Mystical Sintra and Charming Cascais: The Perfect Day Trip from Lisbon

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While there are plenty of things to see, do and eat in the pretty Portuguese capital of Lisbon, there are also some beautiful sites nearby that are worth making a day trip out of. If you can tear yourself away from the pastéis del nata (I know it’s almost impossible!) and the colourful tiles, combine a day trip from Lisbon to mountainous Sintra and seaside Cascais; two completely different worlds that show off just a tiny sample of the diverse and beautiful face of Portugal.



Located less than an hour from Lisbon, the stunning UNESCO World-Heritage Site of Sintra is like the setting of a real life fairytale. Nestled high up in the lush, green mountains, Sintra is known most famously for its magnificent palaces, pastel-hued residences, quaint shops and beautiful gardens. The mystical and romantic allure of Sintra has even led it to be described as the ‘Disneyland for grown-ups’ — who can really resist that description! The cooler, mountainous climate has attracted the Portuguese nobility and royalty over the centuries, who constructed some of the most exquisite manors and palaces in all of the country.


What to do:

Palacio Nacional de Sintra: The sprawling national palace, located in the heart of the old town, is distinguished by its unusual, conical chimneys that have become the emblem of the town. It was built as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family who resided there from the early 15th century and was in continuous use up until the late 19th century. The white-washed exterior and gothic architecture make for impressive photos.

Castelo dos Mouros: This ruinous castle is the oldest structure in the city. Originally dating back to the 9th century, the North African Moors originally constructed this castle to guard the town of Sintra, although it fell into disrepair after the Christian conquest of Portugal. The crumbling ruins offer panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Palacio da Pena: Sintra’s most spectacular and famous site is the colourful, ornate and grand Palacio da Pena, which is constructed on one of the highest peaks. This vibrantly painted summer palace stands out like a beacon and is in stark contrast to the lush green of the surrounding mountains. Its architectural style is one of the most impressive and unusual in the entire country. If the weather permits, the views afforded from the palace over the entire region are some of the best in all of Portugal. Unfortunately, on our visit, the Palacio da Pena was completely enshrouded in dense cloud, which meant that sadly we missed out!

Historic town centre: Sintra’s charming historic town centre is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and every visitor should spend some time exploring the maze of cobblestoned lanes lined with quaint shops and cafes that snake their way up the hill. Don’t leave without trying the famous Sintra pastries here: the ‘queijadas’ (cheese pastries) and the ‘travesseiros’ (egg and almond pastries)!





Instead of returning directly to Lisbon from Sintra, follow the scenic road along the rugged, golden coast and the most westerly point of mainland Europe to stop in at the charming seaside town of Cascais. Once a sleepy fishing village, Cascais has transformed into a favourite holiday destination for many Portuguese and other Europeans with many people now considering it to be one of Lisbon’s most sophisticated destinations.


What to do:

Cascais beaches: The main attraction of Cascais is its range of golden beaches, which are wonderfully varied and offer something for everyone.

Cidadela de Cascais: The Cidadela de Cascais is an imposing fortress that stands overlooking the marina and harbour. It’s an impressive landmark of the town and has now been transformed into an exclusive hotel and cultural centre.

Largo Luís de Camões: This is the historic centre of Cascais and has an energetic vibe due to the many cafés, restaurants and fashionable bars that line the square.

Marina: There is room for over 650 boats to be moored at the Cascais marina. Take a stroll along the quays to admire the expensive yachts.

Free museums: One of the great features of Cascais is that all the museums and buildings of interest are free to enter. There are lots of interesting exhibitions hidden throughout town so be nosy, wander in and explore!

Eat fresh seafood: Cascais restaurants serve some of the freshest fish in the region, since it comes directly from fishermen’s boats in the town’s small harbour. There are plenty of outstanding seafood restaurants dotted all over the town.



Have you been to Sintra or Cascais? What are your recommendations for WOW readers?

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    Julia (at
    November 16, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Great post and beautiful pictures. I was there in October and I absolutely loved Sintra. It’s so picturesque, and I agree that you must try the ‘travesseiros’ ! We had a menu of hot chocolate and ‘travesseiros’ for breakfast in a café in the main square when we arrived in Sintra, after driving from Lisbon and it was heavenly!

    November 14, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    Went to Sintra and Cascais earlier this year and loved it. The restaurants on the boardwalk facing the beach at Cascais are great for a glass of sangria – we had the cava sangria and it was amazing!

    November 14, 2015 at 11:35 am

    Loved the photos 🙂
    I absolutely love Sintra! It’s such beautiful place. I haven’t visited it in quite a while
    And I think I never did a proper visit to Cascais, says someone that lives in Portugal since 5 years old and that lives 30 minutes away from Lisbon. What a shame! Really need to change that

    Lots of hugs, A

    November 13, 2015 at 3:45 am

    Cascais absolutely blew me away with it’s beauty. I can’t wait to go back!

    November 12, 2015 at 8:19 am

    When you travel, there are some countries where you feel deeply connected. For me, Portugal and Scotland are those countries. Thanks so much for your blog, enables me to re-experience some of my trips.

    November 11, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    Quinta Da Regaleira is a must see in Sintra! It’s an enchanting and beautiful place, especially the park. It felt like a bit of an adult’s playground, with so much to explore.

    Cabo da Roca is also not too far away – the most western point in all of Europe. Even in the wind and rain it was a fantastic place to visit. Once considered “the end of the world”!

    November 10, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    I love visiting UNESCO sites and always make them a priority when I’m exploring a new city or country. Hence Sintra was already on my list for when I’m in Lisbon in early January. But this guide is going to be so handy when I’m trying to work out how to divide my time during my day trip.

    November 10, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    I was in Lisbon this summer and I loved it! I didn’t visit Sintra and Cascais but I hope to be back to Portugal next year and I won’t miss it for sure.
    Also, I went to Porto and I highly recommend for anyone who is coming to Portugal to visit it, it is a gorgeous place! 🙂

    November 10, 2015 at 3:25 am

    I stayed in Cascais for a few days and hired a car to go to Sintra and then further afield. I loved Sintra. The food and wine in Cascais (town square) was excellent too!

    Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
    November 9, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    I did Sintra and Cascais too on my last year’s Lisbon visit. Great places!

    November 9, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    I haven’t had the chance to visit Portugal, but this is making me want to add it to my list even more now! Gorgeous!

    Kerjan | Backpack Babe
    November 9, 2015 at 11:45 am

    How beautiful! Lisbon is the quintessential European city 🙂 so gorgeous! You guys look so cute btw!

    November 9, 2015 at 8:38 am

    Haven’t been to Portugal yet, but it’s been on my radar for a long time already! It’s such a beautiful country and there’s so much to see! Definitely a must-visit!

    November 9, 2015 at 7:16 am

    Portugal has been steadily and rapidly going up my list of must-visit-places. It looks beautiful!


    Christina -
    November 9, 2015 at 5:45 am

    I love the photos! Definitely have to go there soon xx

    Anca | Globaloud
    November 9, 2015 at 3:54 am

    Since I plan to visit Portugal for the first time next year, I definitely enjoy reading about the cities I’ve actually never heard of. I think Sintra is one of the places I’ll definitely visit thanks to you. It looks so mystical when is foggy.

    Joana Belo Marchana
    November 9, 2015 at 2:54 am

    I’m from Portugal, and almost every weekend I go to Sintra.
    You show also see the Quinta da Regaleira. It’s an old palace with the most beautiful gardens. They also do a lot of shows there (dance, theatre, …). I promise it will give you a very nice day.

    Joelle F
    November 9, 2015 at 2:23 am

    I have been to Sintra and I would definitely recommend visiting Quinta da Regaleira as well! It is such a romantic palace and it has a stunning mysterious garden!
    You can read more about it here!
    Love your blog!


    November 8, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    oh, Portugal is so beautiful! Lovely pictures!

    November 8, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    Portugal is so beautiful! Awesome pictures Brooke!

    Tessa / Bramble & Thorn
    November 8, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    Sintra is such a gorgeous place, it is hard to believe such an enchanting place exists! I was there earlier in the year and was stunned at how incredible it was.

    Tessa at

    Sarah Hickey
    November 8, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    Sintra was on my list but sadly, I just couldn’t make it work last time I was in Portugal…
    Luckily, there is always next time!

    Sarah Lynn

    November 8, 2015 at 7:45 am

    You’ve made me miss Portugal! If you have the time you should travel into Aveiro and eat some Ovos Moles they’re delicious.

    November 8, 2015 at 7:26 am

    wauw, these pics are stunning. Portugal is still on my bucket list!

    November 8, 2015 at 7:15 am

    You are such a chic Traveler Brooke ! I loved your photo with your friend 🙂

    Please make more posts about travel style !