Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Europe, has a rich unique culture, an easily navigable tourist infrastructure, is vibrant and sunny (260 days a year). Even though 40 years ago the dictatorship fell in Portugal, Europe just discovered this incredible touristic destination. It is surprising how quick Lisbon has gained in popularity, the number of visitors is astonishing. The numbers, however, do not detract from the odd, yet pleasant, mix of composure and calmness juxtaposed to friendliness and warmth. Spectacular Lisbon is open for exploration.
Portugal is a part of Schengen zone of the European Union
It is advisable to exchange currency before coming to Lisbon or at the airport, because it is difficult to do this in the city and credit card use is not widely spread as you might think. Taxis, for example, are almost always cash only. Should you run out of cash use http://www.unicambio.pt/en/balconies/ to find currency exchange locations.
The airport is reasonably good, its proximity to the city makes commuting very easy. One can use the metro (1.45 euros, three lines) or Aerobus (4 euros for a day ticket, 6 for two). The other option is taxi (22 euros to anywhere in town center) and Uber (10 euros for the same destination).
The infrastructure of the city is well developed, the locals pride themselves on their famous trams, some of which can be used for touring purposes (#28). Public transport as well as taxis and tour-buses, merit separate traffic lanes, so congestion is rarely an issue. You can either purchase a day ticket or, the better option, a Lisboa card, which includes public transpiration costs entrance fees to some of the more popular museums, the Santa Justa Elevator and a train to Sintra. You can find out more information and order here: https://www.lisboacard.org/
The main car rental companies are present in Lisbon, with www.portugalways.com being the most cost-efficient as far as our experience goes.
Locating and parking in this hilly city is as difficult and expensive as any bustling European capital. You maybe also surprised when parking your car at night to be approached by a parking “angel” who for 5 euros will watch your car.
This is where stuff gets tricky – finding a reasonable place, in a good part of town that is relatively inexpensive is difficult. Locals say that one has to book a year in advance. Airbnb places are scarce, most of the accommodation offered is owned by companies, as opposed to individuals. In off-peak times a three-star hotel room in old-town would go for 130 euros. The better hotels are placed in the newer parts of town, such as EXPO or Sao Sebasstiano. Thankfully, the public transportation makes the newer parts of town pretty accessible from the older parts, which are fascinating in themselves.
An important note, when searching for hotels on the web, please be aware that the sites indicate the Lisbon neighborhood (eg Chado or Bario Alto) instead of the city name. Even an experienced tourist like myself could get slightly confused thinking that the hotel is located outside of the city.
What to do
Come evening time cocaine, hashish and marijuana is offered on every busy corner, so your plans for the night may be set.
Personally speaking I always begin exploring the city with hop-on hop-off tours. The best option, in my opinion, is the Yellow bus. I would strongly recommend purchasing a three-day ticket for 43 euros. The ticket will include: 3 bus routes, 2 tram rides and a boat tour which allows you to see the best Lisbon has to offer. Additionally, the ticket includes rides on public transportation and access to the Santa Justa Elevator, as well as other, smaller ‘elevators’ (which are actually aerial lifts). You save plenty of money (a typical ‘elevator’ would cost 3.45 euros and the Santa Justa Elevator is 5 euros.) You can order and book here: https://www.viator.com/tours/Lisbon/Lisbon-All-in-One-Hop-On-Hop-Off-Bus-and-Tram-Tour-with-River-Cruise/d538-5391P15
The choices for touring the city are truly endless, there are segways, free walking tours, electro-car tours, trams… you name it. Check out viator.com for example to see what fits you best.
The older part of the city consists of Bario Alto, Baixa, Chado and Alfama. This is a hilly region lined with narrow streets that are artistically crafted with calcada – small colorful stones. You can stroll around squares filled with magnificent fountains or gaze at buildings decorated with Azulejo styled tilework which is by its self a visual masterpiece. A unique blend of European and Moorish architecture characterizes the old town and is – frankly – breathtaking.
Another historic section Belem has deep ties to sailing. It has been a launching point for countless adventurers including Vasco da Gamma who began his adventures there and is buried at the spectacular Monastery dos Jeronimos (10 euros entrance fee). There you’ll also find the presidential palace, a tower submerged in water called Torre de Belem (6 euros) and many other sights that are guaranteed to raise your eyebrows. Despite its relatively small size, it is worthy of a day’s tour, which the Yellow bus offers.
The new part of the city EXPO is still under construction. It is worth your visit, featuring newly built parks, including one dedicated to musical instruments, the biggest Aquarium in Europe (18 euros), casinos, fountains and an aerial gondola that will transport you over the costal part of Lisbon (from the Aquarium to Vasco da Gamma center for 6 euros both ways). A new restaurant will soon open on the top of the Vasco da Gamma center. It is also the starting point for the longest bridge in Europe (almost 18 kilometers) – if you have not figured it out by now the most popular name in Portugal – Vasco da Gamma. But if to be serious – it is pleasant to see that the modern architecture incorporates historical elements of Portugal’s past.
The Portuguese have their own musical genre called fado (deep and emotional love songs), of which they are proud of. The best fado-houses are located in the Alfama neighborhood, an evening outing worth considering.
Night-life is blooming in the Santos neighborhood of Lisbon and Docas, where the old port used to be. On our way from the airport to the city the taxi driver told as that the night-life has gotten so intense and the traffic so crowded that he had to move to the less busy Sintra!
Overall, Lisbon has an enormous variety of cultural sights, museums, parks, theaters etc., all the information you’ll need could be found on http://godiscoverportugal.com/ or https://www. discoverportugal.ru/chto-posmotret
One-day tours outside of Lisbon are equally diverse and most of them could be found on viator.com
Some of the popular tours include trip to the towns of Fatima, Porto, Obidos, an island Abbey Mont Saint-Michel and the surfing coast of Costa del Sol. The places are so various and so manifold that one could simply take the car, pick a direction and start driving, knowing that they’ll arrive at scenes of sublime beauty soon enough. Most tours offer to pick you up from the hotel of your choice.
For those with not much time on their hands, visiting Sintra is a must. The city, only 30 minutes away from Lisbon, has an immense number palaces and parks, which, try as you will, you won’t have time to explore in a single day.
We focused on the main two, the royal Pena palace (14 euros entrance fee) – it is considered one of the most beautiful palaces in Europe with its eye popping colors and fantasy like architecture.
The other absolutely unusual palace Quinta de Regaleira (6 euros) with its labyrinth of hidden tunnels and odd construction was inspired by Dante Alighieri’s “Devine Comedy”. It is unclear who built this place – probably Masons but maybe the Templars.
If you have more time, visit these gems: Sintra National Palace (14th century, entrance – 10 euros), a Moorish fortress (offers an incredible view of the city with entrance costing 8 euros), the palace of Montserrat (an eastern-style palace with a park for which grows plants from 5 continents, entrance – 8 euros). Each of them is absolutely unique.
There are plenty of tours that go to Sintra, but my advice would be taking a car or train. There are plenty hop-ons in the city itself or you can use even public transport, so getting around is hardly an issue.
You could top a busy day off with a visit to Cabo da Roca, the western-most point of the European continent and watch the waves crash against its formidable cliffs. It’s a surreal and mesmerizing place.
If you have bit more time – hop over a nearby city of Cascais – considered by many to be the most prestigious area in Portugal. The city is truly magnificent, lovely beachfronts, incredible views and the grotto Boca do Inferno is not to be missed.
If you wish to continue your visit north, you have an array on wonderful areas. There is Azenhas do Mar – a fishing village situated on a cliff with a natural pool located within the same cliff. Porto is the birthplace of the port wine, the second largest city in Portugal. Aveiro – Portuguese Venice, is a town known since the 10th century and is where salt was first extracted from sea water. Finally, there are all the beaches: the absolutely unusual Praia da Ursa or Praia da Adraga, and the town of Ericeira – the world’s capital of surfing.
The south of Portugal amazes with breathtaking landscapes and beautiful beaches including Praia da Marinha, which many consider the top ten in the world. There are year-round boat tours from Portimao and seasonal tours from Binagil that will take you around the sea caves. In fact, most of the lovely pictures you’ll find about southern Portugal will feature these caves. One of the best agency that specializes in these tours is Tarugabenagiltours. Find them on social media or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org the price is 25 euros, last tours go at 15:30.
For fans of architecture a can’t miss stop is the ancient fishing village of Tavira. Its churches, monasteries, castles will make you feel like you have traveled back in time hundreds of years. Once you want to return to the present stop by the nearby Rio-Formosa Nature Reserve to admire not only unique plants, but also many animals and birds, including flamingos.
The cuisine is fresh, tons of sea-food. Fortified wine from Porto is definitely worth a try. In Belem you can try Pastéis de Belem a confectionery that has produced here since the 19th century. In different areas you can enjoy similar pastries that are just as tasty but they will be known by a local name for example Pastel de Nata.
In downtown Lisbon you can find many a small restaurant, that, despite their cozy appearance will try to turn the table as fast as possible to serve the next tourist. The food preparation is reflective of the speed of service. For this dinner for two with a glass of wine you will pay 40-50 euros. I would recommend uncovering the culinary gems of the city. For example, “Lost In” where the manager is Ukrainian, the food is going to be 10 dollars more expensive but you’ll get a chance to experience real culinary masterpieces, drinking a liter of Sangria while looking over the vista of coastal Lisbon.
There are countless options, you can pick the restaurants here:
Lisbon is home to cafes and restaurants that over one hundred years old: Cacau da Ribeira, for instance, is self-service cafe and situated near the Ribeira market, while Martinho da Arcada is located near Plaza De Commercial.
For the less extravagant there are plenty of fast-food places around Lisbon, some are even organic, like “Go Natural”, where you can have an entire meal, topped off with a beer, for 8 euros.
The cork industry and manufacturing is in full swing in Portugal. With half the world’s cork being produced in Portugal, you can find virtually any product made out of cork: jewelry, handbags, umbrellas etc. There are even designer stores of cork products, let alone the small souvenir shops on every other corner. Another famous Portugal product is sardines. Locals treat it like a national treasure and you can buy it anywhere.
For those searching for ethnic Portuguese products I would recommend a stroll down Arsenal street. The markets of Ribeira, Santa Maria de Feira near the Sao Vicente de Fora in the Alfama district is also worth a visit.
Overall, the country left a lasting impression and a longing for one more trip.