CASCAIS - ESTORIL - SINTRA - MAFRA
The Portuguese Riviera
The region that develops west and north from the Portuguese capital is a constellation illuminated by the green of the Sintra Mountain and World Heritage town, the blue of Estoril and Cascais beaches, the white countryside villages such as Azenhas do Mar and Celeiros and the grey Mafra Convent, a monument that inspired Literature Nobel Prize winner José Saramago.
It is not easy to assess the exact spot where Tagus River ends and the Atlantic begins, however Lisbon and the neighbouring riverside cities are totally different. As you drive along the coastline road, the "marginal" (EN6) or along Estoril line, you will see different landscapes: Oeiras and its succeeding riverside walks; cosmopolitan Estoril and the cheerful town of Cascais.
In the decade of 20 of the 20th century, Estoril was one of the most elegant and famous seaside resorts of Europe. This glorious past is still to be seen in the architecture of Estoril riverside zone between Tamariz, the Arcades and the Casino. Cascais, which used to be the favourite town of the Portuguese court, has a strong relation to the sea, an interesting heritage that includes maritime fortresses and a modern lively marina. There are many restaurants, terraces and bars for all tastes. Natural beauties like the small rocky inlet of Boca do Inferno and Guincho beach, where international surf competitions are held, are other attractions of Cascais.
Sintra, "the green Eden" in the words of Lord Byron, is a world apart with small palaces and country houses spread along the green mountain and an old picturesque village distinguished by UNESCO. Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira are outstanding examples of 18th century revival architecture, while Queluz National Palace is not that different from Versailles Palace, only in terms of scale and area. Sintra train network is a comfortable quick way of travelling from Lisbon to Sintra. The trip can continue by tram, a century-old tram that connects Sintra with the beach Praia das Maçãs.
Mafra became internationally famous because of the Convent, but also because of Tapada de Mafra, a surprising natural zone. Near Mafra, you will find Ericheira beach, the place where "the sea is bluer", as the song put it. All around it, there is a picturesque region with its typical colourful villages spread through the hills, where for centuries a population of farmers worked hard to supply Lisbon with vegetables and fruits.