After a wonderful couple of days in Lisbon, we ventured to some great places not far from the city limits.
Sintra the city and municipality are actually part of the the Greater Lisbon region and so only about a half hours drive from the centre of Lisbon. It’s a well-trodden path for tourists that is absolutely still worth the journey. Sintra is well known for its picturesque gardens, historic palaces and dreamy castle. The historic centre of the Vila de Sintra is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Dotted with pastel villas, Moorish castles spread through the woody hills with sweeping views that roll down to the Atlantic. It really is like a page torn from a fairytale. It reminded me a little of Schloss Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. Some key landmarks of Sintra include the National Palace of Pena which is so colourful it seems to be straight from Walt Disney’s imagination. The Pena Palace looks onto another famous landmark, the Moorish Castle. Built on the highest spot in Sintra, the military fort was established way back in the 10th century and is reminiscent of many English castles.
Finally, my favourite, the Quinta da Regaleira. Transformed in the late 1800s from an estate to an extravagant summer residence, the cobbled paths wind through a vast and lavish garden built up into a hill that all ultimately lead down to a vast gothic manor, itself spread over 5 floors.
Cascais, whilst also doable as a day trip from Lisbon, is a lovely seaside town to settle down in for a few days, with lots of beautiful hotels in the region. It has excellent beaches, albeit quite busy in the summer months, and a nice little town to wander through.
By the time we got to Alentejo we were very much pooped and needed a couple of days to do very little.
We travelled through rolling hills as we left Lisbon behind and watched dry, but scenic, Portuguese countryside pass by. We arrived at the Imani Country House late in the afternoon and knew this was the perfect place for the required R&R.
With only 7 rooms it’s intimate, but not so much so that you feel like a bother or that you’re in someone’s home. The owners have renovated an old farmhouse very tastefully with considered decoration; simple and clean, high ceilings, white-washed walls, a beautiful circular pool and some quirky pieces of antique furniture both inside and out. The property is surrounded by orange, olive and lemon groves. Proper understated rustic luxury. The nearest major town was Évora, but we loved it so much at Imani we didn’t actually leave until we had to check out and continue on our travels.
2 hours north of Lisbon, lies Coimbra, once Portugal’s medieval capital and now a charming historic university town. Importantly, Coimbra is a great (almost) half-way point between Lisbon and Porto or the Duoro Valley. The city was filled with hot sun and beautiful ancient buildings, but the main attraction is certainly the university (Universidade de Coimbra), which is Portugal’s oldest and most prestigious. Make sure to visit the the Johannine Library (Biblioteca Joanina), a Baroque library built in the 18th century, and Saint Michael’s Chapel (São Miguel Chapel) which dates back to the 16th century. Both of which are inside the university.
Some other destinations I would have liked to have visited on route up North to Porta include: Ericeira (yoga and surfy town), Aveiro (beachy and beautiful), Peniche (another surfy / Byron Bay-esque town) and Óbidos (a beautiful white washed town, and a great place to stop for lunch).
Also, if you’re looking for a good brunch or breakfast spot in Lisbon see my brunch guide.