A poet’s playground that’s good enough for James Bond. It’s time to let the locals do the talking in this out of Lisbon experience.
Quinta da Regaleira
In the historic town of Sintra, discover the Quinta da Regaleira; a charmingly romantic palace and park, with an abundance of secret tunnels, grottos, fountains and floral displays to move even the most cynical of souls.
Completed in 1910 by Italian Luigi Manini for rich merchants from Porto, the Barons of Regaleira, it’s believed to have symbols of alchemy, Masonry and the Knights Templar hidden among its four-hectares. While in Sintra, enjoy the best seafood around, all from sea to plate within hours. The adventurous can indulge in a goose barnacle or two – a local delicacy.
In the former fishing village of Cascais you’ll find beautiful beaches loved by sailors, surfers and the Portuguese royal family (in the late 19th century, at least), with Guincho Beach to the west being the most popular.
If you prefer the high life, then the Estoril Casino – one of the largest in Europe – will provide it. And staying with high rollers, the adjacent Hotel Palacio was the setting for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Returning to the cerebral, drop into Cascais’ Paula Rego museum and enjoy the work of Portugal’s most famous living artist.
Cabo de Roca
After stuffing your face with local food and wine, a bracing coastal walk is in order and Cabo de Roca provides the perfect location for such a thing.
Described by 16th century poet Luis de Camoões as ‘where the land ends and the sea begins’, the spectacularly steep cliffs, lush greenery and wild flowers provide plenty of dramatic photo opportunities. The area is most notably the most western part of continental Europe, and the closest point to the USA. Look out to sea – there’s nothing but water between here and America’s Eastern states.
Emerging 246ft high as you drive north from Lisbon is the medieval city of Óbidos (Latin for citadel).
Roman, Moorish and, of course, Portuguese rulers have taken advantage of this 43ft-high-walled city over the centuries, all leaving their mark. A wedding present from King Dinis to Queen Isobel in 1282, it’s one of Europe’s most romantic medieval villages, with its winding cobblestone streets and ancient squares. After you’ve enjoyed the local drink, Ginginha – a sweet cherry brandy liqueur – you can experience the quietness of the floodlit alleyways at night, before resting your head in the castle’s hotel.
Before 1916, Fatima was a small rural village known for its olive oil production, but when three local children witnessed a series of apparitions – a lady dressed in white making proclamations – this quiet village transformed into a Catholic shrine overnight.
The ‘lady’ appeared on the same day for five months, with the final occurrence witnessed by 70,000 people. Today many Christian pilgrims still travel to the site, but even if you’re not after a religious experience, the city offers many fascinations, from its pristine neo-classical basilica to the Berlin Wall monument, including a 5,732-pound piece of the wall.
1 hour 10 minutes