Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Travel Adventures {Lisbon}

We have gone to Lisbon twice -- so I figured I would combine both posts about Lisbon without all the other cities attached!  So here you go, all the Lisbon information in one spot!  You could easily do all this in two days, or skip the aquarium and do it in one ambitious (but long) day. [All of this is just copy and pasted from this post and this post so if you want more information on Portugal check out those posts too.]

Lisbon Round 1
Lisbon has a great public transportation system that did take us a bit to get the hang of -- with all its hills and tiny roads, the town is easy to get lost in.  We bought a day pass for both the commuter trains (the one we took into the city) and for the bus/trams/metro/trolleys.  This was done by mistake but worked in our favor because we used both cards quite a bit.  Fair warning -- they look identical except one had round corners and one didn't.  Also you can only buy the bus/metro/tram card at one of those stops -- so don't buy the day pass at the train station unless you need the commuter trains.  Lisbon is also extremely hilly (think San Fransisco but worse) so you will be using public transportation or walking!  Or you can take taxis or a private tuk tuk* (we saved costs and just used public transportation).  

Also -- while Lisbon is big, there are not a lot of major things to see/do and so everyone is seeing the same top attractions/museums/areas, etc....  Therefore, every single thing we read was "get to this place first thing in the morning."  Well, that gets challenging when you want to do a few things but can only do one thing first thing in the morning :)  So even if you do purchase tickets online, be prepared to stand in long, long lines....  But here are the things we did:

Castelo de São Jorge
An 11th century castle/fortification that sits atop one of the taller hills giving you gorgeous views of the city (and the bridge -- that looks insanely similar to the Golden Gate Bridge).  There is a bus or a trolley that will take you to the entrance of the castle, but be prepared for long lines for these (if you don't want to walk or wait in line, opt for a tuk tuk or a taxi).  We chose to hike up the hill and thankfully there were escalators for some of the steeper parts (but not the whole way).  You can buy tickets online but it is a combo ticket with places/museums we weren't interested in (and not worth the extra 10 or more per person, so we opted to go here first thing (it paid off to have a kid with us as we got to cut part of the line).  The castle grounds are larger than you would expect so spend some time wandering around and seeing the various sights.  

One of Lisbon's more famous neighborhoods.  The castle sits at the top so we wandered all the way back down on foot to explore the area.  Gorgeous and narrow roads/passage ways around every corner, this area is a great place to wander (or take a trolley through if you want).  We also stopped at the oldest cathedral in the city -- the Sé.  It was gorgeous and Serafina loved the pretty stained glass windows.  Alfama has great cafes and places to eat but we were determined to eat at...

Time Out Market
Time Out took over part of the Mercado de Ribeira and became such an amazing food hall -- with stalls from some seriously good chefs.  We ate so well here and we all got to eat what we wanted.  It is insanely crowded (for good reason) so be prepared to wait for a seat.

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos 
The gorgeous monastery in Belém (the neighborhood about a 20 minute train ride outside of main Lisbon area) is not to be missed.  The monastery is a UNESCO sight and sure does not look like any monastery we had every seen -- it seems like something out of a fantasy land but is simply gorgeous.  The whole sight is quite large but we stuck to the monastery and church.  Once again, lines are super long but we got the tip of a local and went to the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (if you are standing looking at the monastery with the river to your back, go to the door on the left -- way left) and bought the combo ticket for 12 (2 more than just the monastery) and cut the long (LONG) line!

Pastel de Nata
Guys.  This is one of the best pastries you will ever have in your life -- custard pies and not overly sweet and just plain amazing.  The bakery where these pastries all started (in 1837) is localed in Belém and most definitely worth a stop -- go to Pastéis de Belém to grab quite a few.  The line to order is (as you guessed by now) LONG, but it moved quickly and was so worth the wait.

We also walked by the Padrao dos Descobrimentos -- a large monolith celebrating the Portugese explorers but did not go up (it has an elevator) as it was closing as we arrived.  We also did not go to the Torre de Belem because it too was closed by the time we made our way out there (the pastel de nata was worth it).
I know we are missing A LOT of things to do -- in fact, Lisbon has one of the top rated aquariums in the world and we so wanted to go, it just wasn't in the cards for us this trip.  There are so many funiculars or elevators to take you up to gorgeous views of the city (we had wanted to do the Santa Justa Lift but the line snaked around for what looked like miles).  We also opted not to ride one of the famous Lisbon trolleys (again, think San Fransisco trolleys) because the lines were so long and the trolleys were so packed, it just wasn't super toddler friendly.  The azulejos are gorgeous (tiles, typically blue) and can be found in many buildings and churches.  Lisbon is a wonderful city, especially for those that love San Fransisco as the similarities are almost scary!  The food is wonderful and the ginjinha (or simply ginja -- sweet liquor made with ginja berries) is amazing and a must try!
Santa Justa Lift
Lisbon Round 2
We went over a long weekend in November 2018 but only spent one full day in Lisbon.  We desperately wanted to get back to see the Oceanario de Lisboa (aquarium) and it was so worth the trip -- it was huge and amazing and Serafina just absolutely loved it.  This aquarium is usually ranked among the top in the world and we can see why -- it seemed so big and never ending and was so cool for all ages (the aquarium in Valencia, Spain is bigger and higher ranking, but we liked Lisbon better).  The aquarium is located a little ways outside the main part of the city in Parque das Nações so make an afternoon (or morning) of heading out that way -- there is also a science museum there too (for slightly older kids than our little lady).  Sadly there isn't a super direct metro/tram or train from downtown Lisbon to the aquarium so take the bus. 

We also spent some time in the downtown/main part of Lisbon. Our plan was to ride of the famous trolleys or even take a hop on/hop off tram tour but once again, a trolley ride was not in the cards for us :(  We went on a hunt for coffee and wound up near the Convento do Carmo and Museu Arqueológico which was once an old convent but almost destroyed in the 1755 earthquake.  The museum has 4th century sarcophagi which was rather interesting to see -- worth a quick stop.  We were then just a short uphill walk from the Igreja and Museu São Roque, a gorgeous church* and decent museum -- again worth a stop. And since you are already so close, just keep walking up the hill to the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara (viewpoint) which gives you an amazing view of the castle.  The viewpoint also has open air kiosks for food and drinks, so it is a great place to grab a bite to eat -- we ate some amazing meat platter that we all just devoured!  You can take a tram up the view point (it will take you back down too) but we took a different way down... We walked to the top of the Santa Justa Lift and used our day passes for the metros/buses to ride it all the way down -- NO line and we didn't have to walk down the steep hill.  Highly recommend this route as you still get to ride the elevator without waiting in the hours long line.

So Lisbon is full of amazing food -- I wrote about where to eat in my other Lisbon post but I really do recommend going to Time Out Market -- it has something for the whole family and it is so good.  It is family style seating so you always have a blast talking with your table mates!  And you can also grab some amazing pastel de nata on the way out from Manteigaria which we think are even better than the ones in Belem.  We grabbed drinks at Tabaus Port Bar with some friends who were in Lisbon as well -- it was a cute place (not super kid friendly but they were accepting of Serafina).

We did all of this in one day (we are ambitious travelers) and we used a metro/tram day pass that we just bought in person at the metro station the day we planned to use it -- super easy and the best value if you plan on criss crossing the city like we did.  We stayed here which was near the aquarium and it was amazing -- one of the best AirBnB's we have ever stayed in and the host was so so sweet.

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