A soulful coastal town with an strong emphasis on good food, music and culture. Our two day experience in this incredible Portuguese city exceeded our expectations and left us wanting even more of Lisbon.
Type of Holiday
Weekend City break
We booked direct flights from London Heathrow to Lisbon on a Saturday morning for the long weekend. Flight time was just over 2 hours and we were welcomed into the city with the sun shining and an outstanding 24 degrees C day. There are multiple options out of the airport into the city – metro, taxi and bus and are all easy to access and find.
We took the bus from the airport into the city and headed straight to our hotel.
We booked 3 nights at the Hotel Travel Park Lisboa, located on the main Av. Alm. Reis about a 20min walk from the main city hub of Rossio.
The hotel is a 7 storey building with fantastic large rooms adequately furnished, with toiletries replenished daily. We got to the hotel quite early for check-in but the staff were very helpful and provided us with a room.
We had planned our long weekend to spend 2 days in Lisbon and one day in Sintra.
After settling in, we decided to explore the surrounding neighbourhood on foot and came across the buzzing restaurant, Carvoaria Jacto, about a 5min walk from the hotel and decided to give it a shot.
Most of the diners here appeared to be locals. It was fascinating to see the restaurant packed with many large families of about 8-10 people, all having a great time together on a Saturday afternoon. The food was just fantastic and full of flavour! The menu is quite diverse with lots of meat, seafood and vegetarian options and all the main meals included access to the buffet style salad bar.
After a fantastic meal, we walked to the main square at Praça Luís de Camões to join the ‘free’ walking tour. This tour is about 2 1/2 hours and is a great introduction to the history of Lisbon. The tour itself is ‘free’ and you tip at the end based on what you thought of it. We joined the walking tour but left it after about 1hr as with our limited time we wanted to explore the main attractions in the city. The tour is more focused on the history and explores the more non-touristy places rather than the main tourist attractions. This was mentioned to us at the start of the tour.
After walking around and taking in the sights of the city, we ended up by the famous Santa Justa Lift. This lift was built in 1902 and connects the different levels of the city. Lisbon is a city built on seven hills and most of the parts of the city are on different levels.
This is a fantastic area to get a sense of how large the city is with great panoramic views over the city and the water.
There is a fee payable to use the lift or to go to the viewing platform above the lift. We walked around the city for an hour or so, admiring the colourful streets and houses and interesting architecture along the way.
Next we headed down to the Praça do Comércio, a buzzing plaza by the Tagus river surrounded by cafes and restaurants with a large statue of King Jose 1 and a large arc.
This place is an excellent area to just relax with the famous yellow trams going past.
We walked along the banks of the river and spotted a bridge that looks very similar to the ‘Golden Gate Bridge’ in SF, USA. This suspension bridge, Ponte 25 de Abril links the city of Lisbon with Almada on the other side of the river.
Further down, we came across the Mercado da Riberia, a huge market hall with tons of food stalls with different cuisines all under the one roof. This place is a food lovers paradise! There are food and drink options from all parts of the world along with many local options from well known chefs.
We strolled around for a while in the market hall and then headed for our dinner reservation to the top of a hill in a nearby residential neighbourhood restaurant, Clube de Jornalistas.
This restaurant was just beyond words. You have to ring a door bell to get in. They welcome you into a what seems like a suburban house with a hearth and large rooms. Champagne is provided as a complementary welcome drink and the menus are handed over to you in an envelope. The decor and the food was just fantastic and we were super happy with our choice. In the end, as a parting gift, you are provided with a tin of sardines and a cloth shopping bag, a nice touch.
Today we decided to visit the town of Sintra. Click here to read about our trip to this stunning place!
After a magical day in Sintra, today we had decided to visit the beautiful Jerónimos Monastery. After a decent breakfast at the hotel, we took the metro to Rossio and then a bus to the monastery.
Being Monday, unfortunately the Monastery was closed and we were unable to visit inside but there was explore outside.
It was finally time to have the world famous ‘pastel de nata’, a traditional Portuguese egg tart pastry. And what better place to eat it, other than the place where it all originated from and which is still in operation, Pastel de Belém.
As the story goes, pastéis de nata were created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery and once closed down, the recipe was sold to the owners of the now, Pastel de Belém.
We were lucky to get to this place early as the queues ramp up pretty fast. We were fortunate enough to get a table inside quickly, but as we finished up, there was a queue building up to sit inside. There are two different queues, one to sit inside and another for take-away. The take-away line was much longer and moves faster.
The restaurant is huge and there is a viewing area into the kitchen where you can see how these famous tarts are made. The tarts itself were just amazing and very delicious. We had 3 between us along with couple of other snacks and coffee and got 3 more as takeaway (which you can order at the table itself instead of lining up) for later. After a great snack and seeing the monastery from the outside, we headed over to the other side of the main road towards the water.
Here we came across the Belém Tower, which stands as a gateway to Lisbon on the Tagus river. It was a lovely sunny and warm day so we got ice-cream and spent some time sitting on the grassy area nearby. We walked along the river by many private yachts and boats until we got to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument. It was nice to spend a few moments here as the atmosphere was very lively with street musicians playing. We then caught an Uber to the Praça São João Bosco, the starting point of the famous Tram #28.
We would highly recommend this tram route as it goes from the west of the city through all the narrow streets, up and down the hills all the way to the west through Alfama. This route is extremely popular with the tourists so we would highly recommend catching this from the starting stop if you would like a seat.
The yellow tram in itself has the old charm of wooden seats and a cute interior. Tickets for the tram can be bought from the driver, or if you have a balance left from the metro card, you can use it in here. As this route is very popular with the tourists, beware of pickpockets.
We got off the tram at the stunning district of Alfama with its red roof top houses, great views of the waters and medieval alleyways. A fantastic area to spend the afternoon and to grab a snack/ light meal.
We spent the rest of the evening around this area and then headed for dinner at the restaurant famous for its celebrity visits, Solar dos Presuntos with its fantastic seafood and meat dishes. A perfect way to finish a great trip to this magical city with fantastic Portuguese cuisine.
Lisbon exceeded our expectations and was a very unique experience. It is quite different to the other European cities like Vienna and Prague and has a lot of character and charm. The people we met were very friendly and helpful and made it an amazing trip.
Disclaimer: We did our own research through various internet forums and review sites before making the bookings. We were neither paid or endorsed by anyone to use their services. The entire trip – accommodation and activities – was fully paid for by us.