For Riveria glamour at a fraction of the price, there's simply no beating the coast of Portugal. This Iberian gem is just starting to catch on with jetsetters, so take advantage of the thinner tourist crowds now with a road trip from Lisbon to Cascais to visit some of the best beaches in Portugal.
Portugal's roots stretch back to the Middle Ages and the country shares much of the Roman and Moorish history seen in next-door neighbor Spain. Its capital and largest city, Lisbon sits in the southern Alentejo region on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Tagus River. When you decide to travel through Portugal, it may be tempting to join an overpriced package tour that sticks close to the city limits, but you'll miss out on much of the country's scenic beauty that way. Renting a private car rental in Portugal from Auto Europe will take you off the beaten path of typical Alentejo tours and open you up to visiting the breathtaking beaches that probably inspired you to visit Portugal in the first place.
Your journey begins in Lisbon - this old-world capital has too much rich cultural heritage to be skipped entirely. But once you're ready to escape its fado-filled cobblestone streets, pick up your Lisbon rental car from one of Auto Europe's convenient locations and head for the nearest sandy stretch. Costa da Caparica beach is your introduction to the sun and surf of Portugal's western coast. Continue the oceanfront fun in the resort town of Estoril, home to Europe's largest casino, before wrapping up your travels in sunny Cascais. Games, golf, spas, and sunbathing all abound on this most relaxing of Alentejo tours. With the comfort and convenience of a private rental car, you'll have true freedom to travel Portugal on your own terms.
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Capital city Lisbon attracts millions of tourists each year, and it's no wonder why. Its old-world charm is abundant, running the gamut from the visible vestiges of Portugal's storied history to the melancholic melodies wafting out of traditional restaurants and fado clubs. You can brush up on the history of Portugal's traditional working-class genre at the Museu do Fado in the Alfama district, but for the most authentic Lisbon experience, hear some tunes firsthand at Clube de Fado or A Baîuca. Before you get too far along in your sightseeing, be sure to pick up a Lisbon Card, which will score you free or discounted admission to all of Lisbon's major museums and monuments, and there are some impressive collections on the list. The Centro de Arte Moderna focuses on 20th century works by local and regional artists, while the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian has amassed a more eclectic collection of works from both the East and the West. If pop art is more your fancy, you can find a collection alongside surrealist and abstract paintings at the Museu Colecção Berardo. History buffs can get their kicks at Núcleo Arqueológico, which offers free tours of the city's Roman ruins. Photographers won't want to miss the Gothic Castelo de São Jorge or the terraced Largo das Portas do Sol, which both make stunning viewpoints. Active types may want to explore the city on a different set of wheels. Bike Iberia has bicycles available to rent near Cais do Sodré. And, no visitor to Lisbon should skip the Belém neighborhood. This historic district is home to a variety of UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and the Torre de Belém.
While much of its production happens father north in the country, Portugal has a well-deserved reputation in the wine world and you'd be remiss not to enjoy the country's blends while you're here. The staff at BA Wine Bar do Bairro Alto will gladly pour you a glass of Vinho Verde, Touriga Nacional, or sweet, fortified port while you enjoy their kitchen's selection of tapas. For an even more intimate tapas and wine tasting experience, get cozy at Porto Alfama. Whether your chosen poison is prawns, octopus, or sea bass, get your first taste of Portugal's famed seafood at Frade dos Mares. If you'd rather save the ocean dwellers for future plates as you tour the area's beaches, fill up on mouthwatering grilled meats at Sala de Corte. This Portuguese barbecue's mixed specials offer diners the chance to try a little of everything, from ribs to chicken to sausage and more.
The modern, centrally located Radisson Blu is a good value for any traveler, while the sleek Corinthia Hotel boasts incredible views of the Aqueduct and Monsanto Park. Luxury seekers will gravitate to Dom Pedro Palace and Avenida Palace, both of which offer lush lodgings for those with fat wallets. Traveling solo? Book a room at the Alfama Patio Hostel, which arranges a variety of social activities for its guests. You're sure to make a few new friends at one of the hotel's pub crawls or barbecues.
Learn the intracacies of driving in Lisbon, with our helpful guide of Lisbon Driving Tips.
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While the capital itself is filled with more urban sights, there are myriad Lisbon, Portugal beaches within easy driving distance. Just a hop, skip, and a jump over the Tagus River lies Costa da Caparica, an idyllic setting for any traveler, whether you crave a little R&R or some adrenaline-fueled fun. The town centers on Praça da Liberdade, where you'll find plentiful shops and cafes. While this sandy stretch is quite popular with families, Costa da Caparica beach is also a great spot to learn how to surf. Sign up for a class with a surf school, like Duckdive or Gota d'Agua, and start hanging ten in no time.
A Costa da Caparica beach trip wouldn't be complete without indulging in its plentiful, fresh seafood. Pelicano & Kikiriki dishes up contemporary Portuguese meals in a blissful seaside location. The beachfront Restaurante - Bar Praia Riviera makes an idyllic setting for seafood-heavy tapas, like chocos and grilled giant tiger prawns. The family-run O Mercado offers a wider range of dishes. If you're looking to while away the afternoon or relax after a long day of sightseeing, you can't beat the coastal grill Borda d'Agua.
Costa da Caparica is teeming with good value choices for accommodations. The Residencial Mar e Sol offers clean, if a little small, rooms and a varied breakfast menu. The Hotel Residencial Colibri is perfect for travelers seeking a little peace and quiet, but not wanting to sacrifice a central location. Catch a seaside view from the warm and welcoming Hotel Real.
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Not many Alentejo tours will schedule a stop in scenic Estoril, but with a private car rental from Auto Europe, you can discover all of this town's coastal charms. The resort itself has faded in popularity compared to Cascais, but it still plays host to Europe's largest casino, making it an ideal destination for gaming types. Even if you would normally steer clear of the craps table, it doesn't hurt to indulge in the glamour of donning your evening best and swanning into this expansive club, said to have inspired the James Bond story "Casino Royale." If bikinis and board shorts are more your style than pearls and tuxedos, you can catch the best rays at Tamariz Beach. For some prime relaxation time, squeeze in a round of golf at Golfe do Estoril or fine tune your swing with a class at the Academia de Golfe Daniel Grimm. Still stressed? Work out those last few knots in your back at the Banyan Tree Spa, a luxurious setting for a relaxing massage. Learn a little of Portugal's heritage at the exquisitely tiled music museum Casa Verdades de Faria.
The décor at Restaurante Cozinha do Mar may be a bit minimal, but its fresh fish dishes are sure to please. For more delicious seafood, head to Baiuka, a spot with friendly service and seaside views. Weary wanderers will love putting their feet up - figuratively, of course - at Azimut Restaurante Bar, whose beachfront location is as much of a draw as its grilled fish and excellent drink menu. Craving a sweet treat after your meal? Pick up a fork at Pastelaria Garrett and dig into one of its beautiful cakes.
For true extravagance, check into the lavish Palacio Estoril Hotel Golf & Spa. Its relaxing, romantic atmosphere is particularly well-received by couples and its old-world elegance will please any luxury traveler. If you're after more of a bargain, book a room at the beautifully contemporary Saboia Estoril Hotel. Make the most of your wheels and get away from the beachfront crowds at Clube do Lago, located atop Monte Estoril. Or, put yourself smack in the middle of all the coastal fun with a room at the centrally located Vila Gale Estoril.
Prefer to road trip in style? Pick up a luxury car rental in Portugal, and cruise the best beaches lavishly.
Traveling with the whole family in tow? No worries, Auto Europe offers van rental in Portugal.
Cascais is perhaps the best-known of Lisbon's seaside suburbs. This busy resort town has three sandy stretches that are particularly worth your attention - Praia da Conceição, Praia da Rainha, and Praia da Ribeira. Cresmina Beach is also much lauded for its romantic sunset view. Take a cool ocean dip or work on your tan before filling your afternoon with the town's numerous attractions. Start out simply by wandering the Centro Historico - a stroll through a delightful old-world village is a must for any European getaway. Art and architecture lovers will naturally gravitate toward the Casa das Histórias Paula Rego, which features the Portuguese artist's storybook-worthy paintings, and the palatial Museu Condes de Castro, set within the striking gardens of Parque Marechal Carmona. Further your Portuguese education at the Museu do Mar, an ode to the country's history as a major naval power. For some seriously postcard-level pics, trade your car in for a free bike rental from Largo da Estação and cycle out to Boca do Inferno. The "devil's mouth" offers striking cliffside views over crashing Atlantic waves and this viewpoint makes a breathtaking picnic setting. If you feel a sunburn setting in or are just craving a little indoor time, pick up some souvenirs at the cobblestone CascaiShopping mall in town.
Delectable seafood dishes are as much of a must-eat in Cascais as they are throughout the region, so don't skimp on the shrimp just because you're finishing up your coastal trip. Marisco na Praça is the hidden gem of Cascais' fish market, serving up everything from grilled squid to barnacles. Foodies will get a real kick out of watching the creative chef-driven action at Conceito Food Store. Dine in a magical setting at Fortaleza do Guincho (also a hotel, see below) and savor the simplicity of real, authentic Portuguese cuisine. If you're in a sharing mood, order a few tapas at the locally favored Dom Diniz.
Indulgent types will be best served by the stunning and luxurious Grande Real Villa Italia Hotel & Spa, or the pristine, beachfront Hotel Cascais Miragem. Charming ocean views can be found at the romantic Fortaleza do Guincho (also a restaurant, see above). Couples will also be comfortable in the spacious rooms and intricate gardens of Onyria Marinha Edition Hotel & Thalasso.
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