Welcome back to the Portugal recaps! Following our days in Porto and the Douro Valley, we trained back to Lisbon and had a lovely daytrip to Sintra!
Like Porto, Lisbon is a city with big colors and tile, tile everywhere!
A few food highlights in Lisbon! I should have mentioned in my last post that Portuguese are very passionate about pastries. Their famous “Pastéis de Nata” are sugary custard tarts – they literally go like hot cakes. I think when it comes to local Portuguese products I’d prefer to drink my calories, but still a must-try for any tourist!
- Mercado da Ribiera (AKA The Time Out Market) – a modern food hall where Lisbon’s chefs show off some really innovative dishes – I was thrilled to get some (not boring) veggies!
- Our waitress was slightly condescending but we had a delicious lunch at Alfama Cellar – I had the the peppery, paprika and honey “grandmother’s stew” – an absolute delight, and not too sweet or spicy.
I can’t recommend our Airbnb in the Alfama district – while the location, modern elements, kid touches, and deck were lovely, the theft of our belongings was really core shaking for young parents. The host gave us one free night for our trouble, but they didn’t offer to help us come down to police station for our report, or assist in any other way despite our requests.
We got a lot of site seeing in during our time in Lisbon!
- Praça do Comércio is the expansive harbor front square, great for a stroll! It was entirely remodeled after the famed 1755 earthquake (which is the origin story of so much of Lisbon’s recent history)
- São Jorge Castle – ruins of a 11th century castle built by Moors with great views of the city and ocean
- Belém Tower – a relic which survived the earthquake in 1515, built 1515–1520), the white tower gives lots of lighthouse vibes and celebrates Lisbon’s seafaring past
- Monastery of Jerónimos – a 16th-century, giant white-limestone church and monastery, it stretches for 300 yards along the waterfront of Lisbon’s Belém neighborhood.
Truthfully, Lisbon wasn’t my favorite European city (beyond the London and Paris classics, I think that new title might still belong to Copenhagen or Stockholm?) – inevitably at least in part because of the dark cloud cast over by the break-in, and also because there were some shady corners we had to avoid stumbling into. I was quite surprised given how often Portugal is praised for curbing drug usage . However, it probably also isn’t on my favorites list because of the actual dark clouds – we didn’t have the best weather. In the summer, I think I might have enjoyed it more, but still, I’m glad we visited and I’m admittedly much more sensitive about safety now given that we’re traveling with our little guy.
A remarkable highlight in our Lisbon stay was our daytrip to Sintra on a this tour through Airbnb Experiences, just under an hour from Lisbon’s center. While the weather was difficult, we had a truly wonderful tour guide, Rute. She was so sweet, knowledgeable, great with our boys, and so passionate about Sintra. She took us …
- On a garden walk before the Instagram magnet/color explosion Pena Palace – a 19th century blended-style castle a top the Sintra mountains that was primiarly used as a summer residence for King Ferdinand’s royal family in the 1800s. Much like the Real Alcazar in Seville, there is a lot of Moorish influence and the colors were astounding. It was so crowded, I can’t imagine going in high season!
- Quinta da Regaleira – a really mysterious place known as “The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire”, the nickname of its builder, Antonio Augusto, Carvalho Monteiro, and his architect, Luigi Manini. With odes to alchemy, Christianity, Free Masonry, the area is a series of fountains, grottos, an initiation well, the palace and a network of secret tunnels connecting the space. Really fascinating!
- Lastly, we had lunch in town and then over pastries we visited Cabo da Roca, the western most point of continental Europe. It was unbelievably windy and unfortunately unsafe to take the boys out of the car. But still gorgeous from afar!
I can’t recommend Sintra and our tour more strongly!
With that – it’s officially wrap on Portugal! We adored being with some of our best friends in the whole world, and we are so grateful to have so many loved ones travel with us. Maybe more than anything else, watching our little boys make memories, (even though they won’t ever recall them) thrilled my joyful heart more than I can say.
While we had planned to visit the Black Forest, Germany during the Christmas season, we were unfortunately bogged down with illness so next I’ll be sharing all Swiss Christmas highlights – the Montreux market and James’ first sit down with Santa, and our holiday extravaganza in the Alps with our family.
Our time in Europe is rapidly slipping away, and we are trying to plan our final trips. I know we’ve been lucky to do so much, but I’m completely panicking about what we haven’t seen yet. We’re trying to explore every inch of Switzerland so will be taking an Eastern country road trip this spring, and are going to try to squeeze in Norway and one more Italy trip before the finale, but would love your thoughts as always about anything else we should aim to hit!