend.
Organized Tours to Cascais
Getting to Cascais is a pretty straightforward train journey, however there is an option to take an organized day trip from Lisbon. Most of the tours combine Cascais with other stops.
To fully enjoy this beautiful beach town we recommend spending a full day there. If you are short on time and you’d like to see a bit of everything, find the best tours below.
Planning your trip to Portugal? Check out more of our detailed Portugal guides below!
- The ultimate Portugal road trip itinerary: from Porto to Lisbon
- The perfect 2 days in Porto – Complete Itinerary
- Day trip from Porto: A complete guide to spending a day in the Douro Valley
- Spend an awesome 2 days in Lisbon – Complete Itinerary
- The ultimate Lisbon to Sintra day trip itinerary
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