Portugal’s capital has seen a sudden rise in popularity over the last few years, and it’s easy to see why. Its cheerful, colourful colonial architecture, thriving nightlife and stunning, accessible nearby coastline mean its giving the old European favourites a run for their money.
There’s plenty of diversion to be had in the city centre, from hopping on and off trams trundling along cobbled streets, to soaking up the sun and sampling the freshest seafood from one of many street-side bars.
Then, once you’ve had your fill of eating great food, browsing churches, photographing all the pretty buildings and visiting the local castle, check out some of these day trips to add something special to your Lisbon trip.
1. Pena Palace and Park
The fairytale palace of Pena perches atop a rocky outcrop among the Sintra hills.
The second highest point in the landscape, the views from here would be stunning even without the magnificent, multi-coloured palace dominating the foreground.
Now a national monument, the Pena Palace is a former Hieronymite monastery, built in the early sixteenth century and acquired then refurbished by King Ferdinand II in the 1800s.
The site was deservingly given UNESCO World Heritage status in 1995, as part of the cultural landscape of Sintra.
2. Cabo da Roca and Cascais
Visit the Westernmost point of Europe on this day trip to Roca Cape, as well as taking the opportunity to explore the mystique of the palace at Quinta da Regaleira.
The gothic façade of this grand building is visually appealing, but the real treat lies in the gardens behind the residence.
Inspired by myth and legend, the extensive grounds include secret passageways and feature much symbolism.
While you’re in the vicinity, take a look at the appealingly-named Hellmouth, and stop at the former royal retreat towns of Cascais and Estoril.
Both of these in times gone by were favourite holiday haunts of the aristocracy.
3. Fátima and Nazaré
Religiously significant Fatimá is the site at which an apparition of Our Lady of Fatima is said to have appeared to two shepherd children in the early 20th century.
Find out more about the story at the Chapel of the Apparition and the nearby Holy Trinity Cathedral, as well as taking a look at the former house of the shepherds.
From there, you can continue on to Nazaré for a completely different type of sightseeing: Nazare is famous for its waves and appeal for surfers worldwide.
It was here that McNamara beat the world record for the largest wave ever surfed.
See if you can spot others trying to top it.
4. Jeronimos Monastery
The Jeronimos Monastery is extensive enough that it definitely merits a full-day trip from Lisbon.
This glorious example of ancient architecture was granted UNESCO world heritage status in 1983. Located near the Tagu River, the monastery was commissioned in the late 15th century by King Manuel I, to honour Our Lady and Saint Jerome.
The building has since gone through many incarnations, and was used as a school and orphanage for around a century before becoming a national monument in the 19th century.
Head out to explore further towards Portugal’s Extremadura region, and on the way you’ll cross Europe’s longest bridge, the Vasco da Gama Bridge.
This area is a great place in which to explore the quieter spots: take lunch in the tranquil fishing village of Sesimbra, where you can of course sample some excellent seafood from the catch of the day.
This is a great place to take in the atmosphere and simply relax; stroll along the village’s beach and just watch the world go by.
You can also pay a visit to the village’s fantastically restored central church, or make the journey up the hill to Sesimbra castle.
If you have time on the way back, you can also stop off at the Cristo Rei statue in Almada, which provides spectacular views over Lisbon.
The historical medieval village of Óbidos definitely merits its own day trip.
Surely one of the best-preserved old towns in Portugal, visitors will be delighted by its cobbled streets and sunnily painted houses.
Óbidos has a fascinating history: founded several centuries Before Christ, it was conquered by the Portuguese King Alphonso I in the twelfth century, and in the eighteenth century was a favourite holiday spot for royalty.
Key points of interest include the Pousada de Óbidos, the Town Gate, St Peter’s Church, and St Mary’s Church, which at one time served as a mosque.
7. Cheleiros and Bucelas Wine Regions
For this intimate wine tour day trip, you’ll head to the wine regions north of Lisbon for a fun day of sampling Portugal’s best grapes, include the ‘Prince of Portuguese Wines’. The cellars you visit along the way will allow you to try some of the rarest wines Portugal has to offer, including one believed to be extinct at many wineries.
Alongside sipping wine, you’ll be provided with delicious local breads and olive oils.
During the tour you’ll also learn about the history of the area, such as stories of famous Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama.
You’ll also get the opportunity to marvel at the gorgeous countryside and quaint villages as you make your way northwards.
8. Wine Tasting in Setubal
If a northern wine-based trip wasn’t enough for you, there’s also good grapes on offer in the south of the region too.
You can visit picture-perfect Azeitão, set in the Setubal municipality, which is famous for both its wines and its cheeses – a good combination in anyone’s books! You might also get the opportunity to taste other local delicacies, such as sweets.
Tour round three different wine cellars and in between, prepare yourself for some spectacular views of the mountains in and around Arrábida Natural Park.
9. Kayaking Arrábida National Park
For something a bit different from the usual relaxed walking tours, why not take a kayaking trip to Arrábida national park? Explore its natural beauty and admire the views right from the water as you paddle through its tranquil river systems.
On this exciting day tour you’ll have the chance to discover many hidden caves and water inlets, and if you so wish you can pack a picnic to eat on one of the secluded beaches.
It’s an idyllic way to spend a day.
10. Wellington History
For anyone who feels like brushing up on their knowledge of the local history, this is an excellent day trip from Lisbon option.
From Lisbon you can easily visit the strategically important Torres Vedras lines – a set of fortifications combined with an ingenious communications system.
These were integral to the defence of Lisbon in the nineteenth century.
To learn in more detail about the Peninsular Wars, which went on from 1807 to 1814, you can head over to the Torres Vedras museum and the Vimeiro interpretation centre.
The tour can be booked here: Full-Day Wellington Private Tour
11. Knights Templar
A truly fascinating day trip from Lisbon experience is this journey through time, back to the days of the Knights Templar.
Visit the villages of Constância and Tomar and explore their historic beauty, and learn about the intriguing story of the holy order of warrior monks.
Tomar plays host to the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Tomar Convent, an important building in one of most important Templar sites in Europe at the time.
The striking Almourol Castle is also just a short walk away, another monument controlled at one time by the Knights Templar.
12. Évora and Palmela
The world heritage site of Évora is well worth a visit for many reasons.
Medieval walls encircle the city, and within the city limits sit fascinating sites such as the Chapel of Bones, filled with real human remains; the stunning Church of St. Francis; and the Roman Temple.
Once you’ve had your fill of beautiful architecture, you can take some time to sample the local wines of the area in the magnificent surroundings of Alentejo.
On your way back, there will be some time to stop off at Palmela’s impressive medieval castle.
Take a trip back through the ages when you visit the historic village of Mafra for the day.
The highlight, and the main reason to visit the village, is the intriguing Palace of Mafra, the largest baroque palace to be built in the 18th century.
Financed by Brazilian gold, this substantial building sprawls for almost four hectares, and includes the longest tunnel ever built in a palace.
You’ll be stunned by its sheer size – you certainly can’t miss it.
Lisbon’s second city Porto is a highlight of any trip to Portugal, and within reach for a day trip.
Though it is certainly worth a separate trip in itself, its highlights can also be done in a day trip from Lisbon if you’re short on time.
On a day tour you can wander round Porto’s pretty streets checking off its main attractions, from the Cathedral, to the Avenida dos Aliados, to the Liberdade square and the bridge of Dom Luis I. Take your time strolling along the riverside district of Ribeira, with its charming cobbled, winding streets.
Inevitably you’ll also have to assign some time to sampling one of the city’s most famous exports: Port fortified wine.
15. Aveiro and Ilhavo
For a foodie day tour, what better place to choose than the home of the Portuguese delicacy, the codfish? In Ilhavo you can experience a truly one-of-a-kind museum dedicated to this delicious fish, which has codfish on display in a large tank.
Once the food of the poor, the codfish has now evolved to being a symbol of status, and a staple of Portuguese cuisine, particularly on special occasions such as Christmas.
On your way back you can also visit the Venice of Portugal, Aveiro, where you should certainly try the dreamy, creamy egg pastries that are a local speciality.