If you want to spend a weekend in Lisbon, here is the guide for you!
We will discover the historic, artistic, natural and eno-gastronomic heritage that makes this city the “San Francisco of Europe”.
The historic centre of Lisbon
Alfama, Baixa and Bairro Alto districts
Lisbon, capital of Portugal, stretches over the steep hills to the north of the Tagus River. Its proximity to the coast makes it one of the ideal tourist destinations for those wishing to visit cultural sites and enjoy some days at the sea.
As soon as you arrive, we strongly recommend going to the discovery of the historic centre of the city. The best way to do this? Catch the tram number 28 and let it guide you through the most interesting neighbourhoods: Alfama and Bairro Alto. A path with very steep slopes offering wonderful views of the city, including Castelo de Sao Jorge, Praca do Comercio, the Sè Cathedral and the Pantheon.
Baixa, the commercial heart of Lisbon, runs from the banks of the Tagus to the Avenida de Libertade, and it houses one of the most remarkable neogothic attractions to see: the Santa Justa Elevador.
You can climb and go inside the tower; at the top, there is the pedestrian crossing and, climbing the spiral staircase, you’ll reach the tower. Here you may admire the whole neighbourhood, the river and the ruins of the Carmo church, located in the Chiado district and very similar to the church of San Galgano in Italy.
Rossio, located in the centre of this neighbourhood, is a popular meeting point, with its bars and restaurants. If you want to taste the ginja, a typical cherry-like liquor, enter A Ginjinha in Largo de Sao Domingos: you can taste it with or without fruit.
Belem: the Lisbon Maritime District
The starting point of the great sea discoveries
After visiting the historical part of Lisbon, you’ll arrive in Belem, a green area with parks and museums linked mainly to the world of sailing.
Here you can see the Bridge 25 de Abril, inspired by the Golden Gate of San Francisco, which connects the centre of Lisbon to Outra Banda, where the imposing Christo Rei stands, reminiscent of the Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.
The Tower of Belem, built in the middle of the Tagus, was the starting point for the sailors on the routes of the great sea discoveries. Its beautiful external decoration will leave you astonished.
The Monument to the Discoveries was built to celebrate Enrico the Navigator and to celebrate those who contributed to the development of Portugal in the Age of Discoveries. Its shape resembles a caravel and at the sides, there are the statues of the main Portuguese heroes of that time. On the floor, at the foot of the monument, you can admire the great nautical compass.
Also in this area, the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos was built in 1501 and was entrusted to the Order of St. Gerolamo until 1834. The cloister is particularly beautiful, while inside you can see the tomb of Vasco da Gama.
Where to eat in Lisbon
After visiting these main monuments, we suggest stopping at the Vela Latina, a modern restaurant overlooking the Tagus, and in the pastry Pasteis de Belem, to taste the typical Pasteis de Nata, typical sweets across the country and in Portuguese-speaking states such as Brazil. Alternatively, try them at the Confeitaria and Brasileira in the Rossio area.
For dinner, try the cuisine at The Decadente Restaurant. Located in the Bairro Alto district, the restaurant offers typical Portuguese dishes revisited in a modern and creative way, such as honey and almond stockfish.
Sintra: the cultural landscape, 30 minutes from Lisbon
One of the most spectacular attractions in Portugal
Before leaving for this trip, you may scrape through several guides and find the same thing written in all of them: if you are in Lisbon, you can’t not go to Sintra. No sooner said than done! Take the train from Lisbon and in about half an hour you’ll be there.
In 1995 Sintra was declared Unesco Cultural Landscape for its rich artistic heritage. See it with your own eyes and go visit Quinta da Regaleira and Palacio da Pena.
Quinta da Regaleira‘s extensive gardens are a mixture of historical, religious and symbolic sculptures that make it a mystical place. Following the route, you will arrive at a wonderful well, a 27-meters-deep tower, from where a spiral staircase takes you underground.
To reach Palacio da Pena, go up with the tuk tuk, a small touristic ape-car, which will take you to the highest peak of the Serra de Sintra. There are several architectural styles in this eclectic palace: fake yellow canary walls, red scarlet gothic towers, some minarets and a Moorish dome.
Dinner in Rossio
Returning to Lisbon, drive the Avenida da Liberdade to the centre of Rossio, where every street is full of restaurants and bars. You’ll be really spoiled for choice on where to dine: from typical Portuguese cuisine to gourmet food and other cultures. To sample the local specialities, ask for the prato do dia, the plate of the day. You could end up trying the caldeirada de peixe, the bacalhau and the sardines in all their forms.
Typically Portuguese appetizers are always served before the meal. They’re not included in the price and are paid according to consumption. To accompany the meal there is also a vast choice of Portuguese wines, including Vinho Verde, a very fragrant sparkling white.
Cabo da Roca
The westernmost point of Europe
Before returning home, you can’t not go to Cabo da Roca.
By train from Lisbon, you arrive at Cascais, a holiday resort encircled by a sandy bay and by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Walking along the promenade you can get to Boca do Inferno, where the waters break on the cliffs with threatening echoes.
From the culinary point of view, fish dishes are predominant here: grilled, fried or stewed. At the Tasca Da Linha restaurant, you can taste great fish dishes such as the “Lagareiro” octopus, with stewed and grilled potato.
From Cascais, take bus number 403 and you’ll arrive at Cabo da Roca.
This is the westernmost point of the European continent and is marked by a lighthouse on top of the imposing 140-meter high cliff. A magical and evocative place where you come in close contact with nature. It is inevitable the astonishment in front of the giant waves that crumble into the cliffs.
Therefore, if you are planning on an upcoming destination where you can spend a few days, go to the discovery of Lisbon and the surrounding area. And expect a journey rich in charm from both the cultural and the environmental point of view.