Practical Travel Tips: Lisbon, Portugal

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Lisbon is one of the most under-rated European cities to visit. It’s worth the visit—so much so, that The Flight Deal team is going to Lisbon for our annual team trip.

Varud of Bicoastal Cooks, who last wrote about Machu Picchu, Medellin, Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, Lofoten Islands, Norway, Ushuaia, Argentina and Patagonia, Argentina is back with his practical travel tips.

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View of Lisbon from Sao Jorge Castle, Lisbon, Portugal - Photo: (c) 2016 - Varud Gupta of Bicoastal Cooks

View from Sao Jorge Castle, Lisbon, Portugal – Photo: (c) 2016 – Varud Gupta of Bicoastal Cooks

Transportation

Costs calculated when 1 euro = 1.13 dollar, all one-way.

  • Airport – the best two options are to either take the metro (1.4 euros) or the bus (3.5 euros). Both are reliable and will take 30-40 minutes to the center of town (the Baixo-Chiado area)
  • The City – Lisbon is fairly walkable by foot with most sights being 20 minutes away from each other. For some sights, such as the Oceanarium, you will need to hop on the metro (the best way is to pick up a reloadable Viva Viagem green card). These cards cost 0.5 euro initially and are valid for a year. Metro trips cost 1.4 euros so load up accordingly.
  • Day Trips – when buying train tickets to either Belem, Cascais, or Sintra, use an automated machine and recharge the same green card you got from the metro instead of using the counter and having to pay for another card (unless you want a new blue card for your collection). The trains to Belem (1.6 euros) and Cascais (2.6 euros) are from Cais do Sodre stop; and the train to Sintra (2.5 euros) is in Rossio, but northwest of the metro stop itself (closer to Restauradores).
  • Taxis – they actually aren’t a rip off with the base fare being 3.25 euros and typical fares around the 8 euro range. Prices do go up at night though.
  • Trams – a fairly regular activity for tourists is to ride the number 28 around town. The rides are 2.85 euros and you can also use the green Viva Viagem card (similar to buses, you get on at the front and off at the back.)
Fresh Tiger Prawns at Cervejaria Ramiro, Lisbon, Portugal - Photo: (c) 2016 - Varud Gupta of Bicoastal Cooks

Fresh Tiger Prawns at Cervejaria Ramiro, Lisbon, Portugal – Photo: (c) 2016 – Varud Gupta of Bicoastal Cooks

To Do

There is a lot to do in Lisbon! As with most European towns, the best way to experience them is to walk around the streets, focusing on the two neighborhoods below.

  • Alfama – this is the more historic area of the city with small, winding cobblestone streets. The Sao Jorge Castle is the most popular site here—of which, my favorite part was actually the Camara Escura, or periscope presentation, which many people do not end up seeing. There are many other sights and buildings scattered around this area; go walk and get lost.
  • Barrio Alto – the trendier, party area of Lisbon. There are many bars and clubs in this area with people flowing out onto the streets (beer, wine, and cider all around 1-2 euros). Pink Street has bars and clubs with a more upscale feel (10 euro cocktails at Pensao Amor). An experience to try is going to a Fado club—a typical Portuguese bar where emotional singers will sing melancholy music (Tasco de Chico is my recommendation), while you can dine on staples of the cuisine such as Chorico and Caldo Verde.
  • Other activities: the botanical gardens, the oceanarium, or riding Tram 28 around Alfama. For food, Mercado Ribeira offers a trendy sampling of the cuisine. But for more local experiences, try amazing seafood at Cervajaria Ramiro, drink some Ginja on the streets of Lisbon, and sample a Bacalhau based-dish or grilled sardines.
The view from Cascais, Portugal - Photo: (c) 2016 - Varud Gupta of Bicoastal Cooks

The view from Cascais, Portugal – Photo: (c) 2016 – Varud Gupta of Bicoastal Cooks

Day Trips

Lisbon quickly became one of my favorite places and it really helps that there are so many beautiful places less than an hour away from the city. The three spots below are the most popular options for day trips.

  • Cascais – this is a fishing village that blossomed into a wealthy seaside town, just a 40-minute journey west from the city. The parks and houses on the west side of town are beautiful, while the old town is pleasant to stroll through. This town uses the same line as Belem so it is possible to tackle both on one day. Also, try Polvo Vaido for lunch for an array of octopus based dishes.
  • Belem – the most touristy of the options, Belem is a 10-minute ride over. Belem is known for the Monastery, Belem Tower, and the tastiest Pasteis de Nata, or custard desserts, at Pasteis de Belem. The gardens here are picturesque and perfect for a picnic or making a dent in a book. Unfortunately, this place is overrun with large groups of tourists so try to start the day here early.
  • Sintra – a town nestled between hills sprinkled with some beautiful estates, around 40 minutes away from Lisbon. The two most popular spots are the Pena Palace and Moorish Castle, but I had a great time exploring the less touristy Quinta da Regaleira. Depending on your fitness level, you can walk over to the the city center from the train station and then choose which hikes you want to take up to the monuments. Alternatively, there is a hop-on/hop-off option (5 euros) that you can use to make your way around. The town itself is touristy, so pack a lunch for yourself ahead of time to save some money.

Practicalities

People in Lisbon and the surrounding day trip cities speak not only English, but a variety of other languages including French and Spanish. Getting around the city, asking for directions, and buying tickets for public transportation should not be a problem

  • Wi-Fi is available throughout the city and in many cafes and restaurants; overall very reliable
  • There were no real concerns for safety walking around the center, barrio alto, and other touristy bits late at night. There will be many groups of people that will offer to sell you weed and other drugs, but a polite “no thank you” should be fine as you walk away; no first hand experience, but we were told that what they are selling is actually fake!

About The Author:

Varud’s life is food–eating, reading, exploring, and creating. Voted Forbes 30 Under 30 for ‘Most Clueless Individuals’, he jumped ship from his management consultant lifestyle in October 2015 and embarked on a culinary journey to learn about cuisines around the world. His first book documented an experiment in Recipe Development (how to create and gain inspiration for original recipes) while his most recent novel narrates the journey of leaving the US to travel to Argentina and learn about Asado, or Argentine BBQ. Follow him on his blog, Bicoastal Cooks, instagram or Twitter.

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