Guide to Lisbon, Portugal

Must have said OMG 3x in a row after trying the pastéis de nata at Manteigaria. The perfect blend of custard, cinnamon and flaky dough that melts in your mouth as you close your eyes and a big smile appears on your face. Yum.

First time to Lisbon and visiting solo. There’s so much to see and totally doable in a few days, but I’m going for longer. It’s a city I decided to not plan anything ahead of time – similar to Budapest and Prague, I just showed up. That being said, here’s my recommendations if you ever go. First note, that it’s a hilly city so you should combine places together. I’ll group these as “areas”:

Area 1 – 

The Rua Augusta arch commemorates the city being rebuilt after the Lisbon earthquake in November 1755. Right next to it is the Praça do Comécio (commerce square).

You can walk to the Elevador de Santa Justa.

And then visit the Ruínas do Carmo (Carmo Church) built in 1389. The vault collapsed due to the earthquake. There was the attempt to reconstruct it in neo-gothic style but that was interrupted during the 19th century under the influence of the Romantic taste for ruins so they decided not to rebuild.

Go to Manteigaria where you should get not 1, but 2 custard tarts. If you go to Lisbon and don’t try one of these, you’re missing out. Try all the food when you travel right?! Right 🙂

Time Out Market – go hungry. Get some food and wine at the vendors and take a seat.

The Pink Street. I walked right past this and did a double take. “Oh this is where this is located!” I thought. It was cool to randomly come across it – it’s actually a highly photographed place.

Area 2 – (Can be done in the same day as area 1 if you’re eager)

Uber (probably about 5 euros) to Torre de Belém. I didn’t buy a prepaid ticket cause I’ve seen plenty of towers so decided not to go inside. But it is pretty cool looking – yet surrounded by tourists which I wasn’t expecting (I went right when it opened which was 10 am so if you decide you’re not going to go inside, I recommend going earlier).

Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries) in reference to the Portuguese Age of Exploration.

Then walk to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. There’s 2 lines – one for the monastery in which you have to pay a 10 euro ticket and another line (free admission) for the church. The monastery is gorgeous and it’s two levels. I loved visiting this place.

Pastel de Belém – these are famous. Basically the top two places for these custard tarts are Manteigaria (where I went) and Pastel de Belém, but I didn’t go cause I didn’t want to wait haha.

LX Factory. It’s an old industrial site and LX stands for Lisbon. I went on Sunday which I just found out after googling it that’s the day of their market – I definitely recommend going on this day! There’s vendor after vendor after vendor (spices, jewelry, soap, bread, wood toys, etc). If you do go on Sunday check out Borralha do Lis Baking – they had a table right when you enter LX Factory and served organic and vegan desserts – I got one to go and wish I got 2 more. But with LX Factory itself there’s also stores, coffee shops and cafes. To be honest since there were all the vendors I probably missed out on seeing most of the shops, which were also open. There’s a beautiful library too. And I randomly ran into two GWU (my alma mater) students 🙂

Random: Food Tour
I signed up for my first Airbnb Experience – a tasting tour of Lisbon and I would definitely do it again! We ate at the following places:

  • Manteigaria Silva: Bísaro pig ham, quince marmalade with são jorge cheese, Tawny Porto, 3 cereals traditional bread
  • Jasmim da Mouraria: codfish salad and white wine
  • Cantinho do Aziz: chamussas, curry & veg, mango juice / cashew juice
  • A Muralha: octopus salad, chorizo, morcela from central Portugal, red wine Terras do Rendeiro, cherry liqueur Vila de Frades
  • Fabrica do Pastel de Feijão: bean sweet custard

Area 3

The Graça neighborhood is located on a hill and has great views of Lisbon. Check out the view from Miradouro Sophia Mello Breyner. It’s gorgeous. (pic at the top of this post)

The Alfama neighborhood is traditional Lisbon – wander about and get lost. It’s also where Fado music was born. There’s a lot of great restaurants located in Alfama. This was where I stayed and I would stay in this neighborhood again.

I didn’t go in St. Jorge’s Castle or Lisbon Cathedral (always leave something for next time!) but I hear one should go. Apparently Lisbon Cathedral is nice to see during the evening.

Area 4 – Sintra

Take the train from Rossio station in Lisbon to Sintra.  It was 5 euros roundtrip and ~40 min train ride with few stops. Once you get to Sintra you can Uber from place to place.  You could walk but I definitely don’t recommend it – there’s so many hills! And it’s not like you’re walking through a city – it’s more like going from town to town so cars will be right next to you. However, I think there’s a path from Pena Palace to Quinta da Regaleira so look into it! Here’s where I visited once I arrived in Sintra:

Pena Palace
A 19th century Romantic style castle built by Ferndinand II; he transformed the remains of a monastery into this palace. Really cool place but it’s not worth paying the extra euros to go inside the palace (if you’ve already seen palaces in Europe before) – so just pay for the park. There were a lot of tourists, and it kind of felt like Disney.

Quinta da Regaleira
This was worth going to if you’re taking a trip to Sintra. It’s a residence built in 1904 in the gothic style. It’s also known as “The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire” due to its former owner being António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro. Symbols are throughout the grounds (the grounds are the best part) in reference to masonry, the Knights Templar and alchemy. Go to the Initiation Well which “symbolizes the initiation ceremony for the Knights Templar” that you can walk down and it connects with hidden tunnels to the Imperfect Well. A lot to see here when you just walk around. It was my favorite spot in Sintra.

Park and Palace of Monserrate
A summer residence of Francis Cook’s family built in the Arabic, gothic and Indian architectural styles. A lot quieter as not a lot of people visit here when they come to Sintra mainly because Pena Palace is advertised the most. The rose gardens weren’t much of rose gardens though (though I did visit during February versus spring/summer).

Romaria de Baco – restaurant
Such good food! I would go here again and it’s right near the train station so you can time it right to catch the next train. Got octopus, side of veg, and wine. Everything was delicious.

Go here for pastries. I was pastried out so I didn’t try it but Sintra is known for travesseiros – full of sugar, egg yolks, cinnamon, and crushed almonds in a puff pastry.

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