Lisbon | Portugal

Lisbon is the first European city I’ve ever visited but without a doubt, I definitely know it will remain one of my favourite places ever. The rhythm of life is slower… and whilst it has a modern vibe, it is one that respects tradition.

Its charming character, lovely people and unique architecture are what really makes Lisbon truly unforgettable.

Below, I share a brief glimpse into our 3-day itinerary!

Day 1: Biking along the coast 

Biking around Lisbon was by far the easiest and fastest way to explore the city. Lisbon is very bike-friendly – with minimal hills and a long bike tracks along the coast with quiet streets in between.

 

We started our bike ride at our lovely hostel – Living Hostel – and this was also where we rented our bikes for the day. Our main goal was to get to Belem Tower – which was about 8km from our hostel, and we passed the Praca do Comercio (town plaza) and Padrao dos Descobrimentos (sacrificial monument). There was an amazing view of the coast and Lisbon golden bridge.

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On the way back from the Belem Tower we visited the LX Factory – an urban fragment of Lisbon’s city. It is a creative island occupied by small cafes, entrepreneurs, and corporations that serve stage for a diverse set of happenings related to fashion, publicity, fine arts and music.

Day 2: Day Trip to Sintra

On our second day, we decided to take a tour to Sintra with a private guide from our hostel. Sintra was the highlight of Portugal as this town was incredibly whimsical and fairytale-esque. Sitting in the foothills of Portugal’s far west coast, Sintra is covered in forested terrain, with incredibly breathtaking views of the ocean. The entire town is studded with pastel coloured villas and palaces – and like our tour guide said, if you replaced all the cars in the town with horse-drawn carriages, Sintra could easily transport you back to the 18th century.

Belem Pastries

Before I talk about each pit stop – I wanted to give these bad boys a shout out. These fresh Portuguese tarts can be found at the famous Pasteis de Belem and you can grab them en-route from the city centre of Lisbon. I suggest getting them early in the morning because this shop is extremely popular, and in the summer the line out the door apparently gets up to 400m long!

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Sintra Mountains 

 

Our second pit stop was at the Sintra Mountains. One word: breath-taking (or is that two? IDK).

Quinta Da Regaleria 

Next, our tour guide dropped us off at the Quinta Da Regaleria to go explore the gardens, monuments and famous initiation well. Entry was 6 euros.

This place is probably one of the most eclectic and fascinating historical sites you’ll come across in Portugal. It was an estate previously owned by a Baroness – and has now been turned into a UNESCO Heritage site due to its unique history, esoteric symbolism and architecture.

In the middle of the estate, is an initiation well, sinking 27m down – and only accessible by a stairway tucked away amongst different walkways and exits. Secretive masonic initiations used to happen here at night. Those who wanted to be part of the masonry completed a daring task of traversing through the “womb” of the estate – a pair of pitch dark underground tunnels which led through different multiple dead ends, in order to find the right well (there were a couple of fake ones with no stairwells used to trick participants).

It was meant to be a symbolic journey of forgetting all knowledge of the past, as you go through the dark tunnels, letting go of any previous beliefs and finding a new source of truth (the light at the end of the tunnel) once you’ve reached the end.

 

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The great thing about this place is the amount of obscured paths, nooks and crannies – all not shown on the map – but hidden to allow you to follow your curiosity!

Pena Palace

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The last attraction we saw was the Pena Palace. I would recommend seeing this over the Moorish castle if you only have 1 day in Sintra. It is a gorgeous mustard and lavender covered palace, perched on top of the highest hill in the town.

Day 3: Feasting at the Time Out Markets & Mark Weins Recommendation

On our last day, we decided to wake up early to see the sunrise over the city on the Santa Justa Lift. To my dismay, the lift does not open until 10am – so don’t make the same mistake as we did and wake up at 6.30am to try to catch the sunrise! Once you catch the lift up – you can stand along a large balcony overlooking the entire Almafa coast. Definitely worth a visit if you like getting a good view!

View from Santa Justa Lift

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Time Out Market

On our last day, we had to squeeze in a stop at the Time Out Market. It was a massive food hall located in the Mercado da Ribeira. Whether you’re hungry for a quick bite, want a cool spot to play board games before your flight, or are with a group of indecisive hungry travellers, this will fit the bill! Here you can grab some really good Belem pastries too!

 

Restaurante Cantinho Do Aziz 

To be brutally honest – I expected the Portuguese chicken in Lisbon to be mind-blowing. But I think everyone on my trip would agree with me when I say that Oporto in Australia, probably has better Portuguese chicken than Portugal. On our search for good chicken, we fell upon Mark Weins recommendation Cantinho Do Aziz.

Tucked away in some dodgy looking walkways, this Mozambican restaurant had the most heart and belly warming food.

My Recommendations

  1. Beef samosas
  2. Muamba De Galinha (tendered pieces of chicken with palm oil and okra and other African Vegetables)
  3. Cahcuti De Cabrito (pieces of lamb in a curry sauce served with coconut rice)
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Lamb Curry

 So why visit Lisbon?

Travelling can be exhilarating and exciting but also scary for those with less experience. For people who plan few vacations and/or aren’t used to navigating fast-paced cities, Lisbon is a great city to shake off the travelling jitters and get your feet wet. And, after getting robbed in Barcelona and Rome, I’d say its probably one of the safest cities in Europe I’ve seen so far!

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