Driving Excursions from Lisbon

View from Sesimbra castle

2 Drives from Lisbon, South for the Scenery and North for the Monumental Monasteries

Picking up the Europcar rental was easy from the Tivoli Hotel downtown location. I’d timed the pick up for after visiting the Gulbenkian, a 25 minute walk downhill, and arranged for a secure parking space through Chiado Apartments. The car was a 4 door VW Polo, brand new and lucky us – no car rental stickers on it!

Tip: Make sure you bring either your International Driver’s License OR your passport to pick up your car – we forgot this but fortunately Europcar still had the ID in their system from last year.

Would I change anything?

  • Portinho da Arrabida isn’t worth the hassle on a holiday if you’re only stopping for a look
  • Drive to Tomar first, then Fátima, Batalha, and Alcobaça

Day Trip With a Car South of Lisbon

Palmela, Setubal, Portinho da Arrabida, Castelo do Sesimbra, Meco Beach

May 1, another holiday and a nice loop driving excursion to Palmela, Setubal, Portinho da Arrabida, Castelo do Sesimbra, and the beach bar Bar do Peixe at Meco Beach. Holidays aren’t the best for excursions, the tiled church in Palmela was closed and the one-way road to get into Portinho da Arrabida was jam packed with traffic. But we could climb the walls at the Palmela fort, take a look at the beautiful Pousada, and have a relaxing break across the street from the Igreja (Church) in town.

Pousada de Palmela and Castle

Palmela, Setubal, Portinho da Arrabida, Castelo do Sesimbra, and the beach bar Bar do Peixe at Meco Beach

Continuing on to Setubal we stopped for the views from the fort high above town and further on to Portinho da Arrabida. Portinho has a one-way road to get down to the 2 restaurant town and cars were parked all along the road. After sitting in the line of cars waiting for the one-way light to change, parking seemed like a good idea so we parked along the road and walked down. The beach beyond the 2 packed restaurants looked like a nice place to spend the afternoon but we were on a driving tour so left for the next stop – the castle above Sesimbra.

Finally! A church with a completely tiled interior that was open on this holiday!

Castelo do Sesimbra Igreja da Santa Maria tiled interior

Igreja de Santa Maria (Church of Saint Mary) tiled interior. The Temple of Santa Maria was expanded in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. From the 16th century on, it is dedicated to the cult of Nossa Senhora da Consolação do Castelo (Our Lady of Consolation of the Castle).

Castelo de Sesimbra is a very nicely maintained castle with good signs describing what was there. Good for a clamber around the walls and views.

Our last stop on this driving tour – Meco Beach and a meal at Bar do Peixe.

Day Trip With a Car North of Lisbon

Alcobaça, Batalha, Fátima, and Tomar

Tomar? “Oh, that’s too far” we were told. Yes, this was a busy day and if the mass hadn’t been going on in the Fátima cathedral, preventing us from wandering around in there, we probably wouldn’t have had time for Tomar. Even though we didn’t linger in one place as long as we usually do, these places aren’t that far from each other – at least not in California driving terms where everyone seems to live an hour’s drive from work! Worth it to see all in one day versus splitting this into 2 days out of Lisbon.

Alcobaça, Batalha, Fátima, and Tomar

Alcobaça, Batalha, Fátima, and (my favorite) Tomar

Tip: Do this drive in reverse, start early in Tomar and finish in Alcobaça. The Convent of Christ of Knights Templar in Tomar closes at 5:00pm and Alcobaça Monastery at 6:00. Then if you still have energy you can stop at Obidos on the way back to Lisbon.


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