This full day private tour of Lisbon, Estoril, Cascais, Sintra, and Pena will satisfy the traveler’s curiosity about Portugal – all from the comfort of your private air-conditioned vehicle.
Lisbon, the millenarian city of the seven hills, with the classic views they command, like at the top of Eduardo VII park. From here we see the wide estuary of Tagus river and Sao Jorge castle. Cross the central Marques de Pombal square and go down by the XVIII century boulevard called Liberdade avenue to the popular Restauradores and Rossio squares; it’s the heart of Lisbon since Roman times, and the Pombaline downtown which has been the shopping area for more than 2000 years.
The majestic waterfront Comercio square, facing the extraordinary estuary of the river, once the welcome gate to seafarer and caravels. Close by is the nucleus of ancient Lisbon. Drive by the oldest quarter, Alfama, with the structure of the medieval city, with labyrinthine narrow streets, steep stairways and alleys, tiny squares. If possible, we’ll stop in a handicraft shop for a taste of Port wine. The XVI century “pointed stones” palace – renaissance building with its uncommon facade, Santo Antonio de Padua church – where Saint Anthony of Padua was actually born, the very ancient Cathedral – stop to see the church, symbol of Lisbon Christianity.
Go up the hill to the picturesque Bairro Alto, section of Fado singers, bohemian haunt of artists and writers, passing close by Chiado, the elegant shopping area. Pass by Estrela basilica – marble construction with an outstanding dome, one of Lisbon’s most eyecatching landmarks; the Parliament of Portugal – an outstanding neo-classical palace. The tour continues along the riverside by the harbour with sights of one of world’s leading cruise destinations. On the way to Belem, the most monumental and historical quarter, we pass by Belem palace, official residence of the President of Portugal.
Stops at Belem Tower – icon of the Age of Discovery (stop for photos, drinks and toilettes), the Monument to the Discoveries – evoking the maritime expansion. Close by is Jeronimos Monastery, magnificent example of the Manueline style, the most impressive symbol of Portugal’s power and wealth during the Age of Discovery (stop to see the church).
We leave Lisbon passing by the scenic harbour and the estuary of the river and its seashore. The Estoril coast, incorporating holiday hotspots offers great beaches and a choice of historic sights. Cosmopolitan seaside town of Carcavelos is popular for its long stretch of sandy beach and its XVII century fortress – the biggest in Tagus river.
Other beaches on Estoril’s include Parede. Waters here are rich in iodine and have therapeutic qualities. Around Sao Pedro, Sao Joao and Santo Antonio do Estoril the beach scene gets more cliff like, but there are small beach bays with aristocratic palaces, manor houses and deluxe villas, a safe haven of exiled kings and politicians.
The cosmopolitan casino town of Estoril boats pretty Tamariz beach which is good for bathing and the biggest casino in Europe, its
gardens, cafes and esplanade.
Cascais fishing port swiftly expanded to an elegant, cosmopolitan, coastal resort. Once stop of navigators like Columbus and Vasco da Gama. From the harbor there’s a nice view of Estoril bay and one can watch the typical fishing boats unloading the catch, a flash marina and a castle.
Drive across the luxuriant Sintra Mountain and its gardens – “The Glorious Eden” – by twisted roads bordered by several plants, its
mystical hills dotted with fairytale palaces and extravagant villas that have bewitched visitors for centuries. Sintra’s historical town centre is a listed UNESCO world heritage site. It is made up of a charming maze of steep, narrow streets lined with fine examples of old palatial homes hiding behind lichen-covered walls, while local pastry shops provide the famous Sintra ‘queijadas’ (cheese pastries), ‘travesseiros’ (egg and almond pastries) and local wine. The town is also full of shops that carry many of the local crafts like pottery, ceramics and lace.
Go up to one of the highest peaks of the mountain through a narrow and crooked road crossing Sintra forest, passing by the mysterious Moorish castle. Fairy tale Pena palace and its surrounding park are billed as “a consummate specimen of Portuguese romantic architecture”, with a profusion of eclectic styles, 500 meters above sea level, on a rocky promontory that looks purpose-built for a castle. The delightful Parque da Pena offers walking paths, fountains, lakes, follies, belvederes, exotic trees and other specimens. From the palace, one has a spectacular outlook onto the mountain and its surroundings. On the way back to Lisbon, we pass by the XVIII century Queluz palace, reminiscent of Versailles.