Moon Lisbon & Beyond
Day Trips, Local Spots, Strategies to Avoid Crowds
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- Explore In and Around the City: Wander Lisbon’s most interesting neighborhoods, like Chiado, Castelo, Bairro Alto, and Belém, and nearby regions, including the Setúbal Peninsula, the Portuguese Riviera, and the Costa da Caparica
- Go at Your Own Pace: Choose from over a dozen flexible itinerary options designed for foodies, beach-goers, history buffs, art lovers, and more, or customize your own adventure with recommendations for food, festivals and events, sights, and activities
- Get Outside the City: Venture through the fascinating Chapel of Bones in Évora, go surfing in Nazaré, relax by the tranquil river in Tomar, and sip the local cherry liqueur in Óbidos
- See the Sights: Hop on Tram 28 to explore the hilly capital, wander through 11th century castles, shop for artisan treasures at a local flea market, or soak up the vibrant colors of Lisbon’s famous tiles at the Museu Nacional do Azulejo
- Savor the Flavors: Enjoy mouthwatering pasteis de Belém, order fresh grilled sardines at an outdoor bar, and people-watch as you snack on local cheese and charcuterie
- Experience the Nightlife: Catch a traditional folk music show in a neighborhood fado house, chat with locals over a pint in neighborhood pub, and sample delicious regional vintages at a chic wine bar
- Get to Know the Real Lisbon: Follow suggestions from Portugal transplant Carrie-Marie Bratley on supporting local businesses and avoiding crowds
- Full-Color Photos and Detailed Maps
- Handy Tools: Background information on Portugal’s history and culture, plus tips on ethical travel, what to pack, where to stay, and how to get around
DISCOVER LISBON & BEYOND
MY FAVORITE EXPERIENCES
EXPLORE LISBON & BEYOND
BEST OF LISBON
WHERE TO GO FROM LISBON
BEACHES AND CASTLES: NORTH OF LISBON
DOLPHINS AND THE BONE CHURCH: SOUTH OF LISBON
CAPES, CLIFFS, AND VIEWPOINTS
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
WHAT TO PACK
Stretched languidly along the banks of the Tagus River, almost midway up Portugal’s west coast, Lisbon is magnetic.
Consistently ranked among Europe’s top destinations for tourism and quality of life, Lisbon is a thriving city packed with contemporary attractions that sit comfortably among its time-honored facets, a city that effortlessly manages to blend tradition with trendy. Add exciting cuisine, welcoming hospitality, and first-class accommodations, and you get a hugely appealing destination. Another major bonus is that it is a gateway to a vast array of distinct day-trip destinations.
The wonderfully scenic Marginal Road to the Portuguese Riviera offers regal towns and some of the finest beaches in the region. Just north is Sintra, a town whose whimsical buildings could be straight out of a children’s storybook. Slightly farther north still is majestic Mafra, with its extravagant Baroque national palace and beautiful gardens, easily paired with the surfy town of Ericeira or the wonderfully preserved medieval town Óbidos.
Just across from Lisbon, on the south bank of the Tagus River, is the sea-salt-kissed Setúbal Peninsula, where wines and fresh fish are as abundant as vast golden beaches. From the sunny Costa da Caparica and its endless stretch of amber sand, south to quaint seaside town Sesimbra, and east to the vibrant port town of Setúbal, this outcrop of land cradles the lush Sado Estuary, where a pod of wild bottlenose dolphins can be admired in their natural habitat. Finally, to the east in the deep Alentejo region is Évora, a fantastically preserved historic town with strong Roman ties.
A trip to Lisbon should be a priority for any European escapade—not only for the quintessentially Portuguese experience it provides, but for the opportunity it offers to explore a wealth of other incredible destinations, all within easy reach of the capital.
MY FAVORITE EXPERIENCES
1 Touring the out-of-this-world Pena Palace in Sintra, whose colorful turrets and towers are the stuff of magic.
2 Walking the alluring Estoril-Cascais boardwalk, a perfect way to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of Lisbon’s most famous coastal retreats.
3 Visiting the ancient Almendres Cromlech outside Évora, a mysterious set of standing stones thought to be older than Stonehenge.
4 Immersing yourself in Templar history at Tomar’s massive Convent of Christ.
5 Seeing wild dolphins, along with more than 200 bird species, in the glistening Sado Estuary.
6 Taking in a soulful fado show in the historic Lisbon neighborhoods of Alfama or Bairro Alto.
7 Indulging in one of Portugal’s many regional delicacies; any trip to Lisbon is incomplete without a mouthful of delicious pastel de Belém.
8 Hopping on the convenient Transpraia tourist train along Costa da Caparica’s beaches, a 30-kilometer (19-mile) stretch of pristine sand.
9 Catching a ride up one of Portugal’s many hills, whether it’s via the riverfront cable cars in Lisbon’s Park of Nations or on the historic Nazaré funicular up to the dramatic Sítio headland.
EXPLORE LISBON & BEYOND
BEST OF LISBON
Lisbon can get very busy and hot in summer, so a hat, sunscreen, water, and a healthy dose of patience are useful in warmer months. If you plan to visit in June, make sure you book well ahead, as this is the month in which the Santo António Festival causes the city to explode into party mode.
The Portuguese capital is also rather hilly, which can mean steep climbs. That said, public transport is pretty reliable, and all those hills mean amazing views from the many miradouros (viewpoints) dotting the city. If your feet get tired, the historic and famed No. 28 tram is one of the quirkiest ways to explore the city, trundling through authentic neighborhoods on the time-honored tracks.
After spending three days in the city, experience a few great day trips within a quick drive or train ride, from Lisbon’s favorite beach resorts to the world-famous castles and palaces of Sintra.
▪ Spend the morning discovering downtown Lisbon, beginning at the main Avenida de Liberdade, exploring Comercio Square’s museums and landmarks.
▪ After lunch, take the tram to Belém, where you can visit the Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery before indulging in a famous pastel de Belém custard tart.
▪ Head back Lisbon’s Chiado Square for a sunset cocktail before walking up to Bairro Alto for dinner and a show at a typical fado restaurant. After dinner, let loose in one of the many nearby bars.
▪ Today, explore the Baixa, Alfama, and São Vicente neighborhoods by Lisbon’s famous trams, visiting sights such as the National Pantheon, the Fado Museum, Lisbon Cathedral, and the Graça viewpoint.
▪ After all that walking, hop on the train toward Park of Nations and some much-needed retail therapy at Vasco da Gama shopping center. Here you can visit riverfront gardens, explore the Oceanarium, and rest your feet on a scenic cable car ride.
▪ End your day at one of the many restaurants and bars along the Park of Nations waterfront.
▪ Enjoy some of Lisbon’s quirkier sights today, starting by browsing the many stalls of the LX Factory in Alcântara.
▪ From here, walk across the road to the futuristic-looking MAAT—Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology; be sure to take in the views from the rooftop.
▪ Head toward the 25 de Abril Bridge, where you can take the Pillar 7 Experience, a unique tour in, around, and up one of the pillars of this iconic bridge.
▪ Finish your night with a sundowner at one of the many bars and lounges on the Santo Amaro docks.
DAY 4: THE PORTUGUESE RIVIERA
▪ Do as the locals do escape from the city for a few days: just a 40-minute drive from Lisbon is the Portuguese Riviera, one of Lisbon’s most popular beach resorts. You can get there either along the A5 motorway or the amazingly scenic coastal Marginal Road.
▪ Stop first in Estoril. Spend the day on the beach, popping into the famous Pastelaria Garrett for a coffee and sweet treat.
▪ Stroll along the 3-km (2-mi) promenade to Cascais, enjoying the chic boutiques and dinner at one of the many restaurants on the marina.
▪ Taxi back to Estoril to spend the night at the legendary Hotel Palacio Estoril.
DAY 5: BOCA DO INFERNO, CABO DA ROCA, AND SINTRA
▪ Wake up early to continue your drive west, stopping at the dramatic Boca do Inferno coastal rock formation and Cabo da Roca, Europe’s westernmost point, before swinging inland toward Sintra.
▪ Park on the outskirts of Sintra, as the city center can become quite congested. Purchase a day ticket on the local 434 tourist hop-on hop-off bus (€6.90) so you can save on the leg work and time between monuments, and start by visiting the iconic Sintra National Palace.
▪ Be sure to visit the fairytale Pena Palace, the Moorish Castle, spooky Regaleira Estate, and the historic Monserrate Park and Palace.
▪ After all that sightseeing, order as many small plates as you can eat at Nau Palatina tapas restaurant, followed by a good night’s sleep at Aguamel Sintra Boutique Guest House before heading back to Lisbon in the morning.
BEACHES AND CASTLES: NORTH OF LISBON
Within a quick drive of Lisbon, you can find atmospheric medieval towns and world-renowned surfing. A few places on this itinerary, especially Óbidos, can feel somewhat overrun by tourists. It helps to spend the night to see the towns before and after the tour buses have left, and to park in the outskirts if you’re driving.
Be sure to pack a swimsuit for a beach day, and, as always in Portugal, a comfortable pair of shoes for walking hilly, cobblestoned streets is also advisable.
The towns on this itinerary are beach towns and therefore summertime destinations; however, they all have something to offer year-round. For example, although Nazaré is a beach town, November is a top time to visit, as this is when the town’s famous waves are at their most formidable.
DAY 1: MAFRA AND ERICEIRA
▪ From Lisbon, head straight to Mafra, just less than an hour’s drive north, to visit the monumental Mafra National Palace. Afterward, enjoy an al fresco lunch on the patio of one of the local restaurants, such as Sete Sois.
▪ After lunch make the short drive to the edge of Mafra to the Royal Tapada hunting grounds, where you can hike, take an archery class, or maybe even spot some majestic animals.
▪ From here, head to Ericeira to take in the laid-back barefoot vibes of the popular surfing resort. Enjoy a couple of hours on the beach before a fresh seafood dinner at Marisqueira Furnas, and take advantage of Ericeira’s cool bar scene before heading back to your hotel for the night.
DAY 2: NAZARÉ
▪ The next morning, time and sea conditions allowing, book an invigorating surf lesson before heading out for the hour’s drive north to Nazaré.
▪ On the way into Nazaré, stop at the impressive nearby Alcobaça Monastery.
▪ Park on the streets set back from the beachfront or in one of the various car parks. Spend the morning strolling along the beachfront and enjoy lunch in one of the town’s many offbeat little eateries, such as Rosa dos Ventos.
▪ In the afternoon make a beeline for the vertiginous funicular up to Sítio old town. Up at the top, the Nazaré promontory, the oldest part of town, is high above the beach and packed with folklore-infused sights, such as the Memorial Hermitage and the landmark lighthouse and fort.
▪ Have dinner at Tosca Gastrobar and spend the night at Hotel Mar Bravo.
DAY 3: ÓBIDOS
▪ Stop at Quinta do Gradil winery on the way into Óbidos for a winery tour and delicious lunch.
▪ Set aside a couple of hours to wander around the medieval walled town, ambling its mazelike cobbled backstreets and following its high walls.
▪ For a small town there’s plenty to fill a morning or an afternoon, not least sampling the local ginjinha and visiting the main Santa Maria church and the Municipal Museum.
▪ Have dinner away from the main tourist drag at A Nova Casa de Ramiro, followed by a night at the Pousada Castelo Óbidos, your chance to sleep in a real castle.
DOLPHINS AND THE BONE CHURCH: SOUTH OF LISBON
For this three-day itinerary, pack your swimsuit and beach towel for a jaunt to Portugal’s largest uninterrupted stretch of beach. As with most places in Portugal, comfortable walking shoes are a must, and you may want hiking shoes to experience the Setúbal Peninsula, a land of seaside cliffs and the spectacular Arrábida Natural Park.
Though the beaches of Costa da Caparica are popular, they are so extensive that they rarely feel crowded, and many parts of the Setúbal Peninsula feel almost deserted. One attraction worth booking in advance is the popular Sado Estuary dolphin excursions.
DAY 1: COSTA DA CAPARICA
▪ From Lisbon, drive just over a half an hour via the 25 de Abril Bridge over the Tagus River to Costa da Caparica.
▪ Take the tiny Transpraia tourist train to spend the day on one of the Costa’s various beaches—with 30 kilometers (19 miles) of sand making up Europe’s longest beach, there are dozens of spots to choose from.
▪ When the weather is cooler at the end of the day, walk the promenade along Costa da Caparica town south to the authentic Fisherman’s Quarters, stopping at a bar for a sundown drink.
▪ Have dinner at Borda d’Agua and spend the night at Tryp Lisboa Caparica Mar Hotel.
DAY 2: SETÚBAL PENINSULA
▪ Set off early toward Setúbal, stopping at the Costa da Caparica Fossil Cliff Protected Landscape en route.
▪ Drive 40 minutes south to the Cabo Espichel promontory, where you can see a lighthouse and dinosaur footprints.
▪ Head east to Sesimbra, where you can enjoy an hour on the beach before lunch in one of the excellent quay-side fresh fish restaurants.
▪ After lunch set off for Setúbal city via the Arrábida Natural Park, stopping at the postcard-perfect Portinho de Arrábida for refreshments.
▪ In Setúbal, walk the town and enjoy its unpolished attitude. Join a late afternoon dolphin excursion to the Sado Estuary, before spending the night in one of Setubal’s dockside hotels.
DAY 3: ÉVORA
▪ Head straight east into the Alentejo region, to its largest city, Évora, a city of intriguing monuments and offbeat sights. Park in one of the various car parks on the outskirts of town.
▪ Spend the morning visiting the chilling Chapel of Bones, the Roman Temple of Diana, and the nearby Convent.
▪ Enjoy lunch in the bustling Giraldo Square or sample authentic local fare at the Cartuxa Wine Cellar, near the Roman Temple.
▪ After lunch and exploring Évora city, leave time for a couple of compelling sights on the city’s outskirts: the Cartuxa Estate winery and the fascinating Almendres Cromlech neolithic stone site.
BEFORE YOU GO
WHEN TO GO
May-September offers the best beach weather; average temperatures for this time of year will range from the mid-20s to the mid-30s Celsius (mid-70s to mid-90s Fahrenheit). June-August constitutes the peak of high season, when Portugal is at its busiest—and priciest. Most of the country’s major events, such as the traditional Popular Saints festivities and local festivals, are held in summer. But don’t feel obliged to visit Portugal when it’s at its hottest; peak summer season can mean extremely busy monuments and beaches, packed hotels, and parking at a premium. Inland areas such as the Évora in Central Portugal can be sweltering (more than 40ºC/104°F) in summer and are much more enjoyable in spring or autumn. Just outside peak season—June and September, even October—are also beautiful times to visit, when the weather is milder and the pace is more relaxed.
Spring, autumn, and winter are mild and mostly sunny, with temperatures that can range from the mid-teens to low 20s Celsius (mid-50s to low 70s Fahrenheit), although Portugal does have rainy months, December being the wettest; January is the coldest, when thermometers can sometimes dip to single digits (30s Fahrenheit), particularly at night. Sintra, Tomar, and Évora, are year-round destinations. Hotels will again be close to full over Christmas and New Year, but outside that, low season in most of Portugal will mean fewer tourists and a more tranquil, relaxed pace of life.
- On Sale
- May 26, 2020
- Page Count
- 256 pages
- Moon Travel