When booking a holiday to Portugal, you’re spoilt for choice between the sweeping beaches of the Algarve or the attractions of the capital, Lisbon, and city life. If you choose to holiday in Lisbon, here are some amazing day trips of the city to add variety and culture to your trip to Portugal.
In the centre of the historic town you’ll find Sintra National Palace with its towering conical chimneys and whitewashed walls dating back to the 13th century.
You may want to drive high into the hills and discover the network of walkways, courtyards and turrets of the 10th century Moorish Castle found there. Continue even higher to the iconic Pena National Palace, a palace of two halves; the 16th century convent and the 19th century extension with its colourful walls and eclectic architecture, Pena is straight out of a fairy-tale.
Some of the hills are extremely steep, so you may prefer to take transportation rather than walking between the palaces. The circular bus routes provide a convenient hop on, hop off service but are often full to standing, so may be consider the private tuk tuk operators who will transport you around for the day.
With an elevation of over 500 metres above sea level, the Pena National Palace and the Moorish Castle provide stunning panoramic views over the tops of the other palaces down to the coast, so don’t forget your binoculars to get the most out of these unique vantage points.
When Lisbon city-dwellers visit the coast, they come to Cascais; a green and beautiful coastal town and one of the richest municipalities in Portugal. Cascais is known for its surfing, water sports and sailing and also hosts regular competitions.
You can explore the centre of the town on foot, but if you venture out a little further you’ll find golf clubs, horse riding tours, world class tennis facilities and a huge casino at nearby Estoril; in fact, Cascais is fast becoming a centre for sports and leisure activities.
Back in the centre of town, overlooking the Marina and the rows of yachts, you’ll find the fortress with underground rooms to explore and stone walls above.
For souvenir shopping, explore the wooden market stalls in the park selling artisan and hand-made goods, as well as chocolate cups filled with Ginja; Lisbon’s own trademark liqueur of brandy fermented with sour cherries and sugar.
The tourist centre holds a wide selection of restaurants with some offering beautiful views as you dine.
Belem is not very far at all from the capital and may be well worth a visit. At less than four miles from Lisbon, the tram or train service provide easy access to the historic parish of Belem, housing the official residence of the Portuguese President and crammed full of history and culture.
Dominating much of the landscape is the impressive Jerónimos Monastery, built in the 15th century and further developed during the 16th. Take a look inside at the impossibly tall stone ceiling and you’ll wonder how on earth they managed it.
Opposite the monastery, on the banks of the river Tagus, is the ‘Monument to the Discoveries’ where Henry the Navigator stands on a giant stone ship’s prow leading a group of historic figures as he looks out over the river.
Further along from Henry’s monument is the Tower of Belem; built as a watch tower to protect the Tagus Estuary which now provides a dramatic backdrop for photographs.
Take a relaxing walk around the beautiful Praça do Império, a garden of open green spaces, statues and a stunning central fountain, or wander over to the cafes and restaurants located next to park for a “pastel de nata”.
If the call of the sea appeals to you, the maritime museum presents a comprehensive history of shipping and sailing right up to modern day fleets, housing memorabilia from exploration, military and pleasure sailing as well as an impressive room full of complete vessels.
Each day trip provides a different and unique experience; choose historical Sintra, coastal Cascais or culture in Belem to build your own perfect holiday in Portugal.