My nephew had been out in Lisbon working as a graffiti-style artist since February so we decided to make a visit before he came back and see some of his work insitute, while at the same time visiting some cities we had yet to see.
We flew out with Ryan Air and arrived at Lisbon airport with no problem. You purchase travel cards at the station at the airport but be warned European credit cards do not work and you need Euro’s to buy these. They are very good value and give you train/metro/bus travel in the Lisbon area. Travelling to the Hotel Lis in the Baxia district was straight forward and we arrived at 4pm. The hotel was modern and chic. The room was maybe a bit small but we were only there for two nights so it wasn’t an issue. Breakfast was a huge buffet of very good quality. We had enough time after check in for a walk around, down to the seafront and the Praca do Comercio, before meeting Ryan and his girlfriend Jenna, who took us to a local eatery tucked away up the hillside, behind Rossio Station, for a tasty and reasonably priced meal. They gave us tips about what to see and do and we arranged to meet up again later in the holiday, after also visiting Porto in between.
The next day we visited the Castelo de Sao Jorge and then meandered our way from there to Miradouro da Senhora do Monte (one of the highest viewpoints in Lisbon), partly on foot and partly using tram 28. The Castle is excellent and the time flew by as we explored its towers and the views. Try and see a long orange carrot painted on a city wall from its ramparts! It’s by my nephew! but wasn’t completed until after our visit – we’ll have to go back! The back streets are beautiful and well worth the wander. Tram 28 was packed but worth the experience.
In the late afternoon we took the tram out to Belem to walk along the seafront, to buy ‘Pasteis de Belem’ (delicious custard tarts) at the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem and to eat at Enoteca de Belem. The water-front walk was fascinating, taking in the massive stonework of ‘Padrao dos Descobrimentos’ and the romantically historic ‘Torre de Belem’. The food at Enoteca was amazing and the wine was matched by the owner perfectly.
The next morning we took the busy train from Lisbon out to Porto. It’s a somewhat drawn-out 2 ½ hour trip with modest visual interest – though comfortable enough. Arriving at Porto we made our way to our hotel, the Dukes Corner Guest House. This was in its first season. It was the owner’s mother’s family home and he had completely refurbished the house to create a boutique hotel with great attention to detail at very high standards. Breakfast was delicious and included cakes made by the owner’s mum he picked up fresh each morning. He gave us recommendations for where to eat and things to do. That afternoon we headed into Porto itself and enjoyed ourselves wandering around the streets following the map he had given us. We ended up on the front drinking wine in a cafe listening to local students, traditionally attired, and entertaining the holiday crowds musically as it was a bank holiday. We did an up and down boat ride under the five bridges that cross the river Druro. We used the cable car to get down to river side, had a drink in one of the port warehouses, and took the funicular up the hill to return to our hotel. As it was late we didn’t return to the centre for our evening meal and ended up eating at a decent enough, friendly, local restaurant.
The next morning we took a bus out of town to the coastal resort area of Porto. It was a sunny, blustery day, perfect for walking along the promenade. We got the bus back into the town and headed for the Casa du Musica but unfortunately it had closed by the time we arrived. We slowly made our way across town to our hotel, marvelling at the buildings and the tiled facades. That evening we ate at Portu’s, a restaurant recommended by the hotel owner down in the town with a view of the river and the tastiest meal of the holiday : the very best Garlic King Prawns to start with and a delicious red velvety wine.
Next morning it was raining so we spent the morning in the covered market and surrounding streets looking at more tile fronted buildings. The rain passed and we got our train back to Lisbon in the middle of the day. We were now to be staying at the Amazonia Hotel, in Estoril, a coastal resort just to the west of Lisbon. It was next door to the Casino that inspired Ian Fleming to write some of his James Bond novels. A comfortable hotel with a pool, large rooms and a good buffet breakfast – 10 minutes’ walk from the railway station. We walked locally and ate well at the ‘Deck Bar’ close to the seafront.
The next day we spent taking a leisurely relaxing sea-front walk into Cacsais and took a wonder around this pretty seaside town, having a beer by the port, before heading back for some rest time by the pool before going to eat at a local fish restaurant, Pinto’s. It was delicious.
We had a much busier day planned for the following day with a trip up to Sintra. We caught the train back to Lisbon and then another train onto Sintra. We got there to find a local running race round the hills was going on and finishing in the centre of town. However it did not spoil the day for us. We visited The Palacio Nacional de Sintra: well worth the fee. And then we walked up the wooded hill-side to the Chateau de Maures. It was extremely picturesque, especially a flautist perched ‘fairy-like’ on a boulder, who playing mellifluously in the middle of the wood. We had a picnic listening to his soothing notes, surrounded by beautiful trees, flowers and butterflies. We walked back into town and came across a bus for Estoril so decided to go back that way which was much more direct, more comfortable, and half the price of the suburban train! We ate in another fish restaurant, Praia Tamariz, but this one was down on the promenade beside the railway station.
Our last day was spent relaxing on the beach and laying by the pool. That evening we met up with Ryan and Jenna. They took us back to Cascais and showed us some of the paid artwork they had done on a hostel in the town. We then went to a small, local restaurant for another delightful meal before leaving them to hop on the train back to Lisbon, while we headed back to our hotel in Estoril.
Next morning was an early start back to the UK. The hotel had arranged a taxi which got us to the airport in good time and we were home(London) by mid -afternoon.
Would I go back? Definitely(I need to see Ryans’s carrot from the castle). My one recommendation would be you could fly into Porto, then move onto Lisbon, spend time on the coast and then fly home from Lisbon, cutting out one train journey.