[Portugal] What to See and Eat in Lisbon in 48 Hours
Olá! After France, our next stop in Europe was Portugal! The country seems underrated in Hong Kong with most of us only knowing a version of it through Macau (a former Portuguese colony), but I'm glad to report back that Portugal is amazing and one of my favorite countries in Europe now! It was named the Destination of the Year by Travel + Leisure in 2016 and after our visit it was easy to see why - the country is beautiful with friendly people and most of all, very good value for money as food and accommodation were quite cheap. We visited two cities (Lisbon and Porto) in Portugal so read on for my travel guide on what to see and eat in Lisbon first!
What to See:
There are many ways to tour around Lisbon such as by tram or bus, but we decided to take the Yellow Boat Tour to get a different viewpoint of the city in a leisurely way! For €20 per person, you can hop on and off the boat at three stops with 24 hours of validity. Our journey started at the ferry terminal near Terreiro do Paço (Square of Commerce) where we sailed through the Tagus river and under the 25th April Bridge. I actually did a double take when I saw the bridge as it looked just like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco - for a second I thought I was back in the bay area!
Doesn't this look just like the Golden Gate Bridge?
Nice details on the foot of the bridge.
The original route of the tour included a stop at Cacilhas which would have allowed people to climb to the Cristo Rei Sanctuary but since that stop had been temporarily suspended (not sure why), we got off at the last stop Belem to continue our sightseeing.
Belem contains many of Lisbon's distinctive landmarks such as the Belém Tower, Padrão dos Descobrimentos and Jerónimos Monastery as it was the place where many Portuguese explorers set off on their voyages of discovery. Many of the attractions are actually covered by the Lisbon Card which is the official tourist pass of the city. In addition to free admission and discounts to attractions, the card also covers free transportation around the city and to Sintra (a popular day trip destination) as well!
After we got off the boat, the first attraction we saw was the Belém Tower which is a defense tower commissioned by King John II in the early 16th century and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although the admission cost (€6) is covered by the Lisbon Card, we discovered that you still have to line up with the rest of the ticket buyers first so plan accordingly.
Also along the harbor, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos is a monument constructed in 1960 to celebrate the Portuguese Age of Discoveries with 33 prominent figures carved into the carrack including Prince Henry the Navigator.
There is a museum inside the monument and you can also go up to the top for unobstructed views of the river and city.
The Jerónimos Monastery is another UNESCO World Heritage Site dedicated to the Ages of Discoveries and the resting place for Vasco da Gama - the first European explorer to reach India by sea. Admission into the monastery costs €10 (covered by Lisbon Card) but the Church of Santa Maria is free to enter where you can see the tombs of Vasco da Gama, Luis de Camoes (Portugal's greatest poet) and some of the royal family.
After visiting Belem, we headed back to the city center to take the Tram 28 to Alfama - the oldest district in Lisbon where the São Jorge Castle is located. The iconic yellow tram departs from Praça do Martim Moniz where it winds up the hills of Alfama and navigates through the narrow streets in the neighborhood.
Once you get to the top, you can catch this breathtaking view of the orange tiled rooftops over Alfama from the Miradouro de Santa Luzia!
The best way to explore Alfama is by walking as the neighborhood is literally like a maze of narrow streets and you could be surprised at where you end up stumbling upon.
We followed the tram route and walked back down to the Baixa district which is the city center of Lisbon with lots of cafes, restaurants and shops.
Don't miss the Elevador de Santa Justa in Baixa which was built to assist locals to ascend the steep Carmo hill in the summer heat but now serves mostly as a viewing platform for tourists (admission covered by Lisbon Card).
Even though we only had 48 hours in Lisbon, we managed to hit up most of the major attractions in the city. If we had more time, I'd have loved to visit Sintra - a picturesque town home to the colorful Pena National Palace and many more monuments.
What to Eat:
The one thing that most people in Hong Kong associate as Portuguese food is Pastel de Nata (Portuguese egg tarts) so we had to try the "real" thing here! The pastry was originally created by Christian monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in the 18th century where the recipe was then sold to Pasteis de Belem in 1837. The queues can get quite long at the popular bakery for take outs but moves rather quickly. I think I actually prefer the version in Macau whose filling was smoother, less sweet and more eggy but the crust was crispier here.
Lisbon has 800 km of coastline and is famous for its fresh seafood so we ended up eating that at practically every meal!
The most famous place in Lisbon for seafood has got to be Cervejaria Ramiro! They have queues all day long so we came early at 6pm for dinner and there was still a short queue. Usually these famous places can be tourist traps but I'm glad to say that the seafood at Ramiro is actually pretty good (although service was crappy). The garlic prawns and edible crab are highly recommended for good reasons while prices are relatively reasonable as well.
While we were sightseeing on the Belem side, we had lunch at Nunes Real Marisqueira where we had a whole lobster in a pot rice. That seems to be a real popular dish here and you can substitute the lobster with fish and shellfish instead. In general, the seafood here was good but pricey at the same time and not as good as Ramiro.
Clams Bolhao Pato
The last place we ate at was actually recommended by our super friendly Uber driver as his favorite place to eat bacalhau - the Portuguese word for cod! Restaurant Laurentina is a classy restaurant and specializes in bacalhau with 10 different ways of serving it. This was probably my favorite restaurant as all of the dishes we had were very good while the service was excellent. The customers were mostly locals who were here for business meeting.
I love clams and the ones here were my favorite out of all the restaurants we ate in Portugal (I ordered clams at practically every meal!).
We didn't know we would get a pot rice when we ordered the Codfish and Spinach Rice but the sauce turned out to be pretty delicious.
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