Take me back.
Lisbon has been at the top of my list for quite some time now and I can honestly say it did not disappoint. Drawn in by the colourful streets, fresh seafood, sunny weather & quirky transport, yep, I’m sold!
We stayed in Lisbon for 4 days and returned midday on the 5th. Our little trip was jam-packed full of sightseeing & some may say far too many croissants, but Katie and I were very content!
Lisbon may come across as quirky, lively and bustling with tourists, but it very much respects old traditions, boasts tonnes of character and is full of hidden gems.
Day 1 //
Itinerary: Fly – Find apartment – Explore local area
Monday morning was a very early start, we set off to the airport at 4am to fly for 7. Obviously holiday mode began ASAP, and what more does your body want at 4:30 am other than the biggest breakfast the airport offered. Followed by a major food baby, the sleep coma soon kicked in and I basically slept the entire 2 1/2 hour flight. Landing at around 10 ish we headed to the metro.
Now then, the metro line is so simple. Its super easy to navigate your way around and impossible to get lost. To ride the metro, bus, trains, trams you need a reusable VivaViagem card. We bought the ‘zapping’ ticket version, which basically means you top up your card as and when you need it, that way you don’t waste money. I think we probably spent about 15-20€ on our metro cards for the entire 4 days, but these could also be used on all other transports: trams, buses, trains & underground.
Our apartment was perfect and our hosts were wonderful. We found and booked the apartment through AirBNB and it was the perfect little rest place after our busy days. It was super cosy, bright and modern and was well equipped and beautifully furnished. Situated very close to Intendente metro line and in the historic district of Lisbon, the neighbourhood offered everything we needed including: restaurants, coffee shops, subway and the famous 28 tram line.
All settled in we started our first day by heading to down town Lisbon, or better known as Baixo. Everything felt so close by; it took us roughly 20-25 minutes to walk down to the riverfront which was a beautiful, scenic walk. We past Martim Moniz square – here there is an awesome water feature and also a great place to start out any adventures, particularly on the no. 28 Tram or to Castelo De S. Jorge.
On our way we also passed through the bustling shopping streets, lined with high street stores, souvenir shops and seafood restaurants. As we neared the riverfront we passed under the Arco Da Rua Augusta which leads you out onto one of the grandest squares in Lisbon, Praca do Comércio. The monumental lemon-meringue facades and majestic architecture is enough for you to just stare at and admire, I must admit this was definitely one of my favourite places to just sit, relax and ‘people’ watch.
Absorbing the vibrant neighbourhood we headed for some easy food (pizza & icecream) & settled in for a very early night.
*Oh, let’s not forget Katie and I arrived feeling very under the weather. Both full of cold & feeling extremely tired. Lets just say we felt very, very sorry for ourselves!
Day 2 //
Itinerary: Sintra (Castle & Palace)
I’ll say this now, you can’t visit Portugal without taking a trip to Sintra! Here ancient castles and glittering palaces impose the thick forest landscape and live in harmony with exotic gardens, it’s quite literally a fairy tale.
After a solid 12 hours sleep, we both awakened super early, feeling fabulous – well not quite fabulous but at least we weren’t as run down as the day before.
After a scrumptious, hearty breakfast we headed for Rossio station to catch the train to Sintra. The 45 minute journey quickly passes by and upon arrival you can easily see why you can spend an entire day wondering around. Some people even stay for 2 or 3 days, getting the full experience.
Catching the 434 bus tour (7€) from outside the station, you can hop on and off the route to see all the major sights.
Word of warning, Sintra is extremely popular and the queues for buses and entries into the castles and palaces can be long so arrive early to make a full day of it!
Tip: Think about which sights you really want to see & book tickets in advance https://www.parquesdesintra.pt/en/
Castelo dos Mouros – Moorish Castle
Our first stop was Moorish Castle, & definitely well worth the walk to see the panoramic view over Sintra. Its cost 8.50€ to enter the castle which you spend walking up and down and around the stairs. Built around the 10th century it acted as a watch tower to protect Lisbon and the surrounding area.
Climbing up and looking out at the view from this medieval fortress was incredible! We could see for miles as the skies were so clear and it was so peaceful to just sit in the sun & take in the view. On our way back down we stopped off at rooftop café for some lunch which is situated on top of what was the Guard house. A perfect little café with a glorious woodland view.
Parque e Palácio De Pena – Pak and Palace of Pena
This is definitely the main attraction of Sintra. The whimsical palace stands exquisitely on the highest point of the region, bold and bright in colour. The Portuguese architecture expresses romanticism, which is why is appears so fairytale like. It cost 15€ for a ticket into the Palace and Park and I’m so glad we did both because even though the outside is magnificent, by seeing the inside décor it really brings the palace to life and how it’s residents lived.
But do escape from the crowds which descend upon the palace, and take time to navigate your way around peaceful Pena Park. The romantic gardens are filled with exotic plants and lakes, a firm favourite of mine were the castle shaped duck houses.
From Pena Palace we hopped back onto the 434 bus and headed towards the historic centre of Sintra. We wondered around the narrow streets popping into every souvenir shop and also visited Palacio de Sintra (Sintra National Palace) which stands in the centre of the town, a quirky white and yellow building with cone shaped chimneys.
After a super long day we headed back to the train station, found an Italian restaurant for dinner and enjoyed a very deep sleep.
UPDATE: It’s only day 2 and I’ve quite literally, already, walked Katie to death!
Day 3 //
Itinerary: Explore city via no. 28 Tram – Time Out Market – Jargo Castle
What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of Lisbon?
Of course the iconic vintage yellow no.28 tram! Let’s be honest you can’t go to Lisbon and not take a ride on it.
After a hearty breakfast at Padaria do Bairro filled with almond and chocolate croissants and the freshest orange juice we headed for the tram. We caught the tram near to Praca do Comércio or you can hop on at the very start which begins at Martin Moniz.
TIP: get there early because the queue gets extremely long, very quickly!
We didn’t have much of an idea as to where the tram went so we basically hopped on (paid via our Zapping ticket) and stayed on till it reached the end of its journey. Then hopped back on and headed back into the city centre. It was a great way of seeing the city, we passed lots of places I’d looked at visiting like Pink Street & Basilica de Estrela (one of the finest churches in Portugal) so it is an ideal way of easily commuting and sightseeing the entire city.
Quick heads up though, people will attempt to squeeze their way onto the tram. I was stood right at the front, slammed up against the front window – don’t get me wrong I had the BEST view but the ride itself it very jerky, everything rattles and squeaks, and be sure to hold on as there are many tight corners and sharp breaks.
After jumping back off the tram at Praca do Comércio we walked along the river front past Patio de Gale towards the Time Out Market. This quickly became my favourite place for food. You can quite literally find the best of Lisbon all under one roof. It’s the perfect place for fine dining, a cool spot to hang out, or whether you’re indecisive hungry tourists. With so many different options there isn’t anything you won’t enjoy. The area is always bustling with people, sometimes quite snug during peak hours, which makes it a great environment to hang out at. Katie and I enjoyed a very rich and thick hot chocolate whilst we planned our afternoon adventures.
Leaving Time Out we made our way back towards Martin Moniz square and chilled in the sun by the water feature.
This was one of the very first places I saw in the distance upon arriving in Lisbon and I was keen to make the intrepid journey up to Castelo de S.Jorge. With nothing major planned for the afternoon we decided to make the most of our time and headed up the steep, cobbled street towards the castle. Situated up high on the natural slopes the purpose of the castle was to house military troops in the case of a siege and the elite who lived in the citadel. And of course with its exceptional location follows a phenomenal view across the city. A sea of deep, red, roofing tiles and dark green trees cover the landscape with so many other monuments visible across the cities horizon. This is said to be the perfect place to watch sunset and you can definitely see why!
UPDATE: Katie’s legs not good. Too many stairs and steep hills for her little legs to climb. Every 4 steps she takes I take 2.
It cost a total of 8.50€ to enter and not only is there an exceptional view to admire there is also plenty within the castle ruins to explore, including: an archaeological site, permanent exhibition, camera obscura , a café, a restaurant and a visitors shop.
If we’d have been staying in Lisbon for longer undoubtedly I would have returned to the castle in the late evening to watch the sunset.
Leaving the castle grounds we lazily ambled our way back down the cobbled streets, stopping off to hunt for souvenirs & getting lost along the way before heading off for dinner. And yes, I can’t believe we did it but we went back to the Italian restaurant! But we didn’t have the same dishes!
Itinerary: Belem Tower – Botanical Gardens – LX Factory – Time Out Market
Day 4 & our last full day!
With a full itinerary in motion we headed for breakfast at Padaria Portuguesa, a little café recommended by our AirBNB hosts. Again I stuffed myself with almond croissants, a gigantic Pain aux Raisin & lots of fresh OJ!
We caught the metro from Intendente to Cais Do Sodre and then onto Belem. Day 4 had to be the best weather, the sun was hot and there was not a cloud in the sky, which made walking along the sea front promenade so blissful. We stopped off to check out Padrao dos Descombrimentos (that huge monument near the red bridge) and then walked onto Belem Tower. We spent quite some time here just chilling in the sun and playing in the rocks. We decided not to go into the tower as the queue, was once again, was super long but it’s something I’d like to do next time I return.
Oh, we also watched a changing of the guard outside the Museu do Combatente which was pretty cool.
Leaving the hustle and bustle that gathered around Belem Tower we made our way towards Mosterio dos Jeronimos. An exquisite monastery both inside and out.
From here we headed to the Botanical Tropical Gardens. The best 2€ I spent, I could have stayed here forever. Step outside the gardens and the streets are consumed with tourists, buses and taxis, there is noise everywhere. Step inside the gardens and you’re instantly transported into an serene, exotic flora. You become consumed by exotic trees and plants from various regions of the world, large lakes, numerous free-roaming animal species – I was obsessed with the peacocks!
Deeper within the gardens is also The Counts of Calheta Palace where exhibitions are held, free admission too. The beauty of this garden is truly hidden out of sight and was the perfect discovery to meander around.
Leaving the quietness behind we set off walking once again heading towards the LX Factory. Now this was quite a walk but I really wanted to pass under the Ponte 25 de Abril, which looks very similar to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
LX Factory is a very trendy, quirky market street filled with some great places to grab food and drinks and also find some beautifully sourced products. After treating ourselves to a well deserved ice-cream we headed for Alcantara-Mar metro and headed back to Cais do Sodre.
Being so close to the Time out Market we thought it was the perfect opportunity to go and enjoy the wonders of the indoor food market for our last dinner in Lisbon, and quite literally I went crazy and ate and drank an unreal amount.
I’d like to write about day 5 but it involved returning home and that just sucks, so instead all I can say is if you haven’t been to Lisbon, go!