PORTUGAL – the complete guide to a rail- road -trip

(Updated in May 2019)

As in many other European countries, too, in Portugal, travelling by rail is easy-peasy, cheap, and fun. Do you hear the whistle blow?

Picturesque Portugal: The beauty of everyday life.
Quick: Jump on the train and let me guide you from mesmerizing Porto to Lisbon, the city that has been elected World’s Leading City Break Destination 2017 for a reason.

this way to read the whole story >>>

Guide to ESTORIL & CASCAIS

Estoril

Estoril – located 25 km / 15.5 miles from Lisbon and easy to reach by regional train – has been a very popular beach and retirement destination for many years. Today, the town is home to about 6,000 people, many of which are retired and wealthy expats e.g. from Germany.

 

Beach of Estoril and
(Photo: anonym, Praia do Tamariz – Estoril, cropped to 1102×735 vertical and horizontal, CC BY 2.0)

In the town center is arranged around a beautiful park, the Jardim do Estoril, but what attracts most of the rich crowds is the casino. This gamblers’ paradise makes Estoril one of the most expensive places to live not only in Portugal, but on the entire Iberian Peninsula.

 

Jardim do Estoril and the casino – proof that rich doesn’t necessarily mean pretty.
(Photo: kenward, Linha de Cascais DSC 0241 (17296423451), cropped to 1102×735, CC BY 2.0)

Another attraction is, of course, the beach which is not the greatest one I’ve ever set foot on, but if you just need a short break from Lisbon’s hustle and bustle, it’s totally fine. Actually, it’s nicer than the city beach of Cascais, so if you are not driving but come here by public transport, it’s much better to hit the beach in Estoril.

 

None of the city beaches are secluded dream destinations – but for a beach break from Lisbon’s hustle and bustle, they do.
(Photo: Dora Dragoni, Estoril, Praia da Poça – panoramio, cropped to 1102×735, CC BY 3.0)

However, if you have your own car and travel more independently, the beaches west of Cascais are more pristine.

 

Cascais

Mainly the proximity to these gorgeous beaches makes Cascais one of the city with the highest quality of living in Portugal.

 

A pedestrian street in Cascais’ town center.

In fact, besides being a pleasant beach destination, Cascais offers a lot of cultures, mainly art displayed at several art galleries and museums. These are concentrated around the so-called Museum Quarter. Many of these venues are installed in mansions that used to be private residences. Today, many of them belong to the municipality. If you want to take a break from the lazy beach life, there are a number of galleries definitely worth a visit: There is the wonderful Casa Verdades de Faria, the museum of Portuguese music. It hosts an important collection of musical instruments, collected by Michel Giacometti.

 

Casa Verdades da Feria housing the Museum of Portuguese Music.
 (Photo: Roundtheworld, EstorilMusicMuseum2, cropped to 1102×735, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Interesting are also galleries such as the Casa das Histórias Paula Rego, presenting – according to its name – paintings of Paula Rego and her husband Victor Willing. Or the Casa Duarte Pinto Coelho, a former guardhouse of the Condes de Castro Guimarães Palace, that houses – you probably guessed it – the art collection of designer Duarte Pinto Coelho.

 

Condes de Castro Guimarães Palace also houses a museum. On display are paintings, sculptures, furniture, and antique dishes.
(Photo: swissbert from Switzerland, 2016-10-21 Cascais 6190 (30870302001), cropped to 1102×735, CC0 1.0)

To learn about Cascais’ past and history, visit the Museu do Mar. Founded in 1992, it deals with the town’s past as a fishing village.  Another one is the Museu da Vila, the town museum, also providing a glance at the town.

Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I’ve visited in Portugal? 
Then go to the main post and take your pick!


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Guide to BELEM

Although Belém is technically a suburb to Lisbon, I decided to grant the grand place its own chapter.

 

From protection to icon: The Tower of Belém.

Belém – whose name is derived from the Portuguese word for Bethlehem – is packed with all these amazingly beautiful structures on an area as small as 4 square miles and definitely a must-see when visiting Lisbon.

If you aren’t driving, you’ll probably get here either by the regional train that connects Lisbon and Estoril, but there are also buses and a tram, so it’s really easy to travel the less than 10 km / 6 miles from Lisbon’s center.

Depending on from where you arrive at the Belém station, you might first want to go to the MAAT. The thing is that you cannot cross the freeway-ish road wherever you please. There are two bridges and a tunnel – other than that, you stay on that side of the road that you’re on. This freeway is so large, that it actually consists of two roads, the Avenida Brasília and the Avenida India. Arriving from Lisbon, you have to cross the road over the bridge to get to the MAAT, the Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia, i. e. Coming from Estoril, you’re already there.

MAAT
Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology
Avenida Brasília
1300-598 Lisboa
Phone: + 351 – 210 – 028 130
Email: maat@edp.pt 

Open Wednesday to Monday from 11 a. m. to 7 p. m.

Ok, after you’ve visited the MAAT, this side of the road has nothing much to offer so cross over the bridge and stroll towards the Jardim Alfonso de Albuquerque where Mr. de Albuquerque himself is welcoming you.

 

Jardim Alfonso de Albuquerque. The light pink building in the background is the Museu Presidencia da Republica, the

There are three interesting museums around this manicured garden: Museu Nacional dos Coches, the coach museum, the Salao Belas Artes, an art gallery showing contemporary art – probably the least known in all Belém, and Museu Presidencia da Republica.

 

A fascinating collection of coaches at the Museu Nacional dos Coches.
 (Photo: Geerd-Olaf Freyer from Aachen, Deutschland, Museu Nacional dos Coches (4904043960), cropped to 1102×735, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Museu Nacional dos Coches
Avenida da Índia 136
1300-300 Lisbon
Phone: + 351 – 210 – 732 319
Email: geral@mncoches.dgpc.pt

Open Tuesday to Sunday 10 a. m. to 5.30 p. m.

Salao Belas Artes
Rua do Embaixador 126A
1300-598 Lisbon
Phone: + 351 – 926 – 253 297
Email: salaobartes@gmail.com

Open daily except Wednesday and Sunday from 3 p. m. to 7 p. m.

 

The museum is dealing with Portugal’s historic and political development since it has become a Republic in 1910.
 (Photo: Therese C, Museu da Presidência da República (1) – Jul 2008, cropped to 1102×735, CC BY 2.0)

Museu Presidencia da Republica
Palácio de Belém
Praça Afonso de Albuquerque
1349-022 Lisbon
Phone: + 351 – 213 614 660
Eail: museu@presidencia.pt

Open Tuesday to Sunday 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.

Walking from the Presidencia da Republica towards the most glorious of Belem’s sights Monasterio do Jeronimo, the Jeronimo Monastery, don’t miss the pastry shop Pastéis de Belém.

 

As we all know, food is an important part of a country’s culture. Natas should be on Portugal’s flag!
(Photo: Jpatokal, MargaretCafe PasteisDeNata, cropped to 1102×735, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Actually, usually, you cannot miss it since there is a very long queue of people waiting for their turn to sample the world famous – and heavenly delicious – natas, Portugal’s most iconic cup cakes.

 

Monasterio do Jeronimo.

After a majestic snack, an even more majestic building: Dominating/crowning the Praca do Imperio is this huge white lavishly decorated building, the Monasterio do Jeronimo. The church and the monastery were commissioned by Manuel I around 1459 on the site of the older church – which is very often the case in Portugal. They have an excellent exhibition on Portugal’s history in relation to these houses of worship.

 

The archway on the monastery’s upper floor.

The church’s ground floor can be visited for free – here is also Vasca da Gama’s tomb., To visit the upper part, you need a ticket since it’s only accessible through the monastery.

 

This is where Vasco da Gama was laid to rest.

 

The grand facade of the Santa Maria de Belém church,
part of the Jeronimo monastery complex

Visiting the monastery is worth every cent, and it’s worth the wait – yet you can cut the lines a bit by getting there either really early or rather late, at around 5 p. m. since that’s when the groups are gone.

Before you continue your walk through Belém, make sure to take a good look at the outer facade of the Santa Maria de Belém church designed by Boytac and located on the monastery’s east corner facing the river.

On the monastery’s west side, the Museu de Marinha, dealing with maritime matters, and the Planetario Calouste Goulbenkian can be visited. This planetarium was named after the great businessman and philanthropist who also founded the Calouste Goulbenkian Collection located in the neighborhood of the Praça da Espanha in Lisbon.

 

The Centro Cultural de Belém. I love how it’s built in such a modern, minimalist style but is perfectly adapted to the ancient buildings by being made from this light stones.

Another wealthy do-gooder was businessman and art collector José Manuel Rodrigues Berardo who donated his impressive collection of modern art to the Museu Coleção Berardo. Today, it can be visited – on Saturdays for free! – on the premises of the Centro Cultural de Belém, the Cultural Center, presenting also other arts such as concerts and spectacles.

Museu Coleção Berardo
Praça do Império
1449-003 Lisboa
Phone: + 351 – 213 612 878

Open daily from 10 a. m. to 7 p. m. – and entrance is free on Saturdays!

 

A warm welcome to the Berardo by Niki Saint-Phalle’s Les Beigneuses

After you’ve seen this venue, you think that’s it regarding art in Belém? Well, you stand so corrected!

 

Great architecture on the outside, great archeologic founds inside.

On the same side of the road is the Centro de Archeologia de Lisboa, Lisbon Archeology Center, and the Galeria Avenida da Índia, worth a visit if you are into the alternative art scene.

Centro de Archeologia de Lisboa
Avenida da Índia 166
Lisboa
Phone: + 351 – 218 172 180
Email: centro.arqueologia@cm-lisboa.pt

To cross to the southern side of the Avenidas, you either have to walk back to the Jardim da Praca do Imperio, the one with the huge fountain.

 

The princess fountain – on its day off.

Or you keep on walking to the next bridge that crosses at the Jardim de Torre de Belém, the park adjacent to the famous Belém tower.

The tower was built on a basaltic outcropping of rocks in the Tagus river so till today you can WATEN through the mud and across the slippery stones halfway around – which is popular with young ‘influencers’.

 

Another good spot to have a great view.

The tower can be visited and climbed – and keep in mind that there is a combi-ticket that grants you access to the monastery, too.

Further west behind the Jardim is another museum, the Museu do Combatante, dealing with all the supposedly heroic actions of the Portuguese – a topic I’m not really fond of.

 

Definitely my cup of tea: The Museu do Combatante – honoring…and also glorifying…Portuguese warriors.
(Photo: xiquinhosilva from Cacau, Forte do Bom Sucesso 33125-Lisbon (36302532896), cropped to 1102×735, CC BY 2.0)

Tired now? If you keep on walking west for about 1,5 km / 1 mile, you’ll get to the Algés station where you can take the regional train back to Lisbon. Or you hit the Praia de Algés for a while, Algés’ small yet nice beach on the river Tagus.

 

On the shores of the river Tagus.

But don’t think you’ve seen it all – you are still missing one of the most popular sights in Belém, the Padrao dos Descobrimentos, a picture that shouldn’t be missing in any Portugal photo album. This sight, too, can be accessed.

I know you’re tired – and for a reason. The good news is: We’re done! But I’m sure that although you might be exhausted, you had a wonderful day – or two – here in marvelous Belém.

 

Saying bye to Belém and its heroes.
Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I’ve visited in Portugal? 
Then go to the main post and take your pick!


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* This is an affiliate link. If you book through this page, not only do you get the best deal, I also get a small commission that helps me run this blog. Thank you so much for supporting me! I was very lucky being supplied by a 72hrs-Lisbon-Card by Turismo de Lisboa. However, all opinions on these services are mine and weren’t by any means influenced by my cooperation partner.

Guide to SINTRA

First, I have to warn you: Sintra is incredibly touristy. I assume the entire town is living off tourists, which is fine, but it’s an industry.

 

Already the views from the Palace make a visit worthwhile.

 

Maybe that’s the reason while everything feels a bit fake and Disney World-ish; although it’s not.


The small town of Sintra, home to less than 10,000 inhabitants, is a municipality about 25 km / 15.5 miles west of Lisbon and only 14 km / 9 miles north of Estoril, located on the shores of the Atlantic ocean.

You can get there within 45 minutes from Lisbon’s Rossio station – and if you have a Lisbon card, the trip is included. But only the trip from and to Lisbon, not the local buses in Sintra or the buses going to the coastal towns Estoril and Cascais.

 

Rossion, Lisbon’s most beautiful train station – and the most conveniently located one. I love the horseshoe-shaped entrance.

 

Palácio da Pena

It all began in 1840 as Dom Ferdinand II. – or rather his architect Portuguese architect Possidónio da Silva – turned a demolished monastery into a Palace, Palácio Nacional da Pena, by combining Gothic, Egyptian, Moorish, and Renaissance styles in an eclectic mix.

 

Maybe it actually was ‘designed’; or maybe everybody just brought whatever material he found at home, they slapped it together and called it ‘style’.

Some call the result romantic and it actually inspired Ludwig II. of Bavaria to build Neuschwanenstein – need I say more?!
I call it pretty quirky: The complex looks like some child with a wild imagination built it with Lego bricks in all his favorite colors.

 

Minimalism was not Fernando’s thing.

However, this opulent structure is worth a visit – if only to find out that it’s not your style.

 

The furnishing resembles many other Palaces.

Plus, Dom Ferdinand II also restored the forests of the Serra by planing thousands of trees.

 

Swan lake….

 

….and summiteers.

There are gardens, pavilions, grottos, lakes…and few people. It’s really nice to take a walk there – especially since many tourists limit their visit to the Palace.

 

Memorial to Dom Fernando II, the man with the unique sense of style.

The Historic Center

But let’s start at the beginning as you arrive by regional train from Lisbon. Already at the train station guides and tuk-tuk drivers are waiting and offering their services. I recommend walking to the historic center: You catch the first glimpses of the sumptuous landscape, the rolling hills, and the majestic mansions. Along the route, there are many sculptures in many different, quite modern styles.

 

Very cute sculpture – a couple kissing under an umbrella. Although it was raining in the morning, I didn’t have an umbrella; and nobody kissed me.
Moorish people inspired Sintra’s architecture. Today, Arabic people are cleaning streets there.

The main building to visit at the historic center is the Palácio Nacional de Sintra, already built in the 10th century as a Moorish Alcazar and used from the 14th to the 20th century as the Royal summer residence. It’s most prominent feature are two chimneys – making it look a bit like a nuclear power plant; you are right, I am not a great romantic. Anyway, the power plant – hey, there’s such a clever double meaning! – can be visited and it will impress you with some exquisite decorations.

 

Palácio Nacional de Sintra

 

Great views through narrow alleys.

The historic center consists of little alleys winding up and down between loads of souvenir shops and snack bars and cafés and it’s difficult to take a picture without ten tourists on it.

If you are able to ignore the masses of people, you will see that it’s really pretty.

 

Palácio Quinta da Regaleira

Quinta da Regaleira is a huge mansion in a vast garden, decorated with sculptures, grottos, a chapel, lakes, and bridges.

 

The Baron’s humble little house.

It was commissioned by Baron António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro, a businessman and eccentric, and designed by the Italian architect Luigi Manini.

 

There are all sorts of decorations on the premises – like these classicistic statues.

Accomplished in 1910, it is today classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – one of several in Sintra.

The Baron’s private chapel.
While visiting, I heard this beautiful guitar music: There was a duo playing baroque classics – simply enchanting!

Palácio de Seteais

Behind the Quinta is another architectural jewel, the Palácio de Seteais.

 

A Royalty for a day: At the Palácio de Seteais they give you this chance of a lifetime.
(Photo: Gryffindor, Palácio de Seteais 2013 10, cropped to 1102×735, CC BY-SA 4.0)

You don’t even have to be a Royal to stay at this Neoclassical Palace; you just have to fork out around 300 €uros per night – since today it is a luxury hotel and restaurant. This, too, is listed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

 

Palácio de Monserrate

Another 2 km / 1.5 miles further west is the least known Palace, the Palácio de Monserrate.

 

They sure had a thing for flashy and colorful.
(Photo: Cláudia Almeida, Long Shot of Palácio de Monserrate, Sintra, Portugal, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Over the ruins of two churches, the British merchant Gerard de Visme built a neo-Gothic mansion in 1789. A couple of years later, William Thomas Beckford leased the complex and designed there a landscaped garden. In 1809, Lord Byron visited the property and got inspired by its magnificent appearance: Byron praised the beauty of Monserrate in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

 

Castelo dos Mouros

Yes, it obviously is possible to walk all the way from the historic center to the Palácio da Pena – I saw people doing it. I saw them from the bus I was comfortably sitting in. Seriously, the bus is less than 4 €uro one way, is leaving pretty frequently, and the hike along the country road is not pretty at all yet pretty busy.

Before the bus gets to the Palácio da Pena, it stops also at the Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle), another important landmark.

 

Frankly, the Castle is mainly rocks – often even not on top of one another.
(Photo: anonym, Castelo dos Mouros – Sintra ( Portugal )2, cropped to 1102×735, CC BY 2.0)

Built during the 9th century by the Moors. The Moors were North African Berbers, Islamized by the Arabs which they supported in the conquest of the Iberic peninsula.

However, this fort was conquered in 1147 by King Alfonso I. A Christian chapel was built on the premises. Eventually, the Portuguese mostly neglected the site and the fort decayed.
Only as all this tacky Romanticism flooded this area, an extensive renovation of the remaining walls took place around 1860.

And today, you probably guessed so – it’s been a UNESCO world heritage site.

 

How to get there and around

Like I said, it’s really easy to get from the Rossio train station in Lisbon to Sintra. Depending on the time of the day, the train is going every 10 to 30 minutes starting at 6 a. m. till 1 a. m. One way is €uro 2,25, but if you have a Lisboa card or a viva viagem (travel) card, it’s included.

If you are coming from Estoril, there are different buses operated by Scotturb. For your convenience, their website is exclusively in Portuguese and you have to know the exact stop – it’s not possible to search for a connection just by city.

Although Portuguese people do not always do it with a big smile, they do help you and most officials speak pretty decent English so I suggest you just ask once you’re there.
The public transport system is very good, so don’t worry to get stuck, you won’t.

For any local transport, just ask at the train station. Frequently there is a bus going between the historic center and Castelo dos Mouros/Palácio da Pena.

Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I’ve visited in Portugal? 
Then go to the main post and take your pick!


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* This is an affiliate link. If you book through this page, not only do you get the best deal, I also get a small commission that helps me run this blog. Thank you so much for supporting me! I was very lucky being supplied by a 72hrs-Lisbon-Card by Turismo de Lisboa and they also arranged entrance to the Palaces in Sintra for me. However, all opinions on these services are mine and weren’t by any means influenced by my cooperation partner.

Guide to LISBON

Guys, I’m sorry, I know I’m not original by guiding you through Lisbon along the iconic line of tram No 28, but this route is just too perfect.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Lisbon

It would be more original and unique to send you to Lisbon’s satellite town and impoverished outskirts or the business district around Parque das Nações which looks like any other business district around the globe – besides the really cool Oceanário, the aquarium.

Still, the nicest places and most interesting attractions are along the #28 and that’s how we travel; and I promise you some additional detours.

this way to read the whole story >>>

Rail Trip Portugal – 6th Whistle Stop: CASCAIS – ESTORIL – BELEM

It was my last day in Portugal. Others would have taken it easy, maybe do some final souvenir shopping, have a last croqueta de bacalao and a glass of vinho verde or port in Lisbon.

One of Belém’s most iconic monuments is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, the Monument of the Discoveries on the bank of the Tagus river. 

Not me.
I was travelling with hand luggage – an according post shall follow soon – so shopping was basically off the table. I had far too much vinho verde and port over the past week, anyways, and I had to get up at 4.30 in the morning, so I did not want to jeopardize my cheap ticket for a private fare-well-party.

View from the Bairro Alto neighborhood on beautiful Lisbon.

And although I by far hadn’t seen everything I wanted to see in Lisbon – and by very far not everything there is to be seen – I decided to treat myself to a final beach day. Fortunately, Cascais and Estoril are only a short 40 minutes from Lisbon’s Cais do Sodré station – and the historic paradise Belém is on the way.

Travelling teaches you a lot of things. The lesson I repeated on this trip is:

Racing makes days longer.

Do you know this phenomenon how time seems to pass much slower when you permanently change your spot or at least do something different every day?

We used to make fun of Japanese tourist groups visiting nine European countries in seven days.
Of course, this is not a way to really get to know a country or even get a feel for its culture and atmosphere – especially when travelling in a group where you, in addition, have to interact with your co-travellers.

But there is something to it: Every day feels like an individual, complete little vacation in itself.
It stretches days to weeks and weeks to months. Not on the calendar, but in your system.

Therefore, I couldn’t believe that I’ve been to Portugal only one week by then – it felt like a month….or some undefined amount of time.

On the beach at Figueira da Foz only a couple of days ago….feels like ages!

This was not a great cognition, this is a well-known effect. As soon as you get used to a place and get into a certain routine, time seems to pass faster; which is good when it comes to my everyday routine: time practically flies.

A week working to me is over in a blink of an eye.
A week on the road seems like forever.

But you have to keep on moving. Staying, for instance, two weeks in one place, the first week will seem much longer than the second one – which becomes a routine, however pleasant it may be.

You cannot outsmart time, but you can outwit cognition: No ‘let’s rent a cabana for two weeks’, nope: becoming a nomad does the trick!

Therefore: A new destination every day – and on the last day, there were even three!

Cascais

Cascais is the final stop on the regional train coming from Lisbon’s Cais do Sodré station. At a price of 2,25 €uro, you have 365 trains per day. From there, you can continue to farther beaches – or, once you’re done swimming and sun-bathing, by bus to Sintra.

Note: If you get a Lisbon card, regional connections on urban trains to places like Cascais, Estoril, Sintra and many more are included!

Beach at Cascais – not a dream beach from a catalog, but a nice option for a quick dip.
(Photo: Husond, Cascais beach 02, cropped to 1102×735, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Pedaço de Glamour above the Praia da Conceição – eye-turner and fancy restaurant.

Estoril

Estoril is the stop before Cascais. So it’s very convenient for visiting both destinations on one day – if you don’t like it….the next train goes about 20 minutes later.

Beach at Estoril – a bit more mundane than Cascais – with the Forte da Cruz-restaurant in the backdrop.
(Photo: anonym, Praia do Tamariz – Estoril, cropped to 1102×735, CC BY 2.0)

Belém

Belém, in the western outskirts of Lisbon, used to even have its own parish till 2012. Although the Belém area is only a bit over 10 square kilometers in size, there are some of the most impressive attractions here to be found – i. a. the famous – and delicious – Natas de Belém.

The Museum of Presidência da República seen behind the Jardim Afonso de Albuquerque with the great man’s statue.

Definitely the most impressive complex at Belém: The Jerónimos Monastery.

Mesmerizing shadow show on the cathedral’s gallery.

Vasco de Gama’s tomb.

Another impressive, yet very modern structure in Belém is the Centro Cultural, housing i. a. the Museu Coleção Berardo, the Berardo Collection Museum  

Les Baigneuses by Niki de Saint-Phalle is greeting the visitors at the Berardo’s entrance.

The world famous Belém tower protected Portugal against its enemies.

Did you miss this train? Here you can read what happened at all the other whistle stops:


2nd Whistle Stop: FIGUEIRA da FOZ

3rd Whistle Stop: COIMBRA

4th Whistle Stop: LISBON

5th Whistle Stop: SINTRA

Note to the curious reader: Like I did during my former trips like e. g. Brazil, while travelling, I’ll be posting little stories and reflections on my stay. At the end of the entire tour, there will be an extended travel guide with all the relevant information including addresses, links etc. 
Until then, just enjoy some special moments with me.




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Rail Trip Portugal – 4th Whistle Stop: LISBON

So I got back to Lisbon – meanwhile, I’m an expert on trains and train stations in Portugal, I definitely know the drill.

Iconic view of river Tejo.

Arrival in Lisbon

What I still didn’t really get – being such a flatlander – is that Portuguese cities are very hilly. That makes them beautiful and grants their visitors with stunning views, but for the arriving passenger, it’s quite a challenge.

Arriving at  Santa Apolónia station, I checked google maps for the way to my accommodation and got the information it was a bit over a kilometer, even not a mile. What the app withheld was that it was a bit over a kilometer uphill – partly on steep cobblestone alleys, partly on stairs; even not a mile uphill on alleys and stairs becomes pretty far, especially if you are dragging a suitcase on far too small wheels behind.

If you want to drop in – it’s the first door on the left…number 11.

So I was a heavily sweating mess as I arrived at the apartment and knocked at the neighbor’s door for the key.

Yes, correct, I stay at an apartment. Nope, not the Airbnb-kind. It’s a small room on cobblestone alley level – I technically live on the street – equipped with most things a visitor might need: A bed – IKEA, foldable, a table and three chairs – not IKEA, but foldable. A kitchenette, consisting of two hot plates, a microwave, a sink and all the necessary accessories. There is even a washing machine, which is irritating since there is no closet. I wonder why they rather put a washing machine in such a small room than a closet, especially since there is hardly space to hang your freshly washed laundry; maybe washing machines were on sale.

There is no TV. I don’t need a TV, but since there is no internet access, either, people without a good old-fashioned book might get pretty bored. Or they’ll entertain each other fighting. If I was here with another person, we would probably fight – it’s a small room with not much to do, after all.

What’s incredible is the apartment’s location: In a small alley within the castle wall!

Leaving my hood through the great wall.

Tourists are passing right in front of my cobblestone alley level door – and since I leave the door window open for fresh air – there is neither an aircon nor a fan – they peep in my room – I don’t blame them, that’s something you do automatically – and probably think I’m a Portuguese bohemian. I bet some of them will be pretty jealous because of my million dollar location – guys, I’m staying right next to the castle! Within the castle walls! Do I feel like a queen? Nope, not on twenty square meters (equals 65 square feet). Rather like the queen’s washing woman living close by to be available at any time; I have a washing machine, after all.

Did I like staying at the posh, comfortable places in Porto and Figueira da Foz? Yes. Do I like staying at a rather run-down one-room apartment at the Castelo, doing my own grocery shopping feeling like a true born Portuguese? YES!

Showing you around in Lisbon

It’s like they say: Home is where the heart is. And I know that Lisbon occupies a big piece of my heart now. Actually, it’s definitely my second favorite city in Europe (the all-time favorite is Venice, and I’m not so fond of cities outside of Europe, I must say).

Since according to this charming saying this is sort of my home now, let me show you around a bit so that you’ll understand why it took Lisbon less than 24 hours to make it to my all-time favorite list of cities.

We’ll start right at my doorstep – I cannot stretch this point enough: within the castle walls!

Do you blame me for instantly falling in love with this place?!

As we turn left, we get to the Largo do São Vicente from where we have the first grand view of river Tejo.

As we turn left, the tram turns right – right in front of São Vicente.

The contra-selfie culture: Asian tourist painting Lisbon’s skyline.

We continue along the tram rails of legendary #28 and take another peek from the Miradouro Santa Lucia.

Santa Lucia: Pretty no matter where you look.

As we are passing, the tram is passing, too.

Passing the Sé de Lisboa, Lisbon’s cathedral, we get to the Arco Monumental.

Make an investment of 2,50 €uro and you won’t regret it – I find the monument’s terrace grants Lisbon’s best views.

The arch is beautiful from underneath…..

….as well as from the top.

I have guests from out of town – may we look over your shoulder at the Praça do Comércio?!

Hey, they want to see the river Tejo – you might take your big white foot out off the picture!?

Wanna get away from the big tourist crowds for a moment? Take the Metro, Lisbon’s subway, at Baixo-Chiado and go up to Praça Marques de Pombal from where it is a ten minutes walk to one of Lisbon’s beautiful curiosities, the Jardim das Amoreiras, a fine park where Mulberry trees for the local silk production where planted.

Calm like an outdoor library: Reading the newspaper at the Jardim das Amoreiras.

Let’s have lunch at a really original, bohemian place, the Padaria do Povo.

Home of Lisbon’s alternative bohemian scene: The Padaria do Povo

The Jardim da Estrela – my favorite park in Lisbon – is just a five minutes walk away and as you cross the Praca da Estrela, you can visit another venerable place of worship, the Basilica da Estrela.

I love these little stands at the parks where people enjoy their lunch break – like here at Jardim da Estrela.

I don’t mind when beautiful trees obstruct my view of the basilica.

Enough walking, here we finally hop on the legendary tram #28; so legendary that locals hardly ever use it since it’s always packed with tourists – and the highest number of pickpockets.

Number 28 – always packed. They have exactly 20 seats – the rest depends on the passangers’ size.

Anyway, it’s cute and fun and not exclusively touristy – and since at the last stop, everybody has to get off – to possibly get on again about five steps further and five minutes later, they mix things up a little and everybody has a new chance getting a good seat.

For some people, Prazeres is the last stop, indeed. You just have to get off here….only to get back on a couple of minutes later.

But let’s take the opportunity for a quick stroll through the Cemitério dos Prazeres – the cemetery of pleasures; please don’t ask me who came up with this name and why.

I leave you here – not forever, of course. But when you’re done taking pictures of the artistic graves, you’ll find your way back downtown.

It get’s really tight – make sure to keep your head and hands inside the cart.

Just hop on the #28 where you had to get off and it will take you all the way back – along most of the standard attractions Lisbon has to offer.

One of the places you can get off on your way back from Prazeres.

Did you miss this train? Here you can read what happened at the former whistle stops:


2nd Whistle Stop: FIGUEIRA da FOZ

3rd Whistle Stop: COIMBRA

Note to the curious reader: Like I did during my former trips like e. g. Brazil, while travelling, I’ll be posting little stories and reflections on my stay. At the end of the entire tour, there will be an extended travel guide with all the relevant information including addresses, links etc. 
Until then, just enjoy some special moments with me.


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24 hours in…LISBON

(Last Update Mai 2019)

Yet here comes another issue of my “24 hours in…” category – this time we are spending a day in Lisbon. If you are going e. g. to Cape Verde, chances are that you have to fly TAP, according to my experience a pretty flighty – no pun intended – airline. Hence you better be prepared for a stopover in Lisbon.

I’ve started this series because flying at cheap prices often requires longer stopovers in different cities, and instead of thinking of this involuntary stay as a drag, you can transform it into a short extra-vacation. Of course these itineraries – one for a sunny and an alternative for a rainy day – are great not only for layovers but for any kind of a brief stay, e. g. when you’re on your way to one of Portugal’s fantastic beaches or on a road trip through Europe.

 

View from the top of Arco da Rua Augusta on the Praça do Comércio.

 

Like almost any other city Lisbon has far more to offer than you can squeeze in 24 hours, hence, of course, these itineraries are always just a ‘filler’ – although a pleasant and quite complete one.

I was keen to find as many sights as possible located in one spot so that you don’t have to travel crisscross town, and the hotel is right next to Rossio station where a shuttle bus and the metro connects the city with the airport.

?  Local Currency:

 

Euro (EUR) / 1 EUR = 1.12 US$ (May 2019) / current rate

 

?    Emergency Hotline:

Police 112
(At this number you also reach a service center that can redirect you to other help centers)

 

?    National Airline:

TAP Portugal

 

?    Airports:

Lisbon Airport / IATA-Code: LIS

 

?    Tourist Info online and onsite:

Turismo de Lisboa Visitors & Convention Bureau
Rua do Arsenal, 21
1100-038 Lisboa
Phone: + 351 – 210 – 312 700
Email: atl@visitlisboa.com 

 

?    Getting Downtown and Back

I am a frequent traveller, therefore I do hang out at different airports a lot, and the airport of Lisbon is among my favorites. It’s comfortable, there is a lot to see and to do – and if you still get bored, you can access the city center easily: Just take Aerobus Line 1 straight to Rossio station. If you don’t stay the night, you can buy a ticket for € 3,60 which is good for 24 hours, but only on the Aerobus, not on other transport like buses or the metro. If you stay overnight and want to follow my itinerary, you better get the Via Viagem for € 6,15. Then you can take the metro from the airport to Alameda station and change to the green line down to Rossio station.

Once you’re in the center, it’s still very easy to get around: The cheapest way is to get a Lisboa Card for 24 hours for 20 € (Yeyii – finally a city where you can get a tourist card for only 24 hours. But if you are staying longer, it’s also available for 48 hours for 34 € and for 72 hours for only € 42). With this card, you can use all public transport for free and you have free or discounted access to many museums and landmarks. It’s definitely worth it if you are following the rainy day itinerary. If you need just a ticket because you won’t go to so many museums, the Via Viagem card (see above) is your best option. For 24 hours of unlimited rides on public transport – airport included – you pay only € 6,40.

 

?    Morning Activities

 

I think Lisbon likes its visitors and wants them to feel comfortable – what other reason could there be for the super-easy getting around?! Not only is there the fast and convenient bus from the airport going downtown along many places of interest – at a really cheap price; there is also the legendary tram #28 taking the visitor to many landmarks – for even not a hand full of Euros.

Feeling like the proverbial King of the hill…overlooking
one of Europe’s most vibrant cities.
(Photo: © Turismo de Lisboa)

But as a matter of fact, you can walk in about 20 minutes from the below suggested hotel – or any other accommodation in the Rossio district – to one of the most iconic places, the Castelo de São Jorge, interestingly built by the Moors in the mid of the 11th century. In 1147 Dom Afonso Henriques conquered Lisbon to become the first king of Portugal. From then on the castle experienced glamorous and colorful times being home to Portuguese royalties. Today there is the archeological site along with galleries showing exhibits from great epochs. Actually visiting this landmark is a good plan whether rain or shine since there is so much to see in- and outside.

Castelo de São Jorge
1100 129 Lisboa
Phone:  + 351 – 218 – 80 06 20
Email:  info@castelodesaojorge.pt

 

The citadel is open November to February from 9 a. m. to 6 p. m. and March to October from 9 a. m. to 9 p. m.

 

View from the Largo do São Vicente over Lisbon to river Tejo.

Visiting the Castelo de São Jorge is only one of many great opportunities to have a breathtaking view of the city.

Want more views?
Easy peasy: There are the Miradouro de Santa Luzia or the Largo do São Vicente located even a bit closer to the Tejo river – hence the perfect photo spot!

 

 

The legendary tram #28 rattling across Largo do São Vicente.

After all this walking and climbing you should take a break and see the city from the famous tram #28.

Riding one of these beautiful old carts will make you feel like being on an old-fashioned roller coaster. Although today mainly tourist use these trams, it’s great fun going up and down the seven hills the city was built on and and awe at how the vehicle squeezes through narrow alleys.

If you take the tram at the Miradouro, just sit down, lean back and relax – if you find a seat, that is. You are going to the very last stop, Campo Ourique.
And just in case: Here you find the schedule and here you can follow the route on a map.

 

Way to go – the Cemitério dos Prazeres is one of the most
beautiful graveyards I’ve seen.

The last stop of the morning program was the last stop of many – it’s the Cemitério dos Prazeres, literally translated the ‘cemetery of joy’.

Like many South European cemeteries, the Cemitério almost resembles a small town with little ‘houses’ along straight alleys; very much like for instance the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Especially on a hot day, it’s a…joy to walk in the shade under the big trees and admire the elaborated architecture and decoration of the tombs.

Due to its size, you can hardly miss Pedro de Sousa Holstein’s family grave which is said to be the largest of its kind in Europe. Inspired i. a. by the Egyptian pyramids it houses more than 200 family members.

Cemitério dos Prazeres
Praça São João Bosco
1350-297 Lisboa
Phone: + 351 -213 -96 15 11
Email: cemiterio.prazeres@cm-lisboa.pt 

 

⛈    Morning Activities

At a city like Lisbon with its colorful and rich past, you certainly won’t get bored on a rainy day. 

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
This is the modern part of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum,
housing mainly Portuguese modern and contemporary art, but
also some international artists.
(Photo: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum)

Let’s get to one of the most complete, interesting, and precious exhibition venues in Lisbon: to the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum close to Praça de Espanha. It’s a huge complex in a lush garden consisting i. a. of the Founder’s collection, the modern collection, and special exhibitions on a regular basis. Thus, there are also other arts and many great activities – it’s a wonderful place.

 

This is from the Calouste Gulbenkian Collection, in the
patron’s honor an Armenian bowl.
(Photo: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum)

When I say that the upbringing and life of the patron Calouste Gulbenkian are even more interesting and varied than his collection, than it’s with all due respect to the fantastic treasures that he brought together. It’s just that his course of life taking place in almost every European and Oriental country is so exciting: born in Istanbul (then Constantinople) in 1869, educated in Marseille, London, and Baku, he considered himself being a “business architect”, consulting and connecting oil companies not only in Europe, but also i. a.  in Iraq, South Africa, and Australia. He acquired the British citizenship, lived also in Paris, and finally moved to Lisbon where he died in 1955 leaving an incredible fortune – both in France and Portugal. Therefore long negotiations took place before all the personal art treasure could be sent to Portugal and are now on display at the museum’s Founder’s Collection.

To get to this fantastic venue take the green metro line from Rossio station to Baixa-Chiado and change there to the purple line going up towards Reboleira and get off at Praça de Espanha.

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum 
Avenida de Berna, 45A
1067-001 Lisboa
Phone: + 351 – 217 . 823 000
Email: info@gulbenkian.pt

The exhibition is open Wednesday to Monday 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.

The iconic tram #28 coming around the
corner at Sé de Lisboa cathedral

If rain or shine – no visit to Lisbon is complete without riding the tram #28.

Just go back by metro from Praça de Espanha to Baixa-Chiado, where you can catch the metro’s less modern but much more charming cousin.

Don’t forget to get off at Estrela station, lunch is waiting.

And just in case: Here you find the schedule and here you can follow the route on a map.

 

?     Lunch

Whether you need a set menu or just a light lunch snack –
you will certainly enjoy a noonish break at the padaria.

Padaria do povo – the people’s bakery – this might not sound like a place where you get a sumptuous meal, but you’ll be surprised: They serve a nice lunch with veggie soups made from scratch, salads, and fish for about 7 €. The most charming part is the setting at this historical padaria that has been there for over a hundred years.

Besides cooking with love, the ‘bakers’ are putting together an attractive show program; keep it in mind for your next stay in Lisbon.

Padaria do Povo
Rua Luís Derouet, 20-A
1250-153 Lisboa
Phone: + 351 – 21 – 362 04 64

The padaria is open Monday to Friday from 12 p. m. to 1 a. m. (Friday 2 a. m.), Weekends 3 p. m. to 1 a. m. (Sunday 2 a. m.)

?    Afternoon Activities

View of the Basilica da Estrela from the Jardim.

A nice way to spend a hot afternoon in Lisbon is at one of the many parks, relaxing in the shade under the trees, watching people walk by.

Now that you’re already in the neighborhood, just walk down Rua Luís Derouet and turn left into Rua Coelho da Rocha. At the traffic circle, you walk down Rua da Estrela that brings you straight to the Jardim, the park.

In the morning, you have the chance to cross the ‘Cemitério Ingles’, the English cemetery, founded only in the early 18th century as the final resting place for non-catholic British nationals (nowadays there are also Catholics buried here), but unfortunately this nice, a bit savage yard is open only till 1 p. m.

But the beautiful, serene Jardim da Estrela is awaiting you with lush meadows, exotic plants, a duck pond and many relaxing places to hang out. It is my favorite park in Lisbon.

If you need even more shade, just cross to the Basilica da Estrela and enjoy the pompousness of its interior. This magnificent basilica, built in baroque and neo classicist style, can be visited daily from 8.45 a. m. to 8 p. m.

 

Idyllic Parque das Amoreiras.

Another atmospheric park is the Jardim das Amoreiras, also known as Jardim Marcelino Mesquita East of Jardim da Estrela.

To get there, go to the Northern tip of the Estrela Park next to the João de Deus museum and just walk down Avenida Álvares Cabral.

This jardim is a paradise for tree lovers (and huggers) because it’s named after the 331 mulberry trees that Marquês de Pombal planted here where his silk factory was to promote the Portuguese silk industry.

Besides the mulberries and many other trees, there are even ginkgos and banana trees at the park. The park’s second name derives from the writer and dramaturg Marcelino Mesquita.

Since you are at the Praça das Amoreiras, you should pay the small Capela de Nossa Senhora de Monserrate church a visit: It stands beneath one of the arches of the aqueducts close to the Mãe d’Água das Amoreiras reservoir (which, by the way, is worth a peek, too).

Phew, enough parks and churches, I bet by now you’re ready for dinner and I’m afraid you might be too tired walking the mile to the Clube de Jornalistas restaurant, so just hop on the bus No. 713 at Jardim de Amoreiras (towards Estação de Campolide) and get off at Rua Buenos Aires. From there it’s a fine minute walk South.

 

⛈    Afternoon Activities

The Museu do Chiado welcomes you with this dramatically
arranged presentation – before you can even buy a ticket.

To get to another Cockaigne of contemporary Portuguese art, the Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea / Chiado museum, you simply take the tram #28 at Rua Saraiva de Carvalho again (towards Martim Moniz) and you get off at Rua Vítor Cordon – and you’re right there in the heart of the Chiado district, a few steps away from the venue.

Since 1994, the museum’s temporary exhibitions along with the permanent collection are housed in the former Convent of Sao Francisco which makes the visit to this collection being founded back in 1911 extra-interesting.

Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea do Chiado 
Rua Serpa Pinto 4
1200 444 Lisbon
Phone: + 351 – 213 – 43 21 48
Email: museuchiado@mnac.dgpc.pt

 

The Capela de Nossa Senhora de Monserrate at its ‘shelter’
under the old aquadukt.

If it’s not raining too hard, you should at least see one of Lisbon’s many idyllic parks. To get to the Jardim das Amoreiras, walk from the Chiado to Rua do Alecrim station (Rua Serpa Pinto South, then turn right into Rua Ferragial, the stop is at the other end), take the bus No. 758 towards Portas de Benfica and get off at Rato station. From there you walk about five minutes down Calçada Bento da Rocha Cabral to get the mulberry park.

You’ll find some explanations about the park and the adjacent Capela de Nossa Senhora de Monserrate above in the sunny day itinerary, as well as directions to get to the restaurant where dinner’s waiting for you.

 

?    Dinner

Bacalhau in many different variations is Portugal’s
national dish.

Clube de Jornalistas – the journalists’ club, that sounds fancy and expensive; if you are even admitted!? Wrong: It’s a very pleasant place with excellent cuisine, nice service, the slightly pretentious presentation seems to be rather ironic.

However, compared to Portuguese standards, the Clube is more expensive, not in comparison to other cities, though; and the quality is definitely worth every cent.

Clube de Jornalistas

Rua das Trinas 129
1200-857 Lisboa
Phone: + 351 – 21 – 397 71 38 and + 351 – 91 – 330 49 34
Email: info@restauranteclubedejornalistas.com

The restaurant is open from Monday to Saturday 12:30 p. m. to 2:30 p. m. and 7:30 p. m. to 12:30 a. m.

?   Nightcap

No Lisbon visit is complete without
weeping into a glass of vinho verde
over a melancholic Fado.
(Photo: © Turismo de Lisboa)

Now the nightcap I’ve chosen for you is really special: Enjoying a chilled glass of Vinho Verde, the famous, light Portuguese wine, you can listen to some Fado, the intense, melancholic chants – one of the most important national treasures.

After all I’ve heard, Senhor Vinho is famous for its Fado – not for the food…but you had dinner before, so – enjoy the wistful concert.

To get the this joint from the Clube, just walk down Rua das Trinas, turn left into Rua das Praças and right into Rua Meio à Lapa – it’s two minutes!

Senhor Vinho
Rue Meio à Lapa 18
1200-724 Lisboa
Phone: + 351 -21 -397 26 81

Email: reservas@srvinho.com

To get back to your accommodation at Rossio, take bus No. 714 at Santos-o-velho to the final stop Praça da Figueira. From there you can walk to your hotel in about two minutes.

 

?    Accommodation

Lisbon’s central point Praça Dom Pedro IV – aka Praça Rossio

Especially if you are on a layover and need to get back to the airport in the early morning, staying close to Rossio station is really very sensible, especially since here you have more than one option in case something should go wrong with the Airport Bus; even the hotel itself offers a shuttle service to the airport so you definitely won’t miss your flight.

Feels Like Home Rossio Prime Suites
Rua Barros Queiros 47
1110-076 Lisboa
Phone: + 351 – 213 – 42 09 07
Email: rossioprimesuites@feelslikehome.pt

Staying longer in Lisbon or taking a trip to other Portuguese destinations as well?

Get some inspiration and info from these ‘Whistle Stops’ on my railroad trip.

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Here are more pins with 24 hours itineraries to great destinations for you:

 

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