A Guide to Lisbon
As a reward for enduring many weeks of my Lisbon travel posts, I am pleased to present to you a " travel guide " which contains all the info, tips and tricks that made our visit to Lisbon one of my most enjoyable travel destinations this year!
Where we stayed
To me, half the battle in planning a good trip or vacation is won simply by choosing the right accommodation! Given that the main purpose of our trip to Lisbon was a business conference which my husband had to attend in the city, our accommodation was already pre-selected for us - so basically we had to go with the flow when it came to choosing our hotel.
Fortunately our predetermined accommodation, the Intercontinental Lisbon Hotel, turned out to be conveniently located in the centre of the city. Besides its ideal location, the hotel also boasted spacious rooms (with great city views!), good service levels and the most gorgeous hotel lobby!
Nearby Attractions :
Besides the lush comforts of the hotel, the best part was that it was conveniently located near to all of downtown Lisbon's major sights and attractions. Whether we chose to walk or take a cab to these locations, they were always a conveniently located down the road from the hotel.The following attractions were especially easy to get to:
Parque Eduardo VII
Located right across from our hotel, this expansive park (central Lisbon's largest) is famous for its leafy gardens, exotic greenhouses (known as the Estufa Fria and the Estufa Quente) and sweeping views of the city. As a calm oasis in the bustling city center , I found the park to be particularly useful while I waited for various sightseeing tours to begin (most of the major bus tours have ticketing offices located at this park).
Marques de Pombal Square
Another major attraction, located at a junction below the Eduardo VII Park, is the statue and monument dedicated to the Marquis of Pombal - Lisbon's beloved prime minister who was responsible for rebuilding the city after the great earthquake of 1755.
Parque Eduardo VII overlooking the statue of Marques de Pombal, the city of Lisbon and the Tagus river.
Photo: Alfredo Henriques; Source: Panoramio
Avenida da Liberdade
Leading directly down from the Parque Eduardo VII and the Marques de Pombal Square is a super-long and leafy avenue known as the Avenida da Liberdade ( meaning " Avenue of Liberty" ). Lined with pretty squares and some of the city's best shops,hotels and dining areas, this is considered to be the main avenue in the city.
With plenty of leafy spaces, alfresco dining and entertainment options located along the lively streets of this avenue, this is the ideal location for exploring downtown Lisbon by foot. The city's main transport hubs ( buses, cabs, metro stations and even brightly coloured tuk-tuks!) are all conveniently located nearby, making it easy to get to any location in the city.
When it comes to the "king" of squares in Lisbon, you will find that Rossio Square reigns supreme! Located at the lower end of the Avenida da Liberdade, Rossio Square has garnered popularity for its wave-patterned mosaic pavements, flowing water fountains and its prime location in the heart of the city center and is forever bustling with activity.
Praça do Comércio :
Once the site of the royal Palace, this huge square overlooking Lisbon's waterfront and the Tagus river, is located at the end of the city's bustling avenue of shops and entertainment. With brightly coloured buildings (painted a "royal" yellow) lining the square, the Praça do Comercio is certainly one of the most recognizable attractions in Lisbon.
What we Did:
DAY 1 :
TAKING IN THE CITY VIEWS
VIEWS FROM A MIRADOURO
Our first day in Lisbon was all about taking in the city views! Being that Lisbon is famously built on " seven hills ", the views in this city are nothing short of spectacular! The views in Lisbon are so amazing that the city is peppered with many miradouro's (viewing platforms) which are particularly buzzing with people around sunset.
TOP TIP : Take in sweeping views of the city from the Miradouro de Santa Luzia which is located in the charming neighbourhood of Alfama.
VIEWS FROM THE ALFAMA NEIGHBOURHOOD
As one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Lisbon, Alfama (pictured above) is full of charming cobbled streets and narrow pathways. Perched high on a hill, this neighbourhood offers some of the best views in the city. Given its colourful street-art, lively squares and the occasional resident hanging washing up on the line, it also has as a grit or " realness " about it.
VIEWS FROM CASTELO DE SÃO JORGE:
This hilltop castle is perhaps one of the city's most recognisable (and most viewable) historical attractions. Perched on steep slopes directly overlooking Alfama and the waterfront area, the Castelo de São Jorge was once the medieval residence of Portuguese kings. Today it is an icon of the city featuring lush gardens, a beautiful observation terrace and a museum.
TOP TIP: Enjoy a take-away glass of wine (or three!) from the wine bar located at the observation terrace, while you soak up the magical views of the city.
DAY 2 : ENJOYING THE COAST
The Town of Cascais
Given our limited time together, my husband and I decided to venture away from the city on our second day in Lisbon, to explore the quieter coastal atmosphere of the quaint coastal towns outside the city. After purchasing a day-trip ticket on a hop-on-hop off tour bus, our first stop was the beautiful town of Cascais, which for decades, has been a popular holiday resort for Lisboeta's wishing to escape the hectic city.
Top Tip: Enjoy a coffee and gorgeous views of the Cascais bay from the breezy terrace of the Reserva by Olivier , a restaurant/guesthouse located right on the coastline. Afterwards, take a stroll through the various little shopping squares in the town centre.
Boca do Inferno
About a mile away from the town of Cascais are the spectacular rocky cliff-edges and caves known as the Boca do Inferno ("mouth of hell" ). Named after the crashing sound of the waves as they hit the sharp rocks, which sends water spraying through the air, the viewing platform at this rocky cliff offers magnificent views of the Atlantic ocean below.
Top Tip: Spend the day hopping around from different towns along the coast, such as Estoril and Cascais, by using your hop-on-hop-off day ticket. Buses arrive every hour, making it easy to explore many places along this charming Atlantic coastline.
See a full post on our visit to the Lisbon coast, here
DAY 3 : A Bit of History and Culture in Belém
The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
This spectacular 16th century monastery is the gem of the of Belém, an old neighbourhood located along Lisbon's waterfront and overlooking the Tagus river. Once you arrive in Belém, there is no way you can miss this beautiful monastery - due to its sheer size and opulence.
Top Tip: To get to Belém, take the " red line " on the hop-on-hop-off bus. If you purchased a day ticket to Cascais, the same ticket will still be valid for another day to explore any attractions on the red line (also known as the Belém line).
Inside the monastery, sits a church which houses the tomb of Vasco de Gama (Portugal's most famous explorer) and King Sebastiao (a young King who never returned from battle in 1578). Other attractions include richly carved cloisters and a refectory tiled with colourful azulejos.
Top Tip: The monastery is closed on a monday, so be sure to plan your visit there accordingly. However, if you do go on a monday (as I did) you can still access the beautiful monastery gardens and take loads of pictures of the outside of the monastery, without having to compete with the crowds.
See a full post on my visit to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, here
Pasteis de Belém
As a dessert aficionado, I must admit that what initially drew me to Belém was the knowledge that the most famous pastry tart in Lisbon was born here! At the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém , otherwise known as the Pasteis de Belém coffee shop (a 1 minute walk from the monastery), you will find the most heavenly custard tarts that you will ever taste.
Top Tip: Despite initial impressions when first entering the cafe, this place has ample seating space. Weave your way through the crowds at the front of the cafe and head towards the back where you will find another large seating area and a small courtyard. On your way there, take a peek through the windows of the kitchen where you will see bakers preparing hundreds of little pastry tarts (apparently the 18th century recipe for the custard tarts is still top secret!).
See a full post on my visit to Pasteis de Belém, here
DAY 4 : Exploring the hills of Sintra
The Town of Sintra
A UNESCO cultural landscape since 1995, the picturesque town of Sintra (located thirty minutes outside of Lisbon) looks like it comes straight from a book of fairytales. Not only are the beautiful, green slopes of this town enchanting, but they also hold a lot of history dating back for centuries. The town is made up of a collection of quaint shops and villages scattered along winding hills, that make you want to never leave!
Top Tip: From the metro station at Rossio square in Lisbon, take a train to Sintra ( there is one every thirty minutes) and you will arrive at the train station which is a short walk from the town centre.
See a full post on my visit to Sintra, here
Gracing the beautiful green hills of Sintra ,is the brightly coloured and striking facade of the Palácio da Pena. This exotic palace is truly a sight to behold with its elaborate Moorish designs which stand boldly, overlooking the rolling hills of Sintra. With bustling crowds weaving through this magical palace (and its expansive gardens) from morning to dusk, this is by far one of the most popular sights around Lisbon.
Top Tip: There are various ways to get up to the winding roads leading to Pena Palace. You can either take a colourful yellow taxi, a bus or (if you're fit) a long uphill walk!
See a full post on my visit to Pena Palace, here
DAY 5 : A Night Out in Lisbon
TimeOut Market at Ribeira
Of all the attractions in Lisbon, I was most excited whenever they involved food! On our last night in Lisbon I dragged my husband (who was exhausted from a week full of conference meetings in the city) to what I believe is one of the most hippest food and hangout spots in Lisbon - the TimeOut Market. With no less than 23 restaurants, countless food stalls, bars, shops (and an art gallery!) this massive and buzzing market was definitely the right way to end off our stay in Lisbon.
Foodies like myself will be delighted at the sheer number of dining options available at this place - since the market uses open-plan seating you can basically mix and match a variety of dishes ranging from traditional Portuguese fare (such as bacalhau) and international cuisine such as sushi or stir fries. Finish the night off with a glass of wine from the various wine (and cocktail) bars in the market, and you are good to go!
Top Tip: If you are a keen photographer, you may want to head to the (hidden) second floor of the market, where you will find some large windows which offer panoramic views of this expansive market.
Other Attractions to look out for