By Rachael Funk
A sun-drenched vacation to the terracotta rooftops and brightly colored city of Lisbon is the perfect way to unwind. In a place where old-fashioned trams still rumble through town and the cool Atlantic is only minutes away, you could easily spend the whole trip comparing Michelin-star restaurants and hunting down the best street art.
With a million things to discover in Portugal, you’re in for a great retreat whether you stay close to Lisbon or strike out on your own. If your wanderlust never rests, here are some adventures you can add to your itinerary.
Driving time: 50m
A picturesque town nestled in the hills of Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais, Sintra is one of the most popular day trips from Lisbon. Packed with historic monuments, tons of attractions, and striking architecture, this charming city offers plenty to do. Tour the brightly colored Pena Palace then stop by the Quinta da Regaleira for a fun dose of mysticism and gothic adventure. See castles, mansions, and panoramic views over the entire Sintra coastline, then head back to Lisbon for a nightcap.
Driving time: 1h
Cascais is one of the finest resort towns in the region and has something to please every traveler. With calm, friendly beaches in the east and untamed beaches to the north, you can choose from a number of experiences in this quaint fishing town. The 19th-century architecture, shopping, and museums in town offer a peaceful afternoon after a visit to the Boca do Inferno cliff formations or the beachfront promenade to Estoril.
Palácio Nacional de Queluz
Driving time: 45m
The National Palace and Gardens of Queluz beckon visitors from all over the world. Showcasing royal opulence from the 18th and 19th centuries, this palace was built at the request of Pedro III and used as a royal residence. A museum of decorative art has been opened to exhibit the royal family’s collections. The gardens surrounding the palace are filled with relaxing fountains, ornamental ponds, and beautiful sculptures.
Mosteiro Pálacio Nacional de Mafra
Driving time: 1h
Train and bus transfer: 1h 30m
The Monastery and National Palace of Mafra began as a Franciscan monastery, but evolved into a sumptuous palace. A powerful statement of Baroque extravagance, the rooms have been recreated and refurbished to the grandeur they knew when King João VI resided there in the early 1800s. Some rooms and halls in the monastery and the basilica are also open to the public.
Reserva Natural do Estuário do Sado
Driving time: 1h 35m
Train and ferry: 1h 15m
The Sado Estuary National Reserve is a paradise for bird watchers and nature lovers. A sightseeing river cruise will bring you up close to the bottlenose dolphins that frolic in the shallow water and mouth of the estuary. Snap a photo of the Igreja de Jesus and Castelo de Sao Filipe towering over the city of Setúbal, or pack a picnic and make an excursion to the unspoiled Península de Tróia.
Driving time: 1h 45m
Train: 1h 25m
If your bucket list includes visiting a Roman temple, prehistoric megaliths, or seeing a city with over 20 centuries of history, you can check it all off in Évora. Beautifully preserved, this town will transport you back to the 14th century with its medieval architecture, winding streets, and manifold monuments. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this is a great city to see on foot!
Driving time: 3h 15m
Sprawled along the banks of the Douro, this charismatic city is a Portuguese gem. Speckled with magnificent bridges and vibrant colors around every corner, Porto showcases the best of Portugal. Have lunch in the sun and enjoy the afternoon in galleries, vintage shops, taking in the street art, or getting lost in Livraria Lello, one of the most visited bookshops in the world. Don’t forget to leave time to sample the city’s most famous export – port wine.
Still planning your vacation to Portugal? Learn more about the spectacular places to visit in Portugal.