After our little getaway to the Algarve, I was ready to see Portugal’s big city, Lisbon. I was still on a sugar high from the custard cakes, and was ready for adventure! <ohhh the custard cakes- a probably ate 15, good thing I brought stretchy pants and loose dresses!> The first thing I will tell you about Lisbon is that when you leave, you will have buns of STEEL! The city is built upon hills and if you chose to site see the city by foot 1. Pack comfy shoes and 2. Your legs are going to look damn good by the time you leave! The winding streets uphill take you deeper and deeper into Portugal’s capital and when you think you have gotten completely lost: buy a coffee and custard cake because you wont get a better deal then from a true locals bakery; away from the tourist hustle and bustle. For 1.50 euro I got both, and they were to DIE for!
We took the EVA bus from Lagos to Lisbon, which took about 3.5 hours. You know you are approaching Lisbon when you cross this large bridge, which resembles San Fransisco’s Golden Gate Bride. The train station is attached to a subway station, so if you have a general idea where your hotel is, you should be able to reach it via subway, if not a cab is always an option! We stayed at Hotel Borges Chiado, which was the absolute PERFECT location! It was right in the middle of the action on a pedestrian street. We paid about 80 dollars Canadian per night and I felt as though the location alone was worth every cent! The hotel was nice enough, no frills but definitely a great choice! The subway stop literally was in front of our hotel doorstep, so we easily found it- and the hotel staff allowed us to hold our bags til check in at 1. SO now it is time for some wandering and site seeing by foot. If you love to wander, this city is great: there are TONS of graffeti’d up alleys, adorable cafes and hidden gems sprinkled through out- waiting to be discorvered. All you need to do is grab a map to ensure you hit the main points of attraction. If walking isn’t your thang, there are hop on hop off tour buses aimed at showing you the best of Lisbon. I almost always chose to wander by foot; this usually provides me the BEST photo opps.
We wandered through the winding, hilly streets and ended up at the Sao Jorge Castle. You need to come here if you’re looking for one to the most beautiful views of Lisbon. We took the elevator up and continued the hike to the castle. <It was less then 10 euros entrance fee, and the view alone was worth the money!> The castle wasn’t that big, but it was fun to wander around. One of the things I loved about Lisbon was the colorful graffiti on the buildings and through out the alleys. I felt it added character to this city.
After the castle, we wandered down into Alfama, which is the oldest district in Lisbon. It spreads between the castle and the Tejo river. This area contains many historical attractions, so if you’re into cathedrals, you found your haven. <Make sure to visit Lisbon Cathederal, on the west side of the neighborhood> Alfama is picture perfect in every way, full of narrow streets, small squares, colorful buildings- and it seems like everyone hangs their laundry out to dry every day!
Make sure to keep an eye out for the famous Tram 28, a highlight for anyone visiting Lisbon! You can’t miss this yellow tram, which weaves through all Lisbon’s popular districts. You can catch this tram while in Alfama and take it through to Baixa, Graca or Estrela, all areas you must see on your visit.
Baixa: This area has been called “the heart of the city” and is bound together by several squares. The most famous square is called “Rossio Square” which is surrounded by numerous restaurants and shops. <I LOVED the wavy tile through out this square!> This is a great location to stay due to the fact it is centrally located and there are many hotel options available. One of the fun things to do here <besides shop til ya drop and eat custard tarts til you go up a pant size> is the elevador de Santa Justa, a crazy wrought iron elevator built in 1902 where the views are unreal! Arrive early though, because lines get LONG!
Bairro Alto/Chiado: Picturesque views meet nightlife. Photo opps by day, fist pumping by night. This is one of the liveliest neighborhoods if your looking for a night on the town! It is also one of Lisbon’s oldest and most interesting areas filled with many dining options and shops but located towards the top of the hill, but it is worth the hike!
Belem: Just 4 miles from the center of Lisbon, you will find Belem, best known for the Belem tower, a popular tourist attraction. It is considered to be one of the jewels of Lisbon, located on the River Tagus at the point where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean. Bring your camera here to take in the beautiful beach views.
After wandering through these popular neighborhoods, we headed down toward the water, entering the VERY grand square called Praca do Comercio where we enjoyed a Somersby on a patio while we people watched. This square is right along the river and often full of events throughout summer months. This square opens towards Augusta street, which links the square with the other traditional square "Rossio Square" and can get super packed with tourists. Another main attraction in this square is the Arco da Rua Augusta which connects Praca do Comercio with another main street full of countless dining options and shops. We basically spent 2 full days wandering Lisbon by foot and pretty much saw everything we could possibly want and stumbled upon SO many cute photo opps. We enjoyed a fab dinner filled with pizza and 1 euro beer (that’s right, I said 1 EURO) and hit the sack in order to rest up for a long day in Sintra.
What can I say about Sintra…..
If you are into adorable scenery, an abundance of castles, cobblestone alleys and medieval architecture-look no further! This UNESCO world heritage site is nothing less then AMAZING!
OKAY, SO there are a few differnet ways you can do Sintra. You can do a daytrip that is pre-planned and they will also take you to Cabo da Roca <The most western point of Europe> as well as Cascais/Estoril <An adorable beach town> BUT- we did not do that, since we didn’t want to feel rushed and wanted to be on our own schedule. If you want a bit more freedeom, I would highly suggest doing Sintra at your own pace. There is a train station right downtown Lisbon close to Rossio square <I would suggest asking for exact directions when you are there, because it is a little tricky to find!> From Lisbon, it is a 45 minute ride into Sintra and 5 euros for a round trip. Once you get there, you can purchase tickets for the castles-there are MANY castles and I would suggest doing a little research beforehand to figure out which castles you want to visit, since they are all so different and it can get pricy. We decided to visit:
1. Sintra Castle
2. Pena Palace
3. Quinta Da Regaleira
Sintra castle and Quinta Regaleira were walkable but Pena Palace is perched atop the VERY high hill and I would not recommend walking! For 15 euro you can purchase a day ticket to ride the bus through Sintra and it ALSO takes you to Cabo da Roca and Cascais, so I would suggest getting it, because they are BOTH worth the trip! Each castle range from 6-13 euro, so choose wisely, if not your pocketbook will be MUCH lighter on the way home!
Out of all the castles we visited, my TOP PICK was by FAR Quinta da Regaleira. It is actually a mansion, rather then a castle, but the highlight wasn’t the actual building, it was the CRAZY grounds surrounding! We spent at LEAST 2 hours prowling around through the caves, bridges, towers and gardens. One word: AMAZING! Don’t leave this one out of your plans! I also really liked Pena Palace-it basically looked like a Crayola box exploded everywhere; the colors were incredible and the views from the top are unbeatable! This was the most expensive castle, but definitely worth it! Sintra Castle was okay, although I wouldn’t say I was overly impressed compared to the others. There were at least 10 other castles to visit-my suggestion is to look on Pinterest to see if any of the castles peak your interest! The town of Sintra is adorable! VERY medieval but do yourself a favor and eat and get your coffee beforehand. <Not that I don’t love spending 5 euro on a mini coffee or anything!>
Cabo da Roca: I wasn’t sure what to think of this lookout, but O.M.G! It was STUNNING! There was a cute lighthouse that over looks the crazy cliffs that overlook the ocean. Don’t get TOOOOOO close to the edge for that selfie though; it’s a LONG way down!
Cascais/Estoril: If you don’t have any other beach destinations on your trip, make sure you pack your bathing suit! The beaches are great here and there are lots of places to grab an ice cream, beer or some fine Portuguese cuisine! The town itself kind of reminded me of Lagos <Not the beaches though-no where will compare to LAGOS BEACHES!>
You may want to budget 2 days for these places, since you don’t want to be rushed. Sintra could easily take 2 days if you wanted to really take it all in. Overall we were in Lisbon for 3.5 days, and I do feel as though I saw a lot however I could have stayed another day or two! If I had a bit more time, I would have tried to hit Porto on the northern part of Portugal-but I can definitely say I fell in love with this country on our trip! It should be on EVERYONES bucketlist!