The Best Day Trips from Lisbon
With so much to see and do in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, you may think it crazy to consider leaving for a day trip. But when you hear of the castles, quaint fishing villages, epic walled towns, and lavish palaces a short train or bus ride away, you may be swayed to spend a few days exploring the city’s surrounds.
Sintra is the most popular day trip from Lisbon. The close collection of palaces, gardens and castles make it a rewarding trip for anyone on a tight schedule. There’s a lot to see and do in Sintra, and many people try to do too much. Narrow down your visit to one or two attractions that interest you. Among your options are Palácio Nacional de Sintra, Castelo dos Mouros, Palácio da Pena, Monserrate, and Quinta da Regaleira. The most popular attractions, Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira, make for a rewarding combination. With a bit of planning you should be able to squeeze one or two more attractions en route to each.
Inside tip: Don’t try and walk between the attractions. Purchase a round trip bus ticket on arrival to save time.
How to get there by train: There are trains with Portuguese Railways (CP) between Lisbon and Sintra that depart every 30 minutes. The journey takes approximately 40 minutes.
This once quaint fishing village may have become a top tourist destination in recent years, but it’s still worth a visit if you’re staying in Lisbon. It’s easy to reach by rail, and the journey is scenic and relaxing. Once in Cascais you’ll find historical charm and a sense of nobility. This is due to the town’s history as a fishing village and a summer retreat for King Luís I. Most people spend the day exploring the old town on foot, and then head towards Parque do Marechal Carmona, Museu do Mar-Rei D. Carlos and Marina de Cascais. There are also panoramic views across the coast from the Santa Marta Lighthouse.
Inside tip: From Cascais you’re just a few miles away from another fascinating attraction, Boca do Inferno, or Mouth of Hell.
How to get there by train: There are CP trains every few minutes between Lisbon and Cascais. The journey takes 33 minutes.
The walled town of Óbidos is two hours north of Lisbon by train. It’s a good stopover point if you’re travelling to Porto, but if you’re pressed for time you can easily do it in a full day trip. The small hilltop village is home to just 3100 residents, but in summer months the population swells with day-trippers. The cobbled streets of Óbidos are lined with touristy shops and a few noteworthy restaurants, but the true appeal of the region lies on the free to access walls. Ascend any of the staircases around the circumference and walk the length of the walls to take in panoramic views of the beautiful surrounds.
Inside tip: Wear a good pair of walking shoes. The train station is located at the foot of the Óbidos hill, and the walls are narrow and surfaces uneven.
How to get there by train: There are trains from Lisboa Santa Apolonia to Óbidos every four hours. The journey takes approximately two hours.
Palace of Queluz
The stunning Palace of Queluz is just a few miles northwest of the capital. It dates back to late 1700s and is one of Portugal’s most opulent palaces. The building is a good example of fine Portuguese architecture, and the sumptuous interior is enthralling. Outside, you can walk the manicured gardens to further soak up the regal atmosphere.
Good to know: There are discounts for online and combined ticket purchases, available on the website.
How to get there by train: Take the Sintra line from Rossio to Queluz-Belas; it runs every 15 minutes. The journey time is just 20 minutes. Once there, follow the signs on foot to reach the palace.
Sesimbra is another charming fishing village within reach of Lisbon. There is no direct train line to the village, but it is within easy reach by bus. The true appeal of the village lies in the bustling harbour. It’s a working port, and as such there’s a hive of activity from boats large and small. The old town is also fascinating to explore on foot, and most visitors pay a visit to the interesting Fortaleza de Santiago, which houses the Museum of the Sea.
Good to know: Sesimbra is a great beach destination, so if possible plan your trip on a sunny day.
How to get there: There is no train to Sesimbra. The easiest way to reach the area is to take the Metro from Restauradores to Praça de Espanha, and then the 203 bus. The total journey time is approximately one hour.
Mafra is another beautiful Portuguese town within reach of the capital. It’s famous for the impressive Mosteiro Pálacio Nacional de Mafra, a large baroque palace that dates back to the 1700s. Over the years it saw vast and lavish expansions, which made it into the incredible sight it is today. The palace is open to visitors, and it will take at least two hours to do it justice. It’s also possible to combine a to Mafra with a stop in the picturesque coastal village of Ericeira, which is seven miles west.
Good to know: The cheapest way to reach the town is by bus, but if you’re travelling as a group you may pay only marginally more if you share the costs of an Uber.
How to get there: There is no train to Mafra. Take the Metro from Martim Moniz to Campo Grande, and then the Mafrense bus to Mafra – Convento. The total journey time is approximately 90 minutes.
Portugal is an amazing country to explore by train. Though no Portuguese Eurail trip is complete without a few days in the capital, don’t rule out day trips from Lisbon to the several fascinating towns and villages just a short bus or train ride away.
Want more on Portugal? Check out these articles:
- How to travel Portugal from south to north by train
- How to spend 2 weeks in Portugal by rail
- 8 things to do in Porto for first-timers