If you had asked me two years ago where Lisbon was on a map I probably would’ve had no idea it was even in Europe, let alone Portugal. But thanks to social media, Portugal has been on the rise lately as a new and trendy spot to take your next vacation. And come to find out, Portugal has a lot more to offer than I would’ve ever guessed!
In all honestly we probably spent less than 48 hours total in Lisbon- maybe more like 30- but I want to give you all a rundown of what we did see, and a few things we wish we could’ve spent more time at in Lisbon and the surrounding areas!
After you check into your hotel in Lisbon, a great spot to head to first and foremost is Martin Moniz, which is the perfect place to hop on tram 28 as you start your day. Even if you don’t decide to ride the tram (we didn’t due to the huge line formed outside) it’s still a great walking tour you can take to see some cute parts of the city. Not to mention, you can take some iconic yellow tram shots. One of the best spots to take the tram shot is at the Bica lift in Barrio Alto.
Speaking of which, one area we’ve heard a lot about that I wish we had gotten to explore more was Barrio Alto & Barrio Alfama. It’s the older historic part of town and has sooo many cute buildings I’ve seen photos of. If you have a chance try to stop by there!
The Praca do Comércio (city commerce square) is close by the tram, and you’re able to get a good picture of the Rua Augusta arch from there. You can also go sit by the water and snap some pictures of the lookalike Golden Gate Bridge. There’s a beer museum and restaurant in the square as well, but we only sat down for a few minutes to try a beer pastel de bacalhau (fish cake)… and just so you know yes it was as gross as it sounds. Let’s just say cod fish and cheese mixed into some kind of sponge cake bread and then deep fried is not for me. And I like almost any kind of food!!
To be honest though, that was probably the only food we ate in Portugal that we didn’t love. In Lisbon we ate almost nothing but seafood. Octopus, shrimp, mussels, clams, you name it. And the seafood only got better when we visited southern Portugal, but that’s for another blog post.
For our first dinner in Portugal we visited Portas Do Sol, a restaurant overlooking the city and the water that had a great view of the sunset. We decided to order a pitcher of Sangria which ended up being much bigger than either of us had expected, along with a custard pastry for me (once you try one of these you’ll be hooked).
We drank our sangria and once we got hungry for dinner headed across the street to Cerca Moura where we had the same server bring us our dinner that had served us at Portas. I guess the restaurant is owned by the same company so when they start serving dinner some of the staff goes to help over there. We got octopus and clams and it doesn’t seem like it would be that filling but it was and it was amazing!
Day two in Lisbon includes a visit to Belém Tower (Torre de Belém) along with a visit to Cascais beach and Sintra.
Belém is a cute little area in Lisbon about 30 minutes or so from the city center that is well known for two things: the tower and their pastries.
See, those creamy custard pastries I mentioned earlier originated from Belém and supposedly there’s a tiny pastry shop there (Pasteis de Belém) that claims to be not only the best, but first ones to make them. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop, but if you have the time to stop, DO IT! I heard it’s amazing.
What we did manage to see was the tower, an old fortress that’s been around for hundreds of years right on the edge of the water (and depending on the tides it sits IN the water. You can even go inside if you want, although we opted for taking photos from the outside.
After Belém we stopped at Cascais, one of the best beaches to surf close to Lisbon. When we went the waves were huge, and the wind was howling, although I’m not sure it’s always like that. Either way it seemed to be a good spot for surfing because they had a surf shop there that offered lessons along with plenty of merch. There also was two stunning hotels you could stay at although I can imagine they were very expensive.
From Cascais we traveled up to Sintra to view the Pena palace, but we didn’t realize they closed the doors at 5 so we weren’t able to go inside and therefore couldn’t see anything. The grounds are huge, and the palace sits on top of a hill so from where we were standing we couldn’t see it through all the trees. If we were to do it again I would recommend visiting Sintra as early in the morning as you can! Or at least make sure you get there before he doors close. Even though the doors closed at 5 to get in, there were still tons of people exiting the area and parked there still by 6pm. Still, the drive to get to Sintra was pretty and we did get one glimpse of the palace while driving, but we weren’t able to take a picture.
That night we headed back towards the center of Lisbon and decided to check out the docks everyone kept talking about. “Las docas” is a cute marina that is filled with sailboats, and great restaurants facing the water. There’s a series of seafood options, along with Cuban, Hawaiian, Italian, Mexican etc. they have it all! We loved having dinner here and even stayed afterwards to have some drinks there for the atmosphere.
Overall we were really impressed with Lisbon, and I hope I get to make it back there sometime to check out some of the spots I missed!