TRAVEL GUIDE: LISBON AND SINTRA
I can't believe that I'm actually, in fact, writing this post. After what feels like FOREVER since I was on my vacation, I get to share the photos from one of five destinations on our European adventure, with you.
The first place we visited was Lisbon. My sister and I had heard a lot about Portugal from friends that had gone and its growing popularity on travel sites and blogs. It appealed to us because we were looking for somewhere we hadn't been before and the pictures we had seen were gorgeous. There was also something intriguing about traveling to a place that was in Europe but sort of off the beaten path.
I will admit that getting in and out of Portugal was more challenging than we anticipated. I ended up using the site Rome2Rio quite a bit because it simplifies getting from point A to B. I highly recommend it if you are going somewhere where travel might be a little bit more complicated. We ended up flying to Lisbon, training to Porto and flying out of Porto through Frankfurt to Florence. A bit complicated, but it got us there.
Ok now to the good stuff about Lisbon. We stayed there for 2 days which I thought was the perfect amount for getting a good taste of the city. You could definitely add a day or two and take things a little slower but since we were going to quite a few stops on the trip, we added our extra days to Porto which I was very happy about.
WHERE WE STAYED
We loved this hotel. It was one of the favorites of the trip because of its sleek modern design, the amazing included breakfast and the central location right on the main square. I would highly recommend staying here. The price was also very reasonable.
WHERE WE VISITED
We looked at quite a few travel guides and narrowed it down to these must see sites (more on Sintra a little bit later)
Coaches Museum - I know what you are thinking, why oh why did they go to a carriage museum?! But you would be surprised at how cool (literally, the AC was blowing) a collection of carriages could be. It looked like they just redid the space so it was modern and impressive. We showed up when it opened and it was nice a quiet before the tour busses arrived.
Monastery of Jeronimos - This gorgeous white monastery looks beautiful next to the crystal blue Portuguese sky. There are separate lines for the church and the monastery (the longer one to the left is for the monastery) This was probably the most stunning site in Lisbon. The white Moorish-influenced design was something that I had never really seen before. It was worth standing out in the scorching sun for.
Belem Tower - After getting nice and hot over at Jeronimos Monastery we headed to the Belem Tower. The tower looks like something out of Game of Thrones (did I just make a GoT reference?) It seems as if it is floating on the water. It was the last thing that now-famous Portuguese sailors saw heading out to sea and the first thing that welcomed them home. We waited in quite a long line for 20 mins or so and made the executive decision to head not wait the 20 more to climb the tower. We did really enjoy seeing it and, maybe if you have more patience than us, you will be able to tough it out and climb up to see the view.
While our sightseeing was quite brief in Lisbon, we thought that we did a good job covering the main attractions.
WHAT TO EAT IN LISBON
Well obviously I saved the best for last. The food everywhere in Portugal was delicious. We especially enjoyed these places in Lisbon.
Memmo Alfama - This gorgeous modern hotel was the site for our first meal in Lisbon. The hotel is perched on the steep winding roads of the Alfama neighborhood. It has gorgeous views of the river and is the perfect place to orient yourself while sipping a chilled glass of rose and enjoying a very affordable cheese place (10 euros for quite a bit of cheese)
Xapuri - The name is tough to remember but this was probably the most memorable meal of our trip. We sought out modern interpretations of local dishes while we traveled and this restaurant more than delivered. The chef was creative without losing the local flavor. The food was beautifully plated and reasonably priced.
Pasteis de Belem - I can't mention food in Lisbon without Pasteis de Belem. These eggy custard tarts have been made in Lisbon for over 100 years. They are best served hot from the oven and covered in the little powder sugar packette. Make sure to pick up some to refuel (wink, wink) before heading to the monastery.
I couldn't forget to include Sintra in my recap about Lisbon. We decided to squeeze in a trip to this magical little city the day that we left for Porto. It is a fairly quick 45 minute cab ride or train ride to the city. We decided on a cab since we were already going to the train station later that day and we wanted to get there quickly. I think it ended up being about 30-40 euros each way, which wasn't bad split between two people.
While we were in Sintra we visited the two main sites, although there is enough to spend a day or two there.
Pena Palace - This castle looks like something out of a cartoon. The tour didn't really explain why they painted it such distinctive colors but it does really make for beautiful pictures. It was one of the most unique castles that I have visited. Not only was the outside beautiful but the interior had lovely details from when the family lived there in the 1800s. From the castle you can also see the old Moorish castle (we opted not to visit)
Quinta de Regaleira - You have to take a short bus ride from the Pena Palace to the main town square then walk about 10-15 minutes to the Quinta de Regaleira. What you will see as you approach is a imposing castle that is perfectly worn by time. The house was designed by an Italian opera set designer so there is certainly an element of drama to the house and the grounds. While the house is impressive, it is really the expansive gardens which make this a must-visit site. There are hidden grottos, a well that you can climb up, tunnels underground lit only by a small string of lights and many more discoveries. On a rainy day, like the one we visited on, it seemed truly enchanted.
So that is post one of five!! Stayed tuned each Monday for the next month for posts about my trip and our favorite places we discovered. Next up is Porto...