Visiting Lisbon and Sintra

by Talia Klundt / Feb 27, 2014 /
Talia Klundt's picture

Portugal had long been on my list to visit for many years, but somehow despite living in Europe for over seven years, I never managed to make it over there. I have heard so many great things about Lisbon that I knew I had to make it happen, so last year my boyfriend and I decided it was time to book our tickets. We decided a bit late, so prices were steep on TAP Portugal, which is the only airline that flies nonstop from Stockholm. We could have chosen an 8-9 hour flight for less, but when time is of the essence, it was worth it.

Travel Tips: Visiting Lisbon & Sintra, Portugal. Where to stay - and, more importantly, where to eat well!

After during countless hours searching for accommodation, we decided on The House, thanks to all the fantastic TripAdvisor reviews. The House is located in Estrela, about a two minute walk from the Basilica de Estrela, where you could find several trams and busses going. The B & B is absolutely gorgeous and has been renovated throughout, so everything is very modern with all the latest comforts. The biggest highlight is the huge terrace at the top, which overlooks the Atlantic. And if it is too cold to hang out in the terrace (like it was when we were there), you can sit inside and look out past the terrace and still see the Atlantic. The terrace is a great place to lounge, as it has lots of comfy couches and cozy blankets to sit back and relax in, or have a glass of cava. They also have an honesty bar where you can take drinks and snacks from the little bar; you just write down what you took and pay later. It is fantastic! I only wish we would have had nicer weather so we could have sat outside because the view was something else.

Visiting Lisbon, Portugal - where to stay? The House B&B! Check out this amazing staircase

The staircase at The House

Visiting Lisbon - where to stay? The House B&B - check out this amazing terrace

The terrace/lounge at The House

Since we got there late in the afternoon, we decided to relax a bit and just walk around the neighborhood and grab some snacks and a bottle of cava and lounge before we headed off for dinner. We asked our host at the B & B for a recommendation, and he recommended Clube de Journalistas, a very hip and happening place in Lisbon. As soon as you walk in, you get the feeling that you've time-traveled to an old-world restaurant forty years ago, with dimmed lights and candles lit everywhere. The place is decorated with historic journalism memorabilia. This restaurant is really popular, so it's best to make reservations ahead of time. I will say that I totally loved the restaurant, except for the fact that it is not so vegetarian friendly. There was nothing vegetarian on the menu and I had to ask for something to be made and it was just ok. If you are not vegetarian, I would highly recommend it, but if you, are then I would say you could pass on this one.

Where to eat in Lisbon? Clube de Journalistas

Dinner at Clube de Journalistas

Taking the Tram in Lisbon

Tram near our B & B

The next morning after breakfast we decided to head out and start exploring Lisbon and took the tram to Belém. Belém is packed full of monuments and the ever so popular pastéis de nata, which can be found at any pastelaria, but the most famous ones are at the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém (Casa Pasteis De Belém). This also means that it is uber touristy and you will find yourself lost in crowds everywhere you go. There is a lot to see and do there, but due to all the crowds I only had a bit of patience for a few. We visited the Coach Museum (Museu dos Coches), which houses the world's largest collection of coaches and royal vehicles. It is a really cool museum, as all the coaches and carriages are beautifully intact and you can just imagine them being used hundreds of years ago. Casa Paseis de Belém is a must if you love sweets and pastries, as they are all handmade there and you can watch them being made from the counter. The Jerónimos Monastery is huge and most impressive and is worth going to see and photograph. The one place I regret that we did not go to while we were there was the Belém Tower, which is right on the Atlantic.

Cable car in Lisbon

Cable Car in Lisbon

Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon

Jerónimos Monastery

Museu dos Coches, Lisbon

Museu dos Coches

We had lunch near Campo Pequeno at Lateral Bistro, which is a place that was recommended to us by a colleague of mine who worked in Lisbon. Lunch was great and there was so much to choose from off of the menu, even for a vegetarian like me! I had a great salad, with a side order of fries that came in a bucket, followed by a sinful strawberry cream dessert. The staff was helpful and prices were also very good. Another good thing about this place is that it is off a main road and it was packed with locals. I think we were the only foreigners there, so it's always a good sign when you see a place frequented by locals. After lunch, we took another tram to the neighborhood of Alfama, and just got lost in the streets exploring and checking out shops. After we had exhausted ourselves we headed back to the B & B with a bottle of cava, and relaxed on the terrace as we watched the sun go down before dinner. One of our favorite things to do when we travel is to try different Indian restaurants, so whenever we visit a new city we always ask where the best Indian restaurant is. According to our host, he had the best one, which was actually located just a fifteen minute walk away. Nataj Tandoori did not disappoint; it was actually better than I hoped and I was surprised by how fantastic every dish was! The inside is quite shabby and simple, but don't let that fool you as the food is top notch and best of all it is budget friendly and the service was outstanding. We rolled ourselves home that evening.

Where to eat in Lisbon - dessert at Lateral Bistro

Dessert at Lateral Bistro

Visiting Lisbon - wandering the beautiful neighborhood of Afalma

Alfama

Blues!  Gorgeous door in the Afalma neighborhood, Lisbon, Portugal

Beautiful blue door with tiles in Alfama

Amazing colors in this tiled building, Lisbon, Portugal

Amazing tiled building

The following day we went to Sintra, which is located 28 kilometers from Lisbon. Sintra is best known for Pena Palace, which is perched on top of a hill and is colorfully painted. The historic part of Sintra is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as you can see the remains of a Moorish Castle, a Royal Palace, and many old beautiful and historic buildings. You can take a train directly to Sintra from Lisbon via one of the many stations in Lisbon, and it should cost around 5 Euro roundtrip. Once you arrive, you can either take the bus up to the Palace or walk up. We chose to take the bus for also 5 Euro roundtrip, because we could not imagine the hike up. That being said, it was crazy packed with tourists and we waited a long time to get on the bus, and we barely made it on. My suggestion would be to arrive early in the day, not midday as we did. Once we arrived up top, we toured the magnificent Pena Palace and took a mini tour inside the castle, looking at many of the old rooms that had all the original furniture in it. You can also take a walk around the castle and as you are walking you are able to see the whole city of Sintra and the Moorish Castle, which is also a stop on the bus. It was absolutely beautiful and better than I imagined. Now when you decide you want to take the bus back down, it can be a problem; we did not take into account that the bus only comes every 15 minutes and there are about 100 people wanting to get on each bus. Needless to say, we decided we could not wait, there were at least a 100 people in front of us, so we decided to walk down.  Since it was downhill, we made it in about 30 minutes. So be prepared to have to walk down if you are not willing to wait for a bus that might or might not come. Hungry after that downhill walking, we found Soul Food, which was a delicious, organic, ecological, and vegetarian restaurant in the city center. It was an absolute hidden gem, as it has a little garden in the front and it was a welcome relief to escape all the crowds. The food was amazing and I wish I could have eaten there again. This was a cash only place, so don't forget your card if you choose to go!

Cool entrance to the train station, Sintra, Portugal

Entrance to the train station, super cool!

Climbing the steps to Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal

Steps along the way to Pena Palace

Beautiful Rose tree, Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal

Beautiful rose tree!

View of the Moorish Castle from Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal

View of the Moorish Castle from Pena Palace

Pena Palace, Sintra, Lisbon

Pena Palace

Pena Palace, Sintra, Lisbon

Pena Palace

Pena Palace, Sintra, Lisbon

Pena Palace

Pena Palace, Sintra, Lisbon

Pena Palace

Sintra, Lisbon

Sintra

Sintra, Lisbon

Sintra

As we were at the train station, about ready to go back to Lisbon, we made a split second decision to head to Cascais. A friend of mine had told me how beautiful this beach town was and we decided this was our one and only opportunity to go because it was just another 20 minutes or so on the train from Sintra. Unfortunately, we only had a few hours there, just enough to have a little walk through the main streets, grab a drink, and then run to catch a train back to Lisbon as we had dinner reservations. Cascais is located along the Estoril Coast and it was simply beautiful; we were able to watch the sun go down over the ocean and it only made me wish that we had planned better and gone to Sintra earlier so we could have had more time in Cascais, as well as more light. I would absolutely recommend this beach town if you are staying in Lisbon or visiting Sintra, it is a must see!

Cascais, Portugal

Cascais

Cascais, Portugal

Cascais

We barely made it to the train back to Lisbon, and when we got back, we rushed back to the B & B, changed and got a cab to Enoteca Chafariz do Vinho. This wine bar was also recommend to us by my colleague, it is one of his favorites and he goes quite often. The second we walked in, we also loved it. The wine bar is located in an old cistern that has been completely remodeled, but you can still see where the water used to run throughout. The decor and style is really cool, it feels like you are sitting in an old cave. The food and drinks were fantastic! They have so many wines and sparking wines to choose from, as well as appetizers and main courses. We splurged that evening and we each tried many things on the menu. I had a cheese plate, pasta, dessert, and three different types of bubbles, my favorite! My boyfriend also tried many things off of the menu and did a lot of wine tasting. This wine bar is also very reasonably priced, and you are able to eat and drink a lot without putting a dent in your wallet. If you do decide to go, make sure you have reservations, as it was packed when we were there, even when we left around 11. My only regret is that we didn't come here sooner, as I would have loved to go back again!

Our last day in Lisbon was Easter Sunday, so unfortunately almot everything was closed. We mostly wandered around the Bairro Alto and went to the Castelo de São Jorge (St. George's Castle). The tickets cost 7.50 Euro each and you get a fantastic view of the city and river as well as the neighborhood of Alfama. It is really beautiful and definitely worth the visit. We also went up the Santa Justa Elevator, which is the only elevator located in the city that connects the lower streets with the higher streets. It is a wonderful viewpoint, and you can see far out all the way to sea. The line was quite long to take the elevator, but it was totally worth the wait as we were rewarded with magnificent views and ended up discovering other streets to wander around. Since nearly everything was closed, we headed back to our beloved Indian restaurant for lunch for another fantastic and amazing meal. It's really that good, I mean it! The rest of the day we spent relaxing before our last dinner in Lisbon, which we ate at Come Prima Restaurante Italiano. This restaurant was located very close to our B & B, so it was perfect as we were exhausted! The food was also really good. I enjoyed a delicious pizza along with a tasty insalata caprese. Olof had a seafood pasta, which he loved. This was a great and inexpensive restaurant that served excellent Italian food - the perfect end to a long Easter weekend in Lisbon!

View of Lisbon, from the top of the Santa Justa Elevator

View from the top of Santa Justa Elevator

 

 

Talia Klundt is the Sweden Editor for Wandering Educators

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Talia Klundt