Despite visiting Portugal on many occasions, I had never visited Lisbon until recently. I wanted a beach holiday but with the opportunity to do some sightseeing too – the Lisbon Coast has both in abundance.
I was really impressed by the Lisbon Coast as a holiday destination, it had something for everyone. I stayed in the beautiful village of Cascais which offered the best of both worlds. We enjoyed staying in a holiday resort, but within easy access to Lisbon. Lisbon is a great city to visit. It is so colourful, has a great food scene and there is an endless supply of sights to see.
Things to do in Lisbon
If you are on a city break and staying in Lisbon you may get to see all of the top attractions, but if like us you are staying along the Lisbon Coast, and day-tripping to Lisbon, it is impossible to see everything! I would recommend taking one of the old fashioned trams and doing a hop on hop off city tour, this will enable you to see as much as possible. If you want to go it alone, Tram 28 offers the best route to all the sights.
The city is quite spread out, but using the trams will allow you see the cultural centre of Belem, the Castelo de Sao Jorge and even climb the Cristo Rei: a huge statue of Christ where you can see views of the whole city. If you are travelling with children, the Aquarium is a must-see. It’s one of the worlds largest aquariums, and one that you could easily find yourself spending the day in!
Things to do on The Lisbon Coast
A visit to Sintra is one of the top attractions on the Lisbon Coast. Wander through the narrow streets and marvel at the architecture that dates back to the fifteenth century. It has numerous designated UNESCO world heritage sites, the most famous being the National Palace. I loved the lesser known Quinta de Regaleira, a mystical place, great for families with children, who can explore the many nooks and crannies in its wonderful gardens. There are underground tunnels, waterfalls and a magical castle. My son Luke (6) thought we were in middle earth and needless to say he thoroughly enjoyed it!
If, like us, you want to stay in a beach resort, there many to choose from. We chose Cascais and loved it. It is such a charming town, filled with quaint cobbled stone streets, some great shops, and a huge variety of restaurants to cater for every palate. I found a little gem hidden away from the main centre called 5 Sentidos, Casa do Largo, with typical Portugeese food that catered really well for all of us. There is a nice cove beach with a marina close by and plenty of larger beaches a few minutes drive from the centre too.
The beaches at Guincho are particularly impressive, with huge waves and wide stretches of sandy beach. The train station is right in the centre of the town, with trains going every 20 minutes to Lisbon and the surrounding area.
Overall it was a great trip. It was not your typical family beach holiday, but that was part of the charm. When I think of the thousands of Irish visitors that travel to the Algarve each year, I enjoyed taking the path less travelled on, it made all the difference!