Visit the photo set 2016: Lisbon on Flickr.
Once again, when Easter rolled around this year, Robin and I got itchy feet to travel. Last year, it was London. This year, we decided to get another country off our list: Portugal. Rather than trying to leave on Good Friday, we decided to leave on the Sunday and return to Amsterdam the next Friday, giving us some time at home at both ends.
Sunday: Travel from Amsterdam; Avenida & Baixa
We took an early flight out of Amsterdam on KLM. I screwed up a bit when I booked the flights in that I forgot it was the Sunday that clocks went forward here in Europe and our 5:00 am wakeup was really 4:00 am to our bodies. However, we had a pleasant surprise as we boarded the flight in that KLM bumped us up to business class. Three hours later, we landed in sunny Lisbon. A short taxi ride later, we checked into our hotel for our stay: the DoubleTree Fontana Park. Robin and I both enjoyed the DoubleTree; the staff there made the difference in that they went out of their way to make our stay a pleasant one.
After unpacking, we grabbed our camera and started exploring the city. We walked down the Avenida da Liberdade and visited the Easter markets at Rossio and Praca da Figueira. We poked around the Baixa neighborhood and took in the Praça do Comércio, the large public space at the waterfront. Given the early hour at which we started the day, we decided to take things easy, walking back up the Liberdade and having dinner at the hotel.
Our focus on Monday was the Castelo de S. Jorge, which sits high above the east side of central Lisbon. Rather than revisit the Avenida da Liberdade, we decided to head straight south from the hotel towards the Martim Monez Square. From there, we began the climb up to the castle, through the neighborhoods north and east of the castle. We poked about the castle for a couple of hours before exploring the village tucked in around the castle walls. We had a good large lunch just below the castle sitting outside. From lunch, we had a short walk to the Miradouro de Santa Luzia with its nice views over Alfama. We then took in the Museu de Artes Decorativas, which had a large collection of period furniture and furnishings. Moving back west, we stopped at Lisbon’s main cathedral, the Sé. Out front of the Sé, we got some good pictures of the Electrico 28, the famous Lisbon tram. Heading for the hotel, we walked back up the Avenida da Liberdade. With our big meal at lunch, we decided to have a few drinks and some small snacks at the hotel bar.
Tuesday: Bairro Alto
Our major focus today was dinner at the 1-Michelin-star restaurant, Feitoria, in the Belém area. We initially thought about spending the whole day in Belém and go directly to the restaurant, but in the end with our reservation at 8:00 pm we decided to stay closer to central Lisbon for the day, heading out to Belém just for dinner.
Once again, we walked down the Avenida da Liberdade but turned west this time towards the ruins of the Igreja do Carmo. We poked around the museum and once again took some photographs. Exiting the museum, we strolled around the Bairro Alto neighborhood for a few hours before heading into the MNAC Chiado, one of Lisbon’s comtemporary art museums. We took in the exhibitions and decided to do some shopping before grabbing the metro back to the hotel.
Around 6:45 pm, we started on our way to Feitoria. We first traversed the metro, taking the yellow line west to the blue metro where we headed south to Cais do Sodré. There, we switched over to the local train service, which was also free with our Lisbon Card. We jumped on the first train leaving for Cascais, only to find out that this particular train was an express train and would not be stopping at Belém. We fortunately realized our mistake in time to disembark at the Alcântara-Mar station where we had only a couple minutes wait for the right train. Exiting at Belém station, we had a pleasant walk along the river side, reaching Feitoria just before 8:00 pm. Our dinner with matching Portuguese wines was spectacular. I’ve copied the menu below:
Melon and Hibiscus
“Bread and Pork”
Sautéed Algarve scarlet shrimp with fresh cucumber salad
Squid, prawns, peanuts and dashi
Topinamburg, organic egg yolk and green asparagus
Seabass, bivalves, rose shrimp, fresh herbs and sprouts
National calf, smoked eel, potato starch and pickled cabbage
Beetroots, raspberry and aged balsamic vinegar
This morning we retraced our steps back to Belém by metro and local train. Our first destination was the Mosterio dos Jeronimos, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1983. We spent a couple of hours walking around the grounds; the cloister and church were definite highlights. We then headed out to the river side to make our way to the west. First up was the Monument to the Discoveries. We then passed by the Altis Belém hotel again, and had a good gelato from their small shop there. Soon after, we reached the Torre de Belem where we spent some time taking photographs (including the one above) and just enjoying the views across the Tagus River.
Walking back towards Belém, we thought we might take the modern Tram 15 back to central Lisbon. In the end, we lucked out as we ventured a little to the east of Belém and were able to pick up a rerouted Tram 18, featuring the old style ‘Remodelado’ rolling stock. This tram was relatively empty so we had a comfortable ride back to Cais do Sodré, the end of this line. Looking to avoid a potential rainshower, Robin spotted an old mercado across the street from Cais do Sodré. Upon entering it, we found to our delight that it had been repurposed to a food hall much like De Hallen here in Amsterdam. We promptly seated ourselves at one of the tables in the Time Out Mercado da Ribeira for a late afternoon snack and beer. After another stroll through the Baixa district, we decided to call it a day.
For our last full day, we decided to visit the town of Sintra, to the west of Lisbon. Many parts of Sintra are protected as UNESCO World Heritage Sites . With our Lisbon cards, the train to and from Sintra were free; the trip took about 40 minutes from the Rossia station in central Lisbon.
Once in Sintra, we headed directly to the Quinta da Regaleria. I didn’t tell Robin much of the story behind the Quinta before we got there, wanting to her surprise her. Well, the place surprised the both of us and we spent over three hours visiting it. From Wikipedia:
Quinta da Regaleira is an estate located near the historic center of Sintra, Portugal. It is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO within the “Cultural Landscape of Sintra”. Along with the other palaces in the area (such as the Sintra National Palace, Pena, Monserrate and Seteais palaces), it’s considered one of the principal tourist attractions of Sintra. The property consists of a romantic palace and chapel, and a luxurious park that features lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, and a vast array of exquisite constructions. The palace is also known as “The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire”, which is based on the nickname of its best known former owner, António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro.
The very-well-done execution of such a singular vision was very impressive.
We had a late lunch on the Praca da Republica at Café Paris. After lunch, we visited the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, another impressive historical building. Leaving the palacio after 5 pm, we hopped on the train back to Lisbon. Not wanting to do much more walking, we had some nice sushi at the hotel.
Friday: Travel back to Amsterdam
Our return flight to Amsterdam was in the early afternoon so we spent a quiet morning before leaving for the airport. We did finally have the opportunity to try the famous pastel de nata at the airport before stepping on the plane home.