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Trip Report Five Days in Lisbon

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Just returned from a five-day trip to Lisbon. Thank you to all of the Fodorites who helped answer my questions prior to leaving and to those who posted trip reports I could reference. I will say that of all of the guidebooks I read, the Fodor’s book was the best.

Background info: My husband attended a conference held in Lisbon for his work, and I tagged along. This was our first trip to Europe. We are not big city people, and for our leisure travels, we prefer to visit places that are remote, although we appreciate experiencing any new location.

Day 1: Flew from Minneapolis to Newark to Lisbon. Arrived at 8:20 a.m. after getting very little sleep on the plane. First impression was of how civilized and quiet the airport seemed. Guess we are more experienced arriving in the chaotic, noisy airports in Mexico and Costa Rica. Took a taxi to our hotel, the Dom Pedro, and fortunately, we were able to check into our room right away. My husband’s company made the hotel arrangements, and it’s a very nice hotel, all glass and marble, but it was not the type of place we would have chosen. We would have stayed someplace much less expensive, smaller, and more conveniently located. But, beggars can’t be choosers, and the pillows and bed were heavenly.

We decided to take a two-hour nap, and then head down the hill to the Marques de Pombal. We proceeded to walk down the Avenida Liberdade. I found the tourism office, where I purchased two 48-hour Lisboa cards for my four days of touring. What a worthwhile purchase! The convenience of having it for public transportation alone made it valuable, and I got into so many attractions for free or for a discount.

We continued down to Rossio, then to the Rua Augusta, where all of a sudden, I said, “Oh! There is the Elevador de Santa Justa!” My husband had no clue what I was talking about, since he hadn’t read any information about Lisbon. It surprised me to see it, since I wasn’t seeking it out. After taking pictures, we wandered along down to the Praca do Comercio, which was fenced off due to construction, so we couldn’t see much.

We decided to take a break and have some lunch and refreshments, and ended up at Concha d Ouro. We shared the swordfish kabob and found it very good. Hoping to keep ourselves from falling asleep in our chairs after a couple of beers, we finished our break with some espresso.

We would have loved to continue exploring the area, but my husband had to be back at the hotel for a meeting at 5:00, so we took a taxi back. After his meeting, we decided to have dinner close by, as jet lag was really setting in, so we went to O Madeirense in the Amoreiras. It was very cozy inside, and our food was excellent. My husband had the tuna, which had quite a spicy kick and I had the pork tenderloin, along with the house red wine.

Side note: I am ashamed to admit that we did a terrible job of seeking out restaurants recommended by Fodorites, or from guidebooks. We tended to end up at a lot of the typical touristy outdoor cafes. However, we enjoyed all of our meals, and being able to eat outside is something that we soon will not be able to do living here in Minnesota.

Day 2: DH is off to the convention, held in Belem at the Congress Center. I discovered that the hotel offered a free breakfast for all convention attendees and any family traveling along, so I started each day off with a hearty buffet.

Armed with my Streetwise Lisbon map (an absolute essential and the most valuable item I purchased for the trip), I walked down the long hill to the Metro stop at Marques de Pombal. Taking the metro was a whole new experience for me. Trying not to look too clueless, I managed to figure it out! I then found my way to the stop for Tram 15 to head to Belem. I started at the Torre de Belem. It was very exciting to see it from a distance, as this is a landmark I was familiar with long before I knew I would be visiting Lisbon. I spent some time exploring the interior and taking in the views.

Next, I walked to the Monumento dos Descobimentos. It’s an impressive monument. I decided not to go inside, and instead walked over to the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. It is beautiful, and the elaborate details amazing. I was in awe. Seeing Vasco de Gama’s tomb was actually moving for me.

I decided to visit the Museu de Marinha. I like museums containing historical, functional items. This museum did not disappoint. I felt such reverence toward the sailors and explorers, and surprisingly, it was full of wonderful paintings depicting nautical scenes.

At this point, my stomach was growling, and I happened upon Antiga Confeiteria de Belem! I purchased a famous pasteis de nata along with another for my husband. Oh, my, they are famous for a reason. I thought about having lunch right there, but wanted to make sure I made it to the Museu Nacional dos Coches before meeting my DH at 4:00.

This was another museum that did not disappoint. What a beautiful collection of coaches. I wished that my daughters could have been with me, all I could think of was Cinderella. It didn’t take long to visit the museum, so I stopped for lunch at O Rolhas. I had looked for one of the restaurants listed in Lonely Planet’s Lisbon Encounter guide, but it was closed. I ordered the grilled sardines and sangria. The sardines were a new gastronomical experience for me, and I must say, they were quite good. I was ready to sit and relax, and picking out the bones and skin made for a leisurely lunch outside.

I met my DH at 4:00, with intentions of finding the famous Tram 28 for a ride. We took the tram from Belem, which was kind of hilarious since it was crowded and hot (my husband was in business clothes). We found a spot to wait for #28, where there was a quite a line. DH is not a patient man unless he is fishing. I could tell the wait was making him antsy, so we started walking up the hill until we came to Se Catedral, and wandered inside. The age of the cathedral is to me what makes it impressive.

We made a quick stop for a beer, and then continued walking with the intent of reaching the Castelo de Sao Jorge. The Alfama’s atmosphere was everything the guidebooks said it would be; the narrow streets on steep hills, the laundry hanging out to dry, children playing soccer with an empty water bottle, women leaning out the open windows to shout to someone below. As we soaked this in, we realized that we were lost, and I couldn’t figure out how to get to the Castle. We stopped at a café and I looked up. Well, what do you know? There it was, right above us!

We found our way there, and spent quite a bit of time wandering through it, taking in the incredible views of the city. At this point, I had walked all day, and was ready to eat. We walked back down. Did I mention that we saw several trams, but always too crowded, according to DH? We ate at a sidewalk restaurant, Sur Sangam, and I had the beef with gorgonzola and DH had chicken with piri piri, which he didn’t find very spicy. The bottle of house wine really helped my aching feet and legs feel better.

Sorry this is getting so long winded. I tend to give a lot of details. Will continue later.

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    I'm enjoying your report. Don't worry about being long winded; it will make me feel right at home.

    We also ended up eating at some of the touristy outdoor restaurants in Lisbon in July, and they were much better than I expected. One of them was Concha d'Ouro, where you had lunch.

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    Hi, Janenicole, from your neighbor to the east :)

    I think you are doing a beautiful job on your report. I am just starting to consider a trip to Lisbon for next year, so I love all the details. Lucky you to be able to go with your hubby!

    I have to say that the biggest difficulty I have with trips is restaurant related too. We wait too long to decide and then go for whatever is closest. Sometimes it is ok , but we have had some pretty icky meals that way too.

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    Thanks, all. I think it can be hard to coordinate seeing the sights with finding the 'best' restaurants. There is only so much time in one day!

    Day 3: I didn’t move too quickly in the morning, but after applying band-aids to the blisters on the bottoms of my feet and drinking three cups of coffee, I was ready for more exploring. I headed back to the Alfama via bus and metro, and my first order of business was getting on Tram 28. It was an enjoyable ride through the narrow, hilly streets, and fun to see the mix of tourists and locals utilizing the tram. It was comical when the lady next to me decided to visit with me in Portuguese, and continued her one sided conversation even after I told her I only speak English!

    On the return trip on the tram, I stopped at the Mosteiro de Sao Vicente. The exhibits’ captions were written in Portuguese, so I could only appreciate the ornate religious pieces by sight. The mausoleum was indeed eerie, especially the statue of the cloaked woman. There was also an extensive collection of azulejos on display.

    I walked over to the Panteao Nacional. There was scaffolding all around the dome, detracting from its beauty. There was a large display dedicated to Amalia Rodrigues including clothing and jewelry she wore while performing. I didn’t linger here.

    I picked up the tram again, stopping at the Baixa, which was fairly quiet as it was Sunday. I rode up the Elevador de Santa Justa and took in the views. I took the walkway across, and felt like I was in a different city. For some reason, I completely missed noticing the Convento do Carmo. I think I was too ambitious the day before, and it was catching up to me. After walking through a little bit of the Chiado, I was going to have a bite to eat at A Brasileira, but decided to find someplace quieter. I ended up at Café No Chiado, which was overpriced and modern, but was so quiet. I ordered a salad with fresh greens and fruit and pesto over the top. It was wonderful and exactly what I needed on a hot day.

    Took the tram back to Belem and met up with DH. Walked to the train station at Alcantara for a trip to Cascais. After reading the guidebooks, I had pictured Cascais to be a small fishing village along the coast, with stretches of beach to walk along. Not so. I suppose it once was a fishing village, but now it is full of buildings. There are sections of beach, and the walkway along the beach is lovely, and makes for great people watching. We walked to Estoril, stopping for a beer along the way. Even though the shore from Cascais to Estoril wasn’t what I expected, it was still nice to be beside the ocean, smelling the salt-water air.

    We took the train back, and ate at Portugalia. This was our least favorite restaurant. The food was just marginal, and we had a bit of a cranky waiter. I had fried bacalhau and DH had steak. A redeeming quality was that the house red wine was very good, and the desserts (chocolate cake and cream custard) were fabulous.

    Day 4: My plan was to tour the Palacio dos Marqueses da Fronteira. I took the bus to the Jardim Zoologico, and had to walk from there. This was a bit unnerving, since I was in an area where there were not many people, and I had to walk across a bridge over the Avenida da Ponte. I didn’t feel unsafe, but just wasn’t sure if I was going in the right direction. I was relieved after walking up the street a short distance that I was in the correct location.

    I paid for the tour of the inside of the palace, and it was well worth it. The tour guide was very informative, and nice about answering questions. I learned a lot about the azulejos, and since I did not make it to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, was grateful for the information. The gardens and grounds were delightful.

    I took a taxi to the Sete Rios train station, with the Palacio Nacional de Quelez as my destination. I thought perhaps getting out of the city would feel good, and the palace was raved about in the Fodor’s guidebook. I was shocked that the city never ended. There was nothing but apartment building after apartment building the whole way to Quelez. I’ve certainly been in cities with urban sprawl before, but this was never ending.

    The guidebook said to turn left after the train station and follow the signs to the palace. What signs? I saw one, on a round about, and I wasn’t sure which way it was pointing. So I set out walking, hoping to find it. I found someone who spoke English, and he said I was going in the right direction. I got to a square with several pink buildings, but no signs indicating which one was the palace. After one wrong entrance, I was directed to the correct one. At this point, I felt like this was going to be a long walk for nothing. Oh, was I wrong. The palace is wonderful! I purchased a book from the gift shop, because my camera didn’t do it justice. It was my second favorite site I visited.

    Headed back to Rossio. Ate pizza, of all things, for a late lunch at a place called Valentino. I was craving carbs for some reason. Then I found A Ginjinha for a shot. I didn’t feel a strong need to purchase a bottle to bring home, but would have been mad at myself if I hadn’t tried it while in Lisbon. Met my DH at the hotel at 5:00. After a short rest, we decided to head back down to the Rossio. I took him to A Ginjinha so he could try it (no, I didn’t have another). We picked up a couple of souvenirs for our daughters, and just meandered around the area.

    We went into Manuel Tavarres and tasted some port. Now why the heck didn’t we do that the first day?! Then we could have polished off each dinner with a glass of port. We loved it. So, we purchased some to take home.

    We ate at a restaurant with outdoor seating called Torremolinos. We had seafood cataplana and it was tasty, along with wine. I loved the fact that the price of a bottle of wine with dinner is so reasonable.

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    Day 5: My day to travel to Sintra. I was really looking forward to it. It was quite impressive seeing the palace and the castle high up in the hills as the train rolled into town. Getting off of the train, I noticed that the air felt a little fresher. And I could see trees and hills and valleys! This was more like it.

    I immediately recognized the Palacio Nacional de Sintra from pictures in the distance and walked toward it. I was glad I went during a weekday, as there were still plenty of tourists in the area. Once again, I found my mouth gaping. The walls and ceilings alone are incredible, not to mention the furnishings.

    After touring the palace, I found the tourism office and was directed to the bus stop. I took the bus up to the Palacio Nacional de Pena. The forest surrounding the palace is beautiful. The palace is breathtaking and so interesting with its mixture of architectural influences. I loved the views, the interior, and the furnishings. This was my favorite site during my trip to Lisbon.

    After having a pastry at the café on the rooftop, I decided to explore the grounds. It was lovely in the forest, but the paths are poorly marked, and of course I ended up lost. Everyone I encountered agreed that the map was not helpful. At least I was enjoying being in nature, which is more of my element (even if I am lousy at direction). I finally found my way out, and took the bus back to town. I decided to skip the Moorish castle since I was getting short on time. I would have loved another day in Sintra.

    My DH and I planned to meet at the restaurants near the Alcantara station at 5:00. I ended up taking a taxi from Rossio because I knew I wouldn’t make it on time taking the metro and trams. Fortunately, we were both 20 minutes late. We didn’t have cell phones, so had no way of contacting each other.

    We took the train back to Cascais. DH liked being by the water there. This time we planned to find the Boca do Inferno. Once again, I found no signs until we were almost there. Sad to say, but it was a bit disappointing. The tide was low and the sea was calm, so there was no crashing of water. It was nice to walk with a view of the sea, but going up hill after I had walked so much already during the day was not fun. We have been on secluded beaches with waves crashing into rocks and caves, so this was not impressive. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long for the bus to bring us back into town.

    We decided to have dinner at O Pescador. We sat outside, but the interior is really cute, decorated in fishing motif. It was in a very peaceful location. DH ordered the grilled tuna, and I ordered the grilled swordfish along with another great bottle of wine. For dessert, I had the lemon crepes and DH had the bananas with hot chocolate (which turned out to be dark chocolate hot fudge, yum).

    We took the train back and decided to take the metro up to the Marques de Pombal rather than taxi back and then walked up the hill to our hotel.

    Day 6: Flew home at 10:25 a.m.

    I found our time in Lisbon to be a wonderful experience. I can’t say that I fell in love with the atmosphere, as I prefer rural areas to cities, nature and wildlife to culture and museums, walking along secluded beaches to walking along shops. But I enjoyed many of the things the city had to offer. I was impressed by how clean it was. The sidewalks were full of designs, and buildings covered in colorful tiles. There were interesting neighborhoods, sites and palaces, and it was full of history. The people were reserved but polite and helpful. Spending time in a different culture and atmosphere is always enriching, and so important. Not having been to any other cities in Europe, I have nothing to compare it too, but I thought Lisbon was lovely!

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    janenicole. Thank you for posting a lovely report. I am so glad you enjoyed Lisbon.
    When you return to Portugal, you can combine seeing more of this city with some of Portugal's coast and countryside which are waiting for you to explore. There are plenty of beaches and nature available if this is what you like.
    And the report was just right!

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    Thank you, Sher. One never knows what opportunities may become available in life. Perhaps someday we will return to Portugal. I know I will be spending some time researching the entire country after experiencing a small portion of it. If anyone I know ever considers traveling to Lisbon, I would tell them, "Go!"

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