What to do in Lisbon
Lisbon is a small city but you will be amazed by all the things there is to do in this area and how easy it is to get around!
The great thing about Lisbon is the local transportation; you can basically go anywhere within an hour using only one card. You buy this card (viva) at any train station or small shop that has it’s logo on display and it won’t cost you more than 5 euro to go anywhere with a bus, tram, cable car, boat, metro or train!
One of their above ground trains will take you to Cascais, which is a 40 min ride along the coast and passes many small little beach towns. These trains usually leave every 20min from Cais do Sodre (see on the map below).
Our recommendation would be to jump off and explore; Belem and Cascais.
BELEM: Here you will find the great Jerónimos Monastery, which is a typical tourist attraction but definitely worth seeing if you are in the area. It’s an enormous building with incredibly detailed and beautiful interior. Here is also where you will find the famous Pasteis de Belem, known for their traditional Pasteis de Nata.
To be honest, I wouldn’t bother standing in the line to get one, you can find these pastries anywhere in Lisbon for the same price and they taste more or less the same everywhere. Please let me know if you disagree. Belem is a cute little area and is nice to just walk around, along the water, in the park and grab a coffee or a glass of wine at their many outdoor restaurants.
CASCAIS: Our taxi driver told us that Cascais once was a small little fish town only known by the locals but today it has become a tourist place with many Japanese and Italians buying up the area and building restaurants and hotels. Right when you arrive, you can tell there is a lot of money in this town. Even though there is a lot of tourist, it’s still very charming with a few central beaches and great cliffs along the shore… I would recommend you to come here in the summer and hang out at the restaurants and beaches.
Sintra is worth seeing even if this is a typical tourist attraction; it’s just an amazing little town with interesting looking houses and castles. As I mentioned earlier it’s really easy to get around so again, use your same Viva card and take another train that takes you to the ends stop of Sintra. This train leaves from Lisboa – Rossio station! When you get there you have several different options on how to get to the different castles. We hadn’t done so much research so we just started walking up the nearest hill but there is one main tourist bus and a couple of mini cars that you can rent to get up the hills.
National Palace of Pena is full of hidden details!
If you’re walking it takes about 30min to get to Castelo dos Muros. This castle was constructed during the 8th to 9th century and was taken by the Christian forces from the Moors after the fall of Lisbon. We didn’t pay to get in because our main reason to get here was to see the National Palace of Pena, so after another 30min of walking we finally arrived at the Park and National Palace of Pena (OBS there is a shorter route we just didn’t know how to walk).
Anyway, this castle is definitely worth visiting just because of how it looks, it’s very spectacular and different. I would also recommend to read the story of the castle and why they built it! Don’t pay for both the castle and the park unless you are really interested. We paid for only the park and was still able to see 90% of the castle.
Exclusive tip: If you are going to eat while you are in Sintra, stop on the way down in one of their small towns at a local tapas place called: Nau Palatina. We were blown away by this place, the owners Ze and Yolanda are great people who will tell you the story behind each dish! This is where we learnt that Marmalade is actually made from a Portuguese fruit called Marmelo!
All the food is homemade and originally from Portugal! Also great if you decide to walk instead of taking the bus or car – you get to see a lot of cute small villages, restaurants and bars.
Costa da Carpacia
There are a lot of beaches around Lisbon and the one you have to see is the 30km surf beach; Costa de Carpacia. The easiest way for us to go there was to take a boat from Cais do Sodre and then a 15-20min with bus. Costa da Carpacia is a small town with not so much to see except their awesome beach. From what the locals say, this is the place to be in the summer, especially if you are interested in surfing. Along the beach you will find dozens of small little shacks with food, drinks and surf rentals.
The beach is so long that you can take the TRANSPRAIA train from Costa da Carpacia 10km along the coast to Fonte da Telha. Then, after this stop, you still have 20km of beach to explore. Jake absolutely loved this beach and wants to come back to explore, surf and maybe camp off where no one will find us.
One of the train stops to Cascais is Alcantara-Mar and it is located right under the bridge. We didn’t know anything existed here until we took a run along the water one morning. From the main square Praca de Comercia to the bridge it’s about 4.5 km and we could tell this was a popular path for bikers and runners. When you get to the bridge you will find a small harbor with a bunch of sailboats, kayaks and these weird tennis/badminton/squash courts.
Here you also have a wide selection of restaurants and cafes serving all types of food from Portuguese to American. We learned that it’s quite expensive here and you could find better food in the city, but it has a great view and is a nice place to enjoy yourself in the daytime or late night when it’s a big party. They have several bars and clubs in this area!
Is Lisbon something for you? Then read our other blog posts about Lisbon here:
5 Reassons Why we fell in Love with Lisbon – The Scenery, People, Food, Culture, Bars/Restaurants
The 360 degree view from Castelo Sao Jorge – Why you should visit Castelo Sao Jorge
What and Where to Wine and Dine in Lisbon – Traditional food, Bars, Restaurants and Rooftops