I couldn’t believe this day. I had escaped the grey clouds of Lisbon and an hour later was greeted by perfect skies. The water was playing with the stones in the wash beneath my feet. It was blinding so much, I had to pull out my shades even though it was a chilly January morning. The weather in Portugal is quite fantastic year-round. Palm trees certainly helped create a tropical look and I was so happy I arranged spontaneous day trips from Lisbon.
How to Get Around on Your Lisbon Day Trips
Portugal’s capital is absolutely fabulous, no doubt. There’s easily a week you can fill with a Lisbon itinerary. But even so, you shouldn’t just stay in this one place. The country itself isn’t big and it’s easy and affordable to get around by train.
What’s more, the two most popular day trips from Lisbon can easily be reached by local trains. A return ticket to both Cascais and Sintra costs €2.15/€1.10 (adult/child) and one to Sintra. You see, there really isn’t an excuse to not leave the city for a day.
One thing that you should keep in mind is that Sintra is a tourist magnet and gets insanely crowded on weekends and holidays. I was naïve enough to visit when on a weekend during a holiday and had trouble walking around freely in Sintra castle. The buses filled up quickly and queues were lining up the whole street for a chance to get on another one.
Cascais, on the other hand, is more of a coastal getaway. People come here to sit by the rugged cliffs and take selfies in the breeze. They sit in cafes and parade around the cobblestone streets. Rarely do they walk further than the cliffs. This means, you pretty much can breathe easy once you walk past there and towards the lighthouse and beyond. There are pavements along the way and buses will take you, too.
A Day Trip to Sintra
Once the train spits you out in Sintra, you have three options. You could walk around the old town centre, stopping by at a local pastry shop to satisfy your sweet tooth and checking out the botanic gardens on the mountain side. You could take the bus up to the castle. There are special tourist lines connecting various castles and hotspots. You can take the 343 line on a soingle loop for 5€ a day. Or you could walk up by yourself. Especially when the queues are long, chances are that you will be just as fast. Still, you’ll see so much more!
Naturally, I chose the last path. Armed with a cinnamon covered flower-shaped crispy donut, I turned left in front of the old town hall. Up I went into a public garden with castle-like buildings dotting the winding ways. It’s good to know that the toilets here are free to use. While all of this is very scenic, it soon turns into a medium challenging hiking trail. I did huff and puff occasionally but was mesmerized nonetheless by the lush forests and the views over the castles.
Sintra has two castles. The Castle of the Moors was built in the 8th and 9th centuries and certainly looks its part. The exact opposite it seems is Pena Palace. Handily, it’s located right opposite. A burst of colours, in yellows, reds and oranges, it was the brainchild of German duke. He had extravagant tastes and blended a wild mix of African styles to Romantic tastes with gothic architecture.
Taking in the Sunshine and Breeze at Cascais
Like Sintra, Cascais is just under an hour away from Lisbon. You get on a train and are pretty much in the town centre once you step out of the train. Old cobblestone streets will guide you to local restaurants, souvenir shops and cafes from where you can people watch. Take a seat outside and let the sun shine on your head. If it gets too hot, you can always invest in a sun hat. They are sold everywhere.
There is some pretty cool street art along the way to the cliffs. Should you decide to walk, it’s just half an hour away. But don’t stop there and keep walking. The views and lookouts will get better and better. The main attraction, you cannot miss. There are little cafes and signs pointing you to where you need to descend the stairs. Be prepared that you will have to wait for a good shot as the tourist selfie game is strong here.
If you’re up for it, head further towards the lighthouse. Here, you can shop to your heart’s content. Local designers offer their creations and tasteful interior decoration. You can get wall paintings, retro fashion, vintage jewellery all the way up to modern minimalist house deco. Another hour away is a fortress. You can always take the bus as the route goes along a main street.
Travelling Portugal from Lisbon
Going on day trips from Lisbon is super easy and convenient. Even if you were to travel a little further, that won’t be a problem. In my Portugal itinerary, I covered Lisbon and its day trips as well as Porto and day trips from there. Generally, you can get day trips from under 10€. Just make sure to check if you have the right transport card for that.