Portugal self tour in 10 days- Part 1 at Lisbon
Catching the time window before weather turned real hot, we flew to Lisbon on June 11, 2016, then land travel to Porto, and Douro Valley for 10 very enjoyable days- all in self travel mode. Our overall impression of and experience in Portugal is very nice indeed, much recommended. In fact, we like it better than Spain (see my other post), it’s cheaper too in most aspects, life is simpler, people are nice and not as agresive (at least driving), probably due to the fact that it’s not as popular a tourist sought-after place than Spain. But as Spain, Portugal has a long and rich history and culture which is well worth a visit and in-depth experience, spend some time there and you will agree with me.
Day 1 – 6 : Lisbon, we used public transport all the time with this storage value ticket – Viagem which you can buy from vending machines in the airport and the metro stations. Each cost E0.5 (0.5 Euros) and each journey on metro, bus within Lisbon (irrespective of distance) costs E1.4. Most streets are paved with little beige and black squares of cobble stones – just like the pavement of some major streets in Macau. We stayed near Avienida Station (on the blue (Azul) metro line) and the Av. Liberdade which is a very beautiful tree lined boulevard lined with brand name stores.
We have a great introduction of Lisbon by joining a free tour organised by Chill Out Free Lisbon Tour which was well worth the 3.5 hrs spent by walking the most important sights near the centre led by a very knowledgeable local from whom we learnt a great deal about Portuguese history and local culture. We found it excellent and our voluntary donations in the end of E20 each were good value.
12 June is an important annual festival in Lisbon in remembrance of St Anthony . The story goes that he was tired of people not listening to God’s messages via his preaching, he went to the seashore of Lisbon and preached to the fishes who all jumped out of the water. On this day, all restaurants serve sardines, every corner of the main streets were lined with BBQ ovens where sardines are roasted and served with people having wines and singing. So we have sardines both for lunch and dinner! We also attended a major parade along Av. Liberdade until near mid-night, all the town was filled with joy!
Key sights in Lisbon we visited (not to be missed if you’re there) include Alfama (you have to walk slowly, listen, feel and experience to enjoy here), Museu da Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian, Chiado, Bairro Alto, Praca do Comercio (Terreiro do Paco), Jeronimos Monastery, Belem Tower and the nearby coastal walk, Miradouro da Senhora do Monte viewpoint (my review here). For details and tips, see my Tripadvisor reviews in some of them as shown with each sight reviewed).
While visiting Jeronimos Monastery, you must go and spend time in the cloister and mid-garden, the scenery there especially when framed in blue skies is just surreal – so nice and picturesque. Also take an hour’s stroll along the shoreline after visiting Belem Tower (closes at 6PM) to enjoy the marina, and the monuments- e.g. Padrao dos Descobrimentos (review here) there. The combined ticket for the Monastery and the Tower at E12 would save you E4 compared to building them separately. We also visited the nearby (opposite bus station) century old and best Portuguese pastry (egg tart) place- Pastéis de Belém, we have the most delicious egg tart there (each around E1.1), prepare to queue for while. You can’t miss it as there is always a queue in front.
Don’t miss taking Tram No. 28 which passes along the most important sights in Lisbon, and the experience along narrow streets is just unforgettable (for details and tips – see my Tripadvisor review).
We also made a day trip to Sintra which is a must also while visiting Lisbon, it’s just an hour by train from Lisbon (either from Rossio or Santa Apolonia Station) and their last train back is past mid-nite. Sintra is a nice old historic city with several beautiful palaces and gardens. We visited the Parque de Monserrate, and Park and National Palace of Pena which were all great sights and we had nice relaxing strolls in the grounds and lots of photo opps, we spend more than 3 hours in each.
Eating in Lisbon (and Portugal) for us was incredibly cheaper (by London and HK standard), two of us have some nice local meal for under E20 including wine. Food’s very nice especially if you like Portuguese cuisine. Below are reviews of a couple of restaurants we went which we enjoyed a lot:- Lisboa Tu e Fu in Alfama for authentic Portuguese food, Lisbon: Time Out Market Lisboa, we also have an excellent dinner in Incomum by Luis Santos , a tip-top fusion restaurant in Sintra.