This is a guest post from Jeremy Haze about his experiences traveling through Lisbon.
After planning the exact date and location of my new European adventure, I decided not to plan any more and, out of the blue, booked a cheap flight to Lisbon with some friends. We went totally unprepared so the search for some descent accommodation began upon our arrival. After two hours of search, there it was. Rua Luciano Cordeiro 32, 3ºDto (Residencia Aleluia) with only €20 per night. This hostel is located in the central Lisbon area (Praça Marquês de Pombal) near several hotspots of the city and close to the main transport systems (subway, bus, train to Sintra, Estoril and Cascais). It’s also only 8km from the airport. The hostel is owned by an old welcoming and warm Portuguese couple. I would recommend it to every low-budget tourist – it is situated near the centre, taxi will take you for no more than 2-3 euro from Bairro Alto and Baixa (the biggest clusters of restaurants and cafes) and you have an Internet café in a supermarket nearby.
The best public transit option is the bus. Buses can be caught outside the terminal. The price is €1.40 for a ticket bought on board. Another option is the Aerobus and Aeroshuttle (€3.50). The fastest connection to the metro network is probably to take the Aerobus to Oriente Station, which only takes about 10 minutes. From there you can take the red line into the town. Taxis are available outside the terminals but should be avoided due to the prices.
Now, once you get to Lisbon be prepared to speak any other language but English. At least, this was my impression. Spanish will do just fine if your Portuguese is as awful as mine. After you get through the language barrier, life becomes so easy that you don’t even want to go back to wherever you come from. Intriguing Lisbon wakes up at about 9 o’clock and it doesn’t seem hectic at all. The city’s relaxed atmosphere, cultural diversity, nightlife (don’t even dare to miss Bairro Alto), charming architecture and narrow streets are the main tourist attractions. Lisbon is a city that can be explored on foot. Yet, built on seven hills, it is pleasant to know that this is when the public transport comes in handy.
Some incredible vistas to be visited are: Belem Tower, Jeronimos Monastery, St. George’s Castle, Oceanarium and many more.
We visited only a few museums during our stay there. The most entertaining for me was the Coaches Museum (Museu Nacional dos Coches in Belem). It has the largest and most valuable collection of its type in the world. It is housed in a richly decorated 18th-century royal riding school that is part of Belem Palace, illustrating staggering wealth of the old Portuguese elite.
We were very fortunate to be there during the Festival Dos Oceanos at Praça do Comércio as we got the chance to listen to some wonderful Fado performers but also worldwide known singers (Lauryn Hill).
The best way to go to the famous beach Cascais is to take the train from Cais do Sodre train station in Lisbon but if you plan to go there every day, Interrail one-country pass will be more than recommended. You’ll save a lot of money. The ocean water was freezing cold but sunbathing while listening to adorable Fado or fabulous rhythmic Brazilian music is priceless. In just 5 minutes from the beach, there is a shopping center with prices you only dream of. So, ladies prepare to spend time and money in it. Estoril is another beach on our way to Lisbon so we used to stop by for a coffee in one of their relaxing cafés on the beach.
Another attraction is Cabo de Roca – the westernmost point in continental Europe. The easiest way to get there is to take a bus from Cascais (the bus station is right across the train station) number 403. The bus ride is very exciting because of the road curves (a bit frightening too). Take warm clothes with you and dry your hair if you’ve been to the beach before that. The wind will literally blow your mind. As much as the view is breathtaking so is the wind.
After an exciting day in the hills, we decided to visit Sintra – Portugal’s fairytale town on the edge of Europe. Sintra is probably the most amazing place I have visited so far. It is equipped with jaw-dropping castles, extravagant villas, gardens and monuments dating from 8th century onwards. Even Lord Byron found it mystical and inspirational for his works. One day in Sintra is simply not enough. Although there is a fantastically organized public transport which takes you to all the sites in one day for 4 euros or so, you cannot give yourself a luxury of spending less than 2 hours at each place. Palácio Nacional da Pena left me speechless. The whole Sintra is under UNESCO’S World Heritage Site since 1995. Though the entrance ticket to every castle costs at least 10 euros, it is worth every cent of it and should not be missed by any means. O Cantinho do Lord Byron in Sintra was a good place to enjoy a pint of cerveja (beer). It’s located near the Sintra’s square. The most practical way to get to Sintra is by train from Rossio train station.
As far as gastronomy is concerned, be sure to try bacalhau but if you are a fan of Spanish cuisine as well (croquetas, paellas, etc.) you’ll get the chance to taste that too. All in all, you can enjoy Portuguese food accompanied by professional Fado performers in one place. My kindest recommendation is Severa tavern in Bairro Alto district.
To wrap up the story of Portugal, the country offers a wide range of attractions and it is perhaps somewhat better to plan at least one part ahead only to organize yourself more efficiently and get the most of the wonderful Portuguese culture.
About the author:
My name is Jeremy Haze and I’m a traveloholic – for me it’s not just about reaching the destination, but experiencing the journey itself to the fullest. For several years now I’ve been searching for the perfect job, a position that would allow me to work, travel, and brag about it at the same time and my effort finally paid off – now I work as a marketing consultant at Cruiseabout and my position allows me to travel all around the world, doing what I do best.