3 Days in Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon in Portugal
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If I were to compare Lisbon to Madrid, it's quite clear that Madrid feels cleaner and better maintained. The sheer amount of graffiti covering the walls and trains were difficult to miss and made an immediate negative impression. At night, the lonely streets of Lisbon were lit by fewer streetlights and frequented by fewer locals and tourists. But I never felt unsafe at any point. Lisbon is very much a different destination when compared to Madrid.

One aspect we realized is that many of their bank's ATM machines accepts debit cards with a max of 6 digit pins. In our case, the pin we for our debit card was 7 digits, so we were denied access to withdraw cash from a majority of the ATMs. However, we were saved when the hotel suggest we try the ATM machine located in the train station that allowed 6 digits.

BessaHotel (hotel website)

  • Modern 4 star hotel
  • Clean room, bed, and shower
  • No Nespresso/coffee machine in room, but included tea and instant coffee via hot water boiler.
  • Comfortable lobby.
  • Right in the middle of the action for shopping, dining, and subway.

Tourist Attractions in Lisbon

Monastery of Jerónimos (4.5 Stars @ TripAdvisor)

  • Long, slow lines
  • Take the 728 bus line from end of green subway line, about 10 minutes. It can get crowded, so be patient.
  • Main entrance on the long side of the monetary.
  • There is a small entrance on the side charging 1.50 Euros for a small room before entering the free church section, also on long side of monetary. This is not a main attraction, but instead a 2 room exhibit.
  • Beautiful architecture inside and out, with minimal descriptions.
  • No audio guides were available.
  • One of the better attractions near Lisbon.
  • Prepay for both tickets at Belém Tower and Monastery of Jerónimos to save time waiting in line.

Belém Tower (4.0 Stars @ TripAdvisor)

  • 5 floors
  • Prepay for both tickets at Belém Tower and Monastery of Jerónimos to save time waiting in line.
  • Narrow stairs going up and down, but only wide enough for one direction at a time.
  • There is a very confusing queuing system to help controlling foot traffic thru staircase.
  • Stairwell queue system is semi obvious, but everyone waiting sounded confused.
  • No instructions in any language, only symbols, colors, and numbers.
  • Nice views of monuments and bridge
  • Not much to see inside the tower, in my opinion, the inside could use more descriptions. There’s certainly plenty of space inside.

Padrão dos Descobrimentos (4.0 Stars @ TripAdvisor)

  • A monument where to take pictures nearby.
  • Very large, but there is an entrance to go in and head to the top.
  • We chose not to, as we already had tickets to go to the top of Belem Tower and many other tourist attractions.
  • Unobstructed view of their version of the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Pleasant walk along their levee to get from one tourist attraction to another.

São Jorge Castle (4.0 Stars @ TripAdvisor)

  • A castle that is in Lisbon.
  • It's walkable, but it is up a hill, so prepare to walk upwards.
  • Rewarded with amazing panoramic views of Lisbon.
  • Not much in terms of information regarding the Castle.
  • Restaurants inside the castle.
  • Stumbled upon a Toree Obscura (a set of lenses and mirrors to get a 360 view of the city in real time), which is a demonstration. It requires outside light, so it's not as effective on cloudy days or towards the evening.

Food in Lisbon

Solar dos Presuntos (restaurant website - 4.5 Stars @ TripAdvisor)

  • A upscale seafood restaurant
  • A large lobster tank at the entrance
  • Enjoyed a fish and tiger prawns.
  • They serve a bunch of different appetizers (bread, olives, butter, sliced meats) without asking, but will charge you if you decide to eat them. We decided to only eat the olives, and were only charged for the olives.
  • Entertaining employees, even though our waiter couldn't speak any English.
  • Most seafood is frozen, and if you order a whole piece of seafood, they bring the frozen piece out to you.
  • Well prepared seafood.

Alma Restaurant (restaurant website - 4.5 Stars @ TripAdvisor)

  • 1 Star Michelin restaurant
  • Made reservations before we left for the vacation
  • The restaurant never got truly crowded for lunch.
  • Food was exception and very high end.
  • Tasting menus or a la cart.

Time Out Market Lisbon (Official Site - 4.5 Stars @ TripAdvisor)

  • The first night we arrived, it was a bit late and our hotel recommended Time Out Cafe.
  • Busy scene good for drinking, eating, and socializing.
  • It's reminiscent of a busy food court or a very clean asian night market, but with higher quality food.
  • Long lines at all the booths.
  • We ended up eating here, but did not really like the food all that much.
  • Finding a spot to eat was nearly impossible.
  • Good for tourists

Pastéis de Belém (Official Site - 4.5 Stars @ TripAdvisor)

  • A very large cafe specializing in custards with a very crispy and delicious outer pastry.
  • Long lines outside for take out
  • Follow the signs inside for table service all the way on the back for a more laid back experience.
  • The store front is fairly small, but it's a deep restaurant with tons of seating.
  • Entire section of tables in the back are reserved for tour groups.
  • Most guests order the custards and a coffee.

Day Trip to Sintra (from Lisbon)

Sintra is about a 40 minute train ride away from Lisbon, so it makes for the perfect stop for a day trip. The day we visited with a bit overcast with occasional heavy showers, so we made most of it despite the less than stellar weather. Once we arrived, Sintra is about a 10-15 minute walk from the train station. From there, you can buy a public bus ticket (specifically for tourists) that makes stops at both the Moorish Castle and Pena Park and Palace. Keep your ticket, as this is how you re-board later. I would not recommend skipping out on the bus, as it is a long drive.

Sintra Palace

  • Now a museum with a self guided tour.
  • Colorfully painted castle like something out of a cartoon
  • Near the top, so there are great views
  • Well maintained castle interior

Moorish Castle

  • My favorite stop in Sintra
  • The remnants of an old castle
  • Requires taking a bus up, but it reminds me of a minature Great Wall of China.

At the end of our time in Lisbon, I wish we had budgets more time in Portugal to visit other coastal cities like Porto. There is a lot of see in Lisbon, but very closely resembles any other large city. And if I could re-plan this vacation, I would have wanted to reverse it so I end the trip on a high note. Instead of Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, and Lisbon, I would have wanted to instead do Lisbon, Seville, Madrid, and Barcelona. Sintra was likely the highlight for our stay in Lisbon, so make plans to visit Sintra.

In Spain, we visited Barcelona, Madrid, and Granada (day trip). In Portugal, we visited Lisbon and Sintra (day trip). We traveled in October 2017 and had mostly sunny and hot days. Here's my thoughts on our first time to both Spain and Portugal.
  1. 4 Days in Barcelona, Spain
  2. 4 Days in Madrid, Spain
  3. 3 Days in Seville, Spain
  4. 3 Days in Lisbon, Portugal
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