Lisbon wasn’t originally on our itinerary during our trip through Europe in 2019, but the airline we used allowed stopovers for up to five days so we added it to the end of the trip. We were glad we made that decision.
We stayed in a renovated 18th century place in the heart of the Alfama district, the oldest neighbourhood in Lisbon. It was a location with lots of character, though it required a fair bit of walking up and downhill to get to public transit. The labyrinth of alleyways also caused us to become lost twice trying to get back to our room!
One of the best parts about staying in Alfama was the unique bars and restaurants in the district. Every evening we heard musicians and Fado singers so we dropped by one night to have sangria and enjoy the music.
Staying in the southern part of the city allowed for a lot of great districts within walking distance, and it was fun just strolling around the older districts of the city.
Popular with royalty and commoners alike, the nearby town of Cascais has been a tourist destination since the 1870s. We took the train from Lisbon to Cascais where there were beaches, shops and historical sites to see. We walked to the train stop at Cais de Sodre in Lisbon and took the train from there. The train stopped a number of times along the way so it took about 40 minutes to reach Cascais.
There are a series of beaches along the way to Cascais, and the train stops at most of them. If you just want to focus on a few beaches, it is an easy to walk to from one to another once you get off. The ones closest to the town of Cascais were the busiest, while ones further along the coast were quieter.
In the opposite direction, if you travel further west along the coast you will pass through the Cascais and eventually see the Citadel of Cascais, a set of fortifications built between the 15th and 17th centuries. There were art exhibits displayed inside the citadel.
We continued to walk along the coastal road and passed a number of secluded beaches as well as a lighthouse and the Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães. The museum was originally the palace of an aristocrat and built in 1900.
The sun was setting so it was time to turn around and head back.
When visiting Lisbon, the old part of town near the waterfront is a great spot to see a number of the city’s most significant sights. We spent a little more than a half-day there and saw quite a bit.
The Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries) celebrates the Portuguese Age of Exploration during the 15th and 16th centuries. The huge statues include various monarchs, explorers, cartographers, artists, scientists and missionaries.
In front of the monument is a huge map of the world set into the the square, popular with tourists to look at or stand on.
A short distance away is the Torre de Belém, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Built during the height of the Portuguese Renaissance, it is also a symbol of Europe’s Age of Exploration.
From the tower we made our way north. Along the way we stopped at the Museu Coleção Berardo, a modern art museum with some interactive exhibits outside.
Almost next door is the Jerónimos monastery, another World Heritage Site. A fine example of the gothic style, the monastery was begun in 1501 and completed a hundred years later.
Located close to the monestary, the Pasteis de Belem has an important connection to it. It is the home of the original Portuguese egg tart. Originally made by the monks of the nearby Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Heironymite Monastery), the delicious custard tarts have been made by the shop since 1837. Apparently only pastries from this shop can be called pastel de Belém, while all the others, produced by other patisseries in Lisbon are called pastel de nata.
Although we usually avoid touristy places unless they are very unique, we lined up to try the tarts. They were delicious, although I felt the same about the other egg tarts I had in Libson. We even have a new Portuguese bakery that opened up in our neighbourhood here in Toronto that makes excellent tarts, but I will admit it was nice to see where it all began.
And we had to give beer cake a try too, as it was one I hadn’t eaten before. It tasted like a moist, flavourful cake with no beer flavour that I could detect.
Although we only spent a short time in Lisbon, we have to make a return trip someday–there’s still so much to explore in the city and the surrounding region.