Back in October, I found super cheap flights to London ($400RT) and begged my sister, brother-in-law, mom and Sam to come with me. I’m still a little shocked that we managed to pull it off, haha! Since flights within Europe are quite cheap, we decided to fly to Lisbon for a few days at the beginning of our trip. I wanted to write this Lisbon Travel Guide to share our thoughts and experience.
Things have been a bit crazy lately with last minute sessions, lots of paper flower making, busy time at work and some family health issues, so I haven’t been able to get back to this post. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to finish it up! I wanted to give you my overall general thoughts, before diving into how we spent our two days.
We ended up staying in an AirBNB in Alfama, which I highly recommend! The location was perfect, just a few minutes from the Rossio train station and several bus stops. I would also recommend our specific AirBNB if you have a larger group. It was huge and absolutely gorgeous. I wish I had gotten some photos of it, but we were out and about whenever there was natural light. It easily slept the 5 of us and would have comfortably slept 3 more people.
In general, public transportation in Lisbon is very convenient. You can use the Viva Viagem cards for metro, bus and train. The cards cost 0.50 € and are valid for a year, during which they can be recharged as often as you need. One of the options to add onto the card is unlimited travel for 24 hours. One thing to note is that the train to Sintra is /not/ included in the unlimited travel. If you’re planning on heading to Sintra on the train, make sure you aren’t in the middle of your 24 hours of unlimited travel. Otherwise, you will need to purchase a second Viva Viagem card. Uber is also common in Lisbon, but Uber XL doesn’t exist, so if you have five people you’ll need to get two Ubers.
Credit card usage is not super common in Lisbon. Most ticket machines will only accept debit card or cash, so make sure you have some Euros handy. We did find that restaurants pretty much all took credit cards, but there were a few smaller shops that did not. To be completely honest, we were a bit disappointed with the food in Lisbon, but the Portuguese egg tarts made up for it!
The forecast said our first day would be mostly clear while our second day would be a little more rainy. We decided to spend our first day in Sintra, which is an hour outside of Lisbon. Sintra was one of my favorite parts of our trip. You definitely can’t miss it! Getting to Sintra from Lisbon is super easy via a direct train from Rossio Station. There are a ton of tourist attractions in Sintra, most of them scattered throughout the hills. We originally thought we could walk everywhere, which was probably a mistake, haha! We ended up walking to our first destination, Quinta da Regaleira, but it was a somewhat difficult walk with the stone paved paths and narrow sidewalks. I’m glad we decided to hop on a bus to get to Pena Palace afterwards, because it was a pretty steep bus ride up!
Quinta da Regaleira – This was my absolute favorite! If I had to choose one thing to see around Lisbon, it would be this. Classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Quinta da Regaleira is a gorgeous estate with stunning architecture and beautiful gardens. We spent several hours wandering around and taking lots of photos. The main building was beautiful with all of its intricate stone carvings, but I actually liked the surrounding grounds more. There were all sorts of towers and lookouts with lovely views of the countryside surrounding Sintra. There’s also an incredible well that was apparently used for secret initiations rather than to gather water. My favorite part, however, were the stepping stones in front of the waterfall.
Tickets could only be purchased with debit card or cash, so come prepared! Also, while there is some covering, this is a site that is better seen when it isn’t raining.
Pena Palace – This palace felt a lot like a palace out of a Disney movie! The colorful, rounded turrets definitely reminded me a bit of the palace in Aladdin. Pena Palace has a lot of really gorgeous tile work as well, which was probably my favorite part. There’s also part of the palace that you can actually go into which has a lot of the old furniture preserved. A lot of the rooms you had to go through single file, which made me feel slightly claustrophobic, haha. Of the two, I preferred Quinta da Regaleira, but it was fun to see Pena Palace as well.
There are several other palaces and sights in Sintra, but we ended up only seeing Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira. I originally wanted to go to Cascais, which is about an hour away from Sintra, but we decided it wouldn’t be worth it. It would’ve made our time in Sintra even shorter and our AirBNB host told us Cascais really shines during the summer as it is a beach town.
On the train ride back to Rossio, my sister found a pastry shop she wanted to go to. Warning, it’s a somewhat intense walk from Rossio if you follow Google Maps, haha! We went up about five flights of stairs before heading downhill down a street. There was definitely some complaining on my part, but it was worth it!
Manteigaria – This pastry shop only makes one pastry – pastel de natas or Portuguese egg tart. Manteigaria makes the pastel de natas right in front of you and they are served warm. They are absolutely delicious, with crispy pastry shells and creamy custard fillings. We all ended up getting seconds… and even came back the next day for more. Sam isn’t a fan of eggs and custards can sometimes be a bit too eggy for him, but even he loved these. If you can only do one thing in Lisbon, come here. Seriously. These totally made the trip for us!
We started our day riding Tram 28. To be honest, it was a complete disappointment. It was a rainy morning and Tram 28 was PACKED. It took at least thirty minutes for the Tram to arrive and, despite being at the first spot, it was practically impossible to get a seat. It was hard to see out the windows and we felt like it was a waste of two hours. It might be worth it if you start your day a bit earlier and are planning on getting on and off the tram to see a few of the sights along the way. Otherwise, we would NOT recommend it.
We hopped off Tram 28 at a plaza near our AirBNB and took Bus 15 to Belem just in time to see the Mosteiros dos Jeronimos. Entrance to the church is free, but there’s an entrance fee for the monastery. If you are planning on going to see the Belem Tower as well, you can purchase a joint ticket at a slight discount. They stop selling the joint ticket about an hour or so before the sights close to avoid leaving you unable to use the second part of your ticket.
Mosteiros dos Jeronimos – This monastery is gorgeous! There’s a chapel at the entrance that has free admission, but there’s an additional fee to go into the monastery. I thought it was totally worth it though. The architecture is stunning and I would totally do engagement sessions there if I lived in Lisbon, haha. It was also a great location to explore while it was raining, as it is mostly indoors.
Pasteis de Belem – I read lots of guides to Lisbon that said this was the /best/ place to get pastel de natas… We liked them, but we liked Manteigaria better. In fact, we went out of our way at the end of the day to go back to Manteigaria for more. The pastry wasn’t as shatteringly crisp at Pasteis de Belem and the filling was a little more eggy. Pasteis de Belem is right by Mosteiros de Jeronimos though (5 minute walk), so it’s super convenient for a quick snack.
Belem Tower – We ended up getting to the tower a little too late to go up it, but we still saw the outside. It’s a pretty cool tower and we had a lot of fun watching the waves crash over the walkway to the tower as the tide came in.
Overall, we really enjoyed Lisbon and would probably go back just for the Portuguese Egg Tarts at Manteigra, haha! Hope you found this helpful. Where are you traveling next?