EXPLORING LISBON

I’m so excited to have arrived in the Algarve, really looking forward to exploring and some much needed sunshine and relaxation. I would have loved to have extended our holiday with a trip to Lisbon, but unfortunately we may not have enough time on this particular trip. My good friend Ade an I loved our time in Lisbon, such a beautiful city full of culture, friendly people and the most incredible food so I’d love to visit again as so much to discover and our trip also left me really wanting to explore more of Portugal. So as we’re not going to Lisbon, this week in Portugal, I thought I’d share my top things to do there instead.

While we were in Lisbon we did have a few grey & rainy moments, but when the sun did come out the difference was incredible!

Cascais – This stunning coastal town is 30 kilometres west of Lisbon, about a 40 minute train ride away from Cais do Sodré train station. The former fishing village gained fame as a resort for royalty and still remains a popular vacation spot for both Portuguese and foreign tourists. Cascais is located on the Estoril Coast (also known as the Portuguese Riviera). On arriving we grabbed a amazing seafood lunch in the town square before heading off to relax on the beach, such a hard life being on holiday. It was such a beautiful hot, sunny day a perfect beach day. I recommend having a wander round the palm tree lined streets as there so many interesting shops and little markets selling Portuguese earthenware and pretty tins of Sardines not to mention of course an abundance of Nata tarts and incredible home made ice cream.

Mercado da RibeiraThis food market was an incredible find! Housed in one of the biggest market spaces in the city, Time Out has created an amazing indoor foodie location. Its roots can be traced back to the 13th century, and it was once one of the most famous fish markets in Europe. Many of the its traders have been selling fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and flowers there for decades. The traditional food market is found on the ground floor and is open from 6am-2om. In the main court (open every day from 10am to midnight Sunday to Wednesday and from 10am to 2am from Thursday to Saturday) there are pop up stands from some of Lisbon’s most famous and loved restaurants and drinks specialists, wonderful cafes, food bookshops and also cooking demos all under one roof. This place is great as each of you can try whatever takes your fancy and you’re not limited by one particular type or style of food. I really recommend trying some delicious Portuguese seafood such as the Garlic Prawns from Monte Mar, the best ice cream from Santini (especially the fruit flavours), or even the slider burgers or vegan treats – not to mention the famous Portuguese Vinho Verde and Port or my particular favourite drink: a Pineapple Sumol; this place has something for everyone and a great communal dining space where you can meet other food lovers and get their recommendations too!

Avenida 24 de Julho – opposite Cais do Sodré (train station)

Belém Tower
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

Pastéis de Belém  I’m going to confess that trying a Portuguese Nata tart “Pastéis de Belém” from its birthplace, was a must do for me while in Lisbon. The baking of these incredible Pastéis de Belém began in 1837 at this cafe, in what was then a building attached to a sugar refinery next to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (the Heironymite Monastery). The recipe is said to be an ancient‘secret recipe` from the Monastery, passed on and known only by the master confectioners who hand-crafted the pastries in the ‘secret room’ and the recipe at the cafe has remained unchanged to the present day. You can’t miss the cafe near the Monastery as the long line of locals and tourists waiting in line for their Pastéis de Belém gives it away, however when I was there the queue moved surprisingly quickly so don’t let that put you off. The best way to eat these tarts is warm with a little sprinkle of cinnamon and icing sugar. Did the Pastéis de Belém live up to its reputation?…..Honestly, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever tasted! Belém isn’t just about the custard tarts though as Belém Tower and the Monastery are simply stunning!

Rua de Belém nº 84-92, 1300 – 085 Lisboa Portugal

Tuk-Tuk tour – Ok, it’s super touristy, I know but our Tuk-Tuk tour was a real highlight for us while in Lisbon. For €25 each we had an hour and a half tour of the Alfama and Bairro Alto districts areas of Lisbon, hurtling up and down the steep, narrow little streets (sometimes feeling like a theme park ride) while our driver and tour guide Christina shared her local knowledge with us, pointing out some hidden gems and even sang Fado folk songs to us. Our tour was around dusk and it was amazing to see the transformation as it got dark, from a gorgeous viewpoint overlooking the city and we ended the tour with dinner and live music at a traditional  Fado restaurant.

Riding the trams and funiculars – Ok I know this may sound a little odd, but I love trams! Not like the ones you can get to Wimbledon, but the old fashioned ones with the wooden seats; this love of trams stems back to a summer spent in Riga visiting my best friend. It’s only when we arrived in Lisbon that I discovered that Ade was just as excited as me about trams, for her they were a reminder of her holiday in San Francisco. One of the best ways to see Lisbon is to hop on and off the no 28 tram as it will take you to so many of the must see places and areas of Lisbon. A €6 one-day travel oyster card lets you use all the trams, buses, metros and funiculars you want.

Sementes para Hortas e Jardins, on Praça de Figueira, a retro little corner shop selling flower and vegetable seeds and bulbs as a pick n mix.

On the 28 tram route is Viúva C. Ferreira Pires (Rua Santo António da Sé 2) a hardware store selling an incredible selection of copper pans including the traditional Portuguese cataplana, a lidded, copper dish used to make slow-cooked fish and seafood stews. Sadly the copper ones were a bit out of my price range but I picked up an steel alternative and the shop keeper even threw in a little recipe page.

Round the corner from the hardware store is Santos Ofícios (Rua da Madalena 87), a beautiful handicraft store where we bought handmade clay ware dishes. It’s funny, we’d been looking for this store but got a bit distracted by some beautiful hand made ornaments in a shop window so wandered in, only to discover we’d found the very store we were looking for!

Feira da Ladra flea market in Lisbon is really worth a visit. So many traders showing their wares from Portuguese tiles, earthenware, paintings to vintage vinyls, in the Campo de Santa Clara street, in the district of Alfama. The market starts at the Arco de São Vicente, an arch near where the famous tram 28 stops. From the market, you can see the impressive Santa Engracia Church, or the National Pantheon.

Sintra – A short train ride away from central Lisbon is the resort town of Sintra, located in the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains. It was lovely to explore the deep green forest terrain which is studded with pastel-colored villas, palaces and Moorish castles. The Sintra National Palace is distinguished by its dramatic twin chimneys and beautiful tilework. The colourful hilltop 19th-century Pena Palace looks like something out of a fairytale. The palace was built so that it could be visible from any point in the park, which consists of a forest and beautiful gardens with over five hundred different species of trees originating from the around the world. As you wander round the Palace and its grounds, you do feel a little bit like royalty and the views are incredible! You can grab a bus for about €5 from near Sintra station and you can visit all the Palaces and Castle just by hoping on and off the bus.

Have you been to Lisbon? What are your must see places?

Jx

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