|The capital city of Lisbon bustles with shops and tours. (Brandon Tucker/GolfPublisher.com)|
LISBON, Portugal - They don't call this stretch of Atlantic shoreline the "Golf Coast" for nothing.
Yes, you'll want to linger on stunning seaside golf courses like Oitavos Golf Club and Praia D'El Rey. But set aside time to explore Lisbon, one of Europe's most vibrant and historic cities, and sample the more secluded pleasures of Sintra National Park and miles of sandy beaches.
Here's a full round of off-course activities on Portugal's west coast.
1. Fort tours: Check out some of the fortifications that chart the area's turbulent history. Quinta da Marinha's Travel Our Way agency runs a tour that covers more than a dozen forts and castles, culminating at the famous Citadel of Cascais.
2. Sunbathing: Plenty of beach to choose from, from the upscale resort town of Cascais to the Marriott Praia D'El Rey resort's two kilometers of private coast. The beautiful Albatroz Hotel has one of the smallest, most private sandy coves you'll find anywhere.
3. Surfing: Choosing between the Portuguese west coast and the Algarve is a no-brainer, dude. This is where the Atlantic first meets mainland Europe, making it the best spot to hang 10 on the continent. Never surfed? Resorts like Praia D'El Rey offer lessons.
4. Wine tours: Portuguese wines have won international recognition, and the west coast is filled with vintners. The city of Porto is the home of port, the popular aperitif.
5. Ride a tram: The clanking yellow trams are still the best way to get up and around the seven hills of Lisbon. The 28 line passes through the oldest quarters of the city, and the Gloria and Bica funiculars are the best way to reach the happening Bairro Alto district.
6. St. George's Castle: Located in the heart of Lisbon, this ominous pile dates to the sixth century and has been fortified by Romans, Visigoths and Moors. Repeatedly captured and recaptured, it was dedicated to St. George, patron saint of England. The walk up the hill will take you past many sites of interest and unique shops.
7. Historic Lisbon city tour: There's tons to see in this capital city; if you just have a day or so, a guided tour is probably the best way to see the most. Jeronimous Monastery is the most popular attraction, followed by the Belem Tower, called the "Eiffle Tower of Lisbon."
8. Sintra: In various ages the stomping ground of Roman moon-worshippers, castle-building Moors and Portuguese royalty, today's Sintra is a beautiful town of hilly, winding streets dotted with charming shops and cafes. Downtown is easily walkable in a few hours.
9. Parque Das Nacoes: Contrasting sharply with coast's historical architecture, the futuristic buildings of the eastern Lisbon's "Park of the Nations" were mostly built for the 1998 World Expo. Along with plenty of bars and restaurants and the Vasco de Gama shopping center, one of the area's best commercial quarters, this is the home of the striking Oceanarium, Europe's largest aquarium.
10. Quinta da Marinha Health Club: Day passes can be purchased for this beautiful and spacious new facility offering massages, beauty treatments, a gym, padel, racquetball, spinning, Pilates classes and tons more. You can easily take up a day here at the various facilities, but it isn't exactly a "day off."
11. Horseback riding: The Quinta da Marinha complex has an equestrian field and horse farm.
12. Cabo da Roca Lighthouse: A scenic 15-minute drive from Cascais, Cabo da Roca is continental Europe's westernmost point. Not surprisingly, sunset here is special. There is a restaurant and coffee shop if you feel like hanging around awhile.
13. Eat!: It's not as fancy as gourmet French or Italian, but a meal on the Lisbon coast is a real production that can last a few hours, even at lunchtime. The food is fresh, the service impeccable, the wine plentiful. Share a Porto vintage, order up some just-caught seafood and while the night away, preferably on an outdoor deck overlooking the Bay of Cascais.
14. Fado: Fado is a traditional Portuguese musical performance, paired with dinner in many Lisbon theaters. The music's mournful quality comes through even if you don't speak Portuguese (although that obviously helps). Café Luso (213-422-281), a traditional Lisbon fado house, has nightly seatings beginning at 8 p.m.
15. Casino Estoril: Portugal's first casino and Europe's biggest, Casino Estoril is a old-school temple of gaming and entertainment. It inspired British author Ian Fleming, who made it a key setting for the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale.
16. Obidos: A tiny, historic village near Praia D'El Rey full of quirky, twisted medieval streets.
17. Sintra National Forest: You can take a guided tour or simply stroll on your own through this beautiful rolling coastal forest.
18. Museum-hopping: Pick one, any one. There are a variety of unique collections to choose from, from Europe's largest display of royal vehicles at the Coaches Museum to the teeming marine life of the Oceanarium. The most popular may be the Gulbenkian Museum, with its collection of treasures from all over the continent.
The new five-star Mirage in Cascais overlooks the Atlantic, and the staff is surprisingly warm considering the hotel's somewhat corporate atmosphere. There are full business and conference facilities and fine dining. The Albatroz on the Bay of Cascais is a good choice for a cozier getaway, a historic villa with classical rooms and a very secluded private beach.
April 12, 2007
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.
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