My first thought when flying into Lisbon, Portugal was, “Where am I?” It looks just like San Francisco.
Turns out the 25 de Abril Bridge was built by the American Bridge Company. The same company that built the Bay Bridge and it is painted the same color as the Golden Gate Bridge - International Orange.
After my initial disorientation, landing and making my way to Lisbon was super easy. Made easier, I hate to say, by Uber. Yep - Uber is available in Lisbon and inexpensive. As a result, I didn’t have to even change money or speak Portuguese, for that matter.
I landed first thing in the morning and made my way to my hotel, the dreamy Memmo Alfama Hotel. This was my view. I should add - I had perfect weather on my trip. :)
I arrived so early that I wasn’t able to check in but the people at the hotel couldn’t have been lovelier. They gave me a space to clean up and stored my luggage. I then headed out on a walking tour I had booked. It turned out to be the perfect way to get acclimated and fight off jet lag!
One of our first stops was a tribute to the great Fado singer, la diva du Fado, Amalia Rodrigues.
We winded our way throughout the many small corridors of the Alfama district until the afternoon. My guide, Emanuele, was wonderful and made me feel so welcome.
After a quick stop at the hotel I then decided to head out on foot to Belém, Lisbon, about a 2 hour walk. The people at the hotel thought I was crazy, but I knew I needed to keep moving to stave off sleep. Plus, if you know me, you know I was driven by something else:
I admit it’s a tourist destination, but after some very scientific sampling of pastries throughout Lisbon (see also Manteigaria (Chiado or Time Out Market) and Pastelaria Batalha (also in Chiado), I can say that Belém really did have the best Pastel de Nata (basically an egg custard tart).
Oh - Belém also has a palace with a changing of the guard you can check out, too.
In fact, Lisbon had a plethora of great food options. I also recommend the Time Out Market (super crowded but like the San Francisco Ferry Building - lots of gourmet food stalls), Mar Ao Camo (seafood just off a delightful square), Ponto Final, and Cervejaria Ramira (where I had the best lobster of my life - see below) (thank you dear Lobster). Note: if you really want to go to the source, go to Farol - it’s where the fishermen go and it’s just a ferry ride to Cacilhas.
After a full day of walking and eating I returned to my hotel and passed out. My plan was to get up early the next day and check out Sintra, a town just outside of Lisbon with lush gardens and several palaces.
I did manage to get up early but missed the first train out. So naturally I called an Uber!
I had a fantastic driver who took me straight up to the Palácio Nacional da Pena. I recommend starting there as it’s the highest part of Sintra and then you can easily walk down to the other palaces and the old town.
Also, pro tip: you only need to pay to access the park (about 7 Euros) and not the palace. The palace ticket is for an inside tour which I heard from others was not worth it. FYI.
And if you go first thing in the morning, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful, unobstructed views.
After scouring the Palace and gardens, I walked out and turned left towards the Castle of the Moors. You can check out that Castle or just keep walking on the trail that winds alongside it down to Old Town. It’s an easy walk that only requires tennis shoes/sneakers.
Old Town has a nice big square with views for days.
And of course, lots of nearby food options. Sintra has its own pastry, called Queijadas. They’re tarts made with cheese or milk.
I spent the day in Sintra and then headed back to Lisbon for an evening walk through town and then headed to a Fado show. These are typically very touristy and can require cover charges that include dinner. Fado’s roots are in Alfama, but if you just want to hear up and coming singers and have a drink, I recommend heading out to ___.
Other places people recommend: Tasca do Chico (only certain nights), A Baiuca, and Viste Allegre.
Sigh. I miss Lisbon and Portugal already. There’s more to tell. Claramente! But this is where I’ll leave you, because I left Lisbon for a bit to visit Marrakech!