Lisbon is a huge city. So huge that to get from one part to another, you either walk a lot, or take the bus or tram. Lisbon is lovely to walk in, it’s a great work out and it’s as hilly as San Francisco. Yes, apparently, because they had an earthquake about 250 years ago, they planned out the city in grids with trams and San Francisco copied it because it had a similar structure of hills and the river. If you don’t fancy walking, take the very cute tram 28. Be warned though, that pickpockets practically live on this tram so leave your passport and valuables at home. If you wish, you can purchase the yellow sightseeing tour because it’s includes their very own tram ride that does the same route as tram 28 💪🏼. I think it also includes the trip to Belem
The sights in Lisbon town are plentiful. I took the SANDEMANs Lisbon free walking tour and it’s a good 3 hours walk across the city with history, fun and cultural bits that the guide hands out. I got Fred as my guide and he was Portuguese and so funny. He also mentioned that a lot of Portuguese are not proud of their culture because they were once a dictatorship and they were neutral during the war and they lost so many wars against the Spanish. Well, he said he is proud because they overthrown the dictatorship peacefully which is why the revolution was called the carnation revolution. How cool right? If you wonder why some parts of South America speaks Portuguese, they also took over Brazil and other parts and colonized them.
Within Lisbon, you can visit the many churches including Se cathedral, the castle of St Jorge, the Carmo convent, the many museums and of course, don’t forget to just wander around the streets because they are beautiful. The district of Alfama is especially nice because it is the old part where the streets are still haphazardly arranged as they were not destroyed by the earthquake. The people are also a tight community so it’s always nice to see them having chats on the streets. And the aunties make their own cherry liquor or Natas and sell them on the streets. How cool.
If you love drinking like the Portuguese, you will need to hang out at Barrio Alto at night. It comes alive and there are more than 200 bars in this place and it’s the only city that you can drink on the streets So buy your booze and hang out outside on a nice night.
Few things to note for Lisbon.
Do not take the beautiful ift from the street for 5 euros. Do instead walk towards Carmo Conven from Barrio Alto and you’re already at the top and can take photos for free.
If you go to the castle of St Jorge, remember to go for the Camera Obscura tour included in your ticket price. It’s amazing. The last tour is 5pm in English. It’s at the top walls and you can see a consistent queue. Hard to miss this.
There are many pickpockets in Lisbon so please keep your passport and valuables locked up in the hotel and put your bags in front of you.
In Rua Augusta, people will try to sell you drugs. Ignore them or you’ll end up buying fake stuff and also, pickpockets hang out here while the people selling you things distract you.
Lisbon has no short of fine restaurants. Jose Avillez has his flagship Michelin starred restaurant here. I didn’t go there but went to his sister tavern, read:affordable, Bairro Do Avillez. He has the tavern, the patio and the Peruvian inspired Bistro. They have a slightly different menu but both good. I had mine at the tavern as I wanted a tapas style selection. I also found very nice food at the local coffee shops. They’re easy to recognize. They have wine, beer, and seafood and meat hanging out in a fridge by the window. I got a very good steak and fries for 8 euros. Lisbon also has a lot of things to snack on like the croquettes, ice cream, natas (Portuguese custard tarts) and samosas (after all, they were the first country to discover the trade route with India. You will never go hungry walking the town so I recommend you skip the tram so you can snack on delightful Lisbon snacks.
Speaking of Natas and snacks, did you know that the original Portuguese egg tart was born in Belem? The secret recipe is passed down to 3 persons and they cannot travel by plane at the same in case something happens to it. Talk about BCP. The egg tart is really worth queuing for and it is the most delicious I’ve tasted in Portugal and the world. The crust is crispy and flaky and just buttery enough. The custard is soft enough to flow but thick enough not to. It’s just amazing goodness and here, the sprinkle cinnamon powder on it. YUMS!
In Belem, do head to the Monastery of San Jerenimos. The church is free and it’s beautiful inside but to enter the cloister you have to queue up and pay. The queues are super long but you can buy a combination ticket for the tower of Belem too so you only queue once.
Once you finish with the church, walk forward towards the waterfront because the monument of Padrão dos Descobrimentos awaits you and the view from there is amazing. You get the Ponte 25 De Abril on your right and the Belem tower to your left. Admire the sights, enjoy the sun and sea breeze, then walk towards the tower of Belem, it’s Unesco and it used to protect the city from Seaward attack so it’s pretty cool!
If you rented a car like me, a fantastic day trip is to head to Cabo Espichel to hunt for dinosaur prints and also to see the lighthouse, the very holy chapel and old monastery that is there. The good thing is, to head south, you have to get on that beautiful bridge that is not available to pedestrians. Yaay! You will also get to drive under the Aquaduct that Lisbon has and it’s huge!
After Cabo Espichel, I headed further south to Parque Natural De Arrabida. Do get on the road called A379. If you put Praia Dos Galapinhos from Sesimbra or Cabo Espichel, it should get you on that beautiful coastal road that’s steep and curvy but so beautiful. You can make safe stops when you see space on your side of the road, which is the right side, because trust me, the views from the top are breathtaking.
The beaches are stunning but the water is cold as it’s the Atlantic. I only stoped at 1 but you can stop at the other beach further down called Praia De Figueirinha. You will find yourself to be the only tourist there because no tour bus comes here. Maybe in summer you get some, but I was the only local on this beach in September.
Driving back to Lisbon, do make a stop at Cacilhas and take the panoramic lift (only 1 euro!) up to the top where you can see the 2 bridges that links Lisbon to the south. The one further to your right if you face Lisbon is the longest bridge at 18km in the world. The view and sunset from there is amazing!
To take the panoramic lift, park your car at Cacilhas and then walk towards the river. Turn left so the river is on your right and walk all the way till you see it. The restaurants near the lift look damn good and crowded too. Once you’re at the top, head towards the left to Jardins de Castillo to get the view of Christo Rei and the bridge together. It’s beautiful when the sun sets behind it I didn’t get time to go to Christo Rei but you can drive there. The sights from there are supposed to be amazing. In the gardens, the restaurant Amarra O Tejo has a Michelin badge on it but dinner starts at 745pm and I didn’t want to walk back in the dark to my car so I didn’t try it.
Another good day trip from Lisbon is to head north. Sintra and Obidos are wonderful towns.
Obidos can be done in 2 hours because it’s such a small town and you can walk the walls that surround it in less than an hour. I didn’t because I had lunch instead and because the stones are slippery to walk on and I didn’t wear tracking shoes that day. The town of Obidos has one Main Street, so you walk that towards the castle at the end, then you walk around it, and you walk in between to see the rest of the sights. It’s easy and it’s fun to just wander around and I assure you will end up in the same spot you have begun if you don’t go past the walls. There’s an aqueduct there as well! Do remember to try the cherry liquor there in a chocolate cup. It’s their speciality and it’s yummy.
Sintra is the town romantic dreams are made of. Germany has their Neuschwanstein, Portugal has their Pena Palace. Pena palace is colourful and it’s super elaborate inside and out. Do buy the combined ticket for the moorish castle as well because that is also a must see.
The moorish castle and gardens are beautiful to explore. The winds are very strong so please bring a windbreaker else you have to walk very fast like me to generate heat 😂the old town of Sintra is also very beautiful and there are other monuments to visit there too.
You can take the tourist bus 434 (Pena circuit) from Sintra train station. It’s 5.50 euros for a round trip and it’s worth it so you don’t have to drive or walk up the very treacherous roads. If you do intend to drive up there, I’m warning you, it’s a 2 way street but very narrow, steep and parking is scarce. So I suggest park your car like me and then take the bus up, or walk for an hour up if you fancy a hike. The last bus is 8pm down from Pena palace and the palace and Moorish castle close at 730pm so it’s timed just for people who go up to the top like me!
There you have it, Lisbon and the surrounding sights if you do rent a car! I wished I had more time in Lisbon. 3 nights doesn’t seem enough!!!