Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Friday, June 6, 2014

4 Day Lisbon Itinerary

With this trip, I was looking for some fun in the sun and C was looking for a lot of relaxation time, so I tried to schedule our time in a way that accommodate both of those.

Day 1:
  • On our first full day, we visited the Jeronimos Monastery in the AM, and then walked over for an early lunch & pastries at the Pasteis de Belem. (FYI - you can either wait in line to get takeaway or walk past those folks and eat inside.  It's a bit of a maze in there, but they have an AMAZING amount of seating, and you can also see into the kitchen where they are prepping the pasteis). 
  • We took a little walk down to the Discovery Monument and then visited the Belem Tower.
  • Then we hopped on the train at Belem to Cascais to spend the afternoon at the beach. There are a couple of them, so it's worth walking a bit farther to the less-crowded ones. 
 **Everything on Day 1 is free with the Lisboa Card

 Day 2:
  • We walked all the way up to St George's castle, and had a leisurely stroll around the grounds, enjoying the various views over the city. 
  • Then we walked down to the Alfama neighborhood and checked out the flea market (Tues & Saturdays only). 
  • From there, we walked on to the Sé's cathedral, and then down hill to the Placa de Commercio.  We hung for a little while down there, first at a café and then on the small beach. 
  • After that, we walked up the Rua Augusta to the Santa Justa Elevator. 
  • It may seem like a lot of walking, but it was at a leisurely pace - an alternative would be to take the famous #28 tram and the metro to get around - this would also allow you to visit a lot more monuments.

**The Lisboa card would get you a -20% discount into the castle, plus a bunch of other museums around the city.

Day 3:
  •  Get up early and take the train from the Rossio train station out to Sintra.  As a side note, this - and most other train stations - was not sign-marked, or at least not in any way that was recognizable to us.  So if you are at the Rossio square, with the theater in front of you, the entrance to the station will be on the left, right next to the Starbucks.  Then take the escalators up to the top and hop on the next train to Sintra (from what we saw, all trains went to Sintra, with ones leaving every 20-30min). 
  • There are plenty of other sites out there that talk about which of the 5 palaces to visit, so I'll just cover what we did. I wanted to do a lot of walking, so we decided to visit just two - the Moors Castle and Pena Palace, and to reach them both by foot. Let me just put it out there that even though I knew it was a hike up, I did not realize this would entail climbing a mountain...
  • Anyways, we walked about 10 minutes from the train station to the little village at the bottom of the mountain, and from there, we got a little hiking map from the tourist office.  We also stopped to pick up a sandwich, because I wasn't sure what would be available for food up top (and nothing stresses me out more than being out in the middle of nowhere and not having any food - a traumatism left over from my early work travel days).
  • Then it was off to start hiking.  Let me say ladies - if you are going to Lisbon and Sintra, do not be vain like me and bring only stylish shoes.  Granted, I knew a lot of walking would be involved, and a friend wisely recommended to bring hiking boots, but I chose to ignore her sage advice.  I mean, I brought comfortable shoes, but definitely not shoes that were meant for climbing multiple stairs/a city with only cobblestone streets/hiking mountains. I spent a lot of time looking at other women's shoes while cursing my own, and it's true that most were wearing either tennis shoes, hiking boots or serious walking shoes.  But onwards and upwards, in my cute ballet flats.
  •  I was also a bit nervous about the hike since I'd read a lot of stories about people giving up in the middle and catching the bus, but to be honest, it was totally doable if you are in decent shape. It's a long walk, but I didn't even really break a sweat going up.  I also didn't consider the considerable amount of walking that would be required at the Palaces, especially at the Moors Palace if you walk all the way around the castle walls.  Totally worth it though, with views that reminded me of visiting the Great Wall of China. 
  • If you aren't interested in walking, or your goal is to see as many palaces as possible, you can also take a bus that leaves from the train station and does a circuit between all of the palaces. 
 **Train travel is covered under the Lisboa Card and it also offers 2€ discounts into the various castles.  Note too that there are combined tickets offering better deals if you want to visit multiples palaces.  The circuit bus however is not included. Also, the day we were there, the credit card machines were not working, so be sure to have enough cash on hand to pay for all the entrance fees, as they can add up fast - I think it was 18€/person for the two we did, and I can tell you I would have been pretty darn cranky had I hiked all the way up there only to find out we didn't have enough money for the entrance fees....

Day 4:
  • We slept in a bit and then took another day trip out to the little village of Obidos.  It was a little over an hour bus ride from the Campo Grande metro station. The bus is a little difficult to find as it is not sign-marked (story of our life in Lisbon), but if you look out the left-hand window just before your metro car enters the station, you can see the bus stop down below.  Don't get confused by the city busses that are also outside of the station on the right-hand side - the bus to Obidos leaves off on a small side street, and is called "Rapida Verde".  Tickets can be bought on the bus (cash-only). 
  • So what to do in Obidos?  If you're up for a walk, there are ramparts that surround the city, and it will take around 1h-1h30 to do the full circuit.  There are no barriers around them, so it's definitely not child friendly.  But the views are great from up there. 
  • There's also a big chocolate festival in March, and many shops on the main street sell various types of chocolate.
  • They're equally well-known for their cherry liquor, and a lot of restaurants will sell you a shot of it in a chocolate cup for 1€. (No need to go in, they will sell it to you directly in the street).
  • I had read beforehand that there wasn't a supermarket in town, so we packed a picnic lunch and had a leisurely meal in the sun while sitting up on the castle walls.  
  • Then we had a drink at the one outdoor café in town, before hopping on the bus back to Lisbon.
  • We rested up a bit before heading back out to a Fado club for drinks and dinner.  C was on a mission to try the Bacahlu à bras, which was recommended to him by a Portuguese colleague.
We had an early flight back the last day, and the metro doesn't start running until 6:30am, so we debated long and hard about taking the metro or a taxi.  In the end, we went for the taxi, and it was really reasonable - about 10€ from the Rossio square to the airport.

Regarding where to stay - we stayed just off the Rossio square, on a small side street, in a little AirBnB apartment.  The owners were half-French, half-Portuguese and they were absolutely lovely.  The location was great too - within walking distance to the castle, the placa commercio, the train station, etc, which was what allowed us to skip taking the metro on most occasions.  It was also easy to get to and from the airport, had a good internet connection, and had a supermarket nearby.  We really felt like we were in the heart of a real neighborhood, instead of being in a hotel on a busy street.  It was also really inexpensive - around 30€/night, plus we were able to use the kitchen to eat several meals in.  The stairs up to it also provided a good butt workout. :)
The last thing that surprised me was how many people spoke French.  We got through the entire weekend on French-only, and not even on purpose.  There were just that many people who spoke French extremely well, be it at the monuments, the bus drivers, in restaurants, or random folks in the street that we stopped to ask questions. It was pretty darn crazy, and not something that I expected at all!

Anyways, this ended up being a long post, but hopefully it will be useful for anyone planning a trip to Lisbon in the future (assuming there are actually people out there who haven't been yet lol).

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a fellow American who has been to Lisbon, Porto and Guimaraes. I spoke French rather than English as I found many more of the Portuguese who preferred French. Loved the warmth of the Portuguese and how welcoming they were to others.

June 6, 2014 at 7:28 PM  
Blogger Jennie said...

I remember that walk up the mountain to Pena! I had read online that it was walkable so I didn't even think about checking out the bus schedule. I started getting worried when I saw there was no sidewalk but there were lots of people walking down so I figured if they did it, so could I. Took us a good 1.5 hours to get up there.

July 6, 2014 at 7:54 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

Thinking of going to Lisbon later this year so this is all really really helpful! I was wondering if you'd mind giving me the name of your Air BnB as it sounds great!

July 28, 2014 at 3:36 PM  
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August 14, 2014 at 3:48 PM  
Blogger Genuine Stories said...

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