Day Tripper Lisbon: Belem, Sintra, Cascais & Estoril

So you’ve been in Lisbon for a couple of days and you want to see what else there is, you say? Here’s a few ideas to make a quick escape.

Belem

Belem almost doesn’t qualify as a day trip really but its not in Lisbon center so I’m going to go ahead and count it.  To get here, just hop on the tram and 20 mins later, you’ll know you’re there when all the tourists get off en masse. Everyone will tell you that you “simply must!” try a pastel de nata in Belem from one particular famous bakery but I found the whole ordeal rather underwhelming. Inside, I sat down to try the tiny warm-ish custard pies topped with a dash of powdered sugar and cinnamon  along with the rest of the tourists but … I just don’t get it. They’re fine but I wouldn’t come all the way across town for them again. Luckily, Belem has other things to offer that were much more impressive. The massive Jerónimos Monastery, only a few steps away, is well worth a look while the also gigantic Monument to to the Discoveries overlooking the river can be reached by a short walk.

belem1

belem2

Sintra

Its easy enough to make a day trip to Sintra but if I had my trip to do over again, I’d have stayed longer. I’m not exaggerating when I say Sintra is kinda magical. Most people go there for the palaces and castles which really are impressive (and I’ve seen my share palaces and castles, guys) but Sintra’s natural beauty is what got me. When you arrive by train, your only real option for getting around the city is a touristic bus that circles the town’s main highlights and takes you up the mountain to the front steps of the main palaces. Another way to get there for the more adventurous: hike! After taking the bus, I found myself skipping the tourist spots and just chilling in the forest. Don’t get me wrong, its a small town so if you want dusk till dawn activities, don’t spend too much time here but if you want to spend a little time with nature or exploring palaces and then grab a coffee overlooking lush greenery and brilliantly colored villas, don’t just rush through.

daytrip sintra3

daytrip sintra2

Cascais & Estoril

I booked one night in Cascais and one in Estoril, inspired by the unbridled enthusiasm of the internet (when will I learn?) but I wouldn’t recommend staying there overnight. A simple and shockingly inexpensive train ride from Lisbon, Cascais & Estoril are okay for a day trip but not so spectacular on their own. Estoril’s claim to fame is Europe’s largest casino (apparently – if you’ve ever been to Las Vegas, you won’t bat an eye here… and really it’s not the scene for anyone under 60). One stop away in Cascais, you can do the boutique-beach-restaurant-walking thing and hang out on some pretty nice coves and boardwalks but I would’ve rather stayed in Lisbon than to have been stuck out here for two days. I recommend day tripping to Cascais and skipping Estoril altogether.

daytrip cascais1

What are your favorite day trips from Lisbon? Any hidden gems?

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4 thoughts on “Day Tripper Lisbon: Belem, Sintra, Cascais & Estoril

  1. I visited Belem and Sintra a few years ago as day-trips from Lisbon; I actually ended up enjoying the castles and mountain-top views more than anything else in the capital!

    Now a friend of mine has recently moved to Lisbon and I’m scheming of a way to go back. When I do, I’ll have to check out Cascais–thanks for the tip!

    1. Oh and I’ve heard there’s another secret place with castles that no one visits not far from Sintra… I really don’t know anything about it so its not very helpful haha… but let me know if you discover it someday!

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