Beyond Lisbon: A Day Trip to Sintra and Cascais

Ola!

To top off an already lovely experience in the city, we joined Lisbon Riders for a day trip to nearby towns of Sintra and Cascais. Yes, not just one, but two interesting settlements neighboring Lisbon. It’s one of the highlights of our whole European adventure, and it’s for a good reason.

Our day starts with Nuno meeting us and the rest of the group at Praça da Figueira. With winter coming, the overcast skies are making us a bit worried about the rain. Thankfully, Nuno’s bubbly personality brightened the day. Starting off with a backstory of everything fascinating we pass by, the 30 to 45-minute drive to Sintra was a breeze.

portugal sintra cascais
Pastel-colored buildings in Sintra

SINTRA

Sintra, or also known as Serra de Sintra in Portuguese, is a pine-covered hill chock-full of beautiful palaces, elaborate parks, and decorated residences. Its cooler climate than Lisbon makes it the perfect summer getaway of royalties in the past. Now, it’s a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site shared to the world so locals and travelers like us can enjoy its fairytale landscape.

I’m sure you’ve already seen the iconic palace pop out of your Pinterest feed, its bright red, purple and yellow colors are too hard to miss!

portugal sintra cascais pena palace

Pena Palace is once a crumbling monastery that King Ferdinand II transformed into a holiday place for the royal family. Inspired by the castles of Bavaria, he commissioned a German Architect to build and design the palace as a gift to his wife. The King also suggested integrating Medieval and Islamic elements in the design resulting in a really unique expression of the King’s artistic finesse.

portugal sintra cascais pena palace

portugal sintra cascais pena palce

portugal sintra cascais pena palace

We were just in Morocco a few days before and the arches in the façade and patterned tiles definitely reminded me of a Moorish handiwork.

In his relax and funny demeanor, Nuno enlightened us with historic details about the dominant designs of the palace. Then, he gave us time to explore on our own.

portugal sintra cascais pena palace

portugal sintra cascais

The complex architecture, elaborate details, and romantic design are expressed in every chamber of the palace including the interior, giving the visitors a picture of how the monarchs used to live. Too grand to be true!

portugal sintra cascais

portugal sintra cascais

portugal sintra cascais

portugal sintra piriquita

After endless photo ops, we met Nuno again and he drove us downtown to Piriquita Café to taste the famous “pillows”. Uhm before you get cozy (and sleepy), “Travesseiros de Sintra” or Pillows of Sintra is a traditional puff pie with a filling of almond and egg cream. People travel the distance just to have this delicious pastry because they never taste quite the same outside of Sintra. The secret recipe is well guarded that only the immediate family has access to it.

portugal sintra cascais
Love at first bite!

Next to a hearty meal, we continued our drive around the village as Nuno introduced us to more castles: Quinta da Regaleira Palace, Seteais Palace, and Monserrate Palace. Unfortunately, a day is not enough to leisurely explore all of these so we just admired them from afar as Nuno filled us in with more stories. That’s alright, though, because this day trip is far from over.

portugal sintra cascais

portugal sintra cascais

portugal sintra cascais
Colorful souvenirs from Sintra
portugal sintra cascais
View of Castelo dos Mouros from Pena Palace
portugal sintra cascais
Lovely view of Azenhas do Mar

Still within the Sintra Municipality, we left for a small town called Azenhas do Mar. It’s ideally nestled between the ocean and the mountains offering spectacular views of the Atlantic. With picturesque white houses and swimming pools dug into the cliffs, it’s one of the most valued beaches in Europe.

Note that the historic monuments are spread all over the hilly town of Sintra. Public transport can get crowded and while walking is doable, hiking steep hills isn’t for everyone. Sintra is perhaps best explored by car and Lisbon Riders’ a perfect company for that.

portugal sintra cascais
Cliffside wonder of Cabo da Roca

As we drove to Cascais, we stopped by Cabo da Roca, the westernmost part of the European mainland. You can actually get a certificate that states so! But we settled with taking photographs of the breathtaking cliffs and enjoying the fresh, strong winds that shaped the land.

portugal sintra cascais

portugal sintra cascais

CASCAIS

Continuing further down the coast, we headed to Cascais (pronounced as “kash-kaish”), a seaside town known for its beaches, chic shops, and homey restaurants. In the past, it also was a famed resort for the country’s royal family. Now, both locals and foreigners enjoy this little village with all its cute, colorful streets and serene, sandy beach. The best part is Santini’s Gelati which is considered as the best ice cream in the world! I was too convinced, I even ordered twice!

portugal sintra cascais

portugal sintra cascais

portugal sintra cascais

portugal sintra cascais boca inferno
The Hell’s Mouth

Along the way, we also dropped by Boca Inferno or Hell’s Mouth, an interesting cliff formation established by incessant pounding of the Atlantic waves onto the rocks. Soon enough, the earth collapsed forming a cave-like shape and natural arch.

portugal sintra cascais boca inferno

portugal sintra cascais

portugal sintra cascais

Think about mystical castles, enchanting gardens, seaside cliffs, charming villages, beautiful beaches, historical landmarks and delicious food – that pretty much sums up our day with Lisbon Riders. It’s a lovely mix of everything! We got to experience so many interesting places in a day and it didn’t feel like it’s rushed. Nuno is fun and relaxed to be with like we’re touring with a friend, not just a guide.

At the end of it all, we are leaving Lisbon completely satisfied, knowing that we got to experienced much more than a city. We are so gratified that we knew from the start that this won’t be the last. :)

Thank you to Lisbon Riders for such a wonderful experience. We already love Lisbon; this tour is a cherry on top. As always, all opinions are my own. Furthermore, only hotels, tours, and experiences that I absolutely love and recommend are shared in this space.❤
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  • I’m in love with the place just by looking at your pictures. Perhaps I will never discover these places in Portugal if you didn’t blogged it. This is definitely a travel inspiration post. Na excite ako! :-)

    fatmoments.com

    • You’ll love it there Joy! Sintra alone has so many castles of different styles. Literal na “chasing castles” ang peg dito because they are so near each other. Haha! Will definitely plan to go back in the future to discover the others. :)

  • Samantha Applewhaite

    Wow I just love all of the bright colours on the beautiful buildings! There are so many picture-perfect places in Portugal! I would love to go!

  • Nicky Mackenzie

    I think Portugal has to be put on our list! So much colour, life and that gelato! Thanks for sharing

    • Many travelers disregard Portugal because of it’s location but please don’t. It deserves the spotlight! <3

  • Sonja Thomson

    Love your photos! They’re so beautiful! I’m so jealous you got to go to the palace in Sintra I was unlucky it was closed the day I went and it’s hardly ever closed! Just an excuse to go back though :)

    • Yay Pena Palace is too eye-catching to miss. Thanks Sonja, I hope you get to go again. We only got to visit this one palace and there are a lot of other castles around Sintra. I also have an excuse to go back. :)

  • Becky the Traveller

    I’m currently looking for inspiration where to go at Easter so adding this to my list now. Your pictures are stunning too :)

    • I’m happy that the photos inspired you. Spring seems like the perfect season to visit. I hope you get to go. :)

      • Becky the Traveller

        Thanks :)

  • Fiona Mai

    Pena Palace looks just beautiful! I like the photo with you standing there and viewing down to the city <3 I've never had the chance to visit Lisbon, Sintra and Cascais but after reading your post, I feel like I've fallen in love with this place already. Everything from the cute cafe, the zigzag cobbled streets, the stunning architecture of old buildings, etc looks just too beautiful to miss :)

    • I know right! I can’t get over how much beauty we got to experience only in a day! And there are so many other places to explore! I hope you make the trip to Portugal when you visit South Europe. A lot of travelers choose Spain but Portugal won me over! <3

  • Natasha Atlas

    love these photos! You’ve inspired me to up my photo game! :) Natasha Atlas