Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and is often the starting point for a vast, multifaceted region with different senses and different tastes.
Both north and south of the capital, the great variety of landscapes and heritage are always within short distance.
Full of contrasts with beaches, natural parks, cultural routes, and accommodation for all tastes, the Lisbon region extends far beyond the city itself and is so worth a visit.
Follow me and discover some small paradises at short distances around Lisbon.
Along with the mouth of the Tejo river, it’s easy to understand why it is said that Lisbon is the center of a vast resort.
Throughout the marginal road, it is possible to visit beaches and seaside resorts with villas and hotels from the beginning of the 20th century, marinas, terraces, and modern sports equipment, with particular emphasis on golf and recreational boating.
This sequence of small towns and villages leads us to Cascais.
Located by the sea and traditionally a fishing village, in the second half of the 20th century Cascais became a very fashionable summer resort with mansions and beautiful houses built to accommodate several European noble families, refugees from the second great war.
However, Cascais also started to attract vacationers, looking to enjoy beach days, whose access was made easier by the inauguration of the Railway Line between Pedrouços and Cascais in 1889.
Today, Cascais is a very lively and cosmopolitan place, which still retains its aristocratic feeling.
Stroll through its streets with excellent quality stores or rest in one of the many terraces that exist here.
The beaches continue to be one of the biggest attractions, and you can choose between those located in the sheltered bay of the village or those that are a little further away in the Guincho area, already part of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park and offering excellent conditions for surfing and windsurfing.
Beyond the mountain of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, we arrive at the beautiful village of Sintra.
To classify it as a world heritage, UNESCO had to create a specific category for that purpose – Cultural Landscape – considering both the natural wealth and the heritage built in the village and the mountain with lush vegetation.
On the remains of an Arab palace, the successors of 1st King of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques built their resting place here, the Palácio da Vila.
Many Arab reminiscences are still preserved, like tiles, patios, and fountains, but the two huge conical chimneys built in the Middle Age, are the postcard image of Sintra.
The same highlight goes to the Pena Palace, built at the time of romanticism in one of the peaks of the mountain, the Seteais Palace, from the 19th century nowadays converted into an elegant Hotel, and the Monserrate Palace, famous for its beautiful gardens with exotic species.
Widely honored by writers and poets Lord Byron called it the Glorious Eden and Sintra has a rich collection of chalets and farms, some of which currently offer accommodation.
The Sintra pastry is also very popular and many people line up in the village cafes to buy the Sintra “travesseiros” and the famous “queijadas”.
This whole region of Sintra has a stunning beauty that almost leads us to believe in fantasy and fairies.
The mountains and the sea are connected by a picturesque tram, the Sintra tram, which will take you to the family atmosphere of Praia Grande and Praia das Maças beaches, passing through Colares, a village surrounded by churches and palaces, which gives its name to a wine region, nestled in an idyllic setting between the mountain green.
Along the sea, beyond Praia das Maças, the Azenhas do Mar little village is revealed, embedded in a cliff and considered by many to be one of the most beautiful in Portugal.
This is where I recommend the perfect stay, away from stress and close to everything that matters – the breathtaking views of Casa da Encosta
Finally, 10 minutes from Azenhas do Mar there’s a secret that is still well kept,
Praia da Adraga beach is nestled between cliffs inevitably carved by the sea, forming rocks, caves and tunnels preserving the natural environment.
A little further north of Sintra you will find Mafra.
This town on the outskirts of Lisbon, in the so-called “saloia” region (kind of the rustic region), which supplied the capital with vegetables, is known for its monumental Palace-Convent, the largest Portuguese building, built in the 19th century by order of King D. João V.
The King, who still had no children after three years of marriage, promised the Franciscan friars that he would build a convent in Mafra, if their prayers for an heir were answered.
It was completed in 1730 and attached to the Palace, Tapada de Mafra is an area of unmissable and luxurious nature.
Close to Mafra, the Sobreiro village is worth a visit, to discover the José Franco Ceramics Workshop, where you can enjoy the recreation of the most traditional aspects of the life of the villages in the region, in real size or through animated miniatures.
Close to Mafra, by the sea, the traditional fishing village of Ericeira is very popular as a seaside resort.
Surfers from all over the world are attracted to these beaches around the village considered the best in Europe for surfing.
A special highlight to the Ribeira d`Ilhas Beach, where one of the events of the World Surfing Championship is held annually.
The laid-back atmosphere and proximity to Lisbon have increased demand for this town which nowadays brings together a large community of digital nomads and local Lisboners working remotely.
ON Host Portugal has a selection of accommodation in Ericeira carefully prepared for short and long stays, boosted by the presence of Senses Ericeira, which promotes various events of gastronomy and well-being related to a healthy lifestyle and good-environmental practices.
While in Ericeira don’t miss the opportunity to taste Ouriços (sea urchins).
Some call it Ericeira’s caviar and, in fact, taking into account its rarity and difficulty in harvesting, combined with the explosion of its sea flavor, we can say that this is an exclusive and incomparable delicacy.
PORTUGAL WEST COAST
Continuing to the north, from Ericeira, we start to unveil one of the richest and most surprising areas of the Lisbon region.
This West region is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Montejunto Mountain.
The landscape is marked by the mountain, the sea, and vast fields of vineyards and orchards since this is one of the largest fruit-producing regions in Portugal, and the only one producing Pêra Rocha (Rocha pear), unique in the world, for being very sweet and juicy.
To set out to discover this region, I recommend booking a few days at Flat 23, in Bombarral, a village in the center of all the unforgettable tours that you will be able to do here.
First of all remember that you are in the heart of the Western Wine Route and therefore, near Bombarral there are several Producing Farms and Cooperative Wineries that you can visit, such as Companhia Agricola do Sanguinhal, Quinta do Gradil and Adega Cooperativa da Vermelha, where you can enjoy guided tours, wine tasting and buy directly from the producer.
Very close to Bombarral you can visit one of the most picturesque and best-preserved medieval villages in Portugal: Óbidos.
Sufficiently close to the capital and standing on a high hill, close to the Atlantic coast, Óbidos had strategic importance in the territory.
Since King D. Dinis offered it to his wife D. Isabel, in the 19th century it became part of The Queens’ House and that is why it has always been enriched and beneficiated.
Óbidos is a hidden gem inside the walls of a very well-kept castle with a maze of streets and white houses that enchant those who stroll there.
Among Manueline porches, flowered windows, and small squares, there are several iconic examples of the religious and civil architecture of this village golden times.
At the top of the main street, the Church of São Tiago, a temple started in the 12th century and one of the most emblematic buildings in the village is now a unique and surprising bookstore, the Grande Livraria de Santiago.
In the middle of the same main street, occupying an old fire station the Livraria do Mercado (the Market bookstore) shares its space perfectly with the Óbidos Biological Market, indoors.
Original for its shelves made with reused fruit boxes, it is one of the most attractive points in the village.
For lunch, the fish stew of Lagoa de Óbidos stands out, even better if accompanied by wines from this Western Region.
Another specialty is the famous Ginjinha de Óbidos (cherry liquor), and here the tradition is to drink it in a small chocolate glass.
Throughout the year many events enliven this small village, but the most popular are the International Chocolate Festival, the Medieval Market, and Christmas, which transforms Óbidos into a magical world full of thematic decorations.
The Classical Baroque Music, Cravo, and the Opera Festival give a special atmosphere to Óbidos, with open-air performances on hot summer nights.
Not far away is the extensive sandy beach of Praia d’El Rey, where golfers can enjoy a golf course overlooking the Atlantic sea.
Speaking of beaches, there are two destinations on this route that are mandatory for those looking for a few days of holidays by the sea and which are widely popular with surfers who travel this Surf route.
Peniche and the sea are inseparable. It is one of the largest traditional fishing ports in Portugal and a major Atlantic center for water sports.
But there’s a bit more about Peniche than the beach. The historic center includes, in addition to the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios and the Churches of São Pedro and Misericórdia, the iconic Fort of Peniche.
Built around the 16th and 17th centuries to defend the coast along with the Consolação Beach Fort and the fort on the Berlengas Island, it was crucial on many Portuguese historic events and it even functioned as a political prison during the Estado Novo, where some of the most important public figures of resistance to the regime were imprisoned.
But in Peniche the sea does play the main role and the beaches here are very popular.
Choosing a Peniche beach is easy, as you just follow the coast and they are all very well signed.
The bays of Consolação and Baleal provide a good shelter for family beach days, but the waves of this Portuguese west coast, such as those of Medão Grande beach, known as Supertubos (Supertubes) due to its large tubular waves, are very popular with surfers and bodyboarders from around the world.
In a national competition, it was nominated as one of the “7 Wonders of Portugal” and together with Lagido beach, they are the stage for the great world surfing championship Rip Curl Pro Portugal, a competition that is part of the World Surf League Tour.
From these beaches, one can see the Berlengas Island and a boat ride can take you to this Nature Reserve.
Its translucent waters are ideal for divers who find here a natural stronghold of marine fauna and flora, and the ruins of its fort are a source of inspiration for many legends and mysterious stories among fishermen.
The sea also dominates the gastronomy and you can’t leave Peniche without tasting the stew, seafood rice, or sardines roasted in charcoal, always accompanied by this region light white wines.