This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you purchase through my link (at no extra cost to you!).
Looking for the most beautiful day trips from Lisbon that are all under one hour away? These are the three best day trips that I absolutely recommend and know you will love as well!
In this post, I will walk you through the three best day trips from Lisbon: the royal beach town of Cascais, the National Palace of Pena in Sintra, and the majestic clear water beaches of Arrábida.
For starters, if you’re planning a trip to Lisbon, I would recommend booking around a week long trip. This way, you can enjoy (& not rush) experiencing the beautiful city, and also take advantage of the charming and scenic day trips less than an hour away!
Cascais is on the top of the list for my favorite day trips from Lisbon for a reason.
In the late 1800s, Cascais became the seaside resort town of the Portuguese royal family. Along with the royal family, Portuguese nobility also made their way over to the beautiful Portuguese coast. It didn’t take long for Cascais to become the summer getaway of the rich & royal.
Today, Cascais is a lovely beachside town that’s only a thirty minute drive from Lisbon’s city center. The opulence from the Portuguese nobility is still apparent today by the extravagant villas and palaces scattered throughout the town.
An Uber from Lisbon to Cascais costs around €20/€25, and there are direct trains from Lisbon as well. If you’re visiting Lisbon for only a few days, then I wouldn’t recommend taking out a day for Cascais. However, if you have enough time to explore Lisbon and have extra time for day trips, then this is a lovely one!
My top three things to do in Cascais:
Brunch at House of Wonders
We got to Cascais around 10:30 am and were immediately ready to eat. We grabbed some brunch at House of Wonders, which I loved! House of Wonders is a three-story vegetarian restaurant with a lot of soul. They have a really cute and colorful rooftop and another outdoor seating section, so if you’d like to catch some rays while enjoying your meal (like me), then sit outside! If not, they have plenty of indoor seating.
When it comes to ordering, the mango passion fruit fresh squeezed juice is a must. We ordered the sandwich with grilled veggies and a side salad, a veggie/cheese quiche, and sweet crepes with chocolate sauce and berries – all were extremely fresh and delicious.
Go an a scenic walk along the coastline & be awed by Boca do Inferno
~ a must-do activity on my day trips from Lisbon list ~
Next, walk along the water from Cascais’ main square to Boca do Inferno. The walk itself is stunning, super scenic, and an event in and of itself. It took us around 30 minutes to slowly stroll there. We kept stopping to enjoy scenic views, take pictures of castles, and to appreciate the beautiful coast of Portugal colliding with the Atlantic Ocean.
Boca do Inferno, which translates to Hell’s Mouth, is a sea-arch and chasm that is absolutely mesmerizing. It is free to visit and there is a lookout where you can snap some beautiful pictures. We spent around 15 minutes here in total, however it was less busy in general because of the pandemic.
Soak up the sun on the beach
My last recommendation is to enjoy one of Cascais’ beaches. After lunch at a local portuguese restaurant, grab some ice cream at Gelado Santini, and walk over to Baía de Cascais. This sandy beach is visited by locals and tourists alike. Although we didn’t take a swim, we did lay out for 30 minutes before heading to Sintra.
If you’d like a more secluded beach, then relax at Praia da Rainha. When we arrived to Cascais, there were only a few people laying out here – it was so peaceful and serene.
2. The Park and National Palace of Pena, Sintra
We knocked off Cascais and Sintra in one day! The two sites are by far the most recommended day trips from Lisbon.
Prior to visiting, I saw a number of posts and guides online advising against it. However, if you only plan on visiting the Palace of Pena in Sintra, then it is totally doable! We took an uber from Cascais to Pena Palace that took around 30 minutes. If you’re planning to drive there directly from Lisbon, it will also clock in at around 30 minutes!
A ticket to the castle (€14) also includes the Pena Garden and Lakes. There are electronic kiosks right outside of the entrance where you buy your tickets. We didn’t experience any queues or waiting. This of course depends on the season, and as the case with most travel destinations at the moment (May 2021), there are fewer visitors because of Corona.
As you walk uphill and start approaching the spectacular palace, you can’t help but feel like you are in a wacky fairytale. The dramatic hues of yellow, red, and blue against the green backdrop of the surrounding park are stunning.
Palace of Pena‘s Fascinating History
The 19th century Romantic palace was built by King Ferdinand II, who was known to be an eclectic lover and patron of the arts. In addition to the palace, rare and exotic species of trees and plants were brought from North and South America, New Zealand, and Asia to create a magnificent forest and mystical gardens.
What surprised me the most about Pena Palace was that what had just a few hundred years ago been a desolate rock hilltop is now a rich and lush forest consisting of over 2,000 different species. This is what is considered the true miracle of Pena!
In 1910, the palace was classified as a National Monument. Today, it’s not only the most important site in the Cultural Landscape of Sintra, but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You have most definitely seen pictures of the palace at some point – it’s (very) unsurprisingly all over pinterest and instagram!
The Pena Palace’s most iconic and eye-catching features are all external. There are endless spots for photos and views, which are all located from the outside. When it comes to the inside of the palace, I personally wouldn’t recommend it. If I would do it again, I actually wouldn’t go inside at all. There’s not much to see and if you’ve seen other castles or palaces, then you’d probably think this one is pretty mediocre.
If you have some time to explore and want to take a look at the countless different species of plants in the gardens, then go for it! However, I have an insider warning for you. If the garden exit is closed (which it was when we were there), then you’ll have to hike all the way back up to exit or hop a fence to exit the castle grounds altogether. If it’s towards the end of the day, I’d advise against it.
Cool Tip: We arrived here in the second half of the day and because the castle is elevated, it was much cooler and windier. We conveniently had a change of warmer clothing which made a huge difference. Since we came from Cascais and were by the water earlier in the day, our attire did not suffice in the hills. Bring some sort of cover up if you can!
Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to visit Quinta da Regaleira and Monserrate Palace, but they were both very highly recommended by locals (even more so than Pena)! These are 100% on my to-see list for the next time we visit!
3. Praia do Portinho da Arrábida
After a few days of exploring Lisbon and always having somewhere to go, we were in much need of some relaxation. Looking for a beautiful beach getaway that’s driving distance from Lisbon? Arrábida is an amazing option! It’s around an hour drive from the city center, so if you’re able to rent a car for the day, do it!
There are two stunning beaches in Arrábida that are very close to each other. Praia do Portinho da Arrábida has parking and is easily accessible. Praia de Galapinhos is around a 15 minute walk from the parking spot.
We only went to Praia do Portinho, but I saw a view of Galapinhos Beach during our drive and it looked even more scenic and picturesque. I would also think that there are less people there since you can’t directly drive up to it, so this would definitely be more of a hidden gem. If you have time, you can definitely visit both in one day!
Praia do Portinho was really popular among locals, and understandably so. The water is extremely beautiful, clear, and clean. The beach is made up of fine white sand.
We went in May and the water temperature was freezing. Of course the water will warm up if you’re planning on going later in the summer, however it will tend to be on the cooler side since it is the Atlantic Ocean.
If you walk along the water, you will reach a more remote part of the beach with large rocks and gorgeous views. These views reminded me of Italy – what do you think?
Let me know your favorite Lisbon day trips in the comment section – I’d love to hear them 🙂
P.S. If you’re staying in Lisbon, check out my post on the 5 local restaurants you must try – I promise you won’t be disappointed!