A few weeks ago, I went to Lisbon and I fell in love. Again. With traveling. And with Lisbon, of course. I never expected the city to be so big, yet so accessible. Whenever people had told me about their experiences there, they always mentioned it was a smaller city, that we might be bored after a few days. However my boyfriend and I both agreed that we needed an additional 3 or 4 days to really feel like we had seen all of Lisbon (and we were there for almost 5!)
In fact, I’m dedicating two posts to Lisbon – this one talking about what to see, and the other, in my typical fashion, on where and what to eat in Lisbon. This post doesn’t include everything we saw as to keep it relatively short, though I didn’t really succeed.
Some of the highlights of the trip (in no particular order other than what popped into mind first):
In Lisbon: The castle is a great afternoon stop. It is pretty large so despite having to pay, it’s worth it. There’s also the chance to hop in a darkroom and have a periscope tour of Lisbon. They created this tower with a working periscope so that you could get a 360-degree view of the city in real time. Word to the wise: go before the last tour at 5pm; the visual is best where there is lots of sunlight.
Other favorite Lisbon sites include Convento Carmo, which is a semi-destroyed church from the great earthquake that Lisbon experienced in the 1800s. They never completed the renovation and the views are pretty unique, especially when you look up expecting frescoes and see blue skies. Finally, for a break from the rattle of the trams, take a hike up to the Jardim de Estrela. Beautifully shady and in an English garden style, this public garden is a great spot to get in touch with your zen after a hectic day. (Or, in my case, to start your day off with an invigorating morning run.)
Belem: This is a neighborhood of Lisbon that requires a seven-minute train ride (or if you’re not exhausted after 3 full days of walking, you can follow the river until you reach the famous Tower of Belem). Belem is buzzing with life during the day due to its many advantageous tourist points. The first is the spectacular view of the Golden Gate bridge look alike, or the Ponte de 25 Abril, as well as Cristo Rey on the other side of the river. Secondly, there is the ENORMOUS Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument commemorating Portugal’s Age of Discovery. And finally there’s the Tower of Belem, which served both strategic and commemorative purposes. We decided to enter the Tower, which has been preserved quite well and offers amazing views of the river as well as the Atlantic on the horizon.
In 1998, Lisbon hosted the World Expo, and consequently constructed a whole neighborhood dedicated to the Expo and its theme: the world’s oceans. I really enjoyed the Expo City, and would highly recommend going after lunch as we did, with the intent of staying past dinner, as the structures become illuminated and look real cool after dusk. Things to do absolutely are: go the aquarium and ride the funicular. Ok, so real talk: when I first heard there was an aquarium, I wrote it off and thought, what’s the point of spending time inside with all the beautiful weather?! Flash-forward to the day before we planned to go to this area and all the forecasts called for rain. Aquarium it is then…..
The aquarium was AWESOME. Like, spend 3+ hours wandering inside with mouths gaping awesome. Yes, ok it hasn’t got alllll the animals under the sea but it still has some amazing tanks. Word to the wise – buy your tickets online to save some euros.
The funicular in Expo city is also amazing and worth the 6 euros round trip. We were blessed with some sunshine before the rain and hopped on without a second thought. We could see the Vasco De Gama bridge fading into the horizon (longest water spanning bridge in Europe!), as well as an aerial view of all the old Expo buildings.
Ok, we arrive to the final highlight on my list. Many of my friends had recommended we take a day-trip to Sintra, so we followed the popular vote. I have now joined the group of Sintra fans. It is a small, hilly city with strange architecture and lots of history. We didn’t want to shell out the expensive price to visit the castle or the national park nearby, but when we asked a local photographer what we HAD to see in Sintra, he told us about Quinta de Regaliera. This is an old estate that has now become an amazing park with secret underground tunnels and a very gothic atmosphere. You do have to pay to enter, however we spent about 3 hours inside, so again, worth it. I have to say this was my absolute favorite thing in Sintra.
Well, that’s the end of the list (for brevity’s sake) but let me say it again: GO TO LISBON. The people are kind, the weather is great and the food leaves you wishing you had another stomach. Look out for my post solely dedicated to the food…I’m excited.