A day guide to Sintra and Cascais (a day trip from Lisbon)
Lisbon is a fantastic city which I enjoyed so much when I visited in December. It has offered sights within walking distance, delicious sea food, fish and pastries on every corner. Friendly people were also a huge part of this positive experience of the city. Lisbon is a city that you can experience in 2- 3 days but what if you have a spare day and want to see more? Well, a lot of people would go to Sintra for Insta-famous castles photos, right? Yes and that's a good thing to do as they are beautiful, but you should know that within a short distance you can also admire beautiful seaside town of Cascais, as well as dramatic cliffs of Cabo De Roca.
Photo: Colours of Pena Palace in all it's beauty
How to organise it or get there?
It all depends on your budget, renting a car will be most convenient and cheapest option. You can also hire a day tour with local guide who can take you to the sites and drive you around (that's what I did - the cost of that was £60 pp - Miguel's details are here).
Photo: part of grounds of Quinta de Regaleira
Sintra is a small town and it is hard to find a parking space. If you decide to drive, it may be hard to find a parking space. Train station is not close to the castles if you are there for the castles only and you will need to get a taxi or have a rather lengthy walk. We started off with Sintra in the morning to visit the town, have a walk around the little streets, enjoy morning coffee with Travesseiros aka "pillow" pastries which are Sintra's signature pastries which you can find in the oldest patisserie shop called Piriquita (close to National Palace). Starting from the Piriquita and fuelled on coffee and sugar, you can start your walk up the hill for approximately 15 mins from the city centre and visit Quinta da Regaleira 20th century residence with grounds that hide references to the Knights Templar, the Masons and dark alchemy.
From time at the town, we drove to the Boca do Inferno - it is a cliff rock formation from volcano, located close to the city of Cascais. The seawater has access to the deep bottom of the chasm and vigorously strikes its rocky walls, it makes a great nature's spectacle and it's worth seeing if you are in the area.
Photo: Cascais - small fishing village in Portugal's countryside
We had a great lunch nearby Boca de Inferno at Toca Do Julio which was a place with a great atmosphere. To top this, for me as a Formula 1 fan, a great interesting fact was that it is the place where F1 driver Sena used to eat while he lived in Portugal.
After having delicious fish and seafood lunch, we drove to Cascais which is a small seaside resort and fishing village. We had time to stroll around the town and it's promenade, and the marina. Pretty town centre is close the sandy beach and many artisan food places. Travel tip: if you are travelling here from Lisbon by train, you will have direct train to Cascais with picturesque route along the coast.
Photo: dramatic cliffs of Cabo Da Roca - Europe's most western point
On the way to the next destination we stopped by wide and long stretch of rocky shore where we could admire huge waves of the Atlantic ocean hitting the shores. The waves were very big, and I personally have not seen waves as big as those here. I know that the waves in Portugal are the biggest in Europe and that's what draws all European surfers to Portuguese coastlines. I believe I saw some of those huge waves on that day.
The next stop on our itinerary was Cabo Da Roca which is the most western point of continental Europe, with lighthouse which was the significant part of the marine history of Portugal. Cabo Da Roca is also at the same altitude as NYC - just another interesting fact. Again here you can walk a bit further away from the lighthouse and admire dramatic cliffs and sound of waves crushing against the shores (see my story highlights for sound experience)
Photo: Admiring the views from Pena Palace
The final stop and most awaited was Pena Palace in Sintra, we arrived just before the closing time. Which was probably the best time to arrive as there were not many people and I had a great light similar to golden hour light for photographs. Strolling through the castle at a very leisurely pace, we saw pretty much all the spaces available for free to visit which excludes the interior rooms (the entry to the park and castle is E7.50 plus optional E3.00 bus ride up the hill). If you walk around the palace to the North side (kind of back of the castle with mostly red walls) you will see Moorish Castle on the smaller hill below Pena Palace. We decided not to visit that castle as it is just remaining walls of the castle and our time did not allow this. The Pena Palace is worth visiting with its huge gardens that surround it. Yes, it can be very crowded especially in the summer but it's worth putting this place on your list to admire this beautiful architecture, unusual colours and mix of different styles.
After spending a day in the Portuguese countryside, this day left me craving to see more of this beautiful country, its fantastic food, and wanting to get to know the culture more. I hope you can use some of my tips.
Wishing you beautiful travels