Almendres megalithic standing stones near Evora Portugal

Lisbon is in an extremely fortunate location. Not only is it a fascinating riverside city, it’s also within spitting distance of stunning beaches, beautiful natural parks, distinct wine regions, medieval towns and unique historical sights that make great day trips from Lisbon.

As a capital city, transport connections to outlying towns and cities are generally good. For guided tours, being based in Lisbon means you’ll have the best options for small group tours as most of them depart from and end in the city centre.

Try to make time in your Portugal itinerary for one or more of these Lisbon day trips.

Note: I’ve organised my suggestions geographically in a bid to make it easier for you to decide where to go, whether you’re thinking of a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra or hopping on a train from Lisbon to Cascais, and how to work them into your overall travel plans.

Click on a link to jump straight to a specific day trip destination or read on to see the wealth of possibilities for exploring beyond Lisbon.

North and west of Lisbon: Cascais | Sintra | Fatima | Peniche | Berlenga Island | Óbidos | Alcobaça

South of Lisbon: Azeitão | Arrábida Natural Park | Sesimbra | Palmela | Costa da Caparica | Almada | Setúbal | Troia

East and northeast of Lisbon: Santarém | Almoural | Évora

Don’t forget to check out this article about the best places to stay in Lisbon.

Also find out what to do in Lisbon itself

Day trips from Lisbon heading north and west

1. Sintra, a magical town of palaces and castles

Day trips from Lisbon to Sintra are understandably popular. However, this enchanting town does warrant a longer stay if you can manage it. You’ll be spoilt for choice with royal residences and fanciful mansions so choose which ones you’re going to visit carefully. There are also attractive gardens, a former Carmelite convent and unique wineries to explore.

Use my tips to plan your Sintra itinerary to make the most of your visit, however long or short it may be.

If you have more time, or take a Sintra day tour from Lisbon, you could also see something of the coastline between Sintra and Cascais, including Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of mainland Europe. Or one of the smaller villages, such as Azenhas do Mar.

The Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is also a wonderful place for hiking trails but you’d need to give yourself more time to fit all this in. See this article if you’re looking for accommodation in Sintra.

If you’re interested in a guided tour of Sintra, tell me your preferences using this form and I’ll direct you to the most appropriate tour operator.

The Lisbon to Sintra train takes about 40 minutes leaving from Rossio station or Oriente. The timetable can be found here. It’s not a good idea to drive to Sintra as parking can be a huge problem.

Looking down the well, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra
Looking down the well, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra

2. Cascais, a royal resort town

The darling of Lisboetas and international visitors since King Luís adopted it as his summer residence in the 19th century, Cascais is one of the best day trips from Lisbon – it’s easy and makes for a pleasing day out from the capital.

With a selection of beaches, a collection of museums and art galleries, pretty parks, natural wonders, boutiques, markets and pavements that make your eyes go funny, its appeal is obvious.

Read all about what to do in Cascais.

The train from Lisbon to Cascais takes between 30-40 minutes with frequent departures from Cais de Sodre. It’s a straightforward drive to Cascais but parking can be a problem. 

Things to do in Cascais Portugal. Casa de Santa Maria and lighthouse.
Cascais is an easy day trip from Lisbon, Portugal. Casa de Santa Maria and lighthouse. Photo credit Carlos Paes

3. Fatima tours from Lisbon

The apparition of the Virgin Mary to three children in 1917 led to Fátima becoming one of the world’s most famous Christian pilgrim sites. Once the Catholic Church recognised these events as “worthy of belief”, pilgrims began flocking to this site in their droves.

To get a fascinating understanding of these miraculous events told by a local guide, as well as the snactuary at Fatima, try this full day private guided tour of Fatima from Lisbon.

Alternatively, you can join in the candlelight procession in the evening (April to October) on this half day Fatima tour.

You can also combine a briefer visit to Fatima with a more comprehensive tour of this area on a small group day trip that also includes Batalha, Nazaré and Obidos (Mondays and Fridays).

4. Peniche for a prison, fishing culture and rock formations

The fortress at Peniche was used as a prison for dissenters during the Salazar dictatorship and contains fascinating stories. The museum is currently undergoing renovation and will cover the story of this era when it reopens.

Aside from the fortress, places of interest include the harbour and the curious rock formations near the lighthouse.

The beaches either side of the Peniche headland are popular with surfers although my favourite is Baleal’s sheltered bay. The pancake rocks are worth closer inspection, too.

Read more about Peniche in this post.

Peniche fortress
Peniche fortress

5. Berlenga Island for birds and boats

The boat ride from the fishing town of Peniche to this island nature reserve can be rather bumpy and there is little to do on Berlenga except enjoy its natural beauty, explore the caves by boat, go snorkelling or diving or simply walk to the fortress.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed it when I went so read this to see if it’s one for your itinerary or not. Bear in mind that tours and ferries only run from mid-May to mid-September.

Welcome to Berlenga
Welcome to Berlenga

6. Perfectly pretty medieval Óbidos

If medieval history fires your imagination then an Óbidos day trip from Lisbon could be right up your street.

Óbidos is so pretty that one of Portugal’s kings made a gift of this medieval village to his bride-to-be. Within the ancient citadel wall lies a charming network of cobbled streets and whitewashed cottages to explore.

While the main street, Rua Direita, can get quite crowded, it’s easy to escape from fellow tourists and find peaceful places to wander. It’s a good place for souvenir shopping with some lovely ceramics.

As if these weren’t enough to persuade you, there are regular themed events which take place in the castle grounds, such as the annual chocolate festival and the medieval fair.

Find out more about what to do in Óbidos. You’ll find guided tour suggestions in the article too.

Jumble of cottages, church and castle, Óbidos, Portugal
Jumble of cottages, church and castle, Óbidos, Portugal

7. Alcobaça Monastery and town

One of Central Portugal’s 4 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the 13th century Alcobaça Monastery is also home to the tombs of Portugal’s legendary lovers, Pedro and Inês.

While most visitors don’t see much more than this ancient monument, there are other charms within this town, such as a wine museum and a folklore museum with a collection of colourful costumes and locally-produced ceramics that make Alcobaça worthy of a longer visit.

Read more about things to do in Alcobaça.

Detail of tomb of Inês wearing crown, Alcobaça. Photo © Carolyn Miller
Inês, watched over by angels, Alcobaça monastery

Best day trips from Lisbon heading south

8. Discover cheese, art, wine and tiles in Azeitão

The small village of Vila Noga de Azeitão sits on the edge of the Arrábida Natural Park and gave its name to a deliciously runny sheep’s cheese that should definitely be on your list of food to try in Portugal.

Of the wineries in and around the village, I visited Bacalhôa because I wanted to see the contemporary art collection and 15th century palace as well as taste the locally produced moscatel wine.

The more traditional, José Maria da Fonseca winery, being in the heart of the village, is easier to get to and offers a long family history as well as great wine. It’s also a popular stop for tour groups so it can be a less intimate experience than you’d get at some of the smaller wineries.

While in Azeitão, you could also visit a factory that specialises in making reproductions of traditional Portuguese tiles (azulejos) and even have a go at using some age-old techniques. Read about my experience of Azeitão and find out how to get there by public transport.

Several Lisbon tours make a stop in Azeitão on the way to or from Arrábida Natural Park, such as this 4×4 tour, which visits several other beautiful spots, such as the Lagoa de Albufeira, Cabo Espichel cape, the medieval village of Palmela.

Note: If you’re most interested in food and winery tours, complete this form to get more information about the options.

9. Arrábida Natural Park

Depending on how you travel, you could add a scenic drive through Arrábida Natural Park and even some time on one of its beautiful beaches on your Azeitão excursion.

Parking near beaches like Praia dos Galapinhos is no longer possible in summer so plan ahead to use the shuttle services – see this post for more details.

There are hikes in these hills but it would be better to use a guide rather than attempt them alone.

If you time it right (i.e. Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday) and book ahead, you could also visit the Franciscan monastery nestled amid the greenery.

You could also head to the western cape of Espichel for a completely different geological landscape and convent. More details in this post: Things To See And Do In Arrábida Natural Park And Cabo Espichel

You can experience the excitement of kayaking in Arrábida Natural Park or maybe a more sedate but equally exciting dolphin watching cruise.

Serra da Arrábida natural park, Portugal
Serra da Arrábida natural park

10. Sesimbra, seaside fishing town with castle

Sesimbra is a lovely little seaside town at the base of this natural park that’s peaceful and non-touristy outside the peak summer months.

The castle is well worth exploring for stunning views and interesting exhibitions about medieval life and architecture as well as the history of the castle, Sesimbra and Portugal in the context of what was going on in the wider world throughout the ages.

Find out more about Sesimbra and its castle here.

Church of Nossa Senhora do Castelo, Sesimbra, viewed from battlements
Church of Nossa Senhora do Castelo, Sesimbra, viewed from battlements

11. Palmela Castle and wineries

Palmela lies on the northeast edge of Arrábida Natural Park and offers glorious views of the swathes of sand in the Tróia peninsular as well as beautiful green countryside.

The medieval hilltop castle is fun to explore and you could even spend the night in a former monastery within the castle walls, built by the Order of St. James.

Palmela is also firmly ensconced within the Peninsula de Setúbal wine region so there are several wineries you can visit nearby. I visited Palmela by bus from Lisbon (Transportes Sul do Tejo #565) so picked a winery within walking distance of the town. Quinta do Piloto turned out to be a delightful place and possibly my favourite out of all the many wineries I’ve visited in Portugal.

Here are 6 wineries near Lisbon, including Quinta do Piloto, that you can visit.

Palmela Castle, pousada and Serra da Arrábida
Palmela Castle, pousada and Serra da Arrábida

12. Costa da Caparica for vast sandy beaches

I haven’t spent much time in the Costa da Caparica but if you’re looking for an alternative to the busy urban beaches on the Estoril-Cascais coast, simply head across the Tagus River.

With a beach that stretches for 30 km, you won’t have trouble finding space for your towel. While the northern end of this sandy strip is backed by urban developments, if you head further down the coast, stone pine trees replace the concrete. 

Last time I was there, I ended up in a small fishing community, Fonte da Telha, by accident but enjoyed a tasty fish lunch at one of the informal local restaurants. It’s a popular spot for beachgoers in summer.

For practical information about how to get to Costa da Caparica, see this article.

Empty beach, Costa da Caparica, Lisbon Portugal
Empty beach, Costa da Caparica, Lisbon, Portugal

13. Almada and Cristo Rei

You can see the massive statue of Christ the King (Cristo Rei) with his outstretched arms from many vantage points in Lisbon.

For spectacular views from the other side of the river, take the ferry from Cais do Sodré across to Cacilhas and a bus or taxi to the Cristo Rei monument. Content yourself with the Lisbon views from the terrace or pay a few euros to take the lift to a significantly higher and windier platform.

To the left of the ferry port in Almada there’s a restored 19th century Portuguese warship which costs €4 to climb aboard and another €1 for an explanatory leaflet in English.

For a riverside lunch or sun downers with great views, Ponto Final restaurant is a good option. Look for the yellow chairs just past the rather shabby row of warehouses on the waterfront, to the right of the ferry.

Cristo Rei, Almada, Lisbon
Cristo Rei, Almada, Lisbon

14. Setúbal for dolpins, culture and colour

The historical centre of Setúbal is charming and regularly changing street decorations and delightful murals give it a splash of colour and creativity. Cheerful ceramic figurines brighten up the pretty city park while patterned dolphins grace the harbour.

A wide avenue separates the old town from the waterfront and the impressive market and there’s a fascinating little museum that details the inner workings of a sardine factory, among other things. Sardine canning was a major industry in Setúbal for many years and Mike, ever the industrial tourist, found the exhibition fascinating.

The white sandy beaches of Arrábida Natural Park are but a few kilometres away and there are other pleasant beaches even closer to the city. Tróia’s are a mere ferry ride away.

Find out more about things to do in Setúbal in this post.

Dolphins in Setubal
Dolphins in Setubal

15. Tróia for Roman ruins and beaches

Tróia is at the top of the sand spit that separates the Sado Estuary from the Atlantic Ocean. Once inhabited by Romans, the Tróia peninsular is now a popular holiday resort with modern facilities and a range of accommodation if you feel like staying longer.

Activities centre around watersports and the pristine beaches although it’s possible to rent bicycles or play golf here too. You can visit the ruins of the Roman fish sauce factory and see the vestiges of the once thriving community.

The white sand beaches are gorgeous with views of sand islands and the forested mountains of Arrábida Natural Park.

If you have a car, you could drive along the peninsular to the upmarket beach and village at Comporta. Contrast the obvious wealth here with the ramshackle fishing harbour at Carrasqueira and the riverside town of Alcácer do Sal.

Bico das Lulas Tróia Beach, Setúbal Portugal
Bico das Lulas Tróia Beach

Day trips from Lisbon to the Alentejo and Ribatejo

16. A Lisbon to Évora day trip for bones, Roman temple and history

An hour and a half from Lisbon by car and a couple of hours by train, the walled city of Évora is one of the most popular excursions from Lisbon. It’s also a UNESCO site.

While I found the Roman temple slightly disappointing, the haunting Chapel of Bones alone makes the journey worthwhile. Add to that an ancient university with original azulejo panels, a 15th century aqueduct with houses built into the arches and many charming squares and cobbled streets and you’ve got the makings of a very pleasant day trip if you can’t spare longer.

There are wineries just outside the city and megalithic monuments such as the double circle of standing stones at Almendres.

If you can extend your itinerary to allow at least one overnight stay in Évora, you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied, especially if you factor in tours that start from Évora and venture further into the Alentejo culture and countryside. See my Évora accommodation picks.

The best day trips from Lisbon to Évora include stops at the Almendres or the craft village of Arraiolos.

To experience an insightful journey through the history of Portugal and humanity try this full day tour of dolmens. Or maybe a small group tour of Evora, setting out from Lisbon and including wine-tasting. 
Decorative skulls and paintings, Chapel of Bones, Evora
Decorative skulls and paintings, Chapel of Bones, Evora

17. Santarém, Gothic capital of Portugal

It seems to be a ‘thing’ in Portugal for towns and cities to proclaim themselves a capital of something as part of their identity. It’s easy to see why Santarém went for Gothic architecture as their claim to fame. There are several stunning examples, my favourite being the Igreja da Graça, which has a gorgeous rose window.

More modern buildings that attract attention include the market hall, clad with azulejo panels as is the train station.

One of the prettiest spots in Santarém is the Portas do Sol Garden. Walk around the perimeter walls for views of the River Tagus and surrounding countryside or stop for refreshments in the café or restaurant within the park.

This tourist map may be of use to you. Note that Santarem train station is a fair distance from the historical centre so you may want to take a taxi up the hill if you’re not coming by car.

Gothic window, Santarém
Gothic window, Santarém

18. Almoural, Constância and Tomar, a Knights Templar odyssey

History buffs will enjoy delving into the history of the early days of Portugal as a country. Almoural Castle sits on its own tiny islet in the Tagus River and has done since Gualdim Pais, Grand Master of the Knights Templar, built it in the 13th century. The best way to get to it is the little ferry boat from the shore.

Nearby Constância is a pretty riverside town of white and yellow houses and a strong connection with the poetry of famous Portuguese writer, Luís de Camões.

If you’re intrigued by the story of the Knights Templar who were instrumental in defending and extending the borders of the newly formed country of Portugal, Tomar should also be on your list of places to visit.

Another charming riverside town, Tomar’s hilltop Convent of Christ was built as the headquarters for these Christian warriors and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

See them all on this Knights Templar Day Tour From Lisbon (Tuesday to Saturday)

View along the River Tagus from the towers of Almourol castle, Portugal. Photography by Julie Dawn Fox
View along the River Tagus from the towers of Almourol castle

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1 Comment

  1. Fantastic post and suggestions! Sintra is somewhere I’d especially like to visit! Thanks for all your other suggestions to.

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