Europe Portugal Travel

From Lisbon with love – a long weekend in Portugal’s capital

The lively coastal town of Lisbon isn’t just the capital city of Portugal, it’s a must-visit locale for those near and far. The city is colorful, welcoming and a bit dreamy.

While I’m a firm believer that you could – and should – spend a month-plus in most destinations, not all holidays allow such time. This was my first visit to Portugal and I gave myself 3.5 days and managed to get a taste of what the city has to offer.

View of the city from Castelo de Sao Jorge

What to do

Castelo de Sao Jorge – Wear your best trainers because it’s all uphill to get to Castelo de Sao Jorge. The allure of the castle, built in the 8th century, isn’t the castle itself, but instead the cute area surrounding it and the views it provides as you navigate your way through it (see above photo)

Tram 28E – Trams are an authentic way to see the city — and avoid all those hills. Tram 28E, specifically, makes a loop around monuments and city highlights. Use it as a way to hop from place to place, or take a tour from one end of the city to the other.

Tram located along the route of tram 28E

Jerónimos Monastery -The Monastery, located in the Belem district, is a national monument and an UNESCO World Heritage site founded in the 16th century. While the exterior of the monastery is spectacular – you can take a tour of the different rooms – my favourite part was the chapel.

Torre de Belem – Currently the tower is closed because of the pandemic, but you can still see it as you walk along the coast

Alfama – Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood is pieced together by winding streets, narrow staircases and colorful buildings. While getting lost in this part of town is definitely something to do, make your way to Castelo de Sao Jorge, erected in the 8th century BC.

Arco de Rua Augusta – The beautiful arc is an entryway to the colorful square at the end of Rua Augusta. Morning, noon and night this area has people strolling through or sitting to enjoy the view. The tram runs through this area as well so if you’re looking to head uphill to Alfama or toward the western neighbourhoods, you can do so here.

Arco de Rua Augusta

Sintra & Cascais – Either of those locations are worth half a day of your time. If you’re into history and exploration, choose Sintra. Relaxation and the beach? Go to Cascais. Both are about a 30-40 minute commute from Lisbon.

Sintra is home to Palacio Nacional da Pena, Quinta da Regaleira and Castelo dos Mouros, all three are worthy of your time. You can buy a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket that takes you to each for 6 euros. Or for a bit more fun, be escorted to your destination via motorbike for 5 euros.

Pena Palace in Sintra

In the Cascais region, I recommend the beach in Carcavelos. Take the train from Cais do Sodre towards Cascais and get off at Carcavelos; it takes about 20 minutes.

Where to eat

High recommendations for all of the places listed below. I didn’t have a bad meal in Lisbon.

Pasteis de Belem – Pastel de nata is a dessert MUST. While there are dozens of places in the city that offer the traditional pastry, Pasteis de Belem is known for being the most authentic – and in my opinion, the tastiest. If it’s your first time, I suggest ordering two. Don’t forget to add cinnamon and powdered sugar. Rua de Belém nº 84 a 92, 1300 – 085 Lisboa Portugal  

Pastel de nata at Pasteis de Belem CC: Sabrina Russello

Casa Nostra – Some of the best Italian I’ve had outside of Italy. The food and service was spectacular. I ordered white wine, Caprese salad, carbonara and tiramisu. All were top notch. 8 Mulgrave Rd, Sutton SM2 6LE

Ramiro – A few friends of mine had recommended this place and I get why. The casual, paper tablecloth establishment doesn’t overwhelm in decor but whatever it lacks in atmosphere, it makes up for in taste. The menu is straightforward – seafood, seafood, seafood. Av. Alm. Reis 1, 1150-038

Where to stay

While I can’t speak for any other accommodations in Lisbon, the Lift – Boutique Hotel on Rua Aurea was a gem. It’s central to anything you’ll want or need and a 10-minute walk to Arco da Rua Augusta and the square. The staff were helpful and the rooms were cosy and cute. Rua Áurea, 265, Santa Maria Maior, 1150-272

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