Lisbon, Portugal’s charismatic capital, is endowed with enough bewitching architecture, mesmerizing miradouros (viewpoints), and first-class museums to keep any traveler captivated. But leave the city limits and you’ll be treated to an equally enchanting array of day trips from Lisbon, each offering a bite-size introduction to Portugal’s treasures.
Sun-bleached hinterlands dotted with cork oaks lead to prized vineyards. Coast-clinging routes arrive at upscale beach resorts and detours inland promise religious landmarks and offbeat medieval towns. In less than 90 minutes in any direction from Lisbon, you’ll be whisked through varied landscapes and UNESCO-listed monuments.
From castles and convents to palatial complexes and parasol-specked golden sands, these are the best day trips from Lisbon for a peek into Portugal beyond the capital.
For centuries, serene Sintra has been regarded as Lisbon’s optimum retreat by Portuguese royalty and visiting nobility.
These VIP visitors are to thank for the numerous palaces, monasteries, and stately homes that dot the forest-shrouded mountain range just 30 minutes from Lisbon—though it was the Romans and Moors that constructed the first defenses.
Nowadays, due to the devastating earthquake of 1755 and, more importantly, the founding of the Republic in 1910, most of these whimsical palaces and opulent homes have been restored and are open to the public, providing ample photo opportunities while learning about Portugal’s rich regal history.
Numerous eclectic architectural feats make up this World Heritage Site, with the colorful and playful 19th-century Pena Palace being the most visited.
The ruined walls of the historic Moorish Castle and the grounds of the Renaissance-style Quinta da Regaleira will also vie for your attention.
Be sure to descend the staircase of the inverted tower, known as the Initiation Well. Be amazed by the intricate decoration of Monserrate Palace, one of the most beautiful places in Portugal.
Seeing it all in one day is impossible, but you can tour two or three of these landmarks on a fast-paced day trip from Lisbon.
Still, Sintra isn’t only about dense forests and fairytale palaces. On the other side of the mountains, the Atlantic waves crash against limestone and granite crags and dramatic rock formations that protrude from the cerulean swell.
Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe, is a cinematic location to take in the salt-kissed air. The whitewashed homes of Azenhas do Mar, one of Portugal’s best beach towns, provide a picturesque setting to take a dip.
Often called Portugal’s prettiest town, Óbidos is one of the best day trips from Lisbon for those seeking a well-preserved medieval citadel.
Perched on a hilltop and ringed by 11th-century defensive walls (which were restored following the 1755 earthquake), the approach feels like you’re entering a postcard.
Behind the crenelated defenses, which can be walked atop for scenic panoramas, you’ll find a quaint, whitewashed village spread over a cluster of cobbled streets.
Inside the traditional homes, bordered by cadmium yellow and vivid blues, bookshops, boutiques and traditional local products are sold in this UNESCO City of Literature.
The most ubiquitous refreshment here is Ginjinha, a local cherry liquor created by 17th-century monks, which tastes even more delicious when savored from a chocolate cup.
Continuing along the bougainvillea and flower-pot-decorated streets, you’ll reach the hulking Óbidos castle. Constructed by the Moors in the 12th century, it’s considered one of the seven wonders of Portugal, although sadly, to visit the interior, you’ll need to be a guest of the now luxury hotel.
Read: Three Days in Lisbon
Arrábida Natural Park
With innumerable beautiful beaches near Lisbon, you’re never far from a superb shoreline, and the Parque Natural da Arrábida, just 20 miles south of the city, is arguably the most spectacular stretch on the capital’s doorstep.
Tranquil turquoise waters front pristine sandy bays, uninterrupted forests rise on the low-slung hills behind, and in the distance, swirls of sand and cerulean mark the start of the Tróia Peninsula.
For beach day trips from Lisbon, it doesn’t get much better than this. However, the two bookends of this famous national park—the towns of Setúbal and Sesimbra—are also worthy of a visit.
In Setúbal, you’ll find a thriving port city where choco frito, the local signature dish of fried cuttlefish, pulls in the crowds. Sesimbra, by contrast, is a lazy-day affair, with a breathtaking clam-shaped bay overlooked by a beachfront fort and hill-crowning castle.
From a traditional fishing village to an upscale beach resort, Cascais was one of the country’s first major holiday destinations.
Portuguese royalty and visiting nobility began the trend, spending their summer retreats here in the 19th century, helping to establish Cascais as one of the continent’s most desirable destinations.
Cascais is reachable in under 40 minutes from Lisbon’s Cais do Sodré train station and the tracks never stray far from the Tagus River, offering glimpses of old fortifications and sandy shores en route.
These historic defenses protected Lisbon and the waterway, and one of the grandest, the 16th-century Cidadela de Cascais, now serves as a visitable hotel and art gallery.
Further nods to nobility are prominent, with some former lavish villas functioning as museums. The highlights are the Santa Maria House Museum and the palatial-style Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães art collection.
As Cascais is situated at the heart of the Portuguese Riviera, finding a spot of silky sand is as simple as strolling a stone’s throw away along the coast. For a wild, wind-whipped Portuguese beach experience, head further west to dune-backed Praia do Guincho, one of the best surfing spots near the capital.
Once little more than a rural village, the landscape and lifestyle of Mafra were rewritten in the early 18th century when King João V, feeling flush due to looted Brazilian gold, ordered the construction of the magnificent Royal Convent and Palace of Mafra.
Regarded as Portugal’s most important baroque monument, a title which helped the 10-acre complex receive UNESCO status in 2019, the imposing turreted limestone façade dominates the still sleepy city.
Stepping inside, you’re able to explore the cloisters, parts of the convent, the basilica and some of the 1,200 rooms that form the noble quarters. Marble sculptures from Italy and fine art by Portuguese Masters decorate the hallways, with the pièce de résistance being the 18th-century Rococo-style library.
With wooden shelves laden under the weight of nearly 40,000 volumes, polished marble floors, and a small colony of bats who patrol for page-eating pests by night, it’s perhaps the most marvelous literary space in Portugal.
Most day trips from Lisbon to Mafra focus entirely on the palace. However, with the journey from Lisbon to Mafra possible in 40 minutes, you could also visit the slightly out-of-town Aldeia Típica José Franco.
The realized dream of local potter José Franco and his wife Maria Helena, this small reconstruction of a typical Portuguese village is a true treasure, both for its historical insights and attention to detail.
Azeitão & the Setúbal Wine Region
Portugal’s wines have long been celebrated by in-the-know oenophiles, making a tasting and tour of the country’s vineyards an afternoon treat.
With the most famed producing regions, such as the Douro Valley and Alentejo, harder to visit on day trips from Lisbon, set your sights on a location closer to the city instead: the under-the-radar Setúbal Wine Region.
Best accessed via the town of Azeitão, a mere 40-minute drive from Lisbon, this internationally unsung terroir promises an interesting palate alongside its time-saving proximity.
Consisting of two high-ranked DOC (Denomination of Controlled Origin) production areas—Setúbal and Pamela—these regional wines are defined by their limestone, clay and sand-heavy grounds shaped by the Mediterranean climate.
Fruity and deep ruby reds, such as Castelão, gain their depth in the sandy soils, while the two leading white varieties, Fernão Pires and Arinto, are equally as intense in their aromas. For something sweeter, sample Moscatel, a fortified dessert wine aged in oak.
To best enjoy the experience, booking a tour that takes in a couple of vineyards is advisable—leaving you free to focus on drinking rather than driving in this territory sparse in public transport. Most guides will also incorporate a tasting of Queijo de Azeitão, a local cured semi-soft cheese considered one of the country’s culinary highlights.
Portugal is famous for its surf scene, and nowhere is that more true than Nazaré, a laid-back coastal town around 90 minutes north of Lisbon. Best known for its Atlantic surges—the highest wave ever ridden at Praia do Norte topped out at 85 feet—the town has established itself as an adrenaline-chasing capital.
Even if you’re not a passionate fan of the sport, it’s hard not to be blown away by the roar of the tumbling Atlantic and the sight of daredevil swell seekers.
Take it all in from the 16th-century Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo’s viewing platform for some of the most up-close views. If you start to feel a chill, fear not; Nazaré is known for its warm, fishermen-friendly knitwear, with a few boutiques in town still selling traditional handmade sweaters.
But it’s not just the waves that make Nazaré one of the best day trips from Lisbon. Atop the higher part of the town, reachable by funicular, the serene Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazaré provides a spiritual break from the surf, with lookouts taking in the panoramas of Praia da Nazare, a much calmer curve of golden sands on the other side of the headland.
For lunch, try a selection of petiscos (small tasting plates) in one of the ocean-facing restaurants along the promenade to sample all of Nazaré’s ocean flavors.
Évora, the capital of the cork and wine-producing Alentejo region, is one of the best day trips from Lisbon to witness another side of Portugal.
Crossing the country’s hinterlands on the 90-minute journey by car or train, vistas of vineyards, cork oaks, agricultural fields and utility poles crowned with storks’ nests take you far from the urban sprawl. Eventually, you’ll arrive at the surprisingly cosmopolitan city at the heart of it all.
Put firmly on the map by Romans in the 1st century AD, remnants of this prestigious time are visible at the Roman Temple, one of the most important historical monuments in the country, and the excavated Roman Baths under the town hall.
Further treasures found in the UNESCO-listed historic center include the Cathedral of Évora, the largest medieval cathedral in the country, the haunting Chapel of Bones, and an impressive 16th-century aqueduct.
Évora’s peripherals are equally teeming in attractions, with vineyard visits, cork farm tours, and close to a dozen megalithic sites making fascinating additions to any day trip.
If you’re seeking spirituality, then a visit to Fátima, Portugal’s most holy site, is one of the best day trips from Lisbon you can take.
Fátima is located 77 miles north of Lisbon but you don’t need to follow in the footsteps of countless pilgrims to arrive at or appreciate the Roman Catholic Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, with the journey by car taking around 80 minutes.
Within the small and sacred town, the focus is on the vast main square used for prayers. Dominated by the soaring Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Rosário de Fátima, a serene and relatively modern portico-fronted space, the various chapels, basilicas, and religious statues call for peaceful reflection. A small museum houses historically significant religious artifacts and offers short guided tours in English.
Around 90 minutes by car or two hours by train from the capital, Tomar is often overlooked as a day trip from Lisbon. Yet this small city is home to one of Portugal’s most impressive UNESCO-listed attractions, the arresting Convent of Christ.
Towering above the otherwise unassuming city, the convent rests behind the hilltop walls of the 12th-century Castle of Tomar.
Founded by Gualdim Pais, master of the Knights Templar, the convent was constructed over five centuries, allowing for a kaleidoscopic range of architectural styles to be admired.
At the heart of the magnificent building, the soaring rotunda—adorned with frescoes that were added in the 16th century—steals the show. However, the Gothic cloisters, Manueline embellishment, and Renaissance and Baroque touches all add their own gratifying layers to the heritage site’s grandeur.
Keen to enjoy one of these incredible day trips from Lisbon yourself? Start planning your perfect Europe vacation by perusing Celebrity’s luxury cruises to Lisbon.