For travelers eager to experience culture, see sights, and eat food in a part of Europe which feels fresh and new, Lisbon couldn’t be a more perfect getaway. Thanks to renewed interest, the capital of Portugal has never been a hotter destination to visit and it only takes a few days in Lisbon to see why. But you shouldn’t stop at just seeing the sights around this fun city, as there are Lisbon day trips which entertain just as much. With any of these days trips you’ll see proof that there’s so many things to see in Portugal outside of Lisbon, and these are just the start.
As soon as anyone starts talking about the best day trips from Lisbon, the town of Sintra is sure to pop up in the conversation. That’s because this former resort town not far from Lisbon is a destination loaded with plenty of beautiful landmarks, each with their own cultural and historical significance. In the middle of town you’ll find the Sintra National Palace, which really sets the tone for your visit with its preserved interior. You don’t need to go far to experience other glamorous palaces either, from the Quinta da Regaleira Palace with its spiraling inverted towers to the bold and colorful Pena National Palace that rests above it all. Elsewhere among the forest and hills you’ll spot the Castle of the Moors which overlooks the town. In addition to all these landmarks you can also set out for a hike along one of the many forest walking trails.
Getting there: Trains run from Lisbon out to Sintra along the regional train line every 10 minutes, getting there within 40 minutes. For a more relaxed visit, allow someone else to handle the logistics on a small group guided tour.
If you’ve come to Lisbon looking for some time down by the beach, then Cascais is a great place to start. Not only is it really close to Lisbon, but you have a fantastic selection of beaches to choose from. Out on the Atlantic coast west of Lisbon, popular beaches include the harbor beach of Praia da Ribeira, the city beach of Praia da Conceição, and many more towards neighboring Estoril. Thanks to its beaches and traditional tiled streets, Cascais enjoys a relaxed seaside vibe, offering a nice break from Lisbon’s bustling ways. The town also has a few sights to entertain those on vacation, from the seaside cave of Boca do Inferno to the Lighthouse Museum of Santa Marta which is not far away. The sight of the old Fortress of Our Lady of Light overlooking the harbor in town isn’t too bad either.
Getting there: When it comes to easy train trips from Lisbon, there aren’t many easier than this, with trains to Cascais running every 15 minutes along the regional train line. Many people also choose to combine Cascais with Sintra for a day tour and see both.
Some places, despite their size or remoteness, are essential tourist destinations because of the experience they provide visitors. That is the historic walled town of Obidos in a nutshell, one of the most popular day tours from Lisbon. It may not be the easiest place to reach, but once you’re walking among the wonderfully preserved and colourful traditional houses, that hardly seems important. After admiring the white, yellow, and blue houses, head up to do a lap along the precarious path around the town walls. From here you can see the whole town, all the way from the central castle, to the São Tiago church-turned-book shop. You can also see sights beyond the town walls, such as the rustic abandoned windmill and ancient aqueduct. During you’re sightseeing, don’t miss a chance to try the local cherry liqueur, ginja.
Getting there: As Obidos is included as a stop in many tours of central Portugal, jumping on a guided tour is the most common way to see the town along with other places. If you only want to see Obidos though, you’ll want to take the hour-long “Rapida Verde” express bus which runs every hour on weekdays but less frequently on weekends.
There’s plenty of nature to be explored in Portugal and a great place to experience its diversity is from the town of Sesimbra. Set on the Setubal bay, south of Lisbon, Sesimbra is best known for its fishing industry and beaches. Right in the center of town you’ll come across Praia do Ouro and Praia da Califórnia, two lovely sandy beaches. Watching over Sesimbra are the diverse landscapes of the Arrabida National Park, full of rolling hills, beaches, vineyards, and epic coastline. Thanks to this variety the park is quite popular for outdoor activities like hiking, diving, and mountain climbing.Also not far from Sesimbra is the dramatic, barren coastline of Cabo Espichel. Standing atop the eroded cliffs, you get a chance to appreciate this stunning stretch of Portugal’s Atlantic coast.
Getting there: Because of how large Sesimbra and the Arrábida Natural Park are, visiting them on a guided tour is a good way to cover some ground. You can get to Sesimbra on your own on a 50 minute bus ride from Lisbon.
Typically ignored for other more extravagant destinations, those who visit Setúbal will find a working class port city with raw character. Wander down the narrow streets and alleys of the city’s historic center and you’ll see city life unconcerned with the regular tourist traps. One of the few landmarks in the center of Setúbal is the Monastery of Jesus of Setúbal, which is home to a museum with 15th and 16th century art. From the old town, head for the relaxed Parque Urbano de Albarquel by the waterfront and the city beaches. For a dose of Portugal’s trademark azulejo tiles, head on up to Rua Forte where there is a fantastic terrace area with city views. For the best views of Setúbal though, you need to head on up to the Fortaleza de San Filipe, where a hotel now occupies this historic fortress. Still, it’s possible for visitors to explore the fort’s ramparts and look out over the city.
Getting there: Setúbal is easy to get to from Lisbon, with regular bus and train connections taking around 50 minutes to get there.
Can’t get enough of charming and historic Portuguese cities? Then you’re going to want to put Coimbra on your list as it’s without a doubt one of the best places to visit in Portugal. While Coimbra was at one time the capital of Portugal, the city is generally best known for its historic university. Sitting on the hill top at the center of the Old Town, the university just so happens to occupy the former Coimbra Royal Palace. Taking a tour inside the palace, you’ll see elegant halls, antiquated classrooms, but the most impressive sight is certainly the magnificent Joanina University Library. Down in the old town, there are plenty of classic European sights like the Old Cathedral and Praça 8 de Maio square, not to mention the beautiful Mondego riverfront. Across the river lies another important landmark, the Convent of St. Francis.
Getting there: Taking the train to Coimbra from Lisbon takes roughly two hours with fairly regular connections. Alternatively, consider combining Coimbra with other destinations as part of a guided tour of this part of Portugal, which is often the best way to do it.
An important cultural destination in Portugal, the town of Fátima is the country’s major Catholic pilgrimage destination and as such is one of the best side trips from Lisbon. Found in central Portugal, Fátima is an ideal day trip for those of Catholic faith or simply anyone interested in important religious destinations. A visit to Fátima centers on the Sanctuary of Fátima, the religious complex that sprung up after the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared multiple times in 1917. Around a large square the Sanctuary features the original Chapel of the Apparitions, as well as two basilicas either side, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary and the Basilica of the Holy Trinity. To learn more about the apparitions of the Virgin Mary and Fatima, the Wax Museum of Fátima offers a novel approach to the town’s history.
Getting there: Tours to Fatima often include stops in other interesting destinations along the way, like Alcobaça and Nazare, making it an excellent way to do this day trip. Otherwise, take one of the super frequent buses that take an hour and a half hours to get there.
For a trip back to Portugal’s past, there’s no better day trip than to the town of Évora. East of Lisbon in the country’s Alentejo region, Évora is so rich in preserved history that it’s even been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitors are bound to be charmed straight away by the town’s whitewashed houses and quaint medieval streets, which reflect the mix of cultures that have left their mark on Évora. At the heart of the historic city center lies the Évora Cathedral with its sensational architecture, and towers which you can climb up for special rooftop views. Less glamorous but just as intriguing is the Chapel of Bones, where human skulls and bones decorate the interior. One of the town’s most significant historical landmarks is the Roman Temple of Évora which dates back to the 1st century A.D. Not far from Évora lies the Cromlech of the Almendres, where you’ll see ancient megalithic monuments.
Getting there: Reaching Evora from Lisbon, you have your pick of options. One of which is an hour and a half train ride which runs several times a day. More frequent though are the hourly buses which take one hour and 45 minutes. If, however, you want to fully learn about the history here and see the megalithic Almendres, a guided tour is the way to go.
9. Ericeira & Mafra
Thanks to its endless coastline and beaches, the surf industry in Portugal is booming. One of the best destinations to visit on the country’s coast and one of the best places to visit from Lisbon is the seaside town of Ericeira. A traditional fishing village with plenty of character and scenery, visiting Ericeira is a chance to see coastal Portugal at its best. If you want to, and have time, you can even have some surf lessons while you’re in Europe’s first World Surfing Reserve. Just inland from Ericeira you’ll find the lesser known city of Mafra, the centerpiece of which is the Mafra National Palace. Inside this vast building lies not only a palace, but also a convent and library, all of which can be toured.
Getting there: Buses run hourly to and from Lisbon to Ericeira and Mafra, while buses between the two are even more frequent. For an easier time on the day and to see both Mafra and Ericeira, it may be best to take an organized tour.
Almada may be easily mistaken as still being a part of Lisbon, but separated by the Tagus River this city is very much its own place. That being said, Almada is only a short trip from Lisbon. The two cities may share the monumental 25 de Abril Bridge, but other than that they’re surprisingly different in atmosphere. A visit to Almada should start with the seaside neighborhood of Cacilhas, where you can look back to Lisbon over the water and admire the lighthouse. Heading up past the elevated Old Town of Almada and Miradouro Boca do Vento, you’ll eventually come to the most obvious attraction of Almada, the statue of Cristo Rei. Standing 110 meters tall, this replica of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro is hard to miss and offers more superb viewpoints of Lisbon both at the foot and at the top of the monument.
Getting there: Certainly the easiest place to reach from Lisbon, Almada is just a 10 minute ferry ride from the Cais do Sodré ferry terminal.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of day trips from Lisbon, but they are the ones you really should consider first. Portugal has plenty to see beyond Lisbon, so think of these spots as some good places to start.