This may be the most anticipated post I have written in quite some time and I must say, I am so exited that so many of my friends, coworkers, and followers are going to be visiting Portugal soon – it is such a gorgeous place and all of you are going to have an phenomenal time! During the collective three days my Mom and I spent in Lisbon we explored so many amazing neighborhoods, attractions, and restaurants. To cover everything I decided to list out our top 10 so that you can all follow suit! The only thing I did not do that people rave abut was the Lisbon Oceanarium – I am sure it is an incredible aquarium but I have been to a great many in my life and when I visit a new city I want to see their history and culture, not something that could be in any other large city in the world! From these three days, here is my top 10:
(1) See the view from Alfama and Miradouro da Senhora do Monte Such a gorgeous neighborhood and where you can find the most famous yellow tram in all of Lisbon, Tram 28 and the the view from under the fur trees is spectacular and of the few Scenic Lookouts we visited, this was definitely my favorite .
(2) Take a Walking Tour In nearly every city I go to I try a walking tour and the SANDEMANs NEW Lisbon Tours was excellent like many of the Sandeman’s tours I have been on previously plus you can’t beat the free price. I loved learning the history – everything from The Great Earthquake of 1755, the Portuguese Inquisition, and the Salazar dictatorship – while walking around gorgeous neighborhoods like the Bairro Alto and Rossio Square.
(3) Visit the Torre de Belem (Belem Tower) & Padrão dos Descobrimentos These epic marble statues / monuments are only few minutes apart walking but quite a ways from the city center and the rest of the attractions on this list. However, they are worth a visit and a a quick 8 Euro cab ride will get you there or there is a local tram as an even more affordable option. Both are stunning and if you go in the morning approaching from the East the sun casts the most magical light on the white marble. The Belém Tower is a landmark medieval defensive tower and the second is a monument celebrating the Portuguese Age of Discovery.
(4) Grab a bit at the Pasteis de Belém Whether before or after you visit the Belem Tower you MUST pay a visit to this legendary and massive Portuguese bakery which is known for its tarts and breads. You know a place is good when it has been around for more than 100 years and is frequented by the locals – even construction worker were ordering in bulk on Easter weekend! My mom and both had the famed pastel de nata, a custard tart, for breakfast with cinnamon. And yes, the cappuccino with chocolate was also divine! Oh my goodness, yum!
(5) Explore the Santa Justa Elevator. You may also see this famous elevator called the Carmo Lift and I am going to recommend it, but not in the typical way. You could wait for more than an hour and pay five Euro for a five second ride to the top with no view or you can go the back way, let me explain. I learned from our walking tour the that the trams and elevators all around Lisbon originated from the locals not wanting to deal with the hills. And after a few days in the city, you will be in agreement. While this elevator is the prettiest one in town it has no view except from the top. Therefore, you could just start at the top, accessed from the Bairro Alto and just pay the one Euro to walk up the spiral staircase to the very top viewing platform like I did. And while you are at the top you can visit the Carmo Convent – gorgeous Medieval ruins & archaeology museum.
(6) Stop by the Prada do Comercio: The main shopping area of historic downtown Lisbon dead ends into this plaza with its gorgeous arch, stunning statue, and a beautiful plaza on the Tagus river. This plaza was not only where our walking tour ended but also where our bike tour began – a great central meeting place and hub of the city.
(7) Go on a Food Tour There are so many great types of Portuguese food I wanted to make sure we tried them all properly. Thus, while in Lisbon my mom and I took the Old Town and Graça food tour with Lazy Flavors and I HIGHLY recommend them. We had a delightful four hours tasting a whole variety of dishes and in fact it was such an enjoyable experience that the tour is actually going to get its own post soon. So not spoil it too much we got to try traditional pastries, unique cured meats, delicious rose, the famous bifana sandwich, their codfish fritters, and a glass of Ginjinha – quite an adventure!
(8) Take a day trip to Sintra Perhaps my only regret of my time in Portugal was that I did not spend enough time in Sintra. It is only 25 miles from Lisbon and took us less than an hour on the train from one city to the other. I had seen the massive national park on a map before but being their and truly seeing the the number of palaces in the hilly UNESCO World Heritage Site (the whole park!) took my breath away. We went inside the Pena Palace but our epic 42km bike trip had us pedalling quickly by all the others and I wish I had had longer in Sintra and the opportunity to go in each!
(9) Visit the São Jorge Castle or the Castle of St. George – This castle is a gorgeous medical structure on one of the highest hills in the city. Dating back to the 7th century BC there is a tremendous amount for history buffs and casual tourists alike at the Moorish castle. Be careful though, the website is a bit misleading and the tour of the castle is not three times a day in English, only once at 4pm! Oh, and make sure to catch the wild peacocks wandering around!
(10) Stop by our Breakfast Spot – Two of the three mornings in town we went to Fabrica Coffee Roasters and had some of the best coffee I have had in ages and their salmon and avocado with a poached egg was next level divine. If you don’t believe me, check out the Trip Advisor reviews – extremely well rated!
There you have it, my list of what to do in Lisbon!