Lisbon, Portugal is known for it’s historically large trading port, lots of delicious custard tarts and sardines. Let’s be up front- we were more interested in the baked goods than the sardines. Anywho, Justin is actually Portugese and we had a lot of fun quizzing one of our guides on the heritage of ‘Costa’, meaning ‘coast’.
As with any Euro travel guide, my best tips are always to prioritize understanding public transport, travel in off-seasons and bring your student ID. Although we traveled in the colder, rainier season (late November), all of our museum admissions were at an off-season price and we barely waited in lines. Student IDs can also be used for discounts at many museums and attractions.
Belém was a short train ride away and the first district we roamed.
Pasteis de Belém: Known for the best custard tarts around, we lucked out with a short line to these delicious treats. A must for any visit.
Museu dos Coches: A museum boasting one of the world’s biggest collection of royal coaches.
Jerónimos Monastery: A beautiful monastery with intricate arches and columns. The delicious custard tarts are actually made from a secret recipe that originated in the kitchens of Mosteiro dos Jerónimos at the beginning of the 19th century. (Do watch out for gypsies here.)
We also took this free walking tour of Belem and learned tons about the history and architecture nearby.
That night we head out to Cascais for dinner- a train ride away to a coastal town.
Baia do Peixe: Our favorite meal in Portugal! The restaurant was beautiful and right on the water. We indulged in their ‘Rodizio’ which included fish soup, salad, potatoes, as much of their seven different types of fresh fish as you please (served individually) and dessert for €15 (at the time, this was $16). Of course, we also had to order wine. No explanation necessary.
Sintra was our next location for a day filled with picturesque hiking among hills of castles and cultural history.
We spent the day exploring the beautiful castles, some filled with historical artifacts. Our favorites were Park and National Palace of Pena, Castelo dos Mouros, Quinta da Regaleira and Sintra National Palace.
We explored Alfama! We took a free walking tour in this area as well via the same company, but overall didn’t find the day very thrilling. We could have gone without it.
Nonetheless, we visited Castelo de Sao Jorge, Se Cathedral, Saint Anthony’s Church, the Fado Museum and Miradouro Portas do Sol. We drank ginjinha, a Portuguese liqueur made from infusing ginja berries (sour cherries) in alcohol and sugar and learned the history of St. Vincent and his significance to the city.
We both felt that three days was more than enough to explore Lisbon and the neighboring areas. We probably would have been content with two and skipped Alfama. I would note that because we visited in the off-season, we didn’t wait in any lines which was lovely.
Enjoy your trip!