Lisbon’s unique location, just minutes away from the Atlantic Ocean makes it a great base from which to explore some of Portugal’s finest charms. In addition to the long sandy beaches on Costa de Caparica, lying on the other side of the Tagus River, there are amazing historical monuments and modern fun centers in the vicinity of Lisbon. Connected by an excellent and fast railway network, the neighboring towns of Sintra, Estoril and Cascais are a must-see for anyone planning a trip to the Portuguese capital.
Sintra is undoubtedly one of the most magical places in Portugal and one of its main tourist attractions. Due to its nineteenth century Romantic architecture, it was included on the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Surrounded by mountains and beaches, Sintra has a unique, cool climate in the summer months due to its abundance of tall trees and other vegetation. It was once the summer residence of the kings of Portugal and is today a haven for amateur photographers. The number of beautiful buildings hidden away in the woods and in the town itself is simply astounding.
Sintra can be conveniently reached by train from the Rossio Railway Station in Lisbon. The ride from Lisbon to Sintra is pleasant and takes about 45 minutes, more due to the large number of intermediate stops than the actual distance. Sintra’s two main landmarks are the Moorish Castle and the Pena Palace. To see the castle, you can either climb all the way up to the hill or wait in the city for public transport to take you there. It is advisable to go on foot because there are many hidden gems along the way that may elude you if you take the bus. Once you get to the castle, you will have a spectacular view of the city and the surrounding area. It is well worth the effort.
Lisbon to Cascais and Estoril
Another great day trip includes visiting Estoril and Cascais, two upscale resort towns on the Atlantic coast just outside of Lisbon. To get there, catch a train at Cais do Sodré and enjoy the ride along the bank of the Tagus and watch the river as it transforms into an ocean. First on the route is Estoril, a seaside resort famous for hosting the Estoril Open Tennis Tournament in the month of May and various motorsport events at the Estoril Circuit. Gambling enthusiasts will also be interested to learn that Estoril boasts the largest casino in Europe. Casino Estoril is notorious for having been the favorite hangout place of many secret agents during World War II. In fact, Ian Flemming’s Casino Royale was inspired by Casino Estoril. Even if you are not really into gambling, you should include the casino on your list of sites to see for its architecture and grandeur. In addition to resort facilities, Estoril is also the home of ancient Roman mansions that date back two thousand years.
A couple of train stations away from Estoril lies Cascais, one of the wealthiest municipalities in Portugal. It used to be an ordinary and humble fishing village until the nineteenth century, when the Portuguese royal family decided to use it as their holiday resort, bringing great development to the area. Like Estoril, it also became prominent during World War II for being the home of many exiled European royal families. The town center is a popular destination for foreign and local tourists due to its warm and characteristic appearance. Both Estoril and Cascais also have many sandy beaches, which are popular due to their accessibility. Namely, Costa da Caparica, on the other side of the Tagus, is much farther away from Lisbon and may be frustrating to reach in the summer months due to the high amount of traffic. The most famous beach in Cascais is the Guincho Beach, a particular favorite of surfers, windsurfers and kitesurfers.