Lisbon & Sintra, Portugal

lisbon

We had some friends who came to visit us in Switzerland. After they had completed their tour around the country, we met up again to travel together to Portugal. On Friday night, we arrived in Lisbon and checked into our apartment at Charm Discovery 44 for the weekend.

It was a nice and spacious two-bedroom apartment, with good proximity to what we wanted to see. The only thing is our bedding and towels were still moist! That was kind of weird. At least we weren’t going to sleep right then and there.

Once we settled in, we got ready to go out for the night. The first thing we got while walking around were some natas, from Pasta de Nata. My absolute favorite thing to eat when in Portugal.

nata

After our pre-dinner appetizer, we continued on to where we were planning to have dinner. Along the way, we passed by some live music, a parade of people playing the drums, walked up a hill instead of taking an inclined railway, and finally took in some views of the city.

lisbon

Here’s a view of the city from Miradouro de Sāo Pedro de Alcântara.

lisbon city lights

For dinner we ate at A Cevicheria. I’m so glad I got a great list of recommendations from a friend from Lisbon, and everything was so spot on. Thank you!

This restaurant was poppin’. We probably should have made a reservation? No worries, we hung around on the sidewalk where there was a window to their bar and had a few drinks. All of which were refreshing, despite the cold winds coming up and over the hill.

cevicheria

There was a giant octopus sculpture inside of the restaurant, how cool is that? It’s a really small room though, so it did take a while for us to get seated. I’d say it’s worth the wait. The food was unique, with each dish very distinct from one another. All of the food was delish, from the complementary finger foods to the appetizers, entrees and finally dessert. Do yourself a favor to check this place out the next time you’re in town.


On Saturday morning, we took another recommendation from my friend’s list. Breakfast at Cotidiano Lisboa. This little cafe plucked a string in my heart that I didn’t know I had. It’s so cute, and thee aesthetics!

Bonus, the coffee is hella good. So is the breakfast. Oh how I wish I could pull the food out of these photos and eat it all again.

Not too far from the cafe is this waterside public plaza, known as Praça do Comércio. Because the sun was shining and it was a Saturday, all the crowds were out and about. Including a man making lots of bubbles for the kids and a group of friends holding lettered posters getting ready to spell out “Casas Comigo Andreia” (Marry Me Andria). Does the L in Lisbon stand for love? Because love was truly in the air. Congrats to the couple.

with friends in lisbon

It seems a strange sight to write about this trip a year after it happened, and having lived through a year of the covid pandemic now. The world is such an amazing place, I can’t wait until things get back to “normal”.

lisbon

We continued walking west along the water, as far as it would keep our interested and take us. So much of the coast right here in Lisbon reminds me of California. This is probably the closest I ever felt to home while living in Europe.

Also, the red bridge, Ponte 25 de Abril, totally reminds me of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Off to another recommendation from the list (by Uber), we went to LxFactory. This historical industrial complex houses an array of artsy retailers, as well as food and drink options. If I can choose anywhere to hangout for a day, it would be this place.

art district

This is a great spot for wandering around. There are lots of random bits of art in all places, even the bathroom!

Another building that we went to had a bunch of workspaces for various creatives to work out of. I loved looking at all of various crafts and setups these folks had.

For lunch we ate at Boqueirāo Sabor a Brasil. The food was perfect for an outdoor lunch spot on a picnic table.

art district

Leaving the arts district, we grabbed another Uber and headed over towards Jerónimos Monastery.

Per usual, we got natas, but this time from Pastéis de Belém. If you want the most famous nata, the one following an ancient recipe from Mosteiro dos Jerónimos from 1837, this is it. Just beware of the loads of tourist crowds!

We ate the natas on a bench right outside of the monastery, admiring the late gothic manueline-style architecture. Then we went inside for a look around. Wasn’t anything extraordinary, the natas were better.

By now, were were getting a little fatigued from the long day of making our way down the coast. Walking through the park, we grabbed some ice cream from Gelato Davvero CCB, and then we landed here at Padrāo dos Descobrimentos.

This large monument was built in 1940 and marks 500 years since Henry the Navigator’s death. Who is Henry you ask? Prince Henry was a Portuguese explorer (1394-1460), although he didn’t do the sea voyages himself, he was the one who organized and encouraged exploration in the early 15th century.

My favorite bit about this monument isn’t the statue itself, it’s actually the ground. I love this world map made of various stones cutouts. Can I have this in my future home, please?

As I mentioned earlier, we were getting very, very tired by now. We wanted to keep going, but our bodies couldn’t handle it. In one last attempt, we got some happy hour drinks from Mister Tapas and drank by the water. Then we called our last Uber of the day to take us back to our apartment.

Not too far from our apartment, we did grab a bottle of Port wine and some sardines for our friends to try. Port wine is my favorite.

port wine

Our late afternoon was spent mostly indoors. We had heat exhausted ourselves from walking around all day in the sun. It was so good to sit down and rest. I’m not even sure what we did until dinner time. Perhaps we spent most of it looking for where to eat.

street in lisbon

So I’ve been looking and looking, and can’t seem to find out what restaurant we went to for dinner. The location is quite close to where we were staying, but apparently there are so many other restaurants!

I also don’t know what this is, but we got this after dinner from an area that I don’t remember where it’s located. All I know is that the shop worker told us to make sure to put our money away before stepping out the door…

dessert

On Sunday, we decided to take a day trip out to see Sintra. Any other Witcher fans out there? I like to imagine that this is Cintra. Sintra is by far my #1 favorite day trip that I’ve ever taken from a metropolitan city. You must go.

The best way to get to Sintra is by train. We took the train from the Rossio station, which is located in the historic center of Lisbon. There are multiple departures each hour, with the journey’s travel time at approximately 40 minutes. I can’t remember how much the train ticket cost, but it must have been insignificant. We purchased directly from the ticket window.

There are three major highlights at Sintra — Palácio Nacional da Pena, Castelo dos Mouros, and Quinta da Regaleira. All of them are quite awesome. We were able to visit all three (and then some), in one day. It can be tiring however, so do make sure to take some breaks in between!

When we arrived at Sintra station, we were a little disoriented and weren’t sure exactly where to go. It felt like everyone else did. We walked out of the small station’s exit, down the hill, and towards the main street. Our goal was to get to the Palace of Pena. Below is the palace shot from Castelo dos Mouros (which we will get to next).

It’s possible to walk to the palace from the station, but also much faster to get to by car. We got an uber to take us there. I’m glad we did too, because it would have been a very long uphill walk. Our driver dropped us off very close to the entrance, right where you can buy tickets.

There was already a line of people forming. If you don’t want to purchase tickets from their machines, you can also buy them online. I think you may even save a little if you buy online.

The design of the Palace of Pena is stunning. It reminds me of a child’s cartoon, as it’s very playful and colorful. I really love the different textures on the entrance archway.

Usually there are a lot more people visiting this palace. We were lucky that the crowds weren’t too bad during the time of our visit. It’s off season and we took the early train.

The palace is built on a hilltop, and surrounded by lush green nature. Check out the different mixes of shapes, patterns, and colors on this tower.

The carvings on the palace really speaks to my soul. I’m in love!

There wasn’t a whole lot inside of the palace that was memorable for me, probably because we weren’t allowed to take photos. I mostly only remember the outside of it and having to constantly stop my jaw from dropping.

After looping through the inside of the palace, you exit to this balcony where we took a group photo. It’s one of the better photo op spots. Later you can continue on and there’s an entire terrance and cafe. We enjoyed some sun and chips.

Leaving the palace, we wandered through the park. Let me tell you, this park is massive. You can really spend a long time if you wanted to, just walking around the surrounding park area. There were all sorts of plants, gardens, fish ponds, motes, rivers, you name it! I’m sure it was there. Everything except for a bathroom.

Finally out of the park, we began our mini hike over to Castelo dos Mouros. I was able to find a good shortcut to get there from where we exited. The shortcut doesn’t show up on Google Maps as a route. Pro tip, you need to switch over to the Satellite view. This is a trick that I do quite often to try and identify unmarked hiking trails.

At Castelo dos Mouros, we had to buy another ticket to enter. The tickets aren’t really cheap, but I’d say all of the highlights mentioned are worth doing.

We paid our entrance fee and began the long walk (we didn’t realize that it was pretty much another hike to the attraction). However, it’s a pleasant hike and there are various attractions that are along the way for you to look at.

I’m not sure which place I like more, the palace or this one. Both are just so good. As you’re probably thinking, yes, this kind of resembles the Great Wall of China. Having been to the Great Wall, I’d say it is kind of similar in some ways, but just on a much tinier scale. I like the cuteness of it.

Castelo dos Mouros is attractive from almost every angle, it’s hard to not get a good photo.

Wow, right? There’s a lot to walk around and take in. You can also “hike” to the top for more views. The hike is quite easy, it’s just a bunch of steps. But be careful if you’re afraid of heights!

The views of the surrounding area is the best in Sintra, better than the palace.

If you’re looking for another chance to take a break, there’s a little shop inside of the castle that you can get food and drinks from. We got some beers before heading out.

Back in the city, it was now time for lunch. We opted to eat at Piriquita II. This location is famous for their pastries, but their food is good too! I got this delicious plate of steak, gravy, rice, and fries (like a country fried steak). It’s good and affordable.

Our last sight for the day was Quinta da Regaleira. It’s another palace, but I would say that it’s more famous for the gardens with underground passages. This is the type of place where you are meant to take your time, explore, and discover the hidden treasures (hint: the treasures are not in the palace, it’s in the gardens). You need to pay another ticket to enter, but by this point, you’re probably used to paying entrance fees.

The most well known treasures in the garden is the Initiation Wells. The wells features a winding stair that leads down to a tunnel that connects both of them. Neither well was ever used to collect water. Instead, the wells, or inverted towers, however you’d like to think of it, were used for mystical rituals.

There’s a lot of symbolism and ties throughout the four hectares of land, that reference the Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, or the Knights Templar. An estate with myriad roads and footpaths that wind through decorative structures can be found throughout the park.

As for the palace itself, you are able to go inside and wander some of the floors. There are a total of five floors (including the basement). It’s common to find various music events held inside in an intimate setting.

We left Quinta da Regaleira after we felt that we thoroughly explored the grounds (and used their public restroom). Now we were off and ready to walk back into the city. The path to and from Quinta da Regaleira isn’t so long, but it is a walk. The good part is there are some things to see along the path, the bad part is that you walk the same path twice!

By the time that we had finished looking at all three attractions, it was around 4PM. We were tired and ready to head back. As a way to wait for the next train to take, we grabbed some beers and a bite from Villa Craft beer & bread. People don’t usually stay here for that long, but we did. In fact we said a few times, we’ll take the next train! The bread is freshly baked and the beers affordable.

Back in Lisbon, I can’t actually remember what we did. I have this photo of noodles however, so I know that I got some spicy noodles for dinner.

We flew back home early the next morning and said goodbye to our friends as they continued on their journey to see some more of Portugal.

I never would have guessed how much I would have loved Lisbon. If there’s any city that felt like my home in Los Angeles, it’s Lisbon. See you again.

x Sarah

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