At 11 pm on Friday night, our flight from Lisbon landed at Orly airport. At 11 pm on Saturday night, our flight from Paris landed in Budapest. So, you might say we had a quick turnaround! Because we needed to unpack, repack and take care of a few miscellaneous things during our single day in Paris, this recap isn’t quite as robust as the Normandy recap. But the pictures should really speak for themselves!!
Day 1: Carcavelos, Chiado and Bario Alto
We got into Lisbon around noon on Tuesday, June 16. After a quick cab ride, we arrived at the home of a family friend of BF, who was kind enough to host us during our trip. The home was beautiful and in an adorable suburb of Lisbon called Carcavelos. We took a walk to the nearby beach and ate lunch looking out onto the Atlantic Ocean.
After lunch we walked around Carcavelos and met up with BF’s brother and sister-in-law, who were staying with their aunt (who coincidentally also lives in Carcavelos!). Seeing BF’s brother and sister-in-law was one of the main reasons we decided to come to Lisbon (also I had never been!), so it was great to catch up and spend a few days with them. It was also great to meet their aunt, who was kind enough to show us around quite a bit of the city during our trip. There is nothing like having a genuine local for a tour guide!
We headed out to Lisbon for the afternoon and evening to spend time walking around two neighborhoods: Chiado and Bario Alto. It was fun to see the historical architecture and very lively street life in Lisbon. It is an extremely hilly city so we got a good workout too!
One of the highlights of our afternoon/evening was the beautiful views across Lisbon. At least those hills are good for something! We got drinks on the top floor of a chic hotel in Chiado and watched the sun set over the river.
Day 2: Belém and Parque das Nações
On day 2, we again drove into Lisbon to visit different neighborhoods. We started off in Belém, where we saw several historical sites including a monument dedicated to Portugal’s discoveries and a beautiful monastery.
We also stopped at the famous Pastéis de Belém to enjoy their namesake pastry – a delicious egg-yolk dessert. According to BF, the Portuguese make most of their desserts using egg yolk because nuns would use egg whites to whiten and stiffen their uniforms, and then needed to find something to do with the yolks. Apparently they decided that desserts were the best use of the yolks, and I couldn’t agree more!
After snacking on pastéis, we drove out to Parque das Nações, an area of the city that is very modern and was built out for the 1998 World Exposition. It was fun to see how different the architecture was in this part of the city as compared to the older, historical parts of Lisbon. My personal favorite spot was the Gare do Oriente, a train station designed by Santiago Calatrava with a stunning roof.
We also stopped at the world famous Ocenario, or aquarium. I’ve been to the aquarium in Boston several times and this place puts it to shame. It had a great temporary exhibit with a “nature aquarium” and an impressive permanent collection featuring several different types of environments. We especially enjoyed the arctic environment – Lisbon is HOT in June!
Day 3: Baixa, Alfama, Benfica and and Cascais
On day 3 we covered some of the most classic Lisbon sights in the downtown area, Baixa. This area was largely destroyed by the largest earthquake ever to hit Europe, which occurred in 1755. It was rebuilt with impressive monumental architecture that is very elegant.
After Baixa, we took Tram 28, a classic Lisbon tourist attraction, up to Alfama. Alfama is the oldest area of Lisbon and is home to an impressive castle. We took in some beautiful views and visited the castle before hopping in a cab to head to our next stop: Benfica.
If you’re not a soccer fanatic (as I am not), you may not know what Benfica is. At first I thought it was a bank (“ben” kinda sounds like “bank” right?). In any case, it is one of the premier soccer clubs in Europe and, as it so happens, where one of BF’s family friends works. We were lucky enough to take a tour of the stadium, which is an extremely modern and impressive facility.
Our last stop of the day was an after-dinner ice cream stop in the town on Cascais. Cascais is sentimental for BF and his family because his grandfather, who was Portuguese, had a home there. We walked around the downtown area and saw the beautiful homes along the coast. And we can’t forget the amazing ice cream!
Day 4: Sintra and back to Paris
On our final day in Portugal we headed out of the city to the historical town of Sintra. Sintra is something of a resort town, and many wealthy residents of Lisbon once had beautiful, castle-like homes nestled in its hills. Now many of the castles are open to the public, and we toured two beautiful properties.
We enjoyed a classic Portuguese-style lunch in Sintra before heading off to the airport for our trip back to Paris. We had a lovely time in Lisbon and the surrounding area, thanks largely to the kindness of friends and family members.
That “kindness of friends and family members” that I mentioned also happened to save us quite a lot of money on this trip. Between staying with family friends, driving around with BF’s brother’s aunt, and getting flights using credit card rewards, our trip to Lisbon was fairly inexpensive. The cost of food and attractions in Lisbon is substantially less than in larger cities like Paris, so we also saved there.
Unfortunately, because we were with family, it is going to be really had to give an accurate picture of what was spent in Lisbon. We paid for some meals for ourselves and some meals for everyone, but we were also treated to several meals. We paid for a few cab rides and were treated to a few cab rides. So instead of providing a line item breakdown of expenses, I’m just going to provide a summary of what we spent in each category.
Here is a summary, by category, of what we spent in Lisbon. This is for me and BF.
As you can see, cabs were quite expensive. We chose to take cabs both to and from the airport in Paris to save time. We could have taken the metro, but it would have taken at least twice as long and only saved a small amount. Since we got essentially free flights using credit card rewards, we felt that it was OK to splurge a bit and take cabs to and from the airport.
We also took a few cabs around Lisbon. We learned that public transit there isn’t great, and in fact the metro workers were on strike one day during our trip. Cabs are substantially less in Lisbon than in many other cities and are often the most convenient and quick option. Again, since we saved a lot by mostly driving around with BF’s brother’s aunt, we didn’t feel too bad splurging on a couple of cab rides.
Food was another big expense. What can I say, eating is expensive! Although, as I said, prices were lower in Lisbon than in Paris, for example. The total you see is for two people for all three meals (and snacks) for four days, so overall I think it is pretty good.
If you are planning a trip to Lisbon, I wouldn’t necessary rely on these numbers to set your expectations. We stayed with a family friend for the price of a bottle of champagne. We ate breakfasts at home and traded off paying for things with family. We saved big on transit by getting rides with family and friends. If you don’t have these connections, Lisbon would be quite a bit more expensive.
That said, overall it is still a reasonably priced city for tourists and I would highly recommend a visit! BF and I are already talking about taking a driving tour around Portugal to explore some of the smaller cities and towns.
Have you been to Lisbon? What was your favorite thing you did/saw there?