Portugal Trip: Lisbon, Sintra and Cascais

So I just got back from a little holiday to Portugal and it was fab. Did we have good weather? Not particularly. And I'd wish I'd known how cold the sea would be (not that that would have stopped me swimming!) Still, it was a great place to explore and just right for our four-and-a-bit day break.

After our successful jaunt to Dubrovnik last year, me and my friend Hannah were looking for somewhere similarly coastal which still had lots to keep us occupied. We settled on Cascais, which is a seaside town about forty minutes outside of the Portuguese capital by train. I'd seen a good few travel blogs that mentioned Sintra too - which is roughly half an hour the other way by bus, so Cascais seemed like a good base where we'd still be able to have some beach time. We stayed Airbnb in a great little apartment right in the centre of Cascais. Everything is close together - your shops, little sandy beaches all along the coast, lovely restaurants, couple of museum-y places, a marina - we didn't go looking for bars particularly (which didn't stop us drinking quite a lot of Portuguese wine...) so not sure how they're fixed for nightlife, but literally everything else you could want is within a few minutes walking distance. We didn't really go 'in season' but the place was a nice level of busy with a mix of weekend-ing locals and tourists.

(Above: The Quinta da Regaleira)

First day there we got our bearings in Cascais, and on our first full day we took the 417 bus to Sintra. (The 403 gets you there too but goes the scenic route via Caba da Roca which takes a bit longer.) As there's lots to see in Sintra - and we only had the day - our Airbnb  host recommended The Pena Palace and Quinta de Regaleira as the must see spots and we took him at his word. We did the Quinta first - an early 20th century estate and manor house built by an eccentric free-mason with eclectic taste. It's a gorgeous place with secret passageways, a waterfall, stepping stones, an old well, and fairy-tale turrets everywhere. The Quinta is beautiful and lots of fun, but I think my favourite thing in Sintra (other than the chocolate ganache carrot cake in Cafe Saudade) was the colourful Pena palace - the views were immense. Sintra was also a surprisingly cheap day out  - I think about 4 Euros each for the bus and the castles were about 6 each. In fact everywhere we went while we were in Portugal was really good value, from the food, to the travel (only 4 euro for a return train ticket Lisbon to Cascais) to the sights. We rounded the day off with wine and takeaway cooked chicken (???) in Jardim dos Frangos for cheaps in Cascais and taking back to the flat. Best thing we ate the whole time we were there!

(Above: The Pena Palace)

As the weather was a bit better the next day (we got a lot of warm but cloudy days - and it was windy) we explored Cascais. We walked up to Boca de Inferno, had a sit on a few beaches, read our books, I had a swim (it was icy cold, not going to lie) and finished the day with Tapas (at Dom Diniz - try the mushroom dish!!) and wine.

(Above: Cascais coast)

The last couple of days we devoted to Lisbon (albeit with food and drinks in Cascais - Dinner and fab Sangria on Friday night in Pizzaghetti and Breakfast in a beach-side bar Sunday morning). We weren't really sure what there was to see, so we took an open top bus tour and hopped off to look at Belem tower and the big monument to the Portugeuse 'age of discovery' ('Padrão dos Descobrimentos'). It's a very beautiful city, I loved the architecture (including the '25 de Abril' bridge which looks a lot like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco - although built by a different US company (a 'gift from the Americans' our taxi driver said) and the purple trees that were everywhere. Mulberry trees? Whatever they were, they were beautiful. We also rode on one of the recognisable yellow trams which was fun - Tram 12 though, not '28' which is apparently the one to do - but they look the same and there was a massive queue for 28.

(Above: Lisbon, the 25 de Abril Bridge and the Tower of Belem)

Basically the combo of the the three places made for a lovely little trip, and despite the weather (and the train strike which complicated our last day slightly...) we had a really nice time. Would definitely recommend all three places - and if in Lisbon, definitely make time for a day-trip to Sintra.

Above: More Lisbon - Pedro IV Square, Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) ,Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument and a Lisbon tram!


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