Lisbon is the city of 7 hills and you definitely know that by the time you leave. There are hills and steps everywhere. Lisbon even has put in public elevators so you don’t have to schlep yourself up 4-10 flights of stairs when you need to get somewhere. Let’s just say I got a max glute workout while we were here. One benefit of being a city of 7 hills is that there are amazing views of the city all over so there are a lot of opportunities to sit on a terrace and take in the scenery. So lots of hills and tiny windy streets is one reason why this city reminds me of San Fran other reasons include it is on the water, has a giant red suspension bridge, there are trolleys, you can eat killer seafood, and it is surrounded by port/wine country (Yummy Vinho Verde!). So basically it is awesome and we are so sad that we only got to spend 3 days in the city. This city and country is definitely on the return to sometime soon travel list. I’m not sure how this compares to San Fran but Portugal is famous for its pastry called a Pastel de Nata which is an egg custard tart and is so bomb. Dan’s plan was to eat 10 during our time in Lisbon.
The first day we spent in Lisbon was filled with wandering the streets of the neighborhood Alfama, finding a great view of the city, venturing to Cascais, and gorging ourselves on seafood. We got to see the Gypsy Market, Feira da Ladra, (held on Tuesdays and Saturdays) and I had a real life gypsy (not really it was just an artist) paint me a postcard for my collection. Cascais is a little fishing town west of Lisbon on the beach. You can take the train from Lisbon to this city and there are multiple stops on the way where you can see other beaches. We didn’t have the time to swim but there were a ton of tourists and locals enjoying the water. P.S the water is cold. This isn’t your nice luke warm Mediterranean water so be prepared.
That night we went to the most amazing seafood place ever, Cervejeria Romiro. This place has over 2,500 5 star reviews on TripAdvisor, was featured on Anthony Bourdain, and it totally worth the hype. You knew the seafood was fresh and the restaurant was great because we waited in a 45 minute line at 10pm just to get in. The line wasn’t bad at all because we got some beers from the little market next store and ended up chatting with a couple traveling from Sweden during the wait. This restaurant doesn’t have any sides so Dan was happy because there wasn’t any “filler” only buttered bread to accompany your seafood. This restaurant is unique also because you order and pay by the kilogram for your seafood and you can see what you are about to eat because the animals are just hanging out in tanks next to your table. They even bring the live lobsters over to show you what you are going to get before they serve them to you. So we ordered oysters, barnacles, garlic shrimp, edible crab, and giant tiger prawn. Barnacles were a new seafood experience for both Dan and I and they were pretty good. They taste like an oyster but have the texture of a shrimp. We didn’t know how to eat these so we had to have our hilarious old man waiter show us the ropes. Then after you have eaten all this delicious seafood, drank a bottle of wine (the wine is like $13), you need to have dessert right? Well dessert here is the most delicious garlic steak sandwich you have ever had. The table next to us liked it so much they ordered 2. We would definitely recommend getting the sandwich at the end. Total Pastel de Nata for Dan: 3
The next day in Lisbon we decided to venture to a town near Lisbon called Sintra. This little city is gorgeous and most of the homes/castles/palaces here are UNESCO world heritage sites. Apparently rich people, princes, kings etc. over the years have been coming to this place and building huge homes. The most famous is the Pena Palace which is a huge multi colored palace that resembles Disneyland. This palace also has a large garden which is really like a forest that surrounds it where you are able to explore. We ended up taking the hop on hop off bus tour in Sintra and were able to see a winery, the most western point in Europe, and Pena Palace. The winery was adorable. We were literally the only people there so we had the place to ourselves. The wine was pretty good and unique since the grapes are grown in sandy soils and close to the ocean so the wine gets a unique mineral salty taste. We bought a bottle and proceeded to consume it during the rest of our Sintra adventure (yea we are classy like that). As part of the tour you are taken to the western most portion of Europe which is giant cliff with a light house that is super windy and from here you could potentially see America. After that windy ride we stopped at the Pena Palace which is 7 euros to enter the garden and another 7 euros to enter the palace. We opted to just see the gardens which give you amazing views of the Palace if you take the hike to the highest point. We got some great pictures here. Once we got back to the main town we saw a really cute bar and did a port tasting! Yea we finally got some port in our lives. (Thanks Aunt Becky & Uncle Jason for the wedding gift!) Sintra is a definitely must see when in Lisbon. It is only a one hour train ride from the city (I think the cost was about 2 Euros/person) and is such a quiet town with a lot to see. You will definitely feel like you are in a fairy tale here. Total Pastel de Nata for Dan: 5
On our last day in Lisbon we decided we had to see the Castle Sao George since we were staying within the castle walls. This castle was built during Moorish rule in the 700’s but was a settlement way before that. The castle also provides sweeping views of Lisbon and has a neat museum where you can see the artifacts discovered on the site. For lunch we stopped by at this super cute Mercado da Ribeira near the train station which was half Market and half gourmet food court. I wish we had discovered this market earlier on our trip! All of the restaurants looked amazing. Dan also got to try a 1965 port that was bottled in 2014 so it was in the barrel for 49 years! After the museum we took the electric tram to Belem which is an area of Lisbon and is home to the most famous Pastel de Nata bakery in Lisbon, Pasteis de Belem. This place has a line out the door and make 20,000 Pastel de Nata’s per day. We ordered 6 Pastel de Nata’s and coffees and watched as tons of people filed in to get served or get take away Pastel’s. These things were so good that we had to get 2 more to go. There are a lot of other things to see in Belem, including Tower of Belem, Jeronimos Monastery, and few museums. We only had time to see Padrão dos Descobrimentos which is a tribute to the Portuguese explorers. Everyone forgets (and maybe not everyone maybe just me) that Portugal was a world power during the 15th and 16th centuries and discovered a ton of new lands. After Belem we grabbed dinner at Cervejeria Baleal, which was a seafood restaurant similar to the Cervejeria Romiro where you order the seafood by the kilogram. The seafood was great but after we had finished the guy next to us got his meal which came out in a copper sphere and was a seafood stew. He saw us ogling his dinner and allowed us to have some. This stew was bomb! If anyone is in Lisbon and decides to go to this restaurant order the fish stew! We will definitely if we get to come back. Total Pastel de Nata for Dan: 11
We were sad to say goodbye to Lisbon and hope to see Portugal again sometime soon! (P.S. Dan ate 2 Pastel de Nata’s at the airport beating his goal at 13 Total!) (P.S.S. Dan is a fatty)
Kristin & Dan’s Top 5 things to do in Lisbon:
- Eat amazing seafood and steak sandwiches at Cevejeria Romiro.
- Find a scenic overlook and take in the beautiful landscape.
- Take the train to Sintra and see the palaces and western most point in Europe.
- Go to Pasteis de Belem and gorge yourself on Pastel de Nata’s.
- Eat lunch or dinner at Mercado da Ribeira and buy a bottle of port from the wine store.
One thought on “Lisbon, Portugal – The San Francisco of Europe: Port, Palaces, and Pastel de Nata’s”
Great pictures and narrative! Enjoy reading about and seeing the pictures of your fabulous trip. By the way Portugal is one of our best friends in Europe. When you get to France try to visit the city of Tours. One of the most important battles in the history of the world was fought there in the year 732. Love you. Stay alert and stay safe!