Lisbon – The San Francisco of Europe
Lisbon in a way is like the sister city of San Francisco: cable cars, tons of hills, and the red suspension bridge (built by the same construction company that built the Old Bay Bridge between SF and Oakland).
Lisbon has always been a city that I’ve wanted to visit and I’ve read so many positive blogs about it, however to be honest I wasn’t so impressed. Don’t get me wrong, you might go and experience something totally different but for me I was underwhelmed by the food and I just felt unsafe everywhere I went. Even traveling with my SO, we ran into so many crazies and people offering us drugs ALL freaking day and night. It wasn’t just one part of Lisbon, it was practically everywhere we walked.
Going to Sintra did make up for it, and if I were to go back I would definitely visit Sintra again.
Travel Cost Breakdown
Badajoz –> Lisbon (FlixBus) 18.99€ (I was in Badajoz for a wedding)
Lisbon –> Barcelona via TAP Air Portugal: $31 USD
1898 Home & Suites booked via Hotels.com: $67/night
**Note: I happened to select the smallest hotel room (8 sq meters with a bathroom). It’s alright for 1 person but with 2 it was a bit crammed. If you book here make sure to get any other room that’s larger than 8 sq meters)
Lisbon has a great transportation system and it’s fairly easy to use. GoogleMaps does its job. You’ll need the green Viagem card (.50€) that will be good for metro, bus, trams and ferries. Metro is open from 6:30am – 1:00 am. You can purchase these tickets at the kiosks and for more information click here. Warning: A lot of the stations I went to did not have elevators or escalators so be prepared for a lot of steps and beware of pickpockets.
Single fare: 1.50€
24 unlimited: 6.40€ – If you plan on taking that popular tram at Elevador da Bica (3.80€) and the Elevador de Santa Justa (5.30€), then I suggest you get this ticket.
In my case I did a lot of walking when exploring the city, so if you prefer this as well I recommend doing the “zapping” option in which you can put an amount on the card. I put a total of 15€ on my transport card and that lasted me for 3 days including the trip to Sintra. With the Viagem card the fares are slightly cheaper. You can purchase tickets on the tram but the prices will be higher.
Train to Estoril/Cascais/Sintra: €1.90
Ferry to Cacilhas: €1.26 | Trafaria/Porto Brandão: €1.19 | Seixal/Barreiro: €2.40 | Montijo: €2.76
I finally did it and rode a scooter but NOT in the city center. It was a wonderful trip riding along the waterfront in which I will talk about later. I do not recommend riding in the city center because of the cobblestone streets, high traffic and trams. I actually hit a pothole and the handlebar hit me in the chest, which was very painful.
Be sure to download the app. Available companies: Lime, Bird, Hive, Voi, and Flash. I’ve used Lime and Bird before so I already had the app on my phone. Unlike SF, you won’t need your ID to scan before renting these scooters.
I never used their services but you can do tours with these.
Uber is available here. I used Uber both in Lisbon and in Sintra, which was very convenient and I saved time and money.
At the Rossio metro station you can store your luggage here (6:30 am – 1:00 am.) This locker accepts COINS ONLY. When I went there was an attendant helping out and giving small change as needed. Initially you put 1.50€ and then when you pick up your luggage you pay the balance. For more locker information and prices click here.
Getting to/from the Airport
It’s quite simple, just use your googlemaps. It’s very straight forward. Lines for the ticket machine at major stations can be very long.
Places To See
This city offers free walking tours but I like to do my own thing.
- Belem Tower – A UNESCO World Heritage Site. I came here at 8:30 am and it was peaceful and quiet. The bridge to the tower doesn’t open till 10:00 am. Then rent a razor scooter and take a nice ride in the bike lane to the next place.
- Padrāo dos Descobrimentos – This monument celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery
- Jardim da Praça do Império – across the street from the monument
- MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology. Also rode the scooter to this location. Entrance fee: 5€
- Pasteis de Belém – stop here for a treat! This is the most popular bakery in Lisbon. Open everyday from 8am – 11pm
- LxFactory – Ride your scooter all the way here to check out this cool area filled with restaurants, design shops, and galleries.
- Ler Devagar – Check out this awesome bookstore at the LxFactory
- Elevador da Bica – Everyone takes a photo here. You can ride it to the top for 3.80€ (not worth the money and wait unless you have the unlimited 24hr pass). Just head to the top of the tram and get your photo up there for free.
- The Pink Street – cool bar hopping spot at night time
- Carmo Convent – Church ruined in the 1755 earthquake. Entrance Fee: 4€
- Santa Justa Lift – Great view at the top but LONG lines. Round trip fee: 5.30€. (24 hour unlimited pass will work for this)
- Rua Augusta Arch – Built to commemorate the reconstruction after the earthquake in 1755
- Praço do Comércio – huge square
- Cais das Colunas – used to serve as access to ferry boats
- Miradouro de Santa Luzia – viewpoint (come during the morning!)
- Castelo de S. Jorge – Entrance fee: 10€
- Check out the Bairro Alto and Alfama neighborhood at night time
- Best places to listen to Fado in Lisbon. I missed this somehow!
My Eating Experience
Similar to Spain, just round the bill up or if you’re very happy with the service then you can leave a 5%-10% tip.
Couverts are things they bring you or that are already on your table such as bread, olives, cheese, etc. THEY WILL CHARGE YOU if you eat them, so if you don’t want them kindly ask them to take it away. These items are NOT free.
I was a bit underwhelmed by the food. Nothing I ate was amazing except the pasteis de
nata from Manteigaria (be sure to sprinkle some cinnamon and powdered sugar). There are a couple locations.
- Every time I walked by Ramiro Marisqueria (seafood restaurant) there was such a long line. Unfortunately I didn’t want to spend 50€ on seafood when I can get great seafood at my bf’s hometown in Vigo for 1/3 of the price.
- Sala de Corte Steak House – turned off by the prices because a couple days before I had a juicy ribeye steak for 18€ and here it was 85€/kg. Crazy expensive tourist prices.
- Time Out Market – huge hall with many restaurant vendors, however I think it’s all overpriced
- Restaurante Marco – Get a Francesinha. Originally from Porto and made with bread, wet cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage, and covered with melted cheese and fries. One plate is enough for two people. Yummy!
- Bifana (pork sandwich) from Cafe Beira Gare
- Piri Piri Chicken from Frangasqueira Nacional
- Azeitão Cheese
- Bacalhau (Cod Fish) – I didn’t eat any on this trip due to previous food poisoning from another trip in Porto, but definitely do try to find it here in Lisbon.
- Taberna da Rua das Flores – CASH ONLY. I tried to come here for dinner one night and it was a 2.5 hour wait. No thanks! Then I came the next day for lunch at 12:00 and food was decent.
- Sardines & chourico – ate this at the Alfama neighborhood during a fiesta.
Day Trip to Sintra and Cascais
This was my favorite day out of the whole trip. It was a really magical place! I saw many bugs and mosquitos so remember to bring insect repellant.
How to get to Sintra. I took a (40 minute) train from Rossio station. Just follow the signs for Combos Railways. Your green Viagem card will work and it costs 2.25€. Once you exit the train station, you can order an Uber and go straight to Palácio Nacional da Pena (6.85€) or you can take the 434 Tourist Bus that does a one directional loop for (6.90€) per person (in my opinion Uber is faster). Or…walking is an option too but it’s quite a hike and will take about 50 minutes.
Suggestion: I advise you go early and arrive around 8:30am to Sintra. During peak times Uber will do a surge price and the lines for the 434 tourist bus will be endless.
Palácio Nacional da Pena – A Romanticist Castle
Buy your tickets here online for 7.13€. You don’t have to select a date and once you purchase the ticket it’s good for any day. This place opens at 9:30 am and by 10:00 am it’s swarming with people. I was one of the first ones in and I was able to get tons of photos without people in the background.
After this, Castelo dos Mouros is right next door (15 minute walk) but we decided to skip it since we wanted to catch some rays at the beach in Cascais.
Quinta da Regaleira – UNESCO World Heritage Site
I fell in love with this place. It’s so beautiful and surrounded with lakes, wells, benches and grottoes. You cannot purchase a ticket online. The entrance fee is 6€ and credit cards are accepted. I came here by Uber (4.28€) from Palácio Nacional da Pena.
From there it’s a 12 minute walk to the popular bakery Casa Piriquita. Be sure to order a “Travesseiro”.
Then walk (11 minutes) back to Sintra Train station and you’ll find the bus stop. Next destination was Cascais. It’s CASH ONLY and the bus driver will have change. Can’t use your green Viagem card unless you purchase a special 24hr ticket for this area.
Option 1: Bus #417 Fast Bus to Cascais 30 minutes 4.25€
Option 2: Bus #403 Scenic Bus to Cabo da Roca 4.05€ and another 4.05€ to Cascais (1hr 15 minutes)
Cabo da Roca is a stop along the way and it’s the most western point of continental Europe. I didn’t stop here so I just stayed on the bus all the way through to Cascais. If I had to do it again I would take the fast bus because this scenic route was really windy and scary (we came close to hitting a couple vehicles).
Masala Indian Restaurant (in Cascais) – sad to say but this meal was better than any of my meals in Lisbon. Get the cheesy garlic naan, chicken Tikka Masala, and the mango lassi.
Catch some rays at the beach at Praia da Conceição.
From Cascais Train Station catch a train back to Lisbon for 2.25€ using your Viagem card.
Getting to and from the airport is simple, just use GoogleMaps.
I hope that this blog will help out any of you who are planning a trip to Lisbon! Safe travels everyone.