DAY 1 – OCEANARIUM, BAIXA AND ALFAMA
Organizing the first day is always the pain in the ass. »Where to start« was in my mind from the moment we came to Oriente train station. »Okay, we can find our Airbnb host and leave our luggage,« I thought and 45 minutes after we were in our new home. It was our first Airbnb experience and we never regretted. A few minutes later we were already driving towards Lisbon Oceanarium. It is fairly easy to get to via the Lisbon metro. Plan your stay here for 2,5 to 3 hours, especially traveling with your kids.
I was so excited because of sharks that even Tamara couldn´t hold me. There are 4 ecosystems inside with lots of information about animals, water pollution, overfishing and tips to change our attitude towards our planet. In every room, you can watch smaller displays and enjoy underwater life. We saw sharks, penguins, manta rays and huge variety of fishes and other sea beings. There are huge fish tanks so you can see it from different angles and take pictures. My best moment there was seeing divers in the tank hand feeding the rays. We visited it in July so it was little crowded, our advice is to get there in the morning.
From Oceanarium you can see the biggest building in Lisbon, Vasco da Gama tower, 145 meters high.
The second part of the day we went back to explore city center, Baixa and Alfama.
Baixa is the heart of Lisbon, you can admire views from Saint Justa lift (very long queues) which transports visitors to the ruins of the Carmo Church, or you can drink some coffee, eat traditional Portuguese food in Rossio square with its open air restaurants and cafes. We watched Euro cup final between Portugal and France on stunning Praça do Comércio, which was a trading center in Portugal a long time ago.
Alfama is offering great sights and represent the old Lisbon. Be prepared to walk uphill a lot. We visited Castelo de Sao Jorge but there we were quite disappointed because it doesn’t offer great value for the money (€8,5 for an adult ticket).
View from the Castelo de Sao Jorge
You can see spectacular views from The Miradouro de Santa Luzia, romantic getaway for couples. You’ll thank me later. A must see for us was 900 years old Church of Santa Maria Maior Lisbon Cathedral (Igreja de Santa Maria Maior), very austere and dark inside. I recommend you buying the ticket to see the Cloisters and the archaeological site at the back of Cathedral. At the end, it was just an excuse to use historic tram 28, which was always very crowded.
DAY 2 – SINTRA
The highlight of our trip in Lisbon was visiting Sintra. There is a variety of historic monuments, gorgeous palaces and hiking trails. We traveled there by train from Rossio station for a price €4.30 for an adult return ticket. Then we recommend that you take the Sintra Tourist bus route 434 which drives you to the Pena Palace. The exterior of the castle is just amazing, like from the Disneyland, so you don´t forget your camera. Be prepared that you can’t take photos inside the Palace, they are very strict with it.
At the end, we walked through the Pena Park with hidden paths, beautiful viewpoints and many varieties of plant life.
Palace really offers breathtaking views, you can see the restored ruins of the Moors castle beneath it and National Palace of Sintra. That was our next stop, it’s a good idea to start from Pena Palace because you don’t have uphill walking.
When we thought we saw everything: BUM! The Quinta da Regaleira, Alice in Wonderland kind of enchanted garden with tunnels, gothic style underground towers, water wells, ponds, caves and loads more, a definite must do for anyone visiting Sintra. We stayed there for 3 hours and left wondering what else we could find. The place is so unique and not like anything else you are likely to have come across. At the end of the day, you will be quite exhausted from walking, so I wish you good night.
DAY 3 – BELEM
From Praca de Comercio we used tram 15E to Belem. We waited half an hour for the tram because of the crowd. Main attraction is The Belem Tower with the magnificent location, but we didn’t want so wait 2 hours to see the interior. We decided to see Coach Museum which contains the extensive collection of horse driven carriages. I was fascinated to see how much history can be linked and tied to tools of transportation. Some coaches go as far back as the XVI. century.
The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is another must see in Belem, you will be stunned at how huge it is. The grandest sight you can see without paying an entrance fee. The best sight in Belem for us was definitely Ajuda National Palace. It’s approximately 20 minutes walking uphill and many tourists don’t go there so you will have quiet afternoon enjoying the glimpse of history of the royal family. The queen’s dining room is so spectacular and looks ready for the guests to arrive. You mustn’t take photos inside, but we couldn’t resist in the last room. There are around 25-30 baroque-style rooms, plan to stay there for 3 hours. You can ask a lot of questions, employees are so friendly and love to share their knowledge.
DAY 4 – CABO DA ROCA, CASCAIS
1. CABO DA ROCA
Do you want to see the ocean? Then you have to go to Cabo da Roca. It’s the westernmost point of Europe with great views of the cliffs and lighthouse on the Atlantic Ocean. It is quite windy so bring a warm jacket. If you are a landscape photographer, it just isn’t better than this.
Rent a free bike in Cascais. We did it too and followed the cycle path along ocean coastline towards the Boca Inferno. The smell of the salty pure water, coniferous trees and fresh air makes such ride unforgettable. In Cascais center, you can admire beautiful small beaches, monuments and museums. It is the perfect place to relax after noisy Lisbon.
A FEW TIPS FOR YOU
- Buy your Oceanarium ticket online and save your money. We paid €15.30 for one adult ticket (regular price is 18.00).
- Take a bus to Pena Palace because you will have more time to explore the sights. Going by foot will just leave you exhausted.
- On Sunday mornings (until 2 pm) there is no entrance fee in The Belem tower and Mosteiro dos Jeronimous. On the other days, you will pay €13.00.
- You can ask a lot of question in Ajuda National Palace, employees are so friendly, love to talk about history and share their knowledge.