Right near the Monastery is Pasteis de Belem. They are the original bakery who invented the custard pastry cups you will see all over Portugal. It is well known to have the best Pasteis de Belem in Portugal - it does.
- More about your oliver guide: Megan Shoflick
- Trip type: Adult, Family, Beach, City
- Activity level: moderate
- Ideal length of trip: A week
to & from
Fly into Lisbon from any major Europe or US City.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Hotel Valverda which is on the main street of Avenida de Liberdade. Liberdade is a beautiful tree lined street and this location is great for shopping and the hotel was very nice. It is about a 20 minute walk to the water (think Castle, Time Out Market, etc). We probably would have preferred something that was closer to the night life in Alfama. Friends stayed at Memmo Principal Real and thought it was great.
Where to Eat and Drink
- Time Out Market – This is like Mercado San Miguel, except it is 10 times better. The restaurants all run around the outside of the market and then there are tables in the middle. You can get a nice meal and wine/beer and can try different things.
- A Cevicheria – Hip, seafood restaurant in the Barrio Alto neighborhood. Small and doesn’t take reservations. We went around 12:30 - 1:00 for lunch (right before the lunch rush) and were able to get in. Very good.
- Stasha Restaurant – Friends ate at it and liked it. In Bairro Alto. Make a reservation because it is a small place. Traditional Portugese. Food is excellent, atmosphere is fun. Reasonably priced (10 – 20 euros for an entrée, wine was about 4-5 euros per glass).
- Mini Bar – Jose Avillez (Famous 2 Michelin Star Chef with several restaurants in Portugal) offers small and varied gastronomic experience full or flavor and fun. HIGHLY RECOMMEND! Need a reservation.
- Sea Me – In Bairro Alto. Excellent seafood. Modern, upscale vibe. You pick out the fish that you want cooked for you. They also have sushi, but we didn’t have that. Reservations also necessary. There also happens to be a Sea Me booth in the Time Out Market
- Tapisco – Also in Barrio Alto neighborhood. Casual tapas bar with great food. We did not eat there, but friends did and loved it.
- LX Factory - Historical industrial complex with an array of arty retailers & unique restaurants. Fun, unique spot to check out.
- Lisboa – Cute local Portuguese restaurant. Small, quaint, artsy place with good food.
What to Do
- Castelo Sao Jorge. Walk around the top of the wall. There is an inside exhibition as well but most is outdoors.
- Alfamo neighborhood – Charming area. Has some churches and squares, lots of narrow, windy streets with bars and cafes. Very hilly and lots of stairs. When you get to the top, there is a nice overlook with a great view and you can sit and have a drink. Some recommended the Se church, but we did not make it there.
- Bairro Alto – Lots of bars, restaurants, clubs. If you want to go to listen to FADO (local music) you can do it here. Good area to walk around too. If you keep going straight up the hill, you get to Principe Real which is a more expensive area but nice to walk around.
- LX Factory – In Lisbon, but probably need to Uber here. Cool, funky space under the bridge. Old buildings that have all been reclaimed. There are galleries, shops, dining.
- Cascais – About 25-30 minutes from Lisbon. This is the beautiful beach town. You can take a train out here or an Uber for about 20-25 euros (also not bad if you share it). We drove through on our tour, but since the weather was rainy and it was late already, we did not stop. Unless you have a lot of days in Lisbon, we’d pass.
- Bellem – about 6 miles from Lisbon, just past the bridge, on the water. You can take the train or an Uber (probably cost about 6 – 10 euro). There are two must-see sites here – the Tower of Bellem and the Jeronimo Monastery. We visited the Tower and decided to skip the Monastery.
- Buy the tickets to the Tower and Monastery in advance – I am not sure if you can buy them online or if they sell them at places in Lisbon, but we found a ticket booth not 100 yards from Bellem. Even if you have the Lisboa card (which includes unlimited train/bus rides as well) you will have to wait in line as if you didn’t have advance tickets. If you go to the Monastery first, you can buy tickets to the Monastery and the Tower there (and get 5% off). Also, you can go to the entrance for the Archaeology Museum (which is at the Monastery) and buy tickets there. The lines may be shorter.
- Right near the Monastery is Pasteis de Belem. They are the original bakery who invented the custard pastry cups you will see all over Portugal. It is well known to have the best Pasteis de Belem in Portugal - it does. Definitely worth going and sitting inside as there are a variety of baked treats. It looks little on the outside, but it is huge, so make your way in and find a table. There is also a line outside for take away which moves pretty quickly.
- Fado – Traditional Portuguese music. There are several places in the city to go eat and or drink and hear Fado. Ask the hotel for recommendations.
As you can see, everything in Lisbon can really be done on one’s own. We did take advantage of a couple of private tour options.
- City Walking Tour. This is a 4 hour tour of Lisbon, which we booked via the travel agent below. It included the Castelo as well as walking tours of Barrio Alto and Alfama. The tour was helpful for some orientation and was a great way to get some history of the City. It can certainly be done without the tour guide. One tip: We got to the castle early and there wasn’t a line for tickets. Not so by the time we left. Go early.
- We used a company called Your Tours (email - email@example.com) and did a private tour for the day. We hired a driver that took us to the Palace, Castle and Quinta da Regaleira. We then were driven along the coast and through Cascais. Trip included lunch and all transportation. Note that the guide did not accompany us into any of the sites. Cost was 210 €. They also offer group tours if you prefer that option.
- Heard it is fun to do a side-car tour in Lisbon, but we did not do this. You can look it up on-line or your hotel can arrange it.
- There is bus and train service. The Lisboa Pass gives you unlimited rides. Most things are walkable and Uber is available and very cheap. There are also trams (think San Francisco). The 28 tram takes you all over town. Our guide suggested that you watch pick pockets on this tram, however.
What to Pack
Lots of hills and cobblestone streets – wear comfortable shoes (seriously comfortable)! Also, bring a sweater or wrap and sweatshirts for the kids because it can be chilly outside of city in the mountain-towns.
Take a day trip to Sintra – Home of the summer palaces of Portugese kings through the centuries. There are multiple palaces and gardens. You can spend a day out here. Also you will walk a lot. Bring a sweater (or a jacket), it is in the mountains so can be chilly even when the sun is out. Also, I’d bring a snack in your backpack – the castles take a while and there isn’t much to eat (plus it is expensive).
- It’s about 30 minutes from Lisbon. You can take a train but can also Uber for about 25-30 Euros (not bad if you are sharing).
- A friend’s hotel advised them to go on Saturday, not Sunday (if you are there for the weekend) – they said Sunday would be more crowded
- Start at the Palace de Pena – it’s located at the highest point and then you can work your way down. It’s a must-see. Be sure to do the wall walk.
- From there you can walk to the Moorish Castle – another must-see we are told (we did not go). There is lots of climbing and stairs here (like the Great Wall – comfortable shoes are a must).
- Quinta da Regaleira. Kind of a neat spot. The owner spent 13 years building the grounds which include some caves that run underground, connecting to various garden components.
- Also Monserrat is supposed to be nice but is far from these other palaces. You can take an Uber between locations or I think there are bus transfers.
Also, combining your Lisbon trip with a trip to Algarve is a good idea.
Additional Oliver Guides to Portugal: