Awash with historic architecture and so many foodie haunts, there’s little reason to leave Lisbon. Yet there is a wealth of stunning natural landscapes and extraordinary architecture beyond the capital. Whether it’s sandy white beaches, extraordinary ancient palaces or some very fine wine, our day trips from Lisbon bring out the best in the region.
Perched on the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal is blessed with endless stretches of prime shoreline, and Lisbon is within a stone’s throw of some of the finest beaches in the country. Half an hour from the city centre is the cheery stretch of Praia de Carcavelos. Come summer, these golden sands teem with families, volleyball players and surfers alongside a flock of serious sunbathers.
Those in search of more tranquil shores should venture further afield. An hour’s drive south from Lisbon, Portinho da Arrábida fringes the Serra da Arrábida Natural Park, and is quietly hailed as the prettiest beach in Portugal. With its shock of chalky sand dividing the electric blue waters from the park’s verdant hills, it’s easy to see why. Follow the coast a little further to Galapos Beach, where more spectacular scenery awaits. For a break from the beach, the historic city of Setúbal bristles with laid-back bars serving freshly grilled sardines and fortified Moscatel wine. Sleep it off on the nearby sprawl of Figueirinha Beach before heading back.
Portugal has emerged from its chequered past with a staggering wealth of historic architecture. A tour of the area’s monuments, castles and palaces makes a rewarding day trip from Lisbon. Start with the eclectic fairy-tale turrets of Pena Palace. Piercing the sky from its rocky outcrop in the Sintra Hills, it’s a dazzling explosion of colour and grandeur with spectacular panoramas from the castle’s terraces.
The nearby Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra is of similar extravagance, skirted by beautiful gardens – the mansion’s highlight – that are peppered with sculptures, fountains, grottoes and secret subterranean passages. The 19th-century Monserrate Palace, a 10-minute drive away, is similarly magnificent.
At the other end of the spectrum is the humble Convento dos Capuchos. Duck into this ancient Franciscan monastery’s cells to discover atmospheric cork-clad interiors in the heart of dense forest. End the excursion in Sintra with a steaming pingado and pastel de nata before heading back.
While Portugal’s main wine region is the verdant Douro Valley in the north, there are plenty of bijou vineyards and bodegas to discover on a day trip from Lisbon. The smallest wine-producing area in Portugal is Colares, curled modestly between Sintra and the coast. Explore its 50-or-so acres, ducking into grand old wine estates to sample generously aged Ramisco.
One of the oldest wineries in the area is Quinta do Gradil, an hour from Lisbon. As well as offering cycle tours through the vineyards, the chef prepares exquisite menus paired with the estate’s prize vintages and served with soaring views across the vineyards. Swing by Quinta dos Loridos before heading back. Also known as Buddha Eden, it’s sprinkled with enormous Buddha statues, making it one of the world’s more original wine estates.