The 6 best day trips from Lisbon for surfing, mountains and more

Aerial view of  Palace da Pena - Sintra, Lisboa,  Portugal - European travel,  Horizontal
Sintra is one of the most popular day trips from Lisbon © Taiga / Shutterstock

When you’d like a break from meandering the hilly, cobblestoned streets of Lisbon, head to one of these destinations for a great day trip. From surfing hubs and romantic mountains to emerging art destinations and heritage sites, get inspired to explore beyond the capital of Portugal.

Surf or hit the beaches in Peniche

Surfers headed north to Peniche long before the giant waves of neighboring Nazaré put Portugal on the map. This small city with a rugged shore is a great beach destination during the summer and a surfing hotspot all year long. Whether you surf or not, the beaches are one of Peniche’s main attractions, where Baleal and Supertubos are the best-known breaks amongst those who love to ride the waves.

The city’s historic center is easy to explore on foot, with the Atlantic Ocean in the background. In the summer, take the 45-minute boat trip to Berlenga Grande island to roam its beaches and nature reserve. Visit the fortress, a former political prison during the Conservative Dictatorship (1930–74), which has been recently turned into a museum dedicated to the anti-regime resistance.

A wide beach arcs into the distance, with about a dozen people walking on it (some with surfboards); taken at sunset, the sky is golden and people cast long shadows. The sea is rough, with waves crashing.
A day of surfing comes to an end at the beach break of Baleal in Peniche © joyfull / Shutterstock

In a seaside city where fishing is still one of the main economic activities, fish dishes abound. Whether you’re looking to try caldeirada (fish stew) or want to stick to grilled sardines, restaurants with catch-of-the-day on the menu are easy to find. Just search for a marisqueira (seafood restaurant) near the coast.

How to get to Peniche: Travelers can catch buses from Lisbon’s Sete Rio bus station and tickets are available with Rede Expressos. For those who want to drive, Peniche is 100km (62 miles) north of Lisbon. It’s about 1¼ hours away via the A8 and 1½ hours via the A1. It’s between 70 and 90 minutes, depending on the route.


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Art and culture in Cacilhas

While most people travel through Cacilhas en route to the Cristo Rei viewpoint, this colorful riverside borough of Almada is worth more than a pit stop. Follow the calling of freshly grilled fish at riverside restaurants and stay for the picturesque small-town houses to observe local amateur fishers, and discover a thriving cultural scene.

When to go to Lisbon, Portugal

Stroll alongside the Tagus River on the street right of the ferry boat station, and take in the view of Lisbon on the north bank. Take the free panoramic lift to see the city from another angle or simply to skip the climb uphill. Head to the cultural center, Casa da Cerca, a five-minute walk from the lift, for contemporary art exhibitions or coffee with a view at its outside terrace (weather permitting). Walk down to your starting point, passing by Rua Cândido dos Reis, Cacilhas’ famous street full of bars, shops, cafes, and restaurants (where fish dishes prevail). Pop inside Meia Volta de Urano to browse old books and art, and for a chance to catch an impromptu jam session.

Traditional restaurants closer to the ferry boat station, like the famous Ponto Final, serve mainly fresh seafood. At Rua Cândido dos Reis you'll find a greater variety of restaurants, from pizzas and artisanal hamburger joints to ice cream shops and spots serving typical Portuguese cuisine.

How to get to Cacilhas: Take the ferry boat from Cais do Sodré. A one-way ticket costs around €1.30 and it takes 10 minutes. Ferries depart every 10–20 minutes, depending on the time of the day and day of the week.

See medieval Sintra

Mystic and romantic, Sintra is one of the most popular day trips from Lisbon. With several Unesco World Heritage sites, the small town is nestled amid lush mountains, surrounded by ostentatious palaces, and is home to an estate with a history of esotericism and secret rituals.

A cobbled path curves its way up to the pointy end of a forested hill; sitting atop are some traditional stone ramparts and a watchtower.
The medieval Castelo dos Mouros, the second of Sintra's historical landmarks © krivinis / Shutterstock

Take the bus or brave the climb uphill to visit two of Sintra’s best-known landmarks: medieval Castelo dos Mouros and 19th-century Palácio Nacional da Pena. Walk down the main road that leads to the historic center, snaking through the virtually untouched slopes of Serra de Sintra. Split your time between exploring the heart of the picturesque city on foot, visiting the Palácio Nacional de Sintra, and exploring Quinta da Regaleira and its Initiation Well, the root cause of legends and myths surrounding the estate.

Regardless of where you stop for lunch, no trip to Sintra is complete without a stop for the typical pastries. Since 1862, Casa Piriquita has baked the famous travesseiros (a light puff pastry with an egg and almond filling, shaped like a pillow) and the bite-size tarts known as queijadas de Sintra.

How to get to Sintra: Take the suburban train (Sintra Line) from Rossio. If you prefer to drive, the shortest route is on A37. Bear in mind only residents’ cars, buses, and taxis are allowed in the historic center if you’re planning to drive to Sintra. Sintra is 40 minutes from Lisbon by train and 30 minutes away by car. Trains depart every 15–20 minutes on weekdays and every half-hour on weekends.

Roman sites and food in Évora

Known as the capital city of the Alentejo region, Évora’s distinctive whitewashed houses with yellow baseboards fit the typical image of the center-south. Ideal as a short road trip from Lisbon, head to sunny Évora for great food, wine, and historical landmarks like the best-preserved Roman remains in Portugal.

Évora's Roman temple is every visitor's first stop. The marble building from the 1st century is well-preserved, despite its age, and one of Portugal's most significant traces of the Roman Empire. Gruesomeness aside, the 17th-century Bone Chapel is also a must-visit in Évora. That section of São Francisco church was decorated top to bottom with bones and skulls to remind Catholic church-goers that life is fleeting. Head to Praça do Giraldo for a well-deserved breath of fresh air.

The sun shines on the white and yellow buildings of a Portuguese town.
Evora is a top day trip from Lisbon © Matt Munro / Lonely Planet

Alentejo cuisine is typically rich in flavor but with humble origins. Head to Café Alentejo for petiscos (finger food and snacks) like scrambled eggs with farinheira (a meatless sausage) or Taberna Típica Quarta-Feira for typical dishes like fried pork meat. If you’re in Évora mainly for the wines, head to Cafetaria Páteo de São Miguel, for Cartuxa wine by the glass, or to Ervideira Wine Shop for a wine tasting, with or without a food pairing.

How to get to Évora: Buses depart from both Oriente and Sete Rios stations and can be found on the Rede Expressos website. If you want to drive, it’s 135km south of Lisbon. Take the A2 to cross the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge and then continue along the A6 on the south bank. If you’re driving to Évora from the east side of the city, take the A12 to cross the Vasco da Gama bridge and then continue along the A6. It’s about 85 minutes drive time if you’re taking the A2 and 90 minutes if you’re taking the A12. Parking inside the city walls is limited to residents, hotel guests, and people with reduced mobility. Outside the walls, the parking lot closest to the historic center (10 minutes walking distance) is near Porta Velha da Lagoa.

Wander the cobblestone streets of Óbidos

While Óbidos may draw in crowds of tourists, it’s not hard to see why this town enchants so many people. It boasts cobbled streets flanked by whitewashed homes, and its core is surrounded by medieval walls that visitors can walk along (if they dare). Follow these unprotected walls for amazing views of the town below and up to the Castelo de Óbidos, a 13th-century structure that is now a hotel called the Pousada do Castelo. Rua Direita – the town’s main road – is lined with chocolate and sour cherry–liqueur (ginjinha) shops to entice its many visitors. But those who wander deeper into its winding streets will be rewarded. 

White-washed buildings with yellow trim are lined with bougainvillea in a Portuguese town.
Óbidos is a popular tourist destination because of its well-preserved medieval architecture ©gumbao/Shutterstock

However, the real draw of this town may be for bibliophiles. This historic town is a Unesco City of Literature and punches far above its weight in the number of amazing bookstores to visit. Step into Livraria de Santiago, a bookshop within the 18th-century São Tiago church, which was originally built in 1186, but after being destroyed in 1772 by the Lisbon earthquake it was rebuilt. 

While this is a popular day trip, visitors may be tempted to stay the night at The Literary Man. The book-lined hotel also boasts the Literary Gin Bar, where even casual visitors can sip of cocktails with suitably bookish names. 

How to get to Óbidos: Óbidos is about 1¼ hours away from Lisbon via the A8. Take exit 15 and follow the signs to Óbidos. Travelers can take this same expressway to continue west to Peniche. For those who want to take public transit, there is a bus that departs from the Campo Grande bus station. Operated by Rodoviária do Oeste, departure schedules can be found online but tickets are purchased on the bus.

See industrial Barreiro

A former industrial city on the south bank of Tagus River, Barreiro is slowly coming out of the smoky shadows of its factory-heavy past and is now an up-and-coming day trip destination. Most attractions and tours pay tribute to its industrial heritage, and well-known street artist Vhils moved his workshop to Baía do Tejo, a former factory-turned-business hub.

Abandoned buildings line a street in Barreiro, Portugal
Barreiro is just a short trip from Lisbon © Getty Images

As you come out of the ferry, walk to the left until you reach the old train station. Beyond the building, you'll notice the white-sand beach, Alburrica, famous for its windmills and occasional river surfers. Riding waves on the river, with the help of ferries during rush hour, is a trend that was started by local sports organization Gasoline. Look for street art alongside Av Bento Gonçalves, where the back wall of creative center Escola Conde Ferreira has the most eye-catching mural. Book a tour with local company Outra História to learn more about Barreiro’s industrial heritage or know the story behind Vhils’ largest piece yet at Baía do Tejo. On your way back to the ferry station, have a peek at ADAO, a local arts organization that refurbished the former firefighters' headquarters.

Barreiro’s cuisine is heavily influenced by the Algarve and Alentejo roots of former factory workers. Most restaurants alongside “beach avenue” (officially Av Bento Gonçalves) serve typical Portuguese food, and fish dishes prevail. For a lighter meal, head to àPortuguesa; with occasional live music, this cafe-bar serves only Portuguese products.

How to get to Barreiro: Take the ferry boat from Terreiro do Paço. A one-way ticket costs around €2.45. Ferries depart every 30–60 minutes on weekends and every 10–20 minutes on weekdays. It will take 20–25 minutes by ferry.

This article was first published on March 10, 2020 and updated on October 14, 2021

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