Cascais or Sintra. These are two main day trips recommended for anyone visiting Lisbon, Portugal, and when planning my own trip to Lisbon, I found myself wondering which was worth it. Since I couldn’t decide, I (naturally) went to both, and now that I’ve been to both, here’s my two cents for anyone planning a their Lisbon trip.
While both cities are approximately 45min-1 hr away from Lisbon by train, they are like night and day. Cascais, which used to be a fishing village, is now a popular resort town. Sintra, in contrast, has much more history. It’s surrounded by lush mountains and dotted by estates and castles – some of which are in ruins.
Because the two cities are so different, a daytrip to Cascais is suited for those who:
- are looking for a typical resort town with restaurants and shops
- want to relax at the beach all day
- like to gamble (there’s a big casino in the nearby town of Estoril)
- want the option to go back to Lisbon early and not feel like you’ve missed out on any attractions
For everyone else, I’d recommend a daytrip to Sintra since there much more to see and do in Sintra. Plan a Sintra daytrip if you:
- want a full day of sightseeing
- like castles and palaces. Incidentally, Sintra has the weirdest-mished-moshed-looking castle I’ve ever seen, Castelo da Pena (Sintra Castle). A short stop away, there’s also the Moors’ castle, a ruin dating back to the 7th century AD. The Moors’ castle was recently featured as the pitstop on the past season’s Amazing Race. These are just two of the main attractions but there are gardens, convents, and palaces to explore as well.
- don’t mind a bit of walking or hiking as some of the attractions are on hills
- want the option to head to the western most point of continental Europe, Cabo da Roca. You could easily combine a bus ride to Cabo da Roca on your way back to Lisbon.
I appreciate a good resort when I see one, but even I’d choose Sintra over Cascais every time. The attractions in Sintra are unique and you won’t find them anywhere else in the world. A small resort town like Cascais, however, is a dime a dozen. I left Sintra really glad I went and saw. I left Cascais wondering what’s for dinner.