Going to Lisbon is also like a mini visit to San Francisco and Rio de Janeiro!! We went to Lisbon (also called Lisboa) during the Christmas holidays. This time of the year is still warm enough during the day to have lunch outside! Evenings will start getting cold, but is manageable with a jacket on. Note that Portugal is 1 hour behind CET time!
Our trip: home – Cordoba – Monsaraz – Lisbon – Seville – home.
Lisbon (and also Sintra):
Stayed in apartment: Loft Lambert (nice apartment, free car parking, near to metro station and supermarket, 20 minutes by metro to city center; day pass for €6 is all you need! – don’t even think of driving in this hilly or rather mountain city, it will be your most nightmare visit)
Transport: We bought the day pass for € 6 that covers all modes of transport. This is really worth the money.
In a nutshell, Lisbon has 4 parts: Belem area, Central area, the Almada city on the other side of the “April 25th” bridge and Sintra village about 30 minutes drive from Lisbon. The day pass covers for Belem and the Central area. For the other side, you need to take a boat transport or drive across the 25th April bridge.
Day 1: This was the Christmas day. Since entry to most attractions were closed, we reserved this day for external sightseeing. We took tram 15 from the city center (Praca de Figuiera) to the Belem area to see the Belem tower, Jeronimos monastery (was closed), Vasco da Gama boat/statue (Padrão dos Descobrimentos), the 25th April bridge (looks like Golden Gate bridge of USA). From here you can also view the beautiful Jesus statue (resembles the famous statue Rio de Janiero,Brazil) on the other side of the river. After seeing this area, we came back to the city center (Praca de Figueira) for a good late lunch in the Indian restaurant – Gandhi in one of the narrow streets very close to the tram stop (< 100mts). After lunch we took a 1hour round trip on the famous tram 28 (also called 28E – E stands for electric) that goes around almost all parts of the city. The tram climbing the steep uphill parts of the city within inches gap from the buildings is a sight to be experienced. The Graca stop has a view point of the city. There are also many other churches and squares that you can get down and then catch the next tram. (Note: the route is usually crowded and know for pickpockets) After returning, we walked along the modern Baxia/Chiado shopping street to the Praça do Comércio square.
Day 2: Today we did the central area. This was a normal busy day. We walked the Av. da Liberdade from the Marques Pombal square to the city center taking pictures every now and then. Then we took the tram 12E and got down at Portas do Sol stop and walked to the Castle of Sao Jorge. At the tram stop there is also a beautiful city view. The castle which is nicely built and also maintained is on top of one of the 7 hills of Lisbon and gives a great view of the city. Every 30 minutes there is a demonstration of the city view focusing from a periscope on to a large view table. This is a nice one to watch. We took the bus right from the doorstep of the castle back to the city center. From here we walked to the historic Santa Justa Iron lift that takes you from the Baixa shopping street up a few meters to the Bairro Alto/Chiado area (Note: the day pass is valid on this lift. Else you have to pay €5). As you come out of the lift, you can go to the ruins of the Carmo convent – a nice visit, the museum at the end is interesting. From here we walked upto the Church of Sao Roque and then down the shopping street of Chiado to Praco do comercio – a magnificent square.
Day 3: In the morning, we drove to Sintra to the visit Quinta da Regaleria. This is a nice old, man made fancy park with artificial caves, waterfall, well, view tower etc. This is very nice to visit. The other attractions are Pena Palace, drive to Cabo da Roca the western most point of Europe mainland and a drive along the coast to Cascais. Due to lack of time we headed to the other side of the Lisbon city – Almada to see the statue of Jesus. From there we left to Seville. We took the route via Badajos to reduce a little bit the toll costs. We had a lovely vegetarian dinner in an Italian restaurant in Merdia that was just off the highway.
Monsaraz (and Evora):
Day 1: Monsaraz is about 2 hours from Lisbon. This is a very tiny village on the top of the hill. A very different village that only pictures can explain. We stayed in this nice hotel: Solar Alqueva. The owner suggested a nearby restaurant Taberna al Andaluz – one of the heartiest vegetarian food we have had in Europe!
Evora,about 1 hour from Lisbon is a city with many attractions. Unfortunately it was raining heavily for us and so we skipped a detailed visit of this place.