It’s been a minute and now four weeks since I’ve flown back from a short break in Lisbon – not particularly happy about it! To be honest, Lisbon was never really on my bucket list, but it is now up there on the list of my top European cities. I hope you’re ready, this blog post will be a bumper guide for a short break in Lisbon!
FLIGHTS & ACCOMODATION
Lisbon stumbled upon my radar when looking for a city break this year as it was very reasonable in price. Return flights from Manchester equalled around £80 and the AirBnb that I found was the definition of ‘value for money’. It had a small balcony overlooking Tejo River which was beautiful for breakfasts and dinners (making the most of the self-catered option was also very affordable). ‘Green Flat’ in Lisboa is highly recommended by myself!
WHAT TO DO & WHERE TO GO
This is very popular with tourists and unfortunately it does impact Lisbon residents who use Tram 28 regularly, but it does mean that you can see a lot of Lisbon relatively quickly. It’s really interesting to see how the tram navigates the streets of Lisbon (and badly parked cars!).
BAXIA & ROSSIO
Castle St Jorge – this can be seen from pretty much everywhere in the centre of Lisbon & even if there is a pretty long queue when you arrive, it is worth visiting. It’s about €5 (student ticket) to enter the grounds, with eleven towers to the castle there is plenty to explore. You’ve also got an incredible view of the city, as it is located on the summit of São Jorge hill.
Santa Justa Lift – this was formed as part of the public transport system in Lisbon since 1902, enabling residents to travel from the upper part to the lower part. Although very impressive, the queues were extensive, so by walking up the hill & passing a rooftop bar, you then pay 1.50 euros to climb the steep stairs, having an incredible view of Lisbon waiting for you at the top!
Torre du Belem – this really is a tourist hotspot & the long queue comes with that. But it is really interesting! The tower was originally built to defend the city around 1520 and to say it was used to defend Lisbon is incredible as the architecture is amazing. There are five floors with beautiful views of the river connected by narrow spiral staircases (there is an up/down stairs system in place for tourists now & it beeps when you have 10 seconds to exit the staircase – a confusing concept to begin with but you get used to it!).
Jeronimos Monastery – an incredibly beautiful architectural building, but Church Santa Maria stole the show here. It was one of those churches that you walk into and think; wow. There’s so much to take in and it’s one to take a pew (literally) in order to admire it all.
This is an absolute MUST whilst in Lisbon! To visit, you can catch the train from Rossio train station, taking about 45 minutes. It’s best to get to Sintra early to attempt to be ahead of the tourist groups. We caught the 8.10am train & made it to Sintra for a bit of breakfast before Sintra Palace opened at 9.30am. There are three main places to visit in Sintra, which does make it a full day, but you wouldn’t want to miss them! The best way to do (& reduce the hills you have to walk up) is to use the 434 Tourist Bus – it costs around €7 but it is value for money as you cover a fair distance (it’s a 20 min journey from Sintra Palace to Castelo dos Mouros – perfect time for a power nap!)
Sintra Palace – this palace located in the historical town centre and it is incredibly stunning architecture wise. It was the original Moorish castle in Lisbon, so there is plenty of history, but for me, I’m more than happy to wander round. All of the rooms were so interesting, amazingly decorated – one was called the magpie room as the ceiling covered with painted magpies.
Castelo dos Mouros – this was established to guard the town of Sintra, situated on the hill-top offering extensive views over the Serra de Sintra hills and the Atlantic Ocean. The castle is an ancient ruin, however there are plenty of fortified stone walls to explore. I would note here that if you are not a massive fan of heights or steep drops (like myself), there are handrails for steps, but at some points, it was a littttle bit out of my comfort zone.
Palacio Nacional da Pena – this was the highlight of the day for me really. I’d searched pictures on the internet & knew that I had to visit. It is beautiful. We went for the gardens ticket, costing €7.50, and this gives access to the entire palace grounds, making it perfect for an afternoon of exploring. If you want to visit inside the palace, it is €14 but the queues are extensive (looking like hours to be stood queuing), so we found that the gardens ticket would suit us better.
THE ULTIMATE FOOD AND DRINK
- Custard Tarts – these are a must when in Lisbon, we started by having one a day, before moving to two a day and not going to lie, I’m really missing them.
- Pink Street – the place for nightlife in Lisbon, before 10.30pm is the best time for happy hour!
- Time Out Market Lisboa – there are so many different food stalls here, it’s the perfect place to sample as much as possible (Visit the Manteigaria store for Custard Tarts!)
- Ribeira das Naus – Quiosque – This bar is located right on the riverfront and it’s a great place for lunch or drinks to just sit and watch the world go by.
LISBON BY BOAT
Finally – if you do have time, I would recommend a sunset sailing tour with Lisbon by Boat. Learning and admiring the history of Lisbon, gliding along the Tagus River as the sun sets is absolutely incredible.