A Spring trip with a lot of culture, nature and pleasant weather, within a reasonable flight time in Europe. No doubt there are several destinations complying to our wishes, but we go for a one week + to Lisbon, Portugal.
We chose an apartment as homebase for the week (Lisbonaire Apartements), in the centre of the city in a quiet street. At least, that’s what we thought. Yes, the apartment is within a few hundred meters from the metrostop (Restauradores), and very close to the city centre and some supermarkets, in a calm side street.
But, in June, this street is turned into one big party every single night. Like many streets in Lisbon apparently. We hope Saint Anthony approved the devotion of his worshipers, for sure they do everything they can to make the poor guy proud … It would have been nice if the management of the apartments would have given notice of this, but they didn’t and we didn’t do our homework properly, so we have to rely on our custom made ear plugs to have some sleep. Although it is kind of funny to see grown ups with sardine-like caps.
On our first day we check out the rooftop of our one-week home, and start our walking tour. Lisbon is famous for its old trams that take you up the steep hills. We stay just next to one of these routes (Elevador da Glória), which makes for great photo shots along the street art. The area behind our hotel is not really touristic, but sure is worth taking a look at, with beautiful facades, lots of street art, some little parks and especially for us: blossoming Jacaranda trees.
We follow the tram tracks, which lead us around the narrow streets up and down the whole day. We can almost touch the Sao Jorge castle, but don’t go in (been there before, and it is quite expensive), have great views from the many miradores (lookouts), can smell the sea along the Cais do Sodré area (with the famous Time Out Market, but also some great modern architecture) and end up at the new cruise ship terminal at the other side of the Praça do Comércio.
From the roof of the terminal, which is free to visit (at least when there are no boats moored), we have a fantastic view towards the castle and the harbour. We have dinner at Organi Chiado, a vegetarian place in the centre, which is ok, but nothing special. Today we did find a very very good icecream bar: Mú Gelato.
We leave the city centre on day 2, and explore Belém. Uber is really cheap in Lisbon, and we tend to use this service quite often around here. It is also really easy to reach the starting point of our day trip: the MAAT museum. The museum is rather new, but we are mainly interested in the outside. The building has a remarkable shape, and invites you to just relax and enjoy the scenery. From the roof or the steps in front, either way: the view over the Tagus river and the Ponte 25 de Abril is very pleasant.
In the distance there is this other eye-catching monument: Padrão dos Descobrimentos. It is still early in the morning, and there is no queue, so we take our chances to go up. This is a little bit expensive (€6 per person, including a movie and exhibition), but the view is well worth the price. We have a first glimpse of the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, which has an astonishing architecture. The Padrão dos Descobrimentos is bombastic, to say the least, but after all, it pays tribute to the many Portuguese explorer missions from the 15th Century on.
The promenade goes further west, towards the Torre de Belém. As always, this place is superbusy. But once you get to the Lost Soldiers Monument, you basically get the place for yourselves. We are amazed by the Champalimaud Foundation. This really is an architectural beauty. And photogenic! We only find out this is some kind of a hospital once we leave.
The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is our goal at the other side of the highway, but we got stuck at the cultural centre with some museums, a garden terrace and very good ice cream (Gelato Davvero – not on the map). The garden is also the best way to view a cute work by Portuguese streetartist Bordalo. We walk back to Lisbon centre (it is too late to visit the monastery), but we find out you can actually go on top of one of pillars of the Ponte 25 de Abril (€ 6 per person). If you are into spectacular views, and aren’t afraid of walking on glass-bottom floors, then this is something you have to do!
A tram connects Belém and Lisbon and stops close to the bridge, ideal after a whole day of walking. We end our day with a short walk around Rossio square and watch the sunset from Miradouro do Jardim do Torel.
Time to leave Lissabon! We take one of the earliest trains possible, to visit the little town of Sintra (World Heritage Listed). After about 40 minutes we arrive to soon find out we don’t have telephone reception here. As we don’t have a map on paper, we rely on our instincts to find the way towards the Pena Palace (we go on foot, not by bus). We are well ahead of the crowds and have time to explore the area. We decide to visit the park of the Pena Palace and are glad we are early enough so we don’t have to queue too long. To visit two sites, we pay € 29,44 (for 2).
We are astonished how many people want to visit this place … Off course everybody is interested in the coloured castle, but we have another goal: the High Cross. The views are magnificent! The closer we get back to the castle, the more people we see, the castle itself is a disaster. The Moorish Castle is a bit more quiet, and also offers wonderful views over Sintra, the coastline and even Lisbon in the distance. We walk back down to the small city centre, have a short stop at the Palácio Nacional de Sintra and then head back to Lisbon. After homemade dinner, we have dessert at Mú and watch the sunset from nearby Jardim do Torel.
Lisbon is a seaside city. Day 4 of our trip is beach time! We take a train to Cascaís, where we want to rent a car to have more freedom. Unfortunately, we didn’t book ahead, and we find nothing at all … We loose almost an hour in our search for a car, but eventually we find one – reasonably priced – in Estoril, one station before Cascais. We have an amazing day along the coast, from Cabo da Roca, Praia do Guincho till Guia and every stop in between.
We are really into street art, and Lisbon is a perfect city to see wonderful pieces. A little bit out of town, Loures is a well-known street art area. We barely survive our Uber ride, and can only start our pre-booked tour after we have to call our guide out of his bed, but this morning in Quinta do Mocho is surreal. This is a place that will probably never make it to the famous travel guides. The atmosphere is one of poverty and subordination. It doesn’t feel comfortable to walk here. But: some pieces are out of this world! Our guide advises us to also visit Marvila, where indeed we find some great works. We spend the rest of the day in Lisbon centre.
The trams of Lisbon are a very welcoming photography subject. On our second to last day, we follow the tracks again. One of our stops is the Santa Justa elevator. We find out the top is free to visit till 9am! The waterside is refreshing, and the rooftop of our hotel very relaxing in the afternoon. We cannot leave Lisbon without having dinner at PSI, a very good vegetarian restaurant.
In the evening we take in the sunset, at the other side of the river: we take a ferry to Casilhas and stroll till the beach just next to the Ponte 25 Abril.
We spent our last day with a walk through the city centre, find a mirador where we haven’t been yet: Miradouro da Graça, with a little church next to it. We find some more street art and end the day at the waterfront.
Despite the noise at night, we had a wonderful week, with lots of sunshine, culture and nature!
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